Oracle to Superior

April 15- We truly enjoyed our zero day in Oracle yesterday. We had our left overs from dinner last night for breakfast today. You can’t go wrong with a crunchy chicken taco anytime of day! We both showered one last time and packed up our things. I had to say farewell to the kittens in the laundry room and Jim drove us back to the trail. We were at the trailhead around 9:00am. We are pretty proud of ourselves! Usually we don’t leave town until check out, but with the heat and being in the desert leaving in the afternoon isn’t a good idea.

The trail curved around the desert for miles going up slowly then back down over and over. It was a pleasant temperature in the high 70s with a breeze most of the day. The flowers are blooming and the birds are singing. We met Zig Zag who is from New Zealand. He hiked the PCT the same year as me, but we had never met. I loved it when he said “this isn’t the PCT!” He meant that the PCT was such easy hiking compared to the climbs on this trail. We also ran into Richard again and caught up at a water cache. This is one of the drier sections for water and luckily they have big steel boxes where trail angels cache water for hikers. Richard who lives in Arizona cached some water for himself. 

The trail has been easy walking today as we even hit a 3 mile per hour pace for a bit. I’m back to my trusty pair of Salomon trail runners in hopes my feet return to normal. We hiked together most of the day chatting away the miles! We can still see Mt Lemmon and know where Summerhaven is from a distance. This trail has been gorgeous each day. We saw dozens of bunnies today and lots of birds singing. We also spotted a strange red and yellow snake that quickly slithered away before we took take a picture.

We hiked 17.3 miles today and found a huge spot to camp in a wash. Richard joined us as we got to know each other more as we all enjoyed dinner. It got dark and hundreds of stars lit up the sky. It was a beautiful day! 

April 16-
The day was full of ups and downs through the desert. It truly is beautiful out here. Lizards, bearded dragons, so many bugs, a large variety of singing birds, and snakes share the trail with us. I saw my first green Mojave rattlesnake of the year. Luckily, Richard saw it first and waited for us to point it out. It was curled up right next to the trail and seemed almost dead. It did move its head slightly when Paperweight walked past it. Ek! 

One of the water sources today was an old tank that was filled to the brim. I made him climb up to the top to get the water because hundreds of bees were surrounded it. Luckily, no one got stung. The water tasted fine after being filtered we hid in the shade of the tank with the couple from Switzerland. We finally made our way back to the trail and took out our umbrellas. It was so warm with little to no breeze. We walked until the heat was too much and ducked under a group of trees along the wash. We waited out the heat of the day as I laid down on my thermarest with my shoes off. 

It was a typical thru hiker day of covering miles and simply just walking. We covered 19.2 miles before getting to the Freeman Water cache where we called it a night. The sun was setting and the temperature was dropping. Another good day in the Arizona desert. 

April 17-
We got another early morning start before the sun rose. You can tell very early how warm it will be each day. We enjoyed a well groomed trail that even had a little footbridge over a currently dry wash. The trail went up and down some old dirt roads so we could walk together. I listened to a few podcasts as the miles zipped by. 


We offered the Arizona Trail Association to help in any way we could. So they gave us a few locations to try and find water. We took the mission and today had three resources to check out. The first one was .33 miles off trail and it was an old pump not plugged in, but we still got some water out of the pipes. The second one was a bushwhack to a collection tank with a huge pool of water also surrounded by bees. The last one is a stock tank that was fairly clear as no cows were swimming, but we had to crawl under a barbed wire fence. It was fun doing a little investigation together and hopefully helping out future hikers.


We took a long break at Ripsey Ranch Ruins. Where again, we had to dip our bottles into the a tank full of bees again. I was brave today! We were here for close to three hours. I even fell asleep and snored loudly like usual. We sat in the shade surrounded by cow poop and a rotting dead cow. Not the most romantic or beautiful spot, but we had to hide from the shade somewhere. 

We continued on as the heat was hot well past 4:00. The trail dipped off of the two lane road and up and down washes. It was pleasant until my feet began to ache. We made it 17.4 miles where we found Richard setting up his tent and we decided to join him. Surrounded by Saguaro cactus the sun set and thousands of stars lit up the sky. I saw a shooting star this evening fade away. 

April 18- 

It was another early start like usual. We were exposed most of the morning and we could tell the temperature was going to get very high today. We climbed up hill towards a saddle to be rewarded with a new view including a peek at the town of Kearny and a huge mining operation. We had to take a break at the saddle and enjoy the 360 view. As I was heading downhill, I saw number three. Paperweight was behind me again and I started doing my little dance. It was another Gila monster walking along the Arizona Trail. He walked slowly off the trail into some bushes. Richard was happy to see his first one on the trail. Within a mile I got to do my dance again as we saw our fourth Gila monster. I thought these were rare reptiles and since he spent about 80 to 90% of their life underground. I guess we are just lucky people. Today is also my grandma’s 92nd birthday so I can’t wait to share this story with her. We continued down hill getting closer and closer to the Gila River. We passed a water cache that was almost empty and we knew there was drinking water a bit father up trail so we left the water for other hikers.

We read on our app that Old Time Pizza from Kearney delivers to thru hikers. So we busted out the morning miles to take a long break during the heat of the day to feast. The two of us made it to the trailhead which was about 11 miles from our campsite by 11:10. We walked up the road to our water source and siesta spot for the heat of the day. I think we have our trail legs! We waited until noon when Richard arrived to place our order. The woman on the phone was so friendly as she helped us all order since we did not have a menu. The food was very pricey and I was a bit upset to spend that much from one place. But when it arrived, it was well worth the $30 a piece. I had a small salad of just lettuce and tomato with homemade ranch dressing, chicken fingers with curly fries, half of a 16 inch pizza, and a cup of ice that I poured a root beer into to. It was a delicious feast. I could only eat two slices of pizza here so I packed out the other four for dinner. The spot where we hung out was against a metal fence surrounding a construction crew site. This is where the drinking water was and we later found out that it came from the mine and was treated with chlorine. A construction worker asked how our hike was going and donated a huge bag of Lemon Lime Gatorade to us as well as Vienna sausages, sardines, and crackers. We let Richard have all the food and I split the Gatorade into three bags. It was around 3:45 when the two of us finally put on our packs and headed back to the trail.
It was really warm out, but we didn’t need our umbrellas. We could see the train tracks for miles and bridges that crossed over the Gila River. Lots of greenery and a newly built trail. The trail was so wide do you could push a wheelchair along it. We came across the construction equipment they are using to widen the trail. They have also added three new gates so you don’t have to cross through the barbed wire fences that are often tricky to open and close. We decided to cruise along until 7 o’clock when we would meet up again to take out our headlamps. 

At 7 o’clock, I threw off my pack and climbed on a huge rock to lie down. We both put on our headlamps and walked together surrounded by saguaros as the sun dipped behind the mountains. At 20.8 miles, we came to a large sandy wash where we quickly put up our tent then feasted on a pizza dinner. Delicious!! Without a rain fly, we tried to cool off inside the tent. I will not tell you what I wore to bed if anything. It was a toasty night and we were stilly sweaty from hiking. What a fun day full of delicious food and beauty. We can take a 4 hour break and still do over 20 miles! 

April 19- 

I ate my last slice of pizza for breakfast before we started hiking. Then we were off into the low desert near the Gila River. The Gila River is very silty here and the trail does not walk along it or cross it once. As we were nearing our last access to the river, I came across a sad sight. A small Gila Monster was dead on the trail. It had a wound to its head as if it had stepped on or rode over by a bike. It was the smallest one I’ve seen it. Poor thing!

We took a side trail down to the river and ran into HD Mama who is also thru hiking. We then met her hiking partner, Farmer who was filtering water by the river. It was nice to chat with him and see fellow thru hikers. We used a piece of tent repair netting to filter out the silt before using our filter. It sure did help! We spent an hour here filtering slowly, snacking, and rehydrating. 

We made our way back to the trail and began a steady uphill. We were using our umbrellas before 10am for the first time. I tuned into Podcasts and music for the next 7 miles of uphill. My body is getting back to thru hiker form as the pounds are falling off and my leg muscles are growing stronger. Beauty all around me!

At the top of the climb, the rock formations mesmerized me! We took a break in the shade for an hour eating lunch and letting the sweat dry. I have never sweat so much on any trail! Or had to drink so many liters of water! We started again a bit before 4 walking the trail that we had been staring at during our break since you could see the trail for miles. Beautiful!!!

We stopped at a cow pond to filter green water that quickly clogged my filter. So every liter or so I had to backwash the filter. The no see ums were ridiculous and driving me crazy. I would lots of bites the next day on my neck. We had a little over 3 miles to go to the wash we planned to camp in. We pick these washes by looking at the satellite photos of the trail. So far most of them have been perfect campsites. We hiked 20.1 miles today before setting up camp for the night. We only spent a short time outside of the tent then hid from the bugs inside the tent. That’s why the tents have no see um netting!

April 20-

We took our time this morning and were actually chilled to start the day. Luckily, we were quickly in the sun and sweating by 7:30. We discussed town plans like usual and food we hoped to eat. We make these plans and they always fall apart when we get there. Hehe! We walked 3 plus miles an hour on the rolling terrain as I continued to sneeze. Everything is in bloom and this has been the worst my allergies have ever been on a thru hike! We zoomed passed the Picket Post Trailhead towards highway 60.

We made it to the highway underpass to climb uphill to the road that leads into the two of Superior. We had hiked 8.2 miles by 9:20ish. There were tons of cars passing us so I thought it wouldn’t take too long to get a hitch. There are also lots of cop cars pulling people over along this section of the highway. I was getting very annoyed, thirsty and hungry after an hour of waiting. We sent a message to a woman who gives takers rides for six dollars apiece but she never responded. Suddenly I saw an old truck flashes lights at us before he pulled over. I rode up front with him and Paperweight wrote in the bed of the truck. He was quite a character and had me laughing the whole way to town. This is one of the many reasons I enjoy hitchhiking. 

He dropped us off at Casa Denogean around 10:30 where we ordered soda, water, and breakfast for under $8 a piece including a tip. The food was delicious! We walked a short distance to the Copper Mountain Hotel where the manager told us our room will not be ready until after two. Well that sucks. She let us leave our backpacks and things in the storage closet so we could go downtown and run some errands. We walked through a few neighborhoods and past lots of angry dogs. My plan had been to go to the library and relax from the heat to kill three hours. But the library was not open, so we went to a restaurant called Porter café. We sat at the bar enjoy the beer before ordering another meal an hour or so after eating breakfast. Our plan was to eat some of it and have the rest for dinner. But I guess hiker hunger has hit, as we both finished our meals. We split a chicken salad and the best burger yet. We took our time leaving before going shopping at the market and at the Family Dollar. Our room was finally ready a bit before three. I always get to shower first since I do the laundry. The dryer is broken so that says .75 as we just laid the clothes out front of the room.

We lounged around the hotel room for a few hours until we went back to the first restaurant for a Mexican dinner. It was the most spicy salsa I’ve ever had and a huge plate of food for $9. My left foot hurts so bad and he gave me a nice massage, but it might of been too much as it ached more that evening. We watched silly tv and played on our phone in a nice air conditioned room.

 April 21-

My foot ached most of the night and I did not sleep so well. I also had a horrible stomach ache and it’s likely from the change of food. He woke me up to go get breakfast and we walked or I hobbled down the road to find it didn’t open until 8am. So back to the room to wait half an hour. We could of left today, but we agreed the hotel is pretty cheap and rest is good for the body. So we ate breakfast at that same restaurant for cheap, relaxed all morning as I typed up days worth of logs, and around 3 slowly made our way to Main St from another delicious burger! It was a classic zero day spent in Superior. We are still above our needed milage to finish in time to pick up the car so there is no need to worry. My foot felt much better in the afternoon! Remember this is our CDT vacation so rest days are allowed! 😉

Vail to Oracle, Arizona

April 8-We had 3.7 miles to get the the Gabe Zimmermann Trailhead. Last night and this morning lots of bikers have been passing by. As we were waking up, one exclaimed “a full on tent.” We laughed as he must of throughly we were riding the trail. We began the easy stroll towards the trailhead seeing lots of joggers as well. One biker told us “you know you guys are crazy!” I have been told that many times over the past few years. We cruised along winding around the trail and walking under I-10 under four lanes of traffic. We made it to the trailhead that had a trash can and a porta potty that he used. A nice woman stopped and offered us a ride into town. She has a home in Summerhaven and insisted we get her number to call her when we get there. She dropped us off at the Post Office and I realized I had the hours wrong. So a little after 9am, we were across the street eating 5 beef rolled tacos covered in cheese, lettuce, tomato, guacamole, and some sauce. They were delicious!! We picked up my box and spread out the contents in the Post Office lobby. It was then time for a DQ blizzard. He resupplied at the Quick Mart as I hung out with the packs and let our devices charge. I had contacted a trail angel in Vail named Sandy. She met up with us along with her beautiful and soft dog Desi. She taught us a few names of the flora that we have been wondering about. She graciously took us back to the trailhead and pointed out the names of the mountain ranges. It is so much fun to meet trail angels along the way and we greatly appreciate your support. She also gave us a few hard boiled eggs that were delicious and a nice change from trail food. Thank you for your kindness and if we are back in the area we will meet up again.


We walked a quick .4 miles to a stream where we decided to wait out the heat of the day. It was so relaxing and rejuvenating as we rehydrated. It is quite windy today which is a pleasant treat. We decided it was time to leave our little oasis and begin hiking again. The trail wanders under the train tracks then back up to a road to go under another set of train tracks. As you turn the corner, you are surrounded by dozens of saguaro cactuses. It is such a beautiful sight and so close to a road that I highly recommend checking out this section. It was warm, but a slight breeze helped. We had to constantly move off the trail to let the bikers by. I also enjoyed staring at this huge castle on a mountain top. We had seen it this morning hiking it was a castle, but as you get closer you realize it really is. It does take something away from the feeling of being in the wilderness. We began a downhill on a steep edge toward La Posta which is part of Colossal Cave National Park. They currently do not sell any food at this location so we continued on. The trail winds around and around as you admire the variety of cactus. We also got to read some signs donated by REI about the history of the area.

We made it our next water source which was at a campground. There was a sign saying the site is reserved for a Cub Scout Troop. We enjoyed a few liters of cold filtered water and I ate a sandwich I had packed out from Vail. While Paperweight was in the bathroom, the troop leader asked if I was hungry and to come get a warm meal. We ended up eating a plate of greasy, meaty, and delicious jambalaya made by the Cub Scouts. The parents were wonderful and very welcoming. It was nice relaxing in a lawn chair and having a real meal rather then a rice side. They said we were welcome to stay, but we wanted to put in a few more miles so we bid farewell.

We spent longer at the campsite then we had planned, but the temperature had dropped. It felt wonderful as we cruised along. We ran into two guys looking for their friend participating in the bike race. They were looking for a bearded man… most of them were bearded. I joked that the last guys said there was beer at the next store and how that sounded so nice. Before I knew it, he was offering us each a beer from his pack. I was so excited and eagerly opened by Dale’s Pale Ale. (I first tried this beer on the CDT) we bid farewell smiling about what a wonderful day it had been. We barely ate any trail food and were showered with rides, story telling, a hot dinner, and a cold beer. We hiked on as the sun began to set. We searched for a campsite and it took longer then expected like usual. We luckily found as a spot just as darkness was falling. We are very efficient and before I knew it we were relaxing with a beer. What a magical day! Beauty everywhere, a variety of plant life, kindness all around, and sharing these memories with a very special person. Today may be our favorite day yet on trail! We had covered 13.1 miles as well with a town visit and lots of breaks. To many more wonderful days full of surprises. 

April 9th-

We woke up early again hoping to beat the heat of the day. The trail was mainly flat the first few miles and we walked quickly in the cool temperatures. We have entered the land of giant Saguaro cactuses and it is unbelievable. I am in awe! 


We entered Saguaro National Park where I still continued too look behind me expecting a bike rider to come zooming by. Luckily, it is a wilderness area so bikes are not allowed. The trail is well made and winds uphill. We have a reserved campsite tonight so there is not worry about where we will be camping. It was warm, but a steady breeze really helped. 

We made it to a water source that is just two pools of water in the rocks. Earlier in the season it would have been a stream. We sat down filtering water and chatting in the shade. When I saw it, my first ever Gila Monster. We jumped up and moved a bit closer as the Gila Monster was drinking from our water source. It saw us and proceeded to swim away into the rocks! It was an amazing experience and I felt so lucky to see my first Gila Monster. They are considered a “Monster” because of the hissing sound they make and that they can inject poison with their bottom teeth. They are very slow moving animals and if you got bit you must be way too close. They are officially my new favorite reptile. 

After the excitement, we packed up and continued the uphill climb. The trail has nice stone steps making it easy climbing. The views got bigger as did many of the plants! This is a gorgeous National Park. We had a nice lunch break together before pushing uphill for a few more miles. You can see for miles and before we knew it we had done our 13.4 miles to Grassshack Campsite. We got there a bit before 3 and set up in tent site 1. We could listen to the sound of flowing water and relax the hours away. I enjoyed the use of a privy even though hornets have a few nests in there. We both drank lots of water, snacked, and just chatted. I laid out my thermarest and lounged in the shade. This is what camping is all about. Often, we find ourselves hiking most of the day with minimal breaks, but on this thru hike we plan to relax more. We are not in too big of a rush this time around. It was a lovely climb and an even better way to end the day.

April 10th-

We slept great listening to the sound of flowing water. We collected all our belongings from the bear vault and ate a quick breakfast before the rest of the climb. Yesterday, we climbed a little over 3,000 feet and have 3,300 to go. The trail is so nicely built and it felt great doing the climb in the early morning hours. He got ahead of me as I took my time going nice and slow listening to the Moth Podcast.


I made it up to Manning Camp to be surprised at the beauty of the camp and all the resources. It says the campsite is at 8,000 feet and it was quite chilly up there. I joined Paperweight at a picnic table where we ate our second lunch. Manning Camp was built in 1905 by the mayor of Tucson as a summer retreat. It is now used by the National Park Services as a base camp for trail maintainers, researchers, and rangers. The building is on the list of National Register of Historic Places. I truly love coming across places like this. We had the whole site to ourselves until two small deer snuck into the horse corrals for a little lunch. Large ponderosa pines surrounded us as we rehydrated before packing up to finish the climb.

We walked together towards the top where we ran into a ranger and two National park service employees. They were out today surveying. We were a bit disappointed to not have an epic view as the trail does not climb to any summit. As we were heading downhill, we found a spot where we walked a bit off trail to see the beauty of the land below us. Wow!! We took a short break on a log before starting downhill. I’d still rather climb up as it does not hurt the knees as much. 

We met a couple from Switzerland and an older man who said he stayed at Manning Camp in the 1970s. I wish we had more time to chat with him. We enjoyed a long downhill for miles as the birds sang and we got closer to the desert floor. Down for hours until we came to a road crossing and the trail continues up and down through small washes. The sun was beginning to set as we neared a possible campsite.

We found a nice sandy wash to set up camp. It got very dark when we arrived and we watched the full moon rise to lighten up the campsite. My feet ached so badly! I was so uncomfortable and look forward to new shoes in Oracle. When you find your brand, you should stick with them. We also hiked 18.3 miles so that could be another reason my feet are so tired. We stretched out in the tent, looked at Guthook’s App to see what tomorrow would bring, and drifted to sleep as the moon shone bright without the rain fly on.
April 11th-
It was nice and chilly in the wash when we woke up to eat breakfast. Too bad it wouldn’t stay a comfortable temperature all day. The trail is very easy this morning as we made really good time. We had a planned break at our next water source which is actually a flowing stream. We are lucky that is still flowing as it may not be in a few weeks. We both filtered a few liters of water before packing up our things.

I left our morning break spot first and within five minutes I was frozen on the trail watching my second Gila Monster. The Gila monster was slowly making its way up the trail and it did not seem concerned at all by me. I could not see paperweight behind me so I continued to take pictures. When I finally saw him, I started doing a little dance and hurrying him along. He couldn’t believe it as he started taking a video. The Gila monster slowly moved off the trail and into the bushes. 

The two of us decided to walk together since it was an old dirt road. The trail turn back into one path and I took the lead. We had a steep climb uphill for a few miles. Towards the top of the climb paperweight pointed out an unusual noise. It was the sound of hundreds of bees coming our way. Suddenly, I’m guessing 300 to 400 bees zoomed over our heads. I felt like I was in a movie as I never experienced anything like that before. We continued to climb and took a break at the top staring down at the highway that would lead into Tucson. We are skipping this town since neither of us love big cities.

The downhill it’s just as steep as the uphill was. There were lots of people bike riding on the highway in a few old cars. We cross the road and into a picnic area. We both tossed our trash before heading uphill again in the heat. I was dripping with sweat so we both pulled out our umbrellas. He helped me rig it up so I wouldn’t have to hold at this time. The umbrella made a huge difference, but I was still sweating. We pushed on until we came to a parking area at the Gordon Hirabayashi Campground. This site was home to one of the many Japanese Internment Camps during WWII. A few days I had just listened to a history podcast about these camps so it was an interesting feeling being here. It is a beautiful part of our country and so sad that so many people were moved away from their homes and forced to live in these camps. We sat under a tree surrounded by ants to snack and wait out the heat of the day. 

We finally got moving around 3:30 as it was a bit cooler. I left first and felt strong so I moved quickly. Shreve Saddle rewarded me with a new view of Arizona and what climb awaited me. The trail is on the side of a cliff which is my favorite type of trail. I waited for him to catch up so we could take a few pictures together and hike the rest of the evening together. We met a man who said this area is “the Yosemite of Tucson.” I agree! 

We began dipping down to Sabino Canyon where we found a huge campsite to set up. We both filtered water and relaxed. I had to climb into the tent because the nasty noseeums, which are tiny buys the size of a pencil tip, were driving me insane. I didn’t even cook tonight, but rather snacked inside the tent. We covered 15.9 miles today and saw some beautiful parts of Arizona. I’d highly recommend hiking north from the Gordon Hirabayashi Campground. It is on our list of places to visit again. 

April 12th
Woke up early and packed up to get on the trail before the sun got too hot. The trail dips down for the first mile or so past a beautiful swimming hole. I could’ve spent all day here, but we chose not to stop knowing we had to do our miles. This is one of the negatives of through hiking. At this point, the trail begin to climb up from the canyon floor. Everything is in bloom in the desert and a variety of cactus still amaze me. We had a quick water and snack break before heading towards Ramero Pass. This part of the trail is easy walking as it wasn’t too hot.
After the past, the trail climbed steeply uphill. It reminded me of the Appalachian Trail as .3 miles took me over 15 minutes to climb. My calves are burning and I zoned out to my music to make the miles pass. This is wilderness area for many reasons as a bike would never make this climb. The one thing about climbs like this is the views are unreal. I was covered in sweat by the time we made it to the top. This is Mt Lemmon and the views did not disappoint. We entered a land of huge rock formations. My eyes were looking in every direction trying to take in the beauty.
We maneuvered our way around the rocks until we made it to our water source. We were both defeated and took a long break here. After an hour and a half, we began hiking again. We were back in the forest with lots of water sources running. The plan was to get to the town of Summerhaven to get some drinking water and charger phone as we were told everything closes at 4.

We made it into Summerhaven around 4:45 expecting everything to be closed as we had heard. The first place we passed was the Cookie Cabin and it said Open until 5. We bought a root beer float and two scoops of ice cream with all the toppings! What a treat! As we were walking to the store, the woman who drove us into Vail stopped to say hello. We bought chips, dip, a postcard, and he grabbed a big beer for our dinner. The town has a public restroom and the water fountain is marked as our water source. We hung out in that room charging our phone, using the bathroom, and free wifi. What a tough life! 

We walked up the paved road and realized we were on the Sky Island Scenic Byway. The trail turns down past the fire station towards the trailhead. Our app told us there would be a campsite to the right. We were surprised to see two tents set up and did not think they were thru hikers. We found Herbert and Monica, the couple from Switzerland and Richard who are all thru hikers. It was nice to have some company to chat with tonight. We all hung out until it got dark and the two of us finally set up our tent. We hiked 15 miles today and camped with other hikers for the first time in days. It was a clear night as usual as I admired the night’s sky. 

April 13th

At 4:50, our alarm clock went off and without hesitation we began packing up in the darkness. We tried to be quiet so we wouldn’t wake up the other hikers. We packed up and walked uphill from the campsite to a trailhead. There was a huge rock I climbed onto to eat breakfast. We got started as the sun was beginning to rise. It was a nice way to start the morning with a cool breeze. We were on the wrong side of the ridge for a sunrise, but enjoyed the hiking. There was still a bit of climbing, but we were motivated by getting to Oracle.

There were few campsites along the way so we were happy we camped where we did. Lots of lizards were zooming out in front of us. Stunning views looking back at Mt Lemmon and what laid ahead. We called the owner of the hotel and set up a time to be picked up at the trailhead. As we neared town, we came across three groups of trail crews bettering the trail. We met Serena who is the trail steward for this section. She was lovely and happy to hear we were loving our experience so far. We talked to some of the workers who are all in there early 20s and from all over the country. Thank you all so much for your work. We were also told that Serena did a lot of public out reach to the local businesses explaining that we are not homeless, but thru hikers. The Arizona Trail Association has done a wonderful job with their public outreach and gateway communities. 
At noon, we were at the trailhead early for our ride. We hid under the shade and looked at what was ahead of us in the next section. Marney, the owner of the Chalet Motel, picked us up and whisked us away to her hotel. She showed us the laundry room and to my surprise two litters of kittens. 4 larger ones and 4 that were only a few weeks old. I was in love! I have never held such a small kitten. Paperweight is in trouble! The hotel is a bunch of small A frame rooms that were cozy and comfortable. 
It has been a long time since we showered. Every time I would lift my arms up high I would cringe at the smell of myself. I was shocked to look into the mirror and see the mess that my hair had become. It had been left in a braid since we hiked out of Vail. I knew it was nasty, but I had a difficult time undoing the braid. I honestly thought I might have to cut it out… but with lots of time and effort it came undone. Lots of conditioner helped as well. It was the best shower I’ve had in a very long time. It was a long 10 days and 150 miles of desert walking. 
We had a delicious early dinner at Casa Rivera and brought home left overs. We did our resupply at the dollar store. We chatted with #2 and Paddler for a bit. We enjoyed a cold beer outside before spending the rest of the day lying in bed watching comedy channels. A perfect way to end a long hiking section. 

April 14th

Today marks our first zero day on the Arizona Trail. It was an easy day in the life of thru hikers. We got a ride to a delicious restaurant for breakfast, Patio Cafe, where we also each bought a slice of pie for later. We spent the majority of the day lying in bed watching tv while blogging, uploading photos, and catching up with family and friends. We made the short walk down the road for another meal at the Mexican Restaurant, Casa Rivera. Then it was back to the hotel room to watch a few shows and relax. My calves and feet have been pretty sore today so a zero day was needed. I know I’m not going to be able to convince him to take a double zero since we need to get out of the lower elevation before the 90s hit.

Patagonia to Vail

April 4th-I slept very well last night in the cozy bed. My allergies have really been bothering me lately due to the high pollen count. We made our way over to the Gathering Ground restaurant a few businesses down from the hotel where we joined Steve and Kristen for breakfast. We will part ways today as they are taking another route out of town then rejoining the AZT. We really enjoyed getting to know them and hear about their adventures over the years. They really encouraged us to try bike touring in Europe for three months. I look forward to staying in touch. Paperweight and I returned to our room to post updates on Facebook and relax a bit longer in the bed. We finally packed up and decided we need one more town meal before leaving so back to the same restaurant we went for a second breakfast. Delicious food! We then threw on our packs and made our way out of town. I really enjoyed our stay in Patagonia. It is a very artsy town with lots of quirks. 

We walked along the sidewalk along Highway 82 before turning onto first ave to Temporal road. Lots of cute houses with beautiful cactus and other blooming flowers. I can see why lots of people move to this town to retire. The road turned to gravel as the sun was shinning with temperatures in the high 70s with a cooling wind. It was very pleasant as we often looked back down towards the town. We saw a huge vulture soaring closely overhead and passed a recent burn area. We crossed a few cattle guards as the road curved up towards the mountains. The road become more rocky the farther out of town and less wide. It is one of the most pleasant road walks out of town. We took two short breaks in the shade to hydrate before continuing on as the miles passes quickly. We only planned to do 9 miles out of town and found a beautiful flat campsite with views all around. A bit before 4 we had our tent set up, shoes off, and enjoying the day. We are in no rush this year as previous thru hikes. There is not a threat of winter coming just the higher temperatures later in the season. I am lounging on my thermarest pad catching up on these blogs listening to music and the wind blow. I couldn’t ask for anything more. 
April 5- We have been getting about 9-10 hours of sleep a night which is wonderful! We woke up as the sun was coming up around 5:45 and began packing up. I packed out bagels and cream cheese that I have to finish today so it was a nice treat. Our morning began with a steep uphill on a road that cars can drive on. It was nice to do the climbing in the early hours. We passed lots of cows with unique markings. We made it up to the Walker Basin trailhead where we took a quick break for the steepest climb of the day. A 900 foot elevation gain in a mile as we joked it was AT hiking again. The climb didn’t feel too bad as we took our time gradually climbing higher and higher with lovely views. We passed two guys pushing their bikes up the climb. Before we knew it, we reached the saddle and were heading downhill towards our next water source for a short break.

The rest of the day was easy walking as we cruised along running into a few day hikers. We got to learn a bit about the history of Kentucky Camp where they tried to search for gold in this area. They created a 8 1/2 mile long pipe system where they hoped to use hydraulics to mine for gold. They spent over $200,000 to complete the water system to only find a few thousand dollars worth of gold in the early 1900s. We saw bits of the metal pile that still remain over a 100 years later leading to the camp where the miners and workers called home.

3 1/2 miles away from the camp we ran into the two bikers and one of their daughters with a truck and cold beverages and snacks. We sat down for over two hours and enjoyed a cold corona with a lime, homemade jerky, crackers, trail mix, and Chex mix. It was a nice treat and fun sharing stories with them. They were planning to camp there, but we decided to get going around 4:45. We walked quickly getting closer to the Kentucky Camp in the Santa Rita Mountains where our next water source was. We got there around 6 where we chugged a bunch of water and filled up 4 liters for the night. There are four adobe building that have been restored. We didn’t stay long as we wanted to set up camp for the night. 

We walked a total of 17.2 miles making it our longest day on the AZT yet! We found a campsite where cars likely pull out to camp and set us as the sky was bursting brilliant pinks. As we were unpacked, two other thru hikers came by to introduce themselves, but they seem super quick so we will likely never see them again. We ate as the sun was fully setting before climbing into our comfy tent for the night. 

April 6
I was pretty exhausted this morning and was not motivated to get going. I slowly packed up and continued along the dirt road. We passed a few areas that were labeled mining claims and he even saw a man using a pick ax in search of gold. The trail left the dirt road and climbed up to our highpoint of the day that rewarded us of views all around. We could see the mountains we just climbed and the ones that awaited us. Everything is beginning to bloom and the desert is full of color. I tuned into a few interesting podcasts to pass the miles while soaking in the scenery. We crossed a gate to find a large herd of cows on one side of the barbed wire fence and two calves on the wrong side. They were all terrified of us as the moved quickly making lots of noise. The calves did not know what to do and after a few minutes we watched as they struggled though the barbed wire back to their family. I hope they stay on the right side. We took a nice break in the shade for some time to snack and hydrate before moving along. We walked quickly as the heat of the day was coming and we knew our next water source was a few miles ahead. We made it to the metal cattle trough to find the water to be a strange green tint. It filtered out fine, but clogged his Sawyer Filter. We have a plan this year to use one filter on the nasty sources and the other one for clear sources. This is because last year we both clogged ours at one source on the CDT. We each packed out 6 full liters of water since this is a very dry section this time of year. There is a chance water may be cached at a trailhead, but we can’t depend on it. My pack was so heavy as I used my umbrella to block the heat. We took a break under a mile away just to let the heat pass. The trail passes a few washes and dirt roads along the way. My foot has really been bothering me lately and I’m thinking it’s the shoes. I hobbled the last mile collapsing to the ground at our campsite. He set up most of the tent as I contributed by finding a tent stake to replace one of the two I had lost. He’s a keeper! We drank a bit of water and watched the sun set over the hill. It felt wonderful again to rest inside the tent. I don’t recall us saying goodnight as we both passed out not in our sleeping bags after 15.5 miles.

April 7

There was lots of animal activity around our tent last night. A few cows seems very angry we had camped there as Paperweight snoozed through their moaning. Right before the sun rose a pack of coyotes were howling very near by. I find their howls to be relaxing and welcome their presence. My foot was stiff this morning as it took a bit to loosen up. I think it is just bruised. The morning miles were cool and refreshing. We came to a small pool of water in some rocks where we scooped a bit and drank it at that spot. It had a stagnant taste. I must reiterate that the biggest luxury we take advantage of at home is access to fresh filtered water in most communities. The best water on trail is any stream that is flowing, but in Arizona that is rare to find at lower elevations. We forced down the nasty water to stay hydrated.

This morning we began meeting bikers that are taking part in a race along the trail. They come zipping up behind us as some yell out and others slow down to chat. The trail is designed in many ways for bikers with curvy turns rather then sharp switchbacks. We also hear bikers complain about the trail and we find it ironic because they cause most of the loose rock. There is only one thing that bothers me and that besides Kristen who is not racing there are no female mountain bike racers this year. There may be one, but we did not see her. I say it is because as women we just don’t want to be that competitive on such a difficult trail. Or is mountain biking mostly a male dominated sport like thru hiking used to be? I am not sure. I do not plan on ever racing the AZT or biking some of the steep sections, but I would like to play around on a mountain bike in the future. Anyway, we hiked along until the heat of the day started to get to us. We seeked shelter under a prickly tree to find it infested with red ants. So I moved along a few more tenths of a mile to find a shady grassy spot with less ants. We hid under our umbrella slowly drinking the few liters we had left. A biker stop concerned we were injured, but we reassured him that we were fine. A nice afternoon breezy picked up that allowed us to cruise. The desert is such a diverse and beautiful place to explore. The variety of cactus, flowers, lizards, bugs, and grasses amaze me. We are hoping to download a guide to be able to identify the various plants. We made it to the trailhead to find one sun faded gallon jug of water. We grabbed it and found some shade. I was worried about plastic in the warm sun so he did some research saying it should be fine as long as the plastic didn’t have BPA which it didn’t. So he tasted it and tasted plastic deciding it wasn’t worth it. We still had two liters each of our green through water from yesterday so we slowly filtered it. 

It was the cool part of the day so we cruised along chatting the miles away. We came to an underpass to find our two quick hikers we met the other day hiding from the heat. They had just gone into Vail and were full of ice cream and Taco Bell. We chatted for a bit before we moved along in search of a campsite. We found a huge spot in a wash which years ago or in high rain seasons is full of water. It was a sandy beach for us so after 16.4 miles we set up our tent and relaxed. Bike riders would zoom by with their headlamps on for hours trying to get in extra miles. A few coyotes howled at us and I howled back to only hear silence. We slept well in our own sandy beach wash. 

Mexican Border to Patagonia

March 31st-We began the trip down to the Mexican border in a shuttle with another thru hiker from England named Walkie Talkie. Ken, our shuttle driver, picked us up in Tucson and drove us south to Montezuma Pass. The day before we dropped our van off in Page, AZ and drove South to Tucson seeing a glimpse of the beauty Arizona has to offer. I felt like I was in another world certainly not the United States surrounded by massive rock formations and the vibrant reds. It made me even more eager to see the state on foot. Ken dropped the three of us off at the pass around 9:30. There were a few border patrol trucks and a crew setting up a camera/ sensor system that will soon be used to track immigrants. The trail begins 1.9 mile South from the pass at the border of Mexico. We began a gradual downhill towards the border. The sky was cloudy and the mountains in the distance were hidden from sight. We cruised downward and ran into Zog who is also thru hiking. We dropped to 5,908 feet at the border. There is a monument on the other side of the barbed wire fence that marks the start of the trail. We took photos as the wind was gusting and raindrops began to fall. I slipped under the fence into Mexico for a short time for a few more photos before we began hiking North toward Utah. We have a 3,187 foot climb to start the trail. We stopped at the parking lot for a quick snack, to use the bathroom, and toss a bit of trash.
We then began climbing as the top of mountains were covered in a cloud as snow was falling up higher. We hiked a bit in Maine, but not in these elevations so I went back to my AT habits of going Slow and Steady (Sas- how I earned my trail name.) I took small steps, breathed deeply, and kept a steady pace climbing upward. The wind was wild and almost blew off my sunhat twice even though it was tight against my chin. What a gorgeous way to start the trail. I have to say it is the most beautiful start of the four national scenic trails I have hiked. We passed a few caged off caves along the way. We only took a couple short breaks as we got too chilly sitting down. Thankfully it was not a warm day. As we neared 9,000 feet, I found chunks of ice that had recently fallen. I made it to the 9,090 point before beginning a downhill climb. 
The trail is rocky as I needed to take careful steps and hurdle a few downed trees. On this side of the mountain, there is still snow piles along the trail, but not on the trail. I caught up to Paperweight at Bathtub spring which is the first water source. Water flows out of a pipe into a bathtub. We snacked and filtered, but didn’t want to stay too long due to the wind and chilly weather. So we pushed on looking for a campsite a bit lower in elevation. We came to Bear Saddle at mile 9.5 and found a nice spot. We set up our new Nemo Blaze 2 for the first time outdoors. There was too much snow in Maine so we only tried it out in the living room. We cooked our first meal of the trail as the sun set and tried to comprehend how a week ago we were moving out of our apartment. It was a great day of hiking totaling 11.4 miles including the walk down to the border. It was chilly so we climbed in quickly enjoying all the extra space in this tent and two entryways. I was exhausted so I quickly fell asleep. 
April 1st- 

Happy April Fools Day! So we woke up to icy water and frost on our tent. It got down into the high 20s last night. I’m so glad we came prepared with warm gear since you can never predict the weather in the mountains. Something unusual happened this morning… I realized one of my gaiters and one of my socks were gone. Disappeared and no where to be found. Every night I leave them outside of the tent on my shoes to air out because the stench is pretty bad. I am assuming a little critter carried them away to build a nest or used them to keep warm last night. During the confusion I managed to forget to pack up two stakes and later on lose my pee rag. What a mess! You’d think this is my first thru hike not fourth. As the bumper sticker in my dad’s garage says “shit happens.” 
We warmed up with a nice steady uphill that led to a beautiful spot with 360 views. We took a snack break here enjoying the warmth of the sun shinning down on us. Most of the hiking today was downhill with just small ups. We dipped into forests and just like yesterday we were surprised by how green the trail is. We passed two game cameras we assumed are used by border patrol. The downhills have been pretty steep and rocky as I took my time trying not to fall. We came to a large pool of water where we took an hour long break including a big lunch. Such a variety of trees, grasses, and cactus along with many songbirds including the mountain blue bird which I love. The trail became larger so we walked next to each other for miles. We could see Parker Lake along with many beautiful homes in the hills. It’s worth checking this area out. We hiked 13.7 miles and ended up at Parker Canyon which is mile 23.2 of the trail. We got there before 4 and set up our tent. As we were relaxing, a couple rode up on mountain bikes. We found out they hiked most of the CDT south last year, but we never crossed paths. Kristen and Steve and riding the AZT and we were excited to chat this evening. But the rain began and did not let up for most of the night, so we climbed into our tent very early to relax and stay dry. I climbed out around 7 to cook after the rain did not stop. Luckily, it isn’t grizzly bear country so I am allowed to eat in the tent. We were both pretty exhausted and fell asleep early again. April 2nd-

We woke up early again and packed up a damp tent. The tent did a great job for its first night in the rain. We chatted a bit with Kristen and Steve before beginning a climb. We have been crossing lots of fences lately. The climb was rocky and stunning as expected. We made it to the top for our first break where I grabbed the wrong bottle and drank maybe a cup of unfiltered water. No! I have made this mistake once before, but usually make sure everything is filtered. I have my fingers crossed that it does not affect me. They caught up to us as they had to push their bike up the hill. We then had a nice downhill for miles towards the water source where the four of us conversed some more. The trail continued on for miles and my body really began to ache. I convinced him to give me a quick back massage. The trail climbed upward towards a highpoint that took our breath away. We filled up water at a dam before looking for a safe spot to set up our tent. We wandered up the trail longer than expected before finding a spot at 16.3 miles for the day. We had neighbors as the cows were pretty close to us. My calves burn and my shoulders are pretty tight! After a nice Annie’s Mac and Cheese meal, we lounges in the tent and I convinced him to give me a calf massage. I’m one lucky girl! We drifted to sleep hoping no cows would step on us tonight.

April 3rd-   

We were so motivated this morning as we were both awake before 6 listening to the cows moo. We packed up and walked quickly towards town. We ran into our bicycle friends and chatted for a bit before moving on. The trail was rocky at parts and even had two jumps down from rocky ledges. My calves have been burning all morning. We took two short breaks along the way and I listened to a few podcasts to pass the miles. The views are so captivating. We began the steep rocky downhill to the road that would lead to Patagonia. We hit the road and ducked into the trees to finish up our water for the road walk in. It was partly dirt before turning into pavement. We hiked 11.7 miles total today.
Our plans were to save money and stay at the RV park, but we did not realize it was .8 out of town. So we caved and hiked all the way into town towards the only hotel, Stage Coach Inn. We checked in to the beautiful hotel and headed up towards our room to be surprised. We entered a courtyard looking down on a pool and large mature trees. By 12:55, we were in our large room. With the hiker discount, it was $100 which is much more then we like to spend but certainly one of the nicest hotels we have ever stayed at on trail. I jumped straight into the shower which was wonderful before crawling on to the bed elevating my aching feet. Around 2, we went downstairs to the Wild Horse restaurant for a warm meal. We followed that up by checking out the two resupply options. The health store was super pricy and so was the Patagonia Market where we resupplied. I picked up some things for this next section deciding to go cook less since I couldn’t justify the price of the rice sides. I like this cute little desert town as it is very artsy with lots of unique features. We returned to the room to relax and do laundry. They allow hikers to do laundry for free which was great. We had a dinner date with Kristen and Steve at Velvet Elvis which is an Italian restaurant. We shared stories of the trails and other experiences. It was a wonderful time before heading back to the hotel. We watched the typical trail shows on the Comedy Central before I passed out at 9:30. I was exhausted and surely snored all night long.

Post CDT life and new adventures 

The days after the CDT were spent reflecting on the journey and dreaming of future trails. I got to catch up with a wonderful friend that I met in 2nd grade. Paperweight and I spent a night with her, her husband, and one year old daughter. She took us to Polebridge, Montana to munch on delicious baked goods getting our huckleberry fix. My father booked us two nights at a hotel to spend together before we parted ways to head home.It seems unreal to have completed the Continental Divide Trail. I had so many doubts after bailing in the snowy San Juans and having to average high miles to make it to the border at the end of September. We lucked out finishing October 2nd as a few days later winter came along for good. The CDT was challenging, beautiful, and so desolate. I became a much better hiker and learned many valuable lessons. I still love thru hiking and exploring the various terrains, diverse trail towns, and meeting locals. Thru hiking allows you to see many parts of the country most people never visit. The days of struggle, exhaustion, and worry slowly fade away. This trail along with the AT and PCT are now part of me and helped develop a stronger, more confident, and adventurous woman. I am proud to call myself a triple crowner of long distance hiking with the desire to hike a few more trails.


I was also fortunate to have a wonderful hiking partner that I met my first night in North Carolina on the Appalachian Trail. We hiked around 1,360 miles together in 2014 before parting ways after summiting Mt. Katahdin. I have hiked with many different people and our hiking partnership was unique and so natural. Life happened and we lost touch for months before a Facebook message reconnected us. It was clear months before the trail when we would talk for hours on the weekend that we might hike the whole way together. We met up in Atlanta, Georgia flying out West together. We were right back to our natural friendship that quickly developed into much more. Without his companionship, support, and calming nature I might not of completed my triple crown. By Colorado, we were sharing a tent and letting life just happen. When we parted ways, I was not emotional because I knew we would be together again soon.

I had lived in Massachusetts for all of life and built wonderful friendships. While I was on the trail, my parents sold their house and my dad retired. They moved away including taking all of my belongings to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to live off the grid. I returned home to a one room cabin powered by a generator with a two hole outhouse. I spent the next two months doing projects on the land, winterizing the cabin, walking in the woods with my dogs, gazing at huge bonfires, and enjoying the company of my family. 


Paperweight and I talked often as I had to go for a drive or walk to get cell service. He invited me to move in with him in the small town of Solon, Maine. I packed up some of my things into my van and headed out East leaving my family for the first time in my life. I’m 30, an only child, and consider my parents to be two of my best friends. It would of been harder if I was alone, but I was living with a person who knew me at the start of the Appalachian Trail in 2014. We know each other so well and the transition from tent life to apartment was so natural. We joked about how good each other smelled and tried to stop eating like thru hikers. We went for walks on the snowmobile trails and up hilly roads together during the months of December to March. After the CDT, we know how to prepare for the cold. I always requested it be in double digits before we went for a hike as we went for long walks in the low teens. We enjoyed a lovely day hiking in Acadia National Park. Life was easy in Maine, but we longed to be living in a tent together. So after 3 months of living indoors, we decided it was time to go back to tent life.

Acadia National Park on the Atlantic Ocean
Robin’s Hill with the Appalachian Mountains behind me.

We took the four seats out of my van and put in a twin bed frame with a mattress on top. We packed up the van with car camping gear, our thru hiking necessities, and a few other fun things. We left Maine and began to head out West for our next adventure. I slept in my first Walmart parking lot along the way. We had a quick trip arriving in Flagstaff, Arizona camping near the next adventure. Our first plan of the adventure is to thru hike the Arizona Trail which is around 800 miles. It begins on the Mexican border and ends on the Utah border. We will then spent some time exploring Utah’s National Parks before heading North to Glacier National Park. Where we will then hike West to the Pacific Ocean along the 1,200 mile Pacific Northwest Trail. We have a busy few months ahead of us and I couldn’t be more excited to spent this time together. Who knows where life will take us, but right now we couldn’t be happier. We are full of love for one another. We are fortunate to have found each other and reconnected. Be ready for some more wild adventures that I will blog about along the way. 

CDT towns & resupply advice

Continental Divide Trail Town Guide Advice

Here is a list of the towns along the way and how I would plan my thru hike if I was to do it again. Every town that has no information means there is a supermarket, restaurant, and places to stay. I included an asterisk* for places you should send a mail drop.

Navigation tip- Guthook’s App is well worth the money. You should also download Ley’s maps on the PDF App. First, download the PDF app then go the shopping cart and type in CDT Ley. These maps will explain all of the alternates and gives you valuable information. He does not charge anything to download them, but does encourage donations for the time and effort he puts into his maps. They are a wonderful and essential for bail options during bad weather. You can also order hard copies of the maps online.

New Mexico

Lordsburg

Silver City

* Doc Campbell’s- USPS Priority Mail send a week early to be sure it gets there on time. You can buy some food items here and things to microwave, but it is pricy. Highly recommend their homemade ice cream! I also recommend spending a night at the campground with the hot springs for the few dollars they charge it is well worth it.

– At this point, you can choose to visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings or get back onto the trail. I walked to the dwellings and spent part of the day there exploring. You can spend two hours and see everything including the small educational building. From here, we took an alternate route which was one of my favorite adventures through a slot canyon that connected us back to the Gila River at a perfect campsite. (see Ley’s map)

* Pie Town- General Delivery to USPS

– I recommend a zero day here at Nita’s Toaster House. The town only has two restaurants and the famous Pie-oneer that only serves pie! Yum! So send yourself a few extra town snacks even though the Toaster House has plenty of food around that you could cook up. This stop was one of my favorites because both hikers and divide bikers congregate here.

– There are two routes into Pie Town (see Ley). I followed the official route which is a bit longer, but passes a general store on a paved road walk. The general store is a log building with a beautiful front porch where we relaxed for hours and you could resupply, but it would be expensive. Many of my friends took the dirt road instead of the paved highway right to Nita’s and enjoyed it.

Grants

*Ghost Ranch

– Maildrop- double check how they prefer mail sent to them. I sent mine USPS General Delivery with plenty of time in advance and had no problem. Others got stuck waiting a few days. You can buy a few snacks and drinks at their store, but it’s pricy. If you are lucky, you might be able to hitch a ride to the nearest gas station to resupply. It’s over a 20 minute ride through beautiful country.

-They have buffet style meals three times a day. In 2016, they had issues with hikers thinking it is an AYCE buffet which was my understanding at arrival. I worry they may not welcome hikers in the future due to multiple hikers not paying for a meal and loading their plates when other visitors were waiting for their first serving. My advice is to get a full plate not loaded to the top then go back for seconds when everyone has got their meal. I really enjoyed their meals and for the price it is well worth it.

-This being said everyone at the facility was welcoming to me and I enjoyed my two days spent here. The best place to visit is the library across from the dining hall. There is free wifi that works well in here and comfortable seating to relax. They offer tours for a small price during the day and the dinosaur museum is free and fun. Spend some time just walking the grounds and exploring.

Chama

-No maildrop needed, but this is where I picked up my ice axe, microspikes (if I was to do it again I would spend the extra money and invest in crampons), gaiters, and snow shoes. Be very careful if using Amazon to send packages. Many problems here in 2016 with Amazon. Call the post office and ask the best advice for how to address your package. They are wonderful there, but many of us got stuck waiting on lost packages. Or send your packages to the Y Motel.

Colorado

I did not take the Creede Cutoff so I will not give any information on the towns of Creede or Silverthorn. I did not go into Buena Vista or Leadville so I can’t share any information on these towns. I do not think it is necessary to resupply in either of them, but Leadville would allow you to carry less food out of Lake City especially if you are planning to summit Mt. Elbert, the highest mountain in Colorado. I’m also told that the Leadville Hostel is amazing.

Pagosa Springs or South Fork

-I would choose South Fork after visiting Pagosa Springs, but it all depends on your interests. South Fork has a hiker friendly hotel which is the best hotel I stayed in along the trail, they offer free bikes to ride around town to do laundry, go shopping, and out to eat, the ice cream shop gives away a free shake or ice cream to thru hikers, and the Mexican restaurant gives away free desert to thru hikers with a meal. Pagosa Springs is full of tourists and lots of people! It was too much for me, but lots of other hikers enjoyed their experience here.

Lake City

-Hostel is great, but the grocery store is very pricy. I did not send a mail drop here, but I likely would send one to the hostel if I was to thru hike this trail again. Check out Poker Alice’s Restaurant and go for the pizza and pitcher of beer deal. I took a zero here and loved it!

Monarch Pass Store or Salida

-You have options! You can send a box to the Monarch Crest Store then continue hiking or hitch into Salida. I’d recommend Salida since the next trail town does not have cheap hotel rooms, laundry, cheap meals, or a large store.

* Twin Lakes

-USPS priority maildrop. They store all of the boxes outside in a locked container that you have access to during their store hours. It involves some digging to find your box and you will meet Colorado Trail hikers here as well. The store has enough to resupply, but it is pricy and limited options depending on when you visit. I ate lunch at the hotel and it was expensive, but delicious. There dinner prices are ridiculous. They had a food truck in town, but they were not serving that day.

Brekenridge, Frisco

-Wonderful free bus transport very close to the trailhead. I spent the night in Frisco, but either town is fine to resupply in. In Brekenridge, where the bus station is has a free ski lift you can ride in the summer.

Grand Lake

-The small grocery store will do, but it can be pretty picked over. The hostel is a beautiful, but    books up quickly. If you plan to hike the Rocky Mountain National Park loop, I would suggest it as a day hike and return to the hostel for the night. The RMNP is considered part of the official trail and you need to pay to stay at the campsites there or do the 26 mile loop in one day. I did      the loop starting early in the morning and made it back to town with plenty of time to enjoy a second night in town. Many people skip this loop and if you are worried about your mileage I would skip it. It is beautiful, but not even on my top ten favorite parts of the trail. I did it because I had never been to RMNP before and you are in peak shape by this point.

Steamboat Springs

Wyoming

 Encampment/ Riverside (about a mile from Encampment PO)

-Most hikers skip this town. There is not much here, but the Lazy Acres RV Park in Riverside was a nice rest spot for the night and the restaurant across the street was delicious.

Rawlins

-All you can eat Thai buffet for lunch!!

Atlantic City and South Pass City or hitch into Lander to resupply

– Go to Atlantic City for the stuffed burger at the Grubstake! Best meal of the trail! You can then walk back out of town to connect to the offical CDT or follow a dirt road into South Pass City. I choose to pick up a mail drop at South Pass City and tour the old mining community for half a day. It was worth it. Other hikers choose to skip over Atlantic City which is off trail, walk past South Pass City, then hitch into Lander to resupply, shower, and do laundry before entering the Wind River Range.

-Begin deciding your campsites for Yellowstone National Park. I waited until Dubois to do this and had to change plans due to the sites already being booked.

Pinedale

– I choose to skip over Pinedale and spent 6 full days in the Wind River Range! Many hikers loved Pinedale, but I wanted to experience a long wilderness section and the weather was beautiful. Yes my pack was heavy the first few days, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Dubois or Brooks Lake Lodge (free package hold as of 2016) or Togwotee Mountain Lodge ($10 fee)

– You can choose to send packages to various lodges instead of going into Dubois. I loved Dubois and even though it took a little while to get a hitch in and out I would visit this town again just to go to the Cowboy Grill! It is illegal to hitch in the city limitDubois. You can walk out of the town limits about a mile and throw out your thumb, or just pay attention that you aren’t sticking out your thumbs to a cop.

-Last chance to get your permit for Yellowstone National Park. I did get asked for my permit by a ranger which is sent in an email then saved to your phone.

Old Faithful Village

– You can resupply here and I did, but it was expensive. I sent a box here, but it was not addressed correctly and ended up on the other side of the park. Hit up the AYCE buffet for breakfast then hike out of the park that afternoon to avoid sending too much money here.

At this point, you enter Idaho and have two options. You can hike the Henry Lake Route or Mack’s Inn Cutoff. I choose the cutoff which meant I did not have to buy much food at Old Faithful Village.

Mack’s Inn/ Sawtelle Resort

– I sent a package to the post office in Mack’s Inn since I needed new shoes. You can resupply at Sawtelle Resort fairly cheaply. The resort offers showers and laundry to hikers at a good price as well without an overnight stay. We were able to relax on their back porch while doing laundry and resupplying. Check out the Chinese Restaurant across the street it is delicious!

Montana

*Lima

-USPS general delivery to the PO or the one hotel in town. The hotel was for sale last year so confirm they are accepting packages and offering rides. The owner of the hotel will pick you up and drop you off from the Interstate so you do not have to hitch hike. Lovely owners! You could resupply at the gas station, but it is so expensive with few options for dinners.

*Leadore

-USPS general delivery to the PO or the hotel in town. The hotel books up quickly especially during hunting season starting in September. They only have 4 rooms, but you can also camp across the street at an RV park for a fee. The store has few options, but possible to resupply.

Sula Country Store or Darby to resupply

-I choose the country store to avoid a bigger town. You can rent cabins at the country store and simply relax on the porch swing for hours. Many hikers loved their time spent in Darby it just includes a much longer hitch and you pass the country store anyway.

If you are not planning to do the Anaconda Cutoff, you will not walk thru town of Anaconda. So investigate the town Butte or Elliston. Everyone I know took the Anaconda Cutoff besides one SOBO I met. I heard Butte is a lovely town and the section is beautiful, but it will take many more days and if you in a rush you will need to do the cutoff.

Anaconda

Helena

Lincoln

-Figure out your reservations for campsites in Glacier National Park!

*Benchmark Ranch

– Send your package USPS over a week in advance and make sure they receive your $25 check before your box. The ranch offers a nice place to relax a bit before getting back on the trail. It is very expensive to spend the night there and not worth it in my opinion.

East Glacier

Many Glacier- It closes down in mid-September

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My last maildrop at Benchmark Ranch in Northern Montana.

East Glacier to my Triple Crown!!

Sept 29

As soon as you wake up at Brownie’s Hostel, you can smell baked goods downstairs and I was eager for 7am to roll around. I grabbed two pastries and a cold coke to drink. We lounged on the couches realizing this is the last stretch. The two of us left first and walked down a few roads before finding the trail. We had a pet dog for a few minutes as he lead back to the trail before turning around. Our first pet together… didn’t last too long. We came to a Glacier National Park sign along with one reminding us we are in grizzly bear country! Trust me, I have not forgotten about our bear encounter a few days back. There were lots of reflections this morning about how far we have come together and all the epic views along the way. I have a difficult time comprehending how many miles I have hiked in the past three years and how my life came to this point. All it took was one crazy decision to attempt the Appalachian Trail. Little did I know that I would find a lifestyle full of wonder, adventure, and years of friendships. I am also fortunate to have reconnected with my AT hiking partner, Paperweight, and realize the friendship we had on that trail has only grown stronger. We created a strenuous schedule for ourselves with a deadline to finish since we have a ride booked. We followed the cairns up to an amazing pass with views that blew my mind. Some of the best hiking in the past three years certainly include Glacier National Park. At the top of the pass, we soaked in the views and waited for our friends to join us. Chipmunk and I joked about how we never thought we were going to make it, but here we are. Paperweight and I began the downhill towards Two Medicine campground and parking. We met a man out hiking that pointed out three big horned sheep! This is my first time seeing them in the wild. Another unforgettable experience! We made it to Two Medicine which had closed down a few days ago for the season and even the trash cans were locked. We found a huge herd of big horned sheep eating out of the campfire pits. We began the climb towards Pitamakan Pass. We met lots of people out for a day hike congratulating us on our hike and asking lots of questions. It is nice to meet people again on the CDT and share some stories. They all agreed with us that today is one of the best weather days in a long time in this area. I enjoyed the sun shine, warm weather, and clear views for miles. We passed a closed down campsite near a lake that is closed due to grizzly bear activity. As expected, the top of the pass rewarded us with more surreal views. We headed down the pass to a large lake where we enjoyed one last snack before pushing on to the Atlantic Creek campsite. I enjoy having a campsite reserved because you know there are cleared out spots for tents and room for everyone. In Glacier, the campsites all met a specific design. There is an eating spot near where the food is hung, a separate spot to camp, and a separate area for the privy. We enjoyed dinner getting to know Rodger from Wild (His real name is Greg, but he is “Rodger” from the book Wild. Meaning he was on the PCT the same year that Cheryl hiked it and wrote her now famous story of her experience on trail) and a lovely couple from Czech Republic. Crocs eventually showed up as it was getting dark and joined us. It was a nice evening followed up by a quick tent set up and off to bed. Only 3 more days and 2 more nights now of this lifestyle…

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Sept 30

We got an early start this morning looking forward to exploring more of Glacier National Park. We spooked a mama and baby moose out of the dense trees onto the trail then deep into the woods. The landscape was stunning as expected as we gradually climbed uphill to our next pass. This section is far enough from the parking lots so the only people I see on the trail are 6 other thru hikers nearing the end of a long journey. We made it to Triple Divide Pass with Rodger from Wild and a nice couple from Czech Republic as everyone took a snack break and savored the view. Triple Divide Pass is near where the two divides meet forming a peak where water runs off to the Atlantic, Pacific, or Indian Ocean. It was relaxing to just stare at the peak and chat with fellow hikers. Paperweight and I spent the day reflecting and dreaming of future trips together. We came to the spot where the trail follows along Saint Mary’s Lake. Across from the lake, you can see the famous Going to the Sun road. That is certainly on my list of roads to travel. The trail was easy walking and full of beauty every around turn. We found lots of waterfalls as he realized he had been here before. I am a sucker for waterfalls, but we couldn’t spend too long needing to get to camp before it gets too dark. Walking in grizzly bear country at night is not on my favorites list. As we got to a trial junction, there was no mention of Reynolds Creek Campsite as we noticed someone had carved into the sign and it pointed across the bridge. But instead of a bridge, the suspension bridge was taken out and we followed the trail down to the “horse ford” route. We both took off our shoes and I slipped on my crocs. The water was freezing cold and my feet went numb during the last few steps. We dropped all of our food and smelly items off at the food area, but setting up our tent for the night. We cooked dinner resting on the ideal long in front of a fire pit which we were too tired to build. We heard people on the other side of the creek and he went to the river to guide them across in the dark. It was another night of wonderful company and lots of calories. We headed back to our tent first to relax and check our maps as our routine has been for months. Trail life is beautiful and full of so many emotions.

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Oct 1

The morning started out with a drizzly and a ford. I really didn’t need to take off my shoes because it would rain most of the morning, but I did. We plunged into the cold water of the creek moving fast over the chilly water. It was only a light drizzle, but it quickly changed as a put on my rain gear. We crossed a paved road of no cars before joining the trail and beginning the climb up to Piegan Pass. The trees sheltered us from the rain for a bit before we reached tree line. It was another pleasant uphill especially after 5 ½ months of hiking my mind is a well-oiled hiking machine. The clouds passed over the mountains tops and glaciers at the top stole my breath. I am so fortunate to explore Glacier for the first time by foot. We made it to the top of the pass before began the downhill. As we turned the corner, we were rewarded with epic views, waterfalls, and the possibility of clearing skies. I got ahead by just a few seconds. Suddenly, I noticed two animals way off moving in the distance. As I pointed to them with my hiking poles, I saw Crocs under a rock in front of me. We agreed it was likely grizzly bears as Paperweight joined us. We did what we were told and began shouting at them. I was getting cold waiting for the bears to move. We debated a scree downhill for only a few seconds because it was way too risky. We inched closer and closer yelling at the bears and they could care less. It was a big mama grizzly and a baby. The baby was curious about us, but the mother continued digging up roots. We all had our bear spray read as we lost sight of them from our vantage point. We moved slowly as I was in between the two fellows this time as we saw them less than 100 feet up above the trail. The mother continued eating and I got a lovely glimpse at the baby bear. The most adorable and cuddly looking creature that I have ever seen, but that cute little critter will soon be a huge grizzly. I do not have a photo to post because we would not wait around or waste any time. You do not want to spook or anger a grizzly bear. We zoomed down the hill as we lost sight of them eventually. I warmed up due to the fast walking, adrenaline rush, and lower elevation. We walked near the waterfalls and analyzed the stunning landscape. Many moments this year felt like I was in a different world or a dream. The four of us took a break at a stream after a quick ford for lunch. We watched mountain goats walk along rocky cliffs through Chipmunk’s binoculars. What an extraordinary animal to watch. You can see white specks on the side of the cliffs with your bare eyes. Then using the binoculars you realize how steep the cliff is usually up to 60 degree slope they are maneuvering and watch them eating. We all took off and headed farther downhill towards Many Glacier. It was clear most of the way and then the sky began to darken. We made it to the closed down restaurant, ranger station, and warm food. This is the negative aspect of finishing late in the season. We took refuge under different shelters as the wind and rain was intense for a while. The four of us ended up together again sitting under a roof watching and listening to the storm pass. This is the reality of thru hiking. An hour plus later we took one of the two choices to the border. Ptarmigan Tunnel closed down a few days earlier solidifying the route we would take. We walked along the road for a bit before dipping to the left onto the trail. The sun was beginning to set and we rushed wanting to get to camp before it was too dark. We choose to camp at Poia Lake Campsite. We ventured off to grab water out of the lake as my foot slipped into the lake as I used my headlamp to light up my water source. We found a canopy set up over the fire ring so we sat down, cooked, hung our bear bags and found a tent site. It was chilly in the high 30s as we moved quickly and got cozy one last night. I am ready for the indoors for a bit. It has been a wild few months.

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Oct 2

It is the last time this season of packing up a damp tent and eating a cold breakfast. It has been an exciting, exhausting, and beautiful 5 ½ months. But winter is right around the corner and we just made it in time to complete our thru hike. The morning light allowed us to see the beauty of Poia Lake and look ahead towards our last pass to Canada. There are lots of emotions today and mixed feelings about finishing the trail. I was so unsure if I would complete the trail after the snow in the San Juans and getting into the month of October, but we did it. The support of my family and friends encouraging me to stay strong and earn that Triple Crown reassured me. Luckily, I have the ideal hiking partner that knows how to motivate, reassure, and push me to be a stronger woman. Without Paperweight this sure would have been a lonely trail and I’m fortunate to have in my life. We began the gradual climb towards Red Gap Pass. We passed icy covered streams and warmed up one more time. The view from the pass did not disappoint as I have fallen madly in love with Glacier National Park. We headed downhill where it was a bit warmer and took a break on the trail reflecting, discussing previous fears, and looking forward to the future. It was then one last march towards the border. We made our way to the Belly River Ranger Station to take one last break and Chipmunk joined us as well. Chocolate Chipmunk is one of the best thru hikers I have had the privilege of sharing my journey with. As we left that last break stop, I kept looking back at the mountains and the pass I had just been on top of. I understand how far away I stood from the Mexican Border back on April 22nd. Also, a year ago today I finished my thru hike of the PCT. I walked in awe of my accomplishments, dedication, and experiences over the past three seasons of hiking. I have been blessed to see so many parts of the country you can only visit by feet. The hospitality of small towns along the way, the generosity of rides as we hitched hiked, and the beauty of this country make thru hiking the best way to travel in my opinion. Before I knew it, I was standing at a marker for the trail as everyone was cheering. The four of us shared congratulations before walking the road towards the border crossing. It has closed down for the season, but we still took our photo in Canada at an old marker. It was a surreal moment as I tried to comprehend the past few months. We took the usual photos and I placed on my crown that Crocs made me. I have earned the triple crown on thru hiking in three years and became a better person seeing new places, meeting people from across the globe, and evolving as a woman. Take that risk and live out your dreams!

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Benchmark to Glacier National Park

Sept 23- Woke up the sun trying hard to come out as the rain had finally come to an end. Packing up a soaked tent is awful, but three days in a row of wet shoes is much worse. We got going a bit after 8 after sleeping a little too late. We walked maybe ten minutes before joining the road that would lead to Benchmark Ranch. The road was easy walking and included walking next to the air strip for 6,000 feet.  We passed a few log cabins as well and met one of the owners. He told us a few stories that were quite interesting! He told us about an elk hunter down in the valley that shot an elk then went to get it and got killed by a grizzly. He said the Grizzly bears are becoming a problem more in town and head toward gun shots. He has never seen one in this area and he suspects they may become hunted again soon. We walked a little farther passing 6 healthy deer just grazing along the road. We made our way into Benchmark Ranch and through the gate, over a foot bridge, and to a porch with two bear proof boxes. For $25, you can send a box here instead of a 30 mile hitch on a dirt road most of the way into Augusta. We grabbed our two boxes and tore into them! Thank you so much mom for taking care of my mail drops these past three years. Without your support it wouldn’t have been possible! We both made a huge meal for breakfast at 9:30 and sat at the large picnic table. This is a very peaceful spot with small log cabins, running water, and places to relax. Too bad we have no time to relax at this point. I did pack up first and found time to sit in a rocking chair for a few minutes. A little after 10 we were back on the road and walking towards the trailhead. It’s 3.5 miles back to the trail and well worth the detour. Oh yeah… We were the last two boxes besides three unclaimed boxes from July. Back of the pack for sure this year. I also counted 25 other thru hikers that had signed the book in September and there were many more in August and sobos in July. We walked quickly to get warm on the road just waiting for the sun to shine down on us. The trail crossed a neat suspension bridge over a river and continued on a slippery muddy mess mostly destroyed by horses. It was slow going as your feet sink into the mud and you have to pull them out. Slow and tricky hiking. We each hung part of the tent on our pack to help it dry then got to the next suspension bridge where we took a drying out break. The sun was not shinning, but it wasn’t raining just breezy. We hung everything over the sides of the bridge while feasting for lunch. We could hear elk bugling in the distance. Everything dried out including my soaked sleeping bag! My pack is still damp, but it’s getting there. This was a huge moral boast that was greatly needed after three wet nights. The terrain was rolling, but slow due to all the mud. We were told it rained 2.5 inches down in the valley. As we turned a curve, I saw a black bear running along the path. We both stopped and watched him go for maybe .2 miles along the trail. Black bears are such a beautiful creature and graceful in their own way. We pushed on until dinner time where I cooked and he ate a presoaked meal. It was windy and a bit chilly, but for thirty seconds the sun shinned down on me and it was a relief. We pushed on as night began to fall. We are officially in the Bob Marshall Wilderness also known as “The Bob.” We found a large site along a stream where we decided to spend the night.

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Sept 24

Our first obstacle was crossing the stream which was pretty large without getting our feet wet this morning. I dipped one toe into the water, but overall made a good choice. Today we get to walk along the Chinese Wall which I learned about many miles ago when there was a CDTC sign along the trail. I saw a photo with the label, “Chinese Wall.” What? It was stunning in this old photo and I could not wait until the moment we saw it up close. We climbed up for a few miles before we had our first glimpse. It sure did not disappoint. It got so cold since we were at a higher elevation and it was cloudy most of the day. I took so many photos this day and drove him nuts asking for photos of myself. I would love to visit here again, but it is not a day hike so who knows if I will ever return. I appreciated every moment of the day. We took a lunch break where we both cooked a warm meal while admiring the great wall. So many people will never see this sight and it seems like we were transported to another world. The tamaracks are all changing colors which made the sights even more magical. We came to Spotted Bear Pass where there was a 2,500 mileage marker that made me giggle. This trail is so difficult to know the mileage compared to the AT or PCT. Everyone takes different routes and you add or sometimes lose mile when you bail off the trail due to storms. We continued on for a few more hours. We passed a ranger station with lots of sites, but it was a bit too early. So onward we went and were shocked to find no campsites. I just wanted to be done for the day as we pushed onward looking everywhere. We decided to just make a spot work and had to move a few branches. It would do, but surely one of the most uneven spots so far. It was nice to lie down in a dry sleeping bag and drift to sleep. I looked up the trail a bit seeing nothing only to find out the next day that Chipmunk and Crocs were .2 miles ahead of us at the stream with a large campsite.

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Sept 25

We passed the nice campsite and stream thinking our friends might have camped there last night. We began the climb up Switchback Pass and at the top we were rewarded with one last view of the Chinese Wall. It was too cold at the top of the pass to take much of a break so we headed down to a lake. Unfortunately, it was not much warmer at this elevation so we kept going down. We walked until we were both starving so we took a long snack break along the trail. Lots of reminiscing these past few days about this hike together and the miles we did together on the Appalachian Trail. The next few miles were pleasant and fast, but still chilly. We came to a ford where we had to get our feet wet and hear yelling. I looked ahead to see a forest ranger cabin and two people on the porch. It was Chipmunk and Crocs. She was upset that we had lost each other for good and I thought the same. She promised she would of waited at Glacier for us! Chocolate Chipmunk has been family since northern New Mexico and it is fitting that we all finish together. We all walked together catching up on the past few days. The four of stopped for dinner and had to put on all of our layers. “Winter is coming!” They were both happy they bought warmer gear weeks ago. Crocs left first in search of a big campsite for all of us. We found him at a large campsite above a stream. The four of us enjoyed some time catching up before the cold forced us into our tents for the night.

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Sept 26

This morning was entertaining as our maps gave us two options. I choose to stay on the muddy trail as the other three picked a bushwhack across the woods to prevent a loop. I have done enough bushwhacks. The option of taking the trail was definitely slower and slippery, but I found the guys hanging out together having a snack so I joined them. Chipmunk was bringing up the rear listening to music as she caught up to join us as well. We had a friendly grouse hanging out with us at the water source. It was then back to work hiking along.

Chipmunk was off doing her own thing as usual so the three of us walked together discussing future trails and dreams. Crocs was the leader, Paperweight was in the middle, and I was bringing up the rear as we chatted. We came to a flooded stream across the trail so we did a small bush whack around it only getting slightly wet. We walked a bit farther before crossing a small stream and seeing the largest bear print yet. We then took a few more steps finding an animal’s bone that had been gnawed on recently. We said “someone had a good lunch.” We continued walking when Crocs suddenly started to back up into Paperweight then me without saying a word. Before I realized what was happening, I saw it. It was a huge bear. It suddenly stood up on his hind legs and stared at us only 15 or so feet away. We yelled at it saying “Hey Bear” and clapping our hands together. It stared at us for what seemed like forever before slowly walking away from us off of the trail. We didn’t know what to do so we moved forward with our bear spray ready to go. We came to the spot to realize the bear was hidden in a deep hole it had dug. Inside the hole was an elk that it had recently killed and began feasting on. The trail was the exact location where the elk was killed and it looked like quite a struggle. We knew we couldn’t leave Chipmunk alone not knowing how far behind she was. No one should walk up on this situation without being warned. So we retraced our steps and waited for over half an hour for her to return. We were all a bit concerned and on edge as we waited wondering if the bear would return at any moment. She finally joined us and on we went. The four of us walked together very quickly past the scene of the attack and dead elk with our bear spray on hand. I took the lead and we made lots of noise searching the area off of the trail. We were able to see the elk’s prints heading to the spot of the scene. We wondered if the elk was injured or if the bear was stalking it. We also debated if it was a grizzly or black bear. I am guessing a grizzly, but we were unable to see if there was a hump on the bear’s back. The bear was at least 500 pounds so in my opinion that was my first encounter with a grizzly bear. I’m much more on edge now and do not want to hike alone anymore. We all stayed close the rest of the day discussing the “what ifs”. Always be bear aware especially in grizzly bear territory. I wanted to see a grizzly bear on my hike, but I did not expect to come across one eating a dead elk on the actual trail. We were lucky!

We split up into twos and continued walking. We were ahead of Chipmunk and Crocs as we came to a ranger station. We met a female ranger and her father out for a few days with their horses and a dog doing trail work. They invited the two of us inside for some lemonade. We were able to sit at the table and share stories. Of course, they decided to tell us more horror stories about grizzlies and said the trail we were on is not traveled much so no need to close it down. It was another reminder as to how remote the CDT really is. We spent too long hanging out here like usual before finally packing up. It was a nice treat though. We hiked four miles from the ranger station and found a spot right off the trail to set up camp. Chipmunk and Crocs never caught up. It was dark by the time we were setting up so into the tent we went. We reflected on our encounter being very thankful we were not alone and all of us had our bear spray. In case you were wondering, we keep one can of bear spray in the tent at night and the other outside in case one of us needs to use the bathroom. We have been doing this since the Wind River Range. We also never cook at camp, but a few miles before we set up camp. The last thing we want to do is attract a bear to our home.

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Sept 27

We did not want to get out of our tent this morning, but as we were trying to get motivated we heard them. Chipmunk and Crocs were growling trying to be grizzly bears and frighten us. They did not succeed. We finally packed up our tent finding a small hole at the bottom of the tent. A stick went through it last night and luckily did not pop his sleeping pad. We caught up to our friends at one of the many river crossings. I think we crossed at least 4 of them this morning. We all took a nice break together. It was then a mad dash into East Glacier. We walked nonstop until we made it into town for a late lunch. I wanted to get back on trail tomorrow for the final stretch, but we decided to take a day off due to weather and not having our permits done yet. So we enjoyed a nice lunch before getting a hotel room. In East Glacier, they have been working on the water pipes so after Paperweight and myself took a shower there was no water. Poor Crocs and Chipmunk! We bought some beers and relaxed for a while before I went to do everyone’s laundry and catch up with my mom. When I returned, they were all pretty funny! We had been told to visit Serrano’s Mexican Grill. It was the busiest place in town, but for a good reason. The meal was delicious and we bought a very expensive pitcher of margarita. It was a pricy meal, but maybe the best on trail. We even brought home some key lime pie for dessert. It was a nice evening spent with good friends. The best part is that we are actually going to make it. After all of my concerns, I know that we will complete the hike and my triple crown! I slept very well tonight.

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Sept 28

We left the hotel at the very last minute. We got all of our chores done. We resupplied, called about campsites, and ate plenty of food. We had to make a trip to one of the Forest Service offices to watch a video about backcountry safety. It was likely made in the early 2000s or late 90s. I think the four of us could make an even better video. We got our permits before checking into Brownie’s Hostel. We got the last private room and the other two had to sleep in the shared bunk room. We did some research and realized where we would be ending at Chief Mountain and on the last day of September they close down the border. That meant it would be tough to hitchhike out of the trailhead. Paperweight called and booked an expensive taxi ride. We then had to walk back into the busier part of town for one last dinner together. I have spent a lot of money on food this hike and not lost much weight which is fine by me. The hiker hunger hit very hard this year. We spent the rest of the evening hanging out at the hostel and drinking a few beer. It was a good zero day and the last one until every day is a zero day!

 

Helena to Benchmark Wilderness

Sept 17- After a zero day, it is difficult to be motivated to get out of bed. A bit before 9 we headed down the street to No Sweat Cafe for a delicious healthy meal. We even had real maple syrup to put on our whole wheat pancakes, but the super thin hash browns were the best. We headed back to our place at the hotel to shower one last time and pack up. We walked back to the highway that would lead back to Macdonald Pass. We stopped at Hardee’s for a few more calories and it was well worth it even though we didn’t start hitching till around 1:45. A nice man cleaned up his seats for us to pile in as he drove us back to MacDonald Pass on Highway 12. I have truly enjoyed all of the hitches on this trail. You are typically picked up at a highpoint then dip into town and the ride out of town winds up mountains. We had to do a short walk along the highway before dipping onto a trail and following a gravel road upward. I still feel strong to complete this hike. We walked along this path for quite a few miles before joining a trail again dipping into the woods. We passed an old wooden railroad that had fallen into disrepair. It was likely a sit where a mining had took place. I also enjoyed watching a long train go under the mountains through a tunnel. These are places people might only explore on foot or ATV. I love seeing our beautiful and diverse country this way. As we came out of the tree coverage, we were met with a quick rain shower as we threw on all of our rain gear the storm passed a few minutes later. The three of us took a break to lighten our food carry. We walked on until night fell before pitching our tent. We spend most nights looking at our maps, discussing the past and the possibility of our future together.

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Sept 18-

It did not rain once today making it almost a perfect day! The trail followed a ridge line for miles. Scenic views and happiness filled my heart. I soaked in the sunshine and appreciated every moment. It is getting to the final few days of this amazing adventure and the completion of my triple crown of thru hiking. It is difficult to put into words the beauty so simply enjoy the photos.img_3041

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Sept. 20-

We were on the trail by 7:20 this morning and doing our first of many climbs. We busted out the miles and came to a parking lot at Flesher Pass. There was a water cache waiting for us, a picnic table, and a privy. We each decided to cook a meal for an early lunch. We ended up spending almost an hour here and as we were packing up Crocs and Chipmunk arrived. We then debated for a while about which route to take. They found a shortcut that involved a bit of road walking then following the powerlines. It would save some climbing and sometime, but I wanted to hike the trail. Paperweight and I debated it for a bit before I said I wanted to do the trail and he stormed off up the trail. I finally caught up and we took a break together agreeing the views up here were worth the extra time. We have had to bail so many times off of the trail due to storms and the sky was clear this afternoon so I saw no reason to road walk. P.S. I hate unnecessary road walks. Our two friends never arrived so we knew what route they took. We walked the ridge then began dipping down and the sky turned dark. We put on all of our rain gear and prepared for more miles of wet climbing. We walked a road before crossing Rogers Pass where we could have bailed into town, but we knew we shouldn’t. There is a small parking lot here and a trucker was taking a break. There was so much trash, toilet paper, and other nasty things near this spot. Obviously, it was not from thru hikers. Maybe someday they will install a privy or people will not be so nasty. We began climbing up as the rain pounded us. We debated camping, but wanted to put in a few miles. Unfortunately, this left us in a bad situation as we were above tree line with few safe options to camp and hide from lightning strikes. We passed a locked yurt before continuing to look for a spot. We decided to follow the powerlines downhill into the tree. We went down much farther then I would have liked trying to find a flat spot. We ended up just calling it and setting up as it poured. I was shaking, cold, soaked, and just wanted to get inside the tent. Our one vestibule makes it tricky so we work together to get everything set up before crawling in one by one. I always have a dry outfit to wear to bed and it was nice to be out of the storm. We cuddled together and looked at what tomorrow would bring. I had service to check the weather and realized we would be struggling in storms for the next few days. Feel asleep listening to the rain fall on the tent and the buzzing of the powerlines.  img_3081

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Sept 21

Today was one of the most miserable days of hiking so far in my life! It was difficult to get out of the soaked tent and slide on wet shoes. We didn’t make it far before it started to rain again as we began to climb in elevation. The trail follows the divide meaning the edge of a mountain so the wind was whipping. Numb toes and hands for the first part of the morning. I pushed on already feeling exhausted. It is also a ladies favorite time of month to top things off. We stopped for a quick snack break at Lewis and Clark Pass, but within five minutes I was shaking so I threw on my pack and continued hiking. The higher we climbed the worse the weather became. The rain turned to freezing rain then to little ice crystals that stuck to my gear and body. I just wish there was a shelter like on the AT to hide in or a town close by. Not today! We stopped again for a quick break where I just ate a pack of crackers and continued to shake so onward. The trail turned into snow as we followed Crocs and Chipmumk’s footprints upward. At this point, I’m just dreaming of a temperature controlled room and my bed. There were lots of steep up hills followed by muddy snowy downhills all day. I caught up to Paperweight as he told me there is a shortcut up the actual divide that will save a long downhill followed by a steep up. The other two had taken that way so we decided to follow their footprints. Mistake! It was a cross country trail meaning no trail just rocks and shrubs. The snow began falling harder and the wind was ridiculous almost blowing me over. Icicles formed on my clothing and gear as I struggled to keep up with him. I was then shocked to find their footprints twice going down steep rocks to the ground below it. If you have been following my journey, you would know I hate downhill on rocks! Especially when they are snow covered. Using my hands both times to crawl downward I was shaking, but I made it. I need to remember these days because I am much stronger than I think! More divide walking with the wind whipping and all I want to do is connect back to the CDT. It was almost two hours of stress that could have been avoided! No more of this I made him promise. I managed to fall down twice today on slippery terrain just bumping the same knee twice. Brutality! We pushed on trudging in the few inches of snow that fell downward towards non snow covered earth. Paperweight admits this was his hardest day on trail as well. We did 26 miles of this type of walking with maybe 15 minutes of breaks all day before setting up our wet tent by a stream. There were puddles in the tent with a wet sleeping bag as well. I’m so glad we could share in the misery together.

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A photo of me walking on the actual Continental Divide during a storm

Sept 22

Unfortunately, it was raining as we packed up again. I may have cried in the tent out of misery and putting on wet cold clothes to begin hiking. He comforted me to the best of his ability, but I just had to suck it up and keep moving to get warm in the 30 degree temperatures. It would rain on and off all day blocking views that I know was stunning. I have been following friends I met on the trail ahead of us and saw the photos of the views that we were missing. This is the negative part of a thru hike as you have no option, but to keep moving. My fingers were numb in my wet gloves so there were few photos taken today. We hiked together most of the day besides the time we listened to podcasts. We did another marathon day with few breaks. We found a campsite not too far from our next resupply point. As we began setting up, the sun was out so we let the inner part of our tent dry out a bit with the help of a bandana. We are in grizzly bear country for sure as we have seen tracks, lots of scat, and a few claw marks on trees. We climbed into the tent as I was so happy to take off my wet stinky socks. This section is around 250 miles without a hotel, laundry, or much of an escape from the elements, but a quick resupply at Benchmark Wilderness before the push to Glacier National Park. I love being able to spent that many miles on a trail without the luxuries of town, but this section turned into a struggle due to the weather. But I’m strong and know soon the sun will shine and things will be dry again.img_3137

 

 

Anaconda to Helena

Sept 12-

It was tough to get out of bed this morning since it was so warm and cozy. Close to 9 we raided the continental breakfast which was very small. There was only one bagel, cereal, milk, and sunny d. It was time to go back to the warmth of the bed for a bit longer since checkout is at 11am. We packed up and made our way to the laundromat/casino/bar. Yes there is such a thing! We choose to only do laundry. We then made our way to McDonalds where we found Chipmunk. We spent too long here like usual before forcing ourselves back to the road walk. We were a little under a mile out of town when we saw a man walking into town on the other side of the highway. He started waving his trekking poles and ran across the four lanes. It was Crocs! We hadn’t seen him since Steamboat Springs, Colorado so the four of us stood talking along the highway 1 for 40 minutes or so. He will catch up to us in Helena for sure. We walked this highway a bit longer before we turned on to the next Highway 48 for another two hours or so of jumping off the shoulder when cars zoom by. This should be the last road walk until we have to bail… Hopefully not. We turned on another paved road and crossed under I-90. I have crossed this road quite a few times in the last three years on foot. The road turned into gravel and led along the Super Fund site that is being “repaired” and past farm land. A nice man offered us water from his hose and we declined having enough. Another man stopped us to ask questions and maybe start a business venture since his property is on the trail. Another man stopped to tell us a friendly black bear was 4 miles up trail. The last truck stopped to tell us a girl was ahead of us hiking and they were worried that she was alone. So many bears and mountain lions they said. Oh the locals. Our evening hours had cows staring at us and crossing cattle guards using our headlamps. It was almost 10 when we found Chipmunk and set up our tent site surrounded by cow patties under the stars.

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Sept. 13-

The morning seemed promising as the sun was shining as we walked the last 4.4 miles of the Anaconda alternate back to the CDT. We took a second breakfast break here and talked to a worker driving a tractor. The sun was still shinning as we walking through the trees and over nice cattle guards. It was easy walking with gradual ups, downs, connections to roads then back to trails. Then the sun disappeared and as we emerged into an open field we could see rain in the distance. The rest of the day was chilly. We filled up at a cow trough then heading into the trees to hide from the rain that appeared to be coming our way. We both cooked and snacked taking only a 45 minute break. It was cold when we left so I put on my gloves. My podcasts distracted me as the hours and miles flew by. It’s too cold to sit down so we just walked all day. We covered lots of miles this way and besides a quick water break we walked until dinner time. It was another fast dinner as we then rushed downhill as the sun was setting. We were setting up the tent around 8:30 so it was an early night. We heard some weird animal noises in the distance not able to identify them. We were both asleep a little after 9.

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Sept 14-

We woke up to icicles on the tent. I didn’t think it was going to get that cold. Brrr! We packed up quickly and got moving uphill to warm up. We found Chipmunks’s headphones next to the trail. About half a mile later, we ran into her since she was going back to find them. The trail is well maintained and large as we walked side by side for a bit. Not much water on this section, but he walked down a hill to grab some for us. So we took our first morning break off the trail as the warm sun hit us. It was a nice treat. The terrain was a treat and it was an easy day of constant walking. I love days like this! We cruised along getting closer and closer to town. We could of made it in today, but decided to save money and walk in tomorrow. We began looking for a spot 3 miles out of town. Of course, we had little luck. That meant we got to enjoy a nice sunset from a grassy ridge as cows grazed below us. Life on the trail is beautiful. The two of us debated over a few sites before continuing on and on. We ended up 1.4 miles from the road into town. This was a bit of a surprise, but we set up and called it a day dreaming of town food. We laughed knowing Chipmunk was enjoying a warm meal and warm bed tonight.

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Sept 15- We had only 1.4 miles to the pass where we needed to hitch into Helena. So we slept in a little bit and then quickly walked those last few miles. We ended up waiting a little longer then expected as cars drove by very quickly. Luckily, a kind woman heading into work picked us up. Her husband is a big hiker and she enjoys the outdoors herself. She dropped us off at the hotel where Paperweight sent his maildrop. We then crossed a busy road and did grocery shopping while hungry. That is always a mistake as we bought lots of sweets and other unnecessary food items. We found our way to Chipmunk by walking about a mile in town as college kids rushed to their classes. This is the first resupply in a capital. On the PCT, I went into Portland to explore, but it was not necessary. The CDT might be the only trail where a resupply is necessary in the capital of a state, but I’m not 100% on that fact. We did the usual town chores and savored a warm shower and clean clothes. Crocs made it into town in the afternoon as well. The four of us enjoyed drinks and pizza for the evening before wandering down the road to a bar. We played a few rounds of pool, darts, and my first time playing shuffle board. I need some more practice! We had a great time celebrating, drinking, and laughing. We were in our own little world as many other people were here since it was a Saturday night. It was getting late and I was exhausted so I headed back to the hotel which was only a few blocks away. An hour later the three of them returned and were pretty entertaining. Crocs ended up passing out in Chipmunk’s bed as Paperweight and Chipmunk enjoyed another beer. I passed out and was curious as to how they would all feel in the morning.

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Sept 16- My three buddies had all celebrated a bit too much last night and woke up with a horrible hangover. I am 30 now and don’t drink like I did in my 20s anymore. The morning hours were spent relaxing in bed as I could finally say this is the last zero day of the trail… so I thought. Paperweight agreed to check out the farmer’s market with me in Helena. It was huge with lots of options and well made crafts. We then returned to the hotel where Chipmunk was beginning to wake up. Paperweight and I had a lunch date together downtown and enjoyed a nice conversation. The rest of the day was simply relaxing with no shoes on and feet up in bed. At 6, Chipmunk was ready to go out to eat so the three of us went to a Thai restaurant. It was so busy and very slow as they explained a cook had called us. We girls had finished our meals by the time his was served. But it was the best Thai meal of my life. I think Helena is the only capital that I have explored that I would like to live in. The rest of the day was mellow as we wondered what date we found finish the hike and what the future would hold for all of us.