Friday, August 31, 2018

Day 138- How It All Began

Thursday August 30, 2018
East Glacier(2914.9) to Two Medicine(2926) 
11.1 miles 
Total Miles: 2612.2
Elevation: 5,200 ft

Since we got into town late last night I knew we would be slow leaving town. There was absolutely no reason for us to rush, we only had to hike eleven miles today. My plans for the morning included an AYCE breakfast buffet, picking up my last resupply package, eating at a bakery, laundry, making travel arrangements, making a few phone calls, and shopping for a few extra snacks. I managed to sleep in a little bit and I felt pretty refreshed. We all walked down to the Glacier Lodge for breakfast. The buffet had quite a few options and it was only $16. I refrained from stuffing myself and only ate three plates of food. I included some fresh fruit for good measure. I enjoyed several cups of good coffee, biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, hash browns, country potatoes, French toast, and sausage. Wow! When I see that in writing I’m astounded that I just said I didn’t stuff myself. 

Cool Mountain View on the way to eat

Enigma, Z, Piñata, Sour Straws, and I

After breakfast I went to the general store to pick up my last resupply package. The General and Hannibal put a lot of great things in my last box. I’ll be dining in luxury for this last stretch with all Mountain House dinners. They also included a nice T-shirt and some Crown Royal. I can’t wait until we reach the border. 
Once my resupply was taken care of I went back to the motel. I got everything packed up(I have way too much food) and went to go do laundry. Once again I volunteered to babysit the clothes while they were in the wash. I called home and got the ball rolling on my travel arrangements. Looks like I’ll be taking a train from East Glacier to Spokane, Washington and then a flight to Denver. I found reasonable tickets and I’m pleased I’m not spending and arm and a leg to get back to Colorado. We delayed leaving town as long as possible, but once the laundry was done and travel plans were finished we ran out of excuses to stay. Enigma chose to stay the night in town. He found a job working in Glacier and needed to speak with HR. Hopefully he will meet up with us tomorrow. 

Glacier Lodge

I think we were all excited to finally be hiking into Glacier National Park today. On ther other hand nobody was excited about the giant climb out of town. We will hit a camp store almost everyday on this last stretch. We had all planned on carrying minimal food through Glacier because of the on-trail dining opportunities. Well, we all failed miserably at that. I’m pretty stoked to be finishing this trail in Glacier. Four years ago I had minimal backpacking experience. I had taken a few short trips on the AT, but those weren’t the greatest trips. Backpacking can have a steep learning curve. I thought I was doing pretty well in those days if my pack weight was below 60lbs. I’m still amazed that I stuck with backpacking after my first few trips didn’t go as planned. I was looking for something epic to do for my birthday and stumbled across some pictures of Glacier NP. I immediately got online and booked a ticket to Montana. I even convinced a good friend, JC, to come with me. It was the trip of a lifetime and completely changed my prospective and priorities. That backpacking trip was the main cause for my move to the west years later and a major influencing factor on why I decided to thruhike the AT. To be back here years later finishing my third thruhike in four years feels surreal. 
Start to the day

Glacier National Park

Changing scenery

Finally back in the mountains

Such a cool hike today 

The wind was some of the strongest I have ever hiked in. I swear there were gusts above 60mph. I really had to fight to stay upright and on trail. I love these types of climbs and quickly left the others behind. I was in my element today. I put on music, instead of an audiobook or podcast, for the first time in forever today. I jammed out to Disney music for the entire uphill and most of the down. It turns out that Disney is great hiking music. 

A little less haze around today

I can’t wait to see the rest of the park

We made it to our final destination, Two Medicine campground, around 6:30. We couldn’t legally hike any farther today. We don’t have our backcountry permits yet. Two Medicine has a backcountry permit office that we will visit for our permits tomorrow morning. We weren’t sure exactly how to proceed because of the fires and increased bear activity throughout the park. We thought it would be best to talk to a ranger in person. Hopefully, this decision doesn’t come back to bite us on the butt. With Labor Day around the corner I expect the park to be busy, but the Park holds a certain amount of backcountry permits for same day walk ins. We hope to get one of those. Two Medicine has a few campground that we were able to stay in. They have two sites permanently reserved for backpackers. I had to pay $5 for the night, but I thought that was fair. I have running water, toilets, picnic tables, a camp store, and bear boxes for food storage. After setting up we walked to the campstore for more food. I lost track of what I had in my pack already and for some stupid reason I bought more food. Once back in camp I proceeded to stuff myself. I will have an excess of calories this section. 

Super cool pine tree on the way to 2 Medicine

Cool mountain and flag at half mast in honor of John McCain

Walking along the lake on the way back from the camp store 

Everyone has way too much food 

This last stretch promises to be epic 

All guesses about my finish date and time need to be submitted by tonight. 

“We deem those happy who from the experience of life have learnt to bear its ills without being overcome by them.”     
- Carl Jung

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Day 137- It Won’t Be Long Now

Wednesday August 29, 2018
Ranger Station(2884.7) to East Glacier(2914.9) 
30.2 miles 
Total Miles: 2601.1 
Elevation: 4,826 ft

Sleeping on the front porch of the ranger cabin last night felt a lot like sleeping in an Appalachian Trail shelter. I even hung my food from a nail above where I slept. I heard every snore, sneeze, and fart. Despite all of the body noises I slept well. I didn’t wake up until 5:45. It was pretty chilly again and nobody else was moving so I went back to sleep for a little bit. I contemplated making hot coffee, but in the end I was too lazy. I’m constantly amazed by how lazy I can be everyday while still walking fourteen hours. Everyone was moving slow. We didn’t get out of camp until after seven o’clock. We hiked together at first, but I lost Straws and Piñata at some point. Z was having problems with his Achilles’ tendon and was taking it slow. I ended up hiking by myself for almost fifteen miles. It has been a while since I have hiked by myself for so long. I really enjoyed it. Today warmed up nicely, it was perfect hiking weather. There was just enough of a chill in the air that you had to keep up a brisk pace to stay warm. 

Ranger cabin 

Stream crossing to start the day, but kept my feet dry 

Halfway through the day I hiked past a campground. I decided that would be a good spot to take a break, eat lunch, and wait for the others to catch up. I thought that they were right behind me, but after waiting for an hour I decided to hike on. I was worried that they had gotten ahead of me somehow. Before I left I took full advantage of the privy and water pump. As soon as I finished everyone showed up. They had gotten slowed down by all of the thimbleberry and huckleberry bushes we hiked past. I also had lost some time picking berries. In hopes of leaving the campground faster I volunteered to get water for everyone. When I got back Enigma had shown up. Looks like we will have a good group at the finish. My lunch break had turned into a two hour break and I was anxious to get going. We had another fifteen miles to go before hitting town. I didn’t want to get into really late. 

Overgrown wet bushwhack for most of the day

Eagle or hawk in the tree 

Finally a good view

We knocked out those fifteen miles pretty quickly. Just before reaching town I got cell service. I made a reservation for us at a local motel in East Glacier. It was the last room in the entire town. I forgot that Labor Day was upon us. Hopefully that won’t affect or camping inside the park. Once we made it to town we dropped our packs at the motel and went for dinner. As usual we all ate a ton of food. I had a chili cheese burger, a polish hotdog with sauerkraut, and fries. I even managed to save room for ice cream. I’m going to miss being able to eat whatever I want. When I was a little kid my uncle told me a joke. It is a miracle that I can remember it after all of these years. I usually can’t remember a joke after a few minutes. What did the monkey say when he got his tail stuck in a lawn mower? It won’t be long now! The end is in sight and I’m looking forward to finishing off this journey. 

Bushwhack kind of day 

"Those who want to reap the benefits of this great nation must bear the fatigue of supporting it."
- Thomas Paine

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Day 136- Burrrrrr

Tuesday August 28, 2018
Basin Creek(2848.2) to Guard Station(2884.6)
32.4 Miles
Total Miles: 2570.9
Elevation: 5,515 ft

I think the absolute worst aspect of trail life has to be putting on frozen socks and shoes on a morning that is already wet and below freezing. I slept warm enough last night, but upon waking up I could tell that it was freezing outside of my tent. I decided that it was too cold to get up and waited for it to warm up. I fell asleep again. I woke up again at 6:30. It was time to get a move on. Usually I’m leaving camp at 6:30. Once I started making noise and packingvup everyone else starting moving as well. My hands and feet were painfully numb as I packed up. I didn’t wait for anyone else, I had to get moving so I left camp first. Even though it was so cold today I enjoyed this mornings hike. The chilly conditions have really sent the foliage into autumn colors. I can’t believe how quickly things have changed. It took a solid forty five minutes before I could feel my toes and fingers again. As soon as I regained feeling in my toes we had to do a wet stream crossing. I was not amused by this. 

Getting our feet wet

I’m pretty sure that no one managed to get a full nights sleep last night. It was just too cold and we also spent most of the morning trying to stay warm, which burned a lot of extra calories. We were all pretty sluggish for most of the day. When we were actually moving and not taking a break we were keeping a fast pace. The problem was that we didn’t start hiking today until seven thirty and we stopped a lot. The miles felt slow. The trail was very flat today which helped us make up lost time. We all took turns up front setting the pace for the group. I have been enjoying hiking in the back of the group. I can zone out and just follow along. Plus I can stop more frequently to take pictures. Today was an empty stomach kind of day. No matter how much I ate, I was left wanting more. Once again I blame that on how many extra calories I burn hiking in the cold. For most of the day it was in the mid to low 40’s. All of the shrubs, trees, flowers, grass, and the ground was nice a wet from yesterday’s rain. I stayed damp all day as a result. My feet stayed soaked and it was hard to get my layering system just right. I was either really cold or overheated all day. 

Cold hands and feet worth it for this


Since the trail was wet and muddy animal prints were easy to see. I saw signs of elk and deer, but the really cool prints were from bears and either a coyote or wolf. I even have a picture of the doggish looking print inside of a bear print. We still haven’t spotted any live bears, but their poop and paw prints are everywhere. 

Bear and coyote/Fox/Wolf? print 

The goal for today was to hike 36.4 miles to end the day at a backcountry FS cabin. When we hit mile 28 we discovered a better route to take. One set of maps had this as an alternate, another map set showed it as the official trail. Therefore I’m not sure if it was an alternate or proper trail. Either way,  I do know it was less miles. Today should have been 36.4 miles to the cabin, but the other route ended up being 32.4 miles. That is a pretty standard thing on the cdt. I believe that it is improbable for any two hikers to hike the same exact mileage. 

First snow on the mountain tops


Around three thirty the sun began to tease us. We would get a minute or two of sun before the clouds came back in. I was grateful for even a few moments respite from the wintery weather. 

Great end to a great(cold) day 

“We are what they grow beyond, that is the true burden all masters bear “
- Yoda

Day 135- Miserable and Content

Monday August 27, 2018
S. Fork Sun River to Basin Creek(2848.3) 
31 Miles
Total Miles: 2538.5 
Elevation: 5,803 ft

I woke up to the sound of rain striking my tent. That sound would wake me up several more times throughout the night and early morning. I was fully awake at 5:40, but it was still raining. Since none worse was moving yet I stayed in my tent. I was pretty sure the rain had finally stopped when I heard Piñata get up. I figured o should probably start moving as well. We managed to get everything packed up before it began to rain again. The sky looked horrible and it was really cold out. I knew that today wouldn’t be much fun. Z, Straws, Piñata, and I left camp together. Larry Boy stayed behind to finish packing up. Our group decided to stick together today since Z was the only person with a decent map. We started the day off with a riddle. We were so absorbed in the riddle that we missed a turn and walked an extra mile before figuring out that we were heading in the wrong direction. The new rule is no riddles first thing in the morning. 

Dreary day

We were relatively fortunate it with weather today. Yes it was really cold(low 40’s) all day, but it never poured on us. It was more of a Pacific Northwest drizzle. The wet conditions kept us moving at a good clip. A little after noon and we had knocked out fifteen miles. Not too shabby considering the late start and bonus miles. We were heading to a backcountry cabin to eat lunch at. We were just expecting to be able to sit on a porch and get out of the bad weather. To our surprise it was a US Forest Service Ranger cabin and there was a ranger inside. He invited us in. The wood stove was blazing and the cabin was toasty warm. The ranger even poured us steaming hot cups of coffee. It was too good to be true. Ranger Denny was all caught up on his work and decided to take the day off to hangout and stay warm in the cabin. He was a very nice and funny guy. We stayed for over an hour and a half. We were all so warm that nobody wanted to leave. Denny let us look at a map and gave us advice on the upcoming trail. We only had ten or eleven miles remaining before we would get back to the cdt. Our Bob Marshall fire reroute was almost complete. 

Freezing wet stream crossing 


Z, Larry Boy, Sour Straws, and I eating our lunch and sipping hot coffee

Piñata and I agreed that even though the weather was miserable the scenery was beautiful and it was a good day. The clouds, fog, and general misty conditions made everything seem richer in color. Over the last few days the arrival of autumn has been very apparent. 

Fall colors starting to come in on the ground bushes

Z still in good spirits

At least going uphill warms you up 

Another wet crossing completed

So much green 

Lots of fire damage 

Tops of the mountains were getting snow today 

We have seen a lot of bear signs today. We have seen the tracks of a very big animal and lots of bear poop. We will be taking appropriate precautions in camp tonight. Once we got back on the cdt everyone was relieved. Hiking without maps or the Guthook app is very discombobulating. I never know how many miles I’ve done or where I am exactly. Getting back on trail meant I had this info at the touch of a finger. We decided to push a little farther than planned. Every miles today means less tomorrow or the next day. Plus we needed to find a good campspot. We needed something sheltered and in the perfect spot. We found a good spot a little before eight o’clock. I didn’t want to go any further tonight. The sun was setting quickly and the temperature was dropping again. I got set up pretty fast. After cooking and eating I found an acceptable tree to hang my food from. I’ll be happy to get into Glacier NP where they provide bear lockers at the campgrounds. Hopefully that means only two more nights of hanging my food. 

I would also like to announce the annual, When Will Yoda Finish, contest has officially begun. To participate please comment below with the date and time you think I will finish
My remaining mileage is about 160 miles. The winner will receive a small token of my appreciation. Mom, Dad, BFG, and School House Rock are not eligible. 

“There is no success without hardship.”
- Sophocles

Day 134- Disappointment

Sunday August 26, 2016
Straight Creek to S. Fork Sun River
15ish Miles
Total Miles: 2507.5
Elevation: 4,670 ft

Today started off as a fun day. Since we were camped close to the road we needed to hitch into town from we were able to sleep in. We also took our time getting out of camp. We didn’t leave until almost eight o’clock. Once we made it to the road we walked a few miles to Benchmatk Ranch. Some hikers sent packages to the Ranch, but I didn’t like their rules so I decided to hitch 30 miles on a dirt road into the town of Augusta. Benchmark Ranch required a $25 fee for holding a box. The box had to be a certain size and sent three weeks ahead of time. Payment for holding the box had to be sent in the form of a check. The owners of the ranch were also charging money $5/hr to charge your electronics. That was just too much for me. After waiting a twenty minutes for a ride we saw a car coming in the opposite direction. All of a sudden Enigma jumped out. He had gotten ahead of us and was heading back to the trail. We talked for a few minutes before he left. The girl driving him said she would pick us up on the way back. We hoped to catch up to Enigma tomorrow. 

The seventeen year old girl that gave us a ride was really nice. She had her dog with her. During the drive to town the dog startled her when it jumped into the front seat with me. The girl veered off the side of the road. The car was seconds from rolling over and crashing when she skillfully recovered. For a second we all thought we were going to die. Just goes to show you that we are actually safer on the trail. The rest of the ride went by quickly. We were dropped off at a local diner called Mel’s. We had to wait for a table to be cleaned. While we waited we scouted for a place to charge our electronics. This town stop would be another in and out, our top priority was eating and charging up our power packs. I had a half breakfast: 1 egg, 1 sausage, half a hash brown, 1 piece of toast. I went with the smaller portion to save room for s huge pancake. It was the perfect amount of food. 

Yesterday we got the bad news about the Brownstone Fire closure. We weren’t too happy about that closure, but we came to terms with it. The reality of hiking out west in this day and age is having to deal with fire closures. While we were researching the alternate route we discovered that the cdt is closed in Waterton. That was a major blow. The trail ends at the Northern Terminus in Waterton National Park. We had just found out that we wouldn’t be able to finish at the official ending point! Everyone was quite as they absorbed the impact of the closure. As of today there is an alternate route that will allow us to end in Canada, but it is not the same. I’m still trying to process this news. I’m extremely disappointed. Ending at the Chief Mountain border crossing will have to suffice. It is almost fitting that this hike will end on an alternate. 

Dental hygiene is important

After breakfast we walked next door to resupply. The tricky thing about alternates is figuring out the difference in mileage. Our best guess is that the Bob Marshall alternate route is about twenty miles shorter than the official route. I bought four days of food and I hope we guessed the mileage right. The next twenty five miles will be tough to figure out. I don’t have the greatest map of the area and the alternate is not on my Guthook map. Hopefully following the Forest Service route will be easy. 

Not the best map

We managed to get our town chores done quickly. We ate, resupplied, and charged our electronics in a little over three hours. We could have paid a shuttle to take us back to the trail, but it was expensive. No way I was paying $60 for us to get back to the trail. We made a sign that said CDT hikers to Bemchmark. A lot of cars passed us by. Eventually a white truck stopped. Coincidentally it was the same guy who gave Piñata and Straws a ride into Lincoln. He was on his way somewhere else, but said if we were still there when he came back in ten minutes he would give us a ride. We decided to continue trying to hitch while we waited. Unbelievably the very next vehicle stopped. We piled into Ron’s truck. He had a boxer puppy riding in the back. The puppy was adorable. Ron was on the way to Benchmark trailhead to pick his sister up from a backpacking trip. He was a much better driver. I noticed that everyone was wearing their seatbelts this time around. 

Hiker trash hitching at its finest 

We started hiking just before three o’clock. Even with getting our town chores done quickly we got a later start than we would have liked. Two hours of round trip driving and time spent hitching slowed us down. We started off on the official cdt, but the alternate rapidly approached. I don’t care for hiking without a good map or gps waypoints. Z is the only one who has a decent idea of how this whole thing comes together. He has a pretty good gps app with a good map on his phone. We did s few more riddles at the start of the alternate. We are getting pretty good and typically find the answer quickly. 

Partial boundary sign seemed appropriate for hiking part of The Bob

Wet stream crossing

Terrain for the day 

Z running out of rocks to step on

We weren’t too happy with the wet stream crossings. Z tried to make his way across the first one and ran out of rocks half way across. The forecast calls for rain all day tomorrow so I don’t think having wet shoes today will mater in the long run. 

Z and Piñata setting the pace

Straws and I laughing about something 

Group selfie 

Sun River 

Cross country route finding 

Group shot inThe Bob 

We got off trail a few times before finding the correct path. We were looking for a place to camp for the night when we found the perfect spot. Unfortunately, someone had beaten us to it. As we passed we noticed that it was Larry Boy. We have been over lapping with him since Helena. He left us squeeze into his spot. We are nice and sheltered from the wind. We had a fun dinner together. I hope that we can continue to hike the right trail tomorrow. My disappointment has lessened a little. Now the name of the game is speed. We are all focused on finishing this trail before more trail is closed. Think fast thoughts with me. 

Campsite for the night 

“Some days you go bear hunting and you get eaten. Some days you come home with a nice rug to roll around on, and bear steaks. What they don't tell you as a kid is that sometimes you get the rug and steaks, but you also get some nice scars to go with them. As a child you don't understand that you can win, but that's it's not always worth the price. Once you understand and accept that possibility you become a real grown up, and the world becomes a much more serious place. Not less fun, but once you realize what can go wrong, it's a lot scarier to go hunting "bears".”
- Laurell K. Hamilton