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“Wander a whole summer if you can…time will not be taken from the sum of life. Instead of shortening, it will definitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal.” John Muir

Day 13: Hot Climbing

July 20, 2017

Miles: 20

PNT mile 160.5

Camp: By Boulder Creek, Montana

Today was a rather big day for us. We were woken at 3:15 am to rain on our cozy little cowboy camp. There was quite a lot of commotion as 5 hikers scrambled to put up tents and keep our gear dry. It doesn’t happen often, but it is a risk in any cowboy camp. After I was in my tent I had a hard time getting back to sleep and 2 more small rain showers passed in those wee hours.

Finally, we all accepted the reality of morning at 8am…a late start for all of us, but we went to bed late last night. We set ourselves up for a 20 mile day with a huge climb. We pretty much would have to go that far to camp by water and fortunately it doesn’t really get dark until 10pm around here. So, we went in knowing it would be a tough day and it started with a 7 mile road walk.

We left the comfy trail by the lake and onto highway 37 where we pounded pavement as cars and trucks sped by. I’m beginning to want to let go of being a thru hiker to avoid that in the future. I don’t mind a road walk if it is dirt, but highways aren’t built for walking.

I struggled with a bad case of chafe on the thighs as I hobbled down the road after the guys. Just like old times really, my short legs trying to keep up with these long strides. It’s still the life I want to be living though, at least for now.

After 6 miles on the highway we runes onto the Lake Koocanusa bridge which spans nearly a half mile across the lake. I tried to avoid vertigo by not looking down and made it across in the hit sun, sweat crystals further aggravating the chafe. It was all I could do to get down the road. Without the guys, I’d probably have stopped a few more times, but time wasn’t a big luxury today. We have so many miles and only so much food, so we can’t be dawdling too much this section.

It’s a new ailment for me really, the chafe. I’ve had it before but something about this bout is incredibly uncomfortable. It was a long hard road walk that finally brought us to our lunching spot. We ate by a creek that we had to scramble quite a ways down to, but we are supposedly about to face 10 waterless miles with a big climb. We are talking 3000 ft in 4.5 miles. It’s going to be a bit slow I think. At least for me.

After lunch we jumped on trail and immediately began climbing. The air was hot and the sun direct on the south facing mountain trail. I took slow steps and let everyone but James get ahead of me. He was behind me somewhere. I took no breaks except to dig into some fresh huckleberries on occasion, and to drink water. Sweat was pouring off of my face like a faucet and I worked hard to stay on top of my thirst. I took it real slow and steady with micro breaks in the shade and sips of water.

Finally, 3 hours later, I summited Webb Mountain. The views were lovely and far reaching. We still had some miles between us and no water, but we relaxed in the shade for a while before pushing on. That climb was a challenge for all of us. I felt pretty good if not a bit beat up and a lot thirsty. I wasn’t dehydrated though I wanted to lay down and drink a lot of water at once.

A mile or so down the trail, Judd had found a small pond and we all too what we needed to get on to the next stream. Righton had moved on first…but suddenly he was coming back. I thought it was somehow the wrong trail at first and my tired brain had a small temper tantrum inside about back tracking.

Then he told us he had seen a mama grizzly with 2 cubs up the trail. The mom bluff charged him as he backed away. We could feel his adrenaline as he told us about it all and we grabbed our bear spray cans to head on as a group. We made lots of noise and didn’t see the bear again. I’m still cool with not seeing a bear on trail. Righton was pretty shaken up and I can’t imagine I’d be any better off.

We hiked together after that which I loved. I felt pretty good in the cooler temperature and the easily graded trail and kept up with their fast pace. It was hard for me to do so but I wasn’t going to fall behind in grizzly country and did it reminded me of so many days on the CDT. I love being in a group, especially this one. Too bad it is only one section. I have to cherish it.

Speaking of, it is late and I am spent. I’m ready to close my eyes and call it a day.

Goodnight.

P.S. Pink’s toe still bothers him but seems to show slight improvement. Fingers crossed!

Day 12: The Toe

July 19, 2017

Miles: 7

PNT mile 140.5

Camp: cowboy camping by the shores of Lake Koocanusa

In an unfortunate twist of events, Pink had a nasty run in with his pinky toe and James’ shoe. His toe was black, blue and swollen when we woke up. The short walk across the street for breakfast caused him a lot of discomfort and pain, enough so that he questioned being capable of walking out of town.

We had a solemn breakfast over that fact, bit afterward he decided to try to walk on it. Since we had a road walk out of town he could easily hitch the 6 miles to the next town of Rexford if it was bad enough. Though the going was slow, he made the miles but felt it was all he could do for the day. So, we found the local saloon and settled in for the afternoon with platters of fried chicken and curly fries along with delicious lemonade cocktails. The Frontier Saloon is another cool small town dive with walls covered in animal heads and antlers. The locals are all very kind and lots of fun to talk to as well!

The waitress indulged the guys’ love of the TV show ‘Battle Bots,’ which eventually gained the attention of other customers. It was a fun and lively night, very reminiscent of the CDT when the guys would strive to be in town whenever the show aired. It felt warm and fuzzy but I also longed to be back on trail. Too much time in town for me this early!

Since some locals had bought us beer, we were all a little buzzed as we made our way to the lakeshore. We were told we could camp there, so we found a spot with a picnic table and played cards for a while before bed. Now it is late and I am super beat…but laying under the stars with some of my favorite people is the best. Tomorrow we get back to the business of hiking.

(Only two photos today…small town entertainment and Pink’s toe)

Day 10-11: Eureka!

July 17 & 18, 2017

Miles: 9

PNT mile 133.5

Camp: Silverado Motel, Eureka, MT

We woke up at 3:30 am with hopes of seeing the northern lights, but the trees obstructed whatever view we might have had. At the time though, the need for sleep was just as important. We slept on until about 8am and proceeded to walk the 9 miles to town.

It was an uncomfortable road walk, much of it on a paved highway with cars and trucks whizzing by in a hurry. We passed a golf course and collected golf balls for no good reason but novelty at the time. No two were alike!

Finally, we arrived at the hotel where we were quickly set up with a room. We took long hot showers and turned on the television while we relaxed. Analeise stopped by on her way out of town and then we went into town to explore. First stop was the post office where I immediately threw my old shoes away in exchange for my new pair. What a change off the bat! This is going to be a game changer for sure.

We then ate taco pizza, shared a pitcher of beer and investigated the health food store. The day was hot and we were tired, so the rest of the day was spent lounging around the hotel room with leftover pizza, beer and television. Life is good.

In the morning we heard from Judd and Righton who had just come into town! They were part of my hiking team that I finished the CDT with, so the reunion was a wonderful occasion. They are hiking with a guy named James and we all decided to share a room for the night. We hadn’t really planned on a zero, but rest and reunion felt great and just what the doctor ordered. We also plan on hiking the next section together, but they will ultimately be hiking the trail much faster than we plan to, so it will be a short and hopefully sweet time.

Another hiker named Kathleen rolled in and we all went out for more pizza (this time we got cheese steak pizza…yum!). We then hung out at the hotel, did resupply and got to bed in order to hike out in the morning. I’m happy to be with all of these wonderful people on this wonderful trail. All is right in the world.

Day 9: Almost Canada

July 16, 2017

Miles: 11

PNT mile: 124.5

Camp: A small dammed lake outside of Eureka, MT 

Waking up at Bluebird Lake felt a little bit like luxury. The air was cool and breezy causing the field of flowers leading up to the lake to sway with the breeze, hundreds if not thousands of yellow flowers…shooting stars I think. It felt like fall and it felt like camping. Usually we are camped in an odd spot so it doesn’t feel as much like camping as it does finding a place to sleep for the night. It was a beautiful setting.

We had a long breakfast by the lake and I spent and good amount of time stretching. I’ve been much more diligent about that this time and I really think it is making a difference. Stretching is important!

The hike was moderate to start, climbing up and over a pass. The views back into Bluebird Basin were lovely and we saw someone flying a kite on a nearby mountain. The heat seems to have broken since the storm, and temperatures were warm but moderate. It made for very pleasant hiking all day.

We came right up to the Canadian border as we descended into the Tobacco Valley getting some views of Lake Koocanusa on our way down. The name is a hybrid of, ‘Kootenai,’ ‘Canada’ and ‘USA.’ It is a large lake and we will be walking part of the shoreline on our way out of Eureka.

We could have made it to town today if we wanted to, but we decided to dawdle a bit instead. We took long breaks and enjoyed ourselves instead of pushing ourselves. There is no point to hurry up and get to town when hanging out on trail is way more fun…and a lot cheaper. During one of our breaks we saw a flock of 5 wild peacocks in the woods just behind us. Ice never seen them in the wild…or known they lived here. It was like being in the coolest zoo ever.

We found a small dammed lake just inside the national forest boundary and ate dinner by the shore. A bald eagle swooped nearby and landed in a tree offshore. If taking your time means seeing all of these rare birds I’m never going to hurry again. What a cool day!

Now we are nestled on the side of a forest service road for our first cowboy camp of the trip. There have been too many bugs until tonight, but somehow we are in a safe zone. Border Patrol stopped by to check our intentions, bear protection and citizenship, but he didn’t hassle us. We chatted about Aurora Borealis and he drove off with a smile.

Now it’s bedtime for these tired hikers as we are running into town tomorrow. Hot meals, hot showers, laundry and beer…here we come!

Day 8: Bluebirds and Rainbows

July 15, 2017

Miles: 

PNT mile: 103.5

Camp: Bluebird Lake, Montana

The sky was comfortably overcast when we woke up to the alarm. The air was cool and there was a considerable lack of bugs. We ate our breakfast of homemade oats and continued the road walk. It stayed real pleasant for the steady climb and my feet felt as good as day 1! I’ve really taken command over the blisters, staying on top of preventative care and there have been only 2 so far. They are painful, but healing. 

After we left the road for the trail, we took a quick snack break. Precisely when we sat down it began to rain. It was subtle at first but increased in intensity as we snacked. We were under a tree and not getting wet and we’re and be to gear up for hiking in the rain. I was trying out the new Patagonia rain jacket though it was my feet getting wet. The plants growing over the trail were soaked and treating our legs and feet to the trail car wash. Water was making its way into my waterproof shoes and they were holding on to every drop.

Slosh. Slosh. Slosh.

Every step was more water and more sloshing. I knew from experience that this did not bode well for my feet. If they are soaking in water all day I’ll surely see the return of the blister nightmare. The only problem is that I can’t do anything about it until Eureka. New shoes in Eureka!

It rained all of the way to Foundation Lake where we ran into a hiker named John. We met him briefly in Polebridge, but now we see him in the true hiking elements. We gathered water for the next 10 miles and continued on in the rain up Mt. Wam. The car wash persisted as did the rain and especially the mosquitoes. The rain turned them into fierce bloodthirsty heathens, even more so than usual. They were tenacious! I ended up inhaling a couple to the back of the throat too…things were a bit unpleasant for a while.

Then we summited Mt. Wam and found a nice cabin occupied by a guy named John (not the hiker) and his dog Tufa. He invited us inside for coffee and to warm up and make lunch. We stayed for a long time chatting and watching the storm clear as it moved past us to the distant mountains. To Glacier, 100 miles ago.

Oh yeah, we hit 100 miles today! That’s always a fun moment on trail.

So we finished lunch and hiked out into the clearing day. The terrain was a bit of the usual gain/loss pattern. It is kind of a beating this early in the trail eeally, but I think it will make us strong quickly. We are getting our trail legs back, but it sure is wearing us out.

We had dinner by a stream and a passing shower brought with it a rainbow. What a beautiful setting it all is…and no one else is out here! It is crazy that no one is hiking these trails here. They are all ours and we are loving every minute. Now we are camped by a beautiful alpine lake and my tent is extra cozy after a sloppy wet kind of day. Nothing beats the warmth of bedtime and dry sleeping bags. 

Goodnight.


Day 7: A Week of Bliss

July 14, 2017

Miles: 16

PNT mile: 96.8

We have been on trail for a week already! It’s finally starting to feel natural again. I think starting in the national park made me feel less like thru hiking and more like going on a trip. Now we are out on our own and it feels more like home. 

This hike is also different in so many ways, partly because I’ve done this before. I have so much more in my toolbox than when I started thru hiking in 2014. It is fun to see how quickly I can solve problems now, how it takes so much more than it used to to set me back. I know what I’m doing. I am stronger each time. I am strong.

I am strong and this trail is tough. There is a lot of elevation gain and loss in short periods of time, just to regain it later. It makes me feel good to work hard to achieve my goals, it is hard, but it feels good. There is also the constant knowledge that grizzly bears live here too, they can be around any corner or sniffing out your food at night. It can be stressful if I dwell on it…which I sometimes do.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures today, though I should have. I had many moments where I stood looking out at seas of peaks, the wind blowing just right. It was only the mountains and me for brief moments, brief and blissful moments. Moments locked in time. 

At any rate it has been a long 3 days. We have been hiking pretty decent miles and working hard for them. We hiked part of the Whitefish Divide to Mt. Locke at 7250 ft., mountains in every direction as you follow the ridge that has mostly steep but sometimes graded trails. We lost about 3000 ft of elevation after lunch and we are in a river valley tonight. Tomorrow we gain back the elevation and decide on our first alternate. It’s going to be another great day!

Day 6: Breezy Dreams and Dreamy Breezes

July 13, 2017

Miles: 16.8

PNT mile: 80.8

Camp: on a very mosquito-y ridge at about 6500 ft., Montana

We hiked late again today. The terrain started out beautifully; moderately graded and well shaded. My feet felt perfect and I was enjoying the feeling of being on trail again. We found nice shady brookside groves of trees and took breaks in the pine needles. It was a hot day, but the breezes were blowing and keeping us fom getting too hot.

Soon we were climbing into a 15 mile waterless stretch on a ridge. We got 4.5 liters of water each (roughly 9 lbs) and slowly made it up to the ridgeline. It felt just like the CDT, following the ridge up and down, staying above the valleys…and the water. It was slow going as we are still building our trail stamina, so by the time we reached camp it was already sunset.

The mosquitoes were the worst to date, but we had to cook dinner and feed ourselves. We did so as quickly as possible and now it is after 11pm and I need sleep. Hopefully we get an earlier camp tomorrow.

Until then.

We were in the woods most of the day, so not a lot of pictures.

Day 5: Leaving Polebridge 

July 12, 2017

Miles: 9

PNT mile: 64

Camp: Somewhere along Hay Creek Road, Montana

Spent too much time enjoying the fineries of town and got on trail at 4pm. We had mailed ourselves a box so we had lots of goodies fom home, but we still ate salad at the saloon and hiked out some cinnamon rolls. Road walked until after 11pm, hung food, crashing out in a slanted campsite, both of us against the walls of our tents. We are officially out of the national park so it is up to us to pick our sites now and in our own hanging tree.

It’s just like I like it.

Goodnight.

Day 4: On The Road

July 11, 2017

Miles: 14

PNT mile: 48

Camp: North Fork Hostel (in a tipi!) Polebridge, MT

I didn’t mention it in my tired state last night but there were thunderstorms yesterday evening. The thunder rolled down the valleys, tumbling and echoing for miles, lightning periodocally brightening the sky. We stayed just ahead of the storms and easily managed to stay dry through the night.

It made for wet vegetation along the trail today though…a ‘carwash’ of overgrown plants that constantly wet the legs on passage. It was refreshing as the air remained humid from the storm, but pretty consistent.

We walked about 7 miles along the shore of the lake with little elevation change. A little up and down as we contoured the lake edge. At the head of the lake were picnic tables, trash cans, running water and bathrooms! We had a long luxurious lunch there while drying our tents and ate everything extra we had from the section. We won’t be rolling into town with a lot of extra food which is always good.

The second half of the day was a 7 mile dirt road walk. It was hot and dusty and my blisters were protesting. We sat at a turnout halfway to town when a man in a truck stopped. 

“Need a ride?” He asked

“No thank you, we are just resting,” I replied

“Want a beer?” He offered

“Yes!” We both answered.

He handed us two ice cold cans of IPA which we sat and drank on the side of the road. Ah the life of a thru hiker, where it is completely normal to sit on the side of a dirt road and drink a beer. It must seem pretty out of the ordinary to ordinary folk…but we don’t really have the same idea of ordinary.

The road walk wasn’t my favorite, but we listened to music and got to the adorable town of Polebridge. This is probably my favorite trail town to date…I am completely enamored. The whole town is off the grid and everything is solar powered…therefore we are not able to charge electronics or use our phones, but I love that we just don’t need them here. Keeps the trail real.

The old saloon and mercantile are historic and beautiful, everything old and with a story. Everyone here is so nice and it is just the coolest place ever. You can even see into the park and the backdrop of mountains is exquisite. This is gonna be a fun trail town!

We ran into the other hikers at the saloon where we had excellent drinks and food. I had a cheeseburger and a one of the best salads ever…Pink had a cheeseburger and mac and cheese (so good). After dinner and a couple of beers we are now retiring in our tipi we rented for the night. This is going to be a great night of sleep and I can’t wait to investigate the rumors of great breakfast sandwiches at the bakery. A hikers dream.



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