Today was the first time we walked on the actual Continental Divide. After trudging through snowfields up Pitamakan Pass, a quick map student showed a CDT alternate, which promised excellent views and possibly dangerous trail. Judging by the lack of snow around the peak of the Mt. Morgan, a decision was made to walk the trail around its summit. This was an excellent choice. The views were incredible and the trail in fantastic condition. We are on the Divide! Strong winds whipped around us as we shouted and snapped photos of the sweeping vistas; words can’t describe the feeling so I won’t even try.From Dawson Pass, the trail took us towards Bighorn Basin and a long snowfield gave Toek and I a chance to do some boot glissading. It’s a way of ‘skiing’ down the mountain on the soles of your shoes, covering ground quickly and having fun as well. At the bottom we had no idea where we were but my fancy GPS showed us right where to go. These gadgets take away from the skill level backcountry users need to develop, but damn if they aren’t convenient. At Two Medicine camp store we ate crappy convenient store food while looking over our photos and video from today’s adventure. After using the restrooms (with flush toilets, don’t ya know) I washed my hands and was startled at the reflection in the mirror. Sunburnt nose, scraggly 5 day beard, filthy shirt; oh yeah, I’m a thru-hiker again.
- Starting Location: June 22
- Destination: The Divide
Last night as we were cooking dinner a large hawk started circling the lake in front of us. As we watched, it dove to fly right above the surface – directly at the lone duckling in the lake’s center! Right before contact, the tiny duckling popped underwater, narrowly missing the hawk’s talons. This happened twice more before the raptor gave up and flew off in search of easier prey. The duck paddled furiously to its squawking mother on the shoreline and was undoubtedly scolded for not staying close to safety. But what a story it had for the other ducklings!Today was another easy 10-mile day so there was no rush. The steep trail eventually crested Triple Divide Pass with excellent views all around. A family of mountain goats, shaggy with the slow loss of winter coat, greeted us at the top. I was surprised how close they let us come before ambling off to slopes so steep no human could safely traverse them. After a few hours at the pass we shuffled down to Atlantic Creek camp for supper and early bedtime. I’ve developed a weird hop-step to keep the weight off my knee and it has slowed my normal pace. Thinking about taking a zero day (no miles walked) in East Glacier to give it some rest. All my equipment is treating me well so far. My homemade quilt is keeping me dry and my backpack is comfortable. The giant sleeve of bug netting that my umbrella holds up at night is keeping the mosquitoes at bay. I’ve been warm and comfy so far, with only a few gear failures. The zipper on my warm jacket broke, but I’ll contact Montbell and hopefully get a replacement. My wood burning stove has performed perfectly, although I’ve yet to test my fire making skills in soaking wet conditions. Tomorrow we reach Two Medicine campground where we’ll get food and can turn in these bulky bear proof canisters. And soon I’ll be out of Glacier Parks designated campground restrictions and can sleep wherever I want.
- Starting Location: June 21 A narrow escape!
- Destination: Atlantic Creek camp
Last night I had awful headaches and couldn’t stop coughing…allergies I guess. Popped a Sudafed and was finally able to rest…for 14 hours! We didn’t get on trail until 10:30. Not that his matters since we can only walk 12 miles until our next designated camp. While applying for the permits I was tempted to try for 23-mile days, but am now glad I didn’t since my pace has slowed so much with the bum knee. It is so aggravating to have this happen. My muscles are strong, my mind is focused, but my damaged knee is making every step awful. There is a voice in the back of my head telling me to abandon my hike this year, but until the pain becomes unbearable I will just go on. I know if I leave and the doctor tells me it’s unfixable, I’ll curse myself for not sticking it out besides the discomfort.
So yeah, bad knee, headaches, coughing up phlegm all day…my hike is going great! Naw, the beauty around me makes up for it and every time I pause to take in the view of these towering peaks I know it’s all worth it. Where else can a simple pasta dinner cooked over a flame taste so good? Where else can you dip your bottle into a stream and drink the cold pure water? Where else can you have conversations with a hiking partner whose real name you don’t know but you trust him completely? Only on the long distance trails.
- Starting Location: June 20
- Destination: hiking joys
For all the cold rain that dumped yesterday, today more than made up for it. Blue sky and sunny rays followed Toek and I all the way up to Piegan Pass. Just before the top, we ran into a group of eight thru-hikers who started a few days before us but had to go north through the park since all the designated campsites going south were full. It was strange to have such a large group upon us all of a sudden.
The slog up and over was windy, but the views were stunning. I built a few snowmen along the trail, but they will probably melt before anyone else sees them. My knee was a little twitchy going up, but going down the other side all hell broke loose. Something is messed up and my knee is telling me all about it. The pain is mild but it scares me. Wish I knew what was going on inside because it isn’t swollen, just painful. Slowed my pace considerably, but I’m frightened. What if I can’t go on? What if I have to get off trail? Thru-hiking is important in my life, and to have my mobility taken away has me crazy with fear.
Tomorrow is another day and I can only hope my knee feels better.
- Starting Location: June 19
- Destination: bad knee!?
Last night it sprinkled, so my wet tarp got stuffed in the outside mesh of my pack. Toek and I ate a quick breakfast and started up, up, up to Red Pass. Big climb – many switchbacks. Jug, Prophet, and Mike stayed back since they weren’t scheduled to get very far; hope to see them again. Towards the top of the pass it got cold and windy so I didn’t hesitate long before scrambling down the other side. Saw a family of mountain goats but they were too shy to stick around for a photo.
Lots of bear scat on trail. I’ve been wailing away on my harmonica, confident such outbursts of screeching noise will alert any bears and send them packing! I never play while stopped though, least one come take a swing at me in an effort to SHUT ME UP! Toek saw a cub today and I spotted a mother moose with two little ones right by the road to camp. Just as I started down the skies opened up with freezing cold rain and winds that threatened to thrash my umbrella. It was a cold, miserable walk to town, but the giant fireplace at Many Glacier Lodge warmed me right up. Such luxury! Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to pay $200 for a bed so when the sky stopped pissing, it was off to the designated campground. Toek and I ate canned chili from the camp store and set up our humble shelters for six bucks. Can’t wait to get out of this designated camping area.
Toek tried to teach me to say ‘Hey bear’ in Dutch but my voice just can’t get the correct rolling ‘R’ pronunciation. Tomorrow I’ll attempt to learn some cuss words and keep my thru-hike language learning tradition alive. What could school possibly teach me that the trail couldn’t?
- Starting Location: June 18
- Destination: Many Glacier Lodge
Even though our shuttle ride to the Canadian border was expensive, the hitch up there looked like a long shot. It was worth it to pay and know we could finally start. Once we got dropped off, all 5 of us walked to the border for photos, even though the guards there gave us the hairy eyeball. From the border to the trail – we had begun! All the nervousness I’ve built up with the proposal of another thru-hike were gone, and before me was the glacial scoured peaks of northwest Montana. My pack was light, even if it did have a stupid mandatory bear canister in it. I decided to celebrate by listening to some music on my MP3 player, but the damn thing was broken! Must have sat on it or something. All the time I’d spent loading it with the perfect hiking soundtrack was wasted and I was left carrying a broken hunk of plastic. At least it wasn’t my GPS or camera that got smashed. Easy 10-mile day to the first designated campsite. It’s cold up here and I’m too chilled to write.
- Starting Location: June 17 – I’m off!
- Destination: The beginning
Met 3 other thru hikers in town who are fighting for permits too. Jim, Mike, and Michael finally got their green light and will be sharing their first camp with Toek and I. And here I thought the CDT would be solo from the start! Today we goofed off, played Frisbee, and looked over maps. I coughed up more $ for another night in the hostel since it was raining, but really because I hate camping. Thought about going for a day hike to kill some time but I don’t like walking either. Luckily I love drinking quarts of tomato juice and petting stray town dogs since that was the highlight of the day.
- Starting Location: June 16, still getting ready
- Destination: waiting for permits
There is something about train travel that fascinates me. In a country where speed is paramount and the tyranny of distance is just another obstacle to conquer, the slow rumbling of the train makes travel something to be savored. Flying among the clouds doesn’t convey the vastness of this country. Speeding 65MPH across bland interstate highways in an automobile hardly gives the traveler a taste of regional diversity. The train, however, glides on steel ribbons of track in areas automobiles can’t drive and airplanes can’t see. Plus, the seats are real comfy!
On the train I met Toek, another CDT hiker who had just flown in from his home in Amsterdam and was as excited as I to start walking. We got to East Glacier at noon with clear sunny weather and stunning views of the mountains we’d soon be living in. After I checked into the Brownie Hostel, we hitched up to Two Medicine to get our backcountry camping permits for Glacier. Last years fire damage and recent bear activity had closed some campsites, so we had a difficult time scheduling an acceptable itinerary with the friendly ranger. Finally we settled on waiting another day and will start on the 17th since other hikers ahead had reserved some of the sites we wanted. I understand the necessity of backcountry permits in this heavily used area, but it sure is a pain for the long distance hiker who is used to unrestricted camping. Settling for 12-mile days may be fine for someone out for the weekend, but we do much bigger miles than that! Being here so early in the season, I figured I’d have no trouble getting permits. But apparently there are enough people (and some fellow thru hikers) to overrun the park. Lots of CDT thru hikers start around this time of year and all it took was a handful of weekend hikers to raise the numbers too high. Guess I should of started a week later.
- Starting Location: June 15, getting ready
- Destination: getting to the start
I leave for Montana tomorrow, and as far as I can tell all my ducks are in order. Trail food is heaped in a corner, all my gear is spread out, my toenails are trimmed into neat edges and my train ticket is waiting at the station. All my personal belongings are jammed into a 5 x 4 storage unit, just got a haircut, and I purchased my grizzly bear protection; a harmonica!Ok, hear me out.As most of you know, when traveling through grizzly bear country, it’s important to make enough noise so any bears around you can hear your approach and flee before meeting face to face. Bear attacks are most likely to happen when a hiker surprises a bear as they quietly hike along. Bears don’t like surprises. Traditionally, hikers clap their hands and shout or sing to warn any bears ahead of their presence, but I thought the obnoxious screechings of an unskilled harmonica player would be just as loud. Boy, that sounds really stupid now that I think about it. But too late! My CDT harmonica is tucked away in my pack, ready to revolt and repel any bears (and a few other hikers, no doubt) and keep me safe as I leap from tree to tree from Canada to Mexico.
- Starting Location: Grizzly bears
Wow, another hiker bum journal. Isn’t this exciting? Are you, dear reader, ready to read my nonsensical ramblings as I hike along the backbone of america? Are you ready for poor spelling and run on sentences? I’m not sure if I’m ready to write anything worth reading, but I thought it might be nice to allow my friends and family to read about my hike this year.So I’ve decided to hike the Continental Divide Trail. I have been riding my bicycle everywhere as usual, so at least my legs are shapely. An unfortunate tallbike jousting match has banged up my knee, but I can’t do anything about that now. Since I don’t have one of those pocketmail devices, my kind mother will be transcribing my journal entries for me. I’ll mail her scraps of paper with my scribblings, and she has agreed to type them up online. Not only will her excellent English skills help in correcting my poor spelling, but since it is my mother doing all this typing I’ll have to clean up my language. Friggin’ great.
- Starting Location: Counting the days