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Lima to Leadore – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Lima to Leadore Hike Overview

lima to leadore hike on the continental divide trail 2018

The hike from Lima to Leadore was probably my favorite section of the CDT in Montana/Idaho. This is how I envisioned more of the state would be. The trail is often up on a ridge with a fence separating Idaho from Montana, and there’s big views all around. The vast seas of golden colored rolling hills convey a subtle yet powerful message of beauty. Other times, seemingly endless mountain ranges dominate distant views across a massive valley. Walking on the divide in the dwindling alpenglow proved to be some of the most memorable moments for me. 

Friday August 31st – CDT Day 133

Got a ride back to the trail at 9am. Mike had his friend Bob give me a ride. Bob is from Canada and was passing through the area, and ended up staying several weeks at the motel. Great guy. He mentioned that most hikers get dropped off 3 miles past where I got picked up at to avoid a dirt road walk along the highway. He said I was only the second person he dropped off that requested to be dropped off at the same place they were picked up from. Everyone else had no problem skipping the 3 Mile Road walk. That’s just crazy to me how many people out here are skipping sections of Trail because they find it boring or whatever. I guess I’m one of the few, one of the proud… continuous footsteps the whole way.

Did that 3 road walk in my sleep. Actually, I made use of the LTE signal and ordered some new boxers. Mine are falling apart.

After the 3 mile road walk along I-15, the road turns into the mountains. It’s another 5 or so miles to the trailhead, which was guarded by cows. Damn, it’s new Mexico all over again.

Off the dirt road and now on trail, it climbs and climbs. It follows the divide which is once again the Idaho/Montana border. I already like these views better than the last section.

There was an amazing amount of annoying gnats and mosquitoes up on the ridge in spots. It looks like the land here is used for sheep grazing in spots. 

Although the trail stays high most of the day now, it still includes a lot of PUDs, or pointless ups and downs. It’s also really dry and no water. I did see two southbounders named turtle and willow as well as a couple of elk hunters.

Eventually the trail drops down into a valley. I lost the trail here and ended up on a cow path. It led me to a stream where I filtered water. Perfect, because I’d been going all day on 1.5L. I was also really hungry, only stopped once for a snack today. Didn’t want to eat much without the water. Had a quick snack with my water and moved on out was 6:30pm now and only a few miles to a trailhead with good camping, so I pushed on.

I arrived at the trailhead around 8:30pm. There were several car campers here. I set up by the creek under some evergreens, and promptly chowed down dinner. I was pretty tired and went to bed immediately after.

Miles – 27
Total Miles – 2224
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, cowboy camp
Animals – none

Saturday September 1st – CDT Day 134

Woke at 7. Cold morning. Took a while to get going. Left camp at 8:30.

Like always, it’s a big climb first thing in the morning. 1500′ for this one.

Over the pass, life gets a little easier with a down hill trending path for a few miles. Nice views. Passed a couple of elk hunters on horseback. Today is season opener, lots of hunters out.

I lost the trail a couple times today. The trail is so faint, or literally non-existent at times, and it just it happens. Typical for the CDT, really.

 

Reached a dirt road that I followed for about 5 miles. A guy in a van drove by and stopped to talk to me. Super nice guy, his name was John. He asked if I needed anything, and I replied a Gatorade if you have it. Not only for the the Gatorade but I could use the extra container. I’m only carrying 2 liters of water and it’s been dry enough at times to warrant a third liter. Anyways, John had a cold Powerade in the cooler for me which was greatly appreciated! I used this bottle the rest of the trail.

A few miles up the road, I bumped into another guy sitting in his truck. His son is out Elk hunting and he was just waiting there for him to finish for the day. His name was Fred, an illustrator for several outdoor magazines. His son writes articles for the same magazines, fly fishing and hunting. I really envy people that get to do what they love for work.

Eventually I jumped off road and back onto a trail. I follow this couple more miles before reaching deadman lake. This was a pretty spot! Great campsite here, but I wanted to put in a couple more miles. Story of my life on the CDT.

Leaving deadman Lake, I had a choice. I could take a longer route on trail that zigzags around, or cut off a few miles by taking a dirt road. Being in the situation I am, in a hurry to reach Canada in 30 days. Obviously I took the dirt road. 

Bumped into a few more hunters just as the Sun went down. We walked together a little ways on the dirt road as I searched for a campsite. They offered to let me stay with them, another two miles down the road, but it was already dark and to be honest I didn’t want to be up late bullshitting with them. I snagged the first flat spot I saw.

Stars are bright and milky way is super visible. Wow!

Miles – 27
Total Miles – 2251
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, cowboy camp
Animals – none

Sunday September 2nd – CDT Day 135

Woke up to the sound of a truck driving by around 6:45. Last night was pretty cold. It was even colder because I hadn’t fluffed up my quilt. Usually I shake it in such a way that the down settles where it will be on top of me and very little underneath me, where I am already warm from my sleeping pad. I won’t forget tonight!

I followed the dirt road I was on yesterday down into a valley below, and headed across it. There were tons of hunting camps here.

It was a couple miles of dirt road walking before it transitions into trail. The trail had been trending uphill for much of the morning and early afternoon. Lots of elevation gain today, very tiring.

After lunch it became very scenic. Lots of Ridge walking with huge views in all directions. Really nice walking. I saw a pronghorn running through the golden grass on one of these ridges as well. Haven’t seen one since Wyoming. The great Divide Basin desert come to think of it.

Interesting red rock and red lichen on a black rock backdrop caught the eye. 

Eventually the trail drops down from the divide and follows a drainage downhill. Descending this Valley was beautiful.

It’s a couple more miles of walking over ridges and long the base of the hills before reaching Morrison Lake. I stopped here to filter water and eat dinner. Really pretty Lake.

I had about 4 and a half miles left to hike at this point in order to leave myself with a 20 mile day tomorrow. This way I can get into town late afternoon or early evening. Most of this will be uphill. The climb was steepest just above Morrison lake. After that, it was more manageable and about 2 miles to the top of the Divide.

Really nice walking this evening up on the divide. The Sun was setting and provided beautiful skies in all directions. There needs to be more of this!

Set up camp on one of the saddles along the ridge. Just downhill and near a couple trees. Minimal cover, but very calm night. Perfect to cowboy camp under the stars again.

Miles – 27
Total Miles – 2278
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, cowboy camp
Animals – pronghorn

Monday September 3rd – CDT Day 136

Another nice night sleeping out under the stars. But chattering of the squirrels and birds woke me up around 6:30 today. No problem, I want to get to Bannock pass as early as possible to increase my chances of getting a hitch. That is, if I don’t get cell phone signal. If I do, I will call Sam at the leadore inn and get a ride that way.

This morning’s hike was a nice one along the divide. Exposed, good views and Pleasant. Ups and downs, but smaller ones.

Break time on the summit of Elk Mountain

The big climb for today that I was dreading was up Elk Mountain. However, it wasn’t too bad. Other hikers have said you could call Sam at the leadore Inn from here with decent signal. I was not that lucky. Nothing. I did stop and eat lunch up here though, great view.

More enjoyable walking coming down from Elk Mountain. The trail follows Ridgelines and skirts the hillside of others. Most of the big climbs are now out of the way.

The rest of the afternoon was spent walking Ridgelines downhill towards Bannock pass. The Idaho/Montana section of trail is almost always on a ridge. Good stuff, But hard work.

Forest fire in the distance. I’ll be hiking right by it soon…

Made it to Bannock pass at 4:15. As I was hiking down to the pass, I saw several cars drive by. This gave me hope. I also noticed a fire burning a couple miles away from the pass that I hadn’t noticed while hiking the trail. Yikes.

There was very little traffic on Bannock pass. It took 2 hours, but I did get a hitch. Super nice woman named Laura, a local out cutting firewood in the forest. She dropped me off at the leadore Inn.

I spoke with Sam, the owner, as I checked in. Nice guy. The motel itself is four rooms in the backyard of Sam’s house. Took a shower and then headed out to the silver dollar restaurant for dinner. Of course I ordered something like ” whatever you’re biggest burger is, double it”. The waitress usually gets a kick out of it, especially when I put it down no problem. And this was no exception.

I was going to check out the stage stops food selection, but apparently they close at 6. It’ll have to wait till morning. Nothing to do but go back to my room. I spent the rest of the evening doing internet things on my phone and relaxing on a nice comfy bed. It feels incredible to be off my feet.

Miles – 21
Total Miles – 2299
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – none

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