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Lincoln to East Glacier – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Lincoln to East Glacier Hike Overview

lincoln to east glacier hike on the continental divide trail 2018

I entered the Scapegoat Wilderness just north of Rogers Pass, where I did the most climbing I’d done in a single day on the entire CDT. However, these were the best views I’d seen in a long time. Lots of ridges with distant views. Then the trail drops down into a valley, where it’d mostly stay for the remainder of the hike to East Glacier. I picked up a package of food I had my dad send to Benchmark Ranch along the way before starting the Bob Marshall Wilderness section. Forest fires and high elevation snow forced a lower route through the Bob, so we missed the Chinese Wall and more. Winter is coming soon. 

Friday September 21st – CDT Day 154

Woke at 7:30. Took my last hot shower for the next 8 days. Then we all went out for breakfast at Lambkins.

Gary, the local trail angel, picked us up here and took us to Rogers Pass. Near the pass was a sign for the record cold spot in the Continental US at negative 70 degrees. Wow!

The trail starts climbing right away and does so all day, really. Passed a locked yurt about 3 miles in. It’s used by some guys doing research on eagles and stuff. It used to be open to hikers from what I heard.

Wow, lots of climbing today. However, this time there is a reward of nice views from exposed ridgelines.

So many ups and downs. It was a tough day. Almost no water sources as well.

Hiked to 8:15 and found camp on a flat but exposed section of a ridge. We cowboy camped, figuring no rain tonight. With a 10:15am start, we were hoping to get more than 22 miles today. There was just so much climbing. Today was actually the day with the most elevation gain on the entire CDT for me at 7576′.

Miles – 22
Total Miles – 2675
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, cowboy camp
Animals – none

Saturday September 22nd – CDT Day 155

I slept great until about 1:30 this morning. Then the wind picked up. This was a nuisance until I got up at 6:30.

We continued up the Ridgeline we camped upon last night. Great views for the next several miles. The winds remained strong and tossed us around as we walked.

After a couple miles of hiking the trail drops down into a valley along a Creek. This was a Welcome relief from the maddening winds. The boring forest I cursed for the last several hundred miles was now my sanctuary.

The trail trends uphill for several miles at a decent grade. Yesterday was the first day of fall, and today that is apparent with the colors changing on select trees.

We then hiked up over a pass above welcome Creek. For a couple miles before and several miles after the pass, we hiked through old forest fire burn areas and blow downs.

We found camp at the junction where the CDT splits off from Straight Creek around 7:15pm. The sky was dark and had already let loose a few sprinkles, so it seemed like the right call to make. I nestled my tent among some trees to provide protection from the wind and potential rain. Good day of progress!

Miles – 28
Total Miles – 2703
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Sunday September 23rd – CDT Day 156

Nice night… Calm, no rain and not too cold. Woke at 6, hiking at 7.

Patches of dark clouds rolled by as we left camp, but cleared up as the morning went on. The burn area continues down this valley for another mile or two. Finally, we are in living forest again!

We made good time to Benchmark. At the road junction, I headed to the benchmark wilderness ranch and hopeful hiked to a trail junction we agreed upon. He isn’t picking up a box here, so no need for him to walk extra miles.

The benchmark ranch was empty when I arrived. It wasn’t clear where the CDT resupply boxes are stored, so I started poking around. Found it… Front porch of one of the “main” cabins. There was even a trash can for all my garbage. In years past I’ve heard there was no trash can, and so you had to pack out all garbage.

I left benchmark and hiked to a trail junction hopeful and I agreed to meet at. The fall colors were beautiful here. Mainly, the aspens and their golden color. They’ve really come out in the last few days.

Hopeful and I hiked north on the South fork Sun River trail after reconnecting. This was definitely a main thoroughfare, with tons of horse traffic. Nice views of the river.

Reached West Fork South Fork Sun River and crossed our at a large bridge. Yep, super long name and it sounds ridiculous. From here, we’d continue west to say on the CDT. But since we need to reroute around the Juliet fire and Moose creek fire anyways, we decided to continue north on the south fork sun river trail. This will reroute around the fire while shaving off a few miles.

The south fork sun river trail was really beautiful. Lots of big views of the river, fall colors and mountains.

Easy walking along a flat river valley that was dry, not swampy. Really, a rare combo!

Right before we found camp, we bumped into a herd of about 15 elk in a field. There was a big bull a hundred yards away, and others putting on a vocal show further along the tree line.

We made camp in the tree line not far from the elk. They were perfectly happy being super vocal all night with us here. They were doing their thing, we were doing ours. Man and beast, living in harmony.

Miles – 29
Total Miles – 2732
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer, bald eagle, elk (around 15)

Monday September 24th – CDT Day 157

Slept great. The elk were bugling all night, heard them every time I woke up. Sounds like a cross between a horse and a dinosaur that’s being murdered.

Started hiking just after 7. The clouds look menacing today, very dark and low.

Saw lots of fresh grizzly scat this morning, even some prints.

Low clouds rolled into the valley and gave us some sprinkles. Higher elevations were getting snow. With the fall colors and snow capped peaks, it looked like an iconic western art scene.

Reached gates cabin early afternoon. This looked to be a Ranger outpost. There were a few horses in the corral, but the place was locked up. Probably out for patrol. Either way, the porch was a great spot to eat lunch and get out of the rain.

Gates cabin was near the junction with the CDT, where would rejoin after the fire reroute. However, it looked as if we could take another shortcut by continuing north along the north fork sun river trail. This would keep us at low elevation and out of the bad weather up high. It would cut off a few miles as well. Only problem is, we don’t have a map showing the trails north of a certain point. Despite this, we were confident there would be a trail here that would eventually take us back to the CDT.

Our alternate route was definitely not as straight as we hoped. There were many zig zags and a few trail junctions that we basically guessed at. There were also a couple river Fords. Man, that water is cold!

Early evening we heard several wolves howling not too far away. That was cool to hear. We then stumbled upon a horse camp with a ton of wooden “improvements”, mostly to corral and otherwise support the housing of horses. There was also a lot of wood cut and ready to go for a fire. This is the obviously place to camp, since we were thinking a bushwhack might be necessary to rejoin the CDT at this point. That’s best left for the morning.

We had a nice fire, I think my 5th on trail. Got in my tent second before the sprinkles came back. Perfect timing.

Miles – 23
Total Miles – 2755
Rain – yes
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer, elk (around 15)

Tuesday September 25th – CDT Day 158

It rained fairly heavily last night. Woke at 7am and it still looked crappy out when I poked my head out of the tent. Since we’ll be bushwhacking through wet vegetation in the cold, we decided to wait a while to see if the sun comes out. Would be much nicer if it were warmer and drier.

Hopeful had a fire going when I woke up at 8:45. Three was patches of blue but clouds still dominated the sky. We didn’t start hiking until 10:15ish.

We back tracked a couple hundred feet until we reached a trail going down to a campsite along the river which we passed on last night due to it being a magnet for condensation. The trail led to a campsite, indeed, but it also crossed the river, which we could not see from the trail above. On the other side was a trail junction with signs. This led us to the North Fork Sun River trail, number 110. We were on this Trail initially after leaving gates cabin yesterday, but it seemed to branch off into trail 109. It would have been nice to have maps showing where these trails went, but we didn’t have that luxury. We went fairly far out of the way following trail 109 compared to where 110 would have run. Either way, back on trail and no horrendous bushwhack! Best case scenario.

 

Hiked several miles through burned areas and downed trees before rejoining the CDT. I was having a rough morning, just really wanting this hike to be over. Still another week or so and about 175 miles.

Took lunch by a stream. Laid my tent in the sun to dry, filtered water and washed my socks. It’s so great to not be moving. The entire day is spent hiking, from sun up to sun down, and this just wears on you mentally after a while.

Most of the rest of the day was spent hiking through burned areas, with occasional patches of forest that was spared. Had to ford strawberry creek, which was cold but shallow. Weather was gradually clearing but still lots of puffy white clouds.

Stopped to eat a quick dinner around 6. Then we pushed on for another 4.5 miles to a guthook waypoint with comments about a good campsite. Arrived at 7:40, just as it was getting dark. 22 miles today, not bad for a late start. It was a clear night now and the stars are out.

Miles – 22
Total Miles – 2777
Rain – yes
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

Wednesday September 26th – CDT Day 159

Got up at 6:45, and it was cold. There was condensation on the inside of my tent, which turned to frost as soon as I opened it. There was a full moon still illuminating the sky, making it much brighter than daylight alone would have.

Hiked through burned out forest for a while. Some of the wooden trail signs had burned, but were still readable. Sort of.

The trail then made its way around a few small lakes. We stopped at one of them for first lunch. Found a spot in the sunlight on a open grassy slope high above the water. Here we could dry our tents out while eating. When I opened mine to lay it out, there was so much frost that it collected into about half a snowball which I then threw at hopeful. While sitting here, a guy named Goldilocks stopped to chat with us. I believe hopeful and I have both met him at separate times further down the trail. At Old Faithful he flipped up to Glacier and hiked the GDT(Great Divide Trail), and just now heading south back to Old Faithful.

After lunch, the trail continued through some healthy forest. Finally something that’s not burned. In fact, lots of the vegetation along the trail was overgrown. Easy walking though.

It was actually pretty warm today, and the skies were mostly blue. A nice change from the last couple days. I hope the weather can hold out another week like this.

Stopped at a stream for a second lunch. We were almost at a junction where the CDT climbs 1500′ and jogs sharply west. There’s an alternate route that continues straight and cuts off about 4 miles, as well as the climbing. That’s what I wanted to do. Hopeful wanted to climb it. Additionally, Hopeful was shooting to get into East glacier Friday morning whereas I prefer to get in tomorrow, Thursday night. We decided to split up at this junction and do our own separate thing, meeting up Friday morning in East Glacier.

After second lunch the trail became much wider, akin into the south Fork sun Trail just north of benchmark a few days ago. You could drive a car down it. I passed a ranger outpost cabin which looked like no one was home. Other than that, just a walk in the woods.

I stopped at a really nice campsite around 6:45. I’d planned on hiking a few more miles, but the trail will drop down into a river valley and I thought staying higher and drier would be the way to go.

Miles – 26
Total Miles – 2803
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Thursday September 27th – CDT Day 160

Woke at 6:30. Slightly warmer this morning, but cloudy. Looks like rain.

The trail crossed the south fork two medicine river several times. No bridges, no obvious crossing points… Had to really hunt for a spot to hop rocks and logs. Even then, it wasn’t easy. In the end, my feet got wet when they slipped off rocks. Then I just walked through the water for subsequent Crossings.

It was raining lightly as I made my way down the river. As the trail nears hwy 2, it becomes more of an old road than trail. There were gates and barbed wires fences to climb over. All the vegetation was wet and significantly colder than the river fords earlier.

Road walk along hwy 2

Made it to hwy 2 and began the road walk into east glacier. This took a couple hours. It was raining consistently now, and it was cold… Low 40s, 30s with the wind chill. Cold hands and feet. Narrow shoulders along sections of road with a guard rail too. Not a fun road walk but the fastest way into town. Important in this weather. I had lte along the road and talked to Katie for a bit. I thought she was further along the trail but apparently was in east glacier still.

Went to brownies hostel upon entering east glacier around 1pm. I picked up my bounce box and finish box here, then I paid for a bed in the bunkhouse. After I paid she said come back at 3pm. If I can’t check in now, shouldn’t you tell someone that before taking their money? I asked for a refund and went outside to figure out my next move.

I called Katie and she was with a guy named bugagoo, a friend of mold and mildew. They had a minivan that bugagoo rented, so they picked me up. We got a 2 bedroom motel room for the 3 of us at the whistling swan for a few bucks more than a room in the bunkhouse.

Last bubble of CDT hikers in East Glacier. Most had already finished!

Got my hot shower which felt amazing! They all do but this one was a bit more necessary, providing essential warmth. Just like when I reached Lincoln. Ate dinner later at Serrano’s with a whole slew of other CDT hikers who came out of the woodworks. Sprinkler was here too, having just finished his hike a few days ago. I hadn’t seen him since Grand Lake. Very cool for the last Town.

Around dinner time, hopeful rolled into town. He got settled in at the swan and met up with him upon our return from dinner.

Miles – 18
Total Miles – 2821
Rain – yes
Sleep – hotel
Animals – none

Friday September 28th – CDT Day 161 (zero day)

Bugaboo caught a train out of East glacier this morning, back home to Minnesota. Hopeful, Katie and I then grabbed Breakfast at the two medicine Cafe.

View from Two Medicine Ranger Station

Got a ride over to the two medicine Ranger station from a local named Lou. Awesome guy doing some very inspiring work with conservation and public lands. We had to go to the Ranger station to get permits and this basically needs to be done in person.

Did town chores remainder of the day. We got food from the general store for dinner since the motel had a kitchenette. Wild Mike’s pizza… Looks legit. Hung out here prepping for our last leg on the CDT, which is shaking up to be an adventure with the weather forecast. It’s already snowed and calling for several more inches at high elevation in the coming days. At those elevations, temps will be in the teens and 20s. But don’t worry, I’m full prepared with turkey bags to wrap around my socks to keep my feet warmer in my trail runners. Ha.

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