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East Glacier to Canada – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – East Glacier to Canada Hike Overview

east glacier to canada hike on the continental divide trail 2018

With a fair amount of snow already on the ground and much more foretasted, Katie Hopeful and I set off into Glacier National Park. I was reluctant due to the weather, but Katie and Hopeful seemed optimistic. Stopped in the Two Medicine ranger station only minutes before they closed for the season. On the morning of our second day, Katie and I decided to turn back due to the weather conditions, with the idea of road walking to Canada from here. Hopeful continued to hike, alone. Katie and I regrouped in East Glacier and I ultimately set off alone the next day. A 37 mile road walk and another 11 miles in a blizzard, and I reached Port of Piegan at the Canadian border. At last, my journey on the CDT is complete!

Saturday September 29th – CDT Day 162

Woke at 7:45 to gloomy skies. This would be the best it looks all day.

Packed up and got breakfast at the diner. We had many discussions about the route, end points and ride back to east glacier logistics, etc.. Mostly based on the oncoming weather. Maybe 8 inches of snow today at high elevation forecasted, and wind chill in the teens. The next several days won’t be great either, with another storm coming Tuesday.

Walked out of town at noon. Road walked to two medicine, about 12 miles. The rain switched over to snow as the time passed. I had plastic grocery bags over my feet to keep them dry/warm. It seemed to be working so far.

We stopped to eat lunch inside the Ranger station once we arrived. Nice to get out of the snow for a bit. This was the last day this Ranger station was open for the season, and this Ranger was leaving in less than an hour. After this, no more permits from this location. This would make big problems for any CDT hiker behind me. I only know of Mr. Clean behind currently.

After the Ranger station, we start hiking actual trail. The scenery here was incredible, even as it was barely visible through the falling snow. One could only imagine the grandeur of this place in optimal weather!

It somehow seemed fitting, to spend my final days on the CDT in a snowstorm. Kinda like, you’ve been out here a long time and you’re really pushing your luck. If you aren’t ready for the end, here’s a strong sign that it’s over. Beautiful though, no doubt.

We walked another 6+ miles to our campsite at Oldman lake. By the time our tents were up, we were all cold and ready for shelter. It’s going to be a long couple of days like this. Katie and hopeful were too cold to cook outside and opted to eat some no-cook food items for dinner instead. We were all too cold to get water from the lake, or hang food. With Opsaks for food storage, this wasn’t a great concern though.

I was glad to have the grocery bags on my feet, but they certainly weren’t dry. Tomorrow I’ll use turkey bags, since the grocery bags ended up getting holes in them. I didn’t expect them to last. 

Miles – 18
Total Miles – 2839
Rain – yes, and snow
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Sunday September 30th – CDT Day 163

Woke up around 7. I was cold the second half of the night. This was the coldest I felt at night on the CDT. The snow continued to fall lightly as we all dreaded the moment we have to get out of our bags.

Last night, I put my wet shoes in a heavy duty grocery bag and kept them in my tent. This morning, I put them in my bag to warm up. Katie and hopeful, well, their shoes were frozen. However, My socks were frozen. Good thing I had multiple pairs.

I emerged from my tent to a world freshly covered in snow. Three or four inches had fallen. Visibility was low this morning and there was no view of the surrounding mountains to be had. To prepare for the cold and wet weather today, I wore a couple of turkey bags over the warmest pair of socks I had. However, my feet got cold very quickly. My hands were also cold to the point I couldn’t use them to do anything useful. I did jumping jacks, ran up and down the trail and ran in place to try and get the circulation going, but to no avail. It took much longer to pack up this morning than usual.

I tried to scrape off the frost from the outside of my tent, but there was a lot left, including on the inside of the tent. It was also wet underneath my sleeping pad. My Tyvek ground she was frozen to the ground and when I hold it up, and inch of ice came with it. There’s no way this stuff is going dry out.

Reality was setting in for me that hiking the Highline trail to Waterton was a foolish endeavor. I should have listened to my gut instinct on this one and not followed the group mentality. I announced my decision to turn around and go back to East glacier, with the intention of road walking the rest of the way to Canada. It would only be 45 miles. Considering there’s no view of anything, current weather conditions and future forecast, it’s the right call. Katie agreed and joined me. Hopeful still wanted to press on to Waterton on his own. There really wasn’t anything I could say to change his mind.

Katie and I started walking back to two medicine while hopeful headed up pitamakan pass. We hiked less than a mile before Katie started having regrets about turning back. She really wanted to hike to Waterton. Well, so did I, but it’s not a matter of what you want at this point it’s a matter of should you do it. It’s like she just forgot all of the reasons she wanted to turn back. Either way, she continued on to East glacier with me.

It seemed like visibility was even lower than yesterday. Still, a nice hike back. It was pretty with all the freshly fallen snow.

We ended up on a spur trail that dumped us out near the entrance of Glacier National Park. This was actually closer to where we wanted to go anyways, so this worked in our favor. We didn’t have to walk far before we were able to hitch a ride.

Now back in East glacier, we headed to the two medicine grill for lunch. Duffle was sitting outside on a bench. He left yesterday morning at 9am, and bailed going over pitamakan pass. He lost the trail in a complete white out and almost fell off a cliff. Couldn’t tell if it was a 10 foot cliff or a thousand. After that he said no way.

While eating lunch I got a text from Dixie saying that she bailed as well. She made it over triple divide pass which had snow up to mid thigh. Hearing Dixie and Duffle’s stories make me very happy with my choice to bail.

I got a room at the Whistling Swan again. Showered up and started drying out my gear. Spent the evening prepping for tomorrow. Instead of packing 5 days of food I now only needed a little over one. I took my extra food and condensed it into one Opsak. I’ll drop off the extra food with Mark at the general store tomorrow morning to hold for me until I finish.

Miles – 8
Total Miles – 2847
Rain – snow
Sleep – hotel
Animals – none

Monday October 1st – CDT Day 164

Katie decided to hitch up to many glacier and continue hiking to Waterton with Magoo. I really couldn’t wrap my head around this decision, considering the fact that tomorrow there will be 18 inches of snow on the way for high elevations. Regardless, she made up her mind.

Since I finish tomorrow and she’ll likely finish Thursday, we might not see each other again. It also dawned on me that I might not see hopeful again either. Saying bye to Katie was hard. All of the sudden there’s been a lot of goodbyes and it’s been tough.

It was a little after 9 when I made my way up to the general store. Mark was happy to hold my food. I then jumped on highway 49 and immediately got a hitch from old scout and his wife. I saw him yesterday at two medicine grill, he finished a few days ago.

I got dropped off along highway 49 right where the road splits off to two Medicine. Highway 49 was closed, assuming for the winter. I started walking it around 9:30.

Great views of two Medicine Lake and the snow capped peaks behind it. All the sudden I was overcome with thoughts and emotions regarding the end of the trail tomorrow. Crazy to think that this is my last full day of hiking. I’ve been waiting for this moment a long time, and I am ready for it. Still, reflecting on all of the things I’ve seen, places I’ve been and people I’ve met along the way made me wish it wasn’t ending.

Even though the road was closed there were many people driving on it. Regardless of the traffic, it was a very scenic Road walk.

 

When I got close to highway 89, I stopped along the side of the road for a quick food break. 10 minutes max. Then I made my way down to the highway.

The first few miles of highway 89 were under construction, just a dirt road. I had 5 cars stop today to ask me where I was waking and if I need a ride. Of course, I said no.

Most of the day was spent hiking hwy 89. I took another short break after 3pm. People were looking at me weird as I sat on the ground and ate food along the highway.

The views outside of Lake Mary were awesome. Snow capped peaks, dark clouds and stray beams of sunlight gave this place a magical touch.

As I walked by a scenic overlook, a woman flagged me down. She said she saw me walking and asked me a few questions about my hike. I told her about the CDT and she gave me a couple of beers.

Black bear

Everything in St Mary had closed for the season, and it was basically a ghost town. I walked right through it and moved on. Just north of St Mary, I saw a black bear walking a small road alone the lakeshore. This was basically just down a small embankment from where I was walking. The bear didn’t know I was there for a minute or two. The bear noticed me and we locked eyes for a few seconds. Not feeling threatened from my position, I kept walking and the bear then ran away.

After I saw the bear, the clouds fell out of the sky and fog over took the landscape. Darkness came shortly after. It was a bit eerie yet pretty cool walking in the dark in the fog. Except when a car went by.

When I got into the town of Babb, I stopped in a restaurant that was open. However, it was a fine dining restaurant with entrées all above 30 bucks each. No thanks. I found my hotel a couple hundred yards north. I had called this morning to reserve a room and I was told to walk in the unlock door and the key would be in the room. It was nice to be able to just walk straight into the hotel and not have to do anything. At 37 miles, today was my second highest mileage day on the CDT.

Miles – 37
Total Miles – 2884
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – black bear

Tuesday October 2nd – CDT Day 165

The weather was looking nasty this morning, with several inches of snow on the ground and lots more still falling. I was pretty tired from yesterday’s big mile day, but motivated by being only hours away from completing my CDT thru hike. Time to get moving and finish this thing.

 

Dressed with all my layers and turkey bags over my feet, I set out into the snow storm for the final 10 miles to Canada. Visibility was low and the snow flakes were huge. Not much traffic on the road, good for road walking but bad for the hitch back from the border.

While walking the road, a park Ranger drove by and said he might be able to give me a ride south from the border if he gets done pulling some motorists out of the snow. I also a had border patrol agent offer up a ride south to Babb. Hopefully one will pan out when I get there.

For months I’ve been waiting for this moment. The last stretch to the finish line. I had wondered what it would feel like to walk the final mile of a thru hike, and that moment is finally here. With the weather being so bad and road waking to Port of Piegan instead of hiking through Glacier to Waterton, it was not the joyous walk I envisioned. Nevertheless, my journey was just mere steps away from ending and that was difficult to come to terms with.

As I battled my emotions, the border crossing finally came into sight. The falling snow obscured it from view until I was right up on it. This is it! I walked through knee deep snow drifts on the side of the road to get to a sign that said “now leaving USA” for a picture. I held back tears with some nervous laughter, in shock of what I had just accomplished.

I continued walking into Canada, stopping at the Canadian customs office. It’s set up for vehicles, not pedestrians, so I stood behind the line of cars in the road and waited a few minutes in the falling snow. When it was my turn, the customs agent asked what I will be doing in Canada. I pointed at the Welcome to Alberta sign a few hundred feet away and said “I’m going to walk up to your sign right there, take a picture and drink this beer if that’s alright with you”. She gave me a weird look and I explained that I’m ending my CDT hike here. She asked another agent about the beer and they said since I’m not driving It’d probably be OK, and they’re just going to look the other way.

Standing in front of the Welcome to Alberta sign, there was nothing left to do except drink that beer. It wasn’t the best tasting beer I’ve ever had, but it was certainly the most meaningful and by far the most well-deserved. I sat in the snow and stared at the sign, and the snowy nothingness behind it. I thought about all I had done and seen over the last 165 days to get to this point. I almost couldn’t believe I was here.

Finished hiking and celebrating, I walked back into the US. I mentioned the border patrol agent who offered a ride to the agent at the window, and he said to come inside while he asks around. The woman who offered the ride had already left, but another agent said he could take me in a half hour. That’ll do, I’m in no hurry now with my hike over. I also asked if there was an obelisk here, the type of monument that’s at Waterton and Chief Joseph. The agents told me they were not aware of one. However, I later found out from Dixie that there was indeed an obelisk right here, positioned somewhere in between the the US and Canadian buildings. I was glad she got to get that iconic thru hike photo in front of it, but really bummed I was not able to. 

The ride to Babb with the border patrol agent worked out. Now, I had my thumb out on the road here trying to hitch back to east glacier. It took about 15 minutes before a guy in an FJ Cruiser stopped. He was a photographer named Lee, here on a 100 day trip from his home state of Hawaii. He was planning on camping at st Mary lake, but with all the snow on the ground he decided against it.

Lee was going to drop me off in st Mary, but since he was no longer staying there he asked “where do you need to go”? I said east glacier, so that’s where we headed. Nice!

In east glacier, I picked up my bounce box from the general store. Lee was thinking of heading to Whitefish, which is right next to Kalispell. He then offered to drive me to Kalispell from east glacier, which I gladly accepted. This saves me a train ride to Whitefish and an Uber from Whitefish to Kalispell.

In Kalispell, I got a hotel room at the country inn next to the airport. Lee and I had been in the car together for a couple hours and were getting along great, so I offered to let Lee use the other bed in my room. He accepted. It’s the least I can do for a guy who dropped who drove me a couple hours across the state. We ordered pizza, my first post hike meal. Of course, I ate the entire large pizza.

I went to bed thinking about my journey, and the end of an Era, really. This had been my dream for the last 6 years and now it’s finally done. It’s a great feeling, but overshadowing that is a greater feeling of “what’s next”? Only time will tell!

Miles – 11
Total Miles – 2895
Rain – snow
Sleep – hotel
Animals – none

Like what you see?

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.

Like what you see?

Anaconda to Lincoln – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Anaconda to Lincoln Hike Overview

anaconda to lincoln hike on the continental divide trail 2018

North of Anaconda, the CDT changes from paved roads to dirt roads and finally trail. This section was not one of the most scenic on the CDT, with mundane low hills and forest dominating the views. I found the best views to be between Dana Spring and Granite Butte. Lots of hunters out in the woods at this time of year. North of Dana Spring, I ran into Hopeful. This was a great surprise and we hiked hundreds more miles together, almost to Canada. Our last day before reaching Rogers Pass, we hiked through a cloud in near zero visibility. 

Friday September 14th – CDT Day 147

Hiker food

Slept in to 8:30. Ate the continental breakfast which was actually pretty good, although very carb heavy. I asked the front desk if I could check out like an hour after 11 and they were cool with it. I ran up to the post office to mail my Salomon Odyssey Pro shoes back home and stopped at Albertson’s to do grocery shopping for the next 6 days.

I ate at McDonald’s for lunch before leaving town. It was about 1pm when I actually started hiking. My goal for today is 22 miles.

The entire day was a road walk. The first couple hours were on larger highways with a very narrow shoulder. There was a good amount of traffic and as always, there are people that don’t get over at all. Jerks!

I followed road that passes under interstate 90 and heads towards the foothills. Some pretty country right here. Talked with a farmer on his dirt bike for a bit. He said nobody has passed through here in a while, implying I’m running behind. Yup, a little.

Took a quick dinner break after reaching dry cottonwood road. Then pushed on another 10 miles. This had me hiking to 9pm, well into the darkness. I found a flat and level spot alongside a road that split off dry Cottonwood Road. Good enough for me… 24 miles hiked since 1pm, yeah I’m ready to stop!

About 20 minutes after I laid my head down in my tent, a group of rednecks on ATVs showed up and parked a few yards away. I don’t know how they missed my tent as their headlights shined right through it, but they made no mention of it nor did they seem to care. They proceeded to drink beer and spew some drunken gibberish. This went on for about 15 minutes before they moved down the road. Just glad it didn’t turn into a night of shooting street signs.

Miles – 24
Total Miles – 2556
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

Saturday September 15th – CDT Day 148

A hunter driving a truck down the road last night as it just got dark had told me I was a mile and a half from the top and there was a campsite up there. Look for a cattle guard and then backtrack a little bit and it’s on your left. I hiked about 2 more miles last night and never saw the cattle guard or the campsite. I walked another 2 miles or so to the actual top this morning and still never saw a cattle guard. I swear, you can never trust people and their mileage estimates on things out here… Especially people driving vehicles.

 

At the top I joined the official CDT again. The trail goes up and down many hills and ridges and is mostly forest. The trail is mostly in good condition and the walking is fairly easy as far as the CDT goes. Ran into one bow hunter on trail.

By noon I had hiked 11 miles. I was running low on water so I stopped at a spring to filter some. It seems I’m missing a gasket from one of the hoses that connect to my water filter. It does not have an air tight seal and water leaks out now. I can still use it without that hose to get me into Lincoln. They’re not going to have an outfitter in that town, best I can hope for is a hardware store. It took a long time to filter water with this setup so I ate some food in the meantime.

After lunch I kept up a good pace. 9 miles in the next 3 hours.

Took a break at Cottonwood Lake which was more like a marsh. Ate another lunch here. Weather forecast was calling for rain around 7. Eating now will set me up to hike until it rains.

I did stop to filter water one more time since the next stretch looked pretty dry. Then it was the final push to camp, another 3 miles or so to the spot I was scoping on the map. The skies were cloudy but not super dark. Looks like rain will hold off for a little bit.

By the last mile, I could just feel the rain coming. My experience in Idaho and Montana with rain is that the clouds build later and the evening and it will rain around sunset. And that’s what it did today. In anticipation of this, I was jogging down the down sections. Not only is it faster but it seems to alleviate some of the impact on the knees when done correctly.

I reached the a junction, where the ground started leveling out a bit. I found a flat spot right next to the trail as it started sprinkling lightly. I setup my tent and as soon as it was up, the rain came down harder. I threw my backpack in the vestibule and did all my chores from the inside. This is one of maybe 5 times I had to do this on the CDT.

Today was a good day in the sense that I met my mileage goal, the weather was warmer and the rain held out until I got my tent up, and the trail was not too hard today despite a fair amount of climbing. I’m hoping for more Trail like this in the coming days, but with better views.

Miles – 28
Total Miles – 2584
Rain – yes
Sleep – backcountry, tent
Animals – elk

Sunday September 16th – CDT Day 149

Last night was a solid rainstorm. It rained consistently for a couple hours. As result, everything was pretty wet this morning, including my tent. I was cold too, so I was slow to get going. 8am start time today.

After a couple miles I reached an area called the Bison Mountain loop. In guthook, there’s a marker for trail junction here. Several people commented that the mileage listed in guthook is wrong in this area. Instead of being something like 3.9 miles it was probably around 10. That means I’m now several miles behind schedule, since I hadn’t accounted for these additional miles when planning for this section.

Today was another mix of forested trail and dirt roads. Some occasional distant views but mostly just forest. I saw two hunters and a woman walking her dog today. The woman asked if I was going to McDonald pass this evening, I said yes, approximately. She then offered to let me stay at her place, as she had hosted several CDT hikers in the past as well. I politely declined and stated my intentions were to stay on trail and try to cover miles. As much as I would love to, I know that I will just end up staying up late and or getting to the trailhead late tomorrow, and that’s not going to help my cause of getting to Lincoln any faster.

Filtered water from a small stream before heading back up to the divide where it looks dry. I was hoping to get to McDonald pass but I end up stopping a mile before the highway. Otherwise, I had a mile road walk along the highway and then probably at least a mile to get away from the highway before I could find camp on the other side. It was already 8pm and pretty much dark, not to mention I had a decent place to Camp right here.

Cowboy camped tonight under a pretty bright moon, a blinking red radio tower thing, and the sound of highway traffic.

Miles – 28
Total Miles – 2612
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry, cowboy camp
Animals – none

Monday September 17th – CDT Day 150

Good night of sleep. The ball of my right foot hurt when I went to sleep last night, and still did this morning. Bummer. I took an ibuprofen, only my second or third on trail at most. Many hikers eat them like candy, referring to them as “Vitamin I”.

 

Walked the mile to McDonald pass and continued on the other side. Cell towers and such at the top of the hill on my first climb.

Walked a few miles until I reached a junction with a road. If I make a left here, I can follow the road and cut off a few miles from the official CDT route. It’s not like I’m missing anything. OK, sold!

Much of the road walk passes through private property, with permission to use the road only. Lots of cows everywhere. Filtered water from a stream that I later found out was filled with cow shit all the way to its source, which I walked to eventually. But I’ve filtered from similar in New Mexico and was fine, so I wasn’t too worried.

The road eventually led up to Meyers hill where I rejoined the CDT again. The ley alternate I was hiking was 8 miles, a savings of 6 from the 14 miles of official trail.

I took a break near Dana spring which was dry. Fortunately I had 2.5L still.

After my break, I started the climb up black mountain. I was walking with my head down when I heard a voice… “hey! hey!!” The, coming out of the trees was Hopeful! This was such a pleasant surprise as we could both use the company. We sat down and caught up on things for about 15 minutes before hitting the trail together.

The climb up black mountain seemed to go by much faster than it would have alone. Then another climb up to Nevada mountain. On the descent, we found camp just as it got dark.

It was great having someone to hike with again! Cowboy camping under the stars again tonight.

Miles – 29
Total Miles – 2641
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry, cowboy camp
Animals – elk

Tuesday September 18th – CDT Day 151

It was another cold morning. Frost on everything including my sleeping bag.

This mornings hike was nice, with some distant views and ridge walking. There hasn’t been much of either lately.

We took a dirt road that skirts the mountainside below Granite Butte, saving a bunch of elevation gain. We did miss out on the view from the lookout tower, but this road was the way to the only water around for miles, so that made it an easy choice.

The road led us to Stemple pass. Here we dumped our trash in a trash can inside the outhouse and topped off water from a water cache.

Walked at a good pace the rest of the day. Covered 14 more miles and put us within 11 miles of Roger’s pass for tomorrow. However, the weather is calling for rain in the morning, so hopefully it holds off long enough to get packed up and moving. Or just doesn’t rain at all.

Miles – 26
Total Miles – 2641
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Wednesday September 19th – CDT Day 152

Woke up in a cloud this morning. Cold, misty, low visibility. Immediately climbed 600ft. Feet soaking wet. Stopping meant being cold, so we just kept moving.

There were a couple of climbs today, but none that were too big. However, there were no views of anything as the cloud cover remained pretty consistent with visibility of around 100′ or less.

After about 4 hours and 12 miles, we reached Roger’s pass. There was a tarp and a tent set up in the field just before hwy 200. I just walked right by and towards the road, ready to hitch. Hopeful was more observant, and noticed a whiteboard near a couple lawn chairs with both our names on it, literally. It was a trail angel named River Wulf, camped Under the tarp. He was hanging out here supporting CDT hikers… Whiskey, beer, solar charging etc. We chatted for a few minutes before heading up to the road to hitch.

Rogers Pass

Hitching sucked today. It was freezing cold and we were wet, shivering uncontrollably. The traffic was there but nobody would stop. I had my thumb out and one driver gave me a thumbs up. Very frustrating! Finally a guy named Tom picked us up on his way home from a traveling sales trip.

Ate lunch at Lambkins, then got a room at Three Bears Motel. A hot shower felt amazing! I was not fully warm until now.

In the hiker box at the motel, I snagged a sawyer filter for its gasket. This fixed my missing gasket issue on my filter. This was one of maybe two items where I pulled something useful out of a hiker box while on trail. It surprised me how many hikers relied on or used the hiker boxes extensively, as I thought most of the stuff in there was usually junk or food I didn’t want.

Ate dinner at The Wheel Inn, and had a couple beers. Long day!

Miles – 12
Total Miles – 2653
Rain – yes
Sleep – hotel
Animals – none

Thursday September 20th – CDT Day 153 (zero day)

Ate breakfast at Lambkins. Did chores all day… Ranger station, hardware store, atm, groceries, post office etc. Ate lunch at the Bootlegger Inn. Another great burger.

Met River Wulf for dinner at the Scapegoat Eatery. He was going to hitch back to the pass tonight but decided to stay in town. Only problem is, all his gear is back up at the pass. He was going to just sit under a tree at Hooper Park all night with all his layers on, and that sounded damn cold. I offered to let him stay with us at the motel, and just sleep on the ground. Obviously he accepted!

Like what you see?

Darby to Anaconda – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Darby to Anaconda Hike Overview

darby to anaconda hike on the continental divide trail 2018

The first 30+ miles north of Chief Joseph Pass were pretty awful. Partially my fault due to a crazy thick bushwhack, but mostly due to never-ending forests of dead trees and burned trees while doing lots of elevation gain and no view of anything. Soon after, the Anaconda Pintler wilderness starts and offers some redeeming views, mostly in the northern section. Bear activity was high, with lots of fresh scat. Temperatures are getting noticeably cooler now and days are getting shorter. 

Monday September 10th – CDT Day 143

Slept in till about 8 this morning. Headed over to Park Place Cafe for breakfast, being the only place open. Another place that serves big portions. I could only eat half of a three stack pancake order!

Next I took care of my grocery shopping. The people’s market was amazing compared to Lima and Leadore, where I resupplied from gas stations. Then I worked on getting a list of items together for my dad to send me at East Glacier. This way, when I’m done with the hike I can pick up a box full of non-hiking items like blue jeans and a dedicated GPS unit to use in the rental car that I will use to drive back home in.

Back at Travellers Rest, I was packing up my stuff when Jim, Mary’s husband and the other owner of Travellers Rest, approached me and asked if I needed a ride back up to Chief Joseph pass. They were going to do a little biking up there in an hour or so. Perfect!

With an hour to kill, I headed up to the post office to send some things back home and send my bounce box ahead to Lincoln. I stopped in a fly shop along the way back and picked up a t-shirt for 8 bucks. Of course, right after I sent my bounce box back. Every time!

Trying out these new Salomon Odyssey Pro shoes

I reached Chief Joseph pass around 1pm. Today I’m trying out a pair of Salomon Odyssey Pro shoes. The Salomon rep I met in Yellowstone had sent these to me to test out. Initial impression are great, the shoe feels comfortable and has felt great walking around town. Let’s see how they hold up to the conditions a thru hiker faces on the CDT.

Not far from the pass, a ley alternate splits off from the official CDT. It looks like it cuts off a few miles, taking a nice flat dirt road instead of ups and downs through likely nondescript forest and ridges. Yeah, I’m into that.

I missed a few turns today and had to backtrack about 2 miles total. Guthook doesn’t show this alternate, but I have it loaded in Gaia on my phone. The free version of Gaia sucks though. Even when I’ve downloaded the detailed maps surrounding my track, they don’t show. Or the maps show up in patches. I was basically following a blue arrow on a grey screen.

When it was time to leave road for trail, ley suggests taking an old cross country ski trail. This might be OK in the winter, and for skiers, but it was soggy and overgrown here and now. Didn’t want to bushwhack uphill through this so I walked down to the next road leading uphill. Then I follow some old railroad grade.

The farther I walked along that railroad grade, the worse it became. Lots of deadfall. Like, no way to step around it because there was so much. Lots of small pine trees taking up the rest of the available ground space. This stopped me in my tracks.

I decided to bushwhack straight up hill towards a road on my map. Crawling over the piles of downed trees and wading through thick pines, I fought my way to the top. This was one of the nastiest bushwhacks I’ve done.

On the road now, I took a side trail leading up to the Divide. Here I reconnected with the CDT again. Shortly after I took a break for dinner.

Knocked out a few more miles after dinner in pursuit of Schultz saddle. I was disappointed to see a truck and camper here using the site. I put on by headlamp and got ready to do some night hiking. Luckily, I didn’t have to go far. Found a a small flat spot a few hundred yards away and cowboy camped here.

Miles – 19
Total Miles – 2449
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, cowboy camp
Animals – none

Tuesday September 11th – CDT Day 144

Last night was cold. 25° when I woke up. Frost on my sleeping bag and clothes. I shivered throughout my morning routine and skipped breakfast in lieu of getting moving to get the blood pumping.

After an hour, I stopped in the first patch of sun I came across to eat breakfast. I could also remove layers now.

I gotta say, today was one of the more boring days I’ve done on the CDT. Every since I left chief Joseph pass, it’s just been downed trees and burn areas. Really bleak looking. This continued all day long. It also included many ups and downs. I did see about 5 elk in the forest this evening, but didn’t have a clear view.

It had gotten progressively cloudier throughout the day, and was now cold and windy as well. Tomorrow morning it might rain according to the last forecast I saw.

I made camp at a trail junction below pintler pass. I was surprised to see a tent and hammock set up here already. I chose a spot nearby but far enough away. I wonder if they’re CDT hikers?

Miles – 28
Total Miles – 2477
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – elk

Wednesday September 12th – CDT Day 145

I thought there was two people in the campsite next to me, but I think it was only one. I saw one person return by headlamp right before I jumped in bed last night, and heard one person leave this morning before I left my tent. I think it was a hunter.

Today is the day of climbing. Non-stop climbing, all day. If I were to hit my mileage goal, it would encompass at least 8500′ elevation gain. Not looking forward to today at all.

Right after leaving camp I climbed up pintler pass, and descended to Johnson Lake. This is where I would have liked to have made it to last night, ideally. This Lake marks the end of the southern Montana/Idaho map in my Guthook App, and the beginning of the northern Montana map, the final map.

After Johnson Lake the trail drops some more before going up another pass. Rainbow pass, Rainbow Lake. In this area, I crossed paths with 2 older guys out for a 30 mile hike. First actual hikers I’ve seen out here. A little further up, I stopped for a break.

The trail drops down another Valley to go around a steep Ridgeline and then heads uphill again. After cresting the pass, the trail swing by Warren lake. Nice mountain backdrop, it’s been a while since I’ve seen one like this.

I took another break below Warren Lake. I’ve been sweating going uphill, but going downhill or stopped I was freezing. Light snowflakes were falling, very light. As I descended downhill after the break, it turned into more of a rain than snow. It rained for about 2 hours and then within a matter of minutes, the Sun was out and the skies were completely blue.

Went over yet another pass, cutaway pass I believe. Then dropped down into Queener Basin and found camp around 7:30. I would have liked to have pressed on for another 30 or 45 minutes but there was another pass to climb and I didn’t feel like hiking in the dark. My shoes are wet and it’s going to be a cold night. Plus, I needed water which was next to camp. However, only 24 miles on the day. This was one of my lowest full days of hiking in a very long time.

It felt so good to get in my sleeping bag. I was really cold, especially my shriveled feet.

Miles – 24
Total Miles – 2501
Rain – yes, snowflakes
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Thursday September 13th – CDT Day 146

Last night was cold but I stayed warm in my bag. There were a few sprinkles overnight but overall my tent was dry this morning. I threw on all of my available layers other than sleeping clothes to stay warm. My shoes were still soaked from yesterday, but that’s where having that second pair comes in handy!

As much as I’d planned for an early start this morning, I was just slow to get going into the cold and what I thought was going to be immediately rainy weather. I didn’t start hiking until around 8am.

No more than a quarter mile from Camp I encountered two fresh piles of bear scat. Definitely from this morning. Look like grizzly scat to me. Add that with the one last night, and Queener Basin is one place I’m glad I don’t have to spend another night.

As usual I had a hard time getting going with the climbing this morning. I’m just so burnt out with it. It wears me out and I dread any sign of uphill hiking these days. Just another sign I am so ready to be done with this thru hike. The last part is the hardest for sure.

I went over two passes this morning and both of them had the most beautiful scenery I’ve come across in the anaconda pintler wilderness. It’s a shame the trail spends so much time in the woods and forest and not up on the ridge lines. However, from what I can tell the beautiful part of this wilderness is not very widespread. Maybe a 15 mile segment of the about 100 miles from Chief Joseph pass to Anaconda.

On top of the second pass, the anaconda alternate route splits off from the CDT. The trail goes up hill a little bit, passes through goat flats, then skirts the mountainside over to another pass. From this pass the trail drops down to storm Lake.

On my way down to Storm Lake I was looking at my guthook map. It had the trail dropping down around the lake and then going way back up this Valley. I was looking at Bushwhacking across the valley to cut off a mile or two around the lake when I noticed a trail leading downhill from the lake. This trail became a road and goes all the way to highway 1, where I need to go anyway. This would save me a couple of miles total, and several miles of Trail walking. The new route would put me on a road the whole way into Anaconda, and so I can cover miles easier and faster. Realistically, it was going to be quite a push to get into town tonight anyway since I was looking at around 34 miles. So at least this gives me a shot, and a shot by dark no less.

About a mile before reaching Highway 1, it started raining. There was nowhere to take cover and if there was, it was private property. It rained for at least an hour. After the rain let up, I came across a campground. I headed over to the outhouse, as these usually have a little covered area outside for shelter. This one was no different, so I stopped here for a lunch break.

The rain had cleared by the time I was done eating lunch. The road walk went through some pretty country for being a highway. Started getting warm and I shed off all my layers. Of course after doing so, storms started building again. Super dark and nasty looking clouds behind me, with some crazy wind gusts. But I got lucky and this one passed to the side of the highway.

My Salomon Odyssey Pro shoes were starting to bother the calluses on the outside of my heels, so I switched back to my Cascadia 13s. It felt much better but the damage was already done. Nothing too crazy I can’t deal with, but if I had waited till I got into anaconda things would have been much worse.

I got into anaconda a little after 7. I stopped at the Dairy Queen but they were closed. Bummer! From here I called tradewinds motel to reserve a room and then headed out to find dinner. I stopped at a place called wings and things and got some great Wings. Not many places do a dry rub and I liked this one.

It was almost 9 by the time I got to my motel. I started charging things, washing socks underwear and shirt in the sink and then took a nice hot shower. Time for bed, and this was a very comfy bed!

Miles – 31
Total Miles – 2532
Rain – yes
Sleep – hotel
Animals – deer

Like what you see?

Leadore to Darby – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Leadore to Darby Hike Overview

leadore to darby hike on the continental divide trail 2018

The hike north out of Leadore continued to offer some good ridgeline views, although not as frequent or quite as impressive as the Lima to Leadore section. However, it was forest fires dominated the theme of this stretch. Small and large plumes of forest fire smoke could be seen in many directions, and I was often quite close. I even walked over some active flames. I later found out the forest service closed the trail I was on again only hours after they gave me the go-ahead. I also encountered a momma bear and her two cubs. There was a lot of climbing in this section, with no day under 4200′.

Tuesday September 4th – CDT Day 137

 

I was going to eat at the silver dollar restaurant again for breakfast but they were closed at 8:30am. I headed to the stage stop instead and picked up some sausage egg and cheese biscuits, cinnamon roll and a monster… A 2200 calorie breakfast for this hungry hiker!

While browsing the CDT hiker registry/log maintained by the Stage Stop, I came across Cookie and Paul’s entry from 2008. This was cool to me because I must have watched Cookie and Paul’s video of their CDT hike a hundred times over the past 6 years. It’s very detailed in showing what a hiker can expect to see and encounter on the Continental Divide Trail, and might be my biggest inspiration for choosing to hike the CDT. This definitely made me pause for a moment as I realized the significance of this. Also, we were both here September 4th which makes me feel better about my pace. Still, I’m basically last the caboose on this CDT train. I’m not aware of any other NOBOs behind me.

After breakfast I went to the ranger station to get some info on the fires. As it turns out, all of the closures for the goldstone fire have been lifted. That means no super long reroute for me! Now I could go back to the stage Stop & buy my groceries knowing how many miles I need to hike over how many days. Then I went to the post office to mail back some things.

I checked out around 11:30am and had Sam drive me back up to Bannock pass. It was closer to 12:30 by the time I started hiking today.

First few miles where nothing special. The trail heads up hill through Forest along the Idaho/Montana border. Occasional cow activity.

Nice views of a rolling Valley below. Then more uphill climbing. Then down, then Uphill, then down again and repeat.

Hiked through this pine forest that was filled with trees where the lower branches had a very bright green moss. It looked like a whole forest of moss, pretty neat.

Later the trail goes up on a ridge with a good open view of the mountains in the distance across the valley below. The valley that leadore and salmon and other cities are in, running parallel to the Divide. Early evening time it was beautiful with the setting Sun.

I saw some smoke from a fire that was not all that far away. At the closest it looked like it was only over one or two more ridges, but my view was obstructed by trees.

I made camp in a gully about 6 miles south of Lemhi pass. It was about 8:45, and pretty close to dark. I Cowboy camped again under some really bright stars.

Miles – 22
Total Miles – 2321
Rain – no
Sleep -Backcountry, cowboy camp
Animals – elk, bald eagle

Wednesday September 5th – CDT Day 138

Last night wasn’t too cold. Started hiking at 7:20.

Not much to see on this mornings hike. Made it to Lemhi pass around 10am. From here, it’s a quarter mile walk to Sacagawea Memorial. There is a spring here that feeds Trail Creek. Trail Creek is essentially the headwaters of the Missouri River. Lewis and Clark passed through here on their expedition. And this is where I will fill my water to last me the rest of the day. So glad I have a 3L water capacity again as well!

Leaving the spring I bumped into a local. I told him about the fire I saw last night and he wasn’t aware of it. He said he was going to call it in.

Leaving Lemhi pass the trail climbs up hill steeply for a while. When it flattened out for a bit, I could cover some ground. It was not scenic either, so I ended up covering 9 miles in 3 hours. A pretty solid pace for me in this terrain.

The trail is on fire…

Later in the afternoon I began to come across burn areas. Some random spotty burns and some widespread areas. Only a week ago this was on fire. Most everything was out, but some areas were smoldering and some were even on fire still. I stepped over a couple of burning logs along the trail, isolated pockets of fire from rogue embers.

There were few good views today. Almost the whole day was spent in the forest with no distant view. The forested open up at one point and there was a large amount of smoke coming off the closest Ridgeline to me, just downhill. Not that far at all. Fortunately the smoke is blowing the other way. Otherwise, I might not have been able to pass through here. It was that thick.

The final climb before Goldstone pass did offer some good mountain views. However, the weather was turning. Dark clouds building to the west and moving my way. Rain could be seen across the valley, in front of a beautiful orange sunset as the backdrop.

Made it down to Goldstone pass. Not even 8pm yet, I set up camp here due to impending rain. Sure enough, sprinkles as I set my tent up. I got it all together just in time, jumped in the tent as heavier rain began to fall. Looks like I’ll get water tomorrow morning instead, not doing that tonight.

Miles – 28
Total Miles – 2349
Rain – yes
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

Thursday September 6th – CDT Day 139

I walked about a quarter mile down the road to a spring on the map. It was pretty shallow but I made it work. Filled my dirty water bag and headed up hill. Filtered this water while I broke down camp and hit the trail around 8:15.

Trail goes uphill then drops down into a new basin briefly before climbing a pass. Not really super scenic today overall, mostly just walking in the woods with no view of anything. The next several hours will be like the above, as the trail detours around some really steep terrain on the divide.

After first lunch I tried to pick up the pace on the now flat and easy trail. I made a conscious effort to keep up a 4mph pace and really knocked out some miles.

One section of trail south of miners Lake trailhead had some new switch backs that weren’t on the map. The old route pretty much goes straight down. This one zigzags wildly across the mountainside adding one to two more miles that I wasn’t planning on doing today.

Next up is a 2000′ climb. I was hoping to get it all done today but realistically, setting up at one of the top lakes just below the divide is a good way to go as well. I still have to filter water, been running all day on only three liters and almost out.

Just before reaching the highest Lake in the chain, I drew some water from the outlet. Carried this with me as I searched the area for a campsite. Filtered water as I set up camp along a small Lake. I got a few sprinkles after setting up my tent but nothing major.

Miles – 31
Total Miles – 2380
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer, Ptarmigan?

Friday September 7th – CDT Day 140

The reflection this morning on the Lake was incredible. Very reminiscent of Colorado. 

Finished the 2000′ climb I was unable to complete last night. I crested the pass and laid eyes on another new valley. This one was filled with lots of green pine trees, which would later obscure my view. Some big boulders and nice scenery in the upper basin. 

Went over another pass with a nice view. Wow, this is a pretty big valley.

The trail manages to stay slightly higher than treeline offering better views. The trail then follows a scenic ridgeline with some of the best views of the day.

I took a break to filter water and eat food near a stream around 4:30pm. When I was packing up and getting ready to leave, I heard a weird noise behind me. I turned around and saw two black bear Cubs climbing a tree only 50 feet away. I grabbed my bear spray and started looking for the mother bear. I yelled “yo bear” and the mama bears head popped up from behind a fallen tree. I yelled again causing the mama bear to turn around and run up the hill. The Cubs were still in the tree, mama bear abandoned them. After short while the Cubs climbed down the tree and ran uphill to their mama. That was really cool to see so close.

After the bear encounter it was a 3000′ descent into a valley. I mostly zoned out and zombied along the trail. At one point a squirrel fell out of a tree a couple feet in front of me. He landed in the dirt, but bounced up and ran away quickly. I got a little chuckle out of this, as I nearly had a squirrel fall on my head. Later I saw a couple of big Elk off in the forest. 

Male Spruce Grouse putting on a show

When I reached the area I had planned on camping at, I didn’t see any good campsites so I kept moving along the trail. Problem is, next two miles are a 1500′ climb through a narrow Gulch. There’s not going to be anywhere to camp here. It was also dark now, so I was hiking by headlamp. I made great time going uphill but was really pushing myself now.

Made it to the top of the climb around 9pm and found some good camp spots. Cowboy camped under the stars. Really tired, and really looking forward to town tomorrow! 

Miles – 29
Total Miles – 2409
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, cowboy camp
Animals – deer, spruce grouse, elk, 3 black bear

Saturday September 8th – CDT Day 141

Intermittent clouds and stars last night had me a little worried about the possibility of rain, but there was none. Warm night, warm morning. Nice for once.

Hiked a few miles to big hole pass. I saw some elk hunters on the way. At the pass, I walked a hundred yards downhill to a piped to spring to get my days water.

More of the same terrain… Hiking up and down Ridgelines with little or no view. When there was a view, the smoke and haze prevented distant views with any clarity. However, the haze created a pleasant scene with layers and layers of mountains on the horizon. 

The last several miles of hiking follows a dirt road. There were many people cutting firewood here.

At Chief Joseph pass, I stuck out my thumb and began the process of hitching into town. There wasn’t a whole lot of traffic going the direction I needed, but after about 30 minutes the 5th or so vehicle that passed by stopped. It was a small RV driven buy a nice guy named Pete. He was kinda enough to take me to the Travellers Rest RV park where I had planned on staying.

All of the motel rooms in Darby where booked this weekend, including the cabins at Travellers Rest. This is due to the filming of the Kevin Costner series Yellowstone here in Darby. The only available option for me was a tent site. Not ideal, but at least it’s cheap.

I had five boxes waiting for me in the office at Travellers Rest… Bounce box, box of Resupply items from dad, new Salomon shoes sent from the rep I met in Yellowstone, new Brooks insoles for my Cascadia shoes, and new Patagonia boxers.

Like most days I get into town knowing I will zero the next day, I didn’t do much. I setup my tent and headed up to the little blue joint restaurant for dinner. I got chicken strips, fries and a small pizza. Both were amazing, really really good food that seemed out of place for a town like this.

With a full belly it was time to get some sleep. It certainly wasn’t a comfy bed, but rest is rest. At the Travellers Rest.

Miles – 21
Total Miles – 2430
Rain – no
Sleep – rv park, tent
Animals – none

Sunday September 9th – CDT Day 142 (zero day)

Breakfast this morning was the other half of last night’s dinner. Portions were huge at the little blue joint.

I got started on all my town chores by late morning. I had a little table set up in the shade with an extension cord running out to it to power my laptop and portable hard drive, and began backing up all my photos and video. Opened all my packages, Resupplied my bounce box, Resupplied things in my backpack from my bounce box, etc.

Mary, one of the owners of Travellers Rest, said that the bunkhouse was now open tonight if I wanted to get a bed. Yes, absolutely! I broke down my tent and moved all my gear indoors. Once I got inside, I realized how tired I was. I laid down and took a half a half-assed nap for about an hour.

I headed up to the little blue joint again for dinner. Got a burger and it was delicious! Headed back to Travellers Rest to knockout a few more chores before bed. Mostly, dealing with my bounce box and figuring out where to send it next and plans for the rest of the trail.

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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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Macks Inn to Lima – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Macks Inn to Lima Hike Overview

macks inn to lima hike on the continental divide trail 2018
After leaving Macks Inn, the route follows roads nearly to the summit of Sawtelle Peak. It snowed up here yesterday, so it’s wet and muddy. It’s a bushwhack down a quiet little valley to rejoin with the official CDT. After this, the trail is often high on a ridgeline. The views are good but not terribly photogenic. There’s a massive valley here to the south, which was carved by past eruptions of the hotspot/super volcano presently located under Yellowstone. From here, The Tetons can be seen 60+ miles away! Lots of bear activity in this area as well. Near Lima, the fence line that represents the Idaho/Montana border becomes a frequent sight.

Tuesday August 28th – CDT Day 130

Walked down to the macks inn post office this morning to mail my bounce box and a few items back home. The post office didn’t open until 10, and it was a two-mile walk each way. By the time I got back to the hotel, packed up, made some last-minute phone calls and checked out it was almost noon.

The first 10 miles were on a road leading to Sawtelle Peak. The peak had some snow from yesterday’s storm. First snow of the season. I need to hurry my ass to Canada.

Eventually a trail splits off from the road just below the summit of Sawtelle Peak. The trail here was covered in snow and mud. Everything was soggy and slippery. It was a little slow going. I believe this is the first time I actually walked on a trail while hiking the Mack’s Inn alternate. I was beginning to think it was 100% road walk.

After a while the trail drops in elevation below the snow line. This is also roughly where I crossed into Montana for the first time. The trail becomes much more faint here and difficult to follow.

I followed the trail for a few miles along the north side of a small Creek. Pretty little canyon.

After a few miles the trail reconnects with the CDT again. The trail is much better now and is actually blazed. It also starts climbing uphill to the United States sheep experiment Station. Gotta love it.

The temperature dropped quickly this evening. I stopped to filter some water just before 8pm and walked on looking for a campsite. I found a nice spot with a circle of trees around 8:15.

Cowboy camped Under the Stars tonight. Cold night but warm in my sleeping bag.

Miles – 21
Total Miles – 2146
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, Cowboy camp
Animals – deer

Wednesday August 29th – CDT Day 131

Last night was nice. Calm, bright stars and then a nearly full moon. Got up at 7 and started hiking around 7:45.

The trail starts climbing immediately. It reaches a high point of 9600 ft. Up here, there’s a little snow left. Mostly on the trail it seemed. Anywhere it wasn’t snowy was really muddy and slippery. The kind that cakes up on your shoes.

Landscape is nice but not spectacular. It consists of rolling ridges, occasional mountain peaks and patches of forest. The grass is mostly brown, which dominates distant views.

Saw some really huge grizzly bear prints in the mud. I’m glad it had already gone the other way. I saw these tracks on and off for a couple of miles.

I finally felt the temperature warm up a bit late morning. I had also dropped down in elevation.

This afternoons hike passed through the targhee national Forest and was uneventful overall.

Found a spot to camp under a tree just before 8pm with 30 miles on the day.

Miles – 30
Total Miles – 2176
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, Cowboy camp
Animals – deer

Thursday August 30th – CDT Day 132

Woke at 7 and Hit the trail around 7:45.

Another climb this morning right away. I reached the top of a ridge with a decent view. However, the views just don’t compare to Wyoming or Colorado.

Filtered water at rock spring, the only decent water source on my route today.

The trail crossed at road at the Idaho/Montana border. Here there were a couple of cows chilling. Great, back to the cows.

Now the trail goes uphill steeply along a fence line representing the state border. This climb was a bitch! At the top, the fence line follows a breezy ridge. I filled this to a tree on the high point she I stopped for lunch. I also had lte here. Called the mountain view motel to arrange a ride into town but no answer. Left a message and moved on.

The trail continues to stay high on a ridge for a while. Decent views. Desolate looking brown mountains in the distance beyond a large open valley. Nice, but didn’t blow you away. Ugh, nothing will ever compare to the winds.

Walked some dirt roads for a few miles with on and off cell service. And cows, don’t forget the cows. Dark skies in one direction, but consistent sunny skies above me. Called the motel a few more times but no answer.

I arrived at interstate 15 at 4pm. I stopped for a quick snack and as I got up to walk onto the highway, Mike from the motel called back. He said he’d come get me right now. Perfect timing!

I got a room at the mountain view motel and took a shower. Then I headed up to the peat steak house for some grub.

On the way back to the motel, I stopped at the Mobil station to buy food. This gas station is the only place in town for “groceries”. I made due with the selection and headed back to the motel to pack up. Heading back on trail at 9am tomorrow.

Miles – 21
Total Miles – 2197
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – deer

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Old Faithful to Macks Inn – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Old Faithful to Macks Inn Hike Overview

yellowstone pools hike on the continental divide trail 2018
Back on the official CDT, the trail leaves Old Faithful via a boardwalk through some really cool geothermal features. Mostly, colorful pools and hot springs. Not the kind you soak in though, the melt your skin off kind. After leaving the boardwalk and hitting trail, we left the hoards of tourists behind for good. The trail passes by a lake and some undeveloped geothermal features just before we cross into Idaho. From here to Macks Inn, the trail is rather unremarkable. I did, however, see a bear for the first time since the Gila here. 

Saturday August 25th – CDT Day 127

Got the all you can eat breakfast buffet at old Faithful Inn. Katie and hopeful joined. We talked about our routes going forward and it looks like we’ll be going 3 separate ways after crossing into Idaho. I will be following the Idaho/Montana border, the official CDT. Katie and Hopeful will each be doing some variant of the Big Sky cutoff route. This will save time and allow them some extra days to reach Canada before winter.

The trail leaving old Faithful passes by many geysers, colorful pools, springs and other geothermal features. Touristy, but really neat. This area is called upper geyser basin.

My favorite pool here was Morning Glory. I somehow missed it on my last visit to Yellowstone and it was nice to finally see it. 

The CDT then passes through biscuit basin. More geysers and colorful pools. Past the boardwalk, the CDT continues on into the woods. Now the day’s hiking really begins.

After an uphill climb, the trail levels out. Easy hiking for a while. Ran into two women clearing trees from the trail who worked for the nps. They were kind enough to let us borrow their saw to use as a prop in a picture we asked them to take of the 3 of us.

Reached summit lake and saw old scout here taking a break. We did the same to filter water for the upcoming dry stretch.

The next section was a mix of burned trees and healthy forest. Passed by a couple more hot springs and geothermal features just off the trail. The sulpher smell gave them away and pushed us in the right direction.

Crossed into Idaho around 7:15pm. The border was just a couple of rocks lined up across the trail with a metal Blaze sign reading “welcome to Idaho”.

Hiked a couple more miles to get out of the Yellowstone National Park boundary. Camped a few tenths of a mile past the boundary and had a small fire. This will be my last night together with Katie and hopeful.

Miles – 21
Total Miles – 2103
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

Sunday August 26th – CDT Day 128

Had some rain from about 4am on. Fortunately, it cleared up as we were waking up at 7am.

We hiked together for another 4 miles before our routes split off. It was a sad moment to leave my friends behind. We had a good run, almost a month together and around 450+ miles. The last month has been the greatest adventure of my life and I was very fortunate to have been able to share that time with Katie and Hopeful.

I pressed on, alone. The Trail followed some degree of dirt road for the rest of the day. In the beginning, the roads were pretty rough and had large berms and pits built into them to prevent Motor Vehicles from using them. However, they were a real annoyance to walk around too.

It was late morning and I needed water. One of the only water sources in the area was Latham spring. It had a side Trail leading down to it from the dirt road I was following. I got about 30 feet away from the spring and scared off a black bear. Medium size, alone. He scampered up the hill and I proceeded to draw my water from the same Source he was drinking from.

The rest of the day was a boring road walk. The roads eventually got wider, flatter and more trafficked. A couple of ATVs went by, then a few cars. Passed by some summer homes, then reached a paved Road. I followed this to hwy 20 where macks inn and island park is located.

Arrived at the Sawtelle Mountain Resort around 3pm. The room was pricey, but I have my bounce box here I need to deal with and with the forecasted cold weather and rain tomorrow, I really don’t want to have to do that in my tent in their Campground.

When I checked in and ask for my boxes, they had not gone up to the post office recently, so they were not there. The woman at the front desk said she’d pick them up in the morning on her way into work. Bummer, I wanted my box tonight. Oh well, tomorrow is a good day to take a zero and avoid some nasty weather. I just don’t have too many Zeros left I can take to reach Canada by October 1st, my goal.

I ate at Connie’s next door. Great Burgers here! It’d be tough to beat that burger at Flagg Ranch but this was up there.

Plotted out the rest of my towns, mileage and days for the rest of the hike on a piece of paper. 840 miles left, 34 days to October 1st. I plan on two more zeros in the towns of Darby and Lincoln. These will be my last two bounce box stops as well. The Revenant was on TV and made for a great background movie to all the planning.

Miles – 22
Total Miles – 2125
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – black bear

Monday August 27th – CDT Day 129 (zero day)

The skies were cloudy and it rained on and off this morning. Much colder outside.

Resupplied at the Robin’s Roost grocery store across the street.

Spent the afternoon backing up photo and video, and going through my bounce box. It rained much of the afternoon and evening. This is really great news for all the wildfires burning in the area. Specifically, the Goldestone Fire that has closed a section of the CDT between Leadore and Darby. Hopefully this isn’t an issue when I get there.

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Flagg Ranch to Old Faithful – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Flagg Ranch to Old Faithful Hike Overview

yellowstone hike on the continental divide trail 2018
After leaving Flagg Ranch, we enter Yellowstone through the south entrance. The only wildlife I saw was a fox, very disappointing for a place known for it’s animals. Much of our route through Yellowstone was wet, swampy and not particularly scenic. The highlight of this section was the Bechler River and the Mr. Bubbles area. Here, we were blown away by majestic waterfalls and soaked in a natural hot spring.

Wednesday August 22nd – CDT Day 124

Woke at 7am. Packed up camp, just in time to beat the rain. Headed over to the lodge to grab breakfast and ate by the fireplace. Didn’t start hiking till after 10.

Walked hwy 191 north about 3 miles to the Yellowstone south entrance. Got our Backcountry permits at the snake River ranger Station.

My GPS showed the South boundary trail starting from a road that was signed “employees only”, but we followed anyways. Sure enough, the was trail was there. Hmmm.

The south boundary trail was pretty boring. Kinda like walking power lines or a pipeline, just a staight line through the trees. There were a couple of creek fords. Bridges are pretty much non-existent in Yellowstone.

Filtered water from the outlet below grassy lake dam. Shortly after, we crossed a river. This one looked bigger than it was. Crossed with no issues.

Shortly after, the skies darkened. It was thundering and lightning in the distance. The wind picked up and eventually it started pouring. There was some hail involved as well.

We hiked a few more miles in the cold and rain. The rain let up but the damage was done, being soaked. When we reached our campsite, we were greeted by a sign warning of a bear frequenting the area. Oh boy.

I ate dinner in my wet clothes as the temperature dropped. Hit the tent as soon as possible, around 9:30pm.

Miles – 20
Total Miles – 2047
Rain – yes
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Thursday August 23rd – CDT Day 125

Everything was soaking wet in the morning, and it was cold. Cold and wet shoes, socks, boxers and shirt. The skies were still dark and looked like rain. We were all slow to leave our tents and get going.

Most of the morning was spent fording small creeks and sloshing through swampy fields. It was not very scenic either, so our spirits were low.

Reached the bechler river. It flows through a large meadow here. Hopeful and I were in front and Katie was behind. When she caught up, she had seen a black bear momma and cub, only minutes behind us. Pretty cool.

Now the trail follows the bechler River. This was the most scenic thing we’d seen in Yellowstone thus far.

As we hiked up stream, we encountered several waterfalls. Some were huge, really huge! You could feel the mist really far away. Very impressive.

Father upstream, there were many cascades. This river is wild. We really enjoyed this section.

We forded the river a couple times. Water was mid-thigh deep and swift, but manageable. Ran into trail crews working in this area, they have to Ford the river twice a day.

There were some geothermal features in the meadows now. Hot pools of Sulphur smelling water.

 

We reached the junction for a hot spring named Mr. Bubbles. It was a half mile walk to get to the spring, and we could see large plumes of steam rising in the distance.

Approaching the spring, there were several geothermal features nearby, mainly on the opposite side of the creek. One large one resembled mammoth hot springs, for reference. We thought this was Mr. Bubbles at first until we followed the trail to something more obvious.

Mr. Bubbles hot spring

Mr Bubbles itself was not as impressive visually, but makes up for it by being a great soak. There were a couple guys in the spring when we arrived, who later left us alone. We soaked for a while and really enjoyed this spot. What a wild place to be. Natures hot tub!

Miles – 18
Total Miles – 2065
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Friday August 24th – CDT Day 126

Stated hiking around 7:45. Along the bechler was a couple more interesting spots like twister falls, but nothing like yesterday.

Must of the hike into old Faithful was pretty boring to be honest. Just woods and not much to see. I covered great ground though. There were a couple of geothermal features near firehole River.

Reached old Faithful at 1pm. Ate at the geyser grill. Food here is subpar at best. Got a shower at the old Faithful inn. Showers are free for CDT hikers. Nice!

Didn’t need much from the general store for resupply, since I carried extra food from Flagg ranch. Just some almonds to add to my m&ms.

Hopeful, Katie and I agreed to meet up by the front entrance to the general store. Let’s go and Reed were here as well, who are southbounders. Later, we all ate dinner together at the bear pit restaurant in old Faithful inn. Another northbounder named old scout joined too.

Katie met a guy who worked here at the park who offered to let us camp at the RV park site. After dinner, we headed there and set up for the evening. Sat by the fire for a while and in bed around 11.

Miles – 17
Total Miles – 2082
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – fox

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Jackson to Flagg Ranch – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Jackson to Flagg Ranch Hike Overview

jackson to falgg ranch, teton crest trail hike on the continental divide trail 2018

After walking 2 miles into Jackson, resupplying and walking across the valley to Wilson in one day, we entered the Jedediah Smith Wilderness and Grand Teton National Park. We hiked our own version of the Teton Crest Trail winds in and out of both of these land administrations.  The Tetons are pretty damn grand to say the least! North of Lake Solitude, we took a steep cross country route out of the basin and over to the west side of the divide. Lots of wildflowers, delicious berries to eat, and bushwhacking!

Thursday August 16th – CDT Day 118

Started hiking at 7. It was less than 2 miles to the trailhead. From there, we walked into Jackson.

When we reached the downtown area, the search for a breakfast restaurant was on. We landed at The Bunnery. Good food, but pricey.

Everything in Jackson is expensive and the people are yuppity. Lots of tourists and tons of traffic. Jackson was not my favorite town stop. Fortunately, we were just getting what we need and walking out later.

We hit up an outfitter, the ranger station and a couple stores. Then we headed over to the rec center to take a shower. They had a pool, hot tub and sauna, so we spent about an hour here taking advantage of the amenities.

Lunch at DQ, then headed to the other side of town. Here, we hit the library for a few hours. Hopeful and I spent some time researching the big sky alternate. Feeling the crunch for time, in terms of reaching Canada by Oct 1st, it was a good idea to have this as a backup.

I called Patagonia to arrange for a new capiline lightweight baselayer shirt to be sent father up trail. Mine has a forearm sized hole in the back.

We then went to the grocery store for food and picked up dinner. Katie found a ride to Wilson, so hopeful and I will do the road walk and meet her there. This will set us up well for entry into the Tetons tomorrow.

I didn’t find Jackson to be very scenic. However, the views were much nicer heading west out of town. The road had a bike path next to it that we followed much of the way. We didn’t leave Jackson till after 8, so it was going to be a bit of a night hike.

There was road construction on hwy 22, next to the bike path. Lots of traffic backed up and honking horns. Kinda hard to deal with after spending so much time in the wilderness.

Katie texted us and said we could camp in the backyard of the guy who gave her a lift. She gave us an address and we headed that way.

We took what liked like a short cut, and it dead ended at a gate with a keypad. No private property signs though. We could walk around the gate. As we were contemplating what to, in the darkness, a truck came flying the corner from the opposite side of the gate. Illuminated by the headlights, all I could do was wave and see who they where and their intentions.

As it turns out, the 5 guys in the truck were trying to take a short cut themselves and avoid some of that traffic. They had just spent last week in the wind river range themselves. When we said we had been walking since April, they have us each a cold beer.

Moments later, another truck pulled up behind the first truck. This was the landowner, and she asked what we were doing. Truck guys said looking for a short cut to pass through, the woman said OK and opened the gate. We said the same thing and she wouldn’t let us walk through. We were only about .3 miles from fish creek road, half mile total from our destination. I mentioned it would be an hour or more detour for us, but she didn’t care. That really sucks!

It was 10:30pm now and we started the long walk around. Back to the road construction, then another pitch dark bike track and country roads with no street lights. I had a terrible headache, and was finding the walk difficult near the end.

We finally reached the house Katie was camping at sometime after 11:30pm. The house backed up to a river, and were told to camp there near it. Fine. I know there’ll be condensation in the morning, but I’m so tired I don’t care. Cowboy camped under the stars. Fell asleep around 12:30am.

Miles – 18
Total Miles – 1939
Rain – no
Sleep – backyard, tent
Animals – deer

Friday August 17th – CDT Day 119

Sure enough, everything was wet this morning. Got up at 7 since hopeful and Katie were already awake. Packed up and went to a bagel shop down the road for 2nd breakfast. Already ate leftover chicken strips and croissants earlier.

Stated hiking hwy 22 up to Phillips trailhead sometime around 9:30. It was already hot out. The road walk kinda sucked with all the traffic and vehicles that don’t get over a little when they pass by. Some came awfully close.

Lots of cars at the trailhead. The people faded out when the trail split off for ski lake. The views also began to open up.

Lots of wildflowers high towards the pass. Good view at the top. Now we enter the jedidiah Smith wilderness and begin the teton crest trail.

The farther we hiked, the better the views became. The trail winds into a new valley. On the other side, rock formations that look like they’re part of a castle. Beautiful.

On the next pass, we entered grand teton National park. The trail winds back and fourth between the national park and wilderness throughout the teton crest trail.

The trail passes by Marion Lake, a really nice spot. The kind of place you only dream of camping on the CDT. But as always, there’s more miles to cover before I can feel good about the day’s progress. 

Great views continue. Good trail, helps to keep a good pace. There was a lot of climbing today and with heavy packs, it was tiring. I listened to some music today for the first time in a while. This helped keep me going.

A few more scenic miles and we were approaching the final pass leading up to death shelf. I’ve seen some great pictures from this area and so I was looking forward to it.

Death shelf did not disappoint. However, it was overcast and it killed the sunlight, so it was not as photogenic at I hoped for. There’s always tomorrow.

Miles – 21
Total Miles – 1960
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – marmot

Saturday August 18th – CDT Day 120

Nice hike this morning coming out of death shelf.

The Tetons have been looming on the horizon for many miles now, growing bigger with every step. Amazing views in an otherworldly landscape!

Alaska basin was nice. Mainly, the northern section. Tons of wildflowers.

Grand Tetons and Schoolroom Glacier

At the top of hurricane pass was our first unobstructed view of the three tetons; grand, middle and south. Incredible! Oh and fun fact, tetons is French for “tits”. French fur trappers who discovered the area named it as such because the pointy peaks reminded them of boobs. Grand Tetons literally means “big tits”.

Below hurricane pass lies schoolroom glacier. It has a large moraine that was now acting as a berm to hold back a small lake. Icebergs in the lake, beautiful water.

The upper cascade creek area was just incredible. On par with the wind river range. Our pace reflected this too.

Rain clouds building on and off. Hiked down to the junction with solitude lake, and took this trail uphill. Saw a Moose on the way up.

Lake Solitude and The Grand Tetons

Awesome views from Lake Solitude. Tons of people here too. Pretty ironic name if you ask me.

Now it’s time to climb out of the basin. Around the lake and up hill. Some steep rock climbing with limited holds involved.

Now up on the highest shelf, we could see no easy way to the top anywhere. The skies were also pitch dark and looked like rain at any moment. We made the call to head back down to the lake.

May try another way out of the basin tomorrow or head up paintbrush ridge in order to drop down to mink lake to try another way over the crest.

Miles – 20
Total Miles – 1980
Rain – yes, light
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – marmot, moose

Sunday August 19th – CDT Day 121

Started hiking at 6:30am. I spotted another potential exit from the lake solitude basin. It was a grassy chute that looked increasingly more appealing the closer we got. It was steep, but not as bad as last night’s failed route.

Made it to the top of the chute. It was hazy today due to forest fire smoke, coming from who knows where. Nothing close by to my knowledge. Grand Teton was a prominent feature looking through the haze. Really incredible views from here.

After the chute, we walked over some talus fields and pools of melt water on relatively flat ground. Not what you think of when you imagine mountain ridgelines. More impressive views on the other side of lake solitude.

Next we followed a ridge over to Littles peak. It was a bit of a knife edge for a hundred yards or so. Pretty cool! 

We traversed around Littles peak instead of going up and over. This was mostly a great choice, avoiding elevation gain and boulders. First half was grassy and somewhat flat. Then it became steeper and took some work to find a way down.

Lunch break by a steam, then moved on. Nice walking for a while. Passed some scenic little lakes which reminded me of a scene in the Sierras for a bit. 

The trail then goes up and down for a while. Nice little basins and ridges.

We took a break at a stream above bitch creek. Yep, bitch creek, that’s the name. Descended to the creek then ascended dead horse pass. Something like 1800′ in 1.1 miles. No wonder why they call it dead horse pass… The horse is dead by the time it reaches the top. Just like I felt. Great view and break spot at the top though.

We made quick work of the descent. Covered good ground through the valley and took another break before the ascent to camp lake.

The first part of the climb to camp lake was the steepest. Pretty steep for about a mile. The terrain flattens out some before the lake but I was already whooped at this point. Hopeful and Katie were ahead waiting for me at the lake. It was 7:30pm now, and we decided to stop here for the night.

I went to bed around 8:15 tonight since I was so tired. Katie and Hopeful stayed up and had a campfire. Today involved a ton of climbing, at least 5-6k feet.

Miles – 19
Total Miles – 1999
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

Monday August 20th – CDT Day 122

Left camp lake at 8am. We’re hoping to make it to flagg ranch today, or at least very close.

We followed good trail up to a junction for nord pass. From here we needed to take a trail that was on the map but didn’t seem to exist on the ground. More bushwhacking, Yay!

We eventually picked up a faint trail that looked like it hadn’t been used or maintained in many years. Made it to the pass that will drop us down into Webb canyon and enjoyed a hazy view. I hit my 2000 mile mark here which was a nice milestone.

The route down was off trail but an easy grassy slope. We hit trail and followed it down to Moose creek. However, this is where the trail ended.

We crossed moose creek over some downed trees, the last time we’d keep our feet dry. From here on out, it was a nasty bushwhack. Steep slopes, thorn bushes, downed trees and tall vegetation hiding holes, rocks and sharp downfall. This forced is into the river a few times, just walking downstream. The water was cold though, and progress was limited to how long you could stand the pain. This was one of the most difficult sections of bushwhacking I’d face along the entire CDT.

After a couple miles of the above, we hit a poorly maintained trail that faded in and out for a mile or two. More bushwhacking, but not as nasty. After passing through a meadow, the trail seemed to be maintained like normal. Great, because we still have a lot of ground to cover now.

Took a break and was surprised to see 4 hikers coming up the trail. They were seasonal NPS workers heading up to a cabin for a week. Here, they’ll be on the lookout for big horn sheep and mountain goats, studying their numbers and location, etc. We told them, “good luck” with the trail above the meadow. We figure, once they see how shitty it is, maybe they’ll put in a work request for trail maintenance there. But if it goes by how much traffic the area gets, forget it, it’s never getting done.

The next section had some nice waterfalls, lined with vibrant wildflowers. Also, lots of blueberries and raspberries growing along the trail. We stopped to pick some along the way. Delicious!

As we entered a burn area mid afternoon, it started raining. It rained for an hour or so, but we hiked through it. We could now see Jackson lake in the distance.

As we neared the lake, the weather cleared. We reached the berry creek ranger station around 4:30pm and took a break. From here it was 8 miles to grassy lake Rd, then a couple miles of road walking to flagg ranch.

After our break, we decided to go for flagg ranch. It was now sunny and we were in good spirits. The trail was not the most scenic which helped us cover good ground without many stops for pictures.

We reached grassy lake Rd a little before sundown. We walked into the darkness and made it to the ranch around 9:45pm. We checked in and got a tent site. The general store was still open so I bought a couple of hot pockets to stave off the hunger. On a side note, every time I would blow a snot rocket on trail, I get the Hot Pockets jingle stuck in my head, but using the words “Snot Rockets” instead. That’s not gonna leave ya now is it?

After setting up camp in the dark I took a nice hot shower. Almost as good as a hot tub. Looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow.

Miles – 28
Total Miles – 2027
Rain – yes
Sleep – campground, tent
Animals – deer,

Tuesday August 21st – CDT Day 123 (zero day)

Slept in til 9am. Headed over to the lodge and had the breakfast buffet. It was a bit subpar but nevertheless, I filled up. I then picked up my boxes from the front desk… Food from dad and a new pair of shoes from REI.

Today was spent organizing food and planning out the next town stops and route for Montana. Did laundry as well.

Ate dinner at the lodge. One of the best burgers I’ve had on trail. We then had a fire in camp and drank some whiskey.

Tomorrow we head into Yellowstone.

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 2027
Rain – no
Sleep – campground, tent
Animals – none

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Dubois to Jackson – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Dubois to Jackson Hike Overview

dubois to jackson, gros venture wilderness hike on the continental divide trail 2018

Leaving Dubois, we had another 2.5 days of hiking to cross the northern Wind River Range. This proved to be much more difficult than anticipated, exceeding our time estimates. Road walked from Green River Lakes west to the Gros Ventre Wilderness. The Gros Ventre sees few hikers, and has few established trails as a result. Off trail adventures continued here on fields of snow and boulders, and involved some sketchy moments scrambling down steep rock faces. Once again we found ourselves low on food and hungry, only this time with a different outcome. This section was full of adventure and very scenic, among my favorites of the whole trip. 

Friday August 10th – CDT Day 112

Woke at 7. Went to breakfast then finished packing. Liz, the owner of the motel, gave us a ride to glacier trailhead where we left off. Katie didn’t want to do a section of road walking that Hopeful and I were doing, so she had Liz drop her off about 6 miles back down the road we came in on, and we’ll meet Katie there.

The road walk was, well, a road walk. Not much to say about it other than easy walking for once.

Katie was hanging out at this wildlife viewing pavilion thing in the shade. We joined her for a while, happy to get out of the heat.

Resumed hiking around 12:45. After a short road walk, we jumped on a trail that took us over a ridge. On the other side was a scenic little valley with a ranch.

The trail took us right into the ranch. Not sure exactly where the trail continues through the ranch, we stopped at the office to ask. We were on private property, but the owners gave us permission to pass through. They also gave us ice water, cookies and a loaf of coffee cake!

The valley beyond the ranch was nice. Eventually we left the ranch and entered public land, although this boundary was not marked.

Crossed a river and then took a break. After this, the trail was thick and had lots of blow downs. Also lots of boulders and a little scrambling. Tough section. We lost the trail many times.

Came to another stream crossing. The stream had a steep cut bank that was sketchy getting down. I slipped and cut my hand. Used super glue to close the wound.

Continued uphill on an increasingly better trail. Found some raspberry bushes with some tasty berries. Reached a flat spot that had good camping near a stream, and decided to stop to make camp. We packed out two beers that we put in the stream to get cold for later.

Made a small fire, my first on trail, and enjoyed our one beer with dinner.

Miles – 15
Total Miles – 1816
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Saturday August 11th – CDT Day 113

Woke at 6. Lots of stars last night.

The trail climbs uphill immediately after leaving camp. Went over a ridge then dropped down to a small lake. Kept going and made it to Simpson lake a short while after. Took a break at Simpson.

Followed Simpson lake’s Inlet Stream uphill. It was beautiful here with snow capped peaks, blue lakes and green grass. Stopped at pinto lake for a swim.

Next the trail goes uphill to a pass. It’s scenic and mostly gradual, but had a few steep spots. Good views on the other side of the Divide, so we stopped at the top of the pass to eat a snack.

Excellent views coming down the pass. Found our route down despite the steep grade.

Reached a cliff that forced us to hike around. The new route required some down climbing with a little exposure. This took us a while to find a doable route down, and the doing was slow and sketchy.

Down at roaring fork river, we needed to cross. The bank was very steep and loose, but we traversed it to a point where a safe river crossing was possible. This, and the cliff above, took about 3 hours!

The river Bank was thick, thorny and rocky for a ways. We ended up crossing again. Picked up a small trail and followed it downhill.

More obstacles… Boulder fields and thick vegetation. Came across 3 guys camping along the river, wasn’t expecting this here. Very little traffic in this area. They pointed us to a trail a hundred yards away. Back on track.

Walked another few miles before finding camp along the river at a bridge.

Miles – 20
Total Miles – 1836
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Sunday August 12th – CDT Day 114

Last night, We agreed to sleep in to 7am is morning. The extra hour of sleep felt great.

Crossed the meadow with roaring fork running through it. Hiked trail on the other side of the river for a while, before it faded out.

Crossed roaring fork River again, it was cold! Took a short break after.

Trail goes over a ridge and into the valley containing green river lakes. Squaretop mountain can been seen in the distance. Beautiful.

Hiked down to the green river. It was wide but shallow enough to cross. It was a few inches above the knee on me. Fun fact: This is the Colorado river’s largest tributary.

Now it was a long road walk. Katie immediately began planning to hitch down the road to avoid it. We stopped under an awning to figure out the logistics of where to meet up later, etc.

Katie very quickly secured a ride with a guy parked on the side of the road. Hopeful and I continued on our road walk. I guessed 10-12 miles.

The Green River

The scenery was pretty nice overall. The Green river winds along the road for most of the way.

We saw Katie sitting under a tree along the road a few miles before the bridge. After a few minutes of sitting together, a couple atvs pulled up. Really nice people… Gave us cold beers, drinks and were just nice to talk to. Wyoming locals, they’ve been pretty friendly thus far. Then Katie hitched with them to the bridge while Hopeful and I walked. Continuous footsteps to Canada, that’s what it’s all about for Hopeful and I.

A few more miles and we reached the bridge. Took a food break here then moved on.

The three of us were now hiking together again. We’re now following a dirt road towards the Gros Ventre Wilderness. Nice walking.

Hiked a few more hours this evening. Nice calming and relaxing landscape. Rolling hills, sage brush and the sun low in the sky.

Found camp on a small hill along the trail at 8:30pm.

Miles – 25
Total Miles – 1861
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – elk, pronghorn

Monday August 13th – CDT Day 115

Hit the trail at 7am. Meadows and forest as we descended to the creek below. Passed an old mining operation.

Crossed the creek and took a break. Hopeful saw an animal that looked like a cat, and was about the same size. Probably bobcat.

Entered the Gros ventre wilderness. So far, we had trail. Passed an old wagon. Saw bear shit and tracks.

The trail disappeared as we headed up hill to the pass. It was a pain in the ass due to the thick brush, catching each step.

Passed a couple of nice lakes. Looks like very little use here.

The route up the next pass was littered with large pits under he rock towards the bottom. The hole in the ground would look small, but underneath would be a larger than expected pit. Interesting. Gonna have to watch my footing here. 

On the top of the pass, it was a nice but daunting view. Lots and lots of boulders, very barren looking. Found a route down though steep and loose rock. Very sharp too. Climbed many ridges up and down to cross the main valley, and started up hill to a small saddle.

The saddle provided a view of snow and boulders. More hard work ahead.

Now to skirt the mountainside. Steep boulders, and sharp. Truly horrible. However, we did find some really cool rocks. Geode like rocks with crystals. Lots of yellow in the rock. Bagged a few to take with me.

Crossed a couple of snow fields. Micro spikes would have been nice but didn’t feel too bad without. We sent these home in Dubois after the Winds. Hopeful slipped a slid a little. A couple times actually.

Took a break after the snow fields. Lots of huge slabs of razor sharp rock to walk on now.

We headed up to the top of the ridge where we’ll cross and get down into the next valley. Only problem is, it’s all sheer cliffs. Beautiful scenery though!

 

 

Walked to the last saddle on the ridge. At first, it looked like no way down. Then I spotted a steep, but doable, chute to down-climb. Looked to be about a 60ft climb.

Hopefull went first and scouted the route. Katie followed, then myself. The climbing wasn’t as bad as it looked. However, we were now faced with a steep and loose scree field. We slid on our butts and somehow avoided cutting up our hands too badly.

Made camp right below the crazy wall we just descended. It was 8:45pm now and almost dark. Beautiful spot though.

Miles – 19
Total Miles – 1880
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – elk

Tuesday August 14th – CDT Day 116

Last night’s nightmare wall was this morning’s scenic view. Just awesome.

Hiked up a small pass above camp. Now we could see the long ridge we needed to walk around. Looks like lots of ups and downs on Boulder fields.

We took a lower route to Steamboat peak, which we’ll hike around. 

Made it around Steamboat peak and was rewarded with an actual trail to follow. Hiked down to a small pond on a shelf. Lots of wildflowers and a great reflection.

Below the pond we came across shoal lake. Another beautiful lake. The outlet was lined with colorful wildflowers as well.

 

 

This whole drainage is just incredible. No wonder it was its own wilderness… The shoal creek wilderness study area. Great trail and awesome views.

The trail drops downhill and through an old burn area. It then crosses the creek and goes uphill again, over the opposite ridge.

The next section of trail is less scenic. Lots of woods and low brushy, weedy plants. Then a burn area. Super.

Finally, we reached the trailhead and a road. Now it was decision time. We had very little food, basically enough for the rest of the day. Jackson was still about 30 miles away, so another day of food was paramount. We didn’t want a repeat of the winds, hiking a full and difficult day on a handful of m&ms.

We walked into a nearby ranch place, which ended up being a school of some sort. There was a guy riding around on a mule, and we informed him of our food predicament. He told us to sit tight and returned with 3 bags full of food. Ham and swiss sandwiches, nuts, apple, cheese, granola and dried fruit. Perfect! This was a real help.

Still, we could use a little more food. We’re hungry thru hikers after all. We then proceeded to chat with an older woman named Jean camped by the river in a huge rv. She offered to drive us to to the granite hot springs about 2 miles up the road to check what concessions they have.

The hot springs had chips, soda, granola bars and some candy. We picked up a few items and headed back. In the parking lot, couple from Texas gave us some granola bars, cold waters and 2 beers. Jean was then nice enough to give us a huge bag of chips, 6 cokes, and some canned foods back at her rv.

Feeling good about our food supply, we headed out. We decided to hike the granite creek trail instead of the granite highline trail, since it looked like It would have a better trail and was more gradual with its elevation gain. We stopped to eat dinner in the granite campground, eating the heavy and most garbage producing foods first.

Hiked up stream along the granite creek trail about 2 miles past the hot springs and found a nice campsite.

Miles – 19
Total Miles – 1899
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

Wednesday August 15th – CDT Day 117

Hiking at 7. Great trail, allowed us to cover good ground. Steep sided mountains and cliffs line the canyon.

Morning was very pleasant but uneventful. Just knocking out miles through beautiful country on a legit trail for once.

Made it to the top of the pass going over to cache creek around noon thirty. Lunchtime. With cokes!

The other side of the pass was beautiful too. Great hiking and very enjoyable afternoon.

Down at the bottom of the valley we hit the cache creek trail. 9 miles to Jackson according to the sign.

Good hiking but nowhere to camp along cache creek. Hiked to about a mile before the trailhead, where we found a decent spot. It was only 6pm, early for thru hikers.

I used the extra time to wash up in the creek, gather sticks for and build a fire, and catch up on some journaling. Clearly I didn’t feel like writing much today. Great evening by the fire. 

Tomorrow, we Jackson!

Miles – 22
Total Miles – 1921
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

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Lander to Dubois – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Lander to Dubois Hike Overview

lander to dubois, wind river range high route hike on the continental divide trail 2018

The first 30 or so miles are a lead up from the lowlands of the great divide basin desert into the high country of the Wind River Range. The next 120 miles were the most challenging, beautiful and outdoor experience of my life. I had more adventure in these 10 days then the rest of the entire CDT combined. Jagged peaks, frozen lakes, glaciers, crevasses, abundant wildflowers, miles of boulders and snowfields, mountain lions, big horn sheep, steep snow traverses, scrambling and climbing, milky glacier fed rivers, and almost NOBODY to share it with. Additionally, the majority of this route is off-trail. In my opinion, the Wind River Range easily offers the best backpacking experience in the continental US. 

In the southern Winds, we left the official CDT and began the 450+ mile alternate route I created. My route, now affectionately known as the “Famous Route”, takes a much higher route through the Winds and into Dubois, then back through the Winds and cross country through the Gros Ventre Wilderness and into Jackson. Next, we’ll hike west across Jackson Hole and hike the Teton Crest Trail north into Flagg Ranch. Finally, we’ll enter Yellowstone through the South Entrance and hike the Bechler area to Old Faithful where we’ll reconnect with the official CDT route. 

Sunday July 29th – CDT Day 100

Slept to about 8am. Spent the morning getting food and gear together, and didn’t leave until after 11am.

Hopeful, Katie and I hiked down the main strip in Lander to hitch. We got a ride after 20 minutes from a guy named Eli. He dropped us off right where I had left off yesterday morning. Another guy was there at this gate on his way out, having just dropped off a couple of CDT hikers himself. Tim Green from South pass city. Nice guy.

We set off into the wind river range around 1pm today. It was a great feeling to finally be here again but I wasn’t feeling the best. Still worn out from the basin, and the egg casserole I had for breakfast wasn’t agreeing with me.

Today’s hike was an easy one on dirt roads and some trail. Little elevation gain. The landscape is now hills and forest, with Rocky outcroppings dotting the meadows. Looking back to the south, the basin is still clearly visible. Easily identifiable by the lack of trees.

Late this afternoon we bumped into Alex and Ariel, two CDT hikers from Missouri. We took a break together and chatted for a bit. They mentioned a campsite a little ways up and we decided to go for that tonight.

The 5 of us set off for the evening’s hike. Pretty country with mountains in the distance beyond the meadows.

The campsite was decent. Near a river and flat. Wind died down at sunset and it was a good night.

Miles – 14
Total Miles – 1664
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Monday July 30th – CDT Day 101

Got up at 6:45. Still wishing I could sleep more to recover from the basin.

Started hiking at 7:45. The views kept getting better as the Morning progressed. Passed a couple of nice streams and rivers.

Now we have a 2000′ climb ahead of us. The grade was decent so it wasn’t bad at first.

At the top of the climb, there was a great view of little Sandy lake.

Stopped for lunch along little Sandy creek. This is also where the cirque of the towers alternate begins.

After lunch we started hiking the alternate. Mostly through forest. Some steep sections of trail, mostly short though.

Unnamed lake

We stopped at this unnamed lake this afternoon because it was so damn impressive. Favorite lake on trail so far. Jagged peaks make a great backdrop. Katie and hopeful went for a swim while I relaxed along the shoreline.

The trail was hard to follow after this. We thought it stayed high on a hillside above a valley, but eventually we saw a trail below. A short scramble had us down on flat and open ground, much easier walking.

This area, along little Sandy creek, was absolutely incredible. We were all in awe and took our time stumbling through here staring at the canyon walls. This is only the beginning of the treasures that lie ahead in the winds. I know this, but Katie and Hopeful are oblivious.

We ran into a NOLS group this evening, a fairly common sight here in the winds. We pressed on another mile or so to treeline and found a couple of campsites with a great view.

Tomorrow will be a tough day with 3 passes, and cirque of the towers.

Miles – 21
Total Miles – 1685
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

Tuesday July 31st – CDT Day 102

Started hiking around 8am. Up to the top of a pass, which leads to temple lake. Just below the base of the pass was a beautiful lake, again with no name on my maps. The mountains surrounding the lake were very impressive as well.

Great views going up the pass. Knots was hiking up the pass at the same time, and didn’t stop at the up. We never saw him again today.

Going down the pass towards temple lake was incredible! Temple peak was a massive sheer rock face, which towers over the lake and valley below. We were all in awe.

First bit of hiking around the upper lake was slow. Boulders, snow pack, ups and downs over an occasional use trail. Stunning scenery though!

The trail improved as we headed downhill. Now the cirque of the towers could be seen ahead, especially Pingora. Very enjoyable section.

Big Sandy lake was much nicer this time. When I was here in 2014 on my wind river high route, there was a storm and I couldn’t fully appreciate the area. Lots of people around here too. Big Sandy trailhead is only a few miles away, which is probably the busiest trailhead in the winds.

The trail going up to Jackass pass starts out steep. At least I found the trail… In 2014, I Bushwhacked down the creek since I could not find a path to follow. It was rough!

Again, amazing views hiking up to Jackass pass. Lots of wildflowers and pointy mountains everywhere. Fairytale land, really.

Even though we found the trail from big Sandy lake going up, it eventually turns into a scramble up boulders. It was the heat of the day and really wearing us out.

There’s a legit trail every now and then, but often it was just a matter of hiking uphill. Below the top of Jackass pass were some of the best views of the cirque of the towers area in my opinion. These mountains just blow Colorado away. Unimaginable beauty. The kind of place you imagine in some exotic country.

We stopped for a much needed break at the top of Jackass pass. We sat here for a while looking down at lonesome lake and the whole cirque. Great spot.

Easy hike down to lonesome lake. Took another break here for water and to cook dinner.

 

Next we headed up Texas pass. It was really steep for the first 500ft, a little better in the middle section. More awesome views, but getting cloudy. Looks like potential rain. In 2014, low clouds engulfed all the peaks in the cirque of the towers, so it was really nice to be able to see this place in its entirety. However, we needed to get over this pass in case the weather turns.

Near the top of the pass was a long chute of snow. Same as 2014, and I was here in late August then. Not too bad going up.

Made great time to the top, and it was much easier than anticipated. Jackass pass was much harder. This was the third pass we Climbed today.

More awesome views looking down on Texas lake in the new valley. However, it was really steep going down. There was a path weaving through a Boulder field, but it consisted of fine dirt and pebbles. This made slipping a frequent hazard. We all slipped and fell a few times. Pretty treacherous.

It started sprinkling just before we reached the bottom of the Boulder field. Put on rain gear and continued. The rocks were really slippery now.

The rain quickly subsided as we traversed Texas lake. Stopped here for a break so I could address my rumbling stomach.

The next lake in the chain was Barren Lake. Another beautiful spot. Great views in both directions.

Billy’s lake was next. This lake had a sandy beach which just added to its beauty. 

The sun was setting and creating a pink hue to round out the back drop. Gorgeous. We hiked down to an area just north of shadow lake. We saw a Llama grazing in the field, which was odd. It had a saddle and was probably part of a pack Llama team, but no other Llamas or people could be seen in the area. We ended up camping here in the area though.

What a great day. Easily the most scenic day on the CDT for me, and I believe Hopeful and Katie agree. They were in awe of the winds, and I’m really glad to see how much they’re enjoying it. We only hiked 16 miles though, humbling as a CDT hiker.

Time for bed, gotta recharge for another tough day ahead.

Miles – 16
Total Miles – 1701
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – marmot, Llama, deer

Wednesday August 1st – CDT Day 103

Hiking by 7:45am. Lots of mosquitoes this morning.

A few river Crossings this morning, but able to hop rocks and keep the feet dry. Nice views looking at the back side of the cirque behind us.

Reached the trail junction where the cirque of the towers CDT alternate splits off from our route. Hiked past skull lake, mays lake and then pyramid lakes. Mays and pyramid were beautiful!

The trail ends on the map at pyramid lake. From here it’s cross country hiking for a while. There was a decent use trail in spots but most of the time you just find your own way. There was a very scenic unnamed pond above pyramid lake as well.

We crested the top of the saddle above the east fork River. This was just as impressive as I remembered it. A long wall of imposing peaks. Very cool.

Now we climb up raid peak pass. Snow patches and Boulder fields make up the route, but it wasn’t too difficult or steep. Time consuming on the boulders though.

After a quick break on the top of the pass, we moved on. It looked like rain clouds building so we hurried over to the saddle where we drop down to Bonneville lake.

The route down to Bonneville lake looked a bit scary from the top, but looked doable once we approached it. It was steep and had some butt sliding going on, but we made it down to the Crux. Hopeful went down first, and as Katie headed down she kicked loose a tennis ball sized rock. We yelled “rock!!” down to hopeful who thankfully knew what to do… Tuck into the mountain and cover your head. The rock hit the back of his calf but he was ok. Whew! This was a tense moment. I dislodged a larger rock that just missed Katie later on. Dangerous decent to say the least.

We took a break above Bonneville lake and monitored the rain clouds. The view was incredible! Some of our favorites so far.

The hike around Bonneville lake wasn’t too hard and was beautiful. We really enjoyed this part and took our time. Hopeful and I tried glossing down a slope that ended up being too flat to go the whole way down. Still fun.

Next we hiked the pass leading from Bonneville lake to Lee lake. Booneville pass? Not sure of the name. Great views going up.

At the top of the pass was some of the most beautiful mountains I’d ever seen. As I crested the top of the pass, covered in snow, towering peaks became larger. The sun shined just behind. This was a magical moment that words or even pictures can’t describe. 

Hopeful and I had another shot at glissading with all the snow on the pass. This time we picked up a little speed, and it was quite fun. Safe runoff so no worries.

We headed over to a ridge to check out a potential campsite. Instead of traversing a steep snow field, we chose to glissade down then walk up. Great choice, fun had by all.

Although we decided not to camp here, the views from this ridge were insane. Below the towering Pronghorn Peak lies Donna lake, which was still partially frozen. Huge chunks of ice were floating in the lake. Just so cool! Where the hell am I, Patagonia??

We headed down the ridge to look for camp. Some of the best views so far of the winds, and thus, the entire CDT.

We found camp around 8:45pm. Got all our camp chores done just in time for a thunderstorm to roll in at bedtime. Heavy rain and lots of lightning. Haven’t had one in a while, and at least I’m in bed now.

Miles – 16
Total Miles – 1717
Rain – yes, heavy thunderstorms after 10pm
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – marmot, pica

Thursday August 2nd – CDT Day 104

After retreating to my tent last night, the rain started. Lots of thunder, lightning and heavy downpours. This persisted for a while, maybe two hours.

I was slow to get up this morning with everything wet. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one. Storm clouds were building this morning as well, but they quickly dissipated after we started hiking. Hit the trail after 8am.

It was a soggy hike around middle fork lake but a beautiful one. Our feet got wet crossing a river without ample rocks to hop, and our clothes were wet from the willows. The route around the lake basically goes through a cascading waterfall. Lots of wildflowers, putting our FPH numbers off the charts… Since we were covering so few miles, we decided to rate our progress in flowers per hour instead of miles per hour.

Next was some off trail hiking. Over a small saddle, into a scenic little valley and up another hill. Ran into mold and mildew, who joined us for a while. This would have been a pretty confusing area to hike without a GPS, as the land features were small and not so prominent.

The halls lake area was beautiful. It seemed much more impressive than my 2014 visit. The weather was a little better than last time and I am going in the opposite direction, which gives a whole different perspective. Stopped along the lake for lunch with mold and mildew.

After halls lake we were basically off trail. Awesome views, great hiking.

Europe canyon was cool. Steep decent. Lots of wildflowers around the lake. Lots of boulders too.

Next we climbed a small pass to long lake. Really spectacular views here.

Took a break around Long lake. Progress is slow when things are so beautiful. Also, the terrain is really tough. It was wearing us out. Up here, the ground is seldom flat and grassy, but usually super rocky or piles of boulders.

Past long lake, the clouds started to darken. They were the most menacing looking clouds I’d seen in awhile. Rain looked inevitable. Katie and hopeful had their tents set up before I could find a spot, so when the rain started I jumped into hopefuls tent to wait it out.

Waited for about an hour before the storm let up. I then found a spot of my own and watched a beautiful sunset over glacier lake.

Miles – 13
Total Miles – 1730
Rain – yes, heavy thunderstorms 7pm
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Friday August 3rd – CDT Day 105

Woke up at 6, hiking by 7. Everything around glacier lake was wet, not only from last nights rain but it was soggy and swamp like. Just like I remembered from 2014.

Hiked up to Hay pass. Everything here, and all along this route, seems more impressive this time around. Maybe because I’ve already hiked 1700+ miles and this blows everything else away. Maybe I’m in better shape and not in zombie mode like 2014. Either way, it’s just beautiful around every corner.

The view of Dennis lake from Hay pass was incredible. Now we descend to the Golden lakes area. This too was a sight to be seen. A chain of lakes surrounded by green, nestled in a tight little valley.

Down at Golden lake, we took a break. Then we moved on past Louise lake and then upper golden lake. Again, just awesome. Streams, waterfalls, blue lakes and great camping.

Lake 10787

North of Golden Lakes, we hiked past Lake 10787 and an unnamed lake, just south of Douglas Peak. It’s not on the map, but I believe the pass is called Douglas Pass. Again, very scenic. I mean, what isn’t in the Winds? 

Then we dropped down to camp lake. Stopped for another break then moved on. More water Crossings. Many today. In fact, I got my feet wet on probably 8 separate occasions.

Hiked over a hump separating camp lake from another lake. This unnamed lake was crazy beautiful. We crossed the stream at it’s mouth to the lake, and discovered there was basically a stream flowing into the lake and out of it at the same spot. We stopped to filter water here.

Next we climbed a steep rocky slab slope along mini cascading waterfalls. We called this waterfall pass. Quite an interesting place to be, I don’t recall another spot like it on the CDT. This took us up to the Alpine lakes area.

Hopeful realizing what the Alpine Lakes area is all about

Ledge work. This is where we jumped in the lake and walked around the cliffs

The route around the lowest alpine Lake starts out steep. Had to jump in the lake and walk along a cliff in knee deep water to get around one spot. Tough work in the boulder fields to work around this lake. But, this is only the beginning. Having been through here before, I knew how difficult the route around Alpine Lakes is.

Walking around the SW corner of the lower Alpine Lake was again, gorgeous. This is about as easy as the hiking gets around the Alpine Lakes, although still a rocky mess. 

Next was a large snow field to cross. One part was rather steep and if you fell, you could slide right into the icy lake. However, ridiculously beautiful scenery!

Dark clouds overhead and few campsites ahead past the lower Alpine Lake. No way we’d make it over alpine pass tonight, and no where to camp along the upper alpine lake. I know this from prior experience. Just boulders, ledges, snow and ice.  We decided to make camp at 6:45pm on the peninsula that jets out into the lower alpine lake, where i camped on my hike here in 2014. Good call!

Miles – 15
Total Miles – 1745
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Saturday August 4th – CDT Day 106

A little windy last night. Woke at 5am, hiking by 6am.

Worked our way around the middle alpine lake. This one is not too bad compared to the upper and lower lakes. Nowhere to camp though, and the team was happy with the call made last night to camp where we did.

Do not try this at home

Crossed a river running under the snow before reaching the upper alpine lake. Huge icebergs are floating along the western shore. Hopeful hopped two floating icebergs to reach the main one, which had footprints on it. Katie and I were skeptical, so he ran the length of the iceberg/lake to scope the exit. Nothing good, scrap the iceberg idea.

This was a tough spot back in 2014 when I came from the opposite direction through here. With no shortcut across the iceberg, we headed up and over a notch in the rocks. We should have tried the low route, Because this became a long ordeal.

Now we had a large snowfield to cross. So much snow! However, the snow is easier to walk on than a sea of boulders, so that’s preferable if the angle isn’t too steep.

Two couples caught up to us as we put on our micro spikes to tackle the ascent of alpine pass. They were former CDT hikers themselves. The pass was completely covered in snow and steep. Hopeful went first and kicked steps. We angled up to a Rocky outcrop where we took a short break.

View south from Alpine Pass

The final push up alpine pass was wild. Steep and slippery. Everyone else took the Boulder field once near the top, but I just went straight up the snow field. It was awesome! Steep, but fun.

Indian Pass in the center, Knife Point Glacier below

Coming down into a new valley now, finally out of alpine lakes area. Tons of snow here. The entire upper basin was filed with snow and glaciers, specifically, knife point glacier and bull lake glacier. Very impressive. We descended boulders for a while until we reached a snowfield. We glissaded the rest of the way down. This is always fun!

Took a snow filled valley down hill. Then we entered a prehistoric looking Valley filled with a maze of streams. Crossed downstream where the channels of water had converged into one.

Then we hiked over a pass leading into another valley. Lots of wildflowers here, very nice.

The next area we entered was north fork bull lake creek. Super long name, I know. Huge impressive peaks, lots of snow. The river was this milky blue green turquoise color, so beautiful. This was one of my favorite places so far.

Crossing North Fork Bull Lake Creek

Crossed the river and made camp partially up the climb to blaurock pass. It was 6:45pm, not enough time to make it over the pass and down safely the other side to find camp there. So again, we stopped early. Only 12 miles today. Beautiful views from camp though!

Miles – 12
Total Miles – 1757
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Sunday August 5th – CDT Day 107

Start hiking at 6am. The sun never came up though, it was obscured by clouds today. These clouds looked like trouble, too.

Almost immediately after leaving camp, we found ourselves in a massive boulder field that leads up to Blaurock Pass. These were some pretty big boulders, with big gaps in between. Tough to work your way through. To make matters worse, it was beginning to snow. This made the boulder field even more treacherous, as the rock was now slippery too.

Whiteout conditions pose a serious threat for us at the top of Blaurock Pass

The snowfall became heavier as we climbed higher. It wasn’t long before the conditions had deteriorated severely, and we found ourselves in a complete whiteout. There were less big boulders to contend with now, and mostly just snowpack. On top of the pass, we could see nothing. On the other side, the topo map appeared to be steeper. Going down in these conditions seemed like a poor idea, but we had no cover either. We considered waiting it out under an emergency blanket. As we discussed our options, the snow began to clear up and visibility improved. Good thing, because this moment was one that had the three of us pretty worried.

Going down the north side of Blaurock pass wasn’t as bad as we anticipated. The grade was steep but the mountainside was littered with scree and not big boulders. Much better to work with, but still not easy. The weather improved as we dropped in elevation.

After losing more elevation, we stepped off the snow and scree fields and onto a grassy hill. Around this time, the clouds cleared momentarily and the sun shined through. The surrounding mountains became visible and knocked our socks off. This place has an otherworldly feel to it. The kind of stuff people dream up, but never see in real life.

The weather changed rapidly throughout the rest of the day. From sunny to storm clouds and back to sunny all within 10 minutes. Get used to it.

We continued downhill, traversing a couple more snow fields along the way.

Once we reached Dinwoody Creek on the map, we followed this uphill again towards Dinwoody Glacier. The small ponds here were an intense turquoise blue color, due to all the minerals in the water. Water like this always had a way of mesmerizing me.

Dinwoody Glacier

Above the mesmerizing turquoise ponds lies a massive boulder field, which likely would have been covered by Dinwoody Glacier only decades ago. It probably would have made walking through this area easier had it been glacial ice and not boulders.

 

Next we began the climb up West Sentinel Pass. The best route appeared to be a high one in the snow above a bowl. We began the traverse along a steep snow slope, kicking in steps as we went. The closer we got to the top of the pass, the more steep it became. In an instant, Jay had slipped and slid 150′ down the snow into the bowl. Fortunately, the slide was not a dangerous one with boulders or a cliff below. Moments later, I too slipped and fell down into the bowl. Poor Katie was left alone up there, and decided to glissade down herself. It’s a bit easier when it’s on purpose.

On top of West Sentinel Pass

The three of us took a more direct route up the pass this time, no issues. At the top of West Sentinel Pass, we entered Gannett Glacier. This was the largest glacier we’ve been on yet, covering the entire upper basin we were standing in. Massive.

Hiking across Gannett Glacier

Straddling a crevasse on Gannett Glacier

We worked our way across the glacier until we encountered some melt out. Going down straight down would just mean more water, and the map shows crevasses here. We decided to go up and around the melt out, and then back down. Still, this had us weaving in and out of crevasse territory. We encountered several crevasses, mostly smaller ones. Down in a gully below us, only an unintentional glissade away, we could hear the roar of water flowing under the snow.

Gannett Glacier terminus

After dropping in elevation, we reached the terminus of the glacier. This is quite an interesting place to be. Much of this ice is dirty ice, a mix with mud and debris. The ground below the terminus is freshly exposed for the first time in potentially thousands of years. I wanted to search for interesting rocks, if only I had more time. It started raining around this time, and we continued downhill in search of cover where we could take a break. The clouds had really moved in fast.

 

By the time we reached Gannett Creek, the rain had subsided and it was sunny again. No cover but we stopped here for our break.

We worked our way up Gannett Creek, which was more like a series of ponds and small lakes with an occasional stream in between. Beautiful color.

We continued uphill through a sea of rocks until we reached a snowfield above an icy pond. We thought about traversing the slopes above it, but the team was not up for it without an ice axe after this afternoon’s slip down West Sentinel Pass. Instead, we dropped down to the pond and found a narrow spot to hop boulders across. We followed the other side of the pond until we were clear of the pond, then continued the ascent up an unnamed pass NE of Bastion Peak.

From the top of the pass there was a good view of Bastion Peak behind us, and Grasshopper Glacier to the north. The closer we got to Grasshopper, the more prominent the terminus of the glacier was. A wall of ice at least 50′ tall marked the edge. And that’s where we need to go tomorrow!

We found a place to camp near the temrinus of Grasshopper Glacier. The ground was a fine sand/silt, a little wet and soft. It seemed this area was usually covered in snow and or ice, and only recently exposed. Not the ideal campsite, but a unique one for sure.

Miles – 12
Total Miles – 1769
Rain – 2″ snow, complete whiteout. Rain, hail
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – pronghorn sheep?, marmot

Monday August 6th – CDT Day 108

Hiking at 6am. Cold night, Frost inside tent.

Grasshopper Glacier terminus

Walked up to the edge of grasshopper glacier. The terminus of the glacier must be 60+ feet tall. Never seen anything like that up close. Hiked up the glacier to the snowpack, uphill for a while.

Huge snow fields. Just massive. Easy walking too!

Hiked up to the Continental Divide. Followed the ridge for a while, fairly easy walking.

Iceberg and Baker Lakes

Iceberg Lake

Reached baker lake and iceberg lake. The latter was really cool. Another tall glacial terminus. Lots of icebergs too!

 

Next we Climbed uphill and followed the Divide for a while.

Reached a saddle a mile before downs mountain. On the map, We saw what looked like a route down to our end point the glacier trailhead. Skirted the mountainside along the least steep terrain the topo showed. This looked easier than the Ley alternate coming down from the summit of downs mountain.

We spent 5 hours working our way down a series of ledges and steep boulders on the mountainside that ended at a really steep snowfield. This appeared to be steeper than we could safely cross, but I went down for a closer look. I attempted to take the first step off the boulders and onto the snow, but the angle was so steep that step kicking may not cut it. Right then, Katie and Hopeful said they weren’t going to follow me even if I go for it, due to the danger of it. I stopped and assessed the situation and they were right. The runoff below is boulders or a cliff. Without ice axes, it would just be stupid. Reluctantly, we turned around and headed back uphill to find another way.

Back at the saddle we started from, we headed up the ridge to downs mountain. We weren’t going to be able to drop down into the valley we saw this earlier from here though. Instead, we’ll have to continue many miles north and take a completely different route. Awesome views from the climb up Downs mountain though. Lots of boulders, hard work and sometimes sketchy. We were already rationing food for the last several days, and nearly out. We planned on getting to the trailhead tonight, but that’s not gonna happen now.

Tired and hungry, we worked our way around the west side of downs mountain instead of doing the climbing up it. Lots of boulders either way. Mentally exhausting. Saw some big horn sheep on the ridge above us, that was cool. Basically right on top of Downs Mountain.

Continental Glacier

Hiking across Continental Glacier

At the saddle after Downs, we set foot on Continental glacier. It’s all snowpack up here. Absolutely enormous!

Hiked to 8pm. We descended the glacier instead of staying high above it on a ridge to find camp. Cleared rocks in a debris field for campsites. Dinner was 1 granola Bar. Can’t wait for town tomorrow, I hope we finally make it.

Miles – 15
Total Miles – 1784
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – big horn sheep

Tuesday August 7th – CDT Day 109

Another cold night sleeping in a debris field next to a glacier. Woke at 6, didn’t start hiking until almost 8am.

Today is our 10th day in the winds. We ate the last of our food for breakfast, which was basically starvation rations to begin with. We only planned on 7 days of food.

Walked over some boulders and back down to Continental glacier. Hiked on the glacier since it was much easier travel than rocks and boulders.

Walked up shale mountain next. Fairly easy walking, for the winds anyways.

Crossed a large snow field with a collapsed section where a stream runs underneath. Some crevasses as well. 

Made it to the top of the pass that leads down to the ross lakes area. Really steep. Took a break at the top, couldn’t see much of a way down. For the record, I don’t think this is really a pass at all. Just a possible route down for those willing. 

Found a ridge to follow down. Walked down a snowy slope to a patch of boulders. Another snow slope below the boulders, but this one was steep. Hopeful went first, no micro spikes, and slipped. He slid about 40 feet and crashed into a large Boulder. He turned at the last moment and his backpack took the brunt of the impact, but still hit his ankle. Fortunately he was alright.

Although the slide down was scary, it was really the only good looking way to continue downhill. I kicked some super deep steps with my spikes on and made it down safely. Katie went last and also made it safely.

Down on the valley floor, we filtered water from a steam. Just downhill, I saw 2 mountain lions standing in some large boulders. Side profile, tail curled up in the air. Big cats. They saw and heard us, and ran off. These were the first mountain lions I’d ever seen.

Next we went through a section of blown down trees in thick brush. Kinda where the mountain lions were. I tripped a few times and cut my hand. Pain in the ass. Would be nice to have some calories in my stomach.

Ross Lake

Climbed over one last hill before mostly heading downhill. Awesome view of Ross lakes from here.

Picked up a trail at the bottom of the hill. You don’t know how good it felt to reach this trail! Now it’s time to haul ass to the trailhead. We were just empty shells now, running on a couple hundred calories and less than 2 liters of water all day. Hopeful hiked the day on 12 M&Ms. Running serious deficits that cannot be sustained.

Reached the trailhead around 6pm and luckily ran into a guy named Stephen. He was headed back to Dubois and so he had no problem giving us a lift. He also had a couple of ice cold beers for us, which tasted amazing! Keystone Light never tasted so good.

We ate at the noon Rock pizza place in Dubois with our new friend Stephen. Pizza and wings really hit the spot! Got a room at the black bear inn which was very hiker friendly. I think we all went to bed with an enormous sense of satisfaction having just completed the greatest adventure of our lives. I know I did.

Miles – 17
Total Miles – 1801
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – 2 mountain lions, marmots

Wednesday August 8th – CDT Day 110 (zero day)

Slept in today which felt amazing! Ate breakfast and got started on town chores.

Picked up packages at the longhorn ranch, which we intended on staying at. However, the allure of a hotel was much too great. The ranch was kind enough to give us the packages at no charge, even though I offered to pay a reasonable fee for the service.

Did laundry, ate at the cowboy Cafe (2 entrées), and backed up photos and GoPro videos.

Thursday August 9th – CDT Day 111 (zero day)

Hurried to pack up and get ready to hike. However, it was obvious I had too much to do today, and we could all use a little more rest. So the decision was made to stay another day. This gave me all the time I needed to check off items on my to-do list, like sending in a couple pairs of Darn Tough socks for warranty, etc.

The motel we were staying at was the Black Bear Inn. Super hiker friendly. They had a river flowing through the property and there was a sweet patio setup down by the water… BBQ grills, tables, hammocks, christmas lights. Bumped into a few other hikers today in town and invited them over to grill out with us and drink some beers. We made grilled cheese sandwhiches and italian sausages. So naturally, we combined them… yum!

Back on trail tomorrow.

Like what you see?

Rawlins to Lander – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Rawlins to Lander Hike Overview

rawlins to lander hike on the continental divide trail 2018

In this section I’ve decided to push for my highest mileage day on the CDT, as well as an overall push to cover the next 126 mile in as little time possible. The desert is pretty flat here and elevation gain is not much of an issue. It’s a massively vast area to be walking through. Sage brush as far as the eye can see, and not much else except an occasional wild horse or pronghorn. Much of the beauty here is in the sky… wicked looking dark clouds and vivid sunsets are common. This is some wild country.

Tuesday July 24th – CDT Day 95

Packed everything up and left the hotel around 11am. Started walking to the post office so I could mail out my bounce box and a bus stopped to pick me up. There was no name on the side of it, assuming it was a city run bus. They charged no money, and I asked if she had a tip jar but she said no, and I insist. Okay then!

After the post office I ate lunch at Bucks Sports Bar & Grill. After that, I headed back on Trail. It was 1pm now.

It was a couple of miles of road walking to get out of town, then the trail takes a dirt road into the desert.

The next several miles were pretty flat, and mostly followed really faint old dirt roads or a faint trail.

I reached a spring, the first water source of this section. There was a solar pump here that pumped water into a well that I could draw from. Good quality water! The BLM had created this water source just for CDT hikers. Without it, it would be a 28 Mile carry.

Just beyond this water source I ran into several horses. Normally horses are fenced in, but these guys weren’t. And no saddles. Wild horses? I hear there are many in the basin.

I hiked a few more miles along the road before cutting back into the desert. The trail gets pretty hard to follow at this point. It’s pretty much open desert, so you just pick up bearing in stick with it.

I stopped to make camp around 8pm. I want to get up early tomorrow and push for a big mile day. Otherwise, I would have kept going for another hour. Either way, 22 miles for a half day is not bad.

I was planning on cowboy camping, but as it got darker more gnats or noseeums kept coming out. It was crazy, haven’t had this many bugs since twin Lakes in Colorado. They were driving me insane so I had to set up my tent. There were no rocks or sticks or anything near by and the ground was kind of hard, so it was tough to get the tent stakes in the ground.

While setting up my tent, several horses ran by camp. I also saw several pronghorn, and heard some coyotes howling nearby. So much Wildlife in the desert, unlike the mountains. Most people don’t realize how much wildlife there is here.

Miles – 22
Total Miles – 1544
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – pronghorn, rabbit, wild horses

Wednesday July 25 – CDT Day 96

I slept like crap last night. The delamination of my neo air mattress caused a huge bulge that prevents me from finding any comfortable position. There were a ton of bugs even at night. I could hear them buzzing just outside of the bug net, just inches from my ear. Large bugs were constantly hitting the tent as well. Then it got a little windy. It just was not a very good night for sleep.

When it was time to wake up I did not feel as refreshed as normal. It was going to be hard to go for a big mile day today it seemed. Nevertheless, I hit the trail just minutes before 7am, an early start for me.

The trail follows a lot of dirt roads this morning and all day really. There wasn’t a whole lot to see this morning. I saw lots of pronghorn but that’s pretty normal around here.

It was really hot this morning. By 8:30am, it already felt as hot as it was yesterday.

I reached bull Spring around 11am, having done 11 miles so far. Good water here but no shade. It can be hard to eat when sitting in very warm direct sun light, but I forced myself.

After lunch I had a bit of a hard time mentally. It was just so hot and I had to cover so many miles, and I was just not in the mood to do so. Hiking 12 to 14 hours a day has been wearing on me. I feel good physically, I’m just over walking all day long everyday. I’m not considering quitting at all, just acknowledging the mental challenge. I’m sure the lack of sleep last night brought this on too.

The day seemed a little better after I crested a high point. At least there was some sort of view in both directions.

It was a couple more miles downhill before I reached an electric well. Good water from this source. I ate dinner here and then moved on around 6:30pm.

I hiked a few more miles before the menacing skies above could no longer be ignored. I wanted to cover a few more miles since it was not even 8pm yet, but there’s no way I was going to avoid the rain.

I stopped at the first flat and clear spot I could find. I could see rain in the distance, so I hurried as I set up my tent. Just in time too, as soon as I got it up it started pouring. I jumped inside with minimal collateral damage.

After a short downpour, the rain stopped and I could see a very vibrant orange glow outside my tent. I ventured out and was rewarded with the best sunset I’ve seen on the CDT yet. Just spectacular. There was even some lightning in the sunset clouds. Man, I wish I could have captured that in a photo.

The rain came back as the sunset wrapped up and I was banished to my silnylon prison. Time for bed, hope I can sleep better on this ghetto air mattress tonight.

Miles – 31
Total Miles – 1575
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – pronghorn, Jack rabbit, wild horses, Prairie dog, horned lizard

Thursday July 26th – CDT Day 97

My tent was soaking wet this morning both from the rain and condensation inside. I got up at 6am and started hiking at 7.

I hiked about an hour before reaching a solid water source, a pipe fed from a spring. I stopped here to fill up with 4 liters since the next water source is 28 miles away. Well, the next decent water source, one without cow shit floating in it.

Today I’m planning on putting some big miles in. I made a conscious effort to walk faster and did my best to maintain this pace. This morning especially, many of the dirt roads were soft sand which slowed me down a bit.

It got hot very quickly today. There was also more climbing then the day before. Today was already a little bit more scenic than yesterday with a few more views from high points.

I took lunch around noon under an actual shade tree. I stopped to think about it, and I don’t think I’ve come across one in over 100 miles now. I was tempted to stay much longer but I kept this break to about 25 minutes. I’ve hiked 14 miles today at this point.

The rest of this afternoon was actually a decent amount of ups and downs along Ridge lines, although nothing like in the mountains. Nice, but hot!

I took a short break around 4pm. I was hoping to find some shade, but nothing in sight. I just sat down in the middle of the trail and drank some water. It was too hot to really want to eat anything since I was sitting in direct sunlight. So I skipped meal time here even though I really needed it.

Another 6 miles down the trail I reached a water cache. There were two insulated boxes in an enclosed fenced area. I open the first box, all of the gallon water jugs for empty. I opened the second box and there were two full gallon jugs. Woohoo! I’m drinking water tonight! 32 miles hiked today so far, just after 6pm at this point.

Nice walking this evening. At one point there was a wild horse running through the field, with a rising full moon in the sky and a sunset-lit storm cloud also in the background. My wide angle lens was too wide for the right shot though.

Hiked to 9:45pm tonight, stopping at 40 miles for the day. This is shatters my old record of 34. I watched a distant lightning storm play out in the distance as I ate dinner under a full moon. Not a bad way to end a really really long day.

Miles – 40
Total Miles – 1615
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – pronghorn, wild horses

Friday July 27 – CDT Day 98

Was really sore today after hiking 40 miles yesterday. Only got 7 hrs sleep. Started hiking around 7:45.

Slightly Rolling hills, open fields everywhere. Vast and barren.

The Continental Divide Trail follows the Oregon Trail and the California Trail in this section. Being here really makes you think back to all those people who traveled this route in the olden days. 

Today was a blur. A challenge. Tough. Everything hurts. I just pressed on in zombie mode.

Stopped for a break under a bridge over the Sweetwater River. Nice river, green grass and very scenic. Hiked 18 miles so far and have another 17 to go.

It was a really long walk down this dirt road after lunch. It was really hot, but at least now I could see the wind river range in the distance. The road seemed to lead right to it, so the mountains got bigger with every step.

My legs, knees and feet were shot. Every step was painful. I stopped around 5pm to put some new insoles in my shoes, as I just remembered I brought them for this purpose. My feet felt a little better, but the rest of my body was still hurting.

I saw a nice shade tree along the road around 6pm, so I had to stop and escape the sun. First shade since the Sweetwater River at lunch. This felt amazing, but not enough to overcome my extreme exhaustion.

I pressed on through the evening. About 8 miles to go. I staggered my way through South pass city, a very small community with a mining history. Not much going on here.

The trail was spotty after leaving South pass city. Only 2 miles to hwy 28, where I’ll hitch into Lander. The landscape is really changing now. Random rock outcroppings among rolling hills. Cool.

I reached hwy 28 around 8:45pm, very little light left. Almost no traffic heeding east to Lander. The vehicles that did pass ignored me. I tried to hitch until 9:30 is giving up. It was dark and it just wasn’t gonna happen tonight. I was really disappointed, was looking forward to a hotel bed and shower tonight. Crushing.

I retreated to a patch of trees along the highway. They were actually a thick stand of willows with tons of mosquitos, but I was so exhausted it didn’t matter. I set up camp here and passed out immediately.

This was one of the hardest days on trail for me and possibly my lowest point on the CDT. Glad it’s over and now it’s time to rest up for the winds.

Miles – 35
Total Miles – 1650
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – pronghorn, wild horses, horned lizard

Saturday July 28th – CDT Day 99 (zero day)

I woke up to sprinkles on my tent. Light, but enough to soak the tent. Packed up and headed back to to the highway to resume hitching.

I had much better luck this morning, getting a ride in 20 minutes. My ride dropped me off at the oxbow restaurant in Lander. Breakfast was good and much needed. I remember eating here for breakfast before my Wind River Range Traverse back in 2014.

I contacted Hopeful, the CDT hiker who agreed to hike the winds with me, to see what he was up to. It turns out he is staying with a woman who he met in the airport. She also loaned him her minivan to get around town in, so he picked me up. Nice! Katie, who I’d met in Chama, was also staying at the house and looking to hike the winds with us. Even better!

Back at the house, I immediately took a shower. This felt so good! It was a really nice house with an amazing yard that was well landscaped. There was a pool, hot tub and even a volley ball net. What a great place to stay!

Next we went out to run our town errands. We first stopped at the bulk food store next to NOLS. This was a cool place, they had garbage cans on wheels full of food like trail mix, dried fruit and sesame sticks.

We also popped into NOLS to check the place out. Got a tour of the building and played on this swing they had in one of the gear rooms. Talked to a girl who just back back from a NOLS trip she they summited Gannett peak, Wyoming state high point. It’s in the winds right where we’ll be hiking, so we got a little Intel on the snow conditions. Good thing we have micro spikes!

Went to the post office next, then an outfitter, then lunch at the dairy king. Home of the cheese wheel! It’s a burger battered and deep fried, perfect thru hiker food.

Went to the grocery store and bought food for the next week, then back to the house.

Spent the afternoon in the pool and hot tub. Very relaxing and just what I needed after such a brutal stretch of trail.

Later that evening, we drove about 10 minutes down the road to sinks canyon state park. There’s a river that flows into a mountain and comes out further down the road in another spot. It was a lot cooler in person than it sounds. Great way to spend an hour and see something awesome.

More hot tub this evening before bed. We stayed up until 1am though, so I didn’t get to catch up on sleep like I hoped.

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Encampment to Rawlins – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Encampment to Rawlins Hike Overview

encampment to rawlins hike on the continental divide trail 2018

North of Encampment, the landscape abruptly changes from mountains to desert. The desert here begins as rolling hills, filled with pronghorn. It’s a long road walk into Rawlins. The views aren’t the finest, but the new landscape is interesting after so much time in the mountains. 

Friday July 20th – CDT Day 91

I didn’t go to bed until around 11 last night, but I also slept in till 9am. By this time the only hiker still here was Jesus and knots. Knots was on his way out, so I followed him over to the divide restaurant near the post office for breakfast.

I hung out at the campground most of the day, taking care of little things on my to-do list for those days in town when I have internet. It was a warm day so I was also really taking my time, waiting for the heat of the day to die down.

It was around 6pm when I left the campground. As I was walking towards Encampment, I saw Aaron. He gave me a Gatorade and we walked back to the Bighorn Lodge where he was staying with Dixie. I’m headed over to the divide restaurant again for dinner before hitching out of town. Later, Aaron and Dixie joined me.

I stood out in front of the post office to hitch back to battle pass around 7pm. The first car that drove by picked me up, took less than 5 minutes.

I was hiking by 7:30pm. After leaving the paved road the trail is a dirt road for a while. I followed it uphill through a little ways and made camp a little after 8pm. 2 miles, this will probably end up being my shortest day on the CDT.

Miles – 2
Total Miles – 1459
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Saturday July 21st – CDT Day 92

Walked to the top of Bridger peak this morning, 10,951′. This is the high point for the next 200ish miles along the CDT.

 

The trail drops in elevation from here until the great Divide basin desert, which I’ll enter in another 20 miles.

Stopped to filter water at a Creek, and ate first lunch. Another mile later, I reached a trailhead. Here I met a guy named crazy Joe who was camping and doing a little trail magic. I drank a beer with him and talked for about an hour. Cool guy. Not as crazy as the name implies.

Next the trail pops out of the forest and into an open Ridgeline environment. I’m digging it.

It’s a couple hours walk along the remaining mountainous Ridgeline, in and out of forests. I saw a lot of deer through here.

 

Reaching the last hill was cool. The very end of the mountains and down into the desert, just like that. It’s a profound feeling, the nearly instant and obvious transition from mountains to desert in what seemed like a single step.

Almost immediately the trail joins a dirt road. I followed this to sage creek rd, which I then will follow all the way to Rawlins.

It was still pretty hot even though it was now really evening. I had a half litter of really warm water left. I hiked a few miles to savory creek, whew I took a break in the shade. I ate dinner and filtered water. Chugged a liter and carried 4 with me.

Hiked another couple miles with a nice sunset to entertain. I also saw several pronghorn, first on the CDT for me. Even though I was along the road, I could appreciate the desert landscape. It’s not the super flat kind of desert. Rather, the kind filled with rolling hills.

Found camp around 9pm. It’s just a flat spot on a burm above the road. Decided to cowboy camp, mostly out of laziness.

Miles – 29
Total Miles – 1488
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, cowboy camp
Animals – deer, pronghorn

Sunday July 22nd – CDT Day 93

I woke up around 3am when it started sprinkling. I set up my tent just in time, as the rain intensified right after.

The skies were grey and occasional light sprinkles this morning. Not what I expected in the desert, especially since I’ve only had maybe one other gloomy morning on the CDT like this so far. Almost no days like this in the New Mexico desert.

Today will be straight forward… Follow the road to Rawlins, all day long. Yay.

Came across a cooler along side the road this morning filled with water for CDT hikers. I had 3+ liters, so I left the water for others.

With the grey skies, the Temps were nice and cool, and there was a nice breeze. Perfect for desert hiking! However, Road walking can be pretty boring.

I took lunch in a culvert along side the road. It started sprinkling so it was perfect timing.

I came across another cooler a few miles south of Teton reservoir. This one had ice cold water, with some ice still floating around in the cooler. I definitely took advantage of this one!

Teton reservoir area was the most interesting thing I’d see all day. Not because of the water, which was not that visible from the road really, but because of the interesting mesas just beyond. I took another break in a culvert here, this one with a good view of the mesas.

After this break, the clouds stated clearing. This meant hotter hiking.

A few miles north of Teton reservoir, the dirt road turns to pavement. Good news, as I no longer have to eat dust and pebbles as asshole motorists fly by with no regard to my existence. Bad news, it’s a bit harder on the feet.

The walk along the paved Road was even less interesting. Nothing to do except walk as fast as possible. I took this opportunity to monitor my road walk pace. I figure 3.75 MPH, or 16 minute miles.

I could see Rawlins in the distance as the road approached town. It felt like a Wyoming version of Grants, NM. Hopefully no gauntlet of aggressive dogs guarding the city though.

Rawlins is pretty spread out, so it still took about an hour to reach the hotel after entering the city. Apparently all the hotels are near booked so I barely got a room at the days inn, which had changed names to Magnuson. Nothing special about this place. A little run down actually.

Are dinner at McDonald’s and came back to the hotel to pass out. Today was 34 miles, tied for the most miles I’ve ever done in a day.

Miles – 34
Total Miles – 1522
Rain – yes
Sleep – hotel
Animals – pronghorn

Monday July 23 – CDT Day 94 (zero day)

Slept in to 9am which felt great, but still not long enough. Did sink laundry and called my dad, then I went to McDonald’s again for lunch. There isn’t much around here to eat really.

Made a reservation across the street at Econo Lodge for the evening, since it seemed like a nicer place for the same price. Plus, they have a hot tub! Walked over there around noon and they had no rooms available yet, gotta wait. I hate how hotels do that, make you wait until 3pm to check in. They start cleaning them at 9am so how can there be no clean rooms available? Come on now.

I waited about an hour for my room. Not sure if it was the owner, but an older guy walked by a few times and noticed me sitting there and told the woman at the front desk to hurry up and “get this young man a room”. So I’m wondering, what age do you stop becoming a young man and just a man? Is it relative? You’re young man if you’re younger than the person referring to you? Either way, I’ll take it. Young man > old man.

After getting checked into the room, I walked up to Walmart. On the way up there I ran into bartender, another hiker. She had just made the decision to leave the trail due to tendonitis in the foot. It’s really sad to hear that, it must be really hard to make that decision after coming so far.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening doing typical town chores. Mostly, dealing with stuff in my bounce box. Backing up pictures and video, updating my GPS with Wyoming tracks, and getting my plan together for the wind River range.

I had put up a post on the CDT Facebook page looking for a partner to hike from Lander to old Faithful, since my route through this area will not be on the official CDT. It would be nice to have someone to hike the winds with, as well as strength in numbers through grizzly country. A hiker name hopeful replied, and it looks like we’re going to meet up in Lander. Perfect!

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Steamboat Springs to Encampment – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Steamboat Springs to Encampment Hike Overview

grand lake to steamboat springs hike on the continental divide trail 2018

Besides a walk through the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness, gone are the days of high mountains. This section sees a transition from from the Colorado landscape to a drier and lower elevation mountain environment in Wyoming as the trail passes through the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. The Mt. Zirkel Wilderness is definitely the highlight of this section, which resembled the high Sierras at times. 

Monday July 16th – CDT Day 87

Got a solid 10hrs of sleep last night, that felt great. Good breakfast at the hotel too, including sausage and bacon. I saw Asha and Justin at breakfast, whom I’d met last night in the hot tub. They joined me and ultimately offered to give me a ride into the downtown area later so I could run some errands.

I got dropped off at BAP, the outdoor gear store that John runs. John is the guy who picked me up from Rabbit Ears pass yesterday. We talked about ways to make my backpack hip belt cinch tighter, and he sent me over to the Big Agnes repair facility down the road. One of his workers gave me a ride on his way there.

At the Big Agnes shop, they ultimately talked me out of chopping off the old hip belt strap and buckle to replace with a slimmer, less bulky buckle. There could be rubbing on my hips from the new stitching, could compromise the hip belt webbing, Etc. Instead we chopped the extra length of the strap and removed a small fabric loop for the strap, folded over the ends and sewed that up. This is what I did at home to my last osprey pack, the large one I sent home in exchange for this medium a few weeks ago. A small but somewhat helpful improvement.

One of the guys at Big Agnes have me a ride up to backdoor burger, a place that had been recommended to me by multiple people. After eating lunch, which was pretty good, I picked up an Uber to get back to rabbit ears pass.

 

It was around 3:15pm when I started hiking today. The terrain is forest and low rolling hills now. Everything is pretty green and there’s lots of wild flowers in bloom. Not the huge mountains the rest of Colorado had to offer.

The trail was seldom steep this evening and made for an easy walk. I saw a Porcupine bumbling down the trail, oblivious to my presence. It sprinkled briefly, typical of late.

Found camp at grizzly lake just after 8pm. There used to be grizzlies in Colorado, but the last one was killed in the San Juans in the 1970s. This lake’s name bears that legacy. Early camp it seemed, but it all seemed early in comparison to the late hiking I’d done recently. If The terrain continues to be this easy, I should make good time to Encampment.

Miles – 14
Total Miles – 1383
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer, Porcupine

Tuesday July 17 – CDT Day 88

This morning was nice by the lake. Haven’t slept next to many lakes on the CDT so far.

50 miles to the Wyoming border now. I’m hoping for 30 today and tomorrow. That’d put me at the border late afternoonish tomorrow and 10 miles into Wyoming, leaving only 10 miles to battle pass on Thursday. Battle pass is where I hitch into Encampment. That’s the plan anyways.

Not much to see this morning. A few small lakes, forest.

I stopped to filter water at a trailhead with a steam. This is where the Mt. Zerkel wilderness begins.

The views improve with the increase in elevation.

Stopped for lunch as it started sprinkling. It passed quickly.

Still several more miles of up hill hiking. Fortunately it isn’t too steep. In spots it reminded me of the high Sierras, even if only for brief moments. 

Nice hiking above tree line here. Snow patches to cross and imposing peaks in the background. Not what I was expecting this close to Wyoming, but beautiful.

After cresting the high point just below lost ranger peak the trail drops down for a long time.

The trail dips below treeline and goes through an old burn area.

Found camp around 9pm, having done 29 miles. It’s along a dirt road in a field. Good enough.

Miles – 29
Total Miles – 1412
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

Wednesday July 18th – CDT Day 89

Lots of deer running around camp last night and this morning. Lots of condensation on my tent too.

You can really feel the change in landscape today, transitioning from one state to another. Less mountains and peaks, more fields and forest. Still pretty hilly though, many ups and downs.

Only saw a guy and his horses and two dirt bikers today. No CDT hikers this whole stretch. However, I did see a fresh pile of bear crap. When I got into town, I talked to a CDT hiker who was apparently ahead of me on trail by less than an hour. He saw a bear here when he walked through earlier in the morning. 

It was a hot day, and I should have filled up after at the last source. It was dry all the way up to a half mile before the border of Wyoming. There was a spring about a quarter mile down hill, but it was a bushwhack. I was in pretty pretty desperate need of water, so I didn’t mind. Man that water was good, and I filled up 3L to go.

It was a great feeling to reach Wyoming this evening. However, I feel like I’ve been walking forever and I’m ONLY halfway! Still, I’m looking forward to Wyoming and something different.

I hiked 3 miles into Wyoming tonight, Mostly through hilly forest. Saw a couple of Porcupines along the way. The last field I walked through before finding camp was a wet and muddy one. No avoiding it, my feet got completely soaked as they were fully submerged in mud and water. Right before sundown getting wet feet, ugh that’s the worst. They’ll never dry over night.

As I’m writing this in the dark, in my tent, there was a loud explosion pretty nearby. Followed by… Nothing, just silence. I know there’s a few roads nearby, so people isn’t a surprise. Just not sure what it was. Weird.

18 miles to battle pass tomorrow. I was hoping to cover a few more miles between yesterday and today to cut this down, it just didn’t work out. So it’ll be a mid to late afternoon arrival at the pass.

Miles – 28
Total Miles – 1440
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer, Porcupine

Thursday July 19th – CDT Day 90

Dried my shoes out in the Sun as I packed up camp this morning. Smeagol passed by as well. I later caught up to her but we hiked our own pace throughout the day.

Today was a push to make miles and hitch into town before the post office closes at 4pm. Still a few climbs left, ensuring I don’t go too fast.

This morning I entered the Huston parks wilderness. This area did offer a few big views but they weren’t as impressive as what I’d seen throughout Colorado. 

I stopped to filter water from a stream around noon. Also, to eat. I can push quite a while with little or no water, but my pace really slows when I get hungry.

The last 9 miles or so went pretty easy. Forest, large open meadows with abundant green grass. 

After leaving the wilderness area, I followed a dirt road a short ways to battle pass at wy-70. This is the paved Road leading into Encampment. I made it to the pass around 3pm and got lucky, the second car picked me up in about 5 minutes.

My hitch dropped me off at the post office with plenty of time to spare before they closed. While I was picking up my package, a woman in line behind me noticed I was a CDT hiker and offered a ride wherever I needed to go. Perfect, saves me a 1 mile road walk to lazy acres campground in Riverside.

There were several other CDT hikers at the campground… Knots, badmash, topo, minutes, bartender and Jesus. A different group of hikers I mostly hadn’t met yet.

After a shower and staring laundry, five of us headed up to the bear trap restaurant across the street. Good food and big portions.

I was talking to an older couple at the campground earlier in the afternoon and they were drinking wine. They left the rest of the bottle with a plastic cup next to my tent, so I had a little wine before bed as well. Bonus!

Miles – 17
Total Miles – 1457
Rain – no
Sleep – rv park, tent
Animals – deer

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Grand Lake to Steamboat Springs – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Grand Lake to Steamboat Springs Hike Overview

grand lake to steamboat springs hike on the continental divide trail 2018

This section of the CDT passes through Rocky Mountain National Park and the Never Summer Wilderness as well as the Arapaho National Forest and Routt National Forest. This area is home to lots of Moose. Some pretty good views along the way, especially from Parkview Mountain. This is the last time the official CDT route reaches 12,000′ for a northbounder. 

Thursday July 12th – CDT Day 83

Started hiking around 11am. Not the early start I wanted, but I was busy getting things done that I probably should have done the last few days. It’s tough to get motivated to do chores in town when all you want to do is relax. And eat food.

With the weather threatening rain, I took the Rocky Mountain alternate, bypassing the 25 mi loop. The first four miles follow a creek uphill, with occasional meadow views. Saw a couple of moose.

After a short Road walk, the trail follows the dirt road into the Never Summer Wilderness. I saw a couple more moose here feeding in a meadow.

Now the trail starts it’s biggest climb up the day, 2500 ft. The Sun came out for a while after some really dark clouds and occasional rain patches. This made the walk through the forest a lot nicer. Stopped for lunch on a wooden structure supporting a bridge over a creek.

Great views as I reached tree line. Wildflowers are really out now and make a great addition to the already beautiful mountain scenery. Saw another moose as well. Lost my hat at some point, must have dropped it when taking pictures in a patch of flowers. Dang.

Went over Bowen Pass a little after 5pm. Great views. These mountains have a different feel than the rest of Colorado. Not sure why. Steeper, more spires… something.

Filtered water at the first stream below the pass. The weather was clearing up which it had not been doing the last few days at this time of the evening. Bonus.

The sun was out now which made for a nice hike this evening. Found camp around 9pm.

Miles – 22
Total Miles – 1306
Rain – yes
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – Moose, rabbit

Friday July 13th – CDT Day 84

Calm night, very silent. Started hiking at 7:45am.

First six miles were all forest. I reached small stream and stopped here to filter water. Columbus and space cadet showed up shortly after. So that’s who was camped 1/4 mile behind me last night.

The next part is a 3000′ climb up to the summit of Parkview mountain. This took much longer than anticipated, as It was often steep.

Better views as I climbed higher and higher.

The final ridge leading to the summit was nice. Colorful.

At the summit of Parkview mountain is an emergency shelter. I stopped here for a break and to enjoy the beautiful views. Columbus and space cadet arrived soon after.

Next I descended Parkview mountains’ west Ridge. This was the last time the official CDT reaches 12,000′, unless doing alternates in the Winds… Which I am! This ridge was one of my favorite moments in Colorado… So beautiful! Even though there were other spots along the trail in Colorado that were probably more impressive, something about the way the light was shining right now and my mood that made it so memorable.

By now I was running out of water and very thirsty. It was a couple of miles to the next stream. This dragged on forever! Chugged 1.5L at the steam and took 3L with me.

Lots more ups and downs this evening on the way to camp. This section, to Steamboat springs, has been much more work than I anticipated. Basically every section of trail, I think, it’s going to get a little easier for X reason. And it never does!

Got to camp around 8:45pm this evening.

Miles – 22
Total Miles – 1328
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

Saturday July 14th – CDT Day 85

Left camp around 7:30am. The trail goes uphill for a while along the top of a ridge.

Later in the morning, I missed a turn for the CDT and followed another trail down another ridge. It was about a mile out of the way, so two miles total. And some climbing.

Stopped at a creek to filter some water, space cadet and Columbus were there too. It was a shallow stream and tough to get more than a liter in my dirty water bag, so that’s all I took. Another water source coming up soon.

Next is another 1000 ft climb. This is the last big climb of the day. Now up on another Ridgeline for a few miles of little ups and downs along a dirt road.

My new hat is a bandana, which is actually my pack towel. McGuyver approved

The trail follows Forest Road 103 downhill for many miles. I mostly enjoyed this section. Somewhere along this walk I decided to use my pack towel as a bandana to get some protection from the sun. I’ll have to order a new hat in Steamboat. 

Later in the evening, I passed through a cow pasture. First of its kind in Colorado. These cows were vocal and angry. I was looking for somewhere to camp about now, so this was a bit annoying.

I eventually entered some public land just as highway 14 came into sight. Tomorrow I’ll be Road walking that, but I need to find a spot to camp anywhere before that road. I found a spot at 9pm with little light to spare.

Miles – 29
Total Miles – 1357
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer, rabbit

Sunday July 15th – CDT Day 86

Broke camp at 7:15am, early for me. Ready for town! Looked pretty cloudy, potential for rain today?

It was less than a mile before I reached hwy 14, a paved road. Lots of traffic with occasional lack of shoulders makes for some crappy walking. A guy riding his bike from Seattle to North Carolina passed by. Otherwise, not much to say about today really, just walked 12 miles on paved roads. Not much to see here.

Reached rabbit ears pass at 10:45am, which took 3.5 hours. I got lucky and was picked up by maybe the 5th car… John, who worked for BAP, a Big Agnes sister company. Couldn’t have asked for a better hitch.

Ate a 14“ pizza from Brooklyns, then I booked a room at the Fairfield Inn. Nice room. Decent price considering the town. Took the free bus from downtown to the hotel. The bus driver had already hit something earlier apparently, as a cop was there at the transit station taking pictures of the damage. Then as the driver pulled out and made a sharp turn, the bike rack on the front of the bus clipped a sign or something. He started swearing and getting angry, which was pretty funny to be honest. Of course, I felt bad he was having such a rough day though. The passengers were giving him a hard time, in a playful manner. The bus driver was pretty cool about it considering how pissed off he was in the moment.

Showered up then meet Smeagol at McDonald’s for more food. Then we went to Walmart to resupply. This was not a full Walmart, they didn’t even sell men’s hats or honey buns! Typical Walmart, you go in with a list of 10 things and they only have 8.

Took the bus back to the hotel. Determined to catch up on sleep tonight. Oh, and there’s no LTE in Steamboat Springs for us AT&T customers. Bummer. Should have gotten Verizon before the hike.

Miles – 12
Total Miles – 1369
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – deer

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I-70 (Frisco) to Grand Lake – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – I-70 (Frisco) to Grand Lake Hike Overview

I70 to grand lake hike on the continental divide trail

North of I-70, the Sugarloaf Fire forced a reroute. This led me to bushwhack my own route around the closure before rejoining with the CDT. However, my return to the trail would be short lived. Thunderstorms kept me off the high ridges and forced a low route, taking me through the town of Winter Park. After rejoining the CDT yet again in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, I saw my first Moose on the CDT. 

Friday July 6th – CDT Day 77

I planned on leaving Frisco today to head back on Trail, but wasn’t sure what time yet. I haven’t fully decided on which route to hike yet either. The sugarloaf fire to the west has a 5 mile section of the CDT closed and a reroute has been suggested. Even though it’s only 5 miles closed, the reroute skipped over 20 miles of the official trail. I’ve got an idea that involves some bushwhacking but will skip over much less official CDT trail. It’s a high section and looks like it could be pretty scenic, and I’d rather not take a low route. Even if it would be easier.

I spent the morning on my phone, taking care of a few things… ordered new socks, ordered a part for my trekking pole that fell off, and ordered a camera sensor cleaning kit. I have some dust on my sensor and it’s showing up as dark spots on photos.

Sprinkler and I went to Safeway to buy groceries for the next section. We took the free bus system, which was a short and direct route this time.

Back at the motel, I went through my gear and thinned out some things. I’ve been carrying this unopened summer sausage a few weeks now and haven’t eaten it, time to let it go. I could also throw out my old shoes now that my new ones have proven themselves. The cascadia 13s are awesome!

Sprinkler and I later took the bus back up to North Frisco so we could eat at Wendy’s before I left. Sprinkler is staying another night. From here I ubered back up to the spot I left trail yesterday.

It was 6pm when I started hiking. I walked a few miles down at paved bike pathway that parallels interstate 70. This was actually a pretty nice walk for what it is.

After crossing under I70, I reached Herman Gulch trailhead. I still hadn’t decided whether or not to take the official reroute or the bush whacking route, and ended up just choosing the latter.

The first bit of Trail up Herman Gulch was steep. At least it didn’t last too long. Passed a few day hikers coming down. Both mentioned a nice campsite a few miles up.

The trail quickly pops through the trees and has some nice views of the valley. It was a pretty enjoyable hike, and I could already tell that this area was going to be something I’m glad I didn’t skip over had I done that reroute.

I found the campsite the other hikers mentioned and it lived up to the hype. There was a small space for 1 tent, and it was right next to a cascading Creek with snow capped mountains in the background. Pretty awesome spot.

Miles – 7
Total Miles – 1237
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Saturday July 7th – CDT Day 78

Calm night. I slept well with the sound of the creek nearby.

Not long after leaving camp, I reached the top of the Ridgeline above Woods Creek. Now it was time to leave the trail and bushwhack downhill.

The first part was easy. I followed the creek and had little in the way of obstacles. Further downhill, the ground was soggy and there were a lot of willow bushes. I could head uphill a little bit, but then it’s steeper and dense forest. I’d call it a moderate bushwhack.

Eventually I reached an old road. It looks like someone had torn up the road up to make sure nobody could ever drive on it again. I was surprised to see two guys heading uphill here, didn’t think anyone hiked this. Father down, the dirt road flattened out.

Lake Urad Reservoir

The road led to large reservoir, named Lake Urad. There we’re lots of people camping, swimming, and fishing here. I continued to follow the road downhill for several miles. It passes by a water treatment plant, and some interesting signage.

The road eventually comes to a T intersection. I could go right on highway 40 or make a left on 144. I went left, which leads to Henderson mine. Here there is a trail that leads back up to the CDT.

The trail climbs about 600 ft before leveling off. Then it roughly follows the contour lines along the side of the mountains. I stopped to filter water and take a break, but now the clouds are building.

After my break, the trail starts climbing up Hill towards Stanley mountain. When I reached the tree line, I started to get some sprinkles and could hear lots of thunder. Most of it was distant, but then there was an extremely loud thunder clap nearby. Way too close for comfort. Yikes. Time to head down below tree line and wait this out.

Vasquez Pass

I got tired of waiting out storms and decided to take a low route. Backtracked a little and hiked over Vasquez pass. The plan is to follow Vasquez creek down to Silver park then back up to the CDT around mile 1335. This will cut off a few miles and eliminate some ups and downs. I also miss some great views, along with a lot of climbing, but it’s better than being at the mercy of storms. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Vasquez Peaks Wilderness

The upper basin was wet and the trail was faint. It eventually turned into a dirt road. Many pine trees were sprouting up in the middle of the road. This is the Vasquez peak wilderness. It did not look like this area gets much use.

After leaving the wilderness, it was an hours walk down another dirt road, in a little better shape. I saw a deer and Porcupine along the way.

The road eventually led to a gate. Beyond it lied a Gauntlet of car campers that lined the road for several miles. Crazy numbers of people… 500? 800? There was one group alone that was like 80 strong.

The closer I got to town, the less available campsites there were. I didn’t realize this until it was too late… Literally. It was now after 9pm and running out of light fast. Then the national forest boundary ended and it was all private land now. I had no choice but to walk into the town of winter park now.

All the motels are expensive, and mostly booked. I had to stay at a pricey bed and breakfast place (winter park chateau), which I reached at 10pm. Long day, did 27 miles.

Miles – 27
Total Miles – 1237
Rain – yes, thunder, lightning
Sleep – hotel
Animals – deer, Porcupine

Sunday July 8th – CDT Day 79

Didn’t get as much sleep as I wanted, but a good hearty breakfast was a nice consolation. I then went to the winter park visitor center to get some info about how to get back up to the CDT from here.

I walked hwy 40 north for about an hour until I reached my turn, county road (?) 8. Is road was full of luxury vacation homes and condos. I walked this for another hour plus before it merged into forest road 128. This again was another hour plus walk. I saw a deer run across the road just feet from me.

I reached the Devils thumb/high lonesome trailhead after about 4 hours and took a break… Filtered water and ate lunch.

It was a short hike back to the official CDT from the trailhead. It’s good to finally be back on track.

The next section of trail was a little boring, just forest with occasional meadow views. I was trudging along in zombie mode when I came across 3 Moose. I’d only seen one Moose before on my life (from a car) so this was pretty cool. Shortly after, I saw another lone Moose in a field.

The next couple miles were more repetitive forest walking. Pretty much the whole afternoon, thunder could be heard in the distance. There were a small handful of meadows with nice open views of distant peaks.

When I reached the Indian peaks trailhead, it started raining. There was a locked cabin here, but it had a porch. I sat underneath it for a while until the rain stopped. Then a girl I’d met once before named Smeagol showed up. She joined me for a while before setting off together. We both wanted to reach Monarch lake tonight, another 6 miles.

We hiked some confusing sections of dirt road next. After realizing a road on the map didn’t exist, we bushwhacked up hill a quarter mile up to a small saddle to find another road. Another day in the life of a Continental Divide Trail hiker.

We hiked until dark, and then hiked some more. It started raining as the light faded. I pulled out the headlamp as the rain picked up. Time for rain jacket and backpack rain fly.

I continued down hill on the switchbacks in the steady rain. The batteries in my headlamp were dying, and the light became more dim. It took awhile to notice this, and when I did I realized the light was no longer helping. Fortunately I had another set of batteries. This was the first time I changed them on trail.

I finally found a flat spot next to the trail to set up my tent around 10pm. Two nights in a row now I’ve hiked late. I also wanted to get an earlier start tomorrow to get into town before the post Office closes, but at the same time, I refuse to run on much less than 8 hours of sleep.

Miles – 26
Total Miles – 1263
Rain – yes, thunderstorms
Sleep – backcountry, tent
Animals – deer, Moose

Monday July 9th – CDT Day 80

Woke up at 6:45 am. Beautiful morning, and apparently I wasn’t too far from Monarch Lake. The water was as smooth as glass.

As soon as I hit the trail, I started seeing day hikers and fisherman show up. Probably best that they didn’t see me camping where I was, as there was a sign saying not to Camp around the lake when I reached the trailhead. That’s what happens when you night hike, you wake up in the morning to see everything else you missed in the dark.

Bald Eagle

North of Monarch Lake the trail follows a dirt road. I wasn’t paying attention and went left around Ganby Lake when I should have went right. I hiked about a mile and a half before realizing this, and had to turn around and backtrack. I did see a bald eagle perched in a tree nearby while on the wrong side of the lake so at least I saw that.

Now on the correct side of the lake, the road becomes a trail. It’s a nice change of pace to be hiking alongside a lake. It even had some beach front.

The nice hiking didn’t last long though. The trail starts to climb above the lake and is riddled with blowdowns. It was about an 800 foot climb to the top of a Ridgeline. This was the final climb before Grand Lake. I saw several deer along the way.

I stopped to eat around 11:30. It was really hot today and there was not a whole lot of shade.

The trail then descends the Ridgeline down to the lake again. Eventually the lake narrows and it’s no longer a lake, but the Colorado River. Heading north I next reached grand lake, which also seems to be called Shadow Mountain Lake.

I eventually reached the road in town and several locals recognized me as a CDT hiker, and were interested in chatting about my journey. I had plenty of time to spare before the post office closed so it was not a worry. However, I was severely dehydrated and ready to get out of the Sun.

After leaving the post office I headed over to the shadow Cliff hostel. Apparently they are booked for the week. Bummer! I jumped on Priceline and booked a much more expensive hotel, as it was the only option. It was another mile walk back to this hotel.

I stopped to eat in Dairy King next door and saw Smeagol. She was staying two doors down for me at the hotel.

Later, Dixie and Aaron arrived at the hotel as well. We went out to eat at the sagebrush barbecue just before they closed.

Miles – 21
Total Miles – 1284
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – deer, bald eagle

Tuesday July 10th – CDT Day 81 (zero day)

Ate breakfast at Sagebrush.

Patched the hole in my tent vestibule today. Had an extra piece of silnylon in my bounce box, so that worked out.

I got bad news from Easy today. He went to the clinic for foot pain, and found out his foot is broken. Unfortunately he’s going to have to leave trail until it heals. Best he can hope for is to get back on trail in 8 weeks, and make it as far north as possible. Such a bummer.

Got a pizza from white Buffalo. Pretty good. Sprinkler showed up tonight and we split a room.

Wednesday July 11th – CDT Day 82 (zero day)

Breakfast at Fat Cat, the popular breakfast joint in town. I thought it was pretty good.

I promised Smeagol I’d split a room with her tonight, so sprinkler got his own and I moved my stuff over to her room.

I spent the afternoon utilizing the contents of my bounce box. Resupplying batteries, toothpaste, OTC pills, etc. Additionally, I could now repair the hole in my backpack Rain cover and the hike in my backpack side pocket. Tenacious tape, silnylon patches and silicone to the rescue.

Bought groceries and packed that up. Ate dinner with sprinkler at dairy king.

After a lot of thought, I decided that I will no longer update my blog while hiking the CDT. It’s costing me too much time and money in town. It’ll be more work when I get home, but it’ll be better this way. This was a bummer but a huge weight off my shoulders. In the end I know it was the right call.

 

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Breckenridge to I-70 (Frisco) – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Breckenridge to I-70 (Frisco) Hike Overview

continental divide trail hike photo north of breckenridge

Despite the large number of roads encountered on this stretch, and the lack of a real wilderness feel to it, this one was of the more scenic sections of the CDT in Colorado in my opinion. There were lots of 4×4 vehicles and ATVs out here though. The mountains had a lot of color to them in this section… not just green, but reds and oranges too. Colorful Colorado indeed! Grays Peak and Torreys Peak are also along this route, the highest point along the Continental Divide Trail. 

Tuesday July 3rd – CDT Day 74

Woke up at 8 so I could eat breakfast. The fireside inn is actually a bed and breakfast place with a couple hostel style bunk rooms. Breakfast is a separate charge from the bunk room price, but saves the time of going out somewhere.

I walked to the City Market grocery store after leaving the hostel. I needed a few staple items… Tortillas, cheese, pepperoni, precooked bacon, honey buns and TP. I had everything else already between my Walmart.com shipment to the fireside inn and my left over food from the previous section.

Next I took the bus to the point whew I left trail with Ryan on Sunday. The stop actually is right at the CDT’s junction with CO Hwy 9 which was super convenient. The trail follows a paved road to a vacation home(??) community. It’s weird, the trail goes right through their properties and around a little man-made pond before climbing up some switchbacks. Lots of people coming down.

After an hour I ran into Sprinkler. We hiked the rest of the day together. Rain clouds in the distance, sun coming and going.

Not much to see today. The trail stays below tree line all day. We passed a guy hiking the Colorado Trail with his two young daughters. Apparently one of them was hit by a mountain biker earlier in the day.

Passed a dog training facility thing… Looked like some giant obstacle course and had a ton of dogs baking. Not camping near that.

Last water for 20 miles happened to be right before a 2800′ climb. It also started thundering and raining a bit. Needless to say, the decision to camp near the water source was an obvious one, Even if we hadn’t hit our 20 miles for the day. Got to camp at 6pm. Lots of Colorado trail hikers here.

Miles – 16
Total Miles – 1203
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – Ptarmigan

Wednesday July 4th – CDT Day 75

Sprinkler and I woke up at 5:15am. I figured an earlier start would be best today with the ridge walking and potential for weather.

Today started with a 2800′ climb. Typical forest, then emerged from treeline to some colorful mountains.

Sprinkler and I took a break next to some snow fence. There’s a dirt road here that is also the Colorado trail. This is where the Colorado Trail splits off from the CDT, just a couple hundred feet away. Finally, less bikes and people in general. I also saw my first mountain goats here, grazing on the hillside above.

The trail now climbs up along a ridge line. Excellent views all around. Really, some of the best mountain views along the entire CDT thus far. However, the weather was turning. Rain could be seen in the distance for much of the rest of the day, as well as occasional sprinkles on myself.

Stopped for lunch along the highpoint at 13,025′. After lunch, we mostly followed some dirt roads. There was a ton of people out here on dirt bikes, ATVs, dune buggies and Jeeps since it’s July 4th.

Hiking up here is hard work. The trail drops a few hundred feet but stays high for a while at over 12,500′. Dark clouds loom and pose a threat, but no lightning to speak of. Such an impressive place to be. 

Rain sprinkles continued on and off throughout the afternoon. There was no shortage of colorful mountains all around. One doesn’t often think of mountains as colorful but they really are here. Lots of reds and oranges compliment the traditional greens. No wonder the state motto is “colorful Colorado”.

At Webster pass, sprinkler and I had a decision to make. Follow the ridge as the CDT route is supposed to, or head downhill and follow a series of roads to the base of grays peak. Considering the bad weather along the ridge, we took the low route. It had already been a long day with a ton of climbing so this was also a welcome choice. However, I know who miss out on a lot of great views. There was no water up there and no where to camp though, so logistically it didn’t really make sense. At least not this late in the afternoon.

We descended the 4×4 road dish to Webster creek as many side by side ATVs were going up. Filtered water at the creek which had a strong iron taste to it. No wonder, it looked a bit rusty. The sprinkles started again as we took our break, cutting it a bit short. Back to road walkin’.

The lower we went, the better the road got. Eventually it turned into a paved road, and even passed through a little town called Montezuma. Just residential homes, vacation homes more than likely. No store to buy a drink or anything. Stop signs were cemented into large barrels along the road. On one sign, Under the word “STOP”, someone had cleverly added the word “hammertime”. Classic.

Then we joined a dirt road along Peru creek, and we bumped into Charlie. Only seen him once before, back in the San Pedro Parks wilderness north of Cuba, NM. He hiked with us much of the rest of the evening.

Sprinkler and I started looking for camp where the trail starts to climb steeply up to Argentine pass, and Charlie hiked on. However, we could not find a suitable place to camp near anywhere below the ascent. Charlie aimed to camp in the upper basin, where it was a little flatter on the topo maps. We filled our water bags at the river and headed up hill towards this area.

When the destination was reached, I was disappointed with the options here. Ground was not flat enough and very lumpy. However, we were tired and it was getting late. This will have to do.

Long day. There’s no way we would have made it here if we took the ridge. Time for sleep.

Miles – 27
Total Miles – 1230
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – mountain goats, deer

Thursday July 5th – CDT Day 76

Had a little rain last night, pretty light and only lasted 15 minutes. On trail at 7:15am.

From camp, the trail climbs one long path to the pass, angled up the mountainside.

From Argentine pass, the views just got better and better. Lots of ups and downs, tougher as the elevation reaches 13,000.

Stopped for a break before Mt Edwards. It had taken surprisingly long to get here, as it was now 10am or so. We could see storm clouds brewing behind grays peak, so we tried to pick up the pace.

The climb up Mt Edwards was often steep, and filled with false horizons. Great views going up through. Approaching the summit I could see a mountain goat laying down. He got up as I grew near, and limped away. It was pretty obvious he had an injured leg.

Holy crap, the views from Mt Edwards were awesome! Sheer cliffs on one side, grassy ridge on the other. I hiked up the grassy side, so the views were a big surprise.

After Mt Edwards, it’s a pretty gnarly traverse of a knife edge. And it’s not a short section, this goes on for a while. Easily the most exposed, technical section of the CDT so far. But awesome and a lot of fun!

Dark clouds building fast above grays peak. Then a little rain, and some thunder. We were a few hundred feet below the summit and decided to head cross country over to the switchbacks leading down hill and skip the summit. Better safe than sorry.

It rained on and off on the way down. After passing the grays peak trailhead, the weather really started to get nasty. Heavy rain and hail, nearly constant thunder. Fun stuff.

We reached I70 late afternoon. Not much traffic here so we ended up getting an Uber ride into Frisco. We stayed at the snowshoe motel and split a room.

Went to a pizza place and ordered an enormous Chicago style pizza. Meat lovers, of course. The mammal medley. Could only eat half!

Later while walking a street over from the motel, I saw a fox. Only the 3rd fox I’ve ever seen in my life.

The hotel had a hot tub, and I went looking for it. Apparently they converted room 29 into a little spa… Not only the hot tub, but a sauna as well. It was really nice actually. No pool next to it, no kids running around. Relaxing!

Miles – 11
Total Miles – 1230
Rain – heavy rain, thunder, hail
Sleep – hotel
Animals – mountain goats, marmot, fox

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Twin Lakes to Breckenridge – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Twin Lakes to Breckenridge Hike Overview

twin lakes to breckenridge hike on the continental divide trail

Highlights from the Twin Lakes to Breckenridge section of the Continental Divide Trail include Kokomo Pass, an abandoned WWII training facility, Mt Edwards and Mt Massive alternate routes, and a few scenic ridgelines overlooking the ski resorts of Copper Mountain and Breckenridge. North of Twin Lakes, the route isn’t blow-your-mind scenic, but it gradually improves and provides some excellent views. 

Thursday June 28th – CDT Day 69

Woke up at 9 today. Yeah! Slept in and it felt great. Didn’t really mean to though.

Picked up my package from the general store and bought some food there as well. The selection was thin, but with the food I had sent myself in the box I was okay.

There was no where to get breakfast in town so I had to wait until 11am when a nearby food truck opens. Burgers were only 1/3 pound, so of course I ordered a triple with fries. Gotta refuel before hitting the trail, right?

I ate lunch with Sprinkler and Inspector Gadget. Inspector Gadget then gave me a ride back to Willis Gulch trailhead so I could continue hiking where I left off last night.

It’s a 2 mile Road walk along Colorado Highway 82 until I split off the road at Gordon Gulch. My map shows a trail intersecting highway 82, but it’s a private residence here. I walked away from the property by a hundred yards and then headed up hill. It was a steep bushwhack. Then I skirted the hillside above the private residence. I eventually found a faint foot path that led to a dirt road, and eventually a real trail.

Twin Lakes

Lots of people on trail here, as its the base of Mt Elbert. Really hot. I dipped my hat into streams whenever possible to stay cool. Not much to see, but well maintained trail.

I reached a trailhead for Mt Elbert close to 6pm. Here I saw several hikers I recognized but hadn’t seen in a while… Namely Marty and Emily, last seen at Doc Campbell’s. Earl Grey’s friend was here with beer and snacks for us hikers. I gladly accepted the beer and hung out here for a while.

After leaving the trailhead, I hiked with Mark and John for a while. This made the uphill climb go much faster.

I found camp on a wooded hill above a small stream after 8. Just under 60 miles to Breckenridge, should be there Sunday.

Warm night, and the mosquitoes won’t quit. Cowboy camping too, should be fun.

Miles – 14
Total Miles – 1139
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, cowboy camp
Animals – none

Friday June 29th – CDT Day 70

I kept my mosquito head net on as I slept for a few hours last night, until the bugs died down. Got up at 6:30, hiking by 7:30.

Dixie adjusting her shoes

Hiked a couple miles and bumped into Dixie. We ended up hiking much of the day together.

Not much to see on trail today. It’s ups and downs in a forest with few distant views, but there were a couple of nice spots. Having someone to talk to made the day go by much faster.

One of the strangest people I met on the CDT

Dixie and I met an interesting old man north of the timberline lake trailhead. He was wearing a bright yellow shirt and only carrying a yellow fly swatter. No water, no backpack, nothing except the matching yellow flyswatter. Let’s just say he was as funny as he looked. And extremely talkative! He didn’t seem to be too fond of the Texans who often vacation here in Colorado.

Passed a couple of small lakes and streams. Eventually entered one scenic basin, nicest of the day.

The trail mostly heads downhill from here, towards Tennessee pass. Not much to see, just a walk in the woods after dipping below treeline.

After Tennessee pass, the trail follows some old railroad grade. I saw Dixie arriving at a campsite, and she offered to share the spot. Sounds good, this is about where I was hoping to camp on my map.

Mosquitoes were insane today. Setting up my tent tonight for safe refuge.

Miles – 25
Total Miles – 1164
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Saturday June 30th – CDT Day 71

Sprinkler passed camp this morning, and Dixie left before I did. Several Colorado Trail hikers passed by as well.

Most likely these buildings were used to store ammo and munitions

The trail crossed hwy 24 and then followed it on the trees along a hillside. Then it dumps out into Camp Hale, an old WWII training facility for the 10th mountain division. There were signs for possible explosive danger and remnants of the camp itself. Ah abandoned buildings, just like back home in Detroit. Good place for a break.

Then the trail begins a 3000′ climb up to Kokomo pass. It wasn’t crazy steep and was pretty scenic. Passed a small waterfall where Dixie and I stopped for water, and more food. 

Sweet views from Kokomo pass. I stopped here for a while for pictures and did a time lapse with the GoPro. I think this was the first time lapse I’ve done on the CDT. This was disappointing to me, I wish I had taken some in New Mexico at a few spots.

The trail then climbs a little more to another great view point. Then it stays high in a basin for another 3 miles towards Searle pass.

I stopped on Searle pass for a while as well. All down hill from here.

Really nice hike this evening down to Copper mountain ski resort, at the bottom of the valley. I caught up with Dixie again, and we hiked the rest of the way down together. We discovered a restaurant that serves food until 9pm, so we hauled ass down to make it in time.

At the restaurant, we ran into Steve, a guy we met on trail earlier this evening. He offered to let us stay at his place in Dillion tomorrow night when we’re in his neck of the woods. Also, an older man bought us a round of drinks after over hearing our journey on the CDT!

After dinner, we road walked through town in the dark over to Tenmile creek. We found a place to camp near the river around 11pm. There were a couple of people who passed by in dark and shined their lights on us. One guy was hiking and kept going. The other was a biker. He shined his light directly on my face for like a minute. I shined my light back to let him know I was there, but he didn’t turn off his light. Finally, I said “hey, could you not shine your light in my eyes? trying to sleep here.” Then he finally left, without saying a word. WTF is wrong with people!

Miles – 26
Total Miles – 1190
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – marmot

Sunday July 1st – CDT Day 72

This is why I generally don’t like camping low, near rivers… Cold and tons of condensation. Frost on my bag and everything.

Late start, about 9:30. Steep at first. A lot of mountain bikers today.

After reaching tree line, the trail became less steep. Now its angling up to a ridge line with great views.

On the crest of the ridge, it’s copper mountain on one side and Breckenridge on the other. Man, I gotta get out here in the winter and ski.

Nice views coming down above tree line. I just talked to my friend Ryan, he was almost there at the Gold Hill trailhead along Colorado Highway 9. He said he was going to start hiking uphill and that way I would meet him on trail as I was coming down hill. Time to hurry my ass up.

For whatever reason it was fairly slow going this afternoon. It took a little bit longer than I expected but eventually I saw him hiking uphill with his dog Yogie. We turned around here and headed back to the trailhead where he parked. I noticed a forest fire burning off in the distance from here as well. 

After reaching the trailhead we headed into Breckenridge for food. I had been told Empire Burger was excellent, so that’s where we headed. The biggest burger they had was a double so I added another Patty to make it a triple. The waiter said it was the largest Burger he’d ever seen anyone order, although it was only one pound. And it was delicious!

Afterwards we got a hotel in Silverthorne that was pet friendly. We tried going out to a couple breweries but none of them had a pet-friendly patio so we headed back to the hotel. Luckily the hotel had a hot tub and I enjoyed a nice soak.

Miles – 13
Total Miles – 1203
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – rabbit

Monday July 2nd – CDT Day 73 (zero day)

Wish I had more time to sleep but we got up early for breakfast. Ryan also had to leave town by 8am.

Ryan dropped me off at the Fireside Inn hostel after breakfast. This is where I initially had planned on staying. It was a little after 8am. so I was pretty early. They let me set my backpack inside the garage and I went out and wandered the city for a couple hours until they had a chance to accommodate me. I went into a couple of souvenir shops as well as fly fishing shops to pick up some stickers and things for my dad.

Later in the day I walked up to the post office and mailed back all of my rocks I’d been collecting, as well as the stickers and souvenirs I just bought for myself and my dad.

Afterwards I headed up to REI in Dillon. The summit stage bus system is free and provides transportation in the Frisco, Dillon, Silverthorne, and Breckenridge areas. However. It was a little complicated, at least for someone who has never used public transportation before. It just doesn’t exist in Detroit… You get in your own car and go wherever you want. After realizing it was going to take a very long time to get there, with all the bus transfers and things, I just got out at one of the first stops and picked up an Uber for 15 bucks.

At REI I bought a new pair of shoes, brooks cascadia 13s. This is the first time I’d seen them. I’ve been using the 12s on trail to to this point. I liked them initially but will carry my old pair until they prove themselves. I got 650 miles of of the first pair of 12s and 550 miles out of the second pair. However, I could have hiked more miles in the 2nd pair, I just decided to get them now while it was convenient.

I also picked up some sawyer permathin bug spray for clothes and gear. The mosquitoes have been so bad, I’ll try anything… Except bug spray. Don’t want that on my sleeping bag!

I tried using the bus again after leaving REI. Big mistake. The stupid bus drove around for an hour and a half without ever going to the stop I wanted in Silverthorne as the map indicated it would. I eventually got off after an hour and got an Uber again.

For dinner I ate a large pizza from a place called “extreme pizza”. It was good but there was nothing extreme about it.

Bed by 10. Will get back on trail tomorrow, after breakfast and stopping at the grocery store.

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 1203
Rain – no
Sleep – hostel
Animals – none

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Crazy Cook to Lordsburg – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Crazy Cook to Lordsburg Hike Overview

The section of CDT trail from crazy cook Monument to Lordsburg is not usually a hiker favorite. The trail is mostly pretty flat and is often on old dirt roads and Ranch Land, but is still really wild. Lots of Wildlife, huge expansive views and sharp plants. It’s an impressive place to be, but not a lot of views that look stunning through a camera lens. 

Natural water is pretty much non existent. When taking the CDT shuttle from Lordsburg to crazy cook, the price includes 2 gallons of water at 5 separate water caches. These are in bear boxes, spread out about 15 miles apart. The boxes are along or near a road so drivers can reach them. Besides these, the only sources of water are underground springs which are tapped into via a pipe feeding a large truck tire or stored in a water tank.

Saturday April 21st – CDT Day 1

The shuttle to crazy cook left the Econo Lodge at 6:30am. There were 2 truck loads of 5 hikers each. The first hour or so was on a paved road, then we turned off onto the infamous dirt road section. The road isn’t bad at first, but is a very bumpy ride later on. The bumpiness is amplified by the ultra high clearance trucks. We arrived at crazy cook around 10:30am, anxious to be free of our vehicular prison. 

CDT Southernmost point – Crazy Cook Monument

Just jumped the fence from Mexicoland onto US soil. Onward to Canadia!

There is nothing at the crazy cook monument other than a shaded awning and the monument itself. The border here is “protected” by a 6 stand barbed wire fence. There’s actually a gate on this fence too. I stepped over the fence and then proceeded to enter the US. Had to touch that fertile Mexican soil before heading off towards Canada. 

Taking my first steps on the CDT

As I took my first steps on the trail, I couldn’t help feeling a bit overwhelmed by the journey that lies ahead. Not fear, just the sheer magnitude of a 3000 mile hike. I’ve been dreaming of the CDT for 6 years, and to finally be here is just awesome! 

The trail is really well beaten in the first stretch. The views are nice but not too impressive through my camera lens. After about an hour, I reached the first dirt road. It’s easy walking but there’s a lot of really fine dust that gets into your shoes here. I stopped after 5 miles to dump the dirt and rocks from my shoes, as I was getting a hot spot on one of my toes. 

A few miles up the trail enters Sheridan canyon. The trail follows a wash for large stretches, in addition to the dirt roads and trails. After about 3 hours, I stopped for lunch at the first shaded spot I came across all day. I took some time to clean my feet and apply some tape over my toe before it develops a full on blister. 

Back on the trail, it’s another 5 miles to the first water cache and my campsite for the night. Even though it was only 75 out today, it still felt really hot. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like when it’s 20 degrees warmer. I felt really good until about mile 12 or 13, then I started to develop a pounding headache. I pushed on and reached the water cache around 4:45 pm, and man it felt good to stop for the day. 

I made camp about a hundred yards back up the wash I came from, in order to be out of sight of the road. Shortly after, Lightfoot and Kathleen arrived, followed by Hodge podge and Swiss monkey. First thing I did was take some aspirin to address my headache. Then I laid down for a few minutes to rest. 

Everyone was at the water cache by early evening except moose. We all ate dinner by the cache and watched a colorful sunset. With food, water, a little rest and some aspirin I was feeling much better. I got very little sleep last night due to anticipation of the hike today, so turning in at 8:15pm was the obvious choice. Day 1 in the books. Only about 150 more to go! 

Miles – 14.87
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry tent, group
Animals – none

Sunday April 22nd – CDT Day 2

Last night there was something growing outside my tent. I yelled out at it, and didn’t hear it again. Very calm night otherwise. Woke up at 6 and hit the trail by 7. The skies were dark and it looked like rain in the distance. The forecast didn’t call for any, and considering how dried is in new Mexico right now with all the red flag warnings, I was pretty certain it wasn’t going to amount to anything. Just as well, I don’t have rain jacket on me. I’m having that sent to Doc Campbell’s post, 3 resupply points up the trail.

The trail now follows along the base of the Big Hatchet mountains. Others have taken the dirt road we came in on, as it offers easier navigation. But of course, it’s pretty boring walking on a dirt road. The trail in this section is marked with wooden posts, and the are spaced out just for enough so you can’t see the next one and most of cases. The footpath you walk on is also not very defined, so most of the morning with spent walking in the general direction I needed to go in occasionally I would spot a post and I could tell how far off Trail I was.

I saw a couple of deer and a few Jack rabbits this morning. One Jackrabbit was enormous, the largest I’ve ever seen. I was able to get within a few feet of him, and he didn’t even bother to hop more than a couple feet away when I approached him. 

Moose was at the second water cache when I arrived around 12:30pm. He ended up walking till about midnight last night and took the road instead of the Trail, due to ease of navigation in the dark. He went on a head while I stayed at the water cache for another 45 minutes or so.