June 26, Day 4 – First town day!

We hustled into town this morning and made it in around noon. The hitch didn’t take too long to get and he dropped us off right at a grocery store next to a sandwich shop. We spent the next few hours eating and drying out our gear from condensation that morning. This drying process took considerably longer than expected though. The sprinklers came on in the yard we were using, twice. After the first time, we moved our gear to a different lawn and looked for sprinklers and didn’t see any. They were there though. And they soaked our gear a second time. Luckily everything finished drying just as Lauren from the CDTC (Continental Divide Trail Coalition) picked us up. Lauren helps raise money for the non-profit that maintains the CDT. We hung out for a bit before she had to head home to recover from a weekend of llama packing. Approach and I got pizza then went to a brewery that had live music outside. Around 7 we walked a mile back to the highway to hitch back to trail. It only took us about 15 minutes to get a ride. On our ride to the trailhead we spotted another hiker, Doug, also hitching so we picked him up too. Approach and I joined Oklahomie in a campsite at the trailhead and shared stories until the sun went down around 10.

Miles: 12.48 Total Miles: 69.5

Elevation of Camp: 6,254’

June 25, Day 3 – Finding our groove

We were able to have a much more pleasant day today. The trail was pretty smooth other than some patches of blow downs, one of which required quite a few acrobatic moves. I had to be light and nimble on my feet, which is tough when I have 4 extra days of food in my bag and my feet are sore and my ankles, knees and hips hurt. The life of a thru hiker can be a struggle but it is so rewarding! We finished the day camped next to a pond with an amazing view of the sunset. We also met our first other thru hiker today, Oklahomie! It was nice to talk with someone new for a bit and we have a mutual trail friend in Wow, who we hiked with last year on the PCT. The thru hiking world can be very small sometimes.

I forgot to mention on day 1 that we started the trail with enough food for around 7 days of hiking because we had bought enough food to get us the 100 miles through Glacier National Park and now only had to go 3.5 days to get to Helena. I also didn’t eat as much as I expected to in the first few days.

Miles: 17.88 Total Miles: 57.02

Elevation of Camp: 7,210’

Here’s a small example of what the trail sometimes looks like. I didn’t take many pictures today.

June 24, Day 2 – Taking the good with the bad

Today started pretty good. We woke up dry and a bear didn’t steal our food. That’s really all we wanted after our first night. The hiking was pretty good until about halfway through the day when we reached 5 miles of blowdowns, flooded trail and snow patches. I don’t think 5 miles has ever taken me longer in my life, other than when I did 5 miles of scree field on the Weminuche High Route last September. It was one of the physically and mentally hardest days for me because of how slow I was going and how much extra effort every step took. I also ended the day by doing ~3 extra miles because I missed a turn. Today was rough. But we made it to camp, got dry and warm, and slept pretty well. Tomorrow will be a new day.

Miles: 21.32 Total Miles: 39.14

Elevation of Camp: 7448’

Drying out our gear during a lunch break on the top of a mountain
This was a struggle

June 23, Day 1 – Off to a great start!

We woke up around 6 covered in condensation at Galena Gulch campground just off Interstate 15 then drove about 20 minutes to get to the start of the trail. Unfortunately it’s not a terminus like we wanted but we are happy to be getting on trail. The CDT is known for its increased difficulty and abundant road walks so it made perfect sense that we had to drive 4 hours south and then start with a 3 mile road walk. This didn’t dampen our spirits though. We excitedly headed down the road then got onto trail only to find a cooler full of sodas within 100 feet of our first steps on actual trail! We were so excited and happy and convinced that the next 4 months or so are going to be a lot of fun! We hung out for a bit at the cooler and I drank a “Mt. Chill.” I found it to be a pretty appropriate soda name for where we were. We continued another 4 miles down the trail to a road that led to a campground. Keith, aka Wife Tracker, whom we had met just as we started walking had told us he would be at this campground later in the day so we took the chance and did some extra miles at a chance for more soda and some friendly conversation. We took about 20 steps down the road to the campground and along comes a truck. They tell us to hop in the back and we get a ride the .9 miles down to the campground. So 8 miles in and we’ve already received trail magic and a hitch! Unfortunately Keith never showed up at the campground even though we spent over 2 hours hanging out there. But that’s ok, I think we will see him again down the trail. That seems to be how the trail works. People come and go and you never know when you’ll see them again. After an extended lunch break, we finished out the final 9 miles for the day. The entire day consisted of rolling hills in thick lodgepole pine forest. It was nice to have an easy first day. Hopefully our luck continues tomorrow!

Miles: 17.82 Total Miles: 17.82

Elevation of Camp: 7277’

We decided to camp directly on trail because there weren’t many flat spots and we figured there aren’t many people out here right now.

June 22, Day 00 – Adapt, Improvise, Overcome

That’s right, we decided to take a zero on our first day! Who doesn’t need a good rest day before a few months of hiking? Unfortunately, this was not our plan. We woke up this morning, packed our things and did what most thru hikers do on town day at small towns, head to the post office. I had sent myself a box with my bear spray, knife, and toothpaste (I often forget what size containers of liquid are allowed on planes). Approach also had to mail a package out. We then stopped in West Glacier to see a visitor shop before heading around to the East side of the park. We hoped to start at the far northeast corner of Glacier National Park. We drove through East Glacier, a small town at the southeast corner and then to Saint Mary Ranger Station. We walked in excited to get our backcountry permits that are needed to camp in the park only to be told that ours had been cancelled. One of the sites we needed had a grizzly bear problem and they weren’t allowing tent campers. Also, part of the CDT had over 20 dead frozen cows that had died during the winter. The snow had recently melted enough to alert any grizzly bear in the area that there was plenty of food available. The bears get very territorial when this happens so the park rangers have to close the trail. With this news, we had a hard decision. We could either road walk 50 of the 100 miles of trail that were inaccessible due to these closures or we could drive to another part of the trail and hike the Glacier National Park section at another time. We chose the second. The four of us loaded up in the van, spent a few hours seeing the sights of Glacier that weren’t closed, then drove over 4 hours to just north of Butte, Montana where the CDT crosses interstate 15. This had us starting at mile 427.6, using the Canadian border as mile 0. We will be hiking north then plan to hitchhike back down to Butte in order to start walking south. This gives Glacier around 3 weeks to open back up for us. We aren’t particularly happy about this but we take what we can get out here and we are still very happy and privileged to be able to be spending the summer hiking. Tomorrow, we finally get to start hiking!

Miles: 0 Total Miles: 0

Swiftcurrent Lake in Glacier National Park