MacDonald Pass to Anaconda

7/2 15.8 miles

Dan dropped me off and I was on the trail by 8:30, sad that he had to leave and sad he also left the trail angel job and I’d be once again dependent on the kindness of strangers–hitching rides to and from resupply points. But I guess after he caught the biggest steelhead of his life at Benchmark, why stick around? And there are some cats in Anchorage missing their human being.

Sami in the winter maze

Treadmill’s summer suit

Finding campsites on the CDT can be tough to find. There is a lot of road walking with private land or barbed wire fences for cows and maybe no flat places without dense trees, rocks, or wet bumpy meadow. So when comments on Guthook call them out, I’m inclined to listen. Then the weather report this morning predicted 4 days of thunderstorms with a clear day between another week of thunderstorms. In Colorado they call this monsoon season. I pitched my tent next to the road but well past several miles of McMansions each set on their large parcels of forest. Ten minutes later the rain and thunderstorm hit. A real hiker would pack up and go when it passed. Think I’ll just start early instead, or not. I’ve allowed plenty of time for this stretch.

7/3 19.3 miles

Slept well in the quiet and stillness with straight down rain off and on. It was warm enough that I used my bag as a quilt. Still cloudy in the morning as I continued on the broad gravel road I’d been on for a bunch of miles the previous day. The route took me to trail as the skies darkened that by 10:30 I wondered if I should get out my headlamp. I felt a couple drops and stopped under a cluster of trees to get out my rain gear just as giant hail pellets bombarded the trail, filling it up in 10″ as I laughed from my cozy little shelter. It got lighter and I crept out like a ground squirrel and continued on. A bit later, it rained for an hour, and my biggest concern was if my hands were getting too cold to open the bag with my smashed bagel and cheese lunch. Then the sun came out, I ate my food and the rest of the day was a small series of ups and downs on good trails. I camped, having walked a second day without seeing anybody.

7/4 18.4

I kind of messed up calculating the mileage for this section, it’s shorter than I thought so I’ve been taking it easy since I’ve got tons of food and should stick with the 4 nights out I’d planned. It’s a little nerve wracking to walk into a small town on a weekend in the summer hoping for a motel room, so I made a reservation from Helena for Anaconda already.

It didn’t rain last night. I went back to sleep after a squirrel, infuriated in the predawn hours, shrieked and screeched like some pop diva at the intruder in her green room. No hurry to get the miles in.

It’s too varied for me to put in the earbuds and listen to an audiobook, but that means I obsessed all day over a couple of issues in the real world.

Arctic Winter Games is a circumpolar sports event every 2 years for youth in about 20 different disciplines. Fairbanks hosted in 2014 and I was recruited to be a Snowboard Official although Alaska did not form a team. Several Canadian provinces and Greenland sent snowboarders. In 2016 I was recruited to direct the snowboard competitions in Greenland, a challenge with immense job satisfaction. I love Greenland and Greenlanders. Because the co-Director of Team Alaska had an eligible snowboarder daughter who wanted to go to Greenland, a team was formed. Sadly the girl was injured and couldn’t make the trip. She aged out and was not eligible for the 2018 games. In 2018, Team Alaska said they didn’t have the budget or coaches for snowboarders but would give me a complimentary spot on their charter to Fort Smith, NWT, Canada so I could volunteer as a snowboard official. I discovered another solid community in NWT and had a blast. The dark spot was the 2 guys who run Team AK who wouldn’t answer my queries about which of the two charter flights coming and going I’d be on. Like I finally found out the day before. Terrible planners or?? “We’ll let you know. The kids come first.” Sounds reasonable unless you know the kids and coaches are housed on cots in classrooms and are seated in coach, while the 2 guys and “mission staff” are in First Class and hotel rooms. Last winter I began asking whether snowboarding would be included in Whitehorse, Yukon 2020. No reply for months. Then a no. Anti-snowboarding is still a thing? Sexism is still a thing? These 2 guys using State of Alaska funds get to lie “no coaches applied”, “no funding available,” without oversight? Happy 4th.

The cool thing is that snowboarding, like hiking, is a community. My Yukon snowboard friend stepped up to make it possible for me to volunteer in 2020 despite the jerks at Team Alaska. I am stoked by the respect and camaraderie! I pay my own transportation, stay with locals, and volunteer officiate on the snowboard courses for kids from other nations since there will be no Alaska kids afforded the opportunity for this unique cultural experience.

The above is the shortened, kinder version of an all day obsession. True trail tale.

What else took over my brain as I hiked through the beautiful forest and cow fields? Last year I celebrated the 4th with Nuthatch and Burning Calves in Frisco, Colorado. BC is German so my thoughts turned to how the German people and government recovered their soul after WWII, recovered the ability to recognize and resist propaganda and represent “Never Again.” Happy 4th.

So anyway….

At one point I came out of the woods and into a bunch of cows. Startled the crap out of us all (literally out of several cows). Cows in fields don’t even glance at vehicles. But at humans walking? I always apologize out loud to them and explain I’m a harmless human without armor. They run. Except the second bunch of 5 individuals looked at me, I moved away, they followed. And again. With the lack of seeing anybody for 3 days, and getting stuck in my thoughts, I wondered: have I accidentally entered…the Twilight Zone?

I turned down on the broad gravel road to the Anaconda Cutoff at Four Corners, got some water at a creek with another decaying log structure (love these testaments to human endeavors) and found myself a perfect flat kind of hidden campsite on an abandoned approach above the road. About 24-26 miles to town and 2 days to get there. Rumor has it that there’s a farm about 14 miles away that welcomes hikers to camp. Since it’s all road walk, I doubt if there are any other reasonable camping opportunities although I’d rather stop, say, 5 miles from town.

7/5 24 miles

Need I say more? Even though I started late, it was really quick walking on the gravel road downhill to flat. I met Big Sky section hiking, he’d just been dropped off that morning and is heading NOBO. First human! Got to the farm and it was 12:30, I can’t camp at 12:30! Called the motel but they were full, found Hickory B&B in Anaconda had a room and walked on. Even though this day went from gravel road to paved highway, the countryside is beautiful and the route went by the State of Montana’s “mental hospital” in Warm Springs with lovely historic buildings and grounds. I met two groups of patients and aides strolling. Turned on to the highway with some miles to go and a truck stopped to offer me a ride. I said thanks but it was against the hiking rules. We both laughed. I walked to the B&B, showered and went across the street to eat. As I was talking with the hostess, a head popped up from behind a divider and I wound up eating dinner with 2 hikers I’d last seen at Pietown! They had continued to Chama, NM, flipped and hiked Lander to Encampment, WY, then flipped to Chief Mountain in Glacier NP and hiked SOBO. I was hoping this would happen, that I’d get to see hikers I met in New Mexico!!

3 thoughts on “MacDonald Pass to Anaconda

  1. I love reading about your adventures! You definitely passed on the travel bug. I’m proud to announce that I’ve walked no less than a half marathon every day since I’ve landed in this beautiful, windy, city. Scoping out sections of the trail you wanna hike here and I would love to do the Nelson Lakes section with you, maybe more? Just make sure you call it tramping when you get here. “Hiking” is met with brief, quizzical looks.


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