Jackson to Lead as in “pencil lead” Leadore, Montana

Bunkhouse Hotel (and Post Office), Jackson, MT
Catwater, Lid, Pot, engineer Zack, owner Rick in front

7/18 19.7 miles

My feet felt great today. Weird. Due to sunny skies? The flat ups? Advil @ 2 pm? Camped at about 9000′ in a flat little meadow near a Snotel installation ( I think) which kind of annoyed the little bunch of deer who came grazing an hour or so later.

7/19 23.8 miles

I had to keep going cause there was a 19 mile waterless stretch. The morning started with a cold wind, then a steep climb to 9500′ but the rest of the day was gentle, walking mostly right on the Divide or through open woods, burn areas of all vintages and on decent tread. Getting water at the last “spring” before the dry stretch was kind of funky, I had to use my titanium coffee mug to squish into the tundra and scoop up moss flavored water. Plus it was a quarter mile off the trail down a dirt track. Had to do it. Towards the end of the day, downhill for once (yay!) I was passed by Toy Story, another 20-something with a beard and a fast pace. As I was navigating on good dirt roads the last mile to the Sacajawea Memorial Campground (and spring), Two Forks was walking out and described how to find the water. “I walk as long as there’s daylight” he told me at 7:30 pm when I’m dying of hunger and just want to pitch my tent and be still for awhile.

So this spring is where William Clark’s Corps of Discovery crew is believed to have stood straddling this tiny little trickle–the source of the mighty Missouri River. I did the same and drank the delicious water. What an incredible expedition, I’m fascinated all over again. “Undaunted Courage” indeed. What we CDT hikers do is nothing, we have maps, a path, roads, information. President Jefferson, what vision, what inspiration, what American imagination. Sacajawea, absolutely critical to the success of Lewis and Clark and company. And here I am seeing what they saw, the vast spread of the folds and ripples of the Continental Divide on both sides as I walk, the Divide! Water running east and west from this ridge, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans so far away as to be nearly figments of imagination, my faith in their existence the only proof.

Got to the spring and met Honey Dew and Cantaloupe, a couple my approximate age, and Toy Story, we all camped here, with picnic tables and a clean outhouse, with toilet paper! Great end to a long day, although it is kind of hard hammering in my tent stakes with a rock into a hard gravel campsite made for giant freestanding family tents, not my little ultralight shelter.

7/20 21.3 miles

Woke up at 6 and everybody was gone! Trying to make the 27 to Leadore? A beautiful day, sunshine, even if hot, makes me very happy. I realized that I don’t think I want to hike the rainy green tunnel of the Appalachian Trail. When I came out into an open field, sagebrush, at 9000′ with the mountains and valleys arrayed as far ahead and far back as I could see, I nearly cried at the beauty. Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery country.

I camped about 5.5 miles from the road and once again satellite texted Dan to call in a pick up time for the next morning to get to town from the little used road ahead. A lovely little pitch in the woods. Reading “Apache Wars” I was startled by a weird shriek screech. Hmm, not a bird, not a cat, not a bear, WTF? Oh well, felt harmless and it was a ways away, so lights out, sleep tight.

7/21 5.5 miles

Walked through gobs of cows this morning. And…screech explained. Some of these cows must be taking voice lessons, because, wow, how else do they learn to make all these horrible bleeds and bellows? I have to talk to them to get them out of my way. Today’s query was, “Don’t make me hug a tree, you’re not a moose. Mooove it!”

Well that was easy. I got to the trailhead at 8:45 for a 10 am pickup. Until he lost it in the Seven Sacred Pools in Hawaii, my Dad used to wear an inherited signet ring from his Dad’s mother’s side of the family, translated to “Always ready, never late.” There you have it. Shortly after I got to the trailhead, 4 more hikers walked in: Everest, Nom, Seeker and____. Sam, who owns the 4-room Leadore Inn, was a fantastic host. Hikers can camp on the lawn, shower, do laundry, pick up resupply boxes and hang out on the porch in the shade recharging devices, drinking beer and talking story. Japanese hiker Totoro is here (finally saw his name written down in the hiker register that Sam keeps), as are Toy Story, Honey Dew and Cantaloupe (from Sitka!!), Joe Dirt, Obama and Morning Glory (or Mobama as they are known together). 4 of us put our filthy clothes in one load and they came out the cleanest, least stinky I’ve ever had in the trail. True the washer took “3 hours” per load, but wow, what a treat! I ate twice at the restaurant, contributed a 12-pack of beer from the convenience store to the porch crew and just sat around really enjoying the camaraderie of Sam and the hiker trash. I went to sleep knowing I’d catch a ride back to the trail with Sam by a modest, but welcome, 8 am.

Assorted hiker trash and Sam (white socks)
Toy Story
Nom from Tasmania

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