With my sister, my bestie and my daughter, respectively.
A short update on my hiking life. Flew from Albuquerque to Seattle, dropped my pack with my daughter Sarah. Annie and I continued to Edinburgh via Calgary and London. We had booked a self-guided Rail and B&B tour with Mac’s Adventures. The train and bus tickets, suggested day hikes and B&B stays they set up were mostly great for the short time we were in the U.K. Apparently it was oddly sunny there most of the 10 days. I forgot to remember how far north Scotland is, way more daylight than New Mexico, it felt like being home in the summer. Friendly, clean, lovely, what a beautiful place.
I decided to return home to Alaska for 3 weeks while waiting for more snow to melt in Montana. There have been moose and bear (I don’t know about squirrel) encounters with humans all spring, so I sighed and added the bear spray to the rain gear and ventured out a few times. Tarcey had a 3-day weekend so we took her dog and backpacked along Resurrection Bay to Caine’s Head and the WWII relics of Fort McGilvray. There were tons of people but plenty of campsites. This is a great family hike, incredibly, mind bogglingly beautiful as you walk along the beach at low tide and through lush moderate rainforest. You can day hike, kayak, take a scheduled water taxi, or overnight at a pick your own distance pace.
Then off to the Lower 48 to visit family and friends in the Pacific Northwest with Dan while making our way back to the CDT where he picked me off the trail last August.
Sarah learned to backpack as a teen in Alaska. Together we’ve twice hiked the Chilkoot Trail from Skagway to Yukon Territory and the Crow Pass Crossing from Girdwood to Eagle River amongst other adventures. But she lives in Seattle now. She went to her grandparents 50th wedding anniversary as a child in Stehekin and had great memories of the area. So we met in Chelan and Dan drove us to Rainy Pass so we could hike to Stehekin on the PCT, just 1 night out, but no other hikers and the trail’s few early uncleared blowdowns were a small price to pay for the North Cascades National Park. Then we got to spend 2 additional nights in Stehekin with Dan before taking the ferry back to the cars.
So far not hiking related (hmm, Te Araroa anyone??) but our youngest, Chris, is moving to Wellington, New Zealand to study geology. He’ll get a 4 year degree in 3 because they don’t add a bunch of extra crap to the curriculum. He drove over from Bellingham to meet us in the Spokane area and will store his remaining stuff in his self customized home, the 2001 red Suburban he calls Clifford. We’re putting him on a plane this morning. I have enough Hawaiian Air miles for a ticket to visit!
I dinged around and left about 10. There were a bunch of hungover hiker guys, and a few more nursing foot injuries and wanting another day to rest. The miles were all road walk so it went fast. About 16 miles out is TLC Ranch that has water and possible food and camping for hikers. Several people intended to stay there or at least stop. When I walked in the yard, there was nobody around, just some RVs and a 2 story tall metal building that was maybe used as a house? I wandered a bit, then found the hose and got 2 liters to camp with since the next water source (cow tank) was only 7 miles away.
The music at the neighbors’ last night was a treat. Jennifer, and Rick(?) played guitar and sang. Judging by their strong Arkansas and Oklahoma accents and cowboy get-ups, I’d anticipated fingernails-on-chalkboard country music, but he sang the most beautiful covers of Talking Heads, Jimmy Buffet, and Nirvana I’ve ever heard. These 2 people moved out to this tiny town to escape addiction and death. I think they love recruiting new people (hikers) to their mobile home and sharing, just sharing, their acoustic music and unique voices. They fed us pizza and beer and true confessions. Art.
I camped at 20 miles, blissfully alone after holding my temper and tongue at Toaster House, hidden from the road and POSTED signs. My feet, rested yesterday from road walking, hurt again from slapping on hard baked dirt.
5/3 22.5 miles
More road. Listened to audiobooks. Austin from San Antonio, cyclist I met at Toaster House, came up behind me and chatted for a bit, asking if I’d like some snacks. He’s getting into Grants today–what a difference mileage range riding gives you from hiking.
I kept thinking about this amazing wildlife encounter 2 guys had back at Snow Lake. I listened to their story several times between Davila Ranch and Toaster House and it still blows my mind. They saw 3 elk running flat out at them as they hiked the road with 3 wolves just behind them. The elk ran into the water while the wolves pulled up short at the edge of the lake and then the guys saw more wolves above on the ridge line. Cool! And then the guys hiked on.
I walked by 2 places I’d camped with the Ravens in 2017. They’re on the AT this year and I’m following their adventures.
Probably not supposed to camp where I camped, stealthily, near La Ventana Arch. It gets weird on the highway, I think I’m on public land, National Forest, but there’s barbed wire fence just outside the right-of-way that’s hard to get over or under, so when I came to the turnout for the Arch, I dashed uphill out of sight. Just a few cars went by on the highway during the night and I was comfortable. Hiking is kind of weird sometimes, not what you’d expect of a “wilderness experience.” Hah! I camped on sand and left no trace.
5/4 19.3 miles
Zuni-Acoma trailhead to Bonita-Zuni alternate. What a mixed day! Paved highway to El Malpais (the Badlands). Two years ago, the Ravens and I stayed on the official CDT (Highway 117) all the way to Grants. This time I wanted to walk the 7 mile Zuni- Acoma trail through decaying lava fields. I’ve lived on the Big Island of Hawaii and know the beauty and torture of new pahoehoe and a’a’ and have walked through the obsidian fields on the Oregon PCT. There’s not really a trail, you follow a route cairn to cairn. Hard work for ankles but a unique experience I’ve looked forward to.
Then on to a real trail for a mile before crossing another paved highway onto a well graded gravel road grinding every so gently uphill another 9 miles. Densely distributed beer cans and bottles and mini liquor bottles took the place of wildflowers for color. A small truck went slowly past me, two Anglo women with a toddler standing between them hanging into the dashboard. Later a smatter of shotgun fire from a side road. Saturday fun I guess.
When I finally quit going up, I found a flat spot away from the road and pitched my tent. No more traffic except the steady, stealthy sound of a small car heading south in the dark at 2:30 am. Wonder what that was about.
Heading to town, to Grants, and as usual I just want to be there. Dirt road to gravel where for some weird reason all the SUVs and minivans slowed down so I wouldn’t have to inhale their dust plumes and not one truck did. Despite the dust and discourtesy, the Zuni Canyon was beautiful when I looked up from all the empty booze containers. As I got into Grants I turned on to old Route 66, like Cuba, NM, buildings mostly abandoned, for sale, deteriorating. Fascinating, I like it. I’ll stay a night or two in Grants, then Greyhound to Albuquerque, fly to Seattle, meet my sister, then fly to Edinburgh. Yay, Scotland for a couple weeks!
4/24 13.4 miles Tim Davis of Gila CDT Shuttle Service gave me a ride to the Gila Cliff Dwellings where I hiked up Little Bear Canyon, the same route I took last year. The ride took about 90 minutes and I learned a bunch about biking in NM and I heard about a hiker who left Silver City a few days earlier only to wander around for 3 days trying to figure which trail to go on, before somebody went up and fetched him back to Silver City. To be fair there are multiple options–the Gila River alternate, Walnut Creek Road alternate, the Columbus Gila route and the official CDT kind of makes a couple of wide loops intersecting with the assorted alts. But the guy had the same map app, Guthook’s, the rest of us carry and the GPS function pinpoints your location in relation to all these trails and roads. A mystery but apparently the guy regrouped and hiked out successfully.
I counted 67 (or so) river crossings, the footing is bad and I’m exhausted but I camped in the Meadows on the same sand dune using the same rocks as last year, perfect. I saw 3 people today going downstream, the opposite of me. One old guy was going to have a very tough time making it back to his truck tonight but when I asked if he would be OK, he said he had a flashlight and rain gear, food. That was at 4 pm and he wanted to know how far back to Little Bear Canyon. I told him I’d been walking upstream from there 4 hours (and then it’s another 4 miles up and over to his truck). Hope he will be OK, I could have turned around and gone with him.
4/25 14.8 miles
Last night a wild turkey nearby gobbled me a lullaby, then a wake-up song this morning. A few miles into today’s hike, I saw a turkey–huge, grayish with white tail feathers–scuttling into a ravine. Also frogs, tadpoles, lizards and numerous pairs of ducks with orange feet flapping below them as the fly away from me, low to the water.
Another slow, hard work today, gorgeous though. Somebody could start a new exercise video trend, walking up a river with a pack is a whole body workout pushing against the current. And since you just wear your socks and trail runners, your feet are scoured clean and stink free.
I camped at 6:15 because I was tired. 15″ after my tent was pitched, it rained and I laughed, I had no idea those clouds were for real this time. I love being cozy in my tent with rain pounding on it.
4/26 23 miles
From the Gila River and no water worries to desert. I’d considered climbing out yesterday afternoon to the High Route just because slogging through the river is slow and physically taxing but when I saw the scramble up and calculated I’d have to carry 3 liters of water weight, I kept to the river.
First thing this morning I startled a herd of sproingers, deer? I think elk and antelope run and deer bound. No babies yet.
Today I went from river to Snow Lake where there’s a camp ground and mobs of men and boys in camo on 4 wheelers or ATVs (4 people or 2 people and 3 hound dogs fit in one) out for the spring turkey hunt. I kind of relished telling them about my turkey encounters, knowing they would not actually walk down the river to shoot them. The hunters seemed kind of surprised at all the hikers, a couple had camped near them last night and they’d seen a woman “all by herself with a dog.” That explains the footprints/tracks I’d been seeing off and on!
I followed a bunch of dirt roads, then bushwhacked up a dry creek bed to another trickle of a creek where I picked up a bunch of water for a dry stretch lasting into tomorrow. Then climbed out of the drainage onto a flattish, windy, barren little mesa. I hate this place, I hated it 2 years ago too but this time I have plenty of water and there are no forest fires burning.
Descending slightly to gravel road and trees, I kept going. More hunters on ATVs, but not enough traffic to be annoying. I pitched my tent finally in desperation and in view of the road behind a big bushy thing to break the wind, on a rocky but flat place.
4/27 21.3 miles
I thought the camp spot would be awful but when the wind died at dark, it was dead silent and the rocks were padded by my rain gear. A very restful night.
In the morning I met a couple packing their gear. Not interested in me at all, OK. A zillion cars and trucks working on clearing and hauling out wood created from last year’s fires. Then trail. Lots of up and I felt out of shape and slow until I actually thought to look at the contours of my map and realized I was at 9000′! A bit later Not Guilty (love that trail name!!) caught up and passed me after trying to convince me to take an alt for which I was the only one with a map. Ha ha, not happening at 4:30 in the afternoon when I can’t even think anymore.
I continued uphill with a ton of water until I found a lovely flat spot with a view forever and no dead trees to fall on me. That’s been quite the challenge this year, so many dead trees, burned trees, and dying trees.
4/28 18.3 miles
Another herd of sproingers this morning! I hiked grumpy, falling once and scraping my knee. That makes me feel like a kid, I always had scabs on knees or elbows, and in sixth grade I stayed home from school for a day because all four were bloody and oozing. Crap.
We keep track of water sources through the app, which is updated by hiker comments. The next source, Aragon Well, has weird outdated comments, my app must not have updated properly last time I had WiFi, so I was a bit anxious. If no water, I promised myself to try and hitch to Reserve a long way aways on a not too traveled highway. So when I got to Aragon and the water was perfect running well water into a cow tank, I suddenly was blissfully happy again.
I crossed Highway 12 and found a campsite hidden from the dirt road. I had met more nice turkey hunters and a group of 4 hikers passed me, including the couple from yesterday and 2 guys who offered me a hit on their pipe. I have a feeling Toaster House in Pie Town is going to be crowded.
4/29 20.7 miles (7:15-4:00)
Easy day. Met a couple going SOBO who told me about new trail angel operation Davila Ranch 14 miles before Pie Town. They told me it had a washer and dryer and that Toaster House’s were broken so take advantage.
It was all dirt road today. I listened to an audiobook, Crazy Rich Asians, not my favorite but it distracted me from the road plodding foot pain.
About 2 miles from the ranch, an old cowboy in a white truck raised his beer to me and stopped to offer me a Keystone Lite. I pet his big goofy dog instead, she licked my face. I hope she doesn’t get sick. There were a ton of hikers at Davila Ranch–the couple, the 2 weed smoking guys, Pompom, Heather, the Ambassador (the very same guy who wandered around 3 days lost out of Silver City) and owner Banana Man. He’s drilled a 600′ well, put up a fancy shed with a toilet, shower, electric cookers, 2 refrigerators, washer and dryer, fire pit and covered area. He’s stocked his very own ranch grown beef, frozen veggies, eggs, bacon, soda and beer. It was windy and cold and I didn’t want to cowboy camp in the shed with a bunch of others so I pitched my tent behind a bush. So awesome to talk with hikers, clean up, eat and relax knowing it was only 14 miles to the next stop. The 3 days lost situation wasn’t any more clear to me after talking with the Ambassador though. Oh well. He cooked some beef for me.
4/30 14 miles
Knowing there are few beds and lots of hikers, I hiked the road quickly the next day to Toaster House, 7:30-12:04! I walked in to a full house, only 1 hiker had left that morning, the rest were taking zeroes. The Ambassador had hitched in and got the only bed but then he gave it to me as he had arranged a ride to Grants a bit later in the afternoon. Score! I feel a little guilty since it’s a double so I offered to share with Heather when she arrived. But she decided to sleep on a tiny couch. As the day went on, the crew from Davila Ranch rolled in followed by a bunch more. It is really different than 2017, too many people, the washer is broken so we can’t wash towels and sheets. Too many people.
I enjoyed some of the hikers a lot: Dogma and her dog Toolik, Dustin and dad Greg, Dan and Nick who I first met out of Lordsburg, Heather, Pompom, Sea Legs, Twiggsy. A comfortable, peaceful night.
5/1 0 miles
Took a zero since I had the best room and refigured how long I need to get to Grants, 4 nights, not 5 for my route choices. I ate pie, of course, had good conversations, and then another wave came in, followed by cases of beer, and obnoxious macho posturing until 2 am. Reminds me of the party wave on the PCT, the inconsiderate jerks. Earplugs helped. Time to hike out and camp by myself!
With just around 500 miles left of the trail to hike in Montana, I’m back in New Mexico getting my trail legs while waiting for snow to melt up north. So I’m going to pick and choose what I want to do. No thru-hiker me!
Not bad for the first stretch–18.6, 19.1, 21.1 mile days with just a handful more today to the highway where I hitched a ride the 11 miles to town with another hiker who wanted to save her legs for trail not pavement. It is less hot with more water sources available than when the Ravens and I hiked this in 2017.
After my last post in August 2018, as planned, I went to Yosemite NP for an Enduring Volunteers work week in Tuolumne Meadows. Not only was it a great week with great people, but the Ravens hiked in and camped with us for a couple of days. When the work was done I hiked south on the JMT, just because. I love those mountains and that trail, so it was my sixth time through. Planning on something similar this August. Puff Puff has got my hopes up that she may find time from all her ocean rowing craziness to fly from the UK and hike it with me, Jim, Tom and??? I’ve got permits to head NOBO out of Horseshoe Meadows.
Although tired and sore, my “training” regimen over the winter–snowboarding 2-3 times a week, running every other day that it’s above 0*F–has worked well enough I guess. I’ve consciously carried way more water than I want to, and hydrating has kept me from the awful overheating and dizzy spells I got last year out of Grants, NM. If I’m not pounding water at night when I set up camp, that’s a sign that all is well.
Some of my gear is near the end of its useful life–the tent is on it’s second zipper and has numerous patches, the sleeping pad (Big Agnes AXL insulated–I brought it because it’s cushy and was OK in warm weather) is now in a hiker box with a note. After 3 nights sleeping cold since the pad conducted ground cold really well, I’ve replaced it with a NeoAir XLite Women’s that will be warmer for this cold sleeper. My beloved Jetboil Sol Ti has to be lit with a match since the little sparker thingie just can’t be fixed anymore. Note to self: buy more matches or a lighter. And I’m really happy with the new fanny pack, or bum bag as Puff Puff would call it, that holds the days food and other necessities. All the cool kids carry them.
I’ve met hikers too! Chances are slim that I’ll see them much since I’m not attempting a thru, but that doesn’t take away the joy of community. Where in the World is CARMEN San Diego (look for her on YouTube), Rain Dance (originally from Iran), Sea Legs (an Observer who’s been in Alaska the last 5 years), Nick and Dan who partnered up on Day 1 at Crazy Cook, and Heather who hitched into town with me. I tell them my plan this year and try not to spoil the trail ahead for them since I’ve done it before, but I can’t help but say, over and over, how incredible and varied and beautiful and wild and full of history New Mexico is.
Man, I’ve had a lot of vacations from the trail this year. The trip to Spokane and the wedding was fantastic. Not just a couple, but a whole family was married in a sweet, low-key ceremony and celebration. Megan and Jaime, son Tanner and daughter Emmarie, wonderful people. And Megan, cousin or “cuz” to my Glen, Sarah and Chris, was blown away that all three travelled to be a part of it. Yup, life is about people we care about.
Dan drove me back to Benchmark and I headed out for the last stretch of CDT I’m going to do this year. Within 1/2 hour, my feet were wet and cold and would stay that way until the third and final day. No bridges and cold crossings. By 10 am, a cold rain started and didn’t let up for 12 hours. I did see a bunch of wildlife though, a young bull moose and a bigger cow, probably his mom; deer; big, brown rabbits and baby bunnies too; along with the usual plethora of manic squirrels. When I got cold enough that my hands couldn’t work well enough to work the bear spray if necessary, I pitched my tent and crawled in after only 17 miles at 3 pm.
Fortunately, the next day was merely ugly, cloudy and gray. I trudged along the trail, routed not on the Divide, but in a series of creek valleys, green and sodden. I needed to make up the miles I hadn’t done the day before because of my fear of hypothermia. At the end of the day there were two climbs, steep, into clouds. I finally camped near an off- trail spring and woke with ice coating my tent inside and out.
The third day, I’d left just 18 miles to Highway 200, but the trail profile showed 10 separate climbs so it was slow, grumpy cat going. I saw a bunch of NOBOs, including Lost Larry (“That doesn’t sound good,” I said when he introduced himself.) the head netted hiker who I’d met as he backtracked to Dubois because of the deep stream crossing that sent him swimming. Turns out, he’d found another way around that section and missed 2 bad crossings. Well done!
Near dinner time, I spotted Dan’s van below me in a turnout. Yay, no hitching! We camped nearby in a quiet campground and then headed west. The next two days involved renting a U Haul, picking up some old family furniture (a Hoosier, anybody remember those?), dropping off both vans, and flying out of SeaTac, me to Mammoth, CA and Dan home to AK.
I’ve left about 500 miles of the CDT unhiked, although I rehiked a bunch thus year. I’m off for a volunteer work week in Yosemite up in Tuolumne Meadows. I did this last year too, got to have priorities. Then I’m going to hike south on the PCT/JMT for a few weeks.
We took a zero in East Glacier, despite the lack of beer. Whistling Swan Cafe has the best stuffed French Toast I’ve ever had, so we had breakfast there again on our hike out of town. I really like this little town, great folks at our motel, the outfitters, the little cafes and so on, although we mostly rested. Interesting photos in the Amtrak Depot showed Blackfeet in full regalia hanging with the tourists in the 30’s, and the making of Clark Gable an honorary member of the Blackfeet Nation. And apparently this was another stop on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. For the first and only time on their journey the Corps killed 2 locals, Blackfeet, sadly.
We hiked out, a short day, to Highway 2 at Marias Pass, where Poppy’s car was waiting for her. A very green tunnel, gloomy, gray, overgrowth kind of day, so I tried to focus on the little things and took pictures of assorted berries. Since we had a car, Natasha asked folks in the parking lot where to get real food. Snow Slip Cafe, west of us, was a friendly, log place with an attached motel. Their tee shirts say, “Slide in, slip out” yuck. But nice people, staff and customers. Seeing as how I’d much rather sleep inside than out (I know, I know, why do I spend so much time hiking then?) we got a room.
I really hated heading out SOBO on my own the next morning—out of the National Park, without Poppy and into forest. This trail has been so much solo and I have accepted that I really would rather hike with friends. Now that I’m going the wrong direction and am well behind any other SOBO hikers, I hope to at least cross paths with hikers I know heading NOBO.
I took a short cut, or “alternate” that cuts out a PUD and 4 miles, the NOBOs I saw today did it, and the next one, the Spotted Bear Pass alternate. It was not too exciting of a day, but better than yesterday. Burn areas are all cleared of deadfall and there are views.
I saw the super tall German who I gave a ride to near Dubois. He said he’d just hiked a 47 and a 45, was out of food and had only eaten 1200 calories and 700 calories those 2 days. Holy shit. I told him there was a Lodge just a short way down the highway he’d reach. Then I saw Two Step and Split, the couple I met last year just after the Eclipse! So cool.
Not so cool, I took a full fall to knees and head. No big damage, bruises and knee scabs.
More green tunnel
The second day without Poppy was easy walking, flat, through burn areas of several vintages, including last year’s. Trail crews have done an impressive job cutting out all the blowdown and deadfall. I camped by myself near the Strawberry Guard Station after seeing 12 NOBOs, 2 horseriders, 4 horses and 1 very fit Saint Bernard.
Day 3 was weird. I didn’t sleep well last night and was almost sleepwalking, somewhat in a dream state. Hopefully I don’t have dementia or a concussion from the fall 2 days ago. Managed over 20 miles, even after stopping to dry out my wet tent and sleeping bag.
Day 4 the waking dream state was gone, thank goodness. The trail this morning was all uphill in the green tunnel, like being on the treadmill set to 2% with an unchanging view. Not Embrace the Brutality but Embrace the Boredom. About 3 pm I was passed by Legend, nice guy. He is on quite a journey, since April he has hiked the PCT NOBO, then the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) east to the CDT which is now on SOBO. A hiker celebrity! Too quick for me to get his photo.
I made it off the Spotted Bear onto the CDT and saw lots of horses going to “The Wall” a beautiful cliff formation. I camped near a creek and about 8 pm, NOBO Flower-Man (“Flower Man,” he always says, turning slightly to show the bouquet of fake flowers stuck in his pack’s back pocket) stopped to chat. I met him near Togwotee Pass in Wyoming.
Last day before Benchmark
August 16 I walked into Benchmark TH where Dan was camped. I grabbed a beer and we headed down the 30 mile gravel road to Augusta. And gave a hiker a ride and a beer too, good deed opportunity. We’ve got a wedding to go to! Megan and Jaime, see you in Deer Park, WA! I’ll see all 3 of my kids, Glen flying down from AK, Sarah from Seattle and Chris, on crutches, from Bellingham. At this point I intend to come back to the trail at Benchmark after the wedding for the 58 miles to Hwy 200 (near Lincoln), then drive all the way to Seattle with Dan where I will fly to Yosemite for a week of volunteering and then some southbound hiking on the PCT.
Dan and I drove Skeeter to Missoula and stayed a couple nights so the E350 Ford van ’97 vintage could get a checkup at the mechanic’s. Verdict: healthy. Then we spent the next week camping, fishing, eating and visiting historic stuff. It was a very relaxing vacation from the trail. Dan’s birthday was in Salmon, Idaho, we found some underutilized campgrounds and secret fishing holes.
I got dropped off back in Missoula where Natasha met me August 2. We drove through Glacier NP the next day to St Mary’s Ranger Station to get our backcountry permits organized. Hoping to start 8/4, we needed to wait till 8/5 to get the campsites we wanted. It’s weird to me that just outside the Park are bunches of motels and restaurants, where it was very easy to find a couple of different affordable places to stay. Saturday we day hiked to Grinnell Glacier, a very popular destination for day hikers since it’s only about 11 miles round trip, the tread is good, and the views are unique. Some of the oldest fossils on the planet are here, stromatolites.
Natasha’s friend and car shuffler, Brian, took us to the Canada/US border and we started hiking SOBO. Our first day was just under 20 miles to Poia Lake, a crowded campground with 4 sites and the most disgusting pit toilet ever. You have to hang your food bags in the cooking area before setting up your tent in the tiny space allotted. I hope the next 3 nights will be better assigned, permitted, regulated, and designated spots. The hike in was great though, the best walking surface of the whole CDT, and included suspension bridges rather than wet foot fords and actual trail crews cutting away brush and blowdown away from the trail.
Monday was a big day, 23.9 miles according to our permit paperwork and we were stoked to get to Reynolds Creek camp to find dispersed sites and an open air pit toilet. Oh the simple joys of the hiking life. Along the way we saw a huge bull moose, the darkest one I’ve ever seen with full chocolate velvet on his rack. Since we’d stopped to make dinner after descending beautiful Piegan Pass, and it doesn’t get dark till 9:30, we had time to relax before passing out.
Our third day was a short recovery day of less than 16 miles but it was really hot and exposed, running through an old burn area, but the camp at Red Eagle Lake was great. I didn’t get in the muddy lake but Natasha waded out a ways with the ducks. I nearly made her gag though when I cooked my special dinner of Heather’s Choice Smoked Sockeye Chowder from my Anchorage hometown. I felt sluggish all day despite the short miles but the fish helped!
When we discussed and strategized getting our campsite permits, Natasha described an optional route that didn’t add miles but did take us on a traverse that she’d absolutely loved a few years before. So off we went with a not-too-bad 8 mile ascent to Triple Divide Pass. I saw moose # 2, not as large and chocolatey as moose #1 on the north side of Piegan, but handsome nonetheless. It took me longer than it should to get to the top and the marmot family at the top couldn’t believe we didn’t want their help lightening our packs of snacks. Dirty buggers. It looked to be a mama and 2 kids, Hoary Marmots. Descending the Pass, who’s coming up but Private Squares from PCT 2015! What a coincidence that Jackrabbit, who I camped with in Yellowstone, told me the story of how he gave her the trail name. She works at East Glacier Lodge now, we hope to stop in and see her.
Down for a few hours, then more uphill, steep, to Pitimakin Pass at 5 pm with 7 miles to camp after one last pass, Dawson. As promised, it was worth the effort and quite an easy traverse through rock formations I hadn’t seen in Glacier. Too bad about the smoky views. A long, perilous descent to No Name Lake where I stumbled in exhausted and starving after 14 hours. Of course, after setting up my tent, and going back to the eating/hanging area, life was good. We did it! 3 passes in a single day and my longest day on the CDT.
We beat feet to get to East Glacier our fifth day. Beer! Milkshakes! But oh no, there’s an alcohol ban during pow wow season. I was grumpy, super grumpy when I brought my can of beer to the counter and told I couldn’t buy it. I sulked in the porch until a hiker there turned to us and pulled out two cans of IPA and gave them to us. Magic! Thank you Hooks!
After breakfast I hiked out of Old Faithful with the tourists past amazing thermic areas and up back into scrub forest on old logging road alignments. I’ve never been to Yellowstone and was quite glad to have spent the night here, watching Old Faithful, and chatting with 2 women on a long tour at dinner last night. I like sitting at the bar when I’m solo and found a good spot next to these women about my age. The hotel staff and servers have a tough job with the crowds of day trippers but they were friendly and kind to me, I felt comfortable being here. Yesterday I charged my Anker, washed my clothes, picked up my box from the crabby guy at the post office, had a beer and burger, watched Old Faithful, talked to Dan about celebrating his #70 birthday and didn’t have to hike backwards or forwards to my permitted campsite. WIN!
The permitted campsite 10 miles out was next to a stagnant brown lake. I just needed to go a few more miles to get out of Yellowstone and it’s camping restrictions so I got enough water to last till the next day and kept going until I was out of the Park for a total of 20 miles. Between 8 and 9 pm at least a dozen hikers went by, the most I’ve seen in a single day on the CDT. I’m not sure how so many hikers could vortex in Old Faithful. Is there some secret stealth campsite hikers slip to when nobody’s watching?
I heard from my Yosemite friends Noreen and Mark, in the area with their camper, fishing gear and black lab Walker. We are going to meet tomorrow when I hit the highway at Mack’s Inn, about 18 miles away. I met Noreen years ago when I started volunteering with a group in Yosemite for a week every year. That led to a friendship and me helping organize a backcountry work week in Yosemite for a few years, and to volunteering when Mark led trips to the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite. My friend Tarcey and I stayed at their house in Foresta in 2013 when I hiked the John Muir Trail for the first time and they welcomed us to their wonderful Clouds Rest Cabin when we held my Dad’s memorial gathering and scattering in Yosemite on his birthday in November 2015.
An easy uneventful hike down abandoned roads to USFS gravel roads to a paved road to the highway. I saw 2 hikers in chairs on the lawn outside a restaurant, joined them and waited for my friends.
They bought me beer, dinner and a shower. They shared Walker, who greeted me the following morning with a wagging tail and dog slobber, the sweet boy. It was just so good to spend time with people I love.
The next day they gave me a cheater ride up the dirt road to where the trail began. A tough day of hiking even with the late start. A bunch of side hilling bushwhacking where I met Silver Sam pictured below. Back on tread, I picked up enough water to hike 19 miles (into the following day) and camped out of sight near an ATV road.
The second day was a pretty nice route mostly on top of the ridges. The Guthook track was off the GPS, but on another line. The views were great. Picked up water after hauling it most of the day and made 21 miles just past Ching Lake.
So as Triple Crowner Nacho told me the winter of 2015 before my first PCT, there’s good days and bad days. 7/23 was bad. Again, there was no trail and the GPS was off. Slow, slow bushwhack. Tons of Steep Pointless Ups and Downs, SPUDs. Get it? I’m in Idaho. Steep up hurts my right Achilles and hamstring. Steep downs burn my quads. A long day and I only made 17.
The next day though it was an easy 12 to Highway 15 where I waited 4 hours for my scheduled pick up by Mike from Lima, MT. And I crossed trail for the first time with a pair of SOBO thru hikers. I hung out in the cool of the underpass and in the heat of the weeds next to the railroad tracks. How awful it must have been to be a hobo back in the day. At the hotel, Mike said that next to my room was a single injured hiker woman. I left my door open and sure enough, Skeeter walked by and we got to talking. Dan’s due to arrive and with no set plans I think we can give her a ride up the trail or to a town of her choosing. Dan is turning 70 in a few days. That’s kind of a big number so we’re going to celebrate somewhere in Montana or Idaho. Logistics issues again, so I’m going to take a few days vacation and go car camping with Dan until Poppy and I meet to bounce north to the Canadian border. We’re going to hike the CDT south until she has to go back to work. I will probably keep heading south for awhile after that. This not thru hiking stuff is rough.
Jackson to Togwotee to Dubois to Togwotee to Yellowstone
After 2 nights in the Jackson Hole area waiting for my Zpacks tent, and not getting it, I hitched towards Togwotee Pass on 287 between Jackson and Dubois after getting a ride to the Moran junction from my German roommate at the hostel I wound up at trying to save money. After 2 hours and 100’s of tourists, I was getting discouraged. When a group of 4 cyclists came by, I jokingly put out my thumb and they stopped. I whined to them a bit and then they were helping. One guy unzipped his jersey to show off his chest to passing traffic (2 young women with no free board stopped), another edged his bike into the road and suddenly all 4 cyclists were waving to cars and pointing to me with my backpack. Within minutes, I got a ride from a climbing couple on their way from California to Lander, Wyoming. The cycling woman of the crew of 4 said goodbye to my thank you and quite sincerely told me, “Remember, think positive!” Good advice.
I got to the Pass and walked in past Brooks Lake under grey skies and thunder rumbles. About 3:30 there was a brief but intense rain, filling the trail ruts with water and slickery mud. The mosquitoes and flies were swarming. Since I jumped ahead from Colorado, it’s kind of a surprise how buggy it is in Wyoming, all the snowfall finally melting I guess, and flowers everywhere! And now I’m supposedly in grizzly country so I found a campsite away from water and with my back to a wall of downed trees and crunchy sticks. And then the zipper on the backup tent I’ve been using while waiting for my primary tent, failed. Ever try to sleep in a headnet? I lay there with the whine of the little bloodsuckers and 10 more nights ahead of me before civilization big enough to find a new tent.
So the next morning I backtracked to the highway crossing I’d started from the day before. Sigh. I waited about 45″ and car #57 gave me a ride to Dubois. My options were (1) buy a tent from the outfitter there, (2) order and express ship a tent, or (3) determine if my repaired tent had made it yet to Jackson and figure out how to get there. FYI, one of the many reasons I like Dubois is that St Thomas Church has a summer mission to serve hikers and bikers with a free place to stay. Very cool.
No tent at the outfitters that weighed less than 12 pounds. I could order and wait 3 days. Behind the third door? Bingo, my tent at last made it to the hotel in Jackson where Zpacks said it would be days ago. Now how to get there, now 75 miles away. Google, google, U-Haul has rental vans in Dubois at Bull’s Mechanics Shop! I reserved what they said they had available, a 15′ moving van.
When I got to Bulls the next morning and said why I needed to get to Jackson, they said they’d just got back a rental car, a Ford Focus (or in my Dad’s parlance a F*ing Ford Focus, “Triple F” in my stepmom’s kinder, gentler terminology). Woohoo! I gave a hiker a ride to the Pass, continued to Jackson, got my tent, drive back to Dubois and turned in the Triple F by 4 pm, $80 well spent.
I tossed my old tent, bought 100% Deet and bug repellent leggings and walked out of town to try a hitch the next morning. Glenn Mason, 81, gave me a ride all the way in to Brooks Lake. “I’m gonna teach you something,” he announced a few minutes into the drive. I was hoping for more history of the area. “See those 2 yellow lines?” In the center of the highway. “That means you can’t pass.” Uh oh. “Now I’m going to show you something,” as he drove to the right on the rumble strip. “That means you’re driving off the road.” Then he told me about rolling his former vehicle several months ago. Fortunately we made it to the trail and I contributed rather more money to his car payment than I’d anticipated. It was worth it, I got a much earlier start on my day than the last time I’d hiked out of here, thanks Glenn!
There was a river crossing about 15 miles in that I was warned about, so I was anxious to get past it. For sure it was a bit challenging, thigh deep with quite a strong current that had knocked several hikers over, but I crossed carefully. Several miles later I camped on a bluff with a view and a breeze that kept the bugs at bay. Pure contentment and quiet.
The next day was similar: warm, full of glorious wildflowers, not so glorious bugs, beautiful views and constant water crossings and wet feet. I found another breezy, viewy campsite.
Day 3 I made it to my first designated, permitted campsite in Yellowstone. Yuck. Hung my food bag from the provided cross bar and wondered if I’d ever see another hiker. I’d see not one human since Brooks Lake 3 days ago. And just weird to have to camp so early, 4 pm.
Yellowstone backcountry so far was unremarkable, the trail runs mostly on a historic logging road hemmed in by scrub trees, second growth, so there are few views and lots of bugs. It’s warm so I don’t mind the marshy meadows and stream crossings that keep my feet wet. Day 4 Jackrabbit(?) and Natural caught up to me, they have decided to camp once in the Park (permit for Heart Lake) then walk the 28 to Old Faithful Village, then the 15 or so out of Park boundaries. It was fun to camp with someone. As we sat cooking dinner, a thunderstorm burst with rain and hail and we scooted under a tree. Half an hour later, the sun burst out and as I lay in my tent escaping the bugs, they were swimming and whooping it up, making me laugh. They were gone by the time I got up at 5:45 am.
My designated campsite that night was disgusting, another dark, damp hole next to a creek hidden by thick, tall bushes where bears lurk. It smelled like pee, whether from the uncovered pit toilet or bear pee, I don’t know. I hiked on to another official campsite, pitching my tent just as another short thunderstorm broke to hatch millions and millions of buzzing baby mosquitoes.
Day 6 and I was at my campsite by 11:30 am, the first one I actually like. It’s open and breezy right next to a thermic area with wafts of sulfur and steam drifting about. Just a few miles from Old Faithful Village, I can walk in, get my box, shower, launder, eat and walk back out. There is no campground in or near Old Faithful Village, a tough situation for hikers. My final permitted, designated site is north of the Village about 10 miles. Or I can camp here all day long, go in in the morning, hike out later in the day. I decide I’d go crazy hanging out here all day, so I’ll take my chances. It’s a more interesting few miles in Yellowstone than the days before. I meet a CDT SOBO section hiker who got encephalitis last year on the trail in Colorado, quite a scary tale. I got a cell signal at about 1pm, called Yellowstone reservations and got the last room available of the 3 hotels/lodges. Unbelievable!!
The culture shock got me pretty bad. The Village is absolutely crammed with cars and people walking around in clean shorts and pastel tank tops. Where are all the mosquitoes and flies that have plagued me the last 6 days? Run off by concrete and fresh scent laundry detergent I guess. My room was lovely, the shower refreshing and once I washed my clothes, I managed to feel I fit in better in this “#1 Destination in the US.” No WIFI anywhere though, outrageous.
We took the free bus to Breckinridge and ate real food and drank real beer, all of us, safety in numbers, filthy, stinky and with our disgusting packs next to us on the outside deck. I Pricelined the most affordable hotel for 3 for 2 nights that I could find, so we took another free bus direct from Breck to Silverthorne. Showers, laundry and comfy, comfy beds.
I must confess that I’m not a big fan of the 4th of July celebrations, especially without fireworks. At home in Alaska, it’s not dark in July but New Year’s is, even if you have to wear all your arctic gear to watch the show. The parade in Petersburg, Alaska is my all time favorite-Viking boats! We got up on the 4th, ate free breakfast and went to REI of course. Then took the bus to Frisco and walked up Main St. Nuthatch and I kept telling BC that it really wasn’t a typical parade: the long gaps between paraders, the lack of marching bands and banners, the disorganization. But we got free hot dogs from a church, free lemonade and free ice cream, that made us all giddy. When the Republican politicians appeared with their obnoxious slogans I excused myself to my friends and turned my back to the parade, a quiet resistance.
To link miles on the CT and CDT, Burning Calves wanted to hike the CDT from Copper Mountain to where the trail crosses the road to Breck, where we got off trail. Nuthatch wanted to do the same but she intended to keep going, back to where we came from days earlier, where the CDT and CT diverged, and on north to keep hiking to Grand Lake. I’ve hiked all of the CDT through here, but on the Silverthorne Alternate which neither wanted to do, and so I was happy to slackpack (day hike) something I hadn’t done before. We got the bus to Copper and Nuthatch started out the trail with lightening threatening. I declined to hike up, so BC and I decided to hike low on the bike path to Frisco (me) and all the way to Silverthorne (BC). We heard thunder and pretty soon got a text from Nuthatch who decided to be safe and not hike up above tree line. She soon caught up to us. It rained, and cyclists thronged the path in both directions. BC continued to Dillon, we took the bus from Frisco and we all met for dinner eventually at the Dillon Dam Brewery.
The weather improved the next day and we all hiked the CDT from Copper to the road to Breck, about 15 miles.
July 7, I said goodbye as BC and Nuthatch hiked past our motel up the Silverthorne Alt to Winter Park and Grand Lake. They intend to hitch back to Copper and then go south to Monarch Pass on the CDT/ CT. We’ll always be the Tres Amigas. One of our little jokes is to stop using the word “stupid” and substitute a more precise description for that word. It’s amazingly hard not to say “stupid” a bunch of times a day. Especially if you’re in range of the latest political news. And now I have to monitor myself. No cheating, eh?
I took a bus to Denver, after another trip to REI to replace the rain pants that soaked through 2 days ago, and got a flight to Jackson Hole where I have a long hitch or Uber back to Togwotee Pass where I left the trail last August. I’ve never been to Jackson so I wanted to see it. Logistics are a hassle, and expensive, when you’re not thru hiking.