CDT thru-hikers typically identify as either NOBO (northbound starting from Mexico) or SOBO (southbound starting from Canada). I’ve decided to call myself a SNOBO, meaning a NOBO turned SOBO due to the snow. Nearly all of the northbound hikers I got to know in New Mexico have now “flipped” up to Canada and are hiking south like us, each walking back to the place from which they left off.
I apologize for the lapse in updates but after hiking through Glacier National Park, the first trail town we reached (East Glacier) did not have great cell service so I had to wait on my update until now. Since I last posted, we’ve hiked another 300 miles, from the Canadian border to near Lincoln, Montana (from which I’m posting this update…thank you Lincoln Public Library!). I’m now about 1100 miles into the hike. Its hard to imagine anything on the trail will possibly top the magical back country in Glacier National Park.
In additional to jaw-dropping scenery, I had very close encounters with a couple of moose, two grizzly bears (one small, one very large), mountain goats, big horn sheep, snowshoe hare and marmots.
After hiking through the park for about a week, we continued south through the roadless Bob Marshall Wilderness, known as “the Bob.” We hiked through the Bob (nearly 200 miles) on a single food carry, meaning we went the entire distance without an intervening resupply of food. Over the course of the past couple of weeks we’ve been gradually rebuilding our hiking stamina since being off trail for a few weeks and are now back to walking 20-25 miles per day (yesterday was 30+).
Confession: I’m falling asleep at the computer as I try to get this update completed. The two weeks since I re-started my hike have been a whirlwind of miles, climbs and heavy packs that have left me exhausted. The next trail town (Helena, Montana) is only a three day walk so my pack will be much lighter when I leave Lincoln the morning of 7/3. I’ll definitely try to reduce the time before my next update. Cheers and sweet dreams! Max.
This post confirms that I’ll be back on trail beginning early the morning of June 15th (the day after tomorrow). Much to my delight, I’m restarting with three other hikers: MAV- my trail family brother from the Appalachian Trail, Cougar- a great hiker going for her triple crown whom you may recall had been temporarily sidelined back in New Mexico with foot issues, and Hammer- a rock solid waterman, surfer and hiking speedster to whom I was introduced by OB back in Cuba, NM. While all of us are technically “solo” hikers, having companions through Grizzly country is welcome by all and we’re antsy to start walking. We converge tomorrow across the Canadian border in Waterton in order to finalize our itinerary with the Glacier back-country office folks. We’ll then walk back across the border into the US the following morning.
My next update will likely be from East Glacier in approximately 7-8 days. Meanwhile, here are some recent photos taken while off the CDT. Cheers! Max
While transferring pictures from phone to computer I came across the following video clips I’ve taken on the trail. Most are less than 30 seconds and I can’t claim they’re particularly interesting- except for the one with the cow and me amiably sharing a trough…that was memorable. View as interested. Max
As you’ve seen in previous posts or possibly the national news, the weather has been a significant factor for northbound CDT hikers thus far in 2019. We had to say goodbye to an incredible NOBO hiker this morning as Impala is heading back home across the Atlantic to put his remaining hike time to use locally there rather than spin more cycles here waiting for the deep snow to clear. He will be missed greatly.
Meanwhile, I’m hiding out from the trail snow back home with Wendy for a week until our daughter Emily’s graduation, after which I’ll head to Glacier National Park (the CDT’s northern terminus) on 6/15, to resume my hike southbound amongst the likes of MAV, Cougar and Hammer. I absolutely loved hiking SOBO on the AT and am equally excited by the prospects for the CDT.
Having completed most of the “deserty” sections already (New Mexico, Wyoming’s ‘Great Basin’) much of what remains includes some of the most scenic sections of the trail: Glacier, Yellowstone, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Wind River Range, all of Colorado, etc. I’m really itchin’ to keep the hike in forward motion. Whereas it took me longer (compared to the AT) to find my commitment for the CDT, I’m locked-in now and just want to move down the trail.
That’s all for now. I’ll problem do another post right around the time I head back to the trail. Thanks for your support! Max.
Quick post to confirm that we woke up to 4 inches of accumulation in Cal and Carmela’s yard in Lander and 4 days of steady precipitation forecasted as we move north. It’s simply not the time to hike back into elevation…the Wind River Range is no joke and we’re not out here to put ourselves at unnecessary risk. So, I’m heading home a week early for my planned commitment away from the trail. Impala and I will rent a car this morning and make our way back to Washington. Assuming all goes well, I’ll be back on the trail heading South from Glacier as planned on 6/15 with Mav, my AT trail family brother. Stay tuned and I’ll post again sometime during the interim. Thanks for your support and kind words and my hike will continue soon! Max
Impala and I hiked north from Rawlins, WY the morning of Mothers’ Day, descending into Atlantic City midday Friday fighting strong headwinds the final 12 miles or so. Some tough sledding toward the end but mostly easy, fun terrain…though not that hard to imagine it being much tougher in hotter months.
Walking the Great Basin kept us below 9000 feet and mostly free from snow crossings and precipitation, but the next section northward has us entering the Wind River Range where once again we’ll hike into higher elevation with lots of snowpack. While we’ve been anticipating that, the current forecast is for thunderstorms the next few days in towns and 5-8 inches of new snow in the mountains.
Meanwhile, I have an off-trail commitment in another week or so that will take me home to Eastern Washington and then to New Jersey for a few days. I’m hoping to minimize the time away from the trail as much as possible so as not to lose the physical (and mental/psychological) momentum one acquires incrementally through consistent daily hiking.
That brings us to this morning, the Sunday after mother’s day. I woke up under a heavy pile of warm blankets in the beautiful home of some new friends we met yesterday who live in a former Anglican Church in Lander, Wyoming, which they renovated/converted in the past few years.
Getting to know Carmela and Calvin has already become one of those incredible “we’ll never forget” stories from this hike.
Jumping back to Friday to fill in the details, we camped that evening in Atlantic City after gorging ourselves on burgers for lunch at the Mercantile, a place that’s been around for nearly 150 years. Next door to that is the Miner’s Grubstake, the other food and drink spot in town, where we had supper and where the story really takes off.
Impala and I sat in a window seat in a second dining room while the main room filled up with patrons anticipating live music. Owners Laurel and Dale had made a point of telling me they thought I’d really enjoy the show and before long two young hippies (one on guitar/dobro/harmonica and the other on piano/violin) were playing a selection of lively originals and atypical covers of Neil Young, the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan and other of my favorite music.
I jumped back and forth between our table and the main room, cheering on the players, more loudly with each Dead tune they played. It was an unexpected treat and by the time we hiked back down to our tents we were warm, fed and content. Several horses kept us company, huffing and stomping lightly outside my tent like they didn’t want us to go to sleep.
We woke to a thick coating of ice on our tents and broke camp quickly to head back to the Grubstake for a hot breakfast before setting off for the 36 mile hitchhike along highway 28 to our resupply point in Lander, WY. As we were waiting for our pancakes, a couple in tie-dyes that appeared to be my age sat next to us and we got to chatting. Cal and Carmela- it turned out- were the parents of the lanky guitar player from the previous evening. They had driven up from Lander for the show. They are lifelong Deadheads and we quickly discovered we’ve been to some of the same shows together over the years! Not only did they offer us the ride we were seeking to Lander, they invited us to stay as guests in their home (from where I’m writing this), handed us the keys to one of their cars which we used to do our food resupply and visit a local outdoor shop for some gear items. Then it was back to their home to play with their dogs for a bit before a delicious dinner of smoked ribs, garlic bread, fresh salad and Bananas Foster! We followed that up with a relaxing sit in their hot tub before bed.
We’re staying a second night with them to let the worst of the snow fall before resuming hiking tomorrow (Monday 5/20). They even took us hiking locally this morning and Cal is driving us back to the trail in the morning! Yep, we’ve been getting the royal treatment.
I’ve commented on amazing incidents of trail magic before, but meeting Cal, Carmela, Nick (their son) and Shane and seeing their kindness and generousity has to rank as one of the best and most inspiring occurrences I’ve experienced during any hike. They are truly “trail angels” in all the best ways.
As for the details of miles walking the Great Basin, I’ll let the photos (such as they are) tell the rest of this chapter of the hike, but I need to say that I’ll never see Wyoming the same way again. I absolutely love this state and it’s big spaces and relatively few humans.
Finally, with only a week (or so) before I leave the trail for a week (or so), I’m looking back at some great memories on the CDT thus far. I’m not sure where I’ll be when I post next, but I bet there will be another story! Cheers, Max.
I ended my last entry with the comment: “Unless something goes wrong, my next post should be after I’ve crossed into Colorado…” Rather, I’m writing from Rawlins, Wyoming where my hike resumes tomorrow morning in Wyoming’s Great Basin, another section of the CDT.
After arriving at Ghost Ranch, we learned that the snow conditions in Colorado were simply not ready yet for hiking and won’t be for some time. Rather than suspending the hike or bypassing incredible places like the San Juan mountains, we decided to hike “out of sequence” and have jumped ahead.
Going north to avoid snow sounds counterintuitive, but the section we’ll begin hiking tomorrow is largely at lower elevation and thus has less snow to contend with. My commitment to complete the entire trail this season is unchanged, but I’ll have to settle for doing it in a bit of zig zag fashion.
No other updates to report for now. Will post again in 5-6 days or so. Cheers, Max.
This will be a brief post as its only been a few days since my last and I’m working against a limited time window on the Ghost Ranch library computer.
The walk out of Cuba was a slow, steady climb up to a plateau at about 10,500 feet. We knew to expect snow up there and we found plenty.
We spent the next 4-5 hours post-holing in knee-to-waist deep snow, punctuated by several crossings of snow-melt mini streams of icy slush that went up to the bottoms of my pants pockets. You’d step in and your feet would go numb immediately. I’ve never done a polar plunge but I suspect its similar. Then you step up the other side of the little stream and resume post-holing in deep snow, only now the snow feels warm to your bare, frozen legs. Hammer got some good video of post-holing and the slush crossings, so I’ll try to post that later.
Speaking of that, I’ve hit it off very well with the two hikers I met in Cuba- Hammer (from Virginia) and Impala (a Brit from Yorkshire). They’ve both hiked the AT and Impala has also done the PCT, the Te Araroa trail in New Zealand and others. They’re great hikers and fine companions and I’m glad to have connected with them both.
I should say a few words about Ghost Ranch, beyond the fact that when we rolled in this morning cold, wet and hungry, we sat down to a magnificent breakfast feast. I spent time earlier today going through the history tour of the place, and will visit the museum after I’ve had my shower but its no wonder why it has been such an inspiration to so many as it surrounded by incredible landscapes on every side. We get to check in to the room soon and will also have breakfast here again in the morning before heading out.
Speaking of which, there is a winter storm warning in the surrounding mountains through tonight, with 10-20 inches of possible new snow (at higher elevations). We’re back into the 10,000 foot range again tomorrow so fingers crossed on that snow, but luckily I just got the micro spikes Wendy sent from home so they should come in handy for this next stretch.
Unless something goes wrong, my next post should be after I’ve crossed into Colorado, approximately 5-6 days from tomorrow. Cheers and thanks for reading! Max
Welcome to the world, it’s not all I’d have given you. Just shining pieces of a dream, that almost coulda been… And still might yet come true.(J. Barlow, A. Pessis).
That touchingly somber- but ultimately hopeful- song has been playing often in my mind’s soundtrack during this stretch of days. I’m not sure what sentiment my subconscious is suggesting, but those lines definitely resonate. Perhaps its because I haven’t yet reached the level of passion toward the CDT that I felt from the first mile on the Appalachian Trail.
Having said that, the hike has improved measurably since I’ve had more chance to walk with others. Recent hike companions like OB (Old and Busted), Cougar and Locomotive ignited some new energy and though the three of them are all off trail now or about to leave, I’ve just met a couple more hikers (Impala, Hammer and Not Guilty) with whom I’ll be heading back to the trail tomorrow morning out of Cuba, NM, from which I’m posting this entry at Cuba’s charming public library.
This section featured a climb up Mount Taylor, the tallest peak in New Mexico on the CDT. The summit is over 11,000 feet and while we managed to avoid snow on the way up, we were postholing in knee-to-waist-deep snow for some time on the way down. My understanding is that there is much more in my near future (tomorrow). Another recent brightspot is that the past few days of terrain have been the most beautiful I’ve seen so far.
This area is comprised of picturesque mesas of differing heights, some of which we’ve walked atop for miles at a time, others we’ve climbed up and over, and many others we’ve viewed with awe from close by.
The floor between mesas still looks very desert-like with loads of dust and sand, cactus and very little water, but the rock formations have provided incredibly eye candy throughout.
In addition to meeting several new hiker buddies, we also met another great trail angel yesterday, just before walking in to Cuba.
Toward the end of the day we had just descended from 8000 feet up a mesa, tired, hot and extremely thirsty. As we made our way through grazing cows toward an “iffy” water source, from a vehicle with California plates parked along the dirt track emerged a hippie looking guy asking if we needed a ride.
Turns out it was Cheshire Cat, a fellow hiker there solely to assist other hikers. We turned down the offered ride ride but accepted with greedy hiker drools his oranges, fresh-cut pineapple and water. And as we ate and chatted, he introduced his dog as Stella Blue.
I’ll spare you the esoterica but this marked him as a fellow Deadhead and- needless to say- we got along famously. If this is unfamiliar to you, see this one of my old Dead tour blogs or that one for more insight into one of my life’s lingering obsessions.
Finally, I thought it may be interesting to explain exactly what I carry in my pack. The below photo shows it all.
From right to left: my empty pack in background, blue extra water bottle for emergency, white tyvek groundsheet for tent, grey and yellow sit pad, tent in the green case, sleeping bag, liner and pillow in the blue case, air mattress with white writing on the case, “puffy” down jacket, orange bag containing an extra set of clothes, gloves and rain jacket, red case containing everything else I carry except food (toiletries, extra glasses, first aid kit, fix-it stuff, rain cover for pack cover, toilet paper and shovel, headlamp, extra batteries, etc.) and finally, my aqua blue food bag with (in this example) five days food. The three bottles in back next to the pack are the three liters of drinking water I’ve been carrying (triple what I normally carried on the AT.) And that’s everything.
Ok, my next post will be in a few days from Ghost Ranch, the former home and studio of Georgia O’Keeffe, as well as the subject of some of her paintings. And after that, the last town I’ll hit before Colorado is Chama, NM. Cheers! Max.
Last night (Sunday, 4/28) OB and I walked into Grants, New Mexico in the dark with headlamps, completing my longest day on any trail (32 miles).
Thanks to the town’s shuttle service this morning and the timely visit of beloved AT family Mav and Birdie, me and three other hikers (Cougar, OB and Colorado Matt) managed to complete today’s in-town to do list: visit the post office to collect packages from home, hit the laundromat to mask our trail smells for a day, resupply food and other trail needs, hit the ATM, etc. Grants is somewhat spread out so the rides came in very handy.
Whereas I spent the first few weeks of this trail trying very hard to see the “fun” in the hike, that fun started to materialize in abundance over the past week or two after connecting with the aforementioned hikers and seeing the miles fly by. We’re currently on northbound CDT mile 536 and gradually I’m starting to see trail legs emerge.
The day we left Pie Town, we had a chance to call in to the homey TLC Ranch, run by Larry and Charity along with Tim and Yvonne, Esther, Lanette and Gracie. Their ranch is right along the trail and they welcome in hikers for home cooked (family style) meals and warm conversations in their comfortable home. Larry sent us off the next morning with fresh made biscuits, gravy and prickly pear jelly! Some of the nicest folks I’ve met on the trail so far.
Soon thereafter we found ourselves hiking up to the top of a beautiful Mesa, from which we blazed our own trail down, scrambling over boulders in a dry waterfall to reach the bottom and a stunning view of La Ventana Natural Arch in the El Malpais (translation: the Badlands) National Conservation Area. It was a thrilling section and a nice change of pace from the lengthy road walks we’ve had on this a part of the trail.
In addition to seeing my old AT hiker pals Mav and Birdie today, yesterday I was reunited with hikers who had been days ahead of me after my longer stay-over in Silver City when I was giving my feet some rest and attention. They had been off trail the past weekend attending the CDT “trail days” event back in Silver City. Not only did I get to catch up with a few of them, a couple (Hakuna and Undecided) brought us some snacks and drinks yesterday and drove our packs in to our hotel for the final 13 or so which allowed to high step it a bit and roll into town late, tired but happy.
I find my confidence gradually building (as it did on the AT) and earlier today I picked up a care package from Wendy with gloves, warm socks and my sleeping bag liner. Managing clothing layers in a desert hike is new challenge for me. I need to wear copious amounts of sun screen during the day, but have been shaking ice off my tent most mornings as the evening temps drop.
I hope that those reading along can find something interesting in all this. If you were sitting next to me in the beautiful new Grants Public Library right now you’d have the added dimension of my hiker odor-funk to paint the picture more clearly, but you’re probably content taking my word for it. Love and peace to you all. Max, finally starting to feel strong on the CDT.
"…so I washed my face in the morning dew, bathed my soul in the sun, washed my face in the morning dew, and kept on movin' along"