Memories and Reflections

Truckin‘, I’m a goin’ home, whoa-oh baby, back where I belong.
Back home, sit down and patch my bones, and get back truckin’ on.”
(Robert Hunter)

Sept 20: Near the end: gettin’ close and gettin’ cold! (Note: all remaining pics in chronological order)

In the present case, patching my bones may take some time. As I write this I’m wavering under the weight of a yet-to-be-identified malady that gradually sapped my energy during the last few weeks of the hike and then roared into the foreground within hours of completing the trail. Hopefully the doctors will get a handle on it soon and my rebound can commence in earnest. Meanwhile, I’m glad to be resting at home and finally putting some rear view mirror observations to paper.

April 16, Gutterspoon
April 29: Mercury (Akuna and Cougar in back)

In retrospect, I found the CDT as different from the AT as the AT was from day hikes I used to do in Lebanon Hills Regional Park years ago. While the AT features more elevation gain and loss (i.e. continuous ups and downs), in my opinion that is the only dimension by which the AT can be considered more difficult than the CDT. The Continental Divide Trail stretched me far beyond my previous limits: physically, psychologically, emotionally. I’m simply not the same person that started the hike and doubt I’ll ever morph back into who I was.

April 29: MAV and Birdy (before MAV’s SOBO start)
May 5: OB, Locomotive

Despite my current condition (relentless nausea, unreliable bowels, a level of weakness I’ve never known), I loved this hike. The old adage about “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” seems apropos. I spent most of the hike alone, which was not at all what I expected (nor desired) going into the hike, but something I made my peace with and- eventually- embraced wholeheartedly. If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself that you’re in the market for a very personal, very isolated wilderness challenge, then this may be the hike for you. I don’t think most CDT thru-hikers become as “spent” as I did but I do think that many can relate to the very solo nature of the hike.

May 5: Cheshire Cat (with Stella Blue), OB, Locomotive
May 9: Hammer, Impala at Ghost Ranch (where I eventually returned to conclude my hike)
May 10: Impala in the cabin from the film “City Slickers”
May 17: Atlantic City, sentimental favorite

Over the past month I was often asked to sum up what I “learned” during my five month trek. In my case, the lesson that resonates the clearest has to do with redefining “luxury.” To the person sleeping in a cold tent every night, digging holes to poop in daily, fetching water from milky, stagnant ponds and cow troughs, surviving on a steady diet of lousy junk food, scratching one’s legs raw from a thick coating of fly bites, keeping a watchful eye for all manner of dangerous wildlife and flora that stab painfully from every direction, changing layers all day long as the cold -> warmer -> hot -> chilly -> cold again cycle repeats ad infinitum, battling precipitation in all forms (but predominantly hail), to the person who spends five months in such conditions, returning to a world of clean sheets and warm blankets, sit down toilets, refreshing drinks and showers on demand, fruits and vegetables, insect and varmint free indoor living, clean laundry and shelter from the storms feel like nothing less than winning the luxury lottery. I am profoundly moved by this hiking experience and hope that years from now I’ll continue to carry with me the gratitude I feel today for the simplest things in life- the “table stakes” that can so easily be taken for granted. I loved this hike, I love how it stretched me and I hope the change is lasting.

May 18: Calvin, Shane, Carmela and Nick
June 15: MAV and Hammer in Glacier
June 15: Cougar, Paya, Hammer, Moonshine Pete, MAV
June 16: Cougar

I’m bored of posting scenic shots so I’m turning this final post into a chronological tribute/recap to some of the people I met along the way. While on balance I hiked most of the trail alone, I also made the acquaintance of- and had the privilege to hike with- some dear, dear new (and old) friends along the way: people with whom I hope to never lose touch. I hope you enjoy this final set of pictures- some of which have shown up in earlier posts. Unfortunately I can’t find pictures of everyone I had the pleasure of meeting or hiking with, but the ones included here should at least paint the broader picture of the great souls I encountered between Mexico and Canada. Thanks again for your interest in this adventure and my sincere regards to you all. See you down the trail! Max

June 16: Hammer with his zip chip
June 22: T-Pain
July 1: Hammer…a very memorable morning hiking into Lincoln after he pulled a 35 to catch me in “the Bob”
July 2: MAV, Swish, Birdy in Lincoln, MT
July 13: Jerry, MAV at the Montana Folk Festival in Butte
August 12: Airplane Mode
August 14: Rango, Wingit and ?? in the Wind River Range
August 17: Tristan, Scifi, Eagle Cow, Wow, Mr. President
September 4: Masa (Not Yet)
September 26: Biscuit on the Colorado/New Mexico border

The Final 90 Miles!

Spectacular, colorful mountain in southern Colorado

Yep!!! I hitched from the trail into Chama, NM early this morning and after the typical round of now familiar town chores (shower, laundry, resupply, blog update, etc.) I will push off in the morning for Ghost Ranch, the final 90 miles that will connect my northbound steps (Mexico to Ghost Ranch) with my southbound ones (Canada to my present location) to complete an unbroken walking arc from Mexico to Canada! As the man says, “…dizzy ain’t the word for the way that you’re makin’ me feel now…” (J.P. Barlow)!

Drying out the previous evening’s tent frost…gettin’ cold again!

I’m absolutely thrilled to be within spitting distance of completing this hike and seeing Wendy again, who is flying down to meet me at the finish line to help drag my haggard self back to Washington.

Crossing the Rio Grande definitely makes me feel I’m moving south

It’s very late so I’ll keep this brief but I want to take a moment to thank each and every one of you again who’ve been following my hike. I really mean that. My heartfelt thanks for your interest, concern and support.

I’ll do one final post upon completion and will probably wax a bit philosophical in summing up the hike and lessons learned but mostly right now I’m just very excited to be wrapping up- definitely a spring in my step this morning as I leave Chama for what I hope (“No whammy, no whammy!”) will be a peaceful victory lap. I’ve been nursing a decent cold now for a week or so but other than that I’m rarin’ to go.

Cold morning with heavy clouds draped over the hills

The following then are a few recent photos and videos which I hope you’ll enjoy. Love and best wishes to you all with a more lengthy post forthcomimg (upon completion). Cheers! Max

The very first “AT-like” shelter I’ve seen on this trail.

Another variant of the selfie I take now and then just to see what I look like

Real live forest fire near Salida, CO

First snow of the approaching winter…need to keep movin’!

There is just nothing quite like the views in Colorado

Hank and I crossed paths a couple times in the past day or two…he’s riding the bicycle version of this same route

The Aspen are just now starting to change color

496 Miles to Go

Me on a windy peak near Silverthorne…photo by Sampson the Bear.
No caption required
On this particular day on trail, one deer and 15-20 Moose.
Colorado easily lives up to its reputation for natural beauty
Well fed Marmot near a peak in Colorado
CDT marker near a pass

I’m posting this update via the spectacular Lake County Public Library in Leadville, CO. Great memories of a couple of family ski trips to Colorado years ago. We booked a place here without ever having heard of Leadville. My very first impression during the approach into town was a hand-painted billboard/sign with a Grateful Dead “Stealie” image next to the word “Deadville.” I felt immediately at home, ha!

My favorite: a winding trail around the upper edge of a mountain
360 degree view of a valley in Summit County, CO

Ten years or so later Leadville feels a lot different to me. Real estate prices seem to be soaring and the streets were positively packed the Sunday I arrived in town…the sleepy town I remember looks more like hipster central now. But in spite of the crowds, I had an excellent stay at the Colorado Trail House and was treated well by everyone I met in town. If you haven’t heard it before, Leadville’s claim to fame is as the highest elevation incorporated city in the U.S. (elevation: 10,152).

Leadville Deadheads 1
Leadville Deadheads 2
Leadville Deadheads 3
Leadville Deadheads 4: can you spot the “Stealie” in this trailside tribute? (hint: bottom right)
Beautiful reading room in the Leadville Public Library

As for the trail, with less that 500 miles remaining I’m definitely getting itchy feet for home and I feel myself getting really emotional-similar to how things ended on the AT. The hike has transitioned into a completely solo affair where I’m seeing almost no other thru hikers anymore, though I know there are many within several days hike of me. That is offset however by massive amounts of other traffic I’m encountering on the CDT in Colorado. The section I’m hiking now runs concurrent to the Colorado Trail, and is positively flush with mountain bikers, hikers, etc. And earlier in northern Colorado I was having to step aside frequently to allow ATVs and Motorcycles to pass me on the trail. Not all sections of the CDT are ‘shared use’, but here in Colorado it seems to be the norm. Whereas some purists dislike such activity, I like seeing people outdoors and active, enjoying their chosen forms of recreation. I wouldn’t want motorized traffic on the entire trail but a bit here and there provides variety and keeps me on my toes.

My shadow in the shot
Don’t step on that cornice!
Can you spot all the ski runs at Keystone in the distance?
Ahh, the path always carries forward
Not Yet (Masa), the only Japanese hiker I’ve met on the CDT…When I addressed him in Japanese he broke out laughing from surprise! We had a nice lunch break together and I also saw him again yesterday when i arrived in Leadville
Silverthorne/Dillon Reservoir from above
Apparently not a joke: one of my maps also indicated “watch our for land mines in this section.” WTF???
Picked up my last pair of shoes (#5) and last set of Aquamira (for treating water). The end of the hike is startin’ to get real.
Labor day morning boaters near the trail
Dinner spot overlook on a ridge
View from a pass
Hiker trash from a pass

Given Colorado’s reputation for awe-inspiring natural beauty, as one would expect the scenery along the trail has been stunning. Big, sweeping views have dominated the hiking landscape- hopefully that comes through in some of my pictures and videos.

Cold and windy!
Keystone 1: I hitched down to Keystone for a day to connect with my son Charlie and to see some friends (The Stumbling Pines) playing as part of the (inexplicably early?) Keystone ‘Octoberfest’ on August 31st.
Keystone 2: The start of the Keystone 5k race the “Bier Burner.”

Lastly, it may be a while before my next post as the trail town logistics look a bit challenging in the upcoming week or two. Thank you again for your interest in keeping up with my hike and-barring any significant problems- I look forward to wrapping things up within the next few weeks! Cheers and happy trails! Max

Steamboat Springs

Yep, I crossed into Colorado on Thursday, 8/22 and have already had some great hiking and a pretty decent climb in these first few days here.

The below image shows the full CDT in red, with a crude overlay in green approximating what I’ve completed so far (sorry, hand drawn with lousy phone tools). I’ve finally done the math and I have about 760 miles remaining of the Continental Divide Trail to “connect the dots” of my chain of unbroken steps between Mexico and Canada.

760 miles to go (see green overlay) mostly in Colorado

I’ll keep this update brief as I’m working once again via my phone, but a day or two ago I finally hit a psychological milestone I’ve been waiting for: that feeling of confidence in my ability to realistically complete this hike. The same thing happened on the AT as well (albeit much earlier by comparison). After enough completed miles, I was able to stand back and convince myself that- barring the catastrophic- I could see myself finishing the entire hike. For a bunch of different reasons I’ve been much less certain along the way on this one, but that has now definitely changed! I’ll set out again in the morning with a new spring in my step, excitedly counting down the final weeks left of this incredible walk.

Whew! Made it!

A pretty cold morning

First snow traversals since way back in the Pintlers!

Scenic Colorado

I love extended walking along the side of a mountain ridge

Met this dear couple who were out scouting for the upcoming elk hunting season. Sodas, great conversation, and they even hauled away my garbage for me!

In addition to encountering many local hikers, mountain bikers, motorcycles and ATVs (the trail here is shared use), I also saw my first abandoned tractor on the hike.

Lone elk scoping me out from a ridgeline.

Some kinda sad story reflected in this roadside memorial on the highway walk leaving Rawlins, WY. The markers were just two months old and the flowers fresh.

Leaving Rawlins with a family of deer buddies.

Steamboat and I would get along famously.

More evidence.

Thank you all again so much for your interest and your encouragement along the way! Several Colorado residents have indicated to me that September is the prime hiking month in Colorado and that is precisely when most of my hiking days here will occur. I may be hiking alone these days, but my heart is full to overflowing. And since you’ve made it this far with me in spirit, hang in there a bit longer to see if I really can pull this off and walk myself back into Ghost Ranch!

My sincere gratitude and very best wishes to you all. My next update should be from Summit county in the thick of Colorado big ski resort country. Cheers! Max

Beginning the End

Emotional return to Atlantic City

(Note: the library here in Rawlins, Wyoming is closed today so I’m updating by phone and will therefore keep the text relatively short).

Got to sleep in this teepee last night. Thanks Laurel and Dale at the amazing Miner’s Grubstake!

It’s been an emotional couple of days as I finally walked back into Atlantic City, Wyoming, the last place to which I hiked with Impala before switching directions and restarting southbound from Canada. Out of 3100 miles of the CDT, I’m down to about 950 remaining. Since I already hiked from Atlantic City to Rawlins in May, when I hit the trail tomorrow morning I’ll continue south from Rawlins until I hit Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch near the Colorado/New Mexico border, where my hike will be complete.

Pancakes are my favorite meal when I first hit town from the trail.

I’ve been anticipating this final leg of the hike since I first encountered deep snow in May and had to reroute. I’m waxing a bit sentimental and would like to say more but I’ll save that hot air for a proper update via a library computer (better typing interface).

Mr. President and I spent a couple of great days hiking through the Wind River Range together.

Airplane Mode is another great hiker (and artist!) I met in the Winds.

Me in the Winds…photo courtesy of Airplane Mode.

A great family group in the Winds celebrating the birthday of the man on the right in the blue shirt.

The family group had Llamas as pack animals…first ones I’ve seen on the trail. Careful! They spit.

One of my scariest days on trail was the 5-6 hours I spent traversing this lava boulder field and several others just outside of Dubois, WY.

It’s difficult to describe just how beautiful the Wind River Range is.

Sundown in the Winds

Hobo Max drinking coffee out of another hiker’s pan. Photo courtesy of Wow and Eagle Cow.

Impromptu hiker party in the woods. Left to right: Tristan, SciFi, Eagle Cow, Wow and Mr. President.

Lunch break in the Winds with beat up shoes.

More Wind River beauty.

The Green River Lake campground host looked me over and said, “I’ve got something I bet you’ll appreciate!” Turns out he is the cousin of Sara Rupenthal, Jerry’s first wife. He provided the music, beer and campfire and we hit it off famously.

The Winds: best thing I’ve seen since Glacier!

For now, I hope these few photos sufficiently tell the story of the past week or two. My next planned update should be from Steamboat Springs, Colorado within a week or so. Cheers and thanks for tuning in! Max

Back to Wyoming

Trailside geothermal feature in Yellowstone

Hey all! Since the last update I’ve hiked through Yellowstone National Park and on into greater Wyoming, bidding farewell to Montana and Idaho which I’ve now completed. Some will recall from my earlier posts that this is actually a return to Wyoming since I had already done the section from Atlantic City to Rawlins (with the incredible Impala, from Yorkshire!).

The view from inside my tent just before bed
Geothermal features line the trail through much of YNP
Incredible, deep blue thermal pool
As Will S. says in Macbeth: “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble.”

At this point- speaking approximately since I haven’t done the detailed math- I have completed about 2000 miles of this 3100 mile trail. One of the challenges in computing exact mileage is that unlike the Appalachian trail (which has a single, distinct route) the CDT features both an ‘official’ route as well as many published ‘alternates’ that hikers can substitute for some of the official sections. I most cases the mileage will vary between official and alternate so one has to recalll all of the details about which alternates were taken in order to get a precise mileage number.

Me and a sulfur pool in YNP
Wildflower magic in Yellowstone
Just another stunning valley in Wyoming

While I’ve been hiking solo now since mid-July, I’ve been seeing more hikers than ever. I am in the SOBO ‘bubble’ of hikers heading south and have been seeing many of the same hikers in each town as we all go to resupply, etc. Additionally, over the past week or so I’ve encountered many hikers in the NOBO ‘bubble’ heading in the opposite direction as they make their way to Glacier. I’ve met way too many hikers to recall all the names, but some of them include Bootscoot, D*ckhead, Data, Dyno DNA, Etch-a-Sketch, Picky, Cheesus, Hemlock, Wide Sky, Blasphemy, Twigsy, Toast, Everest, Seeker, Really Sorry, Wrong Way, General Burnside, Roadrunner, Smiles, Fuzz and many, many others. It took me a while to get used to being a “team of one” again, but I’ve settled into it nicely and am enjoying it daily.

Views like this never get old
Yeah, these make good resupply…they NEVER seem to go bad in the food bag
Yet another size 13 mushroom
Lost two hats in the past week, but methinks this one is a keeper. That Bear is almost dancing, maybe to the “U.S. Blues
Apparently Yellowstone finds it necessary to clarify this

I am sitting right now in the beautiful public library in Dubois, Wyoming (locals pronounce it DEW-boys), a cowboy town if ever there was. The hitchhike into town was 30 miles and I ended up waiting on the road for about 30 minutes before I got a ride from Obie, a cross country traveler on vacation from Hawaii, ha! I am spending a ‘zero’ day here (no hiking) as I had a bit of a medical concern I needed to get checked out. The area around one of my vertebrae has swollen to the point where it looks like I have golf ball partially embedded in my spine. It wasn’t hurting but obviously I needed to know if it was a serious problem. It turns out to be a benign cyst which can be removed at any time via a very simple procedure done in the office. They offered to do it today but then I’d have stitches that would need time to heal to avoid risking infection on the trail. They indicated I can defer the procedure until the hike is done without any risk of damage or other concerns, so that is the plan. If it really starts bothering me more I may just have to hole up in a hotel for a few days and have it done, but hopefully not.

On the edge of the Bridger Teton wilderness
How green was my valley
Yep, crossed this stream on that beige colored log, well over six feet above the stream in the middle. Scary.
Data likes to hike with an umbrella
Look carefully and you’ll see several hikers in the far distance

I’ve still got a number of other chores to complete today in town, so I’ll wrap up the narrative here. I hope you enjoy the pictures and videos and I think my next update will be from Rawlins, WY, putting me near the Colorado border. Cheers and happy trails! Max

Leadore, Idaho

Hitching out of Darby, MT with my best “I’m not a pycho killer” face.
Beautiful forest adorned with bear grass
Entering the Bitterroot

Although I’m hiking alone right now, I’ve been meeting a lot of hikers on the trail during this stretch. As it turns out I’m ensconced in a “bubble” of hikers, probably due to influx of SNOBO hikers like me (flipped from northbound to southbound due to heavy snow in Colorado) joining the regular SOBO hikers. There are nearly a dozen hikers in this tiny town today and I’ve had a chance to meet and/or hike with some of them during the past week: Twigsy, Toast, Wow, Data, Salty, Snacks and others. As some might expect, my daily mileage has gone up (now 25-30 miles/day) since the only thing to do is hike, ha! It stays light here past 9:30 pm, so when you’re on the trail by 7 am (my daily typical) you have 14 hours to walk in daylight, less any breaks you take.

Shadow-me with sun hat looking an awful lot like Lord Vader
Shoe-sized mushroom for one?
Chilly morning with lingering snow in elevation. The gap between the water and snow is big enough to climb under there.

I’m sitting in the wonderful little public library in Leadore, Idaho (population: 105) having effectively completed the Montana section. ‘Effectively’ because we straddle the Montana/Idaho border for the next few miles, but hikers consider Montana completed at this point. Unlike the Appalachian trail where the entire route is prescribed, the CDT offers many “alternate” paths to choose from and one’s mileage therefore varies based on the cumulative total of the actual path one traces. Detailed mileage aside, I am now approximately 50% done with this trail (my estimated actual mileage: 1300). Compared to the AT, the first half of this hike- with jumping ahead to Wyoming and then flipping up to Glacier- has felt less coherent, though that is gradually fading away and being replaced with the “runners high” you get once you’ve developed “trail legs” and can (relatively) comfortably spend all day climbing up and down.

Mountain lake logpile
Camping on a peak, taken at 9:00 pm. Not quite a level pitch, but too tired to search further.

I was worried that I’d feel lonely without hiking in a group, but to be honest I had a lot of fun this section, though I managed to hurt myself pretty good during one particularly hard fall yesterday morning a few miles before hitchhiking into town. I’m taking a zero today to ice and elevate my knee and to wait on shoes and trek poles from home as I’ve broken both poles and trashed yet another pair of shoes. This section featured a lot of roots and rocks, notoriously hard on feet and shoes.

Another hiker (Smiles?) just ahead on the trail ribbon
Forest fire aftermath…we’ve hiked through a lot of burn down sections
Lots of walking through scree fields too…very challenging on tired feet…
And yep, plenty of great views again this section
Another amazing view

Music has also definitely filled the void created by not currently hiking with any of my hiker family. Now that the threat of grizzlies is somewhat diminished compared to Glacier/northern Montana (though I’ll carry my bear spray for a bit further south), I can be found hiking along with my headphones getting lost in the beauty of the visual landscape paired with fantastic tunes. And on that note, as the song says, “…my feet is my only carriage, so I’ve got to push on through…” (B. Marley).

CDT signage varies considerably in placement, type, size, color, etc. Each of the following is from the same day
Sign type #2
Sign type #3
Sign type #4
Sign type #5
Sign type #6 (a cairn)

Cheers from Idaho and thanks for checking in! Max

Georgia On My Mind

Snow field at the approach to one of the passes in the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness
MAV and trail angel extraordinaire Jerry at the Montana Folk Festival in Butte

Lemme explain that title: as a SOBO (southbound) hiker on the Appalachian Trail my ultimate destination was Springer Mountain, Georgia, the southern terminus of the AT. The Ray Charles classic “Georgia On My Mind” became something of a touchstone for me on that hike and I listened to it often, day dreaming of eventually reaching the Peach state.

As you can see, less snow at elevation (9200 feet) than a month ago

As you may recall, my northbound hike of this current trail was diverted (due to snow) when I hit Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. After I “flipped” up to Canada to resume my hike southbound, my new “ultimate destination” became Ghost Ranch, which is also the former studio and home of Georgia O’Keeffe. So I’ll complete the CDT when I return to Georgia O’Keeffe and her Ghost Ranch. So once again, I’ve got Georgia on my mind.

Encountering a psychedelic  butterfly with a cheerful disposition

As I mentioned, I’ve gone back to hiking alone this stretch, hoping soon to reunite with MAV and Hammer another week or two down the trail, all things like weather and health permitting. Meanwhile, I’m making a point of enjoying these solitary days. Prior to spltting up, we had discussed making 25 miles our new benchmark for a minimum day. As it turns out, I did the 100 miles from Anaconda to the spot from which I hitchhiked in to Darby in exactly 4 days, so I’ve managed to keep that pace so far…we’ll see how that pans out.

Snow? Look again. That’s accumulated hail (bb-sized) from the third hail storm that day. I was hailed on in one hour intervals most of the afternoon.

I arrived in Darby, MT very early this morning and got lucky snagging a room tonight as the town is fully booked after today for their annual Logger Days. As I sit in the fabulous Darby public library, I’m reminded of one more quick anecdote to share from much earlier this morning. I woke up early to do the 30 mile hitchhike into town and stepped out of my tent at 4:15 am for a pee. Way off in the distance in one direction I heard my first wolf of the hike…that howl was then met with responses from at least another 4-5 wolves, all from various far off directions. It was as though they were all “checking in” after a night’s hunting before tucking in for a well-earned sleep.

Another outstanding view from a mountain pass. My “daily bread” on the trail.

Ok, so that’s all for now. Cheers from your inconsistent correspondent, Max.

Time out for a bit of magic

Jerry (JB) at the Storm Lake trailhead

I’ve shared other accounts of extraordinary trail magic encountered thus far on the CDT and with some extra time today, I thought I’d share one more that is ongoing. Jerry Bailey, a trail angel who lives near Anaconda, MT, has spent the past couple of days making our trail lives and logistics much easier.

Me, same spot (phot courtesy of JB!)

Yesterday he drove me a trailhead south of here, enabling me to walk the 25 miles back to Anaconda with a near empty pack as well as getting an extra night’s sleep in a town bed.

Nearby pass in the Pintler Wilderness

Today he shuttled another half-dozen hikers to the same trailhead, took Mav and I to resupply, then back to his cabin adjacent to the Pintler Wilderness for a day of R&R tomorrow at the Montana Folk Festival in Butte, and then shuttling us again Sunday back to trailhead to resume hiking.

Beautiful rock field north of Storm Lake

Meanwhile, it’s laundry, showers, movies, steak and baked potatoes for dinner, and maybe even try my hand at catching a trout or two from the stream running through Jerry’s backyard. I’ve got a few new pictures to share but otherwise will keep this post brief. Back to the trail early Sunday morning!

JB shuttling hikers to the trail head. The road up is no joke.

The back porch view from JB’S mountain retreat…there’s trout in that stream!

JB’s mountain cabin

Log garage? Check!

Actual poster from Phillipsburg (locals say P-burg) grocery store

All the best, Max

Anaconda, MT

Mav with Helena trail angel- and all around cool guy- Bruce.

[Note: the videos included below are mostly from earlier when we were in Glacier…it just took me a while to load them to YouTube]

As I sit here in the Hearst Free Library in downtown Anaconda, I’m feeling genuinely excitement for tomorrow’s 26 or so mile walk as a local trail angel (Jerry) has agreed to pick me up early from town and drop me at Storm Lake Pass, from which I’ll then “slackpack” (hike with a greatly minimized pack) northbound back into Anaconda and get to stay here one more night. It’s easy to understand why hikers seem to universally rave about this town- very friendly people, rich cultural and historical heritage, reasonable prices, everything you need to resupply, surrounded by beautiful mountains.

Sweeping view from the hills above Anaconda
The trail between Helena and Anaconda is often picture-perfect
Tracking MAV in the soft dirt…his Vasque boots leave the same print as OB

I was thinking during this section how many of the questions I get begin with “Why?” Why hike? Why such a long distance? Why such a remote trail? Why do this at my age? Well, in my case the answers are relatively clear, if not exactly simple. To quote Yusuf Islam,

“Well I left my happy home, to see what I could find out
I left my folk and friends, with the aim to clear my mind out.”

(Cat Stevens, “On the Road to Find Out“)

There’s not much more to it than that. Hiking for me is simply wandering with a purpose and my purpose mostly seems to be “to clear my mind out” and hopefully set a course for the next phase of life. I’m someone that feeds on having a specific goal in mind, an objective to meet, a challenge to best, a concrete vision for the future. The hike itself satisfies some of that, but its more about pondering what comes next in life than simply seeing beautiful landscapes or socializing with other hikers.

They think of everything in Montana
MAV on a rainy day near a trail head just north of Anaconda
Just clowning…have not yet had to drink water out of a roadside ditch

As of tomorrow I’ll be walking alone again. T-Pain left the trail to visit a sick friend in Texas, Hammer is temporarily speeding ahead in anticipation of time off trail when Melissa comes to visit him soon, Chickenfat skipped resupplying in Helena and is therefore a day or so ahead and MAV recently contracted shin splints and will be staying here in Anaconda for some days to keep his leg iced and elevated.

Anaconda is full of interesting history and culture

One of these days I’ll need to compute it exactly but per the following map I’m getting close to halfway done on this hike. Barring any show-stoppers, I’ll keep moving southward for the remainder of the trail, skipping the “Great Basin” section in Wyoming that I completed in May with Impala, and wrapping up at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico.

Completed sections in red
Powerful waterfall in Glacier

Meanwhile, life on the trail goes on. Lots of heavy rain and hail during this past section. We’ve been doing more climbing lately than what we saw in New Mexico or Wyoming so that’s been challenging and my legs have been responding pretty well overall.

View from above a lake in Glacier

I’m hoping to reconnect with MAV, Hammer, etc. soon and there are also a lot of other hikers in this area right now, so hopefully I’ll continue to be graced with good hiking companions. Had spaghetti for dinner again. the only meal I’ve consistently craved while on the trail so far.

MAV and Cougar crossing a snowfield

I’ve got to a few more to dos on the list today (resupply through to Darby, try to fix my rain pants again as the last attempt did not hold, get ready for tomorrow’s slackpacking adventure, and (time permitting) MAV and I may even take in a movie at the local cinema- which we hear is a very cool old art deco style theatre.

Animal Encounters 1: A buck in camp at the Chinese Wall in the Bob
Animal Encounters 2: Playful Moose in Camp, Glacier
Animal Encounters 3: Squaring off with a goat in Glacier
Animal Encounters 4: A goat and his harem
Animal Encounters 5: A very bold hare

Thanks again for your interest in my indulgent little blog. I apologize that the narrative has been so thin but I’ve been consistently tired every time I show up at a library recently- and today is no exception. And three cheers for one of my favorite hiker towns, Anaconda! Max

"…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"