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


A typical picture-perfect Glacier view

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.

Beauty around every corner

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.

Cougar taking in the scenery on a lunch break
“When superlatives fail, use expletives.”
MAV and Hammer in Glacier
We crossed many snow fields in Glacier and used our micro-spikes on a few of the trickier ones

Mirror image beauty
Zipchip (mini disc) session with Hammer atop a large snowfield
The mountains and me
One of the stunning falls in GNP
This goat didn’t mind us as long as we kept away from his harem
Cougar, Paya, Hammer, Moonshine and MAV. Weeks earlier we all breathed a sigh of relief when Moonshine was air-rescued in very deep snow from the San Juan mountains in the southern Colorado part of the trail
The trail cutting across a Glacier mountain side
Moose sighting, antlers still velvety
Large moose that walked through our camp and put on a show of all kinds moose behavior, the biggest of the three we saw
Sunrise in the Bob Marshall Wilderness
Bighorn strolling through the Two Medicine campground like he’s buying marshmallows for a big cookout

Cougar crossing a snow field in her spikes. It’s not obvious from the picture but a misstep on such can send you sliding down a hundred or more feet of snow slope that typically terminates in rock.
Saw this young moose munching grass during a morning stroll near Many Glacier
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.
(From left) T-Pain, MAV and Dos Tacos drying out gear and eating a snack on the front porch of a ranger station in the Bob.
Me in the woods, deftly avoiding the camera’s eye

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+).

The “Chinese Wall” is one of remarkable features in the Bob Marshall Wilderness
One bit of sad news to report: Cougar, one of the hikers with whom I walked in New Mexico and who started southbound with us from Glacier re-injured a problem knee and had to leave the trail for the time being. She’s such a great hiker and fun person to be around and we’re going to miss her. Meanwhile, MAV, Hammer and I carry on, having added a couple of new hikers (T-Pain and Chicken Fat) as we go. After the extended distance through the Bob under very rugged conditions, we’re all taking a “zero” tomorrow (no hiking) to rest and get caught up on town duties (shower, laundry, eat, re-supply, eat more).
Brisk current in this river in the Bob
Many of the miles we hiked through the Bob were through fire areas littered with blow-downs
Ridge-walking trail in the Bob. From the top you can see your path along the spine of the ridge
The Bob from a ridge, #1
The Bob from a ridge, #2
The Bob from a ridge, #3

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.

Snowy lake in Glacier from one of the passes
Hammer on the final morning in the Bob
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.