CDT Day 6-14: Bob Meets Scapegoat
CDT Day 6
After a short night of sleep after staying up late trying to get all the town chores in and eating as much as possible and the snores and shuffling of ten hikers sleeping in the same room, morning came fast. But I wake feeling rested. Somehow our massive bubble of maybe 15 hikers (that’s a lot for the CDT) managed to wipe out the power on the whole street. Which of course meant the cafe couldn’t open which of course meant I couldn’t leave town, because one cannot leave town without eating a town breakfast. So I made some coffee, attempted to check in with the world and read my 8 million notifications after not having service for five days, packed, and repacked my bag, checked the hiker box a couple more times to see if any new goodies had been added, and waited for my very necessary breakfast sandwich and muffin from the cafe once they finally opened. Then it’s back to the trail!
The first 15 miles of the day was a combo of mud, PUDs (pointless ups and downs) as we climbed into and out of every creek crossing possible, and mostly just bushwacking through the most atrocious yet beautiful meadows. I basically couldn’t see my feet most of the time from all the overgrowth, just praying I didn’t trip on a hidden rock or root.
Finally entered the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The Bob as we call it. The Bob is known for being wild and full of lots of grizzlies and blowdowns.
There’s a nine mile chunk that is unmaintained and full of nonstop blowdowns so everyone takes an alternate that involves no blowdowns, but lots of mud, horse poop, and fording the river about 12 times, which honestly felt great on my tired feet on a hot day.
Although showing up to camp with soaking wet shoes as the sun is setting is never an exciting thought. Oh well, that’s a future Zebra problem.
Didn’t see another soul in The Bob so far besides one of my new hiking friends, so it might be a quiet next week of hiking. Luckily I had predownloaded lots of Backpacker Radio podcasts to play out loud to keep me entertained and to keep the bears away (unless they think Zach and Chaunce are as funny as I do).
My legs are currently covered in mosquito bites. Even 100% deet seems to be worthless against these buggers. I have a heavy pack with five days of food and I’m hoping the bears and/or squirrels will not decide to play tetherball with my shitty bearhang. I’m exhausted and can’t believe it’s only 9:30 since it is so light out. But I am as happy as can be. Being on another thru-hike feels so right, despite the growing pains as my body remembers how to hike up and down mountains all day every day.
CDT Day 7
Wake to a bright beautiful sunrise coming through the trees. Look out of my tent to make sure my shitty bear hang is still there. Go back to sleep. I finally get up when I start hearing the pitter patterns of rain on my tent. But it comes and goes quickly. A gorgeous morning walk in the overcast sky. Find a backcountry ranger station.
Noone is there, but there’s a water pump I decide to try out. Somehow manage to get my bicep clamped in the handle. Definitely gonna leave a mark. Finally manage to pump water out. Why I do this when the stream is 50 feet away, I have no idea. Thru-hikers are easily entertained I guess. There’s some horses at the ranger station. I love riding horses.
I’m very tempted to steal one and ride away into the sunset. But it’s 9 am and stealing from the government is frowned upon apparently?
The day consists of walking through burns, crossing countless creeks, lots of wildlife including a massive buck that I scare the crap out of which thus scares the crap out of me as he takes off bounding in the woods, bushwacking, and climbing over 8 million logs that are lying in the trail. I’ve never seen so many blowdowns on a trail in my life. But then I remember we are in BFE, Bob-land and noone comes here apparently besides crazy CDT hikers.
My legs and feet and brain are smoked by the end of the day after all the navigating and climbing and I am so thankful to make it to camp, which is a little island in between two rivers- the only place for miles that isn’t covered in logs.
The thunder starts cracking as I’m setting up my tent and the rain starts up right as I’m finishing luckily. But the storm passes quickly, the sun comes back out, until another quick storm a few minutes later, only to pass quickly again. And then again. And then again. The sky is stunning between each storm. But I can barely keep my eyes open.
CDT Day 8
Wake up to a numb face and a soaking wet tent and sleeping bag. Perks of sleeping between two rivers. I go back to sleep until the sun pops over the mountain and I can warm up a bit. The morning starts well, slowly walking out of the burn and into a pretty valley. Pass a ranger station which has the first log book I’ve seen on trail and I’m stoked to see some familiar names of PCT friends! They’re only four days ahead… challenge accepted.
It’s another day of countless creek crossings, steep and rocky climbs, and ohhhhh, the blowdowns. I don’t know who this Bob Marshall guy is that this wilderness is named after, but I have decided Bob actually stands for Blowdowns on Blowdowns. There are so many. Gaining miles takes forever and my legs are smoked by lunch from all the climbing and leaping and concentration it takes to not misstep and break a leg or impale myself. My legs are muddy, scratched, and bloody.
We decided to take the Spotted Bear Alternate which means a lot of climbing, and some snow, but some awesome views of the valley and a gorgeous alpine lake that all I want to do is lie down beside and sleep at. But all these blowdowns in The Bob have been making me really hungry so I keep moving because running out of food is slightly more important than lake naps.
We finally see a few other people today, the first we have seen in The Bob. It’s only been Graham and I since we left East Glacier, somehow we lost everyone else, although I’m sure they can’t be far behind. I meet a forest service employee today. Wanna know what her job is at the moment? To backpack through The Bob and get status updates of the campsites. What a life.
End the day at a beautiful creekside campsite. I’m pretty beat after a long day with little breaks and am so glad to sit down and take my shoes off. Until I get a wiff of my feet. Which have been looking more and more like hamburger meat the past few days after being wet all day.
Despite the hard and long day, it was such a great day. Spent a lot of the day just thinking about how grateful I am to be here and have found this thru-hiking thing. The thing that makes me feel most true to myself and most connected with the universe. Spending hours walking alone is such a great opportunity to sit with your thoughts and contemplate things and think about your past and your future and I am constantly having realizations and ah-ha moments while hiking. And mostly just being at peace with life, being excited for the future, thankful for all the good and bad I have been through because it has all taught and shaped me to become who I am and who I will be, and just happy to be alive in this magical world.
Ok, I’m getting emotional, must be my semi-delirious state. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be dreaming of stepping over logs tonight. Yay.
CDT Day 9
Cooooold morning. Sleeping in heavy trees next to a creek always is. But we have little options in this dense forest. I lay in my sleeping bag hanging half outside of my tent inhaling coffee and shoving food in my face. Finally have to man up and brave the cold and get going. Being cold is a good hiking motivator. The blowdowns are really bad for a few miles, like can’t even see the trail on the other side bad. But then they ease up when I pop over a pass. I climb and climb. A lot of snow has melted recently which means the trail is basically a creek. It’s a rock-hopping/mud-sliding kinda day!
Mid-morning I make a turn in the trail and am greeted with the view I’ve been waiting for: The Chinese Wall. No joke, that’s what it’s called. I mean, I can see why.
A few less tourists than the real one. I walk under the wall for miles through the most beautiful green meadows and under a crazy sky.
I stumble upon a group of three, one chick is totally naked bathing in a stream. She scurries to get dressed and apologizes. I tell her don’t worry, you’re not the first naked hiker I’ve seen. She’s shocked to run into anyone else out here. Me too lady, me too.
The sun finally pops through the clouds and it instantly heats up. It’s supposed to be in the 90s here all week and it definitely feels like I’ve walking in a sauna as I pass through dank, wet forests. I try to stop and take a couple breaks to give my aching, heat-rashed feet a break, but the biting flies are worse than tired feet. I push until I can’t push anymore and find a grassy hill to camp on.
I set up and go sit in a creek until I can’t feel my legs. I’ve never enjoyed being submerged in ice cold water until now.
It’s too hot to cook dinner so I patiently wait until the sun goes behind the mountain to cook up a fancy dinner of Top Ramen/Slim Jim/Fritos tortillas. I’m still hungry after dinner, but I’m almost out of food. Good thing we’ll be in town tomorrow. I cannot wait for real food. The sunset is stunning and I’m glad to be camping out in the open for once. Makes getting out of bed in the morning a lot easier.
CDT Day 10
Wake up cold because we’re camped in a field and my tent is wet from dew. But once the sun’s first ray pops over the mountain it instantly warms up.
Quick five miles on a very well maintained trail down to Benchmark Trailhead. So maintained, I question whether we are still on the CDT, but alas, we are. Trails are always great when you get close to touristy areas. We have finished the Bob Marshall Wildnerness. Still don’t know who Bob is.
Pop out at the trailhead and get a ride to town in a UTV from a nice Montana couple and their grandkids. 30 miles into town on a gravel road is a longtime with strangers so we know all about their lives by the time they drop us off.
We’re in the small town of Augusta. Everything is on one street, the best kind of trail town.
There’s probably less than 1,000 people that live here. Gas is $3 cheaper than back home. The only place to eat is the bar. But there are three bars in town. I stuff my face with a massive chicken salad since I haven’t ate any vegetables in eight days.
Working for a brewey back home, I always like to try local beers when I’m travelling, but it’s a hot day and we still have a decent amount of miles to do so I decide to pack one out instead. I ask the bartender if she is required to open a can if I buy one. Her response… “Honey, you’re in Montana, you can do whatever you want.” Hell yea.
We hit up the only grocery store in town. Their moto is “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” Surprisingly, they’re correct. Grab the essentials: tortillas, PB, trail mix, ramen, coffee, electrolytes, chips, beef sticks, pop tarts, a sandwich for tonight, a banana (one piece of fruit a week is totally fine, right?), and bug spray (the most essential of them all).
We pack up and finish charging our electronics and get to hitchhiking. After 30 minutes we’re fried from the sun and luckily some nice guys are heading out to the trailhead to pick their wives up from a backpacking trip and gladly give us a ride. They also give us donuts and beer. Trail people are the best.
We jump on the trail full off energy after a much needed half town day. We’re now entering the Scapegoat Wilderness. At one point the thunder starts cracking and we get blessed with the most glorious summer rain. At one point it even starts hailing despite still being insanely sunny and ridiculously hot. Oh, Montana. The rain is so nice after the heat and the smell is intoxicating.
We do some fast evening miles and find a ranger station oasis in the middle of a massive burn area.
The only area within miles without the chance of a dead tree falling on us in the night. There’s a forest service employee staying there, but she tells us we can camp by the horse corral.
It’s a beautiful night in the valley and we go to sleep with the puffy pink clouds, the birds chirping, and the sounds of the river running close by.
CDT Day 11
Wake up. Wet everything. Gotta stop camping in low valleys by the water. But it’s literally the only place within miles without a million dead trees about to drop. Cruisy morning miles walking along creeks.
Then the afternoon is all climbing. It’s hot. The climbing is steep, but feels good after so much flat this morning and yesterday.
Get up on ridgetop and have views for days.
Also not much water. I take some bad advice and rely on a creek that’s dry. Luckily I find a little snow patch a mile up and resort to attempting to suck snow out of my water bottle.
Find a gorgeous lake in the evening. It feels amazing. Load up with water and spend the next six miles climbing up and over every peak to finally find a grassy ridgetop meadow to camp in.
Pretty exhausted and it feels good to take my shoes off. I have to stop myself from chugging all my water since we won’t hit a water source until the next morning.
The sunset is glorious. All is well until the sun sets and then the wind picks up and my tent is flapping like crazy. Might be a rough night sleep.
CDT Day 12
The wind picked up around 10 pm last night and my tent was flapping like crazy. I knew I wouldn’t sleep so I jumped out, pulled the stakes out of the ground and drug it over to a more sheltered spot in the trees. Then slept like a baby. What I’ve learned from years of thru-hiking: if something isn’t working, change it immediately. No reason to sit around and ignore a problem and hope it gets better on it’s own only to have to eventually adjust and wish you would have earlier. And sleep is pretty damn important after destroying your body all day.
I heard the first thunder claps around 5 am and saw a couple rain drops. Slept a bit more until the birds stopped chirping and the wind dissapeared. The calm before the storm: sure sign of a thunderstorm. I threw my shoes on and ran to get my food bag so I could at least eat if I was gonna be stuck in my tent during a storm. Right as I’m running across the meadow, I see a crazy bright flash and thunder cracks right after. Grab my food and get back in my tent just before the storm moves in and the meadow gets pelted with rain. But it passes quickly and the sun pops out for a beautiful morning.
Currently in a very dry section of trail due to all the ridge walking and waking up thirsty and knowing you have miles to walk to get water is a good motivator to get going. Found a spring mid morning and chugged all the icey water I could.
More ridgewalking to find a sweet yurt that a local lets hikers stay in during the summer.
Then it was down another mountain to fill up with water for another massive climb and long dry section.
I knew there was a wind advisory warning in effect today, but holy cow did I underestimate the outcome that would have on a day of ridgetop walking. Spent hours being gusted all over the trail, bracing myself with every step into torrential nonstop winds. It took all my might to not get blown off the mountain a few times. Nothing turns a boring day into an adventure like gnarly winds. I couldn’t have been happier.
Finally found some more SOBO CDTers. About 8-10 of us managed to end up on this crazy ridgewalk today. It’s quite hilarious watching people practically walking sideways up a mountain just to combat the wind. We looked like drunks stumbling home from a late night as we attempted to stay on trail, swaying every which way.
Eventually found water, chugged as much as possible, and loaded up for another dry ridgewalk. I knew camping tonight was going to be sketchy with the high winds and all the dead trees in the few covered areas. So I stopped a little early at the first decent spot I found that had some wind protection and had some live trees interspersed between the dead ones. Made sure I wasn’t camping under any widowmakers and that the dead trees close by weren’t leaning off center (indication they’re gonna fall soon) and hoped for the best.
The wind is supposed to keep on strong until morning so it might be a bit of a fitful night of sleep, but sometimes you just gotta take what the trail gives ya! Especially on The Divide.
CDT Day 13
Cold night. Windy night. But we all woke up without trees on top of our tents so that’s a plus!
I stayed bundled up most of the morning to combat the wind and cold. It was a cruisy morning through more dead forests. There is an outfitter that resides right off the trail that is so welcome in a long section between resupply points. He had everything under the sun imaginable a hiker could ever need. I just needed food. Luckily he had some of that too. We probably had 10 of us hikers gathered up at the outfitter for a bit. That’s a lot for the CDT! Met a NOBO there too, the first one I’ve seen so far on trail.
Then it was a long, hot, and exhausting afternoon with a 19 mile water carry and climbing up and down seemingly every peak in sight.
Like straight up and down. And it was rocky. Probably one of the most exhausting days I have had on trail so far. By the end of the day I felt like my feet were not even connected to my body any longer, they simply went where they wanted and it was all I could do to not slip and slide down the rocky trail. I think I might be getting slightly dehydrated too with all the limited water sources recently and having to carry a lot of water is adding to my exhaustion. And to to it all off, I’ve already lost about 10 pounds which isn’t great since I’ve only been hiking for less than two weeks and I’m sure I am losing muscle at this rate.
So finding a spring fed pipe at the end of the day was so delightful.
I drank all I could and packed out as much as I could and hiked a bit further to find somewhere in the trees to get out of the wind to camp. Somehow I lost everyone else after the outfitter and this is the first time camping alone on this trail.
Tomorrow I will be in town and I feel like this is the first town day I have really needed. After nine days without a shower, I can’t even tell you how great I smell. And I plan to do my best to pack as many pounds of food back on as possible.
CDT Day 14
Toss and turn all night for some reason. It’s too quiet without the wind. Happy to see it’s finally light out and have a reason to get up. First morning in a while that I have woke up not freezing! Such a great feeling.
It’s a long morning of Montana things. Climbing all the little hills. Cows. Roadwalks. Long dry sections. Noone else around. Quiet besides the animal noises.
Find a much needed water cache partway through the day. Thank you trail angels!!!
Feel exhausted today. All the little climbs are kicking by butt. But I know town is near. And town food, some time off my feet, and a night in a bed will solve all my problems.
I make it down to the highway. Hitchhiking looks impossible. There’s nowhere to pull over and the cars are coming at me on a downhill going fast. But within five minutes I have a ride. From a state legislator of all people. I’m impressed by his job. He’s impressed with my job (thru-hiking is my job at the moment even if I don’t get paid).
He drops me off at the store. I do my resupply and load up on fried chicken, jojo’s, and donuts.
Don’t worry, I got some fruits and veggies too. I walk to my hotel and am already in love with this fun town of Helena. Not at all what I expected.
First thing’s first when I get to my hotel are starting laundry and then I sit in my hotel room naked shoving food into my mouth as fast as possible. Real food tates so good, but I’m too hungry to slow down. Finally shower and watch the bathtub turn brown. Attempt to hand-comb my hair. It’s either dreads or an afro. I’ll stick with the afro for now.
I walk down to the gear store and exchange my socks for new ones. Some stores still honor Darn Tough’s exchange policy and I’m stoked to find one. Then I wander around and am in awe of all the history of the town and all the cool murals.
I find a brewery and find some friends that I met on the PCT who are also hiking the CDT this year. And make new friends too. I love this hiker community.
Dinner is at the Gold Bar and Western, a bar that has been around since 1907. Actually it’s two bars in one. And you can gamble inside. And they have a restuarant inside selling the most amazing Montana-raised beef burgers and beef-tallow fries. I inhaled them before I had a chance to take a picture. The place is poppin’ for a Wednesday night. The whole town seemed to be pretty lively and fun for a weekday and it gives off a country, progressive, local, and outdoor vibe all in one. Can’t beat that.
I’m so excited to sleep in a bed tonight. I finally curl up after midnight and zonk out in seconds.
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