Retrospective Update From the CDT: Idaho, Montana, and CANADA
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
Wyoming was a whirlwind for me. It was fast; it was fiercely challenging in the mental and emotional department, and it was also one of the most dynamic states I’ve ever walked through (because apparently, at this point, I’ve walked through a few–haha). From the high deserts of the Great Basin, to the Winds, and to Yellowstone NP, Wyoming did not disappoint. When I crossed over the Wyoming/Idaho border into Idaho, it was sad but exciting moment because it was one step closer to the goal: CANADA.
Idaho by itself was very short lived, and nothing much to write home (or to write to you guys) about. The most eventful thing that occurred in Idaho was losing our giant NOBO bubble and running into and hiking with Cerveza! Cerveza and I began the trail together , and this was Cerveza’s Triple Crown trail. I was so excited to see her and to have her join Bandit and I as we chipped mile after mile off the Canada chopping block.
Together, we crossed into Montana! Then back to Idaho. Then Montana! Then Idaho. Then Montana! Repeat about a gazillion times and you basically have an idea of what the next couple hundred miles were like. The trail along the Idaho/Montana border consisted of high, rolling hills and double track 4WD “roads” that went straight up and down hill after hill. It was challenging, but like most of the trail–therewas a subtle beauty to it. By this time of the year (early September), the hills were golden brown, and at night we were reminded of our rising latitude and waning summer when the temperatures dropped below freezing a few times. We saw so many elk, moose, deer, and even a badger!
Soon, the trail turned east and left the Idaho border behind, and we walked our way deeper into the Montana wilderness. Guys, Montana is WILD (the wildlife!), rugged (long carries; no water!), rough (the blowdowns!), and so so so so so lovely (sigh….). I know walking into the heart of Montana–back in the mountains and wilderness areas–was a huge morale booster for me. Mountains will always be that for me.
Water carries were once again a little bit longer. And it seemed as though the wind got a little bit stronger. ***A note about CDT wind. Before hiking the CDT, a friend told me that it was the windiest trail they had ever been on; the wind, they said, was constant. I didn’t really know what that meant until I experienced it. I can say that I have never actually been blown off my feet, but I’ve come close–like REALLY close, embarrassingly close.***
The urgency to get to the border heightened for me as the days were getting shorter, the the sunlight not lasting as long, the water sources getting scarcer, and snow creeping onto the mountains we summited daily. I immediately sent for some warmer clothing, after I woke up one day and had to put on every article of clothing I carried with me just to stay bearably warm.
Bandit, Cerveza, and I decided we would do the long haul to from Lincoln, MT, through the Bob Marshall Wilderness, to East Glacier Park, MT in one push.
Many hikers choose to split it up to make the carry and the miles a little easier because it goes through such rugged terrain. I’m not sure I would do that again–walking out of Lincoln with 7 days of food on my back, plenty of water, and extra warm clothing was really challenging! (That day was my shortest day on trail: we went a whopping 5 miles out of Lincoln…)
Entering into the Bob Marshall Wilderness, or “the Bob,” as it is known on trail and for locals, was an experience I will never forget. I didn’t know what wild meant (well, I thought I did), until I experienced “the Bob.” The isolation, the lack of humans, and the amazing terrain all contributed this wildness.
Every day we spotted bear scat and bear prints that very obviously belonged to some very large grizzlies. One day we followed what we identified as wolf prints, perhaps a whole pack of wolves, from the variation in the sizes of the prints, and we followed them for some miles.
Finally, I gotto see my first grizzly bears! Bandit spotted two grizzlies as the three of us were walking through some burn areas.
They had already spotted us and were booking it up the opposite side of the ravine we were walking through. It was crazy to see how fast they went! We made it through the Bob, and this meant only one thing: Glacier was next. We said our goodbyes to Cerveza, as she was meeting up with her dad to hike through Glacier, and promptly, we ran back into Cheetah, who joined Bandit and I for our last miles to Canada.
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
I wasn’t prepared for the grandeur of Glacier National Park. I don’t have any other word to describe it, but GRAND. I am so grateful that my experience of Glacier consisted of walking the hundred or so miles of it on the CDT. Names like Triple Divide Pass, Piegan Pass, Pitamaken Pass, St Mary Lake, Swiftcurrent Pass, and the Highline Trail are names that I will cherish and look back on with longing and love in regards to Glacier and the CDT.
We were able to make it through the park on a small weather window between storms that held up many other hikers in the days before and the days that followed. After a very cold, windy, and rough start, we made our way through the park. We tried to make the most of each step. We feasted on leftover huckleberries. We spied black and grizzly bears, eagles, big horn, mountain goats, elk, etc…
By far the most perfect day in Glacier, and, in my opinion, my best day on my entire 155 day journey, was the day I walked the Highline Trail. It was also my last full day on the CDT. Usually the Highline Trail is a highway–frequented by hundreds of hikers each year because of the amazing views it offers of the park. But as we made our way up and over Swiftcurrent Pass and along the Highline, we ran into less than 8 hikers the entire day.
The weather cleared and warmed up, giving us brilliant views that we attempted to capture with pictures. We ended our day by watching the sunset as we hiked into the Fifty Mountain campsite. I am so grateful for the sun for giving us such a grand send off. Especially because the following morning was not as kind. We woke up surrounded by clouds. It was chilly and wet. The trail descended down and around Waterton Lake, and suddenly, 10 miles from our start that morning we arrived at Boundary Bay and the US/Canadian border.
Those of you who have finished a thru-hike of a long-distance trail, may be familiar with the feelings that followed. A defined end point can give closure, and it can also be very anti-climatic. I knew the “now what” feeling would soon creep in, but I also felt a solid “it is finished” feeling as well. I am blown away by the CDT, and I feel honored and grateful to have walked it on a beautiful and continuous path. Long trails are a way of life for me these days. They are my home and the home of my ever-expanding trail family. I have many plans to walk many more long trails in the future, and thankfully, I think it will take me the rest of my adult life to walk them all. Stay tuned…
(Thank you so much for reading my recap of my thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail. Please, continue to follow me on my other adventures in and around my wild Utah home, and as I continue my life-long quest for long-distance travel! Follow me on Instagram: @kaytebrown)
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