Pie On The Continental Divide Trail – Weeks Four, Five and Six
So there’s lot of reasons I haven’t uploaded a new post from the CDT in a while. Some valid and some not. Anyway here’s my nightly scribbles from weeks 4,5 and 6.
Day 20 Started at 6 am, we all wanted to get to Helena as quickly as possible. A chilly eight mile road walk got us to the highway, 20 minutes later we were riding in the back of a pickup truck into town. We found ourselves a tasty breakfast at a Casino/Diner before heading to our motel for the next couple of nights. Hot showers and soft beds were how we spent the rest of the day. Oh and food, plenty of it in the form of fried chicken, salad and ice cream.
Day 21 was our zero day. Laundry and lounging. Our motel had a swimming pool with a hot tub and a sauna which was a treat for our tired and aching muscles. With our ressuply and all the other town chores done we relaxed and enjoyed 80’s movies from the comfort of our motel beds.
Day 22 we enjoyed a lay in and made the most of the 12pm checkout. With our bellies full of some last minute town food we pretty quickly got a hitch back to the trailhead. We did a leisurely 13 miles before setting up camp and getting some sleep for the next days’ planned 25 miles.
Day 23 started at 5:45 with bagels and cream cheese, a perfect trail breakfast. After packing up in the cold of the morning we had a good amount of flat gravel roads to walk. This led to easy early miles and a good warm up for the days’ hiking. 23 miles was the plan for the day and the going was fairly easy so I made it to camp around 5pm. Cheesebeard had ran into a black bear whilst all alone, apparently it was only feet away but ran off as soon as they spotted each other, just glad it wasn’t a grizzly! For the following day we’d plan to try and do 30 miles so that we only had 15 to do going in to Anaconda. A few of us had packages to pick up before the post office closed at 1pm with it being a Saturday. Safe to say with a big day planned we hit the sleeping pads early and got some zzzz’s.
Day 24 started early again, we left camp at 6:30 to start off our 30 mile day. It was the perfect day to do 30 miles, cool, relatively flat and clear blue skies. Apart from the normal snack and lunch breaks we hiked consistently through the day, ending our day with a long dry road walk. I’d broken my PR again and felt surprisingly good considering the long mileage. It felt good to be close to town, especially as we had a diner breakfast to look forward to.
Day 25 I had chosen to cowboy camp which ended being a really bad idea. My sleeping bag got drenched by condensation so I quickly threw all my gear into the pack and started the 15 mile road walk to town. I had service all the way into town so was able to have a long conversation with the lady, something that lifted my mood and left a big smile on my face. The awesome breakfast I got at the diner in town also left a big smile on my face. The rest of our nearo was spent in the cool little town of Anaconda, eating, drying out gear and enjoying beers with friends. The town let’s hikers sleep for free in the park and a few of us paid to take a shower and swim in the outdoor pool. A super refreshing town stop.
Day 26 we slept a little later and got some last minute food at the grocery store on the way out of town. We had a good few miles of exposed road walking out of town before finally getting back in amongst some trees. We ended up pushing harder than planned and got to camp around 9 with 23 miles under our belt. Pretty good as we didn’t start hiking until 11. We had a beautiful dinner spot by Storm lake and all retired to the serenity of our sleeping bags.
Day 27 was a roller coaster. 25 miles with six 1000+ foot climbs and descents one after the other. The saving grace was the beauty of the trail and the views from each pass or summit that we reached. Sweeping vistas and lots of lakes and running water. The group was split a little with six of us out in front and the rest probably only five miles behind although we never bumped into them throughout the day. It was a good opportunity to get to know some of the people a little better without the huge group dynamic. We rolled into our camp at Rainbow lake feeling sore and tired. We enjoyed the lake whilst eating dinner and made plans for the days to come.
We managed to get a slightly earlier start on day 28, emerging from our tents with sore muscles from the previous days’ rollercoaster. It was straight back to the big ups and downs of the previous day, although it did get easier in the afternoon. With over a week since the previous laundry session my clothes were filthy and encrusted with salt. This often leads to me getting some kind of chafing and today was the day. I tried all the tricks of the trade with various degrees of success. Let’s just say I was walking like John Wayne towards the end of the day. We had planned to stop at a spring 23 miles in, but alas it was dry. None of us had read the comments on Guthooks until it was too late so we continued on 4 miles until the next spring. Situations like that always test my nerve but you just have to keep on keeping on.
Day 29 we ended up pushing hard and getting into Darby, Montana. Originally we were going to do 25 and go into town early the following day. Rain and lightning storms finally caught up with us in the afternoon and the decision was made to do a 29 mile day and get to a dry motel room. We were wet, sore and tired when we finally got into town but nothing that a good burger and a couple of beers couldn’t fix. This journey in to town also meant we would be taking a double zero in Darby as we’d already planned to take one in town. A pleasant outcome.
Day 30 was spent exploring the cool little town of Darby. We found ourselves large, tasty breakfasts, a huge candy store and a brewery, what more could hikers ask for? With sore muscles I decided to take an evening yoga class in town and what a great idea that was. I left feeling (more) limber and super relaxed and chilled out.
Day 31 was zero in Darby day number 2. More big breakfasts, ressuplying trail food at the local grocery store and some basic town chores like sending emails and making calls. The day ended perfectly with Star Wars on the motel TV and a big bag of candy from Darby’s great candy shop.
Day 32 started off with another great breakfast in town before getting a ride back up to the trailhead. This next section to Leadore was famous for being tough due to numerous steep ups and downs every day. It started out well but we soon got a taste of what was to come over the next few days. Whilst coming up a steep climb a storm rolled in and thunder sounded around us. Somehow we managed to walk under grey storm clouds for a couple of hours and we never got hit with rain. Afternoon storms are something to be respected out here. I have a feeling we will really learn that in the next few weeks.
First thing on day 33 we went straight up, over 3000 feet up. It wasn’t as steep as we thought it might be but it took us a long time. The group was split as half the group had left town earlier the previous day and had made it a few more miles. Eventually throughout the day they started to catch up as all of us camped together for the first night in a while. It was a hard day despite only doing 24 miles, lots of steep ups and down that would be continuing over the next few days. I spent most of the day listening to my favorite podcasts on the downhills and energetic music to get me through the uphills. We got to camp around 7:30 and settled in for the night.
Day 34 started off with some epic views, admittedly we had to work hard on some steep climbs to earn them but it was totally worth it. The sun was only illuminating half of the valley and watching the shadows move as we hiked was a great start to the day. Eventually the terrain mellowed out and we were able to get in some solid miles. Unfortunately for me i started to chafe pretty bad. I’d had some moments over the previous few weeks it today I seemed to start chafing in all the places. The hip belt on my pack started to rub me raw as well as various other places that you probably don’t need the details on. Safe to say I was in a good amount of pain for the rest of the day despite treating it as best I knew how. Our day finished just after 7pm with about 25 miles done for the day.
Day 35 was one of those days that just goes by really quickly on trail. We had a waterless stretch of about 18 miles but after some hard climbs earlier in the day I got in some kind of flow state and the miles seemed to fly by. We spent the night at Lemhi pass, the highest point that the Lewis and Clark expedition went through. Instead of setting up our tents all of us cowboy camped in the parking lot, a hilarious scene.
On Day 36 half of the group decided to push 27 miles into Leadore whilst myself and the other half of the group decided to take an easier day of 23 miles and do four miles into town the following morning. Despite some more steep ups and downs it was a really easy day, we took lots of breaks and still ended up in camp at 18:30. This was the first day in a while I’d hiked all day with other people. I often enjoy hiking alone and seeing people at breaks but It’s really nice to chat with people, it makes the day pass much faster.
Day 37 we awoke early and did our four miles to the road, passing by fields of cows on the way. The hard hitchhike to town was as hard as expected and after walking a few miles down the road eventually a car came along and gave us a ride. Leadore was definitely a town to get in and out of quickly. We managed to do laundry, eat and shower before getting back to the trail late in the day.
Day 38 we awoke at the trail head and set off into the rolling hills of Idaho. We almost immediately ran into a couple of Northbound Hikers, tanned, bearded and happy to see people. We chatted about the trail and congratulated them on being pretty close to the finish. The entire day was spent up on the ridge of the continental divide, exposed and hot. We were hiking up high today and reached our high point of the trail thus far at 10,000 feet. The day was spent hiking on steep ATV tracks with not a switch back in sight. We rolled into camp after 26 miles but felt like we’d done a lot more.
Day 39 I started early like always and was out in front during the morning, a great opportunity to awaken slowly with the start of the day. Late morning we bumped into a couple heading Northbound that hiked the AT with us in 2015. They had retired in 2013 and hiked the PCT and were now section hiking the CDT to get the triple crown. It was great to see them and we made plans to keep in touch over the next few months. I find it so inspiring to see people not letting age dictate the way they live their lives. Mid day saw us up on the ridge navigating from signpost to cairn and making a lot of the route up as we went. After dropping back down we trundled along dirt roads for miles until heading back up into the hills to sleep up on the ridge.
The morning of day 40 was the coldest we’d yet to experience on the CDT. We had lots of condensation on our tents and temperatures were around forty degrees. I donned all my layers and packed up quickly, surprised by the amount of frost that had formed on the outside of the tent. The plan for the day was to do 32 miles which would leave us 20 miles outside the town of Lima for the following days hike. Right before the end of the day I saw my first ever Elk, two large males with prominent antlers. Despite the cold start the miles came along nicely and we arrived in camp having broken my PR for most miles in a day at 32. ZZZzzz..
Day 41 was set to be an “easy” 20 miles into town. It didn’t really end up being that easy. 12 solid miles of up and down roller coaster trail. Straight up and straight down with no switch backs. Following that was an eight mile road walk in the heat of the day. Oh the CDT! Lima, Montana was a tiny but perfectly good little trail town with a great motel, diner and well stocked grocery store. After taking care of town chores it was perfect to sit in front of some tv with snacks and a cold beer.
The plan for day 42 was to enjoy the morning in town before hiking out in the afternoon. Instead we decided to zero. When someone suggested taking a zero we all collapsed like a house of cards. Sometimes you just have to embrace the zero days.
Stay tuned for more posts over the next few weeks, and follow me on Instagram to see more updates from the the trail https://www.instagram.com/pieonthetrail/
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