Day 124 8/31 32 miles
After getting into town yesterday the rest of the afternoon proved to be very productive. First of all we had to estimate our mileage for the rest of the trail then QB was able to get all our backcountry permits squared away for Glacier NP next week. The staff she dealt with on the phone at Glacier were super helpful. Next we had to take care of some logistics pertaining to a little adventure we have planned for after the CDT. We resupplied, cleaned up, did laundry, then wolfed down racks of ribs for supper. No doubt impressed with our appetites, a few forest service workers at the table next to us gave us a huge bag of buffalo jerky and some candy for the trail.
This morning we tried to get out early but it took a little while to get a hitch. After about 20 minutes 2 cars pulled over at once. The first was Dave, who stopped to pick us up, the second car was his wife who stopped to give him his cell phone that he forgot and also a piece of her mind. She was not happy about him forgetting his cell phone and she was not happy about him picking up hitchhikers either. It got a little awkward, but only for a second until we got away from her. Dave was really nice and drove us the 6 miles back to where we got off the reroute yesterday. The kicker was, he was on his way to pickup his Mother-in-law(Her Mother!), and drive her to an appointment, the ultimate hitchhiker. After Dave dropped us off we walked along a series of dirt roads and then 3 or 4 different trails for about 25 miles before we got back to the CDT north of the Alice Creek Fire. Luckily Queen B is a solid navigator and we had no problems finding our way along the reroute. It was actually quite pleasant, the trails were smooth, there wasn’t much smoke, and we came across Heart Lake, a great place to swim and eat lunch this afternoon. Once back on the official CDT we walked high on a ridge and it got super windy and smoky again. Supposedly there’s a lot of grizzlies up this way so we’re trying to use good bear country habits; we ate about an hour before we stopped to camp and then hung our food a good distance from where we’re sleeping. Hopefully the grizz don’t bother us. We’ve got a 180+ mile section until our next town and Glacier NP, so today was definitely a solid start. Walking out of Lincolnswam in beautiful Heart Lake skies are clear for awhile back on trail then smoky again see?
Day 125 9/1 34 miles
I woke up in the middle of the night last night to what I thought was a bear outside my tent. In my half sleep I thought I heard sticks breaking and the sounds of a bear snorting and walking around. For about 10 minutes I was terrified but in reality it was probably a dream so I put in my earplugs and went back to sleep. Starting this morning we just crushed miles all day. The trail went up over a pass then followed a creek for most of the day. We went through a burn with very little shade so laying down in the icy cold creek this afternoon was very refreshing. Eventually we got to a trailhead and started taking a side trail to Benchmark Ranch where we had sent a resupply box a couple weeks ago. A couple picked us up and drove us a few miles to the ranch feeding us cold delicious watermelon during the ride(best food ever). At Benchmark we ran into Mac, Appa, and JPEG and those guys gave us the bad news of a brand new fire causing a trail closure up ahead. We hiked out with them this evening and we’ll try to figure out a way to get around the fire, hopefully it’s manageable and doesn’t involve a lot of road walking or add tons of extra miles. Around sunset we found a spot to camp just north of the West Fork of the Sun River(500 feet north of the river if you’re a ranger reading this).
Day 126 9/2 31 miles
First thing this morning I saw a bald eagle soaring over the river, I took this for a good sign. The five of us turned right off the CDT and got onto a trail along the North Fork of the Sun River hoping to skirt the fire to the east. It was a hot one out there, luckily I was able to jump in the river a few times because the trail was almost always exposed. After almost a full day of hiking we got to an intersection with a sign posted from a ranger directing us west back onto the CDT then south to Spotted Bear Pass and an alternate off of that. A couple miles later we stopped at a ranger station and got the word from them. Things aren’t looking good. There’s about 5 fires north of us, they’re spreading and the CDT is closed. There might be a slim chance of a reroute but that would bring us way west before going north and rejoining the CDT, if somehow all those trails stay open. The plan right now is to head south on the CDT back to Benchmark Ranch to re-evaluate, essentially doing a big loop through the Bob Marshall Wilderness. I don’t want to walk through a fire, or a closed trail, or get into some kind of situation where I’d need to get rescued and put somebody else’s life at risk. If over the course of the next day we get some good news that a new route has been developed to get through the wilderness we can continue north. As of right now we’ll probably have to hitch to East Glacier in a couple days and miss about 75 miles of trail. It’s a bummer but it’s not heartbreaking, a similar situation happened to me in ’15 on the PCT so I guess I’m used to it. Anyway after talking to the rangers we walked about five more miles before finding a nice campsite by Baldy Bear Creek. Saw an eagle flying over this and a beaver swimming in itNorth Fork of the SunAppa examining a swimming holeMac keeping his feet dry QB and Mac walking towards the firethe infrastructure in the BMW is impeccable
Day 127 9/3 33 miles
Today was quite the day. First of all this morning we were all sitting around eating breakfast and Queen B saw something in the woods not too far from us that she thought was a small grizzly. I looked over and I saw something too, just real quickly that I thought was a big cat because of the way it moved (this is based on nothing though since I’ve never seen a big cat). We started hiking south at a relaxed pace because there was really no hurry to go back to Benchmark. We passed the Spotted Bear alternate and there was a map posted with a rat’s nest of closed trails but nothing about a reroute through the fires so we continued South back towards Benchmark. About a mile and a half later we ran into Griggs who was hiking north with a map, a plan, and some good info about a reroute from the forest service. This was some unexpected and really good news. Since nobody had service he air dropped us all pictures of the maps and the details of the ‘Schaefer Reroute.’ I turned around along with QB, JPEG, Mac and Appa and we all went north back up to the Spotted Bear trail and 10 miles down that way. At Pentagon Creek we talked to a forest service worker, who confirmed our route was safe from the fires, and we took a left heading west from there. We walked about 10 more miles to the base of Gunsight Peak and decided to put as much distance between us and the fires as we could. From there we night hiked for a couple hours to a saddle near the peak. It was a hot night and a steep climb. Once we got up top it was super windy and smoky and we were walking through an old burn with an almost full blood moon. I felt like I was on another planet. I’m glad I wasn’t camping alone because it was definitely spooky up there. Ran into Griggs and got some awesome news, figuring out the reroute north trying to walk out of the smoke
Day 128 9/4 29 miles
The light of day this morning put a whole new paint job on the apocalyptic world I went to sleep in last night. The burn we walked through was really crazy looking and we also got a good look at Gunsight Rock. We all stopped at a lake up there and took a nice long break, it was a relaxing morning since we walked so late last night. From the lake we carried on for about 10 miles to a river with a good swimming hole then walked a little further to the Schaefer work station and talked to the kids working in there. We carried on from there walking about 10 miles on a nice manicured trail through a lodge pole pine forest. At one point, while walking with Mac, I saw a big black bear that was safely way down in a ravine. QB and I usually always walk together but for some reason she never sees any bears. I’m not keeping score or anything but if I was it would be 11-2(not counting yesterday morning). We carried on to a road then walked about 3 more miles to the locked Challenge Cabin and camped in front of it.Gunsight RockGunsight Lake
Day 129 9/5 8 miles
Woke up to a super cold morning and frozen shoes! No big deal, warmed up quickly and walked 8 miles to Marias Pass. Along with QB, I got a hitch to East Glacier Village in a Glacier NP tour bus. It was a sweet ride! I’ve been spending the day relaxing and eating in town. QB and I are planning on getting back to the Pass tonight, camping there, and then we’ll hike 15 miles of trail back to East Glacier tomorrow. Our National Park backcountry permits don’t start until September 7th so 2 short days will be very nice.thanks for the ride Ron!