Miles – 16.97 (111.39)
Total miles – 69.74
The wind blew all night. The tents rattled most of the night. At some point it did calm down a bit, only to pick up toward dawn. With the miles we have been doing we knew that we would get to our car this afternoon. The only question was would there be time to drive to the Prius, then to the water cache, and get home before we were to tried to drive. We packed camp and started up the trail. There was one other hiker camped on this small shoulder. He started hiking with us. Over the next few miles we talked with him. Has name is Up Hill Hike. He just retired and is attempting his first long trail. We all hiked into Barrel Springs. No one needed water so we just stopped for a break. Mama Raven checked out the tank the spring flows into and found soft drinks in the cold water. We split two and took two for lunch. Up Hill Hike went on while we took a break. We are very familiar with the trail from here to our car. This is one of our favorite day hiking areas. We headed off into the open grassy plains in the toward San Ysidro Creek. This is a big cattle ranch, but the only cows we saw were way down in the valleys below us. We have not had a lot of rain this years so the grasses were just now beginning to grow. Most of the plains were covered with the dried brown grass stalks from last year. We stopped for a break under the sycamore trees growing over San Ysidro Creek. We were here one and a half months ago and the creek was not flowing, but the resent rains have revived it. Mama Raven soaked her hurting feet. Her planters fasciitis has returned. We will have to get it resolved before this summers hiking trip. From the creek the trail climbs up out of the valley and crosses more plains to Eagle Rock. This is where we were planning on having lunch. As we approached we could see a group of 12 horsemen around the rock. We hiked just past the rock to a different outcropping and stopped to eat. After the housemen left we saw 8 or 9 hikers head off in both directions. The kids climbed the rocks and we ate our last meal for this short trip. Soon it was time to head on. We hiked through more plains and up onto a chaparral covered ridge. Crossing it we dropped down to Canada Verde Creek. This creek runs all year, and we followed it all the way to Hwy 79. Most Thru-hikers walk to the Community Center for a place to camp, food, and showers. Warner Springs PO is just 1.2 miles north. But this was not for us. Our car was on the far side, so we headed around to the second crossing of Hwy 79. Just before reaching our car we stopped at the deserted campground. There are picnic tables here and it is covers with huge oak tress. It is a very nice location. On our 2015 PCT hike we camped here. It took a few minutes to find a path to our truck but soon we were driving south. First stop was the water cache at Scissors Crossing. Bling and I retrieved the water and placed it with the large cache under the bridge. Next we all drove back to Mt. Laguna and picked up the car. An hour and forty-five minutes later we were at home. All and all it was a good little trip and we enjoyed getting out.
Small camp site after 4th gate
Miles – 23.98 (94.41)
Total miles – 52.77
Leaving camp it is a very easy walk to Scissors Crossing. We traversed along the mountainside and then had a long straight section across the desert floor. Before we started this trip we had stashed 4 gallons of water at the far side of the crossing. When we got to the 1st road there was a water stash, some basic supplies, and, since it is Easter, someone had put 4 pies from Julian. We each had a slice. We filled up on water then walked on to the bridge. Under it was a very large water stash and someone was cooking breakfast for the hikers. Two water stashes and we still have not gotten to ours. We decided to not touch ours and, once we had finished the hike, we would drive back and move it under the bridge.
We stared up San Felipe Ridge. This is a very long exposed climb with no natural water. Although, about 12 miles up the ridge is a water cache. The weather was perfect to hike this desert trail, cloudy, cool, and not too windy. It is not unheard of having temperatures in the triple digits. We moved along well, but the hiking is very boring. You spend a lot of time waking in and out of gullies and small valleys. We did come across a rattlesnake. Bling was passing it when they both saw each other and jumped back. He waited for us to catch up and we all passed it. It was big and brown. In the later afternoon we got to the 3ed gate, the water cache. There were hundreds of gallons of water stacked in boxes. After filling our water bottles we decided to hike a few more miles to 4th gate and stop for the night. When we arrived at the 4th gate there was no place to camp, so we pushed on to the next flat area. This was a somewhat exposed shoulder. Right now it is very windy up here and we have only a little protection. I hope the wind lets up so we can sleep.
A small saddle
Mile – 22.89 (70.43)
Total miles – 28.79
Today we started to have hiking aches and pains. The hips hurt, the shoulders hurt, the feet hurt, the back hurt. Some high clouds rolled in last night and that soften the sun as we hiked. They thicken a bit this evening. That will make tomorrow cooler, when we drop down into the desert.
For many years we have used Z-Lit Sleeping Pad. Last night Mama Raven tried an inflatable sleeping pad for the first time and had problems. It’s surface is nylon and she slides around a bit. Also her pad slide around the tent making it hard to stay close to her. We sleep with a single open sleeping bag, like a big blanket, so we have to be near each other. The last problem was her back; the pad did not support it. In the morning she had a lot of back pain. She is going to let Bling and Whisper try the pad for the next few nights.
This was really an easy day of hiking. The trail goes along the top of the Laguna Mountains, just on the eastern edge, where they drop down to the desert. In the afternoon we hiked down to Chariot Canyon Rd. The trail then come back up and around to the next saddle and our only water source, Rodriguez Spur tank. The water tank was just about empty, but someone had left some bottles of water. We partially filled up. As we were fixing dinner a truck drove up and they stopped to talk to some of the thru-hikers. Soon they were handing out more water. All and all about 11 people got water from them. After dinner we hiked on, for a few more miles. Just about 7:00 we stopped for the night. We had to walk down to a small saddle to find a flat place to camp. All the other thru-hikers stayed back at Rodriguez Spur.
Near Mount Laguna Campground
Miles – 5.9 (47.54)
Total miles – 5.9
We are doing a short 3-4 day trip just to get out this spring. I looked at four or five possible trips and decided on a point-to-point along the PCT. This trip will give us a chance to stretch our legs and see if there is any improvement in Mama Ravens foot. At the end of the CDT Mama Raven was a mass of pain. She hurt in her neck, lower back, throat, and right foot. All winter she has been seeing doctors trying to resolve all her issues.
We had a lot to finish before we could drive out, so we knew we would get a late start. All those last minute things add up. What we had not realized was that Bling did not have any decent shoes. We left our house at 11:30. Mama Raven and Bling headed for Big 5. Whisper and I stopped by the bank and then we meet them at Big 5. We found a pair of shoes and we all headed over to Subway for lunch and a sandwich for dinner. On the road again we drove to Warner Springs and parked the truck in a shady spot off of the road. We all piled into the Prius and drove to Scissors Crossing. We found a safe place near the trail and stashed 4 gallons of water. We will be back there in a few days for the water. While looking for a hiding place, Mama Raven realized that she had forgotten her hat. With the temperatures in the mid 90’s a hat was something she would need. We left Scissors Crossing and drove up to Julian. The town was busy. I found a parking place and we walked to the nearest clothing store. There Mama Raven found a hat. We left Julian and headed toward Mt Laguna. We made a quick stop at Pioneer Mail to check to see if the water was turned on, it was. Our next stop was at the Mt Laguna store. I asked were we could park the car for a few days. The owner told me about a place just up the road. A short time later we pulled into the empty parking lot and unloaded. It was 3:30.
The hiking along Mt Laguna was easy. It is mainly rolling hills covered in chaparral. Most of the pines were lost in a big fire 5 or 6 years ago. We hiked along easily in the cool mountain air. Clouds rolled in as we sat and ate our Subway sandwiches. Then we hiked on toward the Mt Laguna Campground. We found a good place to camp and settled down for the night.
Over a month now, we have been home after completing our CDT hike and the longing for the trail will not leave us alone. From past experiences, we know those thoughts will not end until we are hiking again. A short week hike will not do, but a trail of great distance that will allow us to luxuriate in all the goods things of thru-hiking. To walk in nature’s grace for weeks at a time and to sooth the heart and soul in its peace and beauty is a journey worth taking. We, humans, have designed a very complicated and stressful way of life for ourselves. With our hectic lives, humans have simply forgotten how to be human. We are all hurrying to do this or that. For the most part, it is meaningless. We are too busy working and making money, too busy tuned into our media devices, too busy trying to fit 40 hours of activities in a 24 hour period. The goal has become to accomplish tasks the cheapest and fastest way possible. We are quick to judge others without any thought of the individual. Whatever happened to the golden rule that you treat others the way you would want to be treated? Constantly, we are trying to live up to the expectations of society. Brilliantly, we beat ourselves up: not smart enough, not talented enough, not thin enough, not pretty enough, not a good enough parent or spouse, the list can go on and on. Amongst the wild places, it is the one place I have found where my individual self is good enough. This is why I hike. I need to go home to the trees, rivers, and mountains to remind myself that this hectic life is not normal or healthy. It is where all the unimportant elements of our daily lives that drown me simply disappear and what is left are the few essentials necessaries to sustain life. It is then I discover true happiness. Long distance hiking is something I want to experience over and over again to revel in the joy of being alive. Thru-hiking is a beautiful addiction!
I do not presume to be wise and an expert on matters of life and the universe. However, hiking for hours, day after day, week after week, many thoughts and ideas enter the mind. The following are a few thoughts that I pondered as I meandered along: There is a strong and loving connection between us and the natural world. There are reasons for its loving title of “Mother Nature.” If we listen closely, nature has much to teach us. The Hopi Indians, Aborigines, and other indigenous people know of the bound. Thru-hikers and anybody else that spends time in nature know too of this relationship. For those who are willing to listen, nature has much to tell us. As we walk along, the loving and compassionate ways of nature comes right up through the soil and flows up the legs and travels straight to the heart. Blowing gently, the wind rustles the leaves of the trees, that speak of kindness. Reminding how important and powerful the smallest details are, the tiniest flowers break through the hardened soil to show the world that they are important. Pouring down rain with thunder and lightning all around, nature shows how to have grace and elegance even under the worst circumstance. The majesty of mountain peaks can bring tears to the eyes of the toughest souls. There is perfect reciprocity taking place with each branch of nature mingling with one another. When will the physicists of the world see the grandness and potential of the laws of love and beauty? Hopefully, when the hiker goes home, they too can live their lives with the same beauty, grace, and most important, compassion that Mother Nature has so lovingly demonstrated.
Nonetheless, we are home and doing our best to re-adjust back into this normal life, if such a thing is possible. Upon returning to our residence, there was much anxiety. Our little bit of heaven on earth is over and we have rudely been tossed back into the stressful world. Although, hopefully, we can handle all, the hurdles that come our way with grace and elegance that nature showed us so many times on our adventure. Each Raven misses something different. Bling misses the lack of deadlines. Whisper misses the horses and the cold crisp mornings. For Mama and Papa Raven, the list is a mile long of all the items we miss. That will have to wait for another time.
Whisper is adjusting to home life the best. She has always been a homebody and in Whisper’s world, there is no place like home. What she missed the most was our two cats, Ollie and Oggie. In fact, after arriving home and seeing her beloved two cats for the first time in six months, she was overcome with emotion. The two cats were equally happy to see her. We were uncertain of their reaction to us after being away so long. Forgotten us, they did not! All they wanted was to be held and petted, constantly, for weeks after our return. Genuinely happy they were to have their people back. Even Oggie, who is known for his very soft and low volume motor, purred loudly. Finally, Whisper got what she so badly missed, to hold and love her cats.
After arriving home, the kids immediately returned to school. It seemed like a cruel act to inflict upon them after the past six months of living a carefree life of the trail. Each week they missed, made school harder and harder to return. Yes, we homeschool, but we go through Biola University that still has requirements to be met. It is a rigorous program, especially the high school level that Bling is at. He is a sophomore. For World Literature, he has been learning about Plato, Socrates, Homer, and Shakespeare. Physical science has been an introduction to physics and chemistry, which he will take next year. He also is taking geometry, world history, and swimming. Bling is longing for the life of the trail that has no deadlines. Whisper’s schooling is thankfully simpler. They are both back to swimming on the FAST swim team.
The following information is awkward to write about. I simply do not feel comfortable talking about such personal health issues for various reason’s. Because people have asked for information about the issues that I experienced along the way, I will give a brief update. There are hikers out there with far worse hurdles to overcome than I did. Nonetheless, the last month of the CDT were very hard on me. In fact, it seemed during the entire hike, everything possible was thrown at me to see how much I could take before I quit. There were many severe aches and pains I had to contend with. As much as I did not want to go home at the end of the hike, I also said I needed to go home and heal my body or find out what is wrong with the parts that won’t heal. So that is what I have been doing. For my right foot, a cortisone shot was administered to relieve the severe case of planters fasciitis, which throbbed even when I did not walk on it. On the same foot, I was diagnosed with a Morton neuroma. This explains why the pad of the foot hurt also. A cat scan of my sinuses will be performed soon to hopefully find out once and for all what is going on with that situation. Immediately, after returning home, I started seeing a chiropractor for my neck, back, and jaw. The TMJ has reached a level that the simple act of smiling has become painful. Chewing food is now quite an ordeal. We are seeing small improvements with the jaw, however eating is still a painful process. Thus, we are looking into a specialists in the area of TMJ. Three years ago, my neck from disc 4-7 were fused together. Several years prior to the surgery, we were hiking in Oregon and a tree fell down and hit me on the back of my head, causing much problems for my neck. After several years of treatment and pain management, the only solution was cervical fusion. The neck was better after the procedure, however, it still has issues, especially when I hike up hills with a pack on. The neck is held at an unnatural forward position, which results in pain. This will always be an issue as long as I hike. Consequently, the pain doctor I use to see, told me I would have to give up backpacking. As long as I can still walk, that will never happen! I have two successful long thru-hikes on the same neck that is plated and screwed together. I am counting on more hiking adventures for the future. Since the surgery, I have been scared to have my neck manipulated by the chiropractor, however hoping to find some relief from the pain that has been accumulating in the neck, I agreed to have adjustments. Surprisingly, I am having great results! After lower back ex-rays, I have learned that between the last two vertebrates, the discs are worn away. Without their shock absorbers, the vertebrae sit on top of the other and the nerve running through them is not happy about the situation. Seeing the chiropractor three times a week has brought some relief to the lower back, but still it is terribly sore. The writing is on the wall as to what I must do to fix this, however, I do not want another spine surgery. Hoping stem cell surgery advances come soon, I keep pushing aside the idea of surgery, although if I want to feel better now, there is a solution. Oh yes, there is one more issue that I kept silent about on the trip, I am officially lactose intolerant!
In addition to homeschooling and doctor appointments, I have finally begun the daunting task of reviewing and editing the 28,000 images that I took of our CDT hike. It will be several months to complete the task. After that job is done, I will put together a slideshow with music like I did for the PCT. Hopefully, that will be accomplished faster than the PCT slide show. There was a big learning curve for that one. Meanwhile, we will keep plugging along in our day to day life, shoving away as much of the chaos and craziness we can. We will be praying for our friends that have been diagnosed with cancer while we were gone, and we will be dreaming about our beautiful addiction of thru-hiking.
November 26, 2017
What is the best part of a long thru-hike? — Going home!
What is the worst part? — Going home!
East Glacier (26_154)
Day 167 – 10/5/17
Miles – 20.0
Total miles – 2582.6
At 2:10, we made it to the Canadian border! The Ravens have completed our second long trail.
It was another cold night. Knowing this was the last night of the trail for us, we woke early with great anticipation. We were up before dawn and on the road toward the border. No one every came by to collect the campground fee. Maybe the campground was closed for the winter. In an hour or so, we came upon AJ and Dundee still in there tents watching the sun rise. From the front doors of their tents, they had magnificent views of Chief Mountain. AJ did not even sleep in his tent. He slept his last night on the CDT under the stars. Dundee told us that the road was closed at Glacier National Park boundary and we would have four miles of snow to walk through. Knowing that they would catch up to us, we continued on. For the first 10 miles, the road was well traveled by vehicles and thus clear of snow. This made the walking easy, although it hurt our feet. Over the next few hours, we hiked northwest back toward Canada. Dundee past us but not AJ. The sisters were up ahead. A border patrol truck past us heading toward the border. It will be good if the truck cut a path through the snow for us. When we got to the park service gate, the truck was coming back and we had a nice cut path through the snow. We set off though the slushy tire tracks and an hour and a half later we could see the border crossing before us. The sisters and Dundee were there taking pictures as we walked up. With a round of celebratory yells, we crossed into Canada. We took out our drinks and toasted our completion of the CDT. We all carried a special drink from East Glacier to celebrate. We took family pictures around the monument with the border clear cut in the background. As we ate a snack, the sisters started back and soon AJ showed up. He took his time to reach the border because he wanted to savor every last step of the trail. He completed the trail one day before his twenty first birthday.
The CDT is nothing like the PCT. It is far harder both mentally and physically. There were far more moments of wanting to call it quits. With each hiker we knew who did decide to go home, we understood why. For some reason or another, we were able to keep going forward.
Finally it was time to turn around and head back down the trail/road. All of us are hoping a vehicle would come by and somehow be able to give all eight hikers, that made it to the border today, a ride down the mountain. Several hours later, we had left the closed road, we were walking the open portion when a pickup truck past us heading toward the border. That was a good sign. Since it was a dead end road, the truck has to pass us again to go the other way. A short time later, it showed up and stopped. They offered us a ride down. So The Ravens, Dundee, and AJ all piled in the back and down the mountain we went. A little while later, the truck stopped to pick up the sisters. When we reached Hwy 89, they offered to drive is all the way to East Glacier. Of course we took them up on that. We all put on coats and pulled out our sleeping bag to use as a blanket. It was an hour drive in the back of a pickup truck with the sun setting and freezing temperatures. With cramped legs and frozen hands and faces, we made it to town. We walked over to the Dancing Bears Inn were we stayed four days ago waiting out a winter storm. Consequently, we even got the same room.
Tomorrow another winter storm is coming in with very high winds and lots of snow so forecasted for this weekend. We finished just in time. We know there are a few more hikers still out there, including our friends Napoleon, Red Cross, Hot Rod, Spam, and Phish Out of Water. Our thoughts are with them as they complete the adventures. Now we have to figure out how we will get home.
At a campground near Hwy 89 and 17 ()
Day 166 – 10/4/17
Miles – 22.0
Total miles – 2562.6
Oh, what a cold night! Water froze inside our tents. Our socks froze as well as our shoes, and our Carnation Instant Breakfast had chunks of ice floating in it. Despite this, our attempts at extra insulation while we slept, worked. We managed to stay warm in our sleeping bags. Nonetheless, it was one cold night, the coldest of our entire trip. A harsh reminder, to let us know that winter is on our door steps and we need to get to the border as soon as possible. We hiked out about 8:30. A few hours later, as we crossed the ridge above St. Mary’s AJ came walking up behind us. AJ and Dundee camped a short mile ahead of us. Since it was nearly dark when we got in, we never saw or heard them. As we hiked the three miles into St. Mary’s, snow covered rugged peaks loomed above us, treating us with their magnificence. Once at St. Mary’s, we stopped at a store. AJ had already gotten there and Dundee has been waiting for all of us. To our surprise, the sisters were also there. The last time we had seen them was a day out of Lima. They have been road walking for several hundred miles, since Augusta. They wanted to avoid all snow. That explained how they had caught up with us. After getting something to eat, we all headed out for Babb, eight miles away. Yesterday afternoon as well as today, Mama Ravens’s plantars fascitis has kicked into high gear. She feels like she has an ice pick stabbing into her heel with every step. The pain is now all along the side of her feet, arch and shooting up into her lower leg. She has been putting up with this pain for a long time, but now it has become intolerable. She now hikes without putting her right heel on the ground which is altering her walk causing new aches. The miles of road walking has been hard on her foot. We only have fourteen miles more to go to Canada. Somehow she will make it. When we got to Babb, we wanted to get a room and slack pack to the border without the packs. This would make walking easier for Mama Raven. The only motel was full. We then walked to the junction with Hwy 17 and stopped at a small campground for the night. We came into the campground and no one was about. The sign said to pick a spot and someone would be by later. I walked by the four cabins, hoping that one would be open. A warm cabin would be great, but all of them were locked up. We set up the tents in one of the only places that was clear of snow and we settled down for the night. So fa,r no one as come by. Maybe they will hold our packs for us and we can slack pack tomorrow. We will see. Either way, we will reach Canada tomorrow. Yeah!
Somewhere along Hwy 89 ()
Day 165 – 10/3/17
Total miles – 2540.6
After all the snow yesterday, we thought that today would be cloudy and snowy too, but it was clear and cold. At 6:30, we walked over to the diner for breakfast. It was 27° outside. The sky was getting light when we returned to our room to finish packing. Red Cross and Napoleon came by our room to say goodbye. They are taking an alternate trail that will lead them into high elevations where there will be even more snow than the route we are taking. Knowing we will not see them again, we said goodbye. What is not to love about Red Cross and Napoleon! Good luck you two! It was near 8:00 when we hiked out. For the most part, we were comfortable except when the wind blew stinging our faces. Of course Papa Ravens bushy beard kept his face warm. A German Shepherd followed us out of town. Mama Raven was concerned that it would keep on following all the way to Canada. After a half mile, we were able to scare it in the right direction and it returned back to town. Snow covered the road as we hiked. Very little of it had melted. As we got closer to Two Medicine, we started up Hwy 49. The road was closed so there were no car tracks to provide us a clear path through the snow. Marching through the snow as the day went on, we began to see clear spots of asphalt as the snow began to melt. We took a break in one of those clear spots. As we sat there, a pickup truck drove past, which left a wonderful path for us to follow. It cut right down to the asphalt, so we did not have to walk through powder snow any longer. A few miles before Hwy 89, we came upon the truck, stuck in a 4′ snow drift. Two men were just starting to dig out. We past them and headed for Hwy 89. The nice thing about walking along Hwy 89 with all the cars was that all the snow was gone. The bad thing about the road walk was it was over fifty miles long. Our feet and bodies were going to be hurting! Periodically, we would look up to the high country with the solid cover of snow, wondering how our friends were doing up high. For The Ravens, we are thankful not to be up there. We do not love road walks. In fact we dread them. However, it will be quicker and easier. We will reach Canada before the next winter storm hits Saturday. We are tired. The kids need to start school. The more they miss, the harder it will be on them. Fall is already gone, and winter is beginning, making hiking hard not just physically but also mentally. The time has come for The Ravens to go home. Thus, we are taking the road. It’s whats best for this family. The road took us up the east side of Glacier National Park with the plains stretching far off to the east. The countryside is a mix of grassland, pine, cottonwood, and Aspen. The plants and trees are turning a vivid yellow and gold. They are mixed in with the green pine trees against the snowy background of hills and rugged mountains. Absolutely stunning!!! The beauty of it is intense! We are so lucky to see this countryside at this time of the year. Later in the afternoon, Dundee and Mudslide caught up with us. We hiked until almost sundown and seeked refuge in an open field where we found a patch of snowless ground to pitch the tents. We had to scrape some snow off to make it wide enough for both tents to fit. It is quiet cold and it will freeze tonight. Most hikers have the warm NeoAir mattresses that cost hundred dollars a piece. We still use thin foam ground pads that are inadequate in winter. The cold from the frozen ground filters right through them to our bodies as we attempt to sleep. Back in the East Glacier hostile hiker box, we picked up two small foam pads and a thick blue tarp. The foam would add extra protection. The tarp we cut in half for each tent for a barrier between us and the cold ground. Additionally, we spread out our rain skirts and backpack trash bag liners for the same purpose. Hopefully all this will allow us some comfort from the frozen earth. It is now time to go to sleep.
East Glacier (26_154)
Day 161, 162, 163, and 164 – 9/29/17, 9/30/17, 10/1/17, and 10/2/17
Miles – 8.1
Total miles – 2518.6
The trains were every loud all night. A major freight train route ran up and down the valley we camped in and our tents were only two hundred feet away from the tracks. Every half hour or so, a train would come by and the wheels would squeal really loudly. Of course the trains were those long freight trains that went for ever. Sleeping during the night was impossible. We did not rush to get packed up because we knew that we were only a few hours from town. Once we did start hiking, we made good time and were in East Glacier by 11:00. We found a room and then had lunch. Everyone ordered elk burgers except for Whisper, who had a regular beef. The elk tasted different, in a good way. While Mama Raven and Bling dried our gear, Whisper and Papa Raven went to get our re-supply boxes. Along the way, we saw Napoleon and Red Cross. We talked about coordinating this last section so we can finish together. There is a possibility that someone can pick up hikers and provide a ride back from the border. Glacier National Park still has the Waterton route closed, therefore we have to go to Chief Mountain. The problem with Chief Mountain is that the border crossing is closed for the winter on Oct. 1 and we will get there after that date. No vehicles will becoming through on the roads since it is closed. Hitching a ride is a slim chance. Therefore, we somehow need to find a ride back from Chief Mountain. Another problem we are working through is that Glacier National Park requires camping at specific locations. Thus we need to know exactly were we will be staying each night. The specific camps are either thirty miles away from each other or fifteen miles. Nothing in between. The park also charges seven dollars a night per person for each camp on top of a forty dollar registration fee. If it takes us six days, that will financially add up quickly. We do not even know which path we are taken with the incoming winter storm. Lots of snow is forcasted. High passes may get too much making it difficult to hike through. After this storm passes through, there are roughly four days of descent weather before another storm hits. Of course there is always a road walk to the border. It is only fifty seven miles and would take three days. This may be our best plan, however, we never envisioned taking a road to complete the CDT. Glacier National Park is the grand jewel of the trail and we may be missing the entire park. Although, we have already missed much of the CDT in Montana with all the fire re-routes. Depending on what we do, we will get our permits tomorrow and either leave mid-day tomorrow or early the next day or even the day after that.
We are taking a zero today and it is raining up in the mountains above us. Snow is coming tonight, tomorrow, and the next day. The hikers are starting to pile up in town, because of this storm. Currently Napoleon, Red Cross, Dundee, Mudslide (AJ), Phish Out Of Water, Hot Rod, Spam and ourselves are here. Everyone is looking at the best path to the border with another early winter storm upon us. We are so close to Canada. We just have to get there. There is a good chance we will stay tomorrow as well. The big question is Monday and how much snow will fall between now and then. The town of East Glacier is actually in the Black Foot Indian reservation. Literally, it is located beside Glacier National Park and thus a tourist community, but only for the summer. The town is closing down. Each day another business is boarded up for the winter. Amtrack train station for passengers has closed. Restaurants, hostel and hotels are in the process of closing. It is a mystery how we will get home once our CDT adventure is over. Perhaps the adventure will still continue!
Were in town for two more days because of the storm. The main part of the storm is supposed to come in tonight and last through all of Monday. The high temperature in Glacier for tomorrow is predicted to be 19°. Currently there are 11 thru-hikers here in town. We are all leaving Tuesday morning.
It’s stared snowing in the morning and it did not stop until after dark. At first, the snow did not stick, the ground was to warm. But with the outside temperatures in the upper 20’s. The ground soon cooled and the snow started to pile up. We got a few inches and everything had a nice white cover on it. Hot Rod did a lot of work yesterday, trying to figure out how to get permits for Glacier National Park lined up for everyone . In the end Phish Out Of Water is taking one route, which is all trail to the border Napoleon, Red Cross, and Spam are taking a second route, all trail to the border, and the rest of us are doing a combination road walk and trail to the border. Our plan is to walk hwy 49 and 89 to Many Glacier and then take the Chief Mountain trail alt to the border. Why the road? The high passes have two feet or more of new snow. It will take us six days to reach Canada by trail. In five days another storm is moving in and by taking the road we should finish a day before. Our weather looks good for the next four days. Bowlegs walked in today. He jumped ahead up to the border and stared hiking South. He still has to go to Helena to finish.
Hwy 2 ()
Day 160 – 9/28/17
Miles – 23.0
Total miles – 2510.5
It was a cold night with frost covering parts of the tents. We were slow in getting going and we did not leave until 8:00. This was the first day in several weeks where we had blue skies all day, not a cloud anywhere in the sky. It has been several weeks since we have woken to a perfectly blue sky. We headed up the trail and quickly came to our first stream crossing where Papa Raven dunk his foot. He became a cranky Papa Raven. We worked our way up Morrison Creek and down to it’s trailhead. We meet a thru-hiker named Phish Out Of Water, who also hiked the PCT in 2015. We had much to talk about, since that was the year we hiked the PCT. He informed us that Napoleon and Red Cross past us this morning with out seeing them. The three of them will be hitching to East Glacier from Hwy 2. Tomorrow, they will slack pack this section. Today, we will be hiking in from the trailhead along Hwy 2. We hiked a little farther down the road. It was getting dark and are clothing are also dark so we decided it was safest to set up camp and finish hiking the road in the morning. We should have about 7 miles into town.
Morrison Creek ()
Day 159 – 9/27/17
Miles – 23.2
Total miles – 2487.5
In the cold morning, we had a few clouds but mostly clear sky. Hurray!!! Our camp was in the heart of a blackened burned forest. There were very few plants and those that were there, were small, just starting to regrow. The ground was black. Tree trunks were black and silver, All and all a very desolated place. Since we were so exposed last night, we got a great deal of condensation. The tents looked like it had rained on them, and of course, the ash stuck to the wet gear. After rolling the tents up, our hands were black. We packed everything wet and hiked out of the blackened forest. We crossed to the next valley system and started down toward Schaffer Meadow. In a short time, we left the burned area and entered thick forest. The clouds built up so thick to cover up the sun. Occasionally, the sun would peek out, only to disappear again. The walk to Schaffer Meadow was not hard. Most of our time was spent hiking in a low level river valley. When the sun finally came out full force, we stopped to eat lunch and dry our gear. It was a relief to have everything dry. We never know how long we will be blessed with it’s presence. In the late afternoon, we came to Schaffer Work Center and a Forest Service airport. Actually, it was just a grassy spot where planes could land. We talked with the volunteer ranger before heading out. He told us that tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and then the weather will get bad again. We hope to get into East Glacier that day. About half hour later, as we walked down a long straight stretch of trail, we saw a bear ahead of us. It too was meandering down the trail. We all grouped up. It was a small, dark brown bear. It was walking away from us. Yelling “hello bear” as loud as we could, it looked back to us, then took off running around the corner into the trees above the trail. Up here, black bears almost all ways run from people, Grizzlies not so much. We’re pretty sure this was a Black Bear. We carefully hiked by the location were the bear had been and headed on. As the sun was getting low, we came to a wide river crossing. Off came our shoes and across we went. This was the second time today we had to take our shoes off to cross a river. After drying off, we started looking for a place to camp. We found a secluded horse camp and set up the tents back in the trees. It even has a place to hang our food. We will finish the fire detour tomorrow and get back on the CDT.
A burned out saddle ()
Day 158 – 9/26/17
Miles – 22.6
Total miles – 2464.3
One again, the sky was gray with clouds and our tents and sleeping bags were very wet with condensation. We put on our rain pants and jackets as well as our dry socks. We were not as concerned with rain, but with the wet plants. The trail is overgrown and we wanted to stay somewhat dry. The dry socks came in handy when both Bling and Papa Raven dunked their feet crossing a stream. Later, Mama Raven dunked one of her feet. Whisper came away with dry feet. We spent most of the day hiking down Spotted Bear Valley. The hiking was not hard, although it still took many hours to cover the 16 miles. The fall colors are out in full color. It was a beautiful walk. The clouds were still thick and we were concerned that the sun would not come out, so we strapped our tents and one sleeping bag to the backs of our packs and hiked on. It looked a bit funny, but it got the job done. Napoleon and Red Cross set up camp at Silvertip Cabin. They are each fighting colds and wanted to postpone the upcoming big up until tomorrow when hopefully they would be feeling stronger. The Ravens wanted to get the up over with. The up was a big 2,500′ in 4 miles. Finally, the sun came out in the late afternoon. Being an alternate trail, the path was rarely used and was heavily overgrown. Thankfully, it had been recently logged out. We stopped to eat dinner and then continued on. Soon the sun was setting, in a mostly clear sky, but there was no place to camp. We hiked on into the evening into a large burned area. From the look of it the fire occurred last year and it was a hot one. There were no plants, just blacken trees trunks and ash all about. With headlamps on, we hiked on looking for a flat place, hopefully away from any dead trees. Burned trees fall all the time, for no good reason and we did not want any of them hitting us. We were trying to reach a saddle, but the trail was very hard to follow in the dark. Eventually, we had to stop because we could not find the trail. We moved rocks and some dead burned plants and made enough room the pitch the tents. We could not remove the thick layer of black ash we would have to camp on. In fact, all around us was a charcoal wonderland. Everything we touched was charred and left it’s black residue on us and our gear. In the morning, it will not be pleasant to roll up the tents, especially if there is condensation.
Spotted Bear River (SB_2.9 R)
Day 157 – 9/25/17
Miles – 20.5
Total miles – 2441.7
Being so far north and later in the year, we are getting up later and later. It is simply too cold and very dark. This morning was no different and when we did get moving, we found that the tent and sleeping bags were very wet. That is what we get camping so close to a river, but we had no choice. We hoped to dry it at some point today, but one look at the sky told us that that might not happen. The sky was full of gray clouds. Around 7:30 we started up the valley. As we gained elevation, snow appeared. It did not get very deep, although, it was a nascence. As it melted, the trail became covered with slippery, sticky mud. As we topped our first saddle, we came to one end of the Chinese Wall. This is a ridge of vertical rock that loomed above us, which runs for miles. We hiked just below it. As we walked, clouds rolled over the wall and us. It rained several times. Just enough to get everything wet and prevent us from drying out our equipment. Snow is a good place to see what animals have used the trail by the footprints they leave behind in the snow. Often we see deer, elk, moose, and bear prints but today we saw prints of a pack of wolfs. We think they past this way a day or two ago. They were hunting, because their tracks went everywhere, sometime down hill, other times up, then they would go every which way. Just before My Lake, Napoleon and Red Cross showed up. We hiked together for a little while and we caught up on what they did for the last food drop. They needed to go to Augusta, but the couple who picked them up took them all the way back to Helena then up to their cabin back in Benchmark. A short time after leaving My Lake, we came to Spotted Bear Pass and the beginning of it next fire alt. This alt will take us around three fires in The Bob. Apparently, despite the fires being out due to all the snow and rain over the past two weeks, the trails are still closed. Thus, down to Spotted Bear River we went, stopping once to eat dinner and filter water. As it got dark, we could not find a place to camp because of all the undergrowth. We kept hiking with our headlamps on. Eventually we came to a river. As we crossed, we found Napoleon and Red Cross in their tent on the other side. They were enough places to put up our tents. Mama and Papa Raven’s tent went up in the middle of the trail and Whisper and Bling’s was tucked up underneath a large pine tree down the trail a short distance. We were thankful we had found home for the night.
W Fork S Fork Sun River (2826.1)
Day 156 – 9/24/17
Miles – 12.8
Total miles – 2421.2
Ah, a nice warm bed in a cozy cabin in a very cold valley. What more could a CDT thru-hiker want? We all slept well. A little before dawn, Papa Raven got up and rebuilt the fire in the stove. Soon the cabin was comfortable and warm again, which was good because it was 21° outside. After breakfast, we got down to work, showers and sorting the supply box. We did not rush, our plan was to leave around noon and we did. We really enjoyed staying at Benchmark Wilderness Ranch. The cabin suited our needs at a critical time and we will have good memories of it. Most of the hikers mailed their re-supply boxes to Augusta, which is a long hitch. The advantages to Augusta is access to grocery stores, laundry, and hotels. This would result in losing a day or two of hiking. Re-suppling at Benchmark, took only half a day away from hiking. We did not look forward to walking the two miles back to where we got off the trail but it had to be done. Just after we started walking down the road a truck, coming toward us and stopped. The couple inside asked if we were The Ravens. We soon found out that they had just dropped Napoleon and Red Cross off up at the trail head. They offered to give us a ride back to where we joined this road and, of course we took it. Once at our destination, we talked a few minutes with them, and then said thank you and goodbye to the generous pair from Indiana. Next, we were headed up there trail. The Sun River Valley is wide and level. We moved along well, passing through thick forest and then into a large burned area. All along the side of the trail was Fire Weed that had gone to seed. If we hit the stock hundreds of small seeds would float up into the breeze. For more than a mile, we had fun wacking the stocks and watching the seeds create small white clouds. We walked up the valley until dark, then we set camp. We are in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, also know as The Bob. This area is known for it’s bears. Yesterday, we saw a great deal of bear scat and foot prints on the way down to Benchmark but, luckily, we saw none today. From The Bob’s reputation, we decided it was time to get back in the habit of hanging our food. Hanging 6 days of food is not easy. It is really heavy. We need to start earlier, so Bling and Papa Raven are not doing it in the dark. Tomorrow, we will hike along the Chinese Wall. This is a unique geological feature that thru-hikers look forward to seeing. It was a pleasurable day of hiking and best of all, we saw the sun again.
Benchmark Ranch (23_586)
Day 155 – 9/23/27
Miles – 21.2
Total miles – 2408.4
Cold night. A very cold night. It was well below freezing. Before setting up the tent last night, we scrapped several inches of snow away to expose the wet ground underneath. Despite our snow removal, all night, we could feel the cold coming through our insolite pads. The sleeping bag kept us as warm as possible, nonetheless, it was not the best night of sleep. It was in the low 20’s when we got up. Wet socks, and shoes, including the laces, froze solid. We did not want to go out and face the harsh weather. Nagging at us, the mother trail kept summoning us to get moving. After eating breakfast, we turned on the stove to thaw out our socks and shoes. By doing that, the tent warmed up, which made us take even more time to get going. Needless to say, it was a slow morning. Finally, at 8:30 we hiked out. With 24.5 miles to the turn off to Benchmark Ranch and another 3.5 miles to the Ranch itself, we had very little hope of making it to a warm and dry cabin, yet we still pushed on through the snow. The clouds were broken with blue showing through here and there. This encouraged us that it would not snow today. We started the morning off walking through. 6-7″ of snow. All the trees were covered with it. It was a beautiful winter wonderland! Slowly, as we gained altitude, the sun crept out and the day warmed. Although, the ball of warmth did not stay out for very long. Too many clouds were in its way. We took our first break at a cabin wrapped in tin foil. This year was the first time we have seen or heard of this fire protection method. The cabin was wrapped entirely in a heavy aluminum foil material. We sat on this shiny, silver porch and ate just as the clouds parted enough to let the sun warm us. A short time later, we went over our first pass of the day. The hiking got much easier on the other side and best of all, there was much less snow. In fact an hour or so, there was no snow on the trail and very little in the mountains around as. Our speed picked up. However, drudging slowly through the snow the first half of the day, our chances of reaching Benchmark Ranch was only a pipe dream. It looked like it was going to be another cold night with only wet sleeping bags to comfort us. Hours later, we reached the turn to the next pass and we stopped for a break. Papa Raven and Bling were looking at the map, we had over 12 miles to the Benchmark turn off then 3.5 miles more and it was nearly 5:00. Reading the app, Papa Raven read a comment that caught his eye. At this junction, if we headed down the valley instead of up to the pass, we could get to Benchmark Ranch in about 8 miles. Let’s see, 8 miles one way and 15 miles another. Quickly, we got up from our break and headed down the valley. We hiked fast. We had a lot of trail to cover still, but now we had a chance to a dry place to sleep tonight. With head lamps on, we made it to the Ranch at about 8:30. To our surprise, no one was there, but the main building was unlocked and warm. Within 5 minutes of us getting there, a truck drove up with the owners son. In a very short time, we were in a two room cabin with a wood burning stove. We are dry and warm and will sleep well tonight.
Dearborn River Valley (2789.9 S)
Day 154 – 9/22/17
Miles – 16.0
Total miles – 2387.2
The wind blew hard most of the night. Around 1:30, Papa Raven had to go out in the cold and put a tent peg back in that blew out. Shortly after he was back in the sleeping bag, it started to snow. Not hard, but we could hear it gently spattering the tent. When we woke in the morning, it was still snowing. Because we were so warm and comfortable in our tents, we took our time packing. A nice thing about snow is it can be shaken or brushed off easily, unlike rain, thus the tents start somewhat dry. However, over a long period of time, the gear eventually gets wet. Under a gently snowing sky, we set out hiking with every article of clothing on. Our price possession offering the most protection against the cold are the new rain/snow pants we purchased in Helena. Even though it was only in the low twenty’s all day, we managed to stay comfortably warm. In fact, there were times we even got hot on the long ups. Everyone but Mama Raven doubled up on gloves. We wore a pair of gloves covered by a pair of mittens. This kept our hands warm, but not dry. Mama Raven on the other hand had her single pair of winter gloves. In Lincoln, when we were picking up our box at the Post Office, Mama Raven asked the woman helping us if there was any place to buy gloves. She said “hold on a minute” and went to the back room and soon returned with a pair of winter gloves. She gave them to Mama Raven. We asked if someone had left them there and she told us that they were hers and she was giving them to Mama Raven. We thanked her profusely! Mama Raven loves them! They are so warm. Best of all, they do not become saturated with water like her thin micro fleece mittens.
The snow came down all day. Sometimes hard, sometime soft. The worst time was when we walked a ridge. The wind was blowing terribly hard and the snow swirled in small clouds. It was hard to rest because snow covered everything and there was no place to sit. Most of our breaks we stood. All our water hoses and valves froze. We drank nothing all day. Snicker bars and dried fruit became rock solid and uneatable. Even Papa Raven’s beard froze. We received 4″-6″ of new snow. At the higher elevations, the snow fell on top of last week’s snow, making the snow level even higher. At the worst parts, we would sink nearly to our knees in snow with each step. Hiking was slow. By the end of the day, we were worn out. However, the only parts of our bodies that were really cold were are fingers and toes. The extra clothes we bought in Helena and Lincoln paid off. Thankfully, the weather is suppose to clear up tomorrow. We camped underneath a dense cluster of trees where the snow was not very deep. What snow was on the ground, we cleared away before we set up the tents. When Papa Raven went out of the tent to tighten up the tent, he could see some glittering stars in the dark sky. We hope the weather breaks up over night. The thought of a repeat of today’s hiking is not pleasant!!! We have a cabin lined up for tomorrow night, but it is 24.5 mile away. We hope we can make it. Our moral needs the boost of a warm, dry place to stay, but it is hard to push out the miles walking in 6″ of snow.