Helena (19_775 R)
Day 146, 147, and 148 – 9/14/17, 9/15/17, and 9/16/17
Miles – 6.0
Total miles – 2301.3
Rain. It rained during the night and then let up. As we were finishing breakfast, it started raining again. We waited a bit to see if it would end and it did. We took are time as we packed everything we could inside. Now it was time to be brave and face the weather and go outside and take down the wet tents. The soaked tents were the last things we needed to pack away. Inside the warmth and comfort of our tents, we did not realize how cold the air temperature was. It was cold! We did not put on as many layers as we should of while inside. Everybody’s thinking was we will warm up as we hiked. And besides, we only have six miles to go. How cold can it get? Just as we set out to hike, the rain came down again. No problem, we had our rain skirts, rain jackets and umbrellas. We started hiking to MacDonald Pass. At first, conditions were not so bad. The rain was not too hard, but as we hiked it got colder. For awhile, we had sleet. As we got closer to the pass, the rain let up but the air temperature was still dropping. We pushed and pushed hard to get to the pass as fast as the weather would permit. Finally, we could hear cars on the highway. Visibility was very low. Not until we had walked right up to the highway, could we see it. True to passes, it was windy! The kids got a first hand lesson on wind chill factor. It was painfully freezing! We immediately started trying to get a ride. Papa Raven’s thumb was out before Whisper had even hiked up. Mama Raven was right behind him doing the same. We needed to get out of the bitterly cold environment. Bling and Whisper hiked without their gloves and their fingers were frozen. We made them take the time to dig through their packs to put their gloves on. There was no telling how long we would be hitching before we got a ride. With their ice cold fingers, they fumbled through their packs till they found the mittens buried deep inside the packs. As they were doing this, a car, heading the wrong direction, turned around and pulled over. Originally, the older gentleman passed us by because he did not think he could fit that many hikers in is vehicle. He changed his mind and decided to try it any ways and turned around for us. He said he knows what it is like to be stuck out in this kind of weather and he felt sorry for us. Four soggy and shivering hikers, eagerly piled into his warm car and off to Helena we went. The thermometer in the car said that it was 36° outside. He said the thermometer does not take wind into count, so it actually felt colder than that. We were so thankful for this stranger helping us out!!! We were dropped off at the Post Office and we got our re-supply box, then we walked to a hotel. The man behind the desk told us that there were no rooms clean and we would have to want, so we settled down in the lobby. A short time later we got our room. Once inside, we shed wet cloths and we were warm and dry. One by one, we took hot showers. Each one of us stood under the hot water for a long time savoring in the joy of warmth!! Mama Raven said that was the finest shower she has ever had. The rest of The Ravens agreed. After settling in, Mama Raven announced she wants to go see a dentist. She has been having tooth pain for a long time now and it has gotten worse over time. Avoiding the issue has been her mission for all these months however she said she can not any more. She says the simple act of swallowing hurts. We called around and made an appointment for early tomorrow morning. Helena is a bigger city. All the places we need to go, are not conveniently located close to each other. Plus it is raining, making traveling to each location hard. Thus, we decided to rent a car for a day. But we had to do it tonight, because the dentist appointment was 8:00 in the morning. Papa Raven, being a trooper he is, had to walk in the rain to the airport to get the rental. Luckily, it was only a mile and a half away. Meanwhile the rest of The Ravens were curled up in warm beds.
It rained all night and MacDonald Pass received 6″ of snow. Our minds keep thinking about our hiking friends still out in the mountains. We hope they are OK. Our timing of reaching the pass was pure luck. Instead of still being out in the miserable weather with freezing wet toes and legs, we are thankfully warm and dry in a hotel room. We have friends that got caught in the weather, which is by far the worse we have had on our entire CDT adventure. However, Mama Raven thinks about all the amazing photographs she missed out on. Despite this, she is very happy right here in the hotel. Mama Raven is not looking forward to her morning dentist appointment. She says they never have good news for her and they are too expensive. She is correct on both accounts. However, when a tooth hurts, what is one going to do other than to make a visit to one of the most feared people on the planet Earth…..the local dentist! We took the rental car and headed to the dreaded appointment. Well, the dentist had both good and bad news for Mama Raven. He does not think anything is wrong with any of her teeth but instead the problem is her jaw, which is causing her back teeth to hurt along with her jaw bone and muscles, ear, throat swallowing, head, and other miscellaneous facial aches. Mama Raven’s has had TMJ for years and it is getting worse. Many years ago, she had a running accident in which she face planted, knocking her jaw out of alignment a little bit. Dr. Johnson made a small mouth piece for her front teeth to take pressure off her back teeth which is where the jaw pain is originating from. She is to wear it at night. Hopefully, this will help until she gets back home. While at the dentist, it snowed the entire time. After words we headed to The Base Camp outfitter for some new tent pegs, water bags and valves, fuel canister, a buff (Mama Raven lost hers back in Southern Colorado) and rain pants. In past situations, our rain skirts have served us well. In fact, they are one of our favorite pieces of gear we have. However, with this last storm, we have learned that when the temperatures plummet below a certain level, they do not provide enough warmth. Thus, we are in the market for rain pants. More than likely, before we reach Canada, we will have another storm like this one. Unfortunately, the pants were $100 a pair. With the dentist, hotel and food, we could not afford them. But we need them! In a dilemma, we decided to try a local hunting supply store. But first, it was time for lunch. Taking advantage of the rental car, we picked up Bling and Whisper from the hotel, and headed to Panda Express, a fast food restaurant we have dreamed about for months. It was better than we envisioned! Our lunch was absolutely, delicious and amazing! Next, we went to a hunting and sporting goods store with the hopes of finding more affordable rain pants. We feel it is important to do before we continue on. We had great success! The Ravens walked away with four pairs at fifty dollars each. It still added up, but we really needed them. It would be unwise to not get them. This was our last large town we would have the opportunity with an outfitting store. Papa Raven returned the rental car and thus had to walk back from the airport in the rain. Today, it never stopped snowing or raining. We are planning on heading out tomorrow, however we will have to see if the storm is really breaking up. All the weather reports says that it should be clearing tomorrow, but not until the afternoon. It is suppose to be sunny on Sunday. Do we take another day off and let conditions improve. From the pass, we hike up 1,000′ in elevation where it will be colder and more wet slushy snow. Taking another day off, makes us later to get the kids back in school and return home. Taking another day off means another expensive hotel room plus food. Take off hiking, we will be in miserable wet and cold weather.
It was another gray, wet morning when we peeked out the hotel curtains. We looked at the MacDonald Pass webcams and there was about 8″ of snow on the ground. The trees had snow covering them. This would be a very difficult and no fun day off hiking if we left today. We did not make our decision until 10:30. Unanimously, we voted to stay one more day. We will loose one day off of our schedule but this will be for the best. All weather reports indicate a sunny day tomorrow. We have lined up a ride to the pass tomorrow morning. The emotions revolving around our decision is weird. We would not be happy if we left today, yet we are not happy about staying. Nonetheless, we are staying and will make the most of our day to rest and relax.