On a hill, in a field, near a highway ()
Day 149 – 9/17/17
Miles – 21.9
Total miles 2323.2
We woke to a beautiful, sunny morning. After, a good breakfast, we buckled up the packs. We were ready for our 9:30 ride to the pass. Yesterday we talked to both Red Cross and Dundee, an old friend from the PCT, they are both here in Helena but at a different hotel. The snow has forced the hikers out of the mountains. We have been hoping to see Dundee since he started the CDT, but he has always been behind us. Now we are in the same town and two miles apart. Red Cross said that the sisters are in town also. That leaves Rabinath and Johnnie (the German Morman) still unaccounted for, plus any other hikers we do not know. Anyways, Dundee, Napoleon, and Red Cross are thinking about taking a road, which is at a lower elevation, to avoid the snow. We did not know about the road walk, so Papa Raven looked into it last night. There are several options: the CDT (69.1 miles), an all paved road walk (63 miles), a lower paved and dirt road walk (47 miles), and a higher dirt road walk (48 miles). We decided at dinner last night to take one of the shorter routes, mainly because we lost a day here in Helena to wait out the storm.
At 9:30, we loaded our gear in the car and headed up to MacDonald Pass. A short time later we were standing at the 6,300′ pass with 6″-8″ of snow all about. Now we had to decided which shorter route to take. The high one started up the CDT and climbed about 1,000′, which meant pushing our way through even deeper snow. The other followed Hwy 12 down from the pass and out of the snow. What made are decision was the weather forecast for the next few days: sunny today, heavy rain Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and snow Thursday and Friday. Not a good weather report for the last few remaining CDT hikers trying to finish up. Hiking up high, meant a slow walk through deep snow. Additionally, we would have a hard time finding the path. In order to get to Lincoln before most of the upcoming bad weather, we took the fastest route possible. Thus, we headed down the mountain. Going the low route should get us to Lincoln early Tuesday morning.
The walk down Hwy 12 was not bad. We had about fifteen miles to go until the cutoff to Hwy 141. The town of Ellison was located part of the way down. As we approached the town, a car drove by honking it’s horn at us and hands sticking out from nearly every window, waving at us. Come to find out the car was dropping Red Cross and Napoleon off. We all meet up in Ellison, and hiked up the road together. The two of them had tried to hike out Thursday, but the storm was too bad. They made it as far as the 1,000′ foot climb, but were in knee high snow. They said the the snow and wind was horrible and they came back to Helena. The road took us through miles of ranch land, with huge hay stacks ready for the upcoming winter. Although, we would say, winter has already arrived. One day we are enjoying upper 80 degree temperatures, and in one day, we are in a white, winter wonderland. Late in the afternoon, someone driving by offered us a place to stay. We hiked later than normal trying to get to a that small building for the night. Fast moving cars and semi trucks whizzed by us as it grew darker and darker. We knew we were becoming hard to see with our dark clothing, therefore we decided it was time to call it quits for the night. We found a gate we could open in one of the barbed fences and pitched out tents in a wide open field of grass. We know Red Cross and Napoleon made it to the shed, we just ran out of daylight. With a good days hiking tomorrow, we will be very close to Lincoln tomorrow night. We hope the rain is kind to us and holds off until we get there.