What is the best part of a long thru-hike? — Going home!
What is the worst part? — Going home!
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 far 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.