A Beautiful Addiction

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.

Mama Raven
November 26, 2017

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We Made It!

East Glacier (26_154)
Day 167 – 10/5/17
Miles – 20.0
Total miles – 2580.8

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. 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 befor 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 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 wantimg 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. It reached a point, it was time to turn around and head back down the trail. 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. We 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. 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.
Another winter is coming with very high winds tomorrow and lots of snow this weekend is forcasted. We finished just in time. We know there are a few more hikers still out there, including our friends Napoleon, Redcross, 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. 

AJ and Dundee

The sisters/Tortoise and Landside

Dundee

Almost There!

At a campground near Hwy 89 and 17 ()
Day 166 – 10/4/17
Miles – 22.0
Total miles – 2560.8

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 suprise, 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. 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!

AJ or Mudslide

A Cold, Clear Day

Somewhere along Hwy 89 ()
Day 165 – 10/3/17
Miles 22.0
Total miles – 2538.8

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. Redcross 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 Redcross 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 bushey 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. Infact 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 pinetrees 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

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 – 2516.8

9/29/17

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 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 quixkly. We do not even know which path we are taken with the encoming 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 desent 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.

9/30/17

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 a 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. Restraunts, 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!

10/1/17

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. 

10/2/17

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 temperaturs 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 then. 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. 

Hot Rod, Spam and Papa Raven

Blue Skies As Far As the Eye Can See

Hwy 2 ()
Day 160 – 9/28/17
Miles – 23.0
Total miles – 2508.7

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 also. He informed us that Napoleon and Red Cross past us this morning with out seeing them. There 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. 

Phish Out Of Water

A Nice Sunny Day

Morrison Creek ()
Day 159 – 9/27/17
Miles – 23.2
Total miles – 2485.7

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, 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. Of 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. We will finish the fire detour tomorrow and get back on the CDT.

Into a Burn

A burned out saddle ()
Day 158 – 9/26/17
Miles – 22.6
Total miles – 2462.5

One again, the sky was grey 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 dry. 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 at this late afternoon hour. 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. With headlamps on, we hiked on looking for a flat place. 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 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. Infact, 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.

Back to Grey Skies

Spotted Bear River (SB_2.9 R)
Day 157 – 9/25/17
Miles – 20.5
Total miles – 2439.9

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 grey clouds. Around 7:30 we started up the valley. As we gained elevation, snow appearred. It did not get very deep, although, it was a nusence. As it melted, the trail became a trail of 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 were in the middle of the trail and Whisper and Bling were tucked up underneath a large pine tree down the trail a short distance. We were thankful we had found home for the night.

Napoleon and Red Cross

It’s Good To See the Sun

W Fork S Fork Sun River (2826.1)
Day 156 – 9/24/17
Miles – 12.8
Total miles – 2419.4

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 starting 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 this 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 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

Benchmark  Ranch (23_586)
Day 155 – 9/23/27
Miles – 21.2
Total miles – 2406.6

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. Depite our snow removal, all night, we could feel the cold coming through our insolite pads. The sleeping bag kept us as warm as possible, nonethess, 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 what looked like 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 anough 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 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 suprise, no one was there, but the main building was unlocked and warm. Within 5 mins of us getting there, a truck drove up with the owners son. 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.

Let it Snow!

Dearborn River valley (2789.9 S)
Day 154 – 9/22/17
Miles – 16.0
Total miles – 2385.4

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 pocession that is offering the most protection against the cold are the new rain/snow pants we purchased in Helena. Eventhough it was only in the low twenty’s all day, we managed to stay comfortably warm. Infact, 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.

Fall is Here!

Trail 438 on the fire alt (?)
Day 153 – 9/21/17
Miles – 22.5
Total miles – 2368.6

Whisper and Dundee

We got up at 6:30 and completed our packing, which most of was done last night. Next, we walked with our packs, down to the Lambkin for breakfast. It was cold, about 30°. After breakfast, we started out of town. We had heard from Hot Rod that the hardware store had kid sized gloves, so we swung in and picked up a pair for Whisper. The sky was filled with broken clouds as we walked the seven miles down Hwy 200. There was much apprehension as we walked. Today’s weather was fine, however tomorrow’s is the problem. It is suppose to be a cold snow storm coming through. When it hits us, we will be at our highest point of this section too.  We are nervous what the weather will have in store for us. Are we prepared and do we have the right gear to get us through safely? We will find out tomorrow. Meanwhile, we turned off Hwy 200 and headed north up another paved road. The landscape is covered in pine and Aspen, huckleberry bush, bear grass and othet low growing plants we do not know. The wildflowers are long gone. Much of the vegetation is turning yellow, orange, and red. Fall is here! Above us, the mountain tops have snow and the air is cold. It was very pretty. Yes, Fall is here, but tomorrow it will be winter. The fire alt took us from road to road and finally onto trail. We worked our way to Heart Lake were we had dinner and then into the next valley. We are now headed up the last trail, which will connect us back with the CDT. In the sun, it was comfortable but as the day ended the temperature dropped. We are now camped in a open area with no trees above us. The only other people out here are a few hunters but there are not even many of them. As we are warm in our sleeping bags, we can hear a sprinkling on our tent. It may be rain or it may be snow.  Because it is so bitterly cold, we have no desire to put our heads out of the comfortable tents to find out.  It is suppose to snow tonight and tomorrow. We hope it does not get too heavy. However, the local weather reports, does not offer us anything to lift our spirits. Nonetheless, we are prepared, but we are not looking forward to it. 

Lincoln

Lincoln (23_249 R)
Day 150, 151, and 152 – 9/18/17, 9/19/17, and 9/20/17
Miles – 25.5
Total miles – 2346.1

9/18/17

We took our time getting up this morning because our plan was to hike twenty miles, camp, and then hike the last five miles into Lincoln tomorrow morning. Well things always change on the fly. Instead, of coming into town tomorrow, tonight was our goal. We hiked off to find the water and shelter under gray skies. The clouds were thick and looked ready to rain at any moment. A mile down the road, we reached the shelter where Red Cross and Napoleon were just getting out of their tent. We picked up several bottles of water that the gentleman had left for us and headed out. We left a thank you note in the cooler thanking the trail angel for his generosity.  Eventually, we cut off the highway onto a dirt road. Still no rain. Every hour we hike without percepetation falling on us, is a blessing. Now we had 14.4 miles and one pass to get up to get closer to Lincoln. On the way up, we had a few very light showers, however, for the most of it, it stayed dry. Mama Raven’s heal (plantar fasciitis) has been extra bad the past few days. With every step, it felt like a knife stabbing into her heel. This trip has been extra hard for so many reasons for her. Mama Raven says she has been given a test of endurance to see how much she can take before she quits. We crossed the pass and started down toward town. Around 5:00, it started raining with only 5 miles to town. We were hoping it would wait until we hiked into town. Although, we should feel lucky it held off this long. Bling stopped under a large tree and we took a break to eat something and put on our down coats underneath our rain jackets. Finally, we pushed onto town, an hour and a half later. The first motel we came to was the only facility with a laundry, thus we got a room. The weather looks messy for the rest of the week. We will have to figure out what our plan will be to reach our next re-supply.

9/19/17

A zero for today in Lincoln. The weather was not bad. We saw the sun in the morning and it rained and snowed in the afternoon. We got our re-supply box and the extra food for the next section. Also, we picked up liners for our mittens. Our fingers have been very cold with the thin micro fiber mittens that Mama Raven made. Unfotunetly, the weather does not look great for the next few days. Infact, it looks down right miserable. Nothing we can do about it other than keep moving forward. We just have to get to Sunday and we should have more sunny days. We plan to hike out tomorrow afternoon, after the morning rain. Keeping an eye on weather reports is frustrating because it is constantly changing.  One hour it says one way and next hour it is different. Thus, we really will not know until tomorrow when we will leave. However, we do know, we will be hiking the detour around the Alice Creek fire closure. Depite all the rain and snow, there is still closed trail due to fire.  We will be taking the shortest path back to the trail we can. Nobody is exciting about the hiking conditions for the next few days because of the bad weather. Nonetheless, foward we go!

9/20/17

As we got ready for breakfast and hike out we saw that there weather for today was mostly rain. That did not sound good. We ate at the Lambkin. They have great french toast. As we were finishing someone walked up to our table. It was none other than Dundee. Has is a thru-hiker we one from the PCT. He has been behind us since he started. We had been hoping that he would catch up with us. He just got into town this morning and they are the other hikers that came in yesterday, AJ, Spam, and Hot Rod. We have not seen AJ since South Pass City back in Wyoming.
We do not like hiking in rain and we need to decide if we would hike out or not so I called Benchmark Ranch to see if they had a cabin for Friday or Saturday night. They had one for Saturday so that means we need to leave tomorrow. We settled back to enjoy a day of not hiking in the rain. Tomorrow should have little to no rain, Friday is our big problem, it is suppose to snow. 

Another Road Walk and Another Storm

On a hill, in a field, near a highway ()
Day 149 – 9/17/17
Miles – 21.9
Total miles 2320.6

We woke to a beautiful, sunny morning. After, a good breakfast, we buckeled 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 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 a 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 at Ellison, and hiked up the road togehter. 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 in one of the barbed fences we could open 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. 

Napoleon and Red Cross, ninja warriors

Helena

Helena (19_775 R)
Day 146, 147, and 148 – 9/14/17,  9/15/17, and 9/16/17
Miles – 6.0
Total miles – 2298.7

9/14/17
Rain. It rained durning 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. Visability 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 them on. There was no telling how long hitching a ride would take. 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, we then walked to a hotel. Inside our hotel room, 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. An appointment was made 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. 

9/15/17

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. Afterwords 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 Soutern Colorado) and rain pants. In past situations, our rain skirts have served us well. Infact, they are one of our favorite pieces of gear we have. However, with this last storm, we have learned that when the temperaturs 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 delimma, 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 invisioned! 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.

9/16/17

It was another grey, 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 wierd. 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. 

Weather is Coming

A hill top (2680.7 R)
Day 145 – 9/13/17
Miles – 22.7
Total miles – 2292.7

Just before going to sleep, we could see the stars shinning bright above us. However, around midnight, it was sprinkling rain on us. It stopped after a bit. Sometime before 5:00 in the morning, it started sprinkling again. This time it lasted until we finished breakfast. Thankfully, the only wet gear was the outside of the tents. In our minds, we saw a wet day of hiking ahead of us. The storm came a day early. We packed as much as we could in the tents where it was dry. Then we got out and packed the wet tents. The sky was a dull gray. At least it was not raining at the monent. We hiked back up to the CDT and started North. To great relief, the sky broke up and blue poked through. Our thinking was that hopefully, with seeing a bit of blue sky, we will have a couple of more hours of rain free hiking before the clouds build overhead and dump on us. Today’s walk was through more thick lodge pole pine forest. Around lunch, the sun was out in full force as we broke out of the trees on to a rocky mountain top. The perfect place to dry out. Quickly we pulled out the tents and sleeping bags and we sat in the sun and ate. Everything dried quickly in the sun and soon we were on our way again. We did more hoping that the rain would hold off till evening. Emptying onto a dirt road, the trail took us on an easy path all afternoon.  It contured along the mountain ridges and went over several low passes. As the afternoon went on, big puffy clouds began to collect and grow. Toward evening, our trail left the road and climbed a small hill. By this time, the sky was thick with clouds. It was getting dark when we found a place to climb. We quickly setup the tents and settled down for the night. When we woked this morning with rain falling on us,we knew we were in for a wet day. Nonetheless, our fear of rain did not come to fruition today. The wind is starting to blow strongly in the trees. We know tomorrow will be a wet day. Although, we now are hoping that the rain holds off until later tomorrow. We have only six miles to reach the pass where we have to hitchhike to Helena. It would be nice to be dry when we get there.

A Little Alt

Little Blackfoot River (? – 0)
Day 144 – 9/12/17
Miles – 23.3
Total miles – 2270.0

Oh, we did not want to get up this morning! We kept stalling and stalling. Grudgingly, we got moving. The morning was cool as we hiked through the lodge pole forest. Continuesly, we are being surprised by the Montana topagraphy and vegetation. It is not what we invisioned. We have hiked through terrain that looked like the Great Basin with rolling hills. We have seen more grasses and sages than any other plant. Where are the high mountain peaks? The forests we have walked through are not giant pinetrees, but instead thin lodge pole pines that look like oversized pick-up sticks. We have learned much about the geography of this state and it is always surprising us. We are curious what the next few weeks will be like. It was another warm day, although, we were up in elevation and had much more shade from the pine forest. The weather has been very nice these past week or so. Finally, we are having summer weather. However, that it is about to change with heavy rain and snow forcasted in a few days. As we hiked through the morning, our goal was a spring. When we reached the water source we saw a pipe feeding a water tank for the cows. It was cold, clear water. We filled up and took a break. After leaving the spring, we climbed up onto a ridge and then traversed the mountain tops for several miles. The trail moved between lodge pole pine forest and then into open grasslands. Papa Raven was able to get a phone connection and took care of a bill. The rest of the day, we hiked on the east side of the mountains. Toward the end, we headed toward Cottonwood Lake. Right after the lake, there was a 1,000′ climb to the top of Thunderbolt Mountain then it dropped back down again. We dislike pointless ups and down and this is exactly what this up was. To make matters worse, finishing the big up and down, there was a second shorter one of 500′. We would have loved to just traverse around, but the forest was too thick and thus too difficult and time consuming. Looking at maps, we saw a trail that dropped into a valley then climb 600′ back to the CDT, avoiding both needless climbs. We checked Ley’s maps and it showed the trail also. So let’s see, drop into a valley, then climb 600′ climb, 2.5 miles shorter than the CDT, water, flat places to camp, and it avoids the needless 1,000′ climb. Well that was an easy chose for us to make! We made it to the bottom, getting lost only once and we are now camped just before the 600′ up. That we will be tomorrow’s first task. Meanwhile, we are snug in our tents getting ready for sleep. Infact, Bling and Whisper are already out for he night. They usually eat dinner, and then they are sound asleep.

Back on the CDT

Flame Gluch Road (19_214)
Day 143 – 9/11/17
Miles – 24.7
Total miles – 2246.7

We woke from our warm beds around 6:30. Mama and Papa Raven walked over to the grocery store and picked up donuts and milk for breakfast. By 7:30, we put our packs on and headed over to the Subway for sandwiches to go. Next, we headed down the trail. This was one of the clearest days we have had in a long time. The sun was not a big red ball this morning. Smoke could be smelled in the air, however, we could see mountains ranges way off in the distance. Not sure why, perhaps because we are well rested, but today we hiked with much enthusiasm, something we have not done in a while. Most of today’s hiking was on paved and dirt roads. It was a warm day, probably in the high 80’s, with very little shade.  Mid-morning, we took out first break at a small lake and ate our sandwiches and lemonade. It was a pretty spot. Next, the paved road changed to dirt. Dirt roads are better and worse to walk on. Often times you can find a soft space to walk on, which is easier on your feet. But more often you end up stepping on small rocks, which hurt your feet. By the end of the day, the feet are really sore. As we hiked North on the dirt, the temperature rose even higher. We were very hot with no way to cool off. Finally, we turned onto a road heading west and we started to climb. We slowly left the grassland and went into pine. The warm temperature dropped a bit, as we got higher in elevation and as the day grew late. Towards sundown, it even got a bit cold and the smoke started to move back in. Finally, we reached the CDT just about 8:00 where we found a place to camp. We have a few more days of good weather before a change. Rain is coming Thursday and it is suppose to be a wet storm with snow at higher elevations. This is both bad and good. It is never pleasant hiking in rain, especially rain that lasts all day. Our miles go down and it is just not fun. Infact, it often gets miserable! Most hikers would agree with us. However, despite the dislike of rain by hikers, the state of Montana desperately needs rain. There are over a million acres that have burned in Montana this summer and none of those fires have been contained. Much of our upcoming trail is closed because of them, The hardest hit areas are the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Glacier National Park. Both crown jewels of the CDT. There are alternates around the fires but they are often longer than the real trail and they miss the most beautiful sections of an area. Hopefully, the incoming weather will offer relief for the Montana fires. Because of the weather, we may have to take an extra day off to wait out the storm. Time will tell as we wait and see what happens.