Fall is Here!

Trail 438 on the fire alt (?R)
Day 153 – 9/21/17
Miles – 22.5
Total miles – 2371.2

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. We were 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.  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 other 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.

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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 – 2348.7

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 perception 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, we 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 our down coats on 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.
When Mama Raven and I were in the Post Office, getting our boxes, we asked if there was any place to purchase gloves.  The lady behind the counter told us no.  A minute later she asked us to wait and she when in back.  She returned with a pair of womans snow gloves.  Mama Raven tried them on and they fit.  She told us we could have them.  We asked if someone had left them behind and she told us they were her gloves.  We tried to return them but she said they were a gift.  The generosity of people is a wonderful thing.
We stopped by a convenience store to picked up liners for Papa Raven, Bling, and Whisper mittens, although Whispers were to big, but they were the smallest we could find.  Our fingers have been very cold with the thin micro fiber mittens that Mama Raven made for this trip. Unfortunately, the weather does not look great for the next few days. In fact, 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 thing 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. Despite all the rain and snow, there is still closed trail due to fire.  The CDT is closed North of Rogers Pass.  The detour comes down close to Lincoln and then heads North on dirt roads and trail.  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, forward 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 know 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 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.

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 – 2301.3

9/14/17
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.

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. 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.

9/16/17

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.

Weather is Coming

A hill top (2680.7 R)
Day 145 – 9/13/17
Miles – 22.7
Total miles – 2295.3

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 moment. 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 hoped that the rain would hold off till evening. Emptying onto a dirt road, the trail took us on an easy path all afternoon.  It contouring along the mountain ridges and 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 woke 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 – 2272.6

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. Continuously, we are being surprised by the Montana topography and vegetation. It is not what we envisioned. 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 pine trees, but instead thin lodge pole pines that look like oversize 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 this past week or so. Finally, we are having summer weather. However, that it is about to change with heavy rain and snow forecast 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 PUD’s (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. In fact, 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 – 2249.3

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 drank 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, about 8:00 we reached the CDT and 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. In fact, 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. Over a million acres 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.

Anaconda

Anaconda (A_27.3)
Day 141 and 142 – 9/9/17 and 9/10/17
Miles – 0.0
Total miles – 2224.6
We took two zeros in Anaconda. Our original plan was to nero on Saturday and zero on Sunday, but since we got into town Friday night, we could zero both days. Saturday we tried to get everything done that we needed to. We worked on blogs and photographs. We ate. We sewed up ripped gear and clothing, glued Whisper’s hiking poles, glued new Velcro on shoes for the gaiters, and we ate. Next, we cleaned water valves, and backpacks and ate more! This way, when Sunday came around, we would really have a day off. The only thing we would had to do was eat and rest.

Anaconda

Anaconda (A_26.0 R)
Day 140 – 9/8/17
Miles – 28.5
Total miles – 2224.6

It was hard getting up. Everyone was extra tired after yesterday’s long road walk. Walking on a paved surface is much harder on the body than a soft dirt path. The feet suffer the most! When we got out of the tent in the morning, we were hit with a very cold wind. We decided it was best to wear long sleeves, down coats, and gloves. Because of the cold, we quickly hit the road hopefully we would warm up by walking. We also joined by our friend, the big red sun ball in the sky.  After several miles, we came to Hwy 569, which was our road to Anaconda. Since the sun was muted by the smoke, the air temperature stayed very cold for a long distance. Nearly half the day past, before we started to notice an increase in warmth. We could finally remove several layers of clothing. Our road walk was somewhat uneventful. This morning we agreed to push all the way to Anaconda today. This means, we were going to be very tired tonight when we reach town. In the early afternoon, we went over one small pass and started down toward Anaconda. As the trail flattened out, we stopped and figured out that we had 10 miles to go to reach town. We could do that in 3-4 hours. Needing a place to stay for the night, and we called several hotels until we found a room and off we went. We had a small delay when Mama Raven and Whisper came across four horses that wanted to be petted. While hiking, Whisper spends most of her day dreaming up horse stories and acting them out as she hikes. She is always asking us what we think a good name for a cream colored horse or a black horse would be? Can a horse do this or that? She always corrects us when we use the wrong term. Such as when Mama Raven said “look at them run across the field” and Whisper says “mom, horses do not run they canter!”  There are two question she asks nearly everyday….can she take horse back lessons and can she get a horse? When we were hiking with Auntie Raven, she would respond to Whisper, “yes, you can have a horse! Come to Alaska and we will get a horse for you!” Thanks Catwater! As Whisper rubbed each one of the horses on it’s head, she talked to them. She was so excited for the opportunity to be with these horses. Unfortunately, it was time to move on. As we walked down the road, so too did the horses along the fence following us, until the fence prevented them from going any further in our direction. Near 7:00, we came to Hwy 1 and turned toward town, down a two mile walk along a busy highway. That is when the wind started. It blew straight into our faces and was so strong, it pushed us around.  With it, came a light rain. That worried us. We pushed on as fast as our aching feet would carrier us. We walked into town, straight to the hotel, dropped our packs, and since we had not eaten since 3:00, we headed across the street to McDonald’s. We were in calorie bliss. As we sat eating, it started to rain harder. We were thankful to be inside and not outside with no pace to hide from the miserable weather. Instead, we were dry and warm.  A good ending to a very long day!

A Long Road Walk

A campground (?)
Day 139 – 9/7/17
Miles – 25.5
Total miles – 2196.1

We had a late start today. Hoping to be at The Crossing for breakfast at 7:00, when they opened, was our goal. Instead, we did not even wake up until 7:00. When we did rise, we quickly finished our packing from last night, and went to breakfast. It was a bitterly cold morning outside! At the restaurant, we ordered and were eating by 8:15. Mama Raven had Denver hash browns, Bling had an sausage and cheese omelet. Whisper had basic French toast. And Papa raven had stuffed French toast with strawberries, bananas and cream cheese. It was all delicious! We also had a round of hot chocolate for everyone. Shortly, after our food arrived, the ranchers filled the place. We are glad we got here before they did, so we did not get stuck in the crowd of food orders. After eating, we went back to our room to gather up the packs and hit the trail, which actually was a fifty three mile asphalt road walk. It was nearly 9:30, a bit of a late start, but what could we do. We were not about to skip out on a good town breakfast! The four of us along with the big red sun ball went down highway 43. This we did all day. All we saw were plains covered with sage and some low rolling hills. Oh yes, there also were hundreds and hundreds of cows as we passed through each ranch property. Although there were mountains to the North and South, we could not see them because of the smoke. In fact, there were times we could not see a huge barn less than half mile away. As we walked, the dim outline of a building would come into view. Then, as we grew closer, it would show itself. With so much smoke about and the visibility being so low, we felt like we were walking in a gray smoked glass bowl. We knew there was more beyond the glass walls to see, but we could not see what it was. It was not until the late afternoon that we started seeing trees. We also paralleled Big Hole River.  Just as we came upon our goal of 25 miles, there was a campground with sites still available. It was getting dark so we quickly found a campsite and settled down for the night. We have about 30 more miles of road walk tomorrow before we get to Anaconda. A gentleman in the campground offered us a ride to town tomorrow morning. We thanked him but declined. Our goal is to walk to Canada to Mexico. To get a ride and skip a section, feels like it would be cheating! In fact, after Keith dropped Papa Raven off in Wisdom yesterday afternoon, Papa Raven went back to walk the small section where Keith picked him up and back to town so he would not miss any foot steps.

Wisdom

Wisdom (?)
Day 138 – 9/6/17
Miles – 16.0
Total miles – 2170.6

It was a cold damp night with a lot of condensation. We knew that when we decided to camp in a meadow next to a stream. We continued our road walk to Wisdom. It was not a difficult route.  After several hours we walked out of the mountains and trees and into grassy plains. Cattle were everywhere. It seems as if we were in the heart of ranch land of Montana. A little after lunch, we came to the paved road to town with just 3 miles till town. Just as we got to the edge of Wisdom, a pickup truck pulled over to talk to us. It was Keith, Tour Guide’s husband. We first met Tour Guide on the PCT in southern California. We then crossed paths with her as she hiked towards Silverthorne, several months ago in Colorado. With us going to Wisdom instead of Sula, we had a problem, our re-supply boxes were in Sula, an eighty mile round trip of hitching rides.  After talking with Keith, he offered to drive Papa Raven the forty miles to Sula and back again. This was a huge relief for us . It will also save us from having to take a zero in town tomorrow to resolve our box issue. While Papa Raven rode to Sula with Keith, Mama Raven and the kids got a room and some food.  Mama Raven went to the Nez Perce Motel and got a room; the only problem was that she did not have any money.  Papa Raven had left and forgotten to give her any way to pay for the room.  She arranged to have Papa Raven pay when he returned.  She did have a little cash so she could get something for the kids at the grocery store.  As Papa Raven and Keith returned from Sula, Keith stopped to picked up Tour Guide as she completed her road walk section and the three of them headed back to Wisdom. It was good to talk with the two of them and Keith truly helped us out. Trail Magic seems to happen when it is needed the most. Thank you so much… and that is one heart felt thank you! Back at the hotel room, we went through the food boxes and packed for the next section. There is no laundry here, so we washed our clothes by hand and air dried them on a nearby fence. There was no time to work on photos or blogs. That will have to wait for Anaconda, our next re-supply. We ordered a pizza from the Antler Saloon and brought it back to our room. It was really good pizza. We ate it while we watched Whisper’s favorite television show, Too Cute, on Animal Planet. It is a show with nothing but cute kittens and puppies. It shows them from birth till adoption day and it is really too cute!!  Wisdom is another small town with no cell phone service. The ranchers and their wives, from miles away, come into town in the evenings and go to one of the two gathering spots: The Antler Saloon or The Crossing Restaurant. We will hike out first thing tomorrow after breakfast. We have a very long road walk ahead of us. Due to the fire closure, we will have to hike the asphalt road all the way into Anaconda.  We are sorry for this because we will be missing beautiful country and our feet are going to be hurting!

Fire Alt

Pioneer Creek (? 0)
Day 137 – 9/5/17
Miles – 21.8
Total miles – 2154.6

It was a colder night and we had an early start to our days hiking. We watched the glowing red ball rise in the east as we hiked in the morning smoke. We had to cross several ridges to get to our big down. It took all morning to get there. On the pass before the down,  Papa Raven got cell service. His priority was to check on the Meyers fire. Unfortunately, it was still going on and the trail closure was still in effect. That means we will be taking the fire alt. At the far end of this big down, we have a 1,500′ climb. What Papa Raven found last night while studying the maps, was a road leaving that saddle and connecting up with our road to Wisdom. Taking this road will cut 1.5 miles of our walk into town. He also tried to call a hotel to reserve a room, but he could only leave a message. We will find out tomorrow if we have a room or not. It was late afternoon when we reached the cut off for our alternate route. We stopped and cooked dinner then walked down the dirt road. We are not sure where there is water for tomorrow’s hike since we do not have maps for this section.  Thus, we stopped to camp at the second crossing of a stream in this valley and filled everyone’s bottles plus a little extra. We will be in Wisdom sometime tomorrow. Meanwhile, in our tents, we will be lulled to sleep by nearby cows mooing!

Tomatoes, Bear, and Fire!

Rounding a ridge (2381.0)
Day 136 – 9/4/17
Miles – 20.9
Total miles – 2132.8

We woke to a lot of smoke this morning. The tents were speckled with ash. The sunlight stayed orange until mid-morning when the wind blew some of the smoke away. Supposedly, we are surrounded by beautiful rugged mountain peaks, however they are completely hidden out of view by thick smoke. The heavy smoke we have been in is taking a toll on our spirits. As we hike along, our heads are down, not looking around while bathing our hearts and soul in the beauty around us. Today’s hiking was going to be a hard. The trail traveled from saddle to saddle as we crossed different drainages. It was slow going and very tiring. We have more to do tomorrow, but we also have a big 3,000′ down as a reward for our efforts of the day. Midday, we stopped to talk to a family of day hikers. The main topic of conversation was the fires. As our conversation was coming to an end, the mom asked Mama Raven if she wanted any cherry tomatoes. With a big smile, she replied with an enthusiastic yes. She was given a quart size bag filled to the top with sweet, homegrown tomatoes. Knowing that none of the other Ravens like tomatoes, she had the whole bag to herself which made her even happier. She did not have to share! Mama Raven continued her hike up the trail with her tomatoes. She could be heard making noises of bliss and excitement as she ate each one.
Bling is always way in the lead, so he tends to see more wildlife than the rest of The Ravens.  He was coming up to Upper Slag-a-Melt Lake and he heard a noise off to his right. It was a light brown bear running away from him. He did not see the bear in profile, thus he could not tell if it was a Black Bear or Grizzly. For safety and peace of mind, we hiked closer together until we crossed the saddle into the next valley.
You might have noticed we are hiking in a lot of smoke lately. There are many fires North of us and we are getting closer to them. There is one fire that will cause us problems, the Meyers fire. We found out several days ago that it has closed part of the CDT in our the next section. There is a road walk around the fire. What we are supposed to do is hike to Chief Joseph Pass, hitch to Sula for our boxes, hitch back to Chief Joseph Pass, then start the road walk around the fire. The first leg is 26 miles to Wisdom Montana. What we have decided to do is to hike to Big Hole Pass then take a 21 mile dirt road to Wisdom.  From Wisdom, one of us will hitchhike to Sula for our boxes. Going to Wisdom this way, will save us 22 miles of asphalt road walking. What we still have to figure out is how to get back to the trail. The write up we have seen mentions a road that we have not found yet on our maps or app. We have not had a cell phone connection in days so we cannot look it up. Hopefully that will change tomorrow or the next day.

Soaking the Feet

Hamby Creek (10_203)
Day 135 – 9/3/17
Miles – 24.6
Total miles – 2111.9

It was another red sunrise we woke up to. The smoke was down in the valleys below us. Again, the air smelled heavy with smoke. This is getting to be a normal occurrence with red sunrises and sunsets. We hiked the four miles over to Goldstone Pass and dropped our packs. The spring was 1/4 of a mile down a dirt road and we did not want to carry the packs back up. Mama and Papa Raven went down and filled all our breakfast bottles and got 5.5 Lt of water, while Bling and Whisper stayed with the packs. This should be enough to get us through the rest of the day. We walked around several peaks before crossing a ridge and dropping into a valley. This was the beginning of a long down, but first we had to cross a small pass and drop into the next drainage valley. As we rounded the head of the valley, we stopped for a break at a small stream where there was a wooden bridge. It was a pretty spot with rich green mosses and some of the first wild flowers we have seen in a long time.  Most of the lush vegetation we have seen in the past is now dried up. Many of the low plants are even turning yellow and red as fall approaches.  We decided to take a break for lunch on the bridge. We relaxed in the sun and Mama Raven soaked her feet, followed by Whisper. Soaking our feet is a pleasure that we have not had many chances to do on this trail. Mama Raven said this is one of those beautiful, lush spots the imagination could see woodland nymphs floating down the stream in boats made of leaves. Not wanting to leave and enjoying ourselves, we lingered a while, however the trail called for us to pack up and start hiking again. It was a nagging voice from a mother, so we were grudgingly obedient and did what were suppose to. We continued our hike down the valley. We spent many hours heading down, first down one valley and then we crossed North to another. The day was very hot and we tried to take advantage of the shade under the trees. Late in the afternoon, we came to a larger stream and we dropped our packs on the bridge, but instead of sitting on the bridge we all sat by the streams edge. Everyone took off their shoes and soaked their feet in the cold water. It felt really good to get the heat out of the feet and clean them. The trail has been terribly dusty. With each foot step, a fine powdery cloud of dust puffs up beneath and around our feet which then penetrates the mesh of our socks and shoes. The legs up to our knees also gets a coating of dust on them turning them a dingy gray color. After eating and letting our feet dry, we headed around a ridge to the next valley to stop for the night. The sun was a red ball in the sky again and ashes gently fell on to us like snow flakes. We have no cell phone connection so we did not have any information on the status of the CDT and fires. We found a flat place to camp on the far side of Hamby Creek. Surprisingly to us, we are having an easy time through this section and moving well. Hopefully, tomorrow will be another good day.

A Historic Spot

Once again, on a ridge (2336.0)
Day 134 – 9/2/17
Miles – 24.2
Total miles – 2087.3

It was noticeable darker when we woke this morning. The days are getting shorter. We were on the trail a little before seven and we got to watch the sunrise, which was a red ball floating in the sky because of all the smoke from the fires in Montana. We have had smoke since Colorado, however it is much thicker now restricting our views to only a short distance. The air even smells of  thick smoke. Today was not nearly as difficult as the past few days have been. We quickly went over a small climb and started a long ten mile down. We moved fast. At least four vehicles drove by. All were hunters. Elk season for bowmen started a few days ago. Although, several hunters were seen with guns. Bumping into men in camouflage clothes was a common site today. After several hours, we came to Lemhi Pass. This is our only water for the next eighteen miles thus we filled up. This is a historic pass because the Lewis and Clark party crossed the Continental Divide here. At the spring, we filled up with water. Lewis and Clark believed this very spring was the beginning of the Missouri River. We were thinking that Lewis and Clark’s expedition were the first long distant thru-hikers in America. And to think, we got water from the same spring as these great American figures of history. We also took time to see the Sacajawea Memorial. Sacajawea is one of Mama Raven’s hero of American history so she was excited to be at this location. After the historical spot, we had a big up, about 1,200′ and very steep. It took a while to get to the top, but once up, the hiking got much easier. The rest of the day we rolled along tree covered ridges with small easy ups and downs. We have about four miles to Goldstone Pass, our next water. Hopefully, tomorrow will go as well as today. We could use another twenty-four mile day.

Lemhi Spring

Northward

A ridge (2312.4)
Day 133 – 9/1/17
Miles – 18.6
Total miles – 2063.1

Leadore was a very small town and they work on their own schedule. We wanted to have breakfast and go back to the trail as soon as possible, but we could not find out what time the restaurant opened. We asked several times and it was any where from 7:00 to 8:30. It sounded like it opened whenever someone got there to open it. Waking at 6:00 in the morning, we finished packing and then walked over to the restaurant at 7:30. It was closed. We decided to walk to the other end of town and back. They were still closed, that was around 8:00. We went back to the Inn and talked to Redcross and Napoleon. Their room had a kitchenette, thus they made breakfast in their room. We all were going to get a ride back to the trail with Sam, who is owner of the Inn, after we had breakfast. They said they were not in a hurry, so we shouldn’t worry about time.  A few minutes later,  Sam said he saw that the restaurant open sign was on, so we headed back down at 8:15. The breakfast was good and huge. Bling and Mama Raven had one pancake, 2 eggs, and sausage and bacon. It was a good thing that they only had one pancake because it was about a foot across. Whisper and Papa Raven had French toast, which consisted of four, thick, egg covered toast. They offered the French toast deep fried. In fact, Red Cross had the deep fried toast for yesterday’s breakfast and she said it was amazing! We decided to keep it simple and it was still really good. We were all full and most plates still had food left over. This is another small town with no cell phone service. In this modern age we live in, we expect cell phone and Wifi service everywhere. Hiking these long trails, we have learned otherwise. Actually, it is a breath of fresh air to know there our communities across this nation that are still so simple! Folks here still sit on their front porches, drinking ice tea and talking to one another, face to face. No devices of social media held in the hand to distract. Just two people having quality time together. Nonetheless, It was about nine thirty when Sam drove Napoleon, Red Cross, and The Ravens back to the trail. From Leadore, the trail heads North. For the last few weeks, we have been hiking west and sometimes northwest. It is good too be heading in the right direction, toward Canada. Most of the day, we climbed easy hills, slowly building up to the highest ridges. We stopped to talk to Napoleon and Red Cross at a spring while they had lunch. Later, they past us on a climb. They are both strong and fast hikers, however they are in no hurry to finish the trail. Red Cross is from Switzerland and Napoleon is from Louisiana. When their trip is over, they will have to part ways. Something neither one is looking forward to. The end of the day we had several very steep ups, which exhausted us. We came into camp very tired. Now we are nestled in a stand of trees and ready for sleep.

Leadore

Leadore (08_000 R)
Day 132 – 8/31/17
Miles – 15.8
Total miles – 2044.5

Smoke. We woke to thick smoke. We could smell it clearly. The valleys on both sides of us were filled with it. The alarm worked this morning and at 6:00 we got going.  A good starting time. It is barely light at this hour. Soon we were heading up Elk mountain. It is the last 10,000′ mountain in Montana or Idaho. It was a big climb but it was well contoured over several miles. It was one of the easier ups we have had this section despite it’s altitude. We crossed just below the summit and stopped at a saddle on the North side. This is one of the few locations where there is a Verizon connection. Papa Raven called the only hotel in Leadore and got a room for the night. The owner, Sam, said he would pick us up at Bannock Pass, fourteen miles to the west. We needed to be there at 3:30.  We also asked Sam if he could pick up our packages from the Post Office because we would not make it by closing time.  He agreed to. Next, Papa Raven had to call the Post Office to tell them he was coming. With all that set up, we hiked to the pick up point. We arrived at 3:00 and sat in the shade of a sign to wait for Sam. He drove up about 5 minutes later. A short time later we were at the hotel with our room and boxes. As we walked up to our room, we found out that Napoleon and Red Cross have the room next to us. We are all planning on leaving tomorrow, however there is much to do before then. Priority always is food and showers.

More of the Same

Near a spring (07_091 R0)
Day 131 – 8/30/17
Miles – 21.1
Total miles – 2028.7

We tried something new this morning. Papa Raven set his phone alarm for 6:00, so we would not sleep in. Of course it did not work. There is this thing called am/pm, he set it to pm, thus the alarm did not go off. He will try again tomorrow morning. We did not get up until 6:20. Quickly and efficiently, we ate and packed. Surprisingly, we were on the trail by 7:15. Clouds covered most of the sky but they were thin. We headed up the last of the climb we started yesterday. For the first three miles, we hiked post to post with no trail in sight. We misplaced ourselves just once and that was when we were going down a dirt road. It was nice to hike a clear path all down hill.  As afternoon came on, the clouds started to thicken and darken. We could see rain falling to the North, our direction of travel. We put on rain gear knowing what was coming. And it did. It was not a hard rain but the wind blew it sideways. Afterwards, when the sun came out, it became hot and humid which made us wish for cloud cover again. We thru hikers are never satisfied! For lunch, we came to Morrison Lake. A good sized lake nestled in the valley at the bottom of a big up. The climb took us from a tree lined lake up a tight valley and out into the open sage covered mountain tops. There rest of the day was ridge walking with beautiful views. Some of the climbs to the next summit were very steep others gentle. Around 7:00, we came to one of the only springs up on the ridges. A massive black cloud was forming to the West. Papa and Mama Raven walked down to the spring to get water for dinner. Thunder started in that big black cloud and we decided to stop for the night. We have learned from past experience to stop a little early if it looks like rain and thunder are coming. We do not want to get caught in another storm just as the sun goes down! Also, we have a safe spot to camp off of the ridge. If we went on, we would be forced to camp on an exposed ridge with potential thunder and lightening. We pitched the tents in the most shielded place we could find. Shortly after getting into the tents, it started to sprinkle and the wind came up. It is still blowing out there but we are safe and warm.

We Create An Alt

A pass (06_250 R)
Day 130 – 8/29/17
Miles – 19.7
Total miles – 2007.6

This section is wearing us down. It was very hard to get up and moving. The body simply does not want to move. Bling, especially is not doing well. We do not know if he is sick again or just worn out from hiking. Even the cows all around us, mooing loudly, had a hard time waking us up. When we did get out of the tents, we found the sky and clouds painted with red and oranges. Just to the West, a thunderhead was raining and a full rainbow could be seen.  No sooner than we got pack covers and rain jackets on, it started to rain.  It did not last long.  Not long before we hiked away from the clouds, we switched to cooler clothes. Despite the trail being so difficult, the country all around us is beautiful. We hope the photographs do this area justice! The trail rolled up and over sage covered hill tops and down the other side. Rain fell again, just before we came to the drop to Deadman Lake. Once at the lake, we took a break.
There is a comment on my GPS app that talks about a road alt. So, sitting under a pine tree by the side of the peaceful lake, Papa Raven explored this possible alt. What he found was a 6.5 mile road walk that would cut about 5.5 trail miles off. This was a big savings. The road was easy except for the first mile, which was very steep. We decide to do it. We left the lake and slowly worked our way up the steep road. The steep section did not last long. After reaching the high point, we went down to a steam. There we stopped to eat and filter water. Once again, Bling is very tired and is wanting to sleep. At this location, our only choice is to hike on the best we can.  It probably will be a low mileage day. As we ate at the stream, a thunderhead built to the West. About the time we decided to start hiking,  it started to rain. With the rain, came a very strong wind. We had to hold our umbrellas sideways to block the driving rain. We knew that this storm would not last long because we could see blue sky behind it. It rained hard for about 20 minutes and then let up. Several miles, after leaving the stream, we joined back with the CDT.  We hiked on to Hackness Lake and then started several climbs over unnamed passes. We camped at the top of the second pass. Our hard days work was rewarded with this camp site in a saddle and its amazing views of the surrounding mountains.  Bling fell asleep before dinner was made, although we woke him up to eat. It is raining right now and we hope our location does not flood tonight.

Depleted

Bannack Pass (2232.1 0)
Day 129 – 8/28/17
More – 21.0
Total miles – 1987.9

Yesterday was an unusually tough day of hiking and no one wanted to get moving. Very slowly, we started to move. All our energy reserves were used up yesterday. However, we must keep moving forward. We got out of the tents in time to see the sun as a big red ball in the sky.  Smoke, from a fire North of us, must have moved down south over night. Before we set out for our morning hike, we picked up several more liters of water from a spring near the stream. The first few miles was through tree covered valleys and a lot of cows. At one point, we came across two male elk, hiding in the trees, bugling back and forth across the narrow valley to each other. The sounds they were making did not sound like a friendly conversation. Instead, it was two males telling each other off and saying whose the boss around here.  Short time later, we came to a stream at the base of today’s big up and stopped to fill-up on water and eat something. The up was 1,800′ in three miles. Not as bad as some of the ups yesterday, but we are still tired from the previous day’s hike. We climbed up through trees and open sage. We got to the pass in about two hours. Not bad. However, not great. From here, we had miles of down punctuated with small ups. Even though we were going down, we did not move very fast. After several miles, we stopped at a spring. It was very small and it took a little time to fill up our bottles. Then it was on down the valley and back into the trees. As the day went on, we took more and more breaks. Not long ones but many of them. We were very tired. Mama Raven said it felt like she had bricks tied to her feet and each step was very labor intensive. Yesterdays hike, produced very low energy levels for today. As we came to the end of the valley, we climbed a ridge and stopped at several water troughs. This was the last water for 13 miles and we needed to fill up. There was no water coming out of the pipe into either trough, but Papa Raven found a valve and turned it on. After several minutes, water started flowing out. We now had all the water we needed.  We had three miles of down, so we slowly made our way up and over. When we made it to the bottom there was a very large flat area and we stopped for the night. It was an early night, but nobody was moving very fast by this time. We just wanted to get dinner and go to bed. We hope we have more energy tomorrow.