CDT Day 40 – The Night of the Grizzly

9.7 miles, Canada/ US border to Elizabeth foot campground, 4902ft
So many zeros!!! I felt I should include them in my grand total of days for the hike. Seems crazy that I’m now on day 40, when it also feels like Im just starting. New gear, new state, new border, new direction.
We have a nice chilled morning in East Glacier before jumping on the shuttle to take us the few hour drive up to the Canadian border. A bunch of photos and a selfie with the border agent and we are on our way!
Grizzly, Crunchmaster and myself are joined by another hiker Wait Up who was on the shuttle with us. Safety in numbers.
The trail is mostly downhil through some lush growth and valleys. The mountains around us have a little dusting of snow on top, and the sun is shining! Yay to be back on trail ☺ And yay for hiking in a beautiful new state. Hi Montana!
Shoulders, knees and feet are groaning at us as we adjust our new heavier pack weights (and new pack for me!), and to being on trail again. Hopefully our bodies will adjust and be happy soon.
It’s only 9.7 miles to our campsite (we have to stay at specific campsites) at Elizabeth Foot (right on Elizabeth lake) so we make it there in good time. There’s still light after 10pm here, so I guess anytime is really a good time! We unload all our smelly things into the bear boxes at the food prep area, set up our tents in the designated spot, then wander back to eat our dinner.
There are 4 others staying at the campsite with us (not CDTers, people out in Glacier for a few days). We’ve finished eating, some are cooking and we’re  hanging about chatting when a couple who are also camping at the site come wandering back to the food prep area. “There was a bear on the path near our tent. It wandered that way” pointing towards the pit toilet.
Grizzly is at the loo and I give him the scary news as he comes back.  We carry bear spray here and have it with us always, even going to the loo!
The couple comes back again, looking more worried this time “It’s right on the path heading this way!”. We all decide to go together to check it out – I figure there are a lot of us so should be safe, plus more of us to scare it off.
It’s big, it’s a grizzly, it’s right near the tents digging in the ground. Then it starts moving towards us. 8 people yelling, making noise, all have bear spray in hand but he doesn’t care. He’s a ballsy bugger that has clearly had luck in scoring food at this campsite before. This is his territory and we are in his way. We are all backing up into the food prep area with the bear following. Grizzly (the human, not the bear) starts banging on the bear boxes making a big noise which finally sends the bear running. Eeeeps.
First day in the park, first grizzly bear encounter.
The temperature drops fast and I am suddenly freezing. I dive into the tent and put on all my layers and bundle up. Everyone is a little on edge from the bear and crossing fingers and toes he doesn’t come back tonight. I’m crossing everything in hopes of not having to go to the loo in the middle of the night!
Goodnight Glacier! Goodnight bear!

CDT Intermission

All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to make it to your destination. – Earl Nightingale

 

I made the decision to flip north to the Canadian border to finish the rest of the CDT SOBO (southbound), so now I’m a NO-SOBO ☺ This is for a couple of reasons – south San Juan mountains still have a lot of snow, avalanche danger there due to the weather warming up and snow melting,  and loooong days with not many miles and lots of postholing.

I probably could have waited a week once I got to Chama for better conditions but decided to instead join a good friend I hiked the PCT in Washington with plus another hiker, hang out for a week in Denver then drive to Montana. Yay hiking with people! This will also have me starting south just as the majority of SOBO hikers are starting.  I’m very happy to be hiking grizzly country with lots of others around.

From Cuba I managed to hitch an amazing ride to Colorado with a mum & son all the way to Pagosa Springs. We stopped on the way to drop mum home, and she sent me off with a bag of blueberries, rockmelon (cantaloupe) and some apples!!! So kind and so yum!

I made it to Pagosa just as some nasty looking storm clouds were gathering overhead, managed to get what seemed to be the last room in town at the Pinewood Inn (there was a folk bluegrass festival on, plus it’s a popular weekend destination), had some dinner then soaked my weary muscles at the Overlook hot springs while watching a lightning storm from the rooftop across the town and over the mountains. Hooray for hot springs!

Pagosa has such a lovely atmosphere to it. Very cute town, fantastic scenery and friendly people. I was in Pagosa back in January and enjoyed soaking at the big hot springs after a day of skiing at Wolf Creek. I’ve been dreaming about this stop since the start of the hike! Now I get to go twice as the trail goes through wolf creek pass and I’ll be hitching to Pagosa from wolf creek to resupply (and soak!) when I pass back through coming south.

The next morning as I’m drinking an almond milk latte (real coffee!!) and eating my banana in the sun on the chair outside my room, I strike up a conversation with a group of Harley riders who were also staying at the hotel. They are a group of friends who take a few trips a year on their bikes and were on their last day of a 5 day loop around Colorado  – headed home to Colorado Springs. A little more chatting and I’m offered a ride on the back of one of the bikes! Say yes to adventure! But I have a pack…No worries! My pack was strapped down, I handed in my room key and suddenly I find myself on the back of a Harley heading up and over wolf creek pass. Wow.

Holy moly! Wolf creek pass is absolutely spectacular; I can’t imagine a better way to see the pass than on the back of a bike. I have to keep reminding myself to stop grinning like a fool from fear of bugs entering my mouth 😉 I tried to take some photos, but it’s tricky on a bike! We saw elk, mountain goats, marmot, coyote, an eagle. Colorado went whooshing past with sunny skies and a warm sun. Rivers and lakes, mountains and fields. Everything bright, everything beautiful and fast!!! Quite different from my slow walking pace. So so lucky and again- so grateful. Happy Snakebite! Hooray for adventure!

Then I was picked up by Grizzly (new trail name for Mr Smith!) and taken to Denver for a week of green smoothies, good food, some hiking, game of thrones marathon and organising resupply for Montana amd Wyoming. We managed to snag some last minute tickets and saw the Lumineers at red rocks amphitheatre! It took all my energy not to jump off the trail, grab my violin and join a band (ps who wants to form a band with me when I get home??!).

I changed some of my gear too in preparation for the colder temperatures in Glacier national park- I picked up microspikes, an ice axe, a heavier rain jacket and rainpants. I also ordered a new pack! I’ve tried my best to love the osprey exos because it is so comfy on my shoulders and back, but the hip belt kills me. I find the material too flimsy so the weight isn’t distributed across it, but is instead concentrated in one spot, really hurting my hips and making the tops of my legs go numb. No bueno. Fingers crossed my new 6 moons fusion pack does the job!

Oh and yes, my big giant spanner. Long story short I had to wait for some documents to be sent from Perth, took a last minute flight to LA to have them witnessed at the consulate, back on a plane to head to Kalispell in Montana…except my flight from LA was delayed 1.5hours, so I missed the connecting flight and got stranded in Salt Lake City. 😣😣😣

Finally found a hotel (Delta better be reimbursing me!!!), had a measly couple of hours sleep, then back to the airport and headed to Montana where I was reunited with Grizzly, Crunchmaster, Grizzly’s Dad and Stepmom and my pack that drove 16hours from Denver to get there.

Glacier National Park requires permits and reservations for specific campsites, so we stopped in for a visit at the ranger station and watched a video on bear and camping safety before the permits were issued.

One final night in a warm bed, before getting on the shuttle to Chief Mountain tomorrow!

I’ve now had too long off and I’m sooooo ready to start hiking again. My body is probably happy with the rest, but my mind is antsy! Must hike! Must cuddle all the bears! 😉