CDT Day 43 & 44 – Outnatured by nature

Zero miles. Lazy hikers.
We wake and pack up most of our things and shove it into the bear box so that we can wander down the road to the ranger station. It turns out there really isn’t any alternate for us except for a 30 mile road walk. None of us are interested in road walking so we are at a stalemate. Crunchmaster has maintained continuous steps for the AT and PCT and isn’t going to stop now for the CDT. I don’t want to miss one of the most beautiful parts of the entire trail. But there’s nothing we can do right now except wait the 7-10 days for the trail to be reopened. They leave the carcass on the trail so that the animals can eat and remove all trace of it.
We eat a very very grumpy breakfast down the road and the only thing we can do is head to East Glacier with a vague plan to somehow get back up to Glacier to finish this section. Yesterday Crunchmaster found a microspike on Piegan pass and the owner is a CDT hiker. She’s coming to collect it and give us a ride to East Glacier as she and her hiking partner they have rented a car for the day to run some errands. Yay the trail provides!
So…back in East Glacier. We eat and shower and laze about. I head down the road to do laundry and bump into Llama and Dupont I met on the PCT last year!
I meet some other CDT ers including another vegan hiker, Patience, from Israel. Woot team vegan ☺
Grizzly has hurt his knee so is keen for another day off, and we have to wait for the post office to open on Monday to collect our food boxes and post off our ice axes so it’s a double zero. Not what I was planning so soon after having had so much time off in Denver, but we’ve been out natured by nature.
Sunday is spent …doing I don’t know what. We watch TV, chat online, eat, eat some more, have showers… Big fat sloth of a day! Thru hiking is hard! ☺

CDT Day 42 – Piegan Pass

14.3 miles hiked, Camping at St Marys lake campground @ 4626ft
Highest elevation today: 7326ft (Piegan Pass)
We are out of the room at a respectable-ish time and head to reception to check out. I ask about the food we saw two hikers dropping off in a hiker box there. I can see there are cliff bars and kind bars on the desk, the staff go very red faced and say we have to check at the ranger station as they don’t have a hiker box. Riiiiight.
In beautiful sun we walk along the west side of Swiftcurrent lake, described by the Ley maps as the more scenic alternate. It seems the east side is purely through trees, so I think we’ve chosen well.
A boat docks in front of us that came from the hotel and a giant bunch of tourists plod out, taking up the trail and walking veeeery slowly with a thousand bear bells. Irrational rage boils up as we manage to pass one or two, only to have a child dart in front of us blocking our paths. They are cunning these day-hikers. Eventually I just put on a saccharine smile and yell out excuse-mes and we all push obnoxiously past. It’s quite hilarious as we look back and realise they walk about 200m along the path where the boat has darted ahead and the get back on board. Woah nature! Totes back country! #Wilderness
Thanks to the downpour yesterday and a thousand horses on the trail since then we are squooshing our way uphill through sticky sticky mud. It tries to steal my shoe a few times, but just manages to add an extra 2kg of weight on the bottom with each step.
We come into a meadow and have a wee rest and a snack before a freezing river crossing (no bridge! Boo!) and the climb starts up to Piegan Pass.
It’s absolutely stunning. Giant jagged mountains stare down at us, the ground is lush with grass and flowers and trees. We are heading straight towards Morning Eagle Falls and it is breathtaking. We stop to take more and more photos as we get closer. The trail is winding up through snow now and there are a couple of sketchy crossings so I finally take my ice axe out.
We’re near the top and there are some animal tracks zooming across the snow -wolverine tracks!!! Very very cool. I don’t ever expect to see a wolverine, but to see its tracks is pretty amazing.
I stop for a minute to photograph and chat with a social marmot, then up to the top! There is a cool rock shelter someone has built as a campsite where speedy Crunchmaster is waiting and we sit for 5 before heading over the otherside.
It’s a steep drop to the valley below amd we hike along a thin path on the side of the trail. The valley below leads to the Going To The Sun Road, the peaks around it a perfect mix of greens and blues with patches of snow.
The avalanche chutes are sketchy on this side. We have a nervous few moments watching Grizzly start across the first veeerry slowly (without axe or spikes) only to have him stop halfway and declare that he doesn’t like it at all. I take out my axe again and finally don my microspikes and it feels so much safer!
We spot a mamma bear with 2 cubs far across the valley climbing around some bushes in a snow patch. Thankfully far away!
2 more dodgy chutes and the path leads down below treeline into the forest. There is a LOT of snow here! Compacted so no postholing, but it still makes for slippery slow downhill hiking.
It takes us a long time, but eventually I see cars I can head Grizzly’s voice at the bottom talking to someone. A hitch before we’d even got to the road!
We jump in and enjoy the fast view along St Mary’s lake. We are at the St Mary’s campground tonight as there were no permits available at Reynolds where we wanted to camp.
As we arrive at the campground there are some hikers with a car in a site at the entry. They give us some giant rotten news- the trail is closed further ahead due to a mountain lion killing an elk right in the middle of the trail!!! And on the other side of the triple divide pass it is closed due to aggressive bear activity. Whaaaat??? We make plans to visit the ranger station in the morning and see what alternate trails we can come up with. Boooo. Giant booooo.
We find the hiker/biker site we have reserved and there are 2 bikers there. They’ve taken up the 2 tentsites so we settle with a tentsite on the gravel.
There is some good news – phone reception tonight for Grizzly means we get to eat dinner and watch Game of Thrones! #Wilderness 😉

CDT Day 41 – Red Gap Pass

18.8 miles, expensive lodging @ 4944ft
All night rain and snow dripped on our tent amd thwacked on the new tyvek. I had to brave the walk to the toilet in the middle of the night -headlamp on and bear spray in hand.
It cleared around 730am so we begrudgingly rolled out of bed and packed up all the things,  before trotting over to the food prep area to eat some bits and pieces and retrieve all our smelly things from the bear boxes. How lovely our packs would be without all this heavy stuff!
The trail started ascending right away the 4 miles to Red Gap pass. It’s a freezing morning so we’ve all got a lot of layers on, but we’re sweating a mile in. The heat doesn’t last as the rain starts again which quickly turns to snow. The view is beautiful but it’s hard to enjoy as the wind has picked up and wants us off this mountain. At the final trail intersection we start seeing big patches of snow, and have a few sketchy crossings kicking in steps.
The last mile is haaaard. The view below has disappeared underneath snow and fog and I have to stop several times to lean over my poles, brace against the wind and make sure I don’t fly off the mountain. The snow is being whipped around by 65mph wind and smashed against my skin. My eyes are only open a sliver – my sunglasses too covered with snow and watermarks  be of any use.
Finally at the top no-one has stopped for a break – too bloody windy and cold. They’re waiting around the corner hiding behind a boulder, the view hidden by the snow and clouds.
We trek down down down switching back and forth across the mountain side. We hit tree line and are shielded by the wind somewhat, but now have trees and forest right up to the trail making it scary beary country. Every few steps we’re yelling “Hey Bear!” so we don’t surprise any fluffy bummed giant mammals on the trail. I pitch in with “Cooee!” as it carries much further than my “hey bear” attempts. There’s a tiny clearing around the trail so we sit and have a tiny break. I am ccccold!
Another small climb, the wind is whipping and we are marching on. We grab another mini break at Poia Lake where we collect some water and bump into some other hikers and some NPS workers. It’s hard to settle and sit when it’s so windy!
Through the forest we hike on, “hey bear”-ing the whole way as the trail twists and turns, crossing streams and weaving through trees, stwpping over a lot of bear scat. I’m still excited at every water crossing and get nervous when we don’t stop at every one to fill up with water – New Mexico dehydration has scarred me!
The trail ends up on a few mile road walk leading to Many Glacier campground ( where we are supposed to be staying) and the swiftcurrent lodge (where we want to stay). Ouch the road hurts my feet, my new hipbelt is hurting my hips too. Boooo. I hope it settles down or somehow just kills whatever nerve it is  pinching so I can stop walking in pain! All day I’ve been alternating between hip belt on with hip killing, and hip belt off and therefore shoulders hurting. Blergh I’m over it! Any suggestions greatly appreciated!
Finally at the lodge and we end up getting the last room! We only have to sell a few arms and legs to afford it. Montana is going to be am expensive state if I continue being soft and sleeping in beds!!! The lure of a hot shower and drying out our tents is too strong. Wait Up is stronger than us and camps at the campground.
We four run in for some hot dinner at the restaurant. I brace myself for zero choice, but they have a few vegan options! I end up with tempeh stirfry, a side of chili and fries. Mmmm hot food! There’s even some smoothies on the breakfast menu. Viva la veganlution!
At the little shop we pick up a few things – nothing is quite as awesome as a shower beer at the end of a long hiking day. Today wasn’t that far, but I think the bad conditions drained all of us.
Clean, dry and warm, with bellies full we fall asleep.
* If you’re enjoying reading along, see if you can spare a few dollars on my fundraising page for Sea Shepherd and Animals Australia ☺ Link here.
Cheers from the animals ☺☺☺

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! 😉