6/19 – The weather took a turn for the best, and as a result we were rewarded with one of our best days in the mountains. Lots of snow, lots of kicking steps, but boy, what a difference when the sun is high in the sky warming your back and turning your arms rosy! This day will remain etched in our memories. Pictures don’t do it justice but here they will do more than words:
Sometimes you just have to face the mountains naked (with yer gaiters on) to fully take them in!
6/18 – We awoke to a cloudy but dry day. We crossed our fingers, packed up our tent and vowed to stick together as we gained altitude on our way to Triple Divide Pass. The pass boasts a three way split of water ways- one to the Hudson, the next to the Atlantic and the last to the Pacific. As we huffed up hill we had mountain goats showing off their effortless climbing capabilities on the mountains surrounding us. They never ceased to suprise us with their impossible purches on cliffed rocky slopes. The snow started to gust as we neared the pass, but luckily we all pulled out some good technical skills from our woolly hats and started cutting in to the snowpack. In turn the weather trumped us with a total whiteout at the top. We answered back with technological skills this time (GPS) to locate the trail, and off we went down over the other edge. The next comeback from the weather gods was avalanches… but not to worry they were all on the slopes adjacent to us. We had our final say with careful and slowly calculated stepckicking traverses across ten or so, avalanche prone ice shoots. One at a time from “safe zone” to “safe zone” inbetween the shoots and a glissade or two later we were safely in camp and the Mountains rewarded us with sunshine and a close up encounter with a moose buck- with his head in the clouds he came to his regular pond to munch on the delectable pond weed, once a few feet away he noticed we were there too munching on our dried goodies, he looked up (a little miffed) and off he went. Perfect.
6/17 – We finally forced ourselves to leave the roaring hearth at St Mary’s lodge and go back into the rain and snow at noon. Meanwhile the Noodleheads – Angel Hair & Rigatoni – had arrived with Coyote. They’d bailed after 48 hours of rain. Nevertheless we headed out (Naomi was driver extraordinaire once more) and she dropped us off in the snow where she’d picked us up the day before. The trail passed some gorgeous waterfalls and was full of fresh bear skat, but we didn’t see any bears. The weather improved, though, and we even enjoyed a respite from the rain before arriving at Red Eagle Lake. There we were joined by Stretch, another thru-hiker from Seattle. Jack, however had stayed behind since his knee was bothering him.
Dan, Jack, Mike, Lost, Yas, Anna, Nina, Tim, Rolling Thunder & Joker
June 14th – We set off from the Canadian border around noon. There was a massive group of us – our group of 10 plus two more thru-hikers – Rolling Thunder and Mike. It was the perfect way to start – brilliant sunny weather, 10 miles of easy trail through meadows of yellow glacier lilies and quaking aspen with glacier-covered rock monoliths towering in the distance. We followed the Belly River, taking a little side trail to Dawn Mist waterfall and then following the trail upward above the falls, arriving at Lake Elizabeth by 4pm. It began to drizzle a bit after dinner but by the evening the clouds had cleared and the lake became a mirror reflecting the mountains above. We couldn’t have asked for a better start!
SATURDAY JUNE 12th – After weeks of packing and planning, shopping and researching, and months of money-making and madness… we set off to hike the Continental Divide Trail. Working 4+ jobs each we didn’t have nearly as much time to plan or dehydrate food like we did for the Pacific Crest Trail, but we still managed to make our flight after frantic packing. Allie, Nattie & Russ saw us off at the airport (thanks!) and we enjoyed some “restless relaxation” before arriving in Spokane where we visited with my mom’s old colleague. Then at midnight, we caught the Amtrack Empire Builder Train to East Glacier National Park in Northeast Montana.
JUNE 13th – We awoke to gorgeous Montana views and were amazed to discover 5 other thru-hikers on our train: Jack, a wilderness counsellor from Utah; Tim a master diver from Hawaii; his girlfriend Nina (Silverfox) who we met at the end of the PCT last year; as well as Joker from Bellingham and Yas from Japan, two other PCT 09ers.
Glacier was majestic… wide open prairies and big sky meets colossal peaks cut by glaciers, blanketed with snow and skirted with scree. The weather was PERFECT – sunny and 70 with a cool breeze. Unfortunately we found out conditions were less than perfect on the trail were were planning to take. A lot of late snow storms meant the Highline trail from Waterton Lakes (the official CDT route) had high snow and a high risk of avalanche. So we’d have to do the route to the East starting on the Canada/US border at Chief Mountain. In Glacier National Park you have to plan your trip ahead of time and camp at designated areas so we decided the 8 (7 of us from the train + a recent college grad named Kristen or “Lost”) of us would camp together to be on the same permit.
In Glacier we also meet up with Wyatt and his friend David, who were road-tripping from NYC to Washington state. After dealing with some logistics we enjoyed a evening mesmerized by the view from the shores of Two Medicine Lake. They decided to join us on the trail for the first few days too.