Friday, August 8, 2014
We made it. Montana was a wonder. It was just like on the PCT where northbounders get the best last. The Bob Marshall, Scapegoat and Spotted Bear wilderness complex was intense. I don't think you can be more remote in the lower 48. Kevin and I hiked North from Rogers Pass near Lincoln, MT after dropping Jay off to build trail with the Student Conservation Association in the Grand Tetons National Park. Kevin and I carried very heavy food filled packs up the trail from Rogers Pass. We had sent about 4 days of food to Benchmark but were still hauling a lot. The hike from Rogers Pass to Benchmark was beautiful and we could see the craggy peaks of Glacier and the wild shapes of the Bob every time we got high up.
After Benchmark we entered the Bob Marshall along the Sun River. We camped that night high above the river and were astounded when about 25 Elk wandered past our camp and down the river. At about 6,000 feet the trail became lined with Bear grass, so thick and mature that it left white pollen puffs on our clothes as we hiked. With the fragrance and the puffiness it felt like a nature spa. On the third day we got to the Chinese Wall, the weather was foggy and stormy. Still we got great photos and had lunch huddled under a fir tree while it poured rain.
It was -- as usual on the Climbing and Descending Trail -- up, up, up from there, with a bit of down to lakes and other water sources. We made it over a beautiful pass and soon met the last people we would see for about nine or so days. Our route out of the Bob Marshall wilderness had us on a river that we crossed seven or eight times. Vicky's Asolo hiking shoes fell apart during this time. After the river crossings we got out out of the Bob Marshall Wilderness at the Teddy Roosevelt Monument on Highway Two. We hitched from there into East Glacier, picked up by a very nice couple who usually drove motorcycles but to our fortune had rented a car. We got into East Glacier; we were surprised to find that we could easily rent a car at a general store in East Glacier.
With our rented Subaru Outback, we made it down to Rogers Pass to pick up our car and then detoured to Great Falls to get new shoes (the trip was made easier by tracking down a brewpub in Great Falls). We rushed that trip, staying one night in Choteau, Montana (home of David Letterman), and so we started the next day to do our Glacier National Park trail. A meeting with a ranger took us -- we kid you not -- three hours. We wound up with a crazy itinerary of ten nights and some 25 mile days. Bizarre. When we got to our first campsite -- Upper Two Medicine Lake -- we found out about the enforced socialization scheme of the campsites. There are multiple sleeping areas separated from the food preparation areas. For the most part we had privacy in our camps, except when we were camping in burned areas.
We hiked for about three or four days, winding up at Red Eagle Lake -- a place we would not recommend. It was a burn area, and the night we got in a massive wind storm moved in, and this created a situation where trees were cracking and being swept into the air, landing close to our tent. That night was a night of wondering if we would win the life lottery. The next day we went into St. Mary -- facing a wicked second day of winds. We rearranged our schedule and itinerary to make it a more rational route and picked up some food at a local convenience store. That became a twenty mile day, fortunately done with no packs since we spent another night at Red Eagle.
In every camp, we met interesting folks. One couple recommended we take the Highline Trail along the Garden Wall. This was a flat and easy trail, which had its good side, but it also meant that there were literally hundreds of people hiking it. There were also mountain goats who had acclimated to human beings and who looked like they had been fed by people. Buck Mulligan, in typical Buck Mulligan form, had to pass a goat who was just standing on the trail. He ensured people, "This is not a wildlife situation." Nonetheless one woman yelled at him to "go home" after he passed the goat. Buck grinned and went on.
From the Garden Wall, we went to Granite campsite where we met a family hiking -- a father with five boys (one an in law). They were a fun bunch. All the boys were homeschooled and very nice. They had a fourteen mile hike the next day, and we had only a nine mile hike -- except that we had a 3000 foot descent with a 2500 foot climb up along a waterfall and onto Flattop Mountain. They left first, since we had slept in, and then we ran into them at the waterfall as we hiked up. We invited them to camp with us, since their camp was eight miles away and it was already about 4pm. They took us up on the offer, setting up their hammocks. We had heard about a grizzly bear that had charged a man on the trail in between our camp and the next, so we were happy to hike with the big family the next day. And what a hike it was -- to the glorious and best campsite we had, Fifty Mountain Camp. Here we saw our first grizzly bear lounging around on the hill across from us, and here Buck Mulligan hiked up to the Sue Lake Observation Point (a local had told him to do this, and as usual, locals know what they're talking about).
From here it was onto THE END, beautiful friend. We hiked up Waterton River to the last campsite we had. Here we met Bill and Polly, the authors of numerous trail guides that we actually used (especially helpful was a guide to the Gila). We had a great evening conversation that was cut short by a massive rainstorm that moved in. We arose the next day at 6am and took off on our last stage of the the trip along beautiful Waterton Lake to the border with Canada and the terminus of the CDT. When we then got into the Canadian town of Waterton, we found Bill and Polly who had stepped of the boat across the lake. So we had a celebratory lunch -- avec brewtowskies for Mama Moab and Buck Mulligan -- and then took two shuttle buses back to East Glacier, where we headed for the next two stages of our trip -- one through the wonderful Anaconda Pintler Wilderness and then back onto bikes and the Great Divide Trail through southern Montana.
We sped onto the Anaconda Pintler wilderness in about two days. It was strange being back on rough trail and without the spectacular scenery of Glacier. But there were beautiful views nonetheless and some gigantic mountains. We were back to 2000 foot descents followed by 2000 foot ascents. We were fortunately still in good shape, so we made it into Anaconda tout suite. And now we plan for the next leg of the trip which will be on wheels (bike wheels that is).
This is Mama Moab and Utah the trail dog actually LEAVING the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness very near Storm Lake where we got a short ride into town by two very friendly college students who worked at the most expensive guest ranch in the United States.
In the Anaconda Pintler we encountered these beautiful birds. I think they are Spruce Grouse. The male had a fantastic tail fan.