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We are currently on another long distance hike, and the third leg of our "triple crown", the Continental Divide Trail (the "CDT"). Come along with us if you can - if not in person then by following our grand adventure via our "posts from the trail".  Check out our Flickr Photos, which we'll update periodically, and see it through our eyes!

Our Credo...

"Success: To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!" ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Archive: CDT 2008 Daily Journals

Below are the CDT Daily Journals in date order, as Nowhere Man's and Walking Carrot's trip progressed....enjoy!

Journal July 2 – False Starts

Editor’s Note: Nowhere Man and Carrot finally made it to somewhere from which they were able to send their email updates – two weeks worth of them! So as to not overwhelm anyone’s email, I’ll post these in groups of two or three over the next couple of days.

We were supposed to be hiking today, but we started our trip with a “zero” day, no trail miles.

The CDT challanges those who cling to plans and predictability, or so we have heard from fellow hiker friends. One of the lesson it teaches is to be flexible, roll with the variety of challanges, whether from weather, terrain, navigational problems, unmarked trail, or no trail at all. We expect that our plans will not go as expected, that, at best, they will be but a roadmap…..We just didn’t expect to have to make major alterations day one.

We arrived in Glacier yesterday and stopped at the backcountry ranger’s office to get our permit. We had not made an advance reservation in part because I was reluctant to pay the $30 nuisance fee to make an advance reservation and in part because we were still hoping the snow might melt enought to hike the Highline Trail from Waterton Lake. We were prepared to start at Chief Joseph and hike up the Belly River, but we did not think we would be shut out of BOTH options. We were. Snow covered many camsites in the backcountry, so the park service was directing many backpackers to the relatively snowfree Belly River. And the one campground after Red Cloud Pass only had one snow-free tent site, greatly restricting the number of permits available. Our choice was to delay our start at least 3 days (and pay an advance reservation fee for this privilege to guarantee that we could do this) or to go to “Plan B” – delay one day and start at Many Glacier. OR to skip Glacier and do amaj!
or rearrangement of our hike plans. We opted for Plan B, leaving July 3rd. Although it’s a day later to the start of our hike, it’s 2 days EARLIER than we had planed to leave Many Glacier, the first stop on our original itinerary. Two days ahead beats 3 days behind. We consoled ourselves with the thought that we will save the best for last. Next September we can hike the 38 miles from Many Glacier to Waterton, after doing the southern half of the CDT for a more fitting end. And we are glad that the lesson of being flexible is so otherwise painless as spending an unplanned day in Glacier Park, avoiding a foul morning rain, eating, drinking, day hiking and resting up for tomorrow.

0 Trail Miles hiked

Journal July 3rd – Grouse Gone Wild

After a lavish breakfast at St Mary’s Lodge, Carol and Irv drove us to Many Glacier for a lovely send off, joining us for the first mile or so of the trail. A glorious day, sunny, warm and full of promise. Wildflowers in abundance. Stunning views of rugged peaks, deep valleys, glaciers, snowfields, and waterfalls cascading from such heights as to become vertical panoramas. It is hard to imagine that the trail could get any better than this – have we set ourselves up for a letdown by doing the best part first? Of course the trek is about more than scenery, it’s a journey into places inside ourselves as well.

We were on the trail for only a short while when we flushed a grouse. The grouse went wild, burst into a frenzy of flight, wings flapping wildly and went up into the brush, veered back and dive bombed The Carrot. The Park Service’s “shock” video warned about the dangers of bears, mountain lions and death by drowning, but never mentioned grouse. Nevertheless, The Carrot took her cues from the video, raised her arms to look big, spoke firmly to the beast and was about to drop to the fetal position and cover her neck when the grouse flew off laughing. We decided to take it as an omen of welcome and a warning to not underestimate the myriad of possibilities not mentioned by the Park Service, both possible dangers as well as possible delights.

Despite dire warnings from the rangers, the trail was in relatively good shape. True, it’s still early seaon hiking, with bridges not all in place yet, and some stream crossings are still on snow or in knee deep cold, swift water. And Piegan Pass was challenging, but very “do-able”. We we’re glad that we brought the ice axes, for the security they provided in crossing the steep snow fields. But, the soft snow made the traverses possible with slow, kick steps and steady nerves. And they kept the day hikers out.

Piegan Pass itself was clear of snow, but deep snow below timberline made the approach and descent tiring, and created some navigational challenges. Generally the snow in the trees was compacted enough to walk on with only very minimal post holing.

Unfortunately on one step I went deep into the snow, all the way to my waist with my foot wedged near a rock. We spent ten minutes or so digging my leg out…in all a good day for the first of the trip. Muscles are tired and sore and I’m wishing I had increased my training and weight loss regimen, but the leg strength is still good.

We made it into camp, at Reynold Creek, at 9:30, late, tired and surrounded by mosquitos, but with enough daylight left to make dinner. The only people we saw all day, after saying goodbye to Carol and Irv were a couple who were in camp, on a short overnight trip. The solitude is appealing.

Approx miles 14.2

Journal July 4th – Things That Go Splash In The Night

It was hot and humid all day, muggy, until the skies burst forth with rain and thunder and lightning – appropriate for the fourth of July. And it was buggy, the mosquitos were unrelenting, the same swarm following us all day picking up fellow fighters along the way. The continued even as the rains started and assaulted us again before the rain really stopped.

Wild flowers carpeted the trailside creating a tunnel in many places as our lower elevation walk traced the south shore of St. Mary’s lake and started up the Red Eagle valley. We walked through an area where a stand replacing fire burned several years ago, probably in 2003. Arnica and Nettleleaf Horsemint led the way to a lush regrowth of the understory. Fields of Yellow contrasted sharply with the blackened tree skeltons still standing.

Downed trees along trail around Red Eagle Lake slowed our pace, but we made it to our campsite with enough time for a before dinner tea hour and a leisurely meal.

Shortly after going to bed, in fact as I was starting to write about the day’s events, we heard some loud splashing in the water and some grunting noises. Whatever it was, was BIG, LOUD and didn’t care about it. Either a Moose, Human or Bear. The grunting ruled out human, at least those evolved enought to have some language skills. As were pondering “moose vs bear”, and fondling the trigger on the bear spray, the beast jumped into the water in a splash heard round the lake, then grunted again and made a low growling sound. All this was happening only about 50 yards away. I was convinced we had a boisterous grizzley bear, or perhaps a saber toothed moose, but could not convince The Carrot to go outside and look. We talked to each other, loud enough to let the beast know we were there, lest it take an exit path through our campsite. At this point I really had to go outside and relieve my bladder but decided to wait. It’s amazing how much security the thin fabric walls of a tent provide, really. At least it seems much safer inside. Returning to journal writing to pass time, I waited until the coast was well clear, before having a good look around and an opportunity to better mark my territory as a guard against the beast’s return. Eventually we drifted off into a slumber made sound only by the tired sore muscles and of a bear spray canister for a pillow.

Approx miles 15.2

Journal July 5th Triple Divide, Triple the Fun

Today we walked up Hudson Creek to Triple Divide Pass and over to the Atlantic Creek valley. Gaining and losing a couple thousand vertical feet under sometimes difficult trail conditions.

Shortly after leaving camp, the trail crossed Red Eagle Creek at the confluence with Hudson Creek on a suspension bridge over a narrow gorge holding a stunning waterfall. The bridge, a seasonal one, was not yet in place. The CDT for some odd reason crosses Red Eagle Creek and then croses back again in less than a mile. So, we bushwacked up Hudson Creek through the fire scarred forest with it’s thicket of downed, charred trees and new understory. We found a well used game trail and crossed over Hudson creek in a fast flowing, crotch deep, very cold ford. After bushwhacking up a prominent ridge we finally regained the CDT. A very time consuming mile of off-trail travel.

Just as we re-joined the CDT we saw a black bear running away. As the rangers suggest, as we hike we are making noise to alert the bears to our presence. We clap, talk, and whistle, but mostly we sing, since music “hath charms to soothe the savage beast”, or at least to certainly scare them away. This bear was a tough critic – judging from the speed of this hasty retreat our off-key efforts are VERY effective.

Triple divide pass lies just below Triple Divide Peak – the point which divides three major watersheds – the Pacific via the Columbia River, the Atlantic via the Missouri river and Gulf of Mexico, and Hudson Bay via the Nelson River. Water falling on top may part ways with it’s nearby droplets and travel very different journeys.

Climbing towards the pass out of Hudson Valley, the trail again disappeared under a long snow chute requiring kicking steps into soft snow and using an ice axe as a third, balancing, point for safety.

The bushwhacking, unbridged stream crossing, ice cold ford and snow chutes sure keep the “riff raff” out, at least most of them (although we made through). We didn’t see another person on the trail all day.

We did see wildlife, in some abundance, another sure sign of less frequent visitation. A white tail deer greeted us just out of camp. Then there was the aforementiond music-hating black bear, a ptarmigan heralded us at the pass, a hoary marmot was gatherng grass for food or nest, and numerous mountain goats and bighorn sheep were on either side of the pass.

Thunder clouds raced through the skies all day borne on some wild winds, but they kept moving on their way. On the descent, a seasonal waterfall dropped heavy sheets of water on the narrow trail. The steep terrain did not allow for an easy way around, so we donned rain gear and pack covers and raced through the icy shower. We hurried down the pass, crossing more step snow chutes to camp at Atlantic Creek. All in all, a tough but rewarding ten miles of hiking.

Approx miles 10.7

Journal July 6th – Pitamakan Pass

Thunderclouds darkened the morning sky. They came and went all day, adding drama to our crossing of Pitamakan Pass.

On our way up Cut Bank Valley, a trail crew just below Morning Star Lake was re-setting a footbridge, well two of them were anyway, while the other three were on a smoke break.

After Morning Star Lake, the trail switchbacks its way up towards Pitamakan Lake. Patches of snow finally became a blanket of white with the trail hidden somewhere beneath. The intermediate destination was clear enough, we needed to climb a ridge to Pitamakan Lake, circle around it’s outlet and climb another ridge to rightly-named Lake of the Seven Winds. So we did, all on snow, all without benefit of trail. Coyote and moose tracks suggested some good ridge walking routes. From Lake of the Seven Winds the trail, free of snow and full of wildflowers, switchbacks up a very windy (of course) slope to the pass. Ironically, flowers on these high slopes and passes have a big head start from those in the lower forests still under snow and likely to be so for sometime yet.

Pitamakan Pass was very windy, just as it was in Sept 2003 when we last visited it during a 3 day hike. At that time we gazed down on Pitamakan Lake and at the valley beyond imagining the day when we would be hiking the CDT via that route. That day came – today, and it was much like we imagined – windy, tiring and exciting.

We started down the south side of Pitamakan Pass enjoying the views of Old Man Lake and the valley. High on a hillside we watched an Elk graze and hustled our way into Camp.

The Two Medicine Lake car campground has several sites for hikers – convenient but not like the back-country. As we stepped across the footbridge into semi-civilization, a Park Ranger, in shorts, an ammo belt around one shoulder and a shotgun around the other came running towards us. Having no outstanding warrants or parking fees I wasn’t too worried, but still startled. A very quick conversation about trails and bears ensued, as he kept running and turned left at the fork where we had come in from the right – something about two bears feeding…but isn’t that what bears do for the 7 months of the year they aren’t hibernating? Bears and hikers have that in common – if you aren’t walking you’re eating, or sleeping, or pooping in the woods. No wonder many hikers feel a kinship to bears.

Approx miles for the day 15.1

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