This post is short and sweet. The goal was simple. Make it to Butte in 3 days. That would require me to hike 102 miles from Hwy 12 at McDonald Pass to Interstate 90 at Homestake Pass. Possible? Yes. Fun? Not so much. The only reason I saw this fit was a slight discrepancy in mileages between my topo maps and my guthook app. The app was more accurate. I quickly realized that I had underestimated my total mileage of my route. By over 200 miles. Damn.
In order for me to finish the trail by my goal date of October 31, I have to average a minumum of 26 miles per day for the next 97 days. 3,000 miles in 122 days. Game on.
I knew what I had to do over the course of these 3 days. So I hiked 32 miles out of Helena. The next day, I did 35 miles. A personal best. The last day into town, I pulled off another 35 mile day. Spectacular.
The best part? Another trail angel who is a mutual friend gave me a ride to town and hosted me for two nights. The icing on the cake? A chocolate milkshake. What would the world look like without angels???
With 1 percent remaining on my phone and my battery pack dead, I knew I was in for an adventure. I had 15 miles of walking to town and daylight was quickly fading, I decided to pitch my tent right next to a forest service road. I had been walking roads for the past few hours and my feet were sore. My first 30 mile day had come to an end.
My main navigational source was an app called guthook. It had a red line for the trail and an arrow (me) that would indicate whether I was on trail or not. Without this app, my maps would do, but my maps didn’t tell me about every little intersection or confusing parts. So the fun part was trying to get to town without getting lost in the wilderness.
The next morning, I remember getting to a four way intersection. I had no idea which way to go. So I asked God. I said, “God, show me the way!” I turned left. The best left I ever made. A couple of miles down the road, I ran into these two women. And a CDT trail sign. The first in over 10 miles. God works miracles.
When I approached the women, I asked them for a favor. I asked them if I could text a “trail angel” and ask her for a ride and place to stay. A trail angel was anyone who performs any type of hospitality to hikers free of charge. The form of hospitality is called “trail magic”. To my dismay, the trail angel was out of town for the week. This is the crazy part. One of the ladies was the only other trail angel in town. Not only did she give me a ride, but she hosted me at her home for two nights. Shower. Laundry. Meals. PURE GOLD.
This day taught me an important lesson. There is always a sign. As we drove down the highway, we passed a huge billboard of Jesus spreading his arms out in love. It said, “I am the way.” Chills to the core. My very soul was glowing.
If I thought that I climbed over enough fallen trees on the PCT, then I was surely mistaken. Miles upon miles of trees from last years fire covered the trail and made it nearly impossible to follow the path. But alas, I quickly found out that my navigation app did not use cellular data and ran off of the gps programmed into the phone. No more reliable phone than the iPhone 5. Period.
Anyways, my phone helped me navigate the trail through the bad sections. The pristine maps I carried did nothing and my gps did not have the trail in detail so there ya go. And that is why you carry 3 forms of navigation. One of them will usually work.
The section through the Bob Marshall was peaceful and was actually a lot easier to hike than Glacier. A lot more dirt paths through the forest with gentle gradients. No real valley to pass and repeat. Also, the fording of rivers was easy. No more than knee deep. I will say my waterproof socks did come in handy. As far as wildlife, no bears, but plenty of mosquitoes who got there fill of blood and a nice mule deer just outside of benchmark.
Overall, I was quite pleased with this section. So far, I’ve completed 233.5 miles of trail. I have been on trail for 15 days. Only 105 more to go!! Haha. Next stop, Scapegoat Wilderness and Montana’s capital, Helena!!!
The final trek has begun. The last trail of the triple crown challenge was laid out at my feet, like a welcoming door mat in a suburban neighborhood. Of course, the physical trail resembled nothing like a neighborhood, but more of my feelings for it. To me, the trail was home. After all, I will have spent roughly 1.2 years in the wilderness alone in the last 4 years while trekking across the country. I dreamed about this moment for a long time. No longer did I have that wanderlust while looking at the front page of backpackers magazine or envy the outdoor guides for there extravagant lifestyles. I am living the dream now.
The best part about starting this trail? My dad hiked with me for the first four days. This was my chance to get broken in and get my trail legs without destroying my body. For the 4 days we hiked, we averaged about 12-13 miles a day. My dad kept up and he was in shape!! A significant improvement from our Mt. Whitney climb. Some of my favorite moments during our time together was hiking through a pass with sideways hail with 50-60 miles per hour sustained winds, encountering a grizzly bear at 10 yards (yes that’s right), and hanging around camp smoking our favorite cigars.
Dad describes Glacier National Park as some of the most beautiful scenery he has ever hiked in. He hopes to join me in Colorado to climb Grays Peak, the tallest point on the Continental Divide Trail. As for me, I’m feeling pretty stoked about the journey. 2,750 miles in 120 days. Southbound. Solo. What more could I ask for? Maybe a portable soda machine…