CDT Montana Day 7: The Car Wash

Today’s miles: 19.6

Miles to date: 137.0

At midnight I wake to rain drops on my tent. Noooooo. I put on my headlamp and pull the tent doors closed. I see DJ’s headlamp on for quite a while, and then periodically wake up and see his light on again and again. This makes me worry, but I don’t feel any puddles in my tent, just misting from the condensation. I am on a slope which could cause problems, but there’s little to do about that now. Sleep outweighs my anxieties.

In the morning everyone’s gear is wet and muddy. My quilt is very damp from condensation dripping through the night, and I’m dismayed to see we’re completely socked in, no hint of sun at all. It’s very cold.

I hike uphill through several small snow fields in the thick fog and feel tired already. I’m walking very slowly even when the long downhill starts, and have to talk myself into picking up the pace. Halfway down, I notice my shadow and am overjoyed: sun!! I can dry my stuff! I pass DJ, Foxy, and Sultry Bear drying theirs but I keep going — the trail is nice and flat and there’s a ranger cabin in a couple of miles with a privy. There I spread out all my gear and am joined by everyone but Whiz, who is way ahead of us all. Just as I’m heading out, another hiker strides up. We have seen almost no one else since we left East Glacier. “A stranger!!” I stage whisper. His name is Daniel and I say hi on my way out.

After I cross a wide shallowish creek, it’s 12 miles to camp. I speed along zoning out for a bit but then hear thunder. It rains for a while and it’s cold. I put on my rain jacket and keep hiking. Even after the rain, it remains very cold because for miles and miles the trail is through rain-soaked, overgrown plants on both sides, like walking through a car wash. My shorts and legs are drenched. If I stop hiking I’m too cold, so I just keep going. I pound out a long gradual uphill with a million fords. Some of these could probably be rock-hopped on a different day, but the rain has the water running high. My feet, socks, and shoes are continually wet.

Finally I exit the forest and arrive at a junction — this is the end of the Spotted Bear alternate and I am back on the official CDT. One mile to camp. It is straight up. Well, it’s so steep that it feels that way. I take one rest break a third of the way up and meet a hiker named Monk who seems very tired. Then just grind out the rest of the climb slow and steady. The views are great, and then I arrive at My Lake, our home for the night. It’s a beautiful spot. My feet are totally waterlogged — I think I’ve done more water fords this week than in my entire previous hiking career. I quickly eat my cold-soaked Mountain House beef stroganoff (A++ delicious, will eat again) as the night gets cold. And then suddenly it’s very cold. I get all bundled up and into my quilt, but my body won’t relax. I can’t stop shivering uncontrollably. I try to breathe deeply, relax, feel the warm down all around me. I watch a beautiful deer stroll silently across our campsite. Finally my body accepts that I’m warm and I drift off to sleep.

Socked in morning descent.
Swirly foggy beauty.
Mid-morning.
A more open section of the car wash trail.
Afternoon blue skies.

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