CDT Montana Day 10: The Slow Burn

Today’s miles: 16.9

Miles to date: 181.7

It rains again in the night but no storming. I wake around 5:30 when I hear the first round of folks packing up, and pack everything but my tent. After they drive off, Whiz and I walk to the diner and order big breakfasts. We’re soon joined by Sultry Bear and Compass. Later, we try to buy a six-pack of beer to leave Dos Tacos as a thank-you gift, but we learn it’s against state law to sell alcohol before 8am. (We leave her cash instead, and a full tank of gas.)

Cowboy returns with the car just as we’re packing up, and we’re off. The landscape here is just so huge and gorgeous. I’m in a great mood, listening to music with these excellent people, on my way to the trail that’s somewhere in those magnificent mountains.

We retrace our steps to the place where we left the CDT, turn left, and hike on. The trail is muddy from recent rain, but relatively flat, and I truck along ahead of Cowboy and Whiz, feeling anxious that I didn’t start until 9:30 and have 19+ miles to do. I’m worried it will be very late when I finally reach camp.

After some time, Whiz joins me, and we hike and chat as the trail gently rolls along. She stands behind me on a swift river ford. “I’m not trying to baby you,” she explains, but I’m only grateful for her help, as water crossings are scary for this short person. Her lower shin is still hurting, so we slow a bit. Cowboy catches up — he’s trying an “old man caboose” approach to hiking, especially just out of town when our packs are heaviest: slow and steady all day. This sounds nice to me, since my pack is quite heavy with food and my calves and feet are adjusting to the work after some time off in town. We take the long uphill at an easy pace, through just tons of bear grass (and its pollen), having some enjoyably serious conversations along the way. Cowboy branches off ahead of us near the Straight Creek ford, where I filter water and dry my quilt on the river rocks.

We carry on, winding around mountainsides and soon finding the trail a bit confusing as it crosses a stream multiple times and then goes right up the stream itself. We run into some northbounders just as we’re finishing this watery section, and tell them there’s no use taking their shoes off. (Later, Sultry will tell us he bushwhacked this little piece of trail and managed to keep his feet dry. Oh well.)

We begin to climb, the ground rocky. We have about 4.5 miles to camp, and take a snack break on the edge of the trail with a beautiful view laid out in front of us. On the ensuing climb Whiz tells me about some U.S. presidents’ lives and I beg her to do a homemade Drunk History episode while on trail. Just as we are deep in an earnest conversation about Eleanor Roosevelt and queer erasure [note to self: ask Whiz if she’s seen Wild Nights with Emily], we hear a “rawwwrrr!!” I jump out of my skin, but it is only the rest of our group, who’ve decided to camp three miles before our intended site. I’m delighted, as my feet are starting to hurt and it seems the rain that’s been hovering all day might start for real soon. Just after I get my tent up, the rain does begin. There’s some thunder and a bit of wind, but nothing even close to yesterday’s storm.

After the rain stops I’m not sure if it might start again, so I lie in my tent waiting and fall asleep. I wake to birds chirping and sounds of others exiting tents. My insteps hurt a lot, but some massage helps, and later I join Whiz, Cowboy, Sultry, and Dad Jokes for conversation as the sun sets behind the mountains. Tomorrow we will aim for 22+ miles including a very big climb.

Trail fam acts of kindness: Whiz braids Sultry Bear’s hair before we head back to the trailhead.
Sometimes the trail is nice and easy again.
Mountains every day.
Sultry Bear and Whiz at a river crossing.
Snack break view.

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