CDT Montana Day 13: The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

Today’s miles: 23.3

Miles to date: 246.3

In the morning, under my tent vestibule, I find a plum and a single-serving bottle of apple juice: gifts Whiz brought back from her quick trip into Lincoln last night. The juice is still chilled from the cold night air and it is amazing. I’m not even sad that I have to pack out the plastic bottle, that’s what a treat it is. Redbeard packs up and heads to the road to hitch back to Augusta. It’s a bummer to say goodbye so soon. Now we are eight.

There’s a big climb right away and not a lot of water sources today, so my pack is heavy with water but I feel remarkably good in the cool morning air. There are some spectacular views along the climb, and I can also often see far ahead along the trail to know what’s coming next. A lot of rollercoaster trail today that feels fun. After six miles or so, I stop at the top of a little hill and have a quick snack break with Snotfish and Dad Jokes.

Afterwards, my body is sluggish. The day is heating up, and it really makes the climbing harder. Snotfish and Dad Jokes both pass me on a steep uphill as I try to catch my breath. Finally at the top I stagger along, overheated and feeling a bit sick. I slow way down, trying to lower my body temperature. I wonder for a moment if I might throw up, but then all of the sudden I need to poop IMMEDIATELY. I barely have time to duck off trail. Afterwards, I feel considerably better, and tackle another hot climb, then a long downhill to a dirt road crossing where I find Snotfish. Dad Jokes is just returning from the off-trail water source nearby.

It’s just over half a mile roundtrip to the water, and then another 0.3 to the trailhead area where we’re meeting for lunch. Several of my friends are resting and eating in the shade when I arrive. Cowboy asks how it’s going, and I just say simply, “I’m suffering.” But it feels great to lie here in the shade, eat my tuna packet and corn chips, hydrate, and chat. We delay for a while, even though the longer I rest here, the later I will arrive at camp. Still nearly ten miles to go, including more climbing.

I finally head out and feel good on the first uphill, trucking along at a steady pace. I turn a corner and see a deer in the trail, looking at me quizzically. I let it do its thing, and try to hike by gently once it moves down into the trees. Finally I reach the last big uphill, but I bonk in the middle of it. Snotfish and Dad Jokes pass me again, and my morale is low. I’m at the back now. I think about what Cowboy said recently, about how being the person at the back of the pack feels like free soloing — no friend behind you to help if anything goes wrong. It’s been a big mile day already, many of them going uphill, and my body’s exhausted.

I sit on a log, eat a snack, and find I have a little cell service, so I text Cyn for a quick pep talk (thanks, Cyn). With fourish miles left, I power through the remaining climb, and wind through the trees on rolling trail, noting a few nice dry campsites we could’ve stayed at. Trail turns into dirt road about a mile from our planned site, and I dutifully follow it until it starts to go straight up. “You have got to be kidding me,” I say out loud, totally depleted. I lean on my trekking poles to rest. I feel so exhausted. I hate this stupid steep trail. I’m too old to do these big miles. I wish I could’ve camped back at one of those other sites.

I manage this last excruciating climb one tenth at a time and finally round a bend to see my trail fam, cooking dinners in the middle of a ring of tents. They cheer my name as I stumble in; Whiz tells me to set up next to her, and Cowboy gives me a fist bump and offers me chocolate. My mood changes faster than Montana weather — I’m so happy to be here with these folks, laughing and commiserating. Small blackflies bite at us as we sit together for dinner. DJ and Foxy went on for more miles, I learn, and will see us in town. I eat the spaghetti and meat sauce that’s been cold-soaking in my pack, drain a few blisters, and collapse in my tent.

On the initial morning climb.
Morning views.
Open trail.
Mid-day views.
Gosh it’s beautiful out here.
View from camp (Sultry Bear’s tent).

Follow the link to help me raise funds for the Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance. I’m so close to the goal! The GTMA was founded by both Blackfeet and non-Native organizers and has worked for more than three decades to protect and defend this land. Currently, their primary focus points include securing permanent protection for the region, restoring the Blackfeet Nation’s rightful stewardship of the land, and blocking oil and gas leases on the land.

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