CDT Montana Day 16: Feels Like the CDT

Today’s miles: 11.4

Miles to date: 290.7

The trail angel giving us a ride to the trailhead is scheduled to come around 9am, so Whiz and I get up early and have another diner breakfast. I get biscuits and gravy with fried eggs, and apple juice. When we return to the hotel, we learn that reports of hard rain at the trailhead have pushed our pick-up time to 12:30pm. Awesome. We crash in the hotel room, napping very hard for two hours. (Cowboy knocks on the door at one point and it is like rousing myself from full-on hibernation to open the door. All I can do is mumble “napping” and clumsily thrust Snotfish’s formerly-lost sock in his direction before faceplanting on the bed again.)

We all check out at the last possible minute and disperse for our final town food. I choose ice cream again and have a chocolate banana shake. (Thank you, Big Dipper ice cream shop for helping us replenish our calories!!)

Our ride arrives, and most folks choose the truck bed. I ride in the cab with Whiz and Sultry. The driver has vacationed in Hawai’i and has an, uh, interesting perception of its political history and present. Whiz, a tour guide who has also extensively studied Hawai’ian history, gives a diplomatic but straightforward little lesson on colonization.

We start at Macdonald Pass and hike uphill steadily for a while. Whiz hikes behind me, telling me (at my request) a succinct history of Hawai’ian politics. Our conversation then meanders through doctor visits, crushes, and various queer topics as usual.

A thunderstorm is clearly approaching. We meet up with Snotfish as we go over the top of a hill. Thunder booms, and Snotfish jumps: “Sorry guys, I just have to get lower,” and she sprints downhill. I guess I’m not the only one dealing with some lingering trauma from the lightning storm in the last section. When we catch up to her under some trees, we all don rain jackets and continue. But now we’re off trail. Argh. We consult our maps and gps, together pointing our way back to the CDT. I’m surprised that we’re so far off, as we tromp through the grass into the forest.

Whiz says suddenly, “Apple Juice, I am so sorry.” I glance up from my gps and see a mass of blowdowns. Oh god. The worst. I try to follow Whiz’s lead, balancing on top of some of the big logs to traverse over the top, but my balance isn’t as good as hers. Snotfish is also seemingly magically dancing across the logs. Then I hear a big crash and see Whiz on the ground, fortunately uninjured except for some very badass-looking scrapes. We pick our way through — I am the slowest, but at least I neither fall nor have an emotional meltdown this time — and finally stand on trail again. Thunder rumbles and the trees above us make a very disconcerting cracking noise. We look at each other and instantly start running down the trail.

Rain and hail as we run through muddy trail, then turn a corner and see Dad Jokes, Sultry, and Cowboy huddled under a tree. We join them to wait it out. (The first 50 seconds of Whiz’s video here sums up the blowdown/storm portion of our day, and includes, at about 47 seconds in, one of the funniest Snotfish lines of the trip.) Blue skies soon peek through, and we’re off again. Not long after this, we meet a northbounder named Sunny who recognizes Whiz from her videos. Whiz’s head grew three sizes that day.

After a long roadwalk, we hit Jericho Creek and fill up on water, then plan to camp at a forest service site near the road. DJ and Foxy hiked on way ahead of us, but Cowboy and Snotfish were going to stop and camp here, we thought. There’s a car camping tent set up in one corner of the site, with folding chairs and other luxury amenities — Sultry suggests it feels rude to crash someone else’s site, and he finds another great spot for us just a little way back on the trail. In the meantime, Dad Jokes has dropped his pack and said he’ll walk “a couple hundred feet” down the trail to see if he can find Cowboy and Snotfish. Twenty minutes pass. No Dad Jokes. Thirty minutes. “Well, he either got eaten by a bear or he’s hanging out with the friends.” Forty minutes. Whiz: “Should we be doing something other than sitting here…?”

Then I see him sauntering down the trail, accompanied by our other two friends. They were indeed just sitting around. Much good-natured haranguing ensues. At camp, Dad Jokes builds a great fire and we crowd around for dinner. I get cold and sleepy and head off to my tent. As I fall asleep I can hear the faint sounds of their conversation and some word game they’re playing. It feels so good to be out here again.

Bones in the forest. You can see more of this carnage in Whiz’s video, too.
The distant sky was a strange murky color after the storm passed.
Sultry Bear and Whiz, and in the distance Snotfish and Cowboy, on our early evening dirt road walk.
Family dinner.

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