CDT Montana Day 18: Clearing Up

Today’s miles: 18.8

Miles to date: 330

Unsurprisingly, my tent has a lot of condensation in the morning and my quilt is wet from it. There have been only one or two days when those of us with single-wall tents have not had condensation, but fortunately we’ve had at least some sun every day to dry out. I put on my cold wet hiking clothes with great reluctance. It’s hard to get going this morning. Whiz and Sultry Bear are the only two left in camp when I finally head out.

I quickly learn that my shin still hurts. This is very dismaying. There’s a climb first thing this morning, and though it’s not too steep, I’m not exactly rushing. Soon Whiz appears behind me, headphones on, hiking at top speed. I step aside to let her pass. Without breaking stride, and therefore slightly out of breath, she tells me: “I’m listening to this Usher song [breath] about how his girlfriend is a stripper [breath] but he supports her [breath] because she’s gotta make that money [breath] and be an independent woman [breath] it’s awesome.” And she’s gone. I suspect Whiz had a double coffee this morning.

Not much later, I cross a small creek and see Whiz, Cowboy, and Snotfish having a snack break with Dad Jokes. He lives! He went south at the junction last night and camped at the next available water source. We chat and listen to music for a while, but I know my shin pain is going to slow me down today, so I confirm our lunch spot and head out first. Everyone eventually passes me, but five miles later I meet them at another piped spring into a cow trough, with beautiful sunny views across the mountains. We all drape our wet tents, quilts, and clothes over the sagebrush to dry in this wonderful sun. We have cell service up here, so I text Cyn for a minute and also find some messages from Whiz: she missed a turn and got way off trail, but has a plan and will see us at camp. Mostly the navigation out here has not been nearly as tough as I’d been led to believe, but the junctions can be easy to miss and the correct choice is not always intuitive.

After quite a luxuriously long break, I take off first again for some very easy trail across big meadows and some occasional soft forest. Not far along I hear a “Hey!” and look off-trail to see Whiz pop up from behind the tall grasses. Back on the CDT at last!

There are many cows here. Most are scared of me (I feel bad for causing them alarm, as some run right through thick brambles and blowdowns to get away from me), but in a few cases, I’m the one who’s scared. One cow stands boldly on the side of the road, staring at me and pawing the ground. “Uh-uh!” I say firmly, as I would to my dog. The cow is unimpressed, but it doesn’t approach me. I slip past it into the woods. Later, I have to climb a wooden fence near a cow trough to continue on trail, meeting Dad Jokes here. We both take a very brief dirt road alternate that catches us up to Whiz.

At a junction, with 3.5 miles left to camp, we take a long snack break and wait for the others. Whiz’s shin is also hurting, and we hike the next uphill together. At the top, she attempts to call a trail angel to arrange a ride to town tomorrow (or possibly tonight, since we’ll be camped at a road). I hike on, knowing my shin will slow me even more on the downhill.

But it goes by quickly, and at the road we all delay pitching our tents, just in case the trail angel magically shows up to whisk us off to town. There’s supposedly water a half mile down the road, but it’s hard to locate and to get to. I’m still carrying enough to get me through till mid-morning, fortunately. We eat dinner, I pitch my tent on hard packed ground that’s inhospitable to my stakes, and we play a few rounds of Contact, the word-guessing game I overheard from my tent a few nights ago. There’s a beautiful sunset that I watch from the warmth of my quilt. I’m really looking forward to some time in town to rest my leg and deal with some recurring blisters.

Morning landscape.
Lunch break, trailside.
Enjoying endless views as I walk across meadows. Definitely got off-trail shortly after this and had to bushwhack my way back.
Afternoon meadows, aka cow territory.
Dinner prep at camp.

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