CDT Montana Day 24: A Stretched Out Ending

[Well, two years later, I’m finally finishing the posts for this trip. I’m leaving for another big hike soon, and just couldn’t bear to start a new set of posts without completing this one! Luckily, between my maps and the hasty notes still on my phone, I can still reconstruct these last days with some accuracy.]

Today’s miles: 7

Miles to date: 414.3

I sleep remarkably well, given my distaste for camping at trailheads. Fortunately, I don’t encounter any humans here. I’m up very early and observe that my shin pain has improved a bit. I wonder if I can catch up to my pals before hitching into town.

After a smattering of rain as I’m packing up, I hike mostly flattish trail with two reasonably graded uphill stretches. I listen to some music and keep a steady pace. Not too far along, trail markers inform me the CDT intersects with the Nez Perce/Nee-Me-Poo National Historic Trail. I enjoy some of my last CDT mountain views before turning off onto Gibbons Pass Road, a wide, little-trafficked dirt road through the trees that will take me to the highway at Chief Joseph Pass in just about two miles. As with many naming practices, the published names of roads, trails, and natural features tell a political history of this area. The names here reference the Nez Perce War of 1877, in which the US Army forced the Nez Perce people out of their traditional homelands (I am walking toward the eastern edge of Nez Perce traditional land; the current Nez Perce reservation is only a very small portion of that land).

With an audiobook in my ears, I make short work of the roadwalk and emerge from the trees at the confluence of several very wide highways. It’s a bit overwhelming. A road construction worker tells me he saw a few hikers walk down one highway, to take photos at the “welcome to Idaho” sign. I take my own photo on my way, declining to cross the highway and walking with some urgency, eager to see if those other hikers are my friends.

As I round a curve in the road, I find four familiar figures sitting on the side of the highway. No luck hitching yet, but I’m secretly glad because it means we’re reunited here. Finally a driver agrees that we can ride in the back of his large pickup truck. It’s a long, cold, windy drive to Darby, my last town stop on this hike. Dropped off on the outskirts, we walk through town to the motel/RV park, where the owner is decidedly unfriendly, thawing only slightly when Whiz and I pay for beds in the bunkhouse. The others plan to camp in the backyard tonight with Dad Jokes and Smash, who have been in Darby for a few days already. Tomorrow, for our zero day, Whiz and I will take a tiny cabin on the property, and the others will share a bigger cabin next door.

Shower, laundry, and food: the three pillars of a town stop. In Darby, we did these in reverse order (my notes say I ate a “monster burger” for lunch), and then enjoyed a nap. When we return to the restaurant for dinner (there’s only one lunch/dinner place in town), it’s quite full but they let us order food in the attached bar. The friends later order another round of drinks and transition to the pool table, and I return to my bunk and doze until Whiz drifts home for a late night chat. My notes end there, but I recall an amazing, giant breakfast at the Montana Cafe and a lot of time spent in the huge gift-and-candy store. The friends cook a feast in their big cabin and we have a trail family dinner outside. The second morning I am glad to treat them to breakfast before they hitch back to the trail. They’ve broken into pairs for easier hitching, and it’s a strange, sad feeling to watch them disappear two by two, until I am all alone in Darby for a few more days, waiting for Cyn to arrive so we can drive back up to Glacier for our own hiking adventure.

CDT and NPNHT markers.
Morning trail.
Final CDT views.
I walked to Idaho!
Reunited with these great people. (Snotfish, Sultry Bear, Cowboy, Whiz, me)
Alone in Darby.
This part of the public library was very cool though. Libraries are the best.
Whiz, demonstrating the range of items available at the gift/candy store.
Finally back with Cyn, rested and ready for some more Montana hiking!
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