When I finish the cross country bushwack, still soaked from the storm, I emerge onto a gravel road that descends somewhat steeply to the east. The rain has thankfully stopped and there’s enough sunlight for me to walk another 80 minutes, setting up camp just off the road.

August 14th – 7.5 miles

It rains hard most of the night. Usually I try to be on the trail by 6:30am, just as the sun lights up the mountains, but today I wait until 8am to take down camp. The rain just doesn’t stop until then, and being just a couple hours’ walk from Sawtelle Resort I don’t really see the need to put myself through a cold, torrential downpour.

Yesterday evening I could see all the way down the valley where I’m headed, but this morning everything is shrouded in a low-hanging, pervasive white mist. The sun isn’t visible, but I just plug in my headphones to my phone and listen to some music to help pass the road walk. I think most hikers hitch the road walks on the CDT, and hike your own hike, but I want continuous footsteps all the way from Canada to Mexico.


Road walks aren’t that bad on the CDT. 

I’m surprised that my commitment to continuous footsteps hasn’t faltered out here, especially as the rain comes back. It’s pelting hard against my raincoat as my numb, wet hands cling to my trekking poles.

It feels like an eternity before I get to Sawtelle Resort, which is just a hotel, campground, small grocery store, and a few restaurants on the side of a busy Idaho highway. If this weren’t a short walk to town kind of day, I don’t know if I could’ve motivated myself to hike through that hell.

Subway is the only thing open at 10am. Dropping my pack off in the shelter of the covered awning in front of the restaurant, I plug my portable battery into the wall and survey the breakfast menu. It seems kind of weird to get a sub for breakfast, but I order a massive beef-egg-pepperjack cheese-lettuce-spinach-tomato-mayonnaise-chipotle sandwich. My hands are still so numb that I have trouble getting my credit card out of my card-money-charger bag, but the cashier is patient. Which might be because I’m dripping wet and the only person there.


I’m walking through Yellowstone. 

In the bathroom I run my hands under warm water until I can mostly bend my fingers again. It’s hard not to marvel at what a luxury it is to have hot water on command! And electric lights! I take a few moments to put my face under the hand dryer, basking in the warmth. I’m getting so feral out here.

I’ve heard that some of the most intense feelings of happiness and contentment come from deprivation, and as I get the mayonnaise and chipotle sauce all over my ridiculously thick hiker beard I feel that I can vouch for its veracity.

While I eat, I read this amazing fundamentalist Bible tract in Subway called Flight 144. An elderly couple sit next to a murderer on the plane. The plane crashes and everyone dies. The couple spent 50 years helping people in Africa but didn’t try to convert anyone, so they burn in hell. The murderer converted his cellmate to Jesus so he goes to heaven. Beautiful.

I buy food for the next stretch, just 36 miles to Old Faithful, and set off. Mack’s Inn is just a couple miles down the road, and thankfully there’s a dirt road paralleling the highway so I don’t have to deal with walking next to cars.

It looks like it’s going to storm again that evening, so rather than hike on and stealth camp in the woods I opt to stay at the forest service campground. $15 seems pricey for one night of camping, but it’s better than the $42 at the RV park across the street.

August 15th – 26 miles

The storm didn’t materialize, for which I am quite thankful, and I pack up camp to get breakfast and coffee at the gas station before heading out. I take my time eating my microwave breakfast burrito and drinking my machine French vanilla cappuccino, while I purchase on my kindle a new book by one of my favorite authors. Most of my hiking breaks are spent reading, if I have time after filtering water.

The sky is clear and it’s an easy walk along empty dirt roads toward Yellowstone and the Wyoming border. It soon gets hot. The temperature swings from night to day are often around 40F, and I’m definitely feeling it. Each morning I don’t want to get out of my warm sleeping bag into the 25F cold, but once I get walking I usually start stripping off layers within an hour.


At last! The border is actually crossed just inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. 

There are these annoying mounds of dirt with pits hidden behind them in parts of the dirt road, which I’ve heard were put there because the forest service wanted to close the road. But I’m not sure why they were necessary for over a quarter mile, one after the other every 10 meters. They’re easy to walk around, though, and soon enough I’m filtering water at a spring hidden off trail.


“An arrow points the way to the spring, which is not visible from the trail,” my maps say. 

I just need enough to last me…15 miles?! I must’ve miscalculated the distance last night while looking at my maps. I definitely thought it was shorter to Summit Lake, my assigned campsite for the night in Yellowstone. No breaks in my 26 miles today!

Storm clouds are threatening in the distance, and within a couple hours it starts to rain. Not heavily, but enough that it’s kind of annoying and I don’t want to stop and talk to the northbounders I meet. Plus, night is fast approaching. I know there’s no invisible bear barrier I’m breaching upon crossing into Yellowstone, but my bearanoia goes up all the same. I rush to Summit Lake, trying to outrun night and the dark clouds to my west.

I make it just before sunset whereupon I set up my tent next to the three others already there and asleep, hang my bear bag, and crawl into my sleeping bag.

August 16 – 14.5 miles

There are creatures outside my tent! I think as I grab my bear spray, heart going a thousand beats a minute. Then I remember I’m camping with strangers in Yellowstone and relax. It’s 5am, the sun still an hour away. Early even for hikers. Weirdos, I think, and fall back asleep.

I next awake to a panic from the smell of smoke. These kind souls, section hikers that I probably woke up last night with my arrival, have made a fire! I take down my wet tent in stages, stopping periodically to warm my hands next to the fire.

“Jesus, do you not breathe at night?” a northbounder asks me as she comes out from around the bush, brushing her teeth. “How the hell do you keep your tent free of condensation?”


Welcome to Yellowstone. 

The humans are onto me! Most thru hiker conversations are about something like gear, weather, route options, and resupply strategies.


On the way to Old Faithful. Literally nobody was here because it’s more than a 30 second walk from the road. 

It’s an easy ten miles to Old Filthy, which is just as chaotic and overwhelming as I remember from my four summers working in the park. While looking for a spot to cross a stream without getting my feet wet I fall into a mud pit, and just walk through to the other side. Screw the log bridge.

It’s weird walking amongst the clean tourists, who avert their gaze and pretend I don’t exist. Did I ever really look that clean?

My first port of call is the Old Faithful Post Office. I’m reading the CDT hiker notices, which definitely weren’t there when I worked in Yellowstone. The trail seems to be gaining in popularity, as much as a 3000 mile five month trek through remote backcountry grizzly bear areas can be popular.

Then Murphy and Movin’ On appear! We have a happy reunion, not having seen each other since Helena. By coincidence we’re all sharing a campsite tonight an hour and a half walk south of OF.


I have no idea why this ice cream was so massive. But I’m not complaining. 

The OF backcountry office prints off our permits, which they’d emailed to us a week prior, and let us drop off our packs while we eat massive amounts of ice cream and watch Old Faithful go off numerous times.

There’s another CDT hiker, 5 Cup, and his Swedish friend visiting him. She’s surprised to find that I’ve hiked the Kungsleden trail in Arctic Sweden, and I’m surprised to find an amazing campfire that she’s kept running all afternoon. The five of us stay up until dark talking around the fire, and it’s a wonderful moment.

August 17 – 19.7 miles

Murphy and Movin’ On have backcountry permit issues, having been assigned a campsite that’s much farther than they were told. Not wanting to night hike in a part of the park notorious for grizzlies, they join me on my trek to the South Entrance Road and a hitch to Grant Village.


Murphy fell into a mud pit, and luckily we eventually got her trekking pole out of it. 

Most hikers skip Grant because it’s only a day more to Old Faithful, which doesn’t need a hitch, but I’ve spent four of the best summers of my life there and want to go back for the first time in four years. Just to walk around and see it one more time.


Crossing a stream. 


The Shoshone Geyser Basin is really cool, and fairly far from the road. 

We barely stick out our thumbs before we have a ride to Grant, from a Chinese couple and their young son on a road trip through the American west. They’re a bit shocked when I chat with them in mandarin, and also when Movin’ On mentions her daughter married a Chinese man and lives in China with her granddaughter.

“Are you serious? That’s my family’s hometown!” weird coincidence, not the biggest town.

I thought it would be weird being back, but it’s not. The weird part is walking around and the employees not recognizing me, and not seeing familiar faces. But I’m hanging out and hiking in the park with friends, which is the whole spirit of my four summers here. So it feels right.

The Grant campground has spots reserved for CDT hikers, and they charge the three of us just $13.20 in total for an entire group campsite to ourselves. It’s nice, and we fall asleep after chatting.

August 18 – 12.5 miles

When the backcountry permit office opens, the three of us go to get the campsite assignments worked out.

“The campsite is almost full, but we can squeeze you into Connor’s,” one of the rangers says. After chatting I realize they’re the same ones as from when I worked here, which makes sense considering they say they’ve been doing this job together for 28 years. The way they bicker they must be married, and we surreptitiously notice they have the same surname on their name tags.


Hitching out of Grant. 

Our hitch back to the trail is almost as easy as the first, and since it’s a short day (other campsites we wanted weren’t available), we take it easy.


Back in front of the Grant Village Restaurant. The employee dining room, where I ate 12 months of meals, is next door. 

The “full” campsite has just us, and with all the grizzly markings on the trees everywhere, the two grizzlies we see near Heart Lake, and the news that nearby campsites are closed from nocturnal grizzly visits we set up our tents clustered together. It just feels safer that way.

August 19 – 23 miles

It’s 35F in the morning when we have to cross multiple streams, our feet cold and wet. It’s almost painful how cold it is with wet feet, but eventually it gets better.


A dry crossing on a log. 

We see a few northbounders and eventually leave the park, entering the Teton Wilderness (not Grand Tetons National Park).


Looks a lot like the Bob. 


Looking back at Heart Lake in Yellowstone. 


Hanging my bear bag for the night. 


Our three tents at Two Ocean Pass. 

On our way up to Two Ocean Pass we see more bear scat in an hour than we would in a day in the Bob. It’s a little disconcerting, and I rush to catch up with them. We mutually decide to camp high on the pass, and definitely think it’s a good idea when we see other tents. Not alone tonight!

August 20 – 26.5 miles

It’s a beautiful, easy walk alongside streams to the Buffalo River. We cross the frigid water and set up camp.


Just trucking along. 

Although the campsite is large, we set up in a tight formation and talk until we fall asleep. Tomorrow is the eclipse!

Leadore to Mack’s Inn

Ten miles from Bannock Pass, where Sam from the Leadore Inn will take me into town at 10:30 tomorrow morning, I stop to camp with a northbounder. I’ve only seen a few so far, and I’ve seen even fewer southbounders apart, so I camp with him. Big mistake.

“Women are just naturally weak. You know what I mean?” That doesn’t even merit a response, especially considering that women have a higher completion rate of long-distance trails than men. I’m cowboy camping under the stars, hoping to get up before dawn and hike fast to get to the pass on time.

Lots of fence hopping, but there are usually these useful ladders. I was trying to flee a storm in the distance, the usual afternoon Rocky Mountains summer activity. 

“I understand the meaning of the words you’re saying,” I respond.

“Have you ever packed up after setting up camp, just to go farther? Seems like it’d be a lot of work.” He adds. No, but I’m seriously considering it now! The campsite is slanted and uneven, and the company is less than stellar. But I’m tired and slink into my sleeping bag with my headnet on, hoping the mosquitoes will go away when it gets cold.

They kind of do, but I have trouble sleeping. Before long my alarm goes off, and I shove all my things into my pack and head off downhill towards the pass. I don’t see anyone except tons of cows, typical on the CDT. Get out of my way, cows! Sometimes I think the CDT stands for Cow Dung Trail.

I arrive at the pass an hour early, having done 10 miles by 9:20am. Not bad. Sam shows up in his pickup just on time, and takes me to town.

It was kind of hard getting a photo of Leadore, but here it is. Population 100.

“Leadore used to have 104 people, like the sign says, but this winter some died. So it’s really 100 now,” he mentions as he shows me a 19th century Prince Edward Island coin he found in the area, with what I realize must be Queen Victoria on the front.

Sam seems to understand that I need to get something to eat before I can figure out where I’m staying. Life in Leadore seems pretty slow paced. It’s not much more than a collection of buildings on a lonely stretch of Idaho highway, but it’s charming in its own dusty, remote way.

“You can sit with us,” a couple guys in their 60s say after I ask the dual waitress-cook where I should plant myself in the crowded (and only) diner.

I’m getting used to the incredulous looks I get when I casually mention I’m taking five months to hike the continental divide from Canada to Mexico. They seem to get it, and mention they think it would’ve been fun to do that in their 20s.

“I’m telling you, you don’t wanna piss me off!” shouts the waitress, who is a 20 year older version of Pennsyltucky from Orange is the New Black. “I piss on the graves of my enemies. And I once bought the house of a woman who I hated just so I could evict her.”

I just wanted to pay. I eventually do, and take a shower in the RV park Sam owns in addition to the Inn. He lets me set up my tent in his yard, and I hang out on his porch while the locals come and chat the night away. They’re all into hunting, and know the mountains well. Not that we can see them now, with the smoke blocking it all out.

Sam from the Leadore Inn drives hikers to and from the trail, if you call him a day or so before you get to the pass (no cell service on the trail where it crosses the dirt road to Leadore). He also accepts packages for hikers, lets you camp in his lawn, use his wifi, and provides laundry and a shower. 

I meet a cool northbounder whose name I instantly forget. He’s worried about the fire closure I just came out of, but I can’t give him much help.

Sam gives me a ride back to the trail the next morning, and I follow a dirt road up and up and up. It’s so dry, and although it’d be annoying I wish for some rain. That’s better than getting blocked off by fire closures. I bushwack to a spring a five minutes off the trail, and push onward to an uneven semi-sheltered campsite in the few trees on the exposed divide.

The divide is beautiful, but absolutely terrifying during thunderstorms. 

The walk to Lima, 100 miles and four days, is pretty. I see no other hikers apart from a few northbound section hikers. Most of them are finishing up the trail after having gotten off last summer, opting to instead do the CDT over a more leisurely two seasons. I can totally see why. It’s kind of a crazy rush to Canada or Mt. Taylor in northern New Mexico before the first winter storms, much moreso than on the PCT and AT.

Should probably find a campsite soon, but it can be hard to find a sheltered spot. 


I took this panorama during a particularly powerful storm. I ran back into a couple of retired section hikers here who reminded me that I’d got my wish for rain! I just kept walking, and after an hour or so it died down. 

A northbound thru hiker tells me he’d picked up the water filter of two other southbounders, Sunshine and Killer, and was hoping I could give it to them in Lima, the next town stop.

“Uh, the math definitely doesn’t work out for me catching them, but maybe I can mail it to them?” I try to be helpful, but he’s not the brightest guy I’ve met and didn’t seem to realize that because he saw the couple 24 hours ago doesn’t necessarily mean they’re 24 hours ahead of me…I mean, it’s possible. But I highly doubt they stood in one place for 24 hours on trail. And if he walked for a day north and they walked south a day, that’s two days from our current point. I try to explain this and quickly realize from his glazed look that it’s not gonna work. Sometimes it’s better just to smile and nod.


I met Endless on the PCT. He’s really nice, and has one of the thickest Massachusetts accents I’ve ever heard. We ran into each other during stormageddon, when we got caught on an 8 mile stretch of trail on an exposed ridgeline during a thunderstorm. Not fun. I tried to bail off the divide and cut cross country to the interstate, but the brush was too heavy and I figured it was best to just stay on trail. 


Walking on a side road paralleling the interstate. Mike from the Mountain View Motel will pick you up from the interstate and drive you to Lima, MT. It’s basically just a rest stop with a gas station, Mike’s motel and RV park, and a greasy spoon known as Jan’s Cafe. 

Lima is a bit overwhelming with hordes of northbounders. This is the most hikers I’ve seen in a trail town on the CDT. This must be the “bubble,” the most concentrated mass of thru hikers. But there are only 15 or so in town at a time, with Mike doing a shuttle to and from the trail multiple times a day.


Medicare Pastor, at 76 years old, is 180 miles from finishing her 15 year section hikes of the triple crown trails and being the oldest to do so. She said she needed something to do in her retirement, and I’ve met dozens of other retirees who’ve said the same thing. 


I ordered new shoes sent to Lima from Amazon. I generally get about 700 miles out of my Altra Lone Peak 3s, the most popular shoes in the long-distance hiking community. 

I camp with Dingo, a guy I met in Glacier and have seen off and on since then, and Baby. Baby is hiking with her Australian Shephard named Luna, who has already done the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails.


Dingo (L) , Baby (R), and Baby’s dog Luna. 


Luna has her own pack, and a raincoat. She doesn’t like either very much. 

I send Sunshine and Killer their water filter, making it to the post office at Old Faithful in Yellowstone. I’ve never met either, but I’ve heard Killer is such a nice, sweet Canadian that a bunch of guys on the PCT thought it’d be funny to name her Killer.

The only other two southbounders (three if you include Luna) and I hop on the 2pm shuttle to the trail, after calling the Yellowstone backcountry office and arranging for camping permits. You can camp pretty much anywhere on trail, except in Glacier, Yellowstone, and Rocky Mountains National Parks.

We don’t beat the afternoon thunderstorm, and end up huddled together for an hour with a strip of tyvek under a tree rather than walk in a thunderstorm on an exposed ridgeline (again). Luna runs between us, herding us and making sure we’re all sticking together. We camp together that night after 12 miles in a sheltered, warm expanse of forest with lots of campsites.

At dawn Luna starts patrolling our tents, telling us we’ve slept enough. She goes ballistic when I get out of my tent, running around and wanting to play. I leave camp shortly before the others, somehow immediately getting off trail and having to bushwack back on. This section is notorious for people inadvertently getting off trail. It’s easy to do on the CDT, and I can’t imagine how difficult this trail would be without a GPS on my phone that always tells me where I am and how to get back to trail.


Bridge over a stream. Like many others, I got really off trail near here and had to bushwack a mile to get back on (being stung by a wasp along the way). 

I hike with the aforementioned others until we all get lost multiple times and consequently get separated, somehow passing each other constantly without seeing each other in the process. That’s the CDT.


This lake was popular with day hikers and weekenders. Which we usually don’t see because the CDT is so remote. 

We take the Mack’s Inn cutoff, which cuts across Island Park, Idaho to Yellowstone and involves some road walking but saves three or four days. More time for good weather in Colorado! The race against winter is full on.

“Stay on the north side of the ridge. There’s no trail, just do that or you’ll end up waist deep in beaver ponds and thorn bushes,” my maps say. It rains nonstop and it’s cold, the CDT once again standing for Constant Downpour Trail. But I keep on trucking, knowing that Island Park will be reached tomorrow morning.

Idaho! Plus wildfires

Story of the CDT: I’d planned to be at the highway to hitch into Darby, MT in the evening, but it didn’t work out that way. I was tired, it was getting late, and I decided to just camp four miles (about an hour and 20 minutes) from the road and hitch into town in the morning.

I follow the Idaho/Montana border to Wyoming.

Near where you can hitch into Darby.

How long am I gonna have to wait? I impatiently wondered, thumb out, while smiling at potential rides from the side of a not-terribly-busy highway.

Seven minutes, and then I had a ride. Hitching is such a crapshoot when it comes to waiting time.

“I can only take ya 13 miles to the turnoff to the hot springs,” he said, which didn’t bother me. I’d heard it could routinely take three hitches to get into town.

“My wife does a lot of maintenance of the trail! She and I are looking forward to soaking in the thermal pools.” He noticed I’d been looking around the empty truck for her, confused.

“She’s in the car behind us,” he noted. Does she exist? Is he insane? I decided I didn’t care as long as I got to where I was going in one piece.

After he dropped me off I walked 10 minutes down the road for a better hitching spot. 45 minutes later I gave up, walking down the road with my thumb out to a further spot that looked like a better place to solicit a ride. Winter is coming, I could be eating a burger right now, I’m never going to get a ride, my dehydrated mind kept insisting.

One step before getting to the better hitch spot a car pulled over.

“I’ve got a concealed carry. Want a ride to Darby?” asked the Alaskan wedding planner, aka my savior.


The sunset as viewed from the campground in Darby with smoke from fires.

She was fun to talk to for the 40 minute ride to Darby, which isn’t that close to trail. If I could do this over again, I would’ve just sent a package to the Sula gas station. Much shorter hitch.

Darby is a nice one street town.

“We had a 14 person group stay four nights. I hate to say this, but it’s nice to just have one hiker tonight,” the campground owner told me. Shower, laundry, camping, and wifi was $14 altogether. Not bad.

I bought food at the Family Dollar, getting such novelties as tropical sour patch kids (disgusting) and other foodstuffs (is it really food?) that other stores (probably wisely) don’t want.

The first part of the trail was on a forest service road.

Hitching back up to the trail took over an hour of waiting and two rides, but eventually I’d made it back home.

The fire was pretty small, but close to the trail.

Soon planes and helicopters were flying right over my head, dumping retardant on the fire. The smoke began to block any visibility of the surrounding hills, and as night approached I could see individual trees light up as they became engulfed in flames. So I camped in an uncomfortable spot by a log, laying out my sleeping bag.

Not the most comfortable night, waking up to some rodent crawling on me a few times. This is nuts, I’m out of here. Better to do a 90 mile road walk than asphyxiate, I reasoned. After 20 minutes, though, I turned around. I could get to a forest service road, near the fire, and talk to the fire crew. And walk off the trail if need be, shortening the road walk by a day.

A northbounder who’d camped the previous night with the fire crew said everything was fine, so I booked it and got through. Within an hour I could barely even tell there was a fire. Some other hikers, just out for a bit, said the forest service was telling people to evacuate. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Fire truck! 


It was hard to get info on the fire because neither state nor national Forest was wanting to claim responsibility, since it was on the border. 

Idaho, or at least the border it shares with Montana along the continental divide, is spectacular. Lots of water in some places, though when the divide goes high it can be quite dry. I’d been having an upset stomach, though nothing too bad, and it began to get better every day. That’s why I always carry imodium with me on all my backpacking and foreign trips! Food poisoning in Bolivia at 11k feet is not fun. At all.


Camping next to the ruins of a cabin was weird, but it was a great campsite.


The view from the campsite.

There’s a helicopter above the trail, but it doesn’t seem to notice me. If it does then it doesn’t care, and I make it through without incident. I don’t see a single other person post-fire, which isn’t that strange because there’s hardly anybody on the CDT.


Right after I saw the helicopter. Note the blue skies and lack of smoke.


Seeing this gave me a heart attack until I read the fine print.


Idaho is gorgeous.


Descending into the next valley.

The morning after the fire I notice some smoke when I eat breakfast by a stream, but I’m more focused on some GI issues (which end up resolving quickly). An hour later, when the trail crosses a deserted forest service road, I notice a neon orange sign. CDT CLOSED. My heart goes a thousand beats a minute until I realize I’ve just completed the closed section. They closed it while I was on it. And the next section seems open. That means I’m good, right? I plow on, meeting a few people out for the weekend.


Closure order.


Looking out from the continental divide.


Still some snow!


Back in the forest.

There’s a tough 19.5 mile water carry, difficult mainly because it’s the end of the day, I’m tired, my back is sore, the trail is just loose rock that I stumble on every other step, and water is heavy. I can just envision my brother Kevin telling me the same thing he always does whenever I complain about anything: stop being such a whiny little bitch. My brothers are full of such sage advice.


I camped here on the 19.5 mile water carry.


Descending to Lemhi Pass, which Lewis and Clark visited.


Bannock Pass, where Sam from the Leadore Inn met me and gave me a ride to town.

Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness

Big Sky RV Park is awesome! I’d read on the CDT southbound Facebook group, where the more up to date trail info is posted (and moderated by some crazy Jesus wacko). $18 for camping and shower, they also have a laundromat.

Downtown Anaconda.

Downtown Anaconda has been restored and preserved to look as it did around 1900.

Well, I can stay the night and decide in the morning what I’ll do next. Rest or keep going? I thought to myself. The siren call of clean clothes and feet proved too strong to resist, and I spent two nights at the RV park. After paying a couple visits to the pizzeria and eating a massive amount of food, of course. My hiker hunger hasn’t fully set in yet…but I think it’s coming.


Spotted this walking around town. 

In a perfect world, I’d hang out in town until 5pm and then hike off into the sunset. Technically the sun doesn’t set here until 10pm, but in New Mexico in November I think that’ll be more apt. Sleeping in the woods is just more relaxing, but it’s 15 miles from here before camping is a viable option.

What the hell, I’ll just zero here. Winter is coming, but I’m making good time.

The barista at the cozy coffee shop on the main street definitely thinks I’m a hobo, and I don’t blame her. The last time I trimmed my beard and cut my hair was a couple months ago in the Peruvian Amazon. She seems relieved when I pay with cash and don’t start yelling about being possessed by evil government spirits (witnessed that on the PCT in Ashland, Oregon).


Walking on the highway out of Anaconda. 

Anaconda is long and narrow, but all the places I need to visit are within a half hour walk of the RV park. It’s a pleasant place to take a day off, walking around town getting errands taken care of and watching the new Game of Thrones episode at the library. There’s no shortage of local diners where everyone seems to be a local and the waitress asks, “What can I get for you, sweetie?”


When possible, I took side roads paralleling the highway so as to avoid traffic. 

The locals think it’s obvious from my accent that I’m not from here, and a lot of them (plus a lot of people from north of the border) ask if I’m Canadian. Calgary is called “the city” in northern Montana, and I’ve heard that further south that title will go to Salt Lake.

The owner of the RV park is super friendly, showing me how to lock up the office so I can use the laundry machines after he goes home for the night. While waiting for my clothes I befriend a retired second grade teacher from Wisconsin who’s on her annual summer road trip with her husband, and she seems amazed that I’m walking across the country (even more when I mention that it’s my second time doing so).


The divide is somewhere around here. The trail doesn’t always follow it exactly, but it’s usually very close. 

In the morning, fully rested and semi-clean, I set off on the 10 mile road walk out of town. It’s a mile to the grocery store, where I stock up on victuals, and another 15 minutes to the gas station at the edge of Anaconda.

Arming myself with some snacks and a cup of Mountain Dew, since I remember my father saying that has the highest sugar and caffeine content of just about anything out there, I lay out my provisions on the sidewalk in front of the gas station.


Taking refuge from the rain, with my feet helping me stay on a semi-steep slope. The day before I stood under the shelter of some branches during a severe albeit brief hailstorm and stayed dry. 

100 miles to the Idaho border and my next town stop…will this be enough? The eternal question. It’s so hard to gauge how much food I’ll need on each section.

There aren’t any customers inside, so the cashier comes out to chat and ask about the hike. She wishes me well when a car pulls up and a couple guys file inside, and I head off on the highway.


Looking off at some storm clouds. 

Like on the road walk into town, multiple locals pull over to make sure I’m doing okay and that I have enough water. Montanans are so friendly!

It starts to storm when I pull off the highway and onto a dirt road, but I’m just so happy to be off the pavement and back in the woods that I couldn’t care less.


A trail marker.


The trail was really well maintained in this section. 

I camp by picturesque Storm Lake right after the storm, which seems appropriate. 25 miles in less than 11 hours, not bad. I crawl into my warm, dry sleeping bag just as the rain picks back up, falling asleep to the rhythmic drops falling against my tent.

I wake up at night hearing an animal running around. I think I hear voices yelling at it to shoo, and I bolt upright. Something is in my food, which I hung from a nearby tree! After a few seconds I realize the sounds are coming from the opposite direction of my bear hang, and I go back to sleep. Not my problem.


Lots of water in the mountains here. 


The wildflowers were in bloom at the higher elevations.

It’s cold and wet in the morning, and I have trouble motivating myself to leave the dry warmth of my down sleeping bag. Eventually I do so, and fill out a registration form for the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness. Never done that before, but there’s no CDT permit like there is for the AT and PCT, so I decide to play it safe. And there’s a big registration desk in the middle of nowhere, so maybe it’s important.


I camped at this lake. You can see the ripples of the raindrops in the water. 


At least it wasn’t too hot and sunny! 

Entry location? Canada, I scrawl. Exit? Mexico. Where will you camp each night? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ How long will you spend here? As long as it takes.

Who knows if anybody will actually read that. I hope so.

The Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness is amazing, hopping between alpine passes above the treeline with lush, lake strewn valleys in between. The trail is well maintained, and I cruise on the soft dirt beneath my feet. Every night I camp by a picturesque lake with snowcapped mountains looming above me.


High ridgelines. 

I see few other hikers here, and even go 41 hours without seeing another human. It’s surprisingly not strange to wake up and go to bed without seeing another person, maybe because there are so few people on this trail and I’m used to the solitude. I love feeling like I have the woods to myself, but it’s also nice running back into Vanne. A 60 year old section hiker from the area, I met her previously in Helena National Forest and I enjoy talking to her for an hour.


Morning on the CDT. 

On my last full day on the trail before getting to the highway and the Idaho border, I stop as a small black bear runs 30 feet in front of me. We stare at each other in mutual shock for a split second before he bolts off. A few minutes prior I’d been wishing I had a coffee, but that episode does the trick of waking me up! I haven’t even left Montana yet and I’ve already seen five black bears and a grizzly since Glacier.