Helena

Section 4  

Miles 291-365

 

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Hitched a ride out of Lincoln - the folks that picked me up directed me to the truck bed.   Can't really blame the couple — after all, this was Ted Kaczynski's old stomping ground. When I got out at the top of the pass they were really concerned about the size of my backpack. "You sure you got everything you need in there?" They insisted that I take a bottle of water — or at least dump a bottle of water over my head. 

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These little bastards are the scariest things on the trail. I'll be perambulating around, minding my own business, when all of a sudden one of these little guys flies off making a heart skipping thundering "twapwapapapap" sound. They're very well camouflaged and it gets me every time. 

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This stick found the hole in my shoe.  

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Thanks Montana.  

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No gold. Just rain.  

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And lots of cows. Surprise surprise. 

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About 10 miles from the pass I found that I had cell phone reception. I got news from my parents that their Tucson neighbors Bob and Debbie were in Helena and willing to put me up for the 4th. Amazing.

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They picked me up at the pass and drove me to their place. On the way down they asked what I wanted to do in town. "Shower, Food, Beer, Laundry."

I was spoiled. Once we got to their place they pointed me to the shower and Bob put a beer in my hand. "Shower beer." 

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That wasn't the only beer Bob put in my hand that evening. After my shower he loaded up a plate with roast, mashed potatoes, and steamed kale. Kale! We stayed up late that night and shared stories on the patio. 

The following morning we went out for breakfast and went sight seeing. The state Capitol seemed an appropriate place to visit on the 4th.  

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Bob took me back up to the pass the following morning. He told me "last time I drank that much was with your dad." I guess we Crombies know how to party. #proud 

Scapegoat

Section 3

Mile 234-290

 

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The scapegoat wilderness took me up and out of the trees and had me literally on the divide.  

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The masochist that layed down this trail didn't care for switch backs - they just followed the path of the divide straight up and straight down every peak. 

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I was blessed with 90 degree days on all these exposed peaks.  

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No pants - no problems. I found a prestine tiny lake, too small to have a name on the map. It was hot, so I swam and washed my clothes. I hadn't seen anyone for a couple days so I thought I'd be fine walking around in my undies. Sure enough - just twenty minutes later I pass a mother and son walking north. They were pretty crabby. I was fresh and clean and enjoying the breeze. 

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The divide definitely ain't flat.  

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East of the divide is.  

What 7 days in the woods looks like.  

What 7 days in the woods looks like.  

At the end of the day I was pretty worked. Set up my tent to keep the mosquitos away and enjoyed the sunset. 

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The evenings entertainment.  

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I was in the woods for over a week. The Bob beat me up and the last few scorching days left me yearning for a cold one. My original plan was to hoof it all the way to Helena, but when I crossed the road that led into Lincoln I stuck my thumb and and cruised on into town.  

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Glad I did. I reunited with CheeseSnake and watched him lose his first 5 dollars to the one armed bandits. Everyplace in town was a casino slash something. 

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I'm starting to get used to all the taxidermy that adorns the local establishments.  

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Lincoln. Great town.  

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The Bob

Section 2  

Miles 104-239

 

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The Bob had everything - pristine rivers, dense tree covered mountains, burn areas, bears and adventure. I even got treated to every season of weather.  

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Locked ranger cabins spotted the wilderness -- I always came across these mid day and wished they were unlocked.  

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Didn't work - I checked. 

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My air mattress developed a growth. I made lemonade of the situation by turning it around and using it to elevate my sore feet. Exped has a two year warranty and they  shipped me a new mattress - really awesome customer service. But now I miss my bubble.  

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Wolf tracks. I saw lots bear tracks too. Kinda creepy when you're hiking by your lonesome miles from civilization.

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I had a couple soggy days. 

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Cloudy vistas. Serene. 

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I lost the trail for a good amount of time. I took what I called he mountain goat alternate - sticking to the side of a slippery hill with microspikes. Then, out of no where a mountain goat appeared and led me back to the trail. Magic animal.  

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Cute, but behind those black eyes must be a soul of pure evil. There's probably a reason satanists like their skulls.  

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The clouds cleared and I enjoyed a snow and rain free night. 

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Clear skies for the Chinese wall. 

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I have a love hate relationship with equestrians on trail. I like that they clear the trail of fallen trees. I don't like that they shit all over the place and their hooves tear up the dirt and make a deep wet muddy mess. 

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I survived the Bob. 

Glacier

Section 1  

Miles 0-104

 

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Canada baby!  

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Started my flip from the border. I have to remember every morning to walk south  

 

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This typeface warms my heart.

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On the shuttle up from East Glacier I met Elevated, an Aussie American sobo hiker . Day 1 for her, full of energy and excitement it was awesome spending the first couple days with her. 

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We had gorgeous weather and glacier was beautiful. 

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What do I have to do to be able to live in this ranger station ? 

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The national park puts out bridges! That's like rolling out the red carpet for hikers

Meh.  

Meh.  

Top of triple divide pass.  

Top of triple divide pass.  

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There was an AYCE breakfast buffet here.

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Tiger. I've never seen an RV like this one - pop top and all the works.  

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The wind was whipping this long tail of water across the rock. 

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Snow! Beacon, a fellow through hiker, lent me his microspikes for this section.  

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Which I needed to get over some chutes on the way up the pass.  

 

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The pass ambassador - wanted my goldfish crackers. He was relentless. I did not succumb. 

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There was a closure due to an animal carcass on trail. Which increases grizzly activity. I had a close encounter the day before so I was happy to get off trail and catch a hitch to another section.

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The guy who picked me up was the photographer from this book. He has spent the last 20 years of his life photographing mountain goats. 

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I road walked in order to return to the mountains.  

 

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Great sunny day.  

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I set up camp and hung my food in a bear bag. Due to the closure I had to do a bonus mile side hike in order to get up to the triple divide pass. 

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Water goes one of three ways from here — Pacific Ocean, Hudson Bay, or the Gulf. 

 

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The next day sucked so bad - wind, snow, high passes — I didn't take any photos. I was up in the clouds getting beaten up.  

 

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Next day was much better. Saw a mountain groat.  

 

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Flip

Montana bound.

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As a kid my Pops and I, along with the boy scouts, took a train up to Glacier national park. I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane and ride the Empire Builder again. 

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My plan was to head up to the Canadian border and walk south. In through hiking this move is called a flip. There is a saying on this trail, "hit it right," that means, walk through the sections at the right time. It was too early to walk through Colorado, but Montana was just right. 

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The St. Paul Central Station has been beautifully restored .

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Katrina and Lucas dropped me off. 

The famous Glacier National Park "reds" driven by Jammers. Don't make the mistake of saying you rode a Jammer all day.  

The famous Glacier National Park "reds" driven by Jammers. Don't make the mistake of saying you rode a Jammer all day.  

I arrived in east glacier 20 hours later. 

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This hotel, built by the great northern railroad, is a blast from the past. No Disney here, those tree pillars are the real deal. 

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Intermission

Minneapolis

Lucas took me to an early morning photo shoot on the Minnesota river.  

Lucas took me to an early morning photo shoot on the Minnesota river.  

A major reason for forging north through all the snow was to make it to my friend Ashley's wedding in Minnesota. To do so I caught a shuttle from Breckenridge to Denver and a flight from there to Minneapolis.

From woods to wedding.  

From woods to wedding.  

I have always fondly referred to her as Burger Jung, now she is Burger Stevens. Congrats Buuurrr Guuuurrr!

I have surprisingly few photos of the actual wedding. The photographer they hired was definitely on point and told us to put our phones away.

Biking around the green belt on nice rides. Minneapolis has definitely earned its title of most bike friendly city in the US.

Biking around the green belt on nice rides. Minneapolis has definitely earned its title of most bike friendly city in the US.

One of the best parts of this intermission was being able to spend some time in the city with my lady. We biked around and toured my old haunts.

Lani being introduced to the concept of a "beer chaser"  

Lani being introduced to the concept of a "beer chaser"  

I had been humoring the idea of flipping for the last few days as Banjo and I suffered through Colorado. The snow wasn't going anywhere for another month and I didn't really feel like going back to it after the wedding.

Cooling down

Cooling down

It was so fun hanging out with friends in town I took my time buying a train ticket to Montana. Lucas and I spent our time slapping cards and drinking brewskies on the porch.

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Leadville

Started off the day just outside of a fish hatchery. Spent the morning throwing pellets at fish to make "the water boil."

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Silly fish - they chomped at my finger when I stuck it in the water.  

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We road walked to Leadville.  

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I meant to ask a local about these drilled up rocks. They've got something to do with mining.  

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Leadville is a charming old mining town with a lot of old turn of the century buildings on the Main Street. I loved it.  

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Got breakfast at the brass ass - the. Stayed for lunch. Hiker hunger is real.  

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Twin Lakes

Day 51  

Back on the CDT 18 Miles

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Big day — considering we started late. My parents dropped us off at the twin lakes convenience store and we drank soda while our phones charged. We finally got on the trail and passed by Mt. Elbert. The trail was great as we climbed, but then we hit elevation and there was snow all over the trail. It was bad, unconsolidated, deep and unpredictable. Our feet were freezing and our shins were getting attacked again. We decided to comea down by Mt. Massive -bushwached down - through boggy, slushy snow and mud. Found a trail and set up camp late by a fish hatchery. 

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So many dinner options.  

Bail

Day 50  

20 some odd miles of CDT, Forestry Roads and Hwy.

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Woke up and climbed to the top of the pass. Met some crappy snow on the north face. Tore up our legs on the icy crust while we post holed for hours descending. 

 

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Decided to drop down and cruise on roads to get to Twin Lakes. Got picked up again later that day by some "crazy canooks."

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That night we were treated to an amazing meal, some cold ones, and a competitive card match.

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My mom insisted that we bathed - apparently we were "a bit woofy."  I'm sure we were. 

 

Colorado Trail

Day 48

20 Miles of Colorado Trail

Box of cereal for breakfast.

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Ride from parents to the pass then to the trail head. Decided to continue north on the CT. Runs a little lower in elevation than the CDT for this stretch. Amazing trail -well maintained. Very well marked. Opened up and cruised. Dry Feet all day. 

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Picked Up

Day 47

Zero

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The cows woke us up, mooing as a rancher drove by on his hail bailer at 7am. Banjo and I packed up and went back to the store hoping their cafe would be be open. They opened their doors early and we got right to the potato chips and hot cocoa. I sent my parents a message saying that banjo and I were on the road by monarch pass and they texted back that they were an hour away, near Gunnison.

The platabus rescued us and spoiled us the rest of the day. We shared stories at the cafe. Then went up to monarch with the horns strapped to the bikes in the back.

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On the other side of the pass in Solida we went out for Chinese food. The food was great, but not as great as this sign.

At the campground we showered, laundered, and ate. Great dinner followed by a cutthroat game of hearts.

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Before dinner banjo and I tended to the horns. I borrowed a hacksaw from the campground manager and cut away the broken parts of the skull.   

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Then removed what the animals didn't eat. Braaaaaaiiiiinnns. Now that the stink had been picked away my parents agreed to hold onto it for me. 

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Great sunset. Great parents. Good times.  

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Antlers

Day 46

9 miles of CDT Then bushwacked down out of the storms and snow ... To a Hwy. Long day

9 miles of suck. Abort to lower elevation. Post holed with snow shoes. Used USGS maps to get to hwy. Bushwacked to a lower trail - ran into a dirt biker. Found antlers. Bones mostly picked clean. Road walk. Store closed. Their sign lied about their hours. Slept next to some cows.

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Road Day

Day 45

27 miles - cdt mile 1057

Dewy morning cold night.  Burnt face from day before.  No snow. All roads. Few atvs out and about. Finished the day with a climb on beautifully graded single track switchbacks. Set up my tent on top of a nice crest and enjoyed my ramen to the sounds of distant handgun noise.

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Out of Creede

Day 43

 

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We procrastinated most of the day away. Ate a pizza while it snowed outside. There were not limited refills, so we daughter refuge in a coffee shop and mooched internet over a latte.  

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Eventually, around 4PM we sauntered off, up out of town past all the old mines. 

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And a peculiar firestation.  

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On the otherside of this river was a prime camping spot. Since it was the end of the day we farted around trying to make a bridge. The river thrarted all our attempts. We eventually just trudged through. 

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And set up camp.  

Creede

Day 42

 

We descended further and further away from snow. With nachos on the mind we were motivated to hoof it all the way to Creede. 

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For once we had a trail and with a trail came bridges. Unfortunately there were a ton of fell trees so it wasn't all easy peasy.  

Fancy Trail  

Fancy Trail  

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Deep creek trail has been used for a very long time according to the signatures on these signs.  

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Banjo... Being... Banjo  

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Got to town and went grocery shopping after eating a huge plate of nachos.  

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Our Motel

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The Snow Shoe motel was charming. 

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Each door had an awesome hand painted bear. I think ours was the coolest bear.  

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We spent the majority of the afternoon at Kips Grille playing Pac Man and Dig Dug.

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This town has character... The biggest "city" in Mineral County. 90% of the land in the county is US forest. Outdoor paradise. 

Snow Shoe Slog

Day 41

9 miles of CDT, 4 miles of Creede Alternate

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The site last night was scenic, but cold and we let our tents warm up before getting a start.

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The 9 miles or so back on the divide was a slog. We went up and down mountains all day opting to climb steep hills rather than side step around the valleys on the edges of our snow shoes.

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We climbed up a river bed to a pass at 12500 some odd feet and from that point on we were pelted with ferocious winds. The wind swept snow was soft and we post holed even in our snow shoes. Banjo fell so deep that his snow shoe got stuck and we had to dig it out.

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We decided we were fed up with the crest so we descended surrounded by remnants of avalanches. We glissaded down and followed a river through a burn section to meet up with the Creede Alternate trail. Which is at lower elevation.

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Before setting up camp we saw a black bear ... so we hiked a bit further. We noticed it was fat so we weren't that worried when we did set up a bit later. Fat bears are well fed bears.

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Pass

Day 40

Lots of miles hitching 3 miles of trail

In the morning Banjo and I were resupplying at a Walmart when a man asked about my patches and why I had a backpack with snow shoes strapped to it in my shopping cart. I took the opportunity to "yogi" a ride from him and his wife. They lived in Monte Vista, the neighboring town, which got us slightly closer to wolf creek pass. They dropped us off at a gas station at the edge of town. There, Banjo and I deployed our thumbs along with lots of waves and big smiles. It wasn't long til we landed a hitch from a young national guardsman on a mission to surprise his girlfriend at graduation.

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We got dropped off at the pass, and the young man said "make good decisions!" We immediately threw on our puffys and gloves and temporarily regretted the decision to hike out that afternoon - but we slogged up and out ..

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Tough terrain, we traveled less than a mile per hour.

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After just a few miles we were happy to be back our and found a great camp site with a spectacular view.

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Abort!

Day 39

Lots of miles - had to find another way

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In the morning we climbed back up to the divide to find the trail impassable - turned around to three forks to find our way out.

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We retraced our steps and found the snow had become much softer. We sloshed down.

Going up

Going up

Going down

Going down

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At the end of the river was a big dam - Damn.

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The town of Conejos was nearby and was just starting to defrost. It was not really open but there were a few people milling about preparing the place for Memorial Day weekend. Frustrated that we couldn't get a sandwich, Banjo and I took off down the dirt road. In just a few steps a giant black truck pulled over and gave us a ride to Alamosa - far far from the trail. We were super thankful, as we needed to get to town to resupply, reorganize and create a new plan of attack. The southern and northern San Juans are just too dangerous at this time.

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