Just one more resupply to go before we reach the Canadian border, now that we’re in Augusta! We’ve hiked about 200 miles since we left Anaconda, and we have about 240 to go. The end of the trail feels close, but with two wildfire re-routes still to negotiate our way around, it’s hard to know exactly how far we still have to go.
As ever, we have mixed feelings about being this close to the end. We feel lucky to have got this far with no major injuries or mishaps, and want to get finished before anything can go wrong. We’re looking forward to not having to bash out 25 miles a day carrying heavy rucksacks. But the trail we looked forward to hiking for so long is nearly done, and life will feel very empty for a while once it’s over. So, we’re doing our best to savour these last days of our hike, as we’ll be looking back on them for a long time to come.
Fortunately, we haven’t had any further snow storms in the last week or so, but the mornings are definitely getting colder and darker, making it harder than ever to get out of our sleeping bags. Also, with the light starting to fade at about 7.30pm, we no longer stop to cook dinner around 6pm before hiking on a few miles – we just hike until we find a camping spot, around 7 to 7.30, then put up our tent and cook dinner a short distance away so as not to attract bears to our campsite with cooking smells.
Last Monday we had an unplanned rest day in Anaconda, waiting for a new groundsheet to arrive in the post – we hadn’t realised it was Labor Day, a public holiday in the US). It was no hardship, Anaconda was a pretty good place to hang out! But we were glad to get back out on the trail again, even though we began with a rather hot roadwalk.
The first three days of hiking were not particularly inspiring, being mostly through felled forest and burn areas. The trail twisted and turned and went up and down, with no real sense of being on the watershed. So we sped along as fast as we could, and were happy to get to MacDonald Pass and hitch a lift into Helena a day earlier than planned.
Helena is a large city which had everything we needed. The motel was clean and hiker-friendly, and conveniently close to some nice bars and restaurants. Unfortunately we had sent our bounce boxes, which contained our equipment and maps for the next section, to the main post office, which was two miles away! And the nearest supermarket where we could resupply for the next section was another mile from that. So by the time we’d run our errands, showered and done laundry, we were fairly frazzled. Still, it was good to finally meet up with some other northbound CDT hikers! For hundreds of miles, it had just been me, Neil and Mithrandir, with Seamtape somewhere in front (his distinctive footprints on the trail are very reassuring when I’m hiking in front of Neil!)
Then around Helena we met up with Patches, Bud and Fret, FiveStar, Butterfingers, Scampi and Pegasus, who had taken various different routes to get there. Sadly, Bud was organising a get-together for everyone in a local brewery the day we left town – we would have loved to stay and sink a few beers in good company, but with a 126 mile stretch ahead we were keen to get back on trail and get on with it!
And this last section was pretty tough. Lots of ascents and descents, rough trail, gaps of up to 24 miles between water sources … We set off with six days of food in our packs, so our packs were heavier than they had been for some time. But the wide spacing of water sources forced us to increase our daily mileage to avoid carrying stupid quantities of water, and we managed to complete it in five days. Which was just as well – we were hiking hard which made us hungrier than ever, and we easily finished our six days of food in five days!
And now we’re in Augusta, a lovely little town with an old fashioned inn, a great cafe, and three bars, all within five minutes walk. Perfect!
Tomorrow we’ll be back on trail, heading into the Bob Marshall Wilderness for 136 miles over six days. This is apparently where they send all the naughty bears which get deported from Yellowstone. So we’ll definitely be taking all the necessary precautions to protect our food and ourselves!