After 18 days, 365 miles, and more views than I can even remember at this point, I would say the CDT has been everything I've wanted and more. At first, the disarray of being back on trail took over. The nervousness kicked in, the pain took hold of my calves and quads, and my mind raced with every thought imaginable. What was I getting into again? What could I possibly gain from this? These and so many other questions spiraled through my head as I took my first few steps on the CDT. None of those questions have even crossed my mind since. It is everything I could want and more. It makes sense. I'm back.
The first section for a SOBO on the CDT is Glacier National Park. By all means, it has been the most scenic section thus far, but not even close to an accurate representation of the trail. With an unforgettable view around ever corner and over ever pass, Glacier made my standards a little too high. The water, crystal clear and flowing, was a treat. Glacial run off is some of the best tasting and most appealing water to exist. Nicely graded switchbacks led to long descents around the contours of each of the mountains. Sure, there was plenty of overgrowth, more mosquitos than I can recall, and quite a bit of elevation change, but what a treat it was. The mountain tops were laden with snow while the valleys and trails were nothing short of welcoming and comforting. Something that isn't so common anymore.
After Glacier, the Bob Marshall Wilderness created the true line between idea and reality. Blow downs, rocks, dust, and plenty of grizzly and mountain lion prints traced the trail. Although the trail wasn't nearly what it had been, the real colors of the CDT started to shine. I remember thinking to myself that one of the most uninhabited areas of the country was in my grasp. I was hiking in the Bob. The part of the CDT that I had looked forward to greatly. It was here. The views eventually made themselves apparent with a steep climb to Dean Lake, an alpine lake hidden behind a wall on the ascent to Switchback Pass. One of the steepest climbs we've had so far, Switchback Pass had nothing of the sort. Along the ridge to the top, the trail forms a junction and it can get a bit tricky to navigate if you don't pay attention, but the view at the top is one I'll make you guys work for. The Bob truly was an experience. Remoteness is now something I've actually experienced and not just imagined.
Transitioning to the Scapegoat Wilderness was interesting. Wildflowers were still apparent while the rivers and streams ran strong from the continuous snow melt. Fords were around every bend, and after taking my socks and shoes off one too many times, and possibly falling in a river, I made the choice to just walk through. Wet socks is something that my feet and I do not agree upon. Anyways, along with the fords, a lack of maintenance on the trail became apparent. Less trail, and more of a slightly worn path, the navigation grew to be more needed. I was excited for that part. The CDT makes you be attentive and that's something that I wanted from this trail. I wanted to test my mental fortitude and awareness, and tested it has been so far. On our last push into Lincoln, MT, we heard of a few forest fires in the area that were growing upwards of 2,000 acres. As we ridge walked the divide, which we are still doing at this point, the smoke quickly hazed the entire skyline, making our hopefully gorgeous, strenuous walk, into a mildly pretty, smoky, hazy, arduous push up roughly 8,000 ft of ascent over 27 miles. The Scapegoat was beautiful, however; extremely challenging. Once again, welcome to the CDT.
And to our most rescent section, the public land, and Helena National Forest area. The last 3 days have been physically demanding to say the least. Lack of water during 90 degree days, steep, quick ascents, and long miles have made for a feeling of confidence and weariness all at the same time. Having two 20+ mile water carries back to back proved to be a difficult obstacle. Finding a way to manage water intake while not dehydrating is definitely a science. Add trying to cold soak a meal, do dishes, and have something to drink at night to the list and you have an interesting scenario. I've had to carry 3+ liters of water each day, while drinking roughly 6-8 liters per day to stay hydrated. The physical aspect is definitely playing more of a role than it was early on. I'm ecstatic I put time into training and nutrion prior to starting this thru hike. Realistically, the jeep roads that we have been traversing have been mind numbing, which is quite a relief after not having much water throughout the day. We've been on the actual Divide now for a few days and it's been rewarding. Giant Montana skies have filled the receptors in my eyes, and the SD card in my camera. I'm loving every bit of the trail so far, regardless of the challenges.
I'm sitting in a motel in Helena, MT right now. It's 12:04 am, and I really should be sleeping, but, that's what a phone screen will do to ya. After 20 miles, a resupply, and a good meal and beer with the other 4 CDT hikers in town, we are ready to crush another 25 tomorrow.
No, I haven't seen any bears, I don't have a gun, I'm not completely alone, I'm not dead.
Im exactly where, what, and who I need to be.