8/03: MacDonald Pass (8.3 mi) 358.1 – 366.4
Rather than take two zeros and pay for a third night in Helena, we opted to “Nero” on the third.
We got a ride from Tom of “Helena Wheels” to MacDonald Pass. Leaving out of Helena was also supposed to be a heavy, mostly waterless carry, to start with. Tom however, said he cached a gallon of water for us, so we didn’t have such a heavy carry. Great guy.
Tom picked us up (per our request) around 3:30pm. Skies were smokier than when we had arrived two days prior. It had rained fairly hard the day before. Complete with thunder and lightning. We hoped it wouldn’t lead to more fires.
The rain was welcome though, because it had been stifling hot in town, and sitting outside the laundry mat in rain gear was like being in a sauna…until it rained…and then, at least, we didn’t look so silly.
Our plan was to hike a few miles in and call it a day. First we had to get by the mile of blowdowns, and then it was a matter of finding a flat place to camp.
Before that Paul realized that we had reached a collective of 1000 miles on the CDT. Awesome. One third done. Much of the area we were walking through/towards had been logged. Large piles of twisted timber (slash piles) were stacked like hives along the landscape.
At mile 366.4, we came across a red cooler full of trail magic. It appears that a gal who is currently hiking the PCT, suggested to her parents that leave “trail magic” for the CDT hikers. Her parents took that suggestion and now it appears that they regularly stock a cooler full of water, sodas, and oranges. Fresh fruit! Yeah! What a treat!
Due to the fact that most of the land was posted private, and we didn’t want to venture any further, we found a flat spot amongst the slash piles and set up. The sunset was a bonus.
8/04: 21.5 mi (366.4 – 387.9)
The first part of the day was pretty cruzy. We made 10 miles by 11:30 am. Prior to that, while collecting our water from the cache Tom had left us, we met “Tartan”. He was hiking NOBO and was on his Triple Crown. His son was supporting him so he could slack pack as much as possible (He’s in his 70’s). We remembered having met him in 2014, on the PCT near Kennedy Meadows.
Generally when one part of the day is “easy”, the next part of the day is NOT. The later part of the day was spent climbing Thunderbolt mountain…in the heat. Sadly the views were too hazy to appreciate. We completed our day fully exhausted by what was called a “lake”, but in all reality was a giant meadow with an icy cold (and deep) creek running through it.
We had hoped to see moose or elk at least on the edges of the meadow, but no such luck. It must of been their day off. At 2am however, we were awaken to the most unusual sounds. It was a cross between the howl of a wolf, the cry of an elk calf, and the scream of a mountain lion. We couldn’t quite place the “Marco polo” cadence of calls as it moved from the far end of the lake towards us. Maybe it was Sasquatch, we chuckled and went back to sleep. This went on periodically for nearly two hours.
8/05: 20.6mi (387.9 – 2mi of Anaconda Cut-off)
We were told there was trail magic at the road. We got two roads, one of which included Champion Pass. No such luck. Clouds overhead were moving fast. A storm was coming in and we also were out of water. We knew that there was water 2 miles into the 52 mile Anaconda Cut-off CDT alternate. We beat feet as fast as we could. With our feet on fire, it began to sprinkle. No worries. We have umbrellas. Now we were looking for water AND a place to set up our tents. We found both just as the skies opened up. This being our first real rain event, we panicked and threw up our tent in the driving rain which resulted with every inch of the interior wet as can be, even though we were pretty quick about it . Rookie mistake. We should have ducked into the thicket of trees, and waited out the storminess. As it stood, it only lasted about 20-30 minutes. Then we could have set up at our leisure, and had a dry interior. We’ll not make that same mistake.
The following morning (8/6) we completed the road walk into Anaconda. It was mostly dirt road that weaved through forested areas and then rolling plains of private property. Once we got to Hwy 48, where there was no shoulder upon which to walk safely, we decided to hitch the rest of the way into Anaconda.
We initially tried to hitch by the Montana State Mental Hospital sign, but that didn’t go so well. A man named Norm, actually turned around from where he was going to give us a ride into town. What a blessing. We were practically out of water and it was blazing hot. At our request, he dropped us on the doorstep of the Printler Hostel.
Turns out we were their first customers. They had just opened that day! Perfect timing.
Now for a much needed zero. And better yet, it looks like we arrived in Anaconda just in time for the Smeltermen’s Brewfest weekend.