What is quickly becoming the theme on this trip (and let’s hope it stays that way) is that less than ideal circumstances turn into fantastic circumstances. Remember turkey and roast beef sandwiches in Leadville? I am now in Bozeman, MT and if you look at your map you will see this is nowhere near the Continental Divide. On Friday, I finished up the 100 mile or so stretch from Butte to Helena, but this was much sooner than expected. This is partly because when you are hiking solo there is not much else to do but hike. Scenic views and swims in creeks are nice, but by myself I usually linger for a bit, then move on. So, I often found myself having covered 15 miles by 4 pm or so and with the sun high in the sky. So….why not walk a little further? I also finished on Friday partly due to map error (again). The last nine miles to MacDonald pass, where you can hitch to Helena, shows one water source that is crossed by the trail. I had planned on camping here and subsequently carried just a liter of water between it and the previous water source, drinking my last drop 2 or 3 miles away from the water. To my surprise, and maybe this will be less surprising if it keeps happening, the trail did not cross water. This was not because the creek was dry (MT has had a very wet spring), but that the trail just didn’t go where it was supposed to go, either due to mapping error or trail rerouting. As a result, I had to hike an extra 3 1/2 miles to the pass, where there was a campground.
Walking to the campground, tired and thirsty as hell, a car with three people pulled up to my left. I said hello and asked if they knew if the campground had any water. They said yes and mentioned they were also here to get water. As it turned out, the people in the car were a couple from Portland, OR here to hike north to East Glacier Park, MT. Their nephew Shawn had driven them up from Helena. Suddenly, Shawn’s uncle, Kim, hopped out of the car, went to the trunk, and dug me out a cold beer. Have you ever been so thirsty that a cold beer or soda tastes like the best thing on Earth? That was how I felt. Pure joy. It was a microbrew of some sort, but it could have been a PBR. It tasted wonderful. I chugged it.
I camped at the forest service campground with Shawn and his aunt and uncle that night. We talked about the usual hiker stuff: food, gear, trails, etc and I told them I was going to hitch into Helena the next morning to kill time for 1 1/2 days until getting onto a bus to go to Butte->Billings to meet April. Shawn heard this and promptly offered to take me to his place in Bozeman, which is on the way to Billings. It would save me about 4 hours on the bus and was maybe a better place to hang out. Yes please! So, the next morning I waited at the pass, scraping creosote off my cookpot, while Shawn hiked in a little ways with his aunt and uncle. He was back around 10AM and we were off to Bozeman!
We spent the rest of the day as follows: Burger place with a pitcher of, don’t laugh, PBR! Delicious. caught a movie (Predators), grocery shopping, cooked dinner, bike ride, watched most of Jackie Brown on couch. Slept on couch. Sure beats wandering around Helena by myself. Thanks to Shawn, Marit, and Matt for some great hospitality and kindness to a stranger. My second map misfortune had once again turned out to be a stroke of good luck!
I am here until 8pm tonight and then I’m heading out to Billings to meet April! We’re driving to East Glacier tomorrow, a 6 1/2 hour road trip across the state. We’ll be on the trail on the 20th at the Chief mountain border crossing with Canada. I might get a haircut today..
Quick announcement: The “maps” feature on this blog is now up and going. Thanks to Mapmaster Mary Beth (aka mom) for putting in the time!