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Off-trail

Days 49-52: Four State Road Trip

Day 49: Weed to Boise

Mama and I didn’t leave the country club until 9am. It was already blisteringly hot and we were glad to be able to crank the air conditioning in the Jeep up to full blast. Especially me, since the sun was on my side all day.

We stopped for some amazing breakfast sandwiches an hour or so later in Klamath Falls, just over the Oregon border. There was a huge car show taking over the streets of that town, but we didn’t have to park too far away.

We played brain games to stay focused, snacked and drank, and soon came by Lake Abert, another salt lake with no outflow suffering the same fate as the Great Salt Lake: drying up and taking billions of brine shrimp to their muddy graves. But as of right now, Abert is basically gone. We saw cows grazing where it used to be.

We stopped for lunch at a Subway in Hines. Nothing special. It was an 8 hour trip and we didn’t want to waste a lot of time along the way. And we managed to get into Boise before it got dark. So no sooner had we checked in to our hotel than we were driving out to the local Noodles and More, a chain fast casual restaurant we don’t have in Georgia. Still nothing special but I was down for some Korean noodles.

And then it was time for some late night chores. First, Winco Foods to buy a month’s worth of food for the trail. There was some drama checking out due to not having enough cash, but we just scraped enough together to get everything and get out with the help of an ATM and the right credit card.

Then to Walmart to get boxes to pack the food into, even though I was practically a dead man walking at this point. Then I brought every bit of that food and all the boxes up to the room before I could go to bed. But Mama didn’t want to have any chores left to do in the morning.

Day 50: Boise to Butte

I got up and got breakfast first. I had just come from waking up at 6am with the sun, so sleeping past 7 was pretty difficult, even with the time change.

But I let Mama sleep and started packing boxes with all the food I had brought up to the room. I packed two boxes ready for their destinations and organized the rest of the food to pack later so we could get driving. We had another big day ahead.

First, I needed to visit REI for some bear spray, bug spray, and some new gloves in a better size. We wouldn’t be stopping in any REI towns ahead. Then we could head out of town.

We were only a couple of hours in when we stopped at an everything store for fishermen in Picabo. I got a sandwich there and a huckleberry soda for lunch. We also got gas.

Soon, we were driving past the Great Rift and the lava flows of Craters of the Moon National Monument. It was basically El Malpais again except bigger. There could not be two more similar national parks.

Another couple of hours across the prairie, we turned down a detour to Leadore (pronunced “lead ore”). It was an hour out of the way, but Sam at the Inn was super helpful, took my resupply box, and said he did shuttles from and to the trail. Seems like that’ll be an easy stop.

I thought we could cut across the mountains here to get to the highway we wanted to be on, but Waze said going back the way we came and cutting across below the mountain range was faster.

Which is why it was already late evening when we finally made it around to Lima. I dropped my resupply box at the motel no problem and suggested getting supper at the diner across the street. But some cyclists leaving said we ought to head down to Peat’s Saloon for steaks instead.

Boy, were they right. Steak cooked to perfection, salad, and baked potatoes. And some good local beers too. Mama thinks are the best she’s had anywhere but Ruth’s Chris. We also got some entertainment: a girl trying to pull off a aerial right next to our table and eventually succeeding to uproarious applause from the whole restaurant.

Finally, we had to get to Butte as the sun disappeared. We still had some lingering twilight as we pulled into the hotel. There were several different locations where fireworks were going off even though they were supposed to stop at 10. Butte is the only city in MT where fireworks can be bought and used for more than a week leading up to July 4.

Again, I carried all my food and boxes up to the room, but this time we had been given a family suite. I had a room with bunk beds and stuffed chair bags to myself. But sleep was the top priority. And also lots of internet videos to keep me awake in spite of myself. Dang akrasia!

Day 51: Butte to Darby

I got up first and went to breakfast first, despite not getting to sleep until the wee hours. This hotel had a hot bar for breakfast with an actual server to plate the food for you! How hard is it to start hiking again when you’re getting this spoiled?

I spent the rest of the morning packing up the rest of my boxes and my bear can. We didn’t have nearly as far to drive, so we opted for a late checkout. It was past 1pm by the time we were out of the room.

Our first stop was the post office a mile away. I needed a box of the right size to ship to Benchmark Guest Ranch. And I needed a stamped envelope in which to send them a money order, which I also needed, to pay for them to handle the box. While we were there, we called about getting me a new debit card to replace my expired one. And they explained that I could withdraw money directly from my PayPal account at a Walmart.

So our second stop was a nearby Walmart, which I left with a boatload of cash. Finally, we could leave the city.

The route sent us back down the highway to turn west into the canyon of the Big Hole River, which we followed west for many miles past ranch after ranch after tiny fishing village until we reached the Continental Divide. After we inadvertently crossed the CDT, we turned around at the next intersection and came back up to the hill to take pictures at the trailhead.

Back down at the intersection with highway 93, which would eventually carry us nearly to the outskirts of Glacier NP, we were also at the ID/MT border, where we needed pictures of the signs.

Then it was just a half hour to Sula Country Store, where I needed to drop another resupply. Unfortunately, it closed at 5 on Mondays and it was 5:30. The lady at the door with the key refused to take the box inside, even though the conversation in which she repeatedly refused took longer than running the box in would, but okay. It was fine, since our lodgings for the evening were only 20 minutes away. We could just come back in the morning.

Speaking of the lodging, what we had was a two-room apartment on the back of Hannon House, one of the oldest houses in Darby. The operator gave us a tour of the entire property before giving us a recommendation for dinner and me a huge bag of snacks. Thanks, Jason!

So, after dropping our things in the room, we were off again to Little Blue Joint. The place didn’t have the fastest or most attentive service, but it sure had good food. Mama had a salad and I had a “small” pizza that I could only finish half of. I also sampled a couple of beers. One was decent, though not as good as the ones at Peat’s or Mt. Shasta Brewing.

By the time we got back to the House (with a brief and possibly unmannerly stop at the ranch from the TV show “Yellowstone” for pictures since it involved blocking their driveway), I was too sleepy to go sit by the river or get in the hot tub. I just went to bed, watched some videos and stuff until I fell asleep.

Day 52: Darby to West Glacier

There was actually a little bit of hiking on this day, which is why I can get away with posting this account of a road trip on this hiking blog!

So despite my best effort to get going this morning, we didn’t make it out of the room until nearly checkout time at 11. There was leftover pizza breakfast and a shower to do. There was even a coffee maker and Mama ran it for me. Still, I did manage to sleep in a bit longer than usual, and I definitely needed the sleep.

The first goal of the day was to drop my box at Sula Country Store. No problem. Walked right in and left my box, and even got a giant peanut butter cookie to go.

The second task was to drive up into the hills to do some trail magic, though we did immediately turn back for gas upon seeing the time it would take. We didn’t end up needing it because it wasn’t that far, but you can never be too prepared when driving into the wilderness.

It took less than an hour to drive up the dirt road into the mountains to the seekrit location where I intended to hatch my dastardly plan. I loaded four boxes of soda into my pack and hiked them nearly a mile down the trail to a small creek, then poured all the cans into the creek. Some of them were trying to float into a different part of the stream so I built a small fence out of some rocks and a branch to restrain them. It may not hold them back if there’s a big rain, but they’ll just float down to a slightly deeper part of the stream and sink, so they should still be there when I hike to that point. I also taped a laminated sign to a tree hanging over the creek saying hikers needed to pack out the cans if they took one. Trail magic achieved.

The way out was all uphill but my pack was much lighter. Even so, it was nearly 1pm, so it was already brutally hot out. I was pouring sweat by the time I reached the Jeep again. Then it was another most of an hour back to the highway again and on our way north.

We went back through Darby and another little while on popcorn and snacks, but stopped in the next major town north of that for lunch. This time it was Mama’s choice, a little cafeteria that served comfort food. She had basically a Thanksgiving dinner. I had a plain roast beef sandwich on white with mashed potatoes, everything drenched in gravy. That’s just how they do sandwiches there. If it weren’t for the jalapeño poppers on the menu, I’d be convinced they were specifically catering to people who like bland food.

We stopped again coming out of Missoula at a truck stop to see about grabbing some food to eat in the park since the restaurants would be closed (and also to clean the corpses of millions of bugs off the windshield while we got gas), but they told us there would be grocery stores in every town going north, so we stopped at one in St. Ignatius and got things like yogurt, bagels, bread, and a microwaveable dinner since we would have a microwave in our cabin that night.

We didn’t really stop again after that, even as we were driving past the immense Flathead Lake (the largest natural lake in Montana and the 30th largest lake in the US by area). We came into West Glacier by 6 or 7pm. We checked in and moved into our cabin before driving into the national park to see the visitor’s center and the backcountry permit office.

After dinner (and a failed attempt to get butter for my toast at the camp store), I ended up staying up until past midnight working on content for this blog and then watching videos. I didn’t need to be up early since I couldn’t get my backcountry permit until the day before I hiked out anyway, so why not?

Miles hiked: 1.6 (0.8 each way, to be hiked again verbatim when I make it back to the Bitterroots)

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