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CDT MT Section 7 Off-trail

Days 64-65: Up All Night

Day 64 and half of Day 65: Burbank

I woke up at 6 from a crazy dream of being lost in a dense, crowded, multilevel megalopolis, like if Manhattan were crossed with downtown Singapore. I was starving and immediately ate breakfast, then dozed off again and had some more big city dreams, waking up again just after 7. I skipped any extra morning repair work and hit the road around a quarter after 8.

I took a pause in the middle of a hill climb less than a mile later. Around a half an hour break to get myself in a better hiking state.

A few miles ahead, near the summit of Burnt Mountain, the trail briefly left the forest for a meadow with something like a view, and I paused to hop on the cell network to send a text to Weatherman (the same trail angel that gave me a ride last year) with my progress. I put my ETA at 5pm.

The road went back into the woods for a while, but the trail left the road to descend the face of the mountain on a foot trail labeled Vista. I was looking forward to the place where this single-track rejoined the road (the Burnt Mountain Trail again–the CDT had only shortcutted part of it) as it was marked on the map as a creek and a water source. I took another break on the way down in the shade and polished off the last of my water in anticipation.

There was a meadow full of tall grasses and bushes there, the kind that grow along a creek, but I wandered around the field for several minutes and couldn’t find so much as a stagnant pool. The whole area was dry.

But the situation wasn’t desperate. There was a road crossing less than 3 miles away that granted access to a confirmed spring. I had already drunk enough that I would not be dehydrated in the time it took to get there. Even when, at the next junction following two short steep climbs in a row, a whole family on 4-wheelers pulled up, some carrying coolers, I did not ask for water. I just kept following the road. It cut across the side of a hill now, wiggling up and down to work its way through the enormous boulders that scattered the hillside. Geography like that was a familiar site in Southern California, but in Montana, it was very peculiar to the vicinity of Butte.

A mile or so later, the road came into a saddle of the ridge where Bursum Road crossed it, so I left the trail and descended a quarter mile to a spring-fed trough overflowing under a nice shade tree. I got more water than I would need for the rest of the hike and filtered it while I used up the last of my lunchmeats. I had managed to arrive at the water source at just about lunchtime.

Back up on the ridge, the trail was almost ready to start descending for good. More ATVs were coming up and the trees were getting sparser. I was coming into the I-15/Divide Creek Valley. The trees got shorter and fell away. Soon, all of a sudden I could actually see the Interstate even though it was still a 4 mile walk away.

It looked like the shade would soon disappear, so I stopped under a nice shady pair of trees, scaring off a small murder of crows to establish myself there. I took a quick break to get another liter of water into me and a few snacks before I walked out into the sun for good.

A mile later, I was on the road headed towards the Interstate. There were a surprising number of people on it. There was a guy at the trailhead getting an ATV ready to go. There were a pair of mountain bikers doing the Great Divide trail who stopped me to chat on the road. There was even a guy just strolling down the road with nothing but a bottle of what might have been coffee.

But anyway, I made it to the Interstate about a quarter to 5 and called Weatherman. He said he’d be there in 20 minutes. I sat down on my pack in the shadow of the sign at the top of the on-ramp. At one point, I decided to make another drink with the last of my water, but I have even finished it before Weatherman arrived early.

I had him drop me at the KOA so I could get a shower and do some laundry before I moved on. But the KOA wouldn’t let me use their showers or laundry for any amount of money unless I was their guest. The only option in town was the truck stop 4.5 miles away down the Interstate. Also, they no longer provided an outside power strip for hikers, but I found a random outlet on a post I could plug in to figure out what to do as well as purchase a bus ticket to Bozeman that night.

Luckily, there was one guy in town operating a Lyft, so I got a ride there within a half hour. The guy said he was planning to continue to operate for a while, so I could get a ride back into town later.

A further stroke of luck struck when I walked into the store and asked for a shower. They handed me a receipt for 10 dollar co-driver shower and sent me up to the trucker lounge saying that the showers were down but the maintenance guy would come get me. Why did I get the shower for free? I’m guessing it’s because I happened to walk in behind some firefighters who looked just as grubby asking for the same, as one of the guys behind the counter was berating the other for having charged the firefighters. In other words, they probably assumed I was also a firefighter and gave me the shower free on purpose. I certainly didn’t ask any questions that might make them doubt their decision.

Up in the lounge, I changed and started my clothes washing. I sat down and a few minutes later, the maintenance guy brought me a key to a shower room. Inside there was not only soap dispensers but also a clean towel and washcloth. I took a quick shower, then went down to buy a razor to finish the cleanup job.

As soon as I had transferred my clothes to the dryer, the maintenance guy came by to tell me “you guys got lucky” (presumably the other “guys” were the two firefighters) “The shower is busted. it’s going to be down for an hour and a half.”

The nice guy at the counter also printed my bus tickets from his office computer when the email printer behind the counter didn’t want to work. I don’t know why a bus line still requires without exception printed tickets in 2022, but I was glad to have that obstacle resolved.

Things didn’t go quite so luckily after that. By the time my clothes were dry, the Lyft guy wasn’t operating anymore. I suppose I could have called the local taxi operator, but I decided to just walk the Bluebird Trail back into town. It was actually quite a pretty dirty road over the hilltops as the sunset. I set a bar and grill that was open late as my destination to get some dinner, and arrived a couple of hours later, just after 10pm.

Which was when their kitchen closed. They weren’t selling food. And according to them, nothing in Butte served food after 10. I asked them if they had any snacks they could serve that didn’t require cooking, and they agreed to make me some fries. So I had a little basket of fries and a beer before walking across town to the bus stop.

I arrived about an hour before the bus left, so I visited the convenience store down the street for a drink and a Hot Pocket to microwave. (It was a really tiny amount of fries in the end.) I sat outside the store watching shows with Sam online up until it was time to head over to the bus stop. It was waiting and full when I arrived, so I loaded my pack and jumped right on.

We rolled out a little after 12:30, and I immediately began discovering my luck had completely run out. My mom had sent me texts saying everything regarding my upcoming flights was in my texts or emails. But there was nothing. Nothing in the Delta app, no emails, no texts, no confirmation numbers, no hints or clues. And since she was on a cruise and it was the middle of the night, there was no way to get in touch to find out anything, not even so much as who else to call who might know what had gone wrong. By the time I was getting off the bus at the Bozeman Walmart at 1:50, I was requesting a text chat with a Delta rep despite that the frustrated search on the bus had nearly drained my phone battery.

The airport was 9 miles down the frontage road out of Bozeman, technically in Belgrade, two towns over. I didn’t really think about how I would cover that distance or even how far it was before arriving. The taxi companies were closed up for the night and no rideshares were operating. Hitchhiking doesn’t really work in the middle of the night since no one can see you before they are right on top of you. So walking was really the only option. And honestly, I didn’t have anything better to do since I had to be on that early flight, but the airport didn’t even open until 4am, so it didn’t really do me any good to get there right away. Walking there gave me something to do while

At first, I was texting the Delta rep while I walked. He looked for bookings under my name and every phone number I could think of but couldn’t find anything. I decided my only option was to have the check-in counter search the passenger list for my name. And if it wasn’t there I’d just buy a new ticket on the spot. The rep said there were seats available, but I still wanted to get there as early as possible.

The road was flat and relatively well-lit the whole way. Even though the moon was nearly new, the billboards on the highway and the occasional street lights made it easy to see the edge of the road. I tried to walk on the soft dirt shoulder when I could. The pavement hurt my feet. My shoes hurt my toe and heel through a torn sock heel. The threads from some sock repairs hurt my left middle toe. When I felt pain with every step, I encouraged myself to walk faster.

When there was a shoulder, it was usually level with the pavement so I could walk right at the boundary. Except for one spot about a mile out from the airport where the pavement had crumbled creating a two inch lip that looked no different in the low light than the edge around it, so of course I stepped on it, turned an ankle, and immediately collapsed to the dirt, scratching up the hand that wasn’t carrying my hat. Good thing I had emptied my pack of all excess weight so I could get right back up and keep going.

I arrived in the terminal right on schedule (indeed, 6 minutes sooner than Google Maps earliest predictions) at a quarter to five and went up to the check-in desk. Neither flight of the trip had any passengers booked with my name. So I bought a ticket right there at the desk for twice the price of the one that had been booked earlier in the week. And I walked right through security.

I plugged in my phone at the charger by the gate and bought a drink and a terrible cold breakfast burrito to eat while watching the sun rise through the window at the gate, having watched it set only 9 hours, 13 miles walking, and 83 miles driving earlier.

I fell asleep about the same time the flight was taking off and woke up at the announcement for the final approach in Salt Lake City. About an hour nap tops.

I hate the Salt Lake City airport. I end up having to walk between its two terminals pretty much every time I visit it, and I think this was the third or fourth time I had to do that in the last two or three years. Also, I hate the way they are serving flights from gates that haven’t been built yet, the end of the terminal just chopped off right in the middle of a moving sidewalk. Of course my flight was departing from one of those nonexistent gates, which meant boarding required leaving the terminal, entering a bus station, waiting for a bus to the plane, boarding the bus that was mostly standing room…

… and then standing there inside the stationary bus for 20 minutes when a flight attendant showed up to notify us that one of the flight crew had not shown up and the replacement had only just arrived at the airport and was 15 minutes from the gate. I could have gotten a seat when I got on, but I left them for those who needed them more. But by the end of the wait and the drive, I felt like I might have been the one who needed it most. After all, how many of the people in those seats had needs equivalent to someone who had gotten only an hour of sleep in the last 26 hours and had walked over 28 miles under load in that time? Certainly not all of them.

Yet despite all that, I couldn’t fall asleep on that flight. I tried. But I was awake at the beverage service. And after that I just gave up and watched one of the shows I had downloaded until the descent started. We were in the air less than two hours, so it wouldn’t have bought me much energy anyway.

Thankfully, the Hollywood Burbank Airport is much smaller than SLC. Just a hundred yards from the gate, I stepped out into the little covered courtyard with the two baggage carousels. I looked up and saw the sky coated with clouds, saw the haze hiding the buildings and mountains in the distance, and wondered if I was really in southern California.

15 minutes later, my backpack arrived on the carousel. I pulled out my hat and sunglasses and started walking down the sidewalk in the direction of my hotel. Right across the street from where the airport sidewalk ended was a McDonald’s, and I was feeling actually hungry. But it was still too early for lunch. I got a sausage biscuit and an iced coffee, which I hoped would power me until I could get some proper sleep.

I won’t say too much about the hotel. It was the same way I stayed at when I flew to Burbank in 2020 so you can probably find more about it in the backlog. It was basically the same except the jack in the box next door seemed finished or renovated and the pool was now open. They didn’t have a room ready, so I left my pack with them and walked over to the shopping center I visited the last time I had stayed there.

I popped into the REI but realized I didn’t really need anything from there, so I ended up just leaving after using the bathroom. You can also find a picture of that bathroom in the backlog. But just down the street was the Walmart, so I went in to buy food. I didn’t really need much food. I was only going to be out there two days one night, and I wasn’t going to buy a propane can to use once, so I didn’t need to buy dinners to cook–I had another plan for dinner. I had a bunch of snacks and tortillas left over from Montana, so everything I ended up buying fit in a single bag.

On the way back, it was already afternoon, finally time for some proper lunch. I stopped in to the Olive Garden for some soup, salad, and breadsticks. But I decided to start with dessert this time. I ordered the new strawberry cream cake, but they hadn’t thawed it yet, so I got the cheesecake instead. When I had my fill of their excellent salad and paid my check, the waitress handed me a free slice of the cream cake to go… just to try, I suppose.

So I carried those two bags back to my hotel, checked in, got my backpack, went up to my room, couldn’t get the card to work, went back to the lobby, got assigned a different room, got into that one okay, dropped everything I was carrying, stripped, showered, plugged in my nearly dead phone, and finally went to bed.

Trail miles: 15.3

Total miles: I think about 28.6

The Other Half of Day 65: Burbank

My plan for the back half of the day was simple. There was nothing left to do but eat, really. I woke up about 5, did a phone call getting my future flights squared away, wasted a bit of time, and then called a Lyft to the nearest Salsa and Beer location.

There was a host outside, but I went right in and sat at the bar. I got an enormous plate of spicy pork, a margarita, and a huge burrito to go. The latter was the main reason I had selected this restaurant. Since I couldn’t cook on this hiking leg, I figured I could just we wrap a burrito and stick it in my bear can. LA doesn’t have too many different options for burritos and I was assured that Salsa and Beer had the best burritos in the area, in the whole metropolis, in the whole country, in the world. I don’t know if I believe that claim even now, but again, LA is more of a taco town, so there really isn’t that much competition there. As regards the enormous proportions, that was not a consideration. It just happens that all the food sold there comes in size “way more than you can feasibly eat”.

The guy sitting next to me at the bar could hardly speak English, but once I started a conversation just to be friendly, he wouldn’t let it stop. Eventually, he bought me a glass of tequila, and then started asking nosy questions about where I would be. It became clear even through he was trying to pick me up. I gave up on the spicy jalapeƱo pork only halfway partially because it was way more than I could fit in my body and partially so I could leave sooner and stop being pestered by him. He was trying to buy my another tequila by the end, but I refused and called a Lyft back to the hotel. I didn’t get any blog work done like I had planned because of the interruptions, but it was worth it for the free tequila obviously.

Back in my room, I packed up the food I bought and got my pack ready to hike, then uploaded a couple of posts from bed. I found that despite the afternoon nap, I was sleepy starting at 10, which corresponded to my usual sleep time of 11 when I was in the Mountain time zone. Staying up all night and sleeping all afternoon hadn’t thrown off my biological clock at all. So I shut off and fell asleep by 10:30.

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