The next morning we slept in pretty late. It was cool, the windows were wide open, we had two fans blowing. And we were in no hurry.
We decided that instead of parting ways in Many Glacier, I would go with Mama to East Glacier Park and stay at the historic Glacier Park Lodge, and then she would bring me back to Many Glacier in the morning. Otherwise, I would just have been staying in the Many Glacier campground with nothing in particular to do.
We packed up and left at checkout time and not a moment before, lying around in the cool morning air and eating breakfast in the room. We took the route to East Glacier Park that would take us past Two Medicine Road so we could go up to see Two Medicine.
It was about an hour’s drive down with only brief stops to look at the scenery and let the rangers at the gate know we weren’t carrying fireworks into the park.
Just inside the park, we stopped at Running Eagle Falls and did a short 0.3 mile hike to the falls. It was a very clever waterfall with separate stacked falls, one behind and below the other. I wouldn’t have even thought it was possible. But it was not nearly as impressive as Apikuni. Also, the story of the warrior-woman Running Eagle, who had been buried in a tall tree overlooking that falls, was perhaps more interesting than the falls itself.
We proceeded into the Two Medicine Campground and found a nice spot in the group campsite for a picnic. (It had been set aside for day use for the Fourth of July weekend.) We had a bit of shade and a view of the creek right next to where the CDT passed, so I technically walked on part of the CDT at one point. I’m not going to count it as trail miles though. We could also see families of ducks floating by. And some bighorn sheep.
After lunch, we swung by the camp store and I got some huckleberry cider and huckleberry flavor Wiley Wallaby’s for a snack. We talked with some other tourists from Indiana on the deck beside the store.
It was already well into afternoon, so it was time to get on down to East Glacier Village to check in to the lodge. It was only a few minutes away. After checking in, we went across the street to the Glacier Park Trading Post to drop off my resupply package and grab some drinks for the evening. We made it back to the hotel in time to move all our stuff up to our room and then take the hotel historic tour with the bellman. He was clearly interested in the history but didn’t have quite all the details straight yet. Still it was fun to banter with him and ask him things he didn’t know.
Later on, a bit of research indicated there was an inn for backpackers behind the Mexican restaurant across the street, and since none of the places I tried calling about accommodations when I came back through were answering, we decided to go ask the Mexican restaurant in person. We walked across the street, asked the bartender, found out the cabins behind the restaurant had been converted to employee housing when the restaurant had changed owners, and got on the list to eat there.
We got a table on the back patio sooner than expected given how busy they were, and the food was actually amazing. Great portion sizes. I had the “Plato El Jefe” (Boss’s Favorites), including a chile relleno, an enchilada, and a rare asada steak. Mama had an enormous taco salad. We split a quesadilla as an appetizer. Mama actually had a house margarita on the rocks since we weren’t driving. I tasted it. It was perfect.
As we walked back to the hotel into the setting sun, trying and failing to get pictures of the lodge because of the backlight, we could here the distant pops of fireworks getting started. Later on, in our room, with the sun fully set, we retired to our private balcony to see what fireworks we could see. (I also had to finish my last Huckleberry Blonde Ale and the last of my huckleberry pie.) We ended up staying up until 11pm with all the light and noise out there.
But that wasn’t going to prevent me from getting back on the trail as early as possible the next morning.
We didn’t really have to hurry to get out of the West Glacier RV Park. We only had a few miles to go to our next destination and could fill the hours between as we liked. Since I stayed up late, I slept as late as my body would let me, then cooked one of our microwave breakfast sandwiches and had a bagel and yogurt and fruit and coffee for breakfast.
Finally, just about checkout time at 11, we were packed up and ready to go. The first stop was the Mercantile for some butter. Or rather vegetable oil spread because I wanted it to be easily spreadable.
Then we stopped at the Backcountry Permit Office to discuss the trail conditions and the finer points of acquiring a backcountry permit the following morning. We also watched the required 15 minute video while we were there. We decided that a very early start the following morning to get into the office first would be called for.
Then we decided to go west out of Apgar and see what was that way. We stopped and ate ate the turkey sandwiches I had made at Fish Creek Picnic Area. While we were there, we had plenty of cell service, so we watched a docuvertisement about the “famous” Polebridge Mercantile. We decided we might as well go see it.
It was 30 miles up a dirt road just outside the park’s west side, and there it was, a cleared flat dirt lot filled with cars. And even just outside the door of the merc it smelled like sweet and cinnamon baked goods. I bought a loaf of fruit fritter, Mama got an apple danish, and they threw in a day-old pizza rollie.
We asked about the gas they had. They said 6.50/gal, 3 gal max. We decided we had enough to get back to West Glacier.
On the way back, we stopped at a restaurant and bar that was not nearly as popular as the merc. We decided to pass on eating there. I certainly wasn’t hungry.
We stopped at the Glacier sign on the way back in for a picture, then at the gas station in West Glacier before heading out to check into Lake Macdonald Lodge. Because we checked in fairly early, we got one of the better rooms on the second floor. No lake view, but a big window and a fan to put in it.
After we had brought in what we were going to bring in, I spent a couple of hours in the lobby trying to get some pictures uploaded for you readers. I was interrupted because Mama was hungry so we went down to the lake to eat supper. Then I left to continue my blogging project and even get a nice tepid shower to cool off before we returned to the lakeside to try to watch sunset. But there were clouds completely obscuring the sun and there wasn’t much to see.
And, given that I was going to have to get up really early in the morning, I got to bed as soon as I could after that. It was still hot in the room but the temperature was starting to drop and the fans helped. I’m sure I was asleep before 11.
Day 54: Rising Sun
My alarm went off at 4am and I started getting up and getting dressed and was ready to leave by 4:30. Destination? Backcountry Permit Office in Apgar Village. Mama dropped me off there just before 5 and I was the first in line.
What followed was three hours of sitting on the ground hoping my itinerary would be possible. At first there was enough wireless data that I could watch TV shows, but then more people showed up making meaning I couldn’t make so much sound. (I had left my headphones in the room on accident.) Then the whole village started waking up and the data speeds just evaporated.
Finally, I got inside and there was a mad rush all over the park as 8 group leaders in four locations were all putting together permits at the same time. The rangers were pretty surly compared to how friendly they had been the day before. My itinerary was almost finished being plugged in when the last day didn’t work out. And then a ranger suggested putting me on a permit that was being made at another location. It got me to most of the places I wanted to be on the days I wanted to be there. The only downsides were a very long day later in the week and the fact I would have to pay for a night I had no intention of using. I took it because it seemed likely to free up sites for other people and they said there was no problem adding Jacob to it.
I was done by 8:20 but no one else there was going past the lodge so I walked over to the visitor’s center while calling Mama at the lodge to come get me. She picked me up there and brought me back to the lodge, at which point we had a leisurely rest of the morning, not leaving until checkout time at 11. I had what amounted to a McDonald’s breakfast meal with sausage egg McMuffin and some wifi time in the lobby. Finally, we set out to drive the whole Going-To-The-Sun Road.
We stopped a few times along the way so that we took all day to finish it. We walked the Trail of the Cedars (a mile of hiking!), climbed up to a waterfall near the Weeping Wall, wandered around the Logan Pass Visitor’s Center, checked out the CDT crossing, had lunch overlooking St. Mary Lake, hiked out to Sun Point (separately–I also literally ran over to Baring Falls while Mama was at Sun Point), and got the famous photo overlooking Wild Goose Island before we made it to the Rising Sun Motor Lodge.
We checked into our cabin, put all our food inside, then left again immediately to check out the restaurants in St. Mary town.
We stopped at Johnson’s and heard it had an hour wait. We went up the road and everything else seemed closed, so we came back and signed in on the wait list. We were one of the last few seated and one of the last to leave after it closed. I had a huge spinach salad with chicken and huckleberry cream fizz, and Mama got the special, which turned out to be beef sliced and drenched in gravy with sides of bread, decent mashed potatoes and undesirable cole slaw, most of which she gave me. She also ordered huckleberry ice cream and ate most of it because I couldn’t find anything special about it.
And with that we returned to the cabin, opened the window and stuck the fan in front of it, and went straight to bed. Another early morning awaited.
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)
I had set an alarm for 5am, but I managed to turn it off and then sleep nearly until 6. Fair enough. I hadn’t gotten to sleep early.
The sun was well and truly risen by the time I got started hiking… and was soon hidden by an unexpected haze. I was an unaccustomed dim morning. Clearly it didn’t seem like morning to Banshee. He was still snoring when I walked out.
My water bag was nigh empty. I had used most of the last of my water on my breakfast smoothie. It couldn’t be helped. I had carried all the water I could and had not wasted it. But it looked like there was a spring just 4 miles ahead in the Saddle Rock Riparian Area.
It was cool, easy downhill hiking with plenty of views. Views of clouds. It was overcast as heck and the sun was barely shining through.
The tank in the river wash was indeed filled with sedimenty water, so I stopped for a snack and filtered some to carry away.
But then there was an even bigger water tank just 2.5 miles further down the wash. And then I was being passed by trucks going up the dirt road into the wash. One stopped to say hi and told me Highway 180 was not heavily trafficked. And then I was in a herd of cows. And then I was at the highway and there were tons of cars and big trucks. And moments later I was in one of those cars headed into Silver City.
To be clear, I was still on the trail. The last 13 miles of the CDT into Silver City is a walk along that busy paved highway. And if there is anything I did not come out here for, it’s walking well into the evening with cars and big rigs zooming past. Better to see the trail from inside one of those cars.
Riley dropped me at the Triple Crown Hostel. A voice on the doorbell speaker told me to go sit in the courtyard until he came. Rory was already in the courtyard exercising, trying to heal his wound knees. Blitz shooter up just in time for the owner to arrive and check us in and give us a tour together. He had walked on that highway for 13 miles because he is a crazy purist.
After showers and leaving some laundry to be done, we headed out to the Toad Creek Brewery for lunch. We ate a ton, including green chile cheese fries, Baja fish tacos, New Mexico Reuben, all of which we shared. I finished it all off with a root beer float of course.
Since we had borrowed bikes from the hostel to get around, we decided to explore the downtown area, visiting the two outfitters. While Blitz took time agonizing over which new shoes to buy, I visited the co-op grocery store, which was so small there was a line outside to get in so it didn’t exceed its 8 person capacity. I got a box of Virgil’s Root Beer and some Siggi’s Skyr for breakfast. Then I went back for my bike and told Blitz I was heading back alone.
But no sooner had I gotten back than I realized I hadn’t gotten any moleskin at the gear store. Rabbitfoot, still exercising on the patio, suggested leucotape instead, and it turned out that that’s what I could get at the gear store when I got back to it (after finding the wrong kind of moleskin at the other gear store). I found Blitz there finally leaving with a brand new pair of shoes. He went off to the post office and I returned to the hostel.
I got back with just enough time to go through my food to see what I needed to buy before Brendon left to go pick up Annika at the airport. He would drop me off at Walmart on the way out and pick me up on the way back. Banshee arrived and checked in just before we left. He had done “half” the road walk before getting a ride.
Once at Walmart, I bought what was on my list quickly (plus some A&W root beer to share at the hostel since the Virgil’s wasn’t very good) and spent most of the half hour I had there waiting in line at the register. I spent another fifteen minutes or so sitting in front of the building waiting for my ride back. It rained on me. All those clouds had been for something after all.
Once back at the hostel, Annika was being checked in and Rabbitfoot was finished with his doctor prescribed exercises, so I proceeded to cut up and distribute the amazingly sweet watermelon I had acquired. Soon, though, I realized I had neglected to acquire better headphones or a razor at Walmart. So I hopped on a bike and went back out. I made two stops. At a local grocery, I got cheap razors and a new toothbrush and toothpaste set. At the Family Dollar, I got some cheap headphones (2 for me 1 for Blitz), a Gatorade to hike out with, and a Hot Pocket for supper.
Back at the hostel, I mostly skipped out on the socializing and yoga sesh happening on the porch in favor of packing up my resupply, phoning home, and working on this blog until I gave up waiting for pictures to upload and fell asleep. Plans were in place for the next two weeks. Hiking would recommence in the morning.
It was an interesting little section of trail down across and along the road into Campo as I could see the border wall for the first time. I kept imagining what it would be like to be a northbounder starting out here seeing all this in the other direction. It was only 4 miles to Campo, but I didn’t get out of camp as quickly as I wanted to.
I had planned to meet Mama at the Campo Green Store at 9:30, but I didn’t actually roll up until just before 10. She had brought a lot of different food and beer and the lack, and I ate a pancake right then and there. I also bought a root beer in the store and drank it. Why not?
I pulled out my day pack and packed it for the the two miles to the border and then sunscreened up. It was a hot morning and the wind wasn’t as bad as it had been. Mama did a lot of getting ready too, redressing for the trail conditions. It was probably 10:30 before we finally started walking.
The trail continued up the road, occasionally wandering a few feet away for a moment, then coming back to cross it. We passed a small hiker campground just a mile from the border, presumably for hikers who start their northbound hike really late in the evening for whatever reason. The trail crossed and tracked some dirt roads at this point, and we were constantly passed by trucks spraying water to keep down the dust. Other construction vehicles were constantly running up to the wall as it was under repair and improvement.
We reached the monument by 11:30, and I immediately signed the register. Then, I climbed all over the monument while pictures and videos were taken, frequently interrupted by the sounds of earthmoving machines next to the wall. We ate a lime, I drank a beer, and then our ride back to the store arrived to pick us up at noon.
It was one of the store operators, and she drove down to bring us back in her SUV, telling about the wall on the way. Turns out it predates the Trump Administration, and it had greatly improved the crime situation in the city since it was erected. Border jumpers used to knock on her house at night as the crossed right through her yard. Even with the CBP office right there in town, only the wall had put a stop to it all.
My opinion of it as a nonresident of Campo was that it didn’t look very good in photos. It kind of ruined the landscape, where hills had been arbitrarily cut away to make room for it. I don’t particularly begrudge it, but I sure wish there was a more attractive way to keep them safe.
Anyway, at my request, we drove back to the Oak Shores Malt Shop for lunch. I got to try one of their burgers this time. It was quite good, but I didn’t rate it above the Paradise Valley BMW burger. I also had another fancy small batch root beer.
Next was a four-hour drive to Joshua Tree National Park. It wasn’t on the trail, so I hadn’t seen it. We got into the park just after sunset, and didn’t even see any Joshua trees until well after dark by the light of our headlights. But we did get to see a fox on the side of the road. And we stopped to see a bunch of scary-looking cacti.
Just north of the park exit was 29 Palms, where we stopped at a grocery store to buy things to eat for the rest of the week. I made all the decisions here about what I wanted to cook, and it ended up as quite a lot of food in a very eclectic assortment.
Another two hour drive into the mountains followed. We came into Big Bear Lake along the same route I had walked in, and I pointed out many of the places I had visited on my long walk. On the other side of town, we found our cabin and unpacked. Dinner was instant mashed potatoes and gravy and pre-prepared fried chicken. And Julian’s famous apple pie for dessert. Thank goodness it was quick to prepare, as it was very late.
A monster furnace in the floor kept us warm, although we still built a fire in the fireplace. We had free access to Disney+ on the TV. I got a shower and a change of clothes (including underwear for the first time in months!) and didn’t get to bed in the little attic until after midnight. It wasn’t the most comfortable bed in the world, but it was quite cozy. I got a full night’s sleep.
Total distance: 6 miles
After a nice early morning fixing a breakfast filled with buttery toast, scrambled eggs, blueberry pancakes, and coffee, I happily wasted the morning doing nothing of consequence. Around midday, we went out for a drive through town to see what was happening. We continued around the lake, and then tried to take Delamar Mountain Road up to where it met the PCT. Stymied by ice on a steep hill, we had to turn around a beat a retreat just before the trail. We finished looping the lake, stopped in at the ski resort to see how popular it was, then returned to the cabin for a late lunch followed by sunset hot tubbing.
Dinner was steak, beans, and stuffing. I mixed my stuffing with leftover mashed potatoes. More beer and root beer was consumed. And of course more pie. We watched A Goofy Movie and Newsies at my request. We skipped the fire this time to save the rest of the wood for our last night. Went to bed well after midnight. My body was already adjusting to later nights, and…
…later mornings. I had zero interest to go anywhere at all this day. Cooking and grazing in a cozy cabin still felt like a treat compared to the constant motion of the trail. While Mama went to explore the town on her own, I spent a couple of hours just watching the first few episodes of Disney’s Gargoyles. (In case you don’t remember it, it was that high-budget action-adventure animated serial with more guns and gunfights than appeared in any other animation with Disney’s name on it.)
After lunch, we gathered some kindling for the night’s fire. I checked out the other houses below us near the lake. I got my things packed to go in advance of the next day’s departure. I skipped sunset this night for a shower, then went in for a several hour late night soak in the hot tub while writing more blog posts.
Dinner was late again and entirely leftovers, except for the canned beans and beets. (Speaking of cans, this cabin had every kitchen utensil you could want except a can opener. I severely dulled my knife blade just opening cans.) Also, we finished the pie!
I lit up the fire into a roaring blaze and kept it going while we watched Safety, the new Clemson University propaganda film about Ray McElrathbey. Then a preliminary bit of cleaning before getting to bed just after midnight. It couldn’t be too late because we needed to be…
…up early in the morning. Relatively early anyway. There was still a minor amount of cleaning and packing to be done, especially regarding the leftover food items. We’d done a pretty good job eating through most of it, packed out some, and gave the rest away to the neighbors. Finally, around 10am or so, we got on the road.
It was a two-hour trip, descending most of the time. We went down the mountain on the opposite side we came up from, and the views were spectacular with the clouds wafting across the hills below us, though they never remained visible long enough to get a good picture. Once we were down from the mountain, we stopped going west, and instead went south to meet the I-8 freeway east to Desert Springs.
We passed right by the casino I took so many photos of as I climbed San Jacinto, and I noted the underpass the PCT went through when we went over it. I could see many of the places I had gone that day from the road. After a brief detour to fill up the gas tank, we were dropping off the car at the airport and heading inside to check my backpack. We had done such a good job getting to the airport, the baggage check desk wasn’t even open yet. Once it was, we went painlessly through security, then explored the tiny little Desert Springs Airport for a few minutes before going to chill at our gate.
The flight for the first leg wasn’t crowded despite being a small jet. I got a blog post written on the way. During a three-hour layover at Sea-Tac, we sampled every food offering in the Delta lounge. I learned that Delta has their own branded IPA served only (and freely) in their lounges, though I have no idea who brews it.
The second flight was a good bit longer, of course, as it had to cross the entire country. Mama had a first class upgrade, and I had a comfort+ row to myself. I got several more blog posts written over the course of the flight.
We didn’t land at ATL until 11pm, and we caught a Lyft back home. It was the first time I had seen my home turf in six months. Not too much had changed overall. Many things had changed in my hometown. Most hadn’t. Our driver was a newbie to Atlanta. He had a lot of interesting thoughts along the way. I followed him on Insta.
My dad did not hear the doorbell when we arrived, so I fetched a spare key. He didn’t hear us come in or call to him. As such, I scared him half out of his socks just by walking into the kitchen to offer to take out the trash for him. I’m lucky he wasn’t holding a knife he was so startled.
Anyway, I was home. I am home. I’m done hiking for a while. Since June I lost a solid 80 pounds walking some 2400 trail miles and many more besides. I haven’t bothered to add it up exactly because all that matters now is the sections I had to skip.
And I will go back to finish up. There’s nothing like home for the holidays, but once the trail becomes passable again, I’m going to be out there again. I can have it all wrapped up in just a few short weeks. And when I do, you’ll read about it here. Arigatougozaimashita for reading this far, omedetou for getting caught up, jaa matane, oyasuminasai.
Despite my late night, I still managed to at least get up at an early enough hour that I thought I could get to the trail by noon. I cut the oversize plastic covers off the aglets of my new laces, installed them on my boots, tied the excess lace around my ankles, and went out for some breakfast.
For various reasons, it was around 10am by the time I started hiking. The trail was just a slow climb up the side of Delamar Mountain. I stopped for a snack at Delamar Mountain Rd, where a truck was parked and people were coming by looking for the trail.
So, I took a zero in Bend. Bend is a great place, but it is certainly not on trail, which means it’s time for another AmAzInG DoUbLe DaY PoSt!!!!…
Honestly, my zero wasn’t very fun. I spent the vast majority of it in a coin laundromat a 20 minute walk from my motel. That is, I got one load going and ran it all the way through until done. Solid two hours. Then I changed into the clean clothes and washed the ones I was wearing, then went out for a meal of fast tacos and a trip to the grocery to pick up some limes. Then, back at my room, I realized I had forgotten to wash a critical item and walked all the way back out to wash a third load. Finally, it was so late that I had to skip drying it and go.
Why? Because I needed to get to REI, a 30 minute walk in the other direction, with enough time to try on clothes and so forth. I bought some waterproof gaiters, snow pants, a snow jacket, new trekking poles. I had meant to exchange some busted items, but I had been in such a hurry I’d forgotten to grab them. I don’t think I remembered to check whether they had canister fuel, though I expect the shortage was affecting them as well. I would end up starting the next section with only the fuel I had on hand.
Finally, after a day that was nothing but work, I set out carrying my busted, overflowing REI bag to do one fun thing in Bend. (The only bags they had were busted by default.)
I let Google route me to Crux Fermentation Project, the brewery halfway between REI and my motel that looked like it had some good stuff online. But I didn’t trust Google enough once the brewery came into site and tried to take a shortcut. I circled around a jumbled pile of stuff in the middle of a field with the sound of a generator running inside and realized I had stumbled on a homeless camp. On the other side was an impassable drop onto a railroad track. I worked my way back to the Google approved route.
Anyway, it was a nice restaurant and brewery with multiple places to order and a big field and tent beside it with a giant fire and a lot of chill people enjoying their evenings. It was the most normal social event I had seen in a town in a long time. Aside from the masks and distance between groups, of course.
I ate a bowl of something vaguely mex inspired and drank two of their favorite beers, which brought me right to closing time, then started back to the motel, which surprised me by how close it was.
I got up quite early and repacked my pack to incorporate the new items to get out of my room by 8:20. I turned in my key and set out down the road to my first destination…
Then I realized I didn’t have my phone and ran back to the motel to get the key back. The manager laughed heartily at my forgetfulness. But by 8:30 I was on my way again. Luckily, everything I needed was only a couple of minutes away.
My first stop was the UPS Store, where I sent home the clothes my recent purchases had obsoleted. Right across the street was Bend’s only (yet controversial) transit center. I was to meet a shuttle here that would leave me at Santiam Pass. To confirm this, I asked a stranger. “Unfortunately, yes,” he quipped, in a way that a native might have understood. He then wanted to continue talking about being careful of all the dangerous animals. Frankly, he creeped me out, so I went to sit far from him.
I didn’t have to wait long. The shuttle showed up on time and the driver was super nice and chill. An hour later, I was at the PCT Trailhead, right at the southern end of the closed section I had had to skip.
The terrain I faced once I crossed the highway was some of the dullest I had seen to date. I can’t even describe how uninteresting it was. It was flat and relatively easy to move through, but there was also someone not far away using machinery that sounded like an industrial strength vacuum. I stopped at a pond to get some water because I had forgotten to get enough from my motel room, and then bypassed the side trip to Big Lake Youth Camp, though I could see Big Lake just fine from the trail.
The trail followed the edge of a lava field and I stopped early at the foot of it in a sandy, flat area that was the last marked campsite in Guthook for ten miles.
I set up camp close to the edge of the lava and climbed inside my tent to do some maintenance. Soon, I heard some activity outside.
Owl and Phoenix had arrived following two consecutive zeroes in Bend. And they had friends with them: Firefly and her partner who was entirely new to long distance hiking but would receive the trail name Grommet that very night. Not after the claymation dog character but for the way he liked to manufacture useful gear for the trail and incorporate grommets into them.
Owl and I rearranged an area next to the lava so we could have a campfire to celebrate the beginning of Grommet’s adventure. We all sat near the fire cooking and eating our own suppers until the sun was gone and a thick fog was rolling in. At that point, we all started getting the urge to turn in led by Phoenix. I was second to hit the sack, hoping to get an early start the next morning.