Another early start. By 6:30, when we’re ready to get going, Jacob says he is having trouble eating, didn’t get enough sleep, and doesn’t have it in him to climb back up the hill to Dawson Pass. So we parted ways. He took the trail down the valley and was at Two Med by 10 or 10:30.
By that time, I had climbed up to Dawson Pass and come around the ridge, and was already descending into the Noname Lake valley toward the north shore of Two Medicine Lake. It was beautiful along that upper ridge, views for miles in several directions. But it was also extremely windy. I took my morning snack break in the only spot along the way that had any wind protection.
Coming alongside the lake, I passed a family that had seen several bears just ahead, so I readied my bear spray and forged ahead. I didn’t encounter anything. An hour later I arrived at the Two Med camp store and Jacob was sitting at the table right in front waiting for me with a crowd of tourists and a few other hikers. We grabbed some snacks and carried them over to a less popular picnic area around the corner. He had been sitting so long waiting on me that he thought I might have fallen off a cliff on the way. And he had already had an early lunch while waiting. I practically ate two lunches before we left, the stuff from the store and what I packed in.
Jacob also bought some replacement trekking poles from the store, so we figured the last twelve miles to East Glacier Village would be no big deal. Jacob speculated he might even be able to catch the Atlanta United game. But it turned out to be a much more difficult section than anticipated.
The two mile or so climb at the front was not a surprise. We knew that was coming and that it would be a bit of a haul in the afternoon sun. We got through it with several breaks, usually to talk to the interesting characters we met along the way. It took several hours though.
Then it leveled out when we reached the top of the ridge. We thought there would be no more climbing, but we made a wrong turn toward a scenic overlook that involved another quarter mile of climbing. I definitely had wanted to see it though, so I was happy about the brief diversion.
But it turned out the descent out of the mountains was no walk in the park either. It was actually quite steep. And rocky. Hard on the feet and the legs. Slow going.
We stopped with several other hikers at a creek crossing to collect water. While we were there a single season western loop hiker joined us. He was doing 40 mile days on average and had already done all of the CDT up to Glacier since the beginning of May. But that was just the warmup for his year. He still had a long way to go. But I guess if I had a 7.5 pound base weight and lived off nothing but Clif bars and Pop Tarts, I could do big mileage too, right?
The last five or so miles into town were pretty awful. Everything hurt and the trail was just a muddy dirt road with tons of mosquitos and no views. It was already after 8pm by this point, a time by which we had already been in camp every day previously, but this was our big mileage day. Since everything in town closed at nine, I called the Mexican restaurant and put in an order.
When we got into town, we went straight for the Glacier Park Trading Co to get my box, a razor, detergent, drinks, and beer. The Mexican restaurant was next door and had supper waiting. And then we had to carry all that two blocks to the motel where we could walk right into the room because the motel had no check-in process.
The room was actually pretty good. Full kitchen, fridge for the beer, no bathtub but a deep washtub sink. No air conditioning but screens for the windows. We both decided to shower before we ate. I ate everything I ordered for myself and more (on actual plates with actual silverware no less), but Jacob couldn’t even finish his burrito.
After supper, I went to work in the sink doing my laundry. I stuffed washcloths in the drain, filled it up, poured in some Tide, put my dirties in, then turned the water gray.
It took a while, so I didn’t even get to bed until 11:30, but even though we shared a bed, with the curtains closed and no strength or energy left, we had no trouble falling asleep.
Trail miles: 19.1
The Jacob version:
So… remember that waking up refreshed and not even sore thing? Well, I’m still not sore (a little surprised at that, actually) but I still feel kind of crappy this morning. Eating breakfast was a challenge and mentally, I’m just not really prepared for the day. And it’s a LONG day. About 19 miles. Part of it is just exhaustion and my trouble eating enough and part was because the wind gusts last night kept waking me up because they sounded like cars driving past. They were loud, but weirdly rarely reached ground level.
David had planned on taking an alternate CDT route to Two Medicine that stayed up high longer and offered better views, but it was a little longer and started immediately with a climb back up the pass we’d just descended the previous night. I’d struggled with the steepness coming down so I knew I didn’t have what it took to go up today, especially with a second big climb at the end of the day.
I also didn’t want to keep David from his preference so we agreed to park ways between Two Medicine. I’m more comfortable hiking through grizzly country with people, but this section was close to a busy trailhead so I wouldn’t be on the trail solo for long and the busier section of trail made me think bears would be a little less likely anyway. Plus, that’s why I had the bear spray, right?
The wind gusts hadn’t stopped from the night before and a few of them were strong enough they would push me around a little. Luckily, this trail was all a gentle descent through the valley and not on some exposed ridge like yesterday’s passes. Most of this was a really pretty hike, but it’s just hard to compare it to the views from yesterday’s heights.
But taking this route was a good idea. First, there were not bears. Second, it was really easy. I was able to push through the 2 and half hours it took to hike to the Two Medicine store and feel better when I finished than when I started. Plus, this ended with the bonus of getting a chicken salad sandwich, a coke, and a Powerade when I finished.
I had expected David to beat me there. The map didn’t make it seem like his route was much longer and he’s honestly a much stronger hiker than me and would be keeping a faster pace without having to accommodate me.
But he didn’t beat me there. I finished my lunch. Emptied the trash out of my bag and waited for almost two hours. Just long enough to start thinking about when it would be time to start worrying, but finally he cruised in and I knew I’d made the right decision. If a stronger hiker had taken that long to finish the alternate section, I would have struggled. Instead I’d had a really good meal and a two hour rest and was in an incredible mood. While David shopped for some food of his own, I got an ice cream Snickers bar and a huckleberry cider David recommended.
The rest of the day was actually pretty good. The climb up the last pass on our hike was challenging, perhaps the hardest actual climb of the hike when you add steepness and rocky conditions, but I was feeling pretty good. The view from the top was surprising. Ever other view from the top of a pass had been limited by the mountains on the other side of the narrow valley, but here we were literally at the edge of the mountain range and we just looked out over the plains stretching into the distance. It was the first time in 4 days that how far I could see was limited only by the horizon and not a wall of rock.
This rest of the hike was uneventful. The descent was steep and rocky and my quads were quivering long before we reached the bottom. When the trail finally flattened out to a comfortable descent, it turned into swarms of mosquitoes on a dirt road with no interesting views complicated by the fact that just by the distance we’d traveled I was starting to crash. I was exhausted. Today had been about 19 miles and by the time we got to the store in East Glacier Park, I could barely hold my head up and walk at the same time. A 7-Up helped a bit. Sugar water is beautiful on a hike. When we got to the hotel and started eating after a shower (one of the highlights of the day) I could only finish half of my burrito. My body could have easily used all the calories in there but I was just too tired to eat.
Of course David has been doing distances like this on a regular basis for over a month now and it really puts into perspective just what he’s doing (and did on the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail).
Also I finished and I don’t regret doing it at all so it couldn’t have been that bad.