Date- July 7, 2019
Distance Traveled Today- 23.9 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 339.3 miles
Weather/Temp- rainy, overcast, hail, 50s
Pain level- low
Wildlife encounters- mule deer
Days without shower- 0
Days without laundry- 2
It was raining when I woke at 6 am and it continued to rain until almost 7am. When there was finally a break, I jumped out into the cold and broke camp. Pyromaniac Dale had the same idea and was also packing up when I finally emerged from the hammock.
As far as days go, it wasn’t a difficult one. The trail was mostly gravel service roads and the climbs were moderate. The only downer was the intermittent rain throughout the day.
When it came to views, it was mostly farmland. There were more cows today than any other day. Honestly, I’m surprised it took this long to run into them, as I saw quite a few more before this point in 2017. From here on out, there should be an inordinate amount of cows from here until Mexico. They certainly can make for some interesting trail encounters, as I’m sure you’ll eventually see further on down the trail.
The most difficult part of the day was a final 1,200 ft climb up Priest Pass before a descent to Hwy 12 where we could hitch into Helena. The climb itself wasn’t so bad, but the untold scores of blow-downs made it monotonous. Many required you to walk around them, which in turn made you lose the trail due to the thick overgrowth. All of this cost time and energy at the end of a semi-long day into town.
No sooner were we at the top, the skies burst once again – but this time with a mixture of hail, heavy rain, and deafening thunder. It lasted for nearly the entire 3-mile descent to the road.
A Break in the Rain
We caught a break at the road as the rain lifted and a rainbow appeared towards Helena – the land of plenty. Still, we had one more mile to walk uphill on the highway to reach McDonald Pass where we could safely hitch.
As we rounded up over the pass at around 5 pm, there was a van already pulled over, seemingly having some issues. There was a middle aged man and woman standing outside it with what appeared to be their teenage daughter. We called across the highway and asked if they needed help and learned that they’d just finished changing a tire. They asked if we were hiking the Divide. We told them we were. They asked where we were headed that day. We replied, “Helena.” They invited us to “hop in.”
This was as fast as hitches get. The only faster hitch is the ride offered before the hitch even begins or is talked about. The man’s name was Dan, a Helena native, and he took us straight to the Budget Inn Express where we had made reservations earlier in the day.
Jetpack and Salty joined us a couple hours later and we split the room four ways. As it turned out, they had actually been behind me when I went up the ridge. Morning Glory and Obama had just been unclear about who Salty and Jetpack were. At some point, Jetpack and Salty had taken an alternate route, and I’d gotten ahead of them before the ridge. So they ended up camping where they mentioned they wanted to camp the previous night.
I’m ready for some serious R&R now. This has been a more than 200 mile push without a break and my body needs it. I always feel stronger after a zero, once the initial sluggishness of coming out of town wears off. Also, I have a pretty massive day planned for this next stretch…
You can read all of my current and past posts, and see all of my photos by clicking this link and going to Boundlessroamad.com