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Into Montana

Tonight I’m camping out back of Uncle Buck’s Bar and Restaurant by the horseshoe pits. Statements like this seem to accompany things like, “last night we found a nice flat ditch by the side of the road to pitch our tents.” Before I explain let’s go back to Lima.

Out of Lima the weather scare was in full effect. We hit the divide/border of Montana and Idaho quickly. The rain knew we were back as well. The next couple days we trudged up and down in the mud along a fence. We had some glimpses of the snow-covered mountains that were to come. In fleeting moments of sunlight and dispersed clouds our faith in the better days to come was reborn. It is just Kipper and I now. Professor shipped out to get back to his job at the University of Texas. It was great hiking with you professor and I look forward to seeing you out on some trail again! Thanks to Kipper I am still slightly sane. In reality there might not be much sanity left between the two of us but that’s how we like it. No matter how bad we are getting beat the laughter continues. That’s about all you have at times and there has been plenty. The guy’s a great hiking partner.

Leading into Leadore Idaho the sun finally started shining. The animal felt it as well. Along with the millions of cows we see, there was a herd of probably 75 elk. The eagles, ospreys, and hawks have been plentiful. We are up to 4 bald eagles, quite a few golden eagles and tons of ospreys. Still no grizzlies but the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Glacier are still to come. We actually got two whole days in a row where it didn’t rain. Montana knew it too and it wouldn’t have it. We got back to the divide after resupplying in Leodore and the assault continued. The mountains  and valleys out here are huge. Not the tallest we have seen but certainly grand. The bases and valleys are covered in sage while the tops are vast pine and fir forests. The scale of it all is what really messes with your head. You may think a saddle or valley is 5 miles away but it’s really 20 miles away. Luckily for us we couldn’t see anything more than 50 feet in front of us at elevation. We have spent so much time buried in the clouds. One of our nights in the Salmon National Forest it was relatively nice all day and then around 7 we heard the thunder start. Wanting to get another hour or so of hiking in we continued. The thunder got closer and we saw the rain in front of us approaching. We dashed off the trail and set the tents up about as quickly as humanly possible. The moment we made it into our homes the rain came down in sheets. We sat there listening and smiling barely managing to stay dry. Then the lightning moved closer. The cracks of thunder were deafening. Our tents lit up from lightning touching down within 200 feet of us. We were safe on the forest floor with tons of trees acting as lightning rods around us. The next day started with blue skies. Shortly after we started hiking came the clouds. We had one more climb to make until we dropped in elevation for a bit. As we climbed the clouds started whipping in the wind. They were being drug over saddles at speeds I had never seen clouds move. Kipper and I shouted at the sky with fury and laughter. The sky responded with hail and lots of it. We shouted back and it brought rain, then lightening, then mud. We hiked harder and the battle was on. This storm was not going to win. If it was a fight it wanted, we had plenty of fight left in us. We hit the saddle and dropped down. Miraculously, it had seemed we won. The sun came out. The smell of a fresh and vibrant forest was filling our senses. Life was good… I’m talking REAL good! That was the last time it has rained in 5 entire days. The weather during the day has been about as good as it could be. The nights have all been subfreezing temps with frost on the tents every morning but I’ll take it!

We went into Jackson, MT. A tiny little town with a saloon that has a hot spring. At the saloon we met a couple of very sweet girls from Dillon, MT. They let us crash at their house and took us back to the trail the next day. There was nowhere to camp in Jackson so it was a huge help! On the way back to the trail we swung by an old ghost town from the gold mining days. Apparently it is haunted but unfortunately saw no signs of it this day. We had a great Labor Day. Thank you so much Claire and Ellen!

From Jackson we decided to take an alternate that got us off the divide for a little while. It involved some road walking but it was through some gorgeous country. We walked along the Big Hole River down the Big Hole Valley. The weather was perfect and the scenery was no less. On our way to Anaconda we met a lot of really great people who help make a thruhike the special experience that it is. These encounters redeem your faith in humanity and make you remember that the world if full of wonderful caring people. This land out here is filled with people who live simply and treat each other with love and respect. Montana already holds a very special place in my heart.

So, here we are out back of Uncle Bucks Bar and Restaurant in our tents. Tomorrow we climb 2,600 feet back onto the divide. Our short stint in the valley has made us even more eager to see what lies ahead. The beautiful weather helps… With around 400 miles to go and the impending early Montana winter on the horizon, it is time to finish this thing with the same tenacity we started with 128 days ago.

Sent from my iPhone

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