CDT Day 52: below Bald Peak to Railroad Creek – One, two, three, four, five, six Thunderstorms Camp to Goodbye Montana Camp
Miles hiked: 25.5
Total miles: 872.1
Today we said goodbye to the great state of Montana. We’ve been ducking in and out to Idaho for hundreds of miles now, but Montana is where it all began. Montana has the big sky, and I’ll miss it. Thank you for the spectacular days and rainy nights.
Camping under dark trees meant a late start this morning. 7:30am, hiking up switchbacks in the cold. Clear sky, clear mind. Hey, wouldn’t you know it, at the top of the climb there were some awesome views. Besides the Tetons, I couldn’t tell you what any of it was, but it was sweet. In the immediate vicinity there was a big peak and ridge of red rock, cliffy in parts, crumbly in others. This obscured the view to Targhee Pass, but looked better anyway. To the north there were some sharp peaks, a different looking rock for sure. East, West Yellowstone was buried in low cloud. South, the aforementioned Tetons and flatlands of Idaho.
The ridge walking was cruisy and rewarding. I went about as slow as I possibly could, savoring being up high for I could see where the trail was headed. Yellowstone National Park is known for many things, geysers, bears, wolves, bison, dumb tourists, but mountains isn’t on that list. Nope, I could see a sea of green extending to the horizon in that direction. A transition on the way.
Wallace caught up to, then passed Spice and me as we breaked at the last vista before the big drop into the endless forest. It was a quick six miles from there to Hwy 20, not much of note besides a small horse carrying a very large man.
First lunch on a gravel road, then second lunch at the last water before camp, 12 miles away. Spice got a head start, so I plugged into some tunes to help my mind escape for a while. The trail was in great shape, popular with mountain bikers for good reason. The huckleberries appeared to be in season, but were mostly picked clean. However, free snacks or no, the hiking was easy through lodgepole forest, gently graded and buffed out. Many miles, a couple hours. I found Spice waiting on top of a grassy hump, surprised by her willingness to tolerate my stinky feet.
Taylor Swift’s 1989 powered our mad descent through the trees to the MT-ID border. Sunset streaked a few sparse clouds pink as we left Montana behind for good, following a railroad turned gravel road the final few miles to camp.
Gather water and set up to cowboy in near darkness. I fumbled around for this and that, eventually finding the Carrot Cake Oreos that I’d been looking for. When we started this journey, the sun didn’t set until after 9:30pm. Now it’s dark before 9pm. The season progresses, we move south. One down, another tomorrow. Three left after that. Many miles left to hike. Much more to see. Will it be enough?