Friday, August 31, 2007

Aug 25 Mammoth, Yellowstone

I'm in Mammoth waiting for the backcountry office to open. That means I'm in Wyoming, right? Sweet! I'll be headed east from here then south down the Lamar. The first day and a half in the park were very tough--hopefully the river trails I have in mind will be cruisier like the Flatheads. In general Montana was totally amazing. Just a tip for visitors--if you want to be liked say, "my dad went to high school in Browning" not "I'd like to see less cattle-grazing on public land."

Garret was in Dubois today. He says the route he took made him miss most of the northbounders, but thinks he may be ahead of his friend Andy Skurka (headed south) which would be good company if Andy catches up.

Note to parents:
Greetings from Tower Fall Campground. I'm supposed to be at a backcountry site 6 or 7 miles back, but I couldn't bring myself to stop hiking at 5:00, so here I am. Today I saw The Black Canyon of the Yellowstone. Man, it was HOT there for a while - swimming in the Yellowstone was very nice. Do I have a big Yellowstone fan amongst my friends/family? I'm curious. To me, Yellowstone is cool because it's big. It's -really- big. You won't see a fence or a cow for days. But you won't see peaks or drop-dead gorgeous alpine lakes like you would in practically all designated wilderness areas. Maybe I'm being stupid - parks aren't designed to be thru-hiked, and I'm just a mountains guy, and there are plenty of bison/geyser/big boating lakes/meadows lovers out there. Plus, Yellowstone seems like "the west." When you think of the old West, you probably don't think of the peaks of Titcomb Basin in the Winds, because nobody in their right mind would try to homestead there, but yeah, I could see Native Americans hunting here in Ystone, or an old Army fort or what not.
I should've kept track of the number of blisters I've had. Popped another pinky-toe one today. You might think that my feet would be made of steel by now, but that's unfortunately kind of like thinking my teeth should be made of steel after all this eating I've been doing.
It's 8:30--almost hiker midnight.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Aug 21 Ennis MT

From a postcard:

I'm sittng at the ranger station in Ennis trying to figure out the best way from here to Yellowstone. My preferred route crosses private property so I'll make a little change. Also looks like I won't be able to make it to Mammoth Hot Springs before my first night in Yellowstone, so I'll have call and get my permit from here. Aside from these minor annoyances and seeing way too many cattle pooping in my water, all is well. The Tobacco Roots definitely had cool parts. On to the Madison Range.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Aug 19, Whitehall, MT

Me, pointing to where I was at the time. The red blob is a big fire that went from 19,000 acres to 32,000 acres the day the photo was taken.

Yep, that's all smoke in the air as I passed the Fool's Creek fire.

Crap, did I take this? Sure looks pretty. Wish I had some idea where it was. I want to say it was on the border of the Lewis and Clark NF and the Blackfoot reservation near the Swift Dam, but I could be wrong. Yep, I'm wrong, it's in Glacier. It's St. Mary's Falls, or Virginia Falls, one of the two.

The Ahern Drift on the Highline Trail in Glacier. Usually this is a totally treacherous spot because the trail is crazy narrow and the cliff is steep and covered in snow, but there was nothing to worry about when I got there.

Me at the border on August 6 at around 10 AM.

From a postcard: "Please blog this. Aaron Rutman, it has been an honor to call you "one of my four friends" for the last 3 years. It's a shame I've only lived in Berkeley for 2 of the last 15 months. Anyway, as far as the music on the mp3 player you just got back to me: you nailed it, you absolutely NAILED it. Europe's The Final Countdown plus cheesy sing-along songs like Stand By Me, Lean On Me, and Tiny Dancer. I love you, man. Anyway, the hitch out of Butte was a little frustrating but I did like seeing a real shoe store and a K-Mart. Saw my 5th bear yesterday and have been on pleasant farm roads so far today. I can't really tell how long this alternate will take me, despite my dad's excellent mapping job, but should be in Ennis in a day or two. Peace, Garret" (He phoned from Ennis around noon on the 21st.)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Butte, Aug. 18

From a phone call:

No cute girls around. In fact, they're Butte ugly.
Yesterday was a BAD day--feet were bleeding. Not sure if it's the cheap socks or the shoes that last 8 days. Possibly flesh eating bacteria eating the fleshy bottoms of feet.

Despite it all, Garret sounded great and was in high spirits. He just got a new playlist for his MP3 player, so look out for a bearded Onion singing Neil Diamond in your neighborhood.

Lincoln, Aug. 14

From a postcard:

Arrived at Lincoln safely. Thanks to all the rangers and firefighters trying to keep us and our forests safe. Even more thanks to those with some compassion and a sense of adventure as well. I was totally safe, but just barely got through; hikers behind me are totally screwed. On to Butte.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Letter Aug. 9

On Aug. 6 Garret started a letter. On Aug. 9th he finished it. We got it this week.

Here's the deal: He reached the Canadian border at 10:25 AM on the 6th. He kinda wanted to continue on Canada's Great Divide Trail, or take a left and hike along the border, but mostly he "just wanted to turn around and get to Colorado ASAP to see what the the San Juans look like when they aren't filled to the brim with snow."

So he started a westerly route south through Glacier, trying to stay west of the Bob, but fires drove him east. He plans to reach the Mexican border by Nov. 2, making it 95.5 days northbound and 88 days southbound. Which he thinks is doable, but he's going to take a major alternate/detour through Yellowstone (don't send stuff to him between Butte and Dubois).

A ranger he met kept muttering about him being "insane" just like on the PCT when the tough old dudes said, "Have you always had calves that big or you just do a lot of hiking?"

He met with his folks on the 9th and was confused about his plans as the fires keep forcing him to change plans. Needless to say, he's loving his hike. Also, judging from his stationary, he's recently memorized the Gettysburg Address and the Preamble to the Constitution.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Headed South

Garret called me at 5:45 Saturday morning, which would be 6:45 his time. He began with one sentence: "It's cold!" Even though he's at lower altitudes now than he has been at his entire trek, he was really feeling the chill.

He told me that he's on the east side of the Divide (at least that's what I understood) just avoiding wildfires. It's weird to him that he's only going to hike about 5% of Montana on the actual trail, but he's glad to be southbound. He's also hiking closer to towns (thus the ability to call) which is somewhat disappointing. But on the up-side, he's glad he's not risking his life hiking through a forest fire. Also he's seen several bears.

He should hit Lincoln today or so.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

East Glacier, MT

Woohoo! I'm alive! I just walked ~180 miles from Lincoln, almost entirely off the official CDT to detour around 3 huge fires. (Ahorn, Fool's Creek, and Skyland, the last was for a while the top priority fire in America. Check out for really up to date info.) I didn't even know that Skyland existed when I left Lincoln, so I was making up a route on the fly, asking crew I met to radio ahead and see if trails were open. Last night I slept a hundred yards from a dirt road that itself is the firebreak at the east end of the Skyland fire and watched the fires on the hills above me all night. At least they didn't keep me up all night like the wolves a couple nights previous. I also saw a griz yesterday.

So it's been pretty rough/amazing the last little while. I'm excited about heading into Glacier tomorrow.

I need to tell this story: I left Lincoln and was walking on NF roads to get back on the real trail. From Lincoln, I'd ordered a pack from ULA Equipment. (Awesome packs made by a dude in his garage in Logan, Utah.) Only then I'd e-mailed him and asked if he'd like to sponsor me since he sponsored Scott on his 2006 yo-yo. So I wasn't sure if he was going to go through with the order if he didn't want to sponsor me. (I wanted him to, the zipper on my current pack in breaking.) So I asked the first person that stopped when they drove by if they'd relay a message to my mom that explained the situation and asked her to make sure the order went through. This was all semi-urgent because ULA closed Aug.1, I assume so the owner Brian can go on his own adventure. Anyway, the lady was very nice, happily agreed to deliver the message, and gave me $18 and a diet Coke. Then when I caught up to her on the trail (we were both headed to Heart Lake) she said that she wanted to pay for my pack ($175) if Brian decided not to sponsor me. Her friend had recently passed away, leaving her as the beneficiary of a sizable sum. Her friend had loved the outdoors, but hadn't spent enough time there, so she would have loved what I'm doing. Thank you Donna! Also, thanks to Brian, who decided to sponsor me! People are cool.

Also, another neat story from a while back is that when I hitched out of Lander, WY, the random person who picked me up happened to be a friend of my friend John Bellows. Guess that story kind of pales in comparison to the previous heart-warming one.

On to Glacier and the turn-around. Nobody send anything to East Glacier for my Sobo pass-through--thanks to the fires I may come out on the west side of the park near Essex.