Zen On Dirt

CDT Day 103 – Bidding farewell – Snowstorms, hike-a-bikes, and once again, beautiful trail

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It was our last day riding on the CDT today. From here, it’s mostly dirt roads to the border with a little bit of extra credit trail thrown in.

I’m not really sure how I feel about that. A part of me is so beyond happy that I won’t have to push my bike up another fall-line hill on the CDT (Since we may hit up some trails on our way to the border, so I’m not completely counting out hike-a-bike in my near future), but another part of me is sad that the trail goes into Wilderness and National Parks for the rest of the state and that we’re leaving the trail that we’ve called home for the past three and a half months. Well, technically, we could ride almost 50 more miles of “trail”, but it would put us way in the opposite direction of where we want to go. We’ve done one Pacman shape this trip in the Big Hole Valley, we didn’t really feel the need to do another this late in the game.


It was, as expected, a cold night. The 40 degree bags aren’t really cutting it any more and I spent a good amount of time listening to the silence of the forest. It was eerily quiet once the wind stopped – no creaks of trees, rustle of grasses, chips of devil chipmunks. Spooky.

When I pulled my hat up in the morning, the sky was gray. Please tell me that the sun just hasn’t come up…it can’t be that cloudy already. I rolled over and looked west, even darker. Ugh. At least it wasn’t raining yet.


We ate (oats with a peanut butter packet swiped from Butte continental breakfast, honey packet from New Mexico, dried mangos, and an Almond Joy bar all mixed together), packed up while complaining about the cold, and headed down the trail.

Annoyingly ridable. Rocky. Terrible for cold hands. “Ten miles, we only have to do this for ten more miles,” I kept reminding myself.


We emerged from the trees to a grassy ridge and the trail stopped. “I guess this is the cross country section,” Scott said, surveying the following tree-less humps that stretched into the distance. To the east, sunshine flooded the valley. To the west. Voldemort-esque clouds hovered, pressing right up to the divide. We could see rain showers coming down the distance and strong winds threatened to knock us off our bikes while bringing the rain towards us.


Time to go! At the very least, we wanted to get over the exposed section before the rain hit so that we could huddle under our tarp if needed. It was too cold to even contemplate being okay with getting wet.


The snow started as we were reaching the final open highpoint. Snow from the left. Sun to the right. The clouds socked in. Visibility went to 40 feet. Uh oh.

We pushed on, descending into the trees, the snow getting stronger.

We started to contemplate the tarp and stopped to put a second jacket on. By the time we got both arms into sleeves, the snow had stopped. By the time zippers were up, the sun had come out and all trace of snow had disappeared, leaving us wondering if we were imagining the whole thing.


And then the trail turned good. Instead of hike-a-bike both up and down, we were floating down wide switchbacks and through open meadows with flowers. The trail giveth, the trail taketh away.

The sudden increase in our fortunes made me giddy. “I love you CDT!” I thought, clearly forgetting that just an hour prior I had been hike-a-biking up hills far faster than my “two steps, look up the hill, sigh, take two more steps” normal pace, trying to outrun the storm.

But that’s how this whole trip has been. When it’s good, it’s really good. When it’s bad, it’s really bad. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Love and hate.


We dropped out on a brief section of GDMBR and CDT overlap, rode it to our drop to Lincoln, did a little happy dance, and started on the 15 mile, 1,900 drop to town. Just like that, off the trail.

We ran into Spatula (last seen in Ghost Ranch) walking down to town. We met two GDMBR riders from New Zealand and Australia in the park, Arborist (last seen in Grants) and Atlas (last seen in South Pass City) are here. The Viking and his hiking partner are also in town.


The motel owner told us that hikers had to be in and out of here by Sept 1 in order to make it. People are definitely scrambling. Nights are getting cold.

Looks like we have a good three day window of weather, so we’re going to bounce over to Ovando for an easy day tomorrow, then over Richmond the day after, and then hopefully ride some Alpine Trail into Columbia Falls/Whitefish the day after, which puts us there exactly in time to miss picking up passports at the post office on Saturday. D’oh.


C’mon weather. One more week.


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