Ontario Creek(2478)-McDonald Pass US 12/Helena(2495.5)
I got going by my usual 6:45am time. I haven’t been using an alarm and I’ve even been playing a fun game with myself where I’m not allowed to look at the time until I walk out of camp…it has consistently been within minutes of 6:45am. That just amazes me. I was excited because today was a half day of hiking to town. I was looking forward to the shower, food, and bed. I know people may think I focus too much on my enjoyment of town, but I need to put it in perspective. I’ve been on trail 119 days now and have only spent seven of those days not hiking. Lately, if I have a full day on trail where I’m not headed in/out of town, I hike from at least 6:45am-7:30pm (about 13hrs/day) with one 45min break at 12:30pm for lunch. I’m not super fast, so other than peeing(with my backpack on) or stopping to grab water quickly, I’m hiking. Not just at a leisurely pace, but very briskly. Thru hiking is just different from other backpacking trips. I don’t always hike like this, but on a thru hike, I need to. There is a timer ticking and instead of a bell that goes off, it’s possible fires in Montana or cold rain and snow in Glacier. The weather is my main motivation. I remember reading CDT journals last year and the rains seemed to start as early as Sept 9th (which they can come even earlier). When I did the PCT, I had the same gut feeling and it ended up snowing the day after I finished. My point is, us hikers are working hard all day and it really makes going into town for half a day and sitting still quite a reward. Even though most of it is spent doing laundry, resupplying, and showering, it’s a nice break. The hiking today was pretty smooth with the continued hiccups in the maze of forest service roads, trails, and cairns across fields. It was definitely a good variety today!
A bonus today was that I was able to call and talk to Mtn Rat on my way into town. It was so motivating to talk to someone who has finished and his enthusiasm is just contagious. He is feeling great and said he finished in 111 days and that Ross finished a couple days ahead of him. He had a journal on postholer.com and plans to update it once he gets settled. Way to go Mtn Rat!!!
I was fortunate to have a ride arranged at the pass to take me the ~20mi into Helena. Regular readers will remember that I met a blog follower named Stu just over a week ago (on Day 111) while I was hiking in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness. He and his family live near Helena and his daughter is a fan of the blog too. His wife Jamie and daughter Amanda were able to meet me at the pass today and we had lunch together.
Amanda had prepared a whole list of questions for me that she had typed out on her iPod and asked them as we ate lunch. She is one amazing 10yr old! Her comfort level and composure was very impressive. She was very comfortable with telling me how inspiring the journal is for her and how it lets her know that anything is possible if she sets her mind to it. She seriously said that! I can’t even tell you how much that means to me, and that right there makes all of this journaling and exhaustion worth while! I get emails and messages from adults all the time, but I’m a teacher in the real world and to have an impact like that on a kid is what really makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. Hiking this trail and not sharing it isn’t an option I even allow myself to consider. It is such a privilege to be out here that I feel like I need to earn each day by sharing it and taking others along on the journey. For me, it’s been the journal and the ripple effect that continues to grow from it that keeps me motivated and energized. Lunch with Amanda and Jamie today was just the boost I needed and I am totally PUMPED! Thank you Jamie and Amanda! Oh, and Stu even gave me his bear spray to borrow the rest of the hike, so I am now well armed as I return to grizzly country!
When I got to the motel, Dain’s mom, Kathleen was there. She was picking up Dain, Sweet As, and Aquaman at the pass in the evening. I got my town chores done with laundry, showering, and resupplying. I only have two more resupplies left, wow! Here are my great gifts in this resupply. I want to thank Edie, George, Corinna, Cowpie, Val, Claudio, Katy, Chad, and Dan for all the goodies they sent. I had a special bonus care package from David who also included an sd card with the BBC recordings of episodes of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Thanks David! I also got a special visit from a local who wanted to drop off a care package. Aimee (who I should have gotten a picture with!) came by and she and her friend Michelle had put together a wonderful combination of some of my favorite things including ice cold CHOCOLATE MILK and Dasani PINK LEMONADE drops that I never even knew existed! THANK YOU Michelle and Aimee!!!
I took Kathleen to get ice cream as a thank you for all the shuttling she’s been doing for us. It really hit the spot and it was fun to spend time with her. Thank you Kathleen!
I also want to share the other great thing that came in my resupply today…
MY PASSPORT! Yep, we are that close to the end! My heart leapt when I saw it! Just today, I made the decision to finish the trail with Bloodbath and Rampage. We will see each other tomorrow morning to work out the details, but I will leave town about a half day ahead of them so they will catch me by the end of the next leg. Then we will do the last two legs together and the plan is to finish Sept 3rd. Wow! I originally had planned one more zero, but I am okay with pushing it off since it would have been just four days before the finish. I have other reasons for wanting to finish with them on that date that will be revealed in time, but it’s definitely going to be great to finish with them and well worth sacrificing a zero. Stay tuned!