When I arrived in Sula, I got a surprise visit from Natalie who just got back from a backpacking trip herself in the Yukon area of Alaska. She took me to dinner in Hamilton, MT not far from her home in Missoula, MT. It was nice to finally have some company and family is the best.
I got a hitch the following morning from a really nice guy that was 84 years old. He told me he had lost his wife a year ago. He was lonely now and it only made me miss home more. He dropped me off at the Chief Joseph Trailhead which is still in the Bitterroot Mountains and Beaver Head National Forest. This was a 100 mile section that I was hoping to complete in 4 days. The trail started out kind and gentle with flat or even down hill tread most of the day. The climbs were only short ridges and it was an easy 20+ day, although I didn’t start until 11:30 a.m. The trail followed a cross-country ski loop and a very good one. I ran across two Forest Service warming huts that looked awesome.
I also hiked through several old wildfire areas and it was sad to see such beautiful country tarnished by wildfires. Eventually I entered the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness Area and into a beautiful wild and remote mountainous region. I was surprised how clear the sky was and smoke free with all the wildfires in the surrounding state.
One day during a breakfast break at an alpine lake where I had spent the night, I thought I heard a horse group coming up the trail but it happened to be a big bull moose who walked right into my camp.
Much like the previous sections I saw no one for 3 days and it was lonely.
On my 3rd day I had to summit 4 passes all around 1,500 to 2,000 foot climbs and I still managed to get 25 miles in. Although doing 8,000 feet of vertical gain a day seems ridiculous, the trails were hiker friendly. There were several switchbacks spaced over 2 miles versus a 1/2 mile which would be extremely steep. I felt very strong, but my one small toe still hurt.
The views of the Pintlers were awesome with beautiful alpine lakes and amazing vistas. The last day I thought would be relatively easy but nothing is easy on the CDT.
Near the end the last day the area was very sketchy with a 3 mile section of bushwhacking before finally reaching the highway into Anaconda. Natalie picked me up and took me back to Missoula to spend a day and rest my tired body and sore toe. The smoke from area wildfires was so intense it looked like it was going to rain. The Rainbow Lake Area which I had just hiked the previous day was now closed to wildfires. Without a break in the weather it looks like part of the CDT will be closed north of where I am heading. First snow in Colorado and now fires in Montana.