When I got to MacDonald Pass where the CDT crosses the highway, I hitchhiked to Helena about 15 miles east of the trail. I was hitching for almost an hour when a nice senior gentleman traveling in the opposite direction turned around and stopped to pick me up. He called his wife to say he would be a half hour late and to eat dinner without him. He not only took me to my hotel and re-supply location, he told me of all the places to eat or check out in my short visit in town. This behavior is typical of all the great people I have met along the way and who have helped me out. Many of my trail angels have asked for my blog site and some have donated to BCM.
Helena is a great town and also the capital of Montana. They have a pedestrian courtyard downtown with all kinds of interesting shops and restaurants. The next day I got a fast hitch back up to MacDonald Pass and began my hike of 64 miles to my next destination. The landscape again was similar to my previous trek but much drier. In one stretch I had to hike 35 miles before I could find water.
I woke up the second day to heavy smoke and airplanes flying in the area. One transport helicopter flew overhead with a big bucket of water.
I was worried there was a fire nearby. I called my Search and Rescue Team of Lance, Karen and Natalie and they went to work checking on conditions. I do have an InReach satellite tracking device with an SOS button for rescue that would tell a rescue team of my exact location. I called Lance first because of his experience as a Wildland Firefighter on a Hot Shot Crew. I told him of the smoke but that no fire could be seen. He contacted Natalie who contacted a Forest Service Ranger in the area. The ranger said a 10 acre fire just started in the area, but it was downwind of me and I was not in any immediate danger, but that I should continue to Lincoln as soon as possible.
Natalie picked me up again at the pass near Lincoln and we camped in a state forest campground that night with her new Wilderness and Civilization students for this school year. The Wilderness and Civilization Program at the University of Montana is a one year academic program where the students earn a Wilderness Studies Minor through the Department of Forestry.
Natalie is pictured on the left in the red jacket.
This camping trip was a class course and I loved the way Natalie got the students to be interactive and creative in their thinking. I couldn’t believe the forest ranger let us have a campfire. The entire region is so full of smoke that ashes sometimes fall from the sky.
The city of Missoula is choked with smoke. The next section of the CDT is through the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Right now it is closed due to fires throughout the wilderness. Glacier National Park too is experiencing numerous fires and has closures as well. What would modern-day Lewis and Clark do in this case, call it quits or continue with their mission? Stay tuned for the next blog to find out. I have less than 300 miles to hike to the Canadian border and have completed over 2,600 miles on my journey.