Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tue, 27Aug - Leaving Helena and a tour of the Capital

Met a section hiker who I met on trail earlier, and he treated me to breakfast at the famous Steve's Cafe in town.  Had the homemade sausage sampler with eggs and pancakes!   

After checking out of the motel I visited the Holter Museum of Art.  One if the most interesting parts was a novel traveling display called 9-9-3.  Three dimensional textile art that must fit in a 9x9 square box three inches deep.

Heading past the Cathedral of St. Helena I stopped inside to see all the stained glass.  Then I hiked over to the Montana State Capital.  Took an inside tour of this crown jewel of Montana architecture.  From the rotunda, to the grand stairway and barrel vault, and the Supreme Court, Senate, and House of Representatives chambers - there was stain glass, chandeliers, old mahogany woodwork and marble, and many many murals showing the history of Montana.  One of the most famous pieces is a huge 25' by 12' canvas painting by Charles Russell; Lewis and Clark Meeting Indians at Ross' Hole.  A priceless painting considered Russell's masterpiece. 

Last stop on my visit to Helena was the Montana Historical Museum which included old dinosaur bones, Indian artifacts and displays, cowboy, mining, and prospecting displays and war artifacts.  Really gave you a feel for life in the old west.

Hitched a ride back to the pass and hiked a few miles north to camp.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Mon, 26Aug - Mt Helena and the Cathedral

Walked up to the art museum today but it was closed on Mondays.  Next I visited the Cathedral of St. Helena which was a pretty impressive church.  Then I headed up to the Mount Helena City Park to climb Mount Helena.  Should have brought my hiking poles and some water because it turned out to be a really steep climb.  Fantastic 360 degrees view from the top down on the city and country side.  Well worth the climb.  After shopping for food for the next section I grabbed a pizza and brought it back to the room and finished my bottle of wine.  A nice relaxing day in town.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sun, 25Aug - Helena, Montana

Woke up Sunday and made the hitch into Helena.  Checked in at the Budget Express for two nights.  Most of my chores done today including getting a new spoon.  Broke mine last night getting the last morsel of peanut butter out of the jar.

Washed all my gear out in the bathtub and did laundry.  Lunch, a beer, and ice cream while checking out the walking mall on Last Chance Gultch.

Looking forward to a relaxing tour of the town sites on Monday.

Sat, 24Aug - McDonald Pass and the Frenchwoman

Slept in and broke camp at 10am.  I'm liking this relaxed pace.  Mostly forested hills alternating on jeep roads and nice trail.  Nice view at McDonald Pass Vista. At the pass is a historic marker about the pass and a frenchwoman that served hearty meals at an inn for travelers.  Oh, if only she was still here!

I hiked over to the pay campground and got water then camped above the old campground site which is now labeled group camping but is overgrown.  It does have an outhouse which had toilet paper so I figure its really not free as yogi states.  I stealth camped outside on the hill above since it was clearly labeled group camp site even if it looked unused.  My last hitch into a town on the trail in the morning.  Helena here I come.

Fri, 23Aug - Leadville Ghost Town, Cottonwood Lake & Thunderbolt Mtn

Mostly easy hiking in shaded woods today with a few grand views.  You hike through Leadville.  All I saw of this former mining town was some old rotting log cabins.  Actually I thought it was too early and didn't realize I had passed Leadville as I was expecting a lot of rusting objects and confusing side trails according to Leys map.  Not realizing it I didn't poke around the cabins to see if there was more to see of the ghost town.

At Cottonwood Lake I pushed on to Thunderbolt Mountain to have my lunch on the summit.  The sign said the side trail to the peak was 1/4 mile but it lied.  Easily over a mile round trip but it was a nice view from the top.  I should have anticipated it with a name like thunderbolt mountain because on the summit I was hit with strong wind, rain, and a lightning and thunder show.  Grabbed a quick picture and ran from the summit.  Fortunately the rain cleared as I rejoined the CDT and there was a nice rock overlook I could enjoy my lunch on.

The next section of trail over Bison Mountain was new and was cut through tall dense young pines that made you feel like you were in a green tunnel.  The spring I wanted turned out to be a mud hole so I pushed on farther than I planned to get to a small creek to camp.

Thur, 22 Aug - Cottonwood Creek, Champion Pass & Buzzard Hill

Leaving Uncle Bucks you pass through the Clark River Superfund Site.  Other than seeing lots of trucks on the first part of the dirt road it was actually a pretty wildlife area.  Glad they are cleaning it up.  

Passed a herd of what I think were antelope.  We don't have antelope in New England.  Lol. I would see a few more in the woods as the day went on.

The trek along Cottonwood Creek was very nice and I even saw an old mine shaft opening.  No cars and a very scenic area all the way to Four Corners where I rejoined the Bear Creek route.  

From here I crossed Champion Pass and Buzzard hill.  There were new sections of CDT marked trail that crisscrossed the old route and I was never sure which to take.  Most of the new route did not match my map but would loop around and rejoin it anyway.  For example the map show the trail going around Buzzard Hill to the left but a marked trail lead around to the right.  Glad I took the right because it had a really nice piped spring near the summit.  Stopped early because I have plenty of time to finish now that I have an end date and train ticket.  Glad I did because I didn't have to hike through the rain that came later.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wed, 21Aug - Anaconda and Uncle Bucks

Cowboy camped last night and the full moon was amazing.  Got up early to hike the road into Anaconda for breakfast.  It was chilly on the pleasant walk down into town and I saw my first "Watch for Bighorn Sheep" sign.

After breakfast in town I stopped at the visitor center/train station and listened to a local giving a guided tour of Anaconda on the porch.  I left the group when I discovered it was a paid tour and they boarded a bus for the next stop on their three hour tour.

Resupplied at the store and made the long hot road walk to Uncle Bucks.  Actually it was an easy walk but hot.  Was certainly tempted to hitch but you go by a corrections facility and also a mental hospital so perhaps no one would have stopped anyway.  You pass through the Warm Springs Wildlife Management Area which was nice.

Uncle Bucks, a restaurant/bar in Warm Springs where he lets hikers camp in the yard, was a great spot.  A local even bought me a beer.  I was joined by Castle and Portrait; two hikers I last saw in Steamboat CO.

Tue, 20Aug - Queener Basin, Rainbow Mtn, and Storm Lake

Hiking through Queener Basin and up to the shoulder of Rainbow Mountain where I took a long break to enjoy one of the best views so far in the Anaconda Pintlar Wilderness.  Then, out of the blue, I hear the words, "it's Amazing", as Sycamore and Huck Fin join me on the summit. 

Dropping down to several lakes then up to Goat Flats.  Near Goat Flats I deviated from the CDT to take the Anaconda alternate.  The next section was fantastic!  From Goat Flats the views are outstanding.  Then traversing a long steep drop-off bowl to Storm Lake Pass had me raving about this wonderful section.  

At Storm Lake we had lunch on the shoreline before I pushed on up to the next pass.  Sycamore and Huck Fin met a woman who offered them a ride into Anaconda but I wanted to continue on trail.  Twin Lakes Pass also had great views and I'm glad I took this route.  Dropping down to Twin Lakes the mountains felt like canyon walls as I made my way down the sometimes overgrown and hard to follow route.  A traverse of a huge boulder field marked with occasional cairns came next.

Twin Lakes had many nice campsites and the trail turned into an overgrown and abandoned old jeep trail with lots of blowdowns as I followed the Twin Lakes Creek.  Passed on old log cabin buried in the woods.  The route faded in and out until I reached a more maintained dirt road and a came to the site of the old Twin Lakes Creek water flume and dam.  

Reaching the road walk portion into Anaconda I found a good spot to stealth camp in the woods at Yankee Flats.

Mon, 19Aug - Rainbow Pass in the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness

Hiking out of the burn zone and up and over Pintler Pass awarded me with a wonderful view of the mountains and a lush green valley with meandering stream.  The trek over to Johnson Lake and climb up Rainbow Pass was the best section so far in the Anaconda Pintlers.  Met a large group just finishing swimming in the lake but it was early and I thought lunch and a swim in the next lake would be warmer at mid-day.  

Rainbow Pass had views on both sides; down to Martin Lake, and Rainbow Lake, as well as down the sharp edges of the divide.  At Rainbow Lake it was harder to get to the bank of the lake so I opted to skip my skinning dipping and just had a long lunch break.

Working my way up to Warren Lake a few from the large group caught up and were planning to camp at this beautiful spot.  It was still early enough so I pushed on to get the long climb up Cutaway Pass behind me.  Great view topping out on the pass.  I found a nice camp spot a mile down where there was a small stream starting.

Sun, 18 Aug - Schultz Saddle and Surprise Lake

Working my way over to Schultz Saddle the trail was gentle and easy to follow.  I probably should have worn long pants because the recovering burned forest had lots of undergrowth and small trees that scratched your legs and arms; but it was warm and I opted for shorts.

In and out of burned forest and green I was excited to see the sign saying I am entering the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness!  I hear its fantastic but that part must be farther ahead.  After passing Surprise Lake the forest was nothing but burned standing trees and blackened sand and woods.  It was like hiking toward Mordor and Mt Doom as I pretended I was Frodo from The Lord of the Rings.  There was heavy smoke in the air from the forest fires and the view was hazy and grey with the smell of smoke.  The wind blow through the dead trees and made sounds like ghosts were following me.  Where are you my faithful Sam - I could use some elfin bread.  Lol

Startled a large herd of elk in a meadow while getting water for camp.  As I set up camp I noticed the ash in the sandy soil was making my tent, ground cloth, and gear a dirty grey.  Darn, and I just washed everything in town.  Looking forward to the many lakes ahead.

Sat, 17 Aug - Leaving Darby toward Gibbons Pass

Finally left the wonderful town of Darby around noon.  After a half hour the only car that stopped was Marty the shuttle/taxi driver.  He had another shuttle commitment but gave my a free lift a few miles out of town.  Took another hour or more to get a ride to Sula from a fisherman but he decided to help me out when we got to his destination and drove me the rest of the way to Lost Trail Pass.  Rumor is that the Rainbow Gathering had thousands of hitch-hikers on this road a few weeks ago and locals are burned out about hitch-hikers.  Got to trail well after 2:30pm.

The trail north was mostly in nice level green forest but soon turned to a recovering burn zone of dead standing trees.  It was interesting to note how the forest floor was rapidly renewing with new growth.

Crossing over Gibbons Pass was interesting.  It's a pass with a lot of history and an intersection that including the Lewis and Clark route, old Indian route, Nez Perce Nee-Me-Poo National Historic Trail, and of course the CDT.

Dry camping as there is no water for the first 20 miles.  I settled for a less than perfect spot that didn't have dead trees ready to fall on me.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fri, 16 Aug - Chief Joseph Pass and the town of Darby MT

Rolling hills with some short steep ups and downs Thursday as I followed trails and dirt roads down to Chief Joseph Pass.  Saw a sign saying the trail I just was hiking on was closed due to fire.  Later I realized it must have been an old sign from last year.  Lots of smoke in the sky from the current fires.

From the pass I hiked a mile down the road to Lost Trail Pass and after 90minutes got a hitch into the wonderful town of Darby Montana.  Super hiker friendly Travelers Rest gave me a great rate on my own personal log cabin with kitchen, bath, and two beds.  Decided to spend two nights in this great spot.  The Montana Cafe across the street, run by a nice family who had all their kids working, was fantastic too.  A nice town and I spent Friday at the library, ranger station and museum as well as doing my town chores.  Bought a half gallon of ice cream but since it didn't fit in my little freezer I ended up eating the whole box at once.  Lol

Friday afternoon the sky was grey with smoke and the sun turned reddish pink before being blocked by the smoke from fires nearby.  Thankfully the CDT is still open.

Sycamore and Huck Fin came into town and are in the cabin next door.  Huck and I finished off my wine and half of his this evening.  Turns out Sycamore has giardia or something similar and went into Salmon a couple days ago for the doc.  Also heard that Highlife is sick too.  I patched my pad again.  It's not pretty but hopefully I fixed the slow leak this time.  Back to the trail after breakfast in the morning, or maybe lunch....