Things Change Fast In The Mountains…

Here is a small entry from Liam’s Dad on a trip he took at the beginning of September.

Storm Siffleur Wilderness 2014 Sept 025A picture of camp on Sunday Sept 07.

Storm Siffleur Wilderness 2014 Sept 027Monday – Crazy, eh?

Storm Siffleur Wilderness 2014 Sept 047He was very glad to have the hat Liam knitted for him.

IMG_9384Grinny warming his toes after having a frightful time.

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Goodbye Montana

I have always wanted to see Old Faithful in Yellowstone, I just never thought I’d walk there. Even though I haven’t seen it yet, we are only 20 miles from Yellowstone and Wyoming.  Well Montana, it’s been fun. Even though your part of the divide is like a maniac roller coaster on steroids, it has been unforgettable and beautiful. Here are some pictures of the rest of our time in Montana:

DSC02566I don’t even remember what mountain this is. Let’s say it’s Mount Blah Blah.

DSC02561On top of Fish Peak in the Pintler Wilderness

DSC02560On Queener Mountain. Also in the Pintler Wilderness.

DSC02529I think the picture speaks for itself.

DSC02564Feeling blue (but not the sad kind). Descending to Cutaway Pass.

DSC02538Nothing like drying out gear in a parking lot. We even had people come up and ask if we were selling sleeping bags. Oh dear…

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Celebratory food on Mt. Tiny. Our 50th summit of the trip thus far. We had cider (of course), gorganzola,  potato salad, and pita. Mmmm.

DSC02549For most of September we have just slept out under the stars. And cooking over a fire. It has been wonderful. DSC02703Good Morning!

DSC02654An approaching storm. Good thing we have sage brush to hide under…Sigh.

DSC02639Bannock Pass.

DSC02675At least there is no bush whacking and you can see three days ahead. Yay for sage brush and desert! Who needs water anyways?

DSC02670In many places, the divide is never ending sage brush hills (really really high ones, some are over 3000m!).

DSC02640A road in the sky.

DSC02669In Southwestern Montana,  most of the divide follows the Idaho border.

DSC02672Oh no. It’s not hot. It’s quite cool, with all the shade you can see…

DSC02673Our route.

DSC02693Sadly, in some places up to 50% of the forest is dead due to the pine beatle. Most likely, the same will happen to the forests around Jasper one day. I worry.

DSC02668Enjoying breakfast on our 150th day.

DSC02700Summit of Jefferson Mountain.

DSC02707Although this spot doesn’t look significant, it is.This is Brower’s Spring. From here, water travels 6275 km to the ocean via the Missouri/Mississippi River. This is its ultimate headwaters.  When we were there the spring was dry, I hope the Mississippi is still flowing…

It’s a Pop Quiz People!

We thought we would ask whoever is reading (if there is anyone) a question. What is the lowest point Jake and myself will walk through on the way to Mexico? To make it easier, you can just guess a state/province. So take you’re pick from: British Columbia, Alberta, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming,  Colorado, New Mexico, and Mexico. If you can guess the exact location, talk about bragging rights! You can put your guess in the comment section. Good Luck!

My Healthiest Unhealthy Year

I think there is a notion that fit people may sustain themselves on carrots and lemon juice. While that may be for some, I can assure you for many it isn’t. In fact, it has been on the CDT that I have met the worst chain smokers. People that hike 50-60 km a day, smoking every 15 minutes. One guy, probably only a few years older than us, had a discolored mustache from smoke. When he ran out of cigarettes,  he tore up his map and smoked that with whatever tobacco remained. Thru hikers zoom by, chewing tobacco and smoking at the same time.  Carrots and lemon juice eh? We would probably try to stuff it into a cigarette.

The other day I realized I hadn’t had any fruits/veg for weeks. In fact, the only greenery I’m getting at the moment is whatever comes on a burger. You see, when the going gets tough, the tough don’t eat salad. Instead, you drench everything in ranch dressing. Eat the butter packets on the table while you wait for your deep fried meal. Chug the condiments and sip the coffee cream. Fill the Nalgene bottles with Mountain Dew. Maybe even add sugar packets.

We are in the best shape we have ever been. We can do 60 km in a day, with a full backpack, up and over mountains and passes. No worries. Then repeat. However, we are surviving on cookie-dough pop tarts, chips, and candy. As already mentioned, the only greenery we are eating is green number four food dye.  I don’t even remember what strawberries taste like. Sadly, I don’t even care. If it’s not deep fried and smothered in butter and ranch – I’m not interested.

DSC02578The burger at the Crossing in Wisdom, Montana. One of the best restaurants on the trail thus far! I could have moved in.

DSC02536God Bless America. All this food for under 20 dollars. See any vegetables? I sure don’t.

You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get

We emerged from the woods to rolling sage brush. In the distance, we could see a single track, desolate road. There were no cars. Our knees ached and we were low on water. We didn’t want to hike the extra 13 miles down a hot dusty road to the highway to resupply. We were going to get a ride, no matter what. Even if we had to lay down on the road to stop the come-every-three-hour-car.

We finally reached Lemhi Pass a little after noon and sat in the middle of the road. Waiting. After an hour or so, a cloud of dust appeared. A car! Better yet – a truck!

The truck stopped and the window rolled down. I started the speech, “We’re hiking the divide and we were wondering if we could get…get…getttt…” I stammered. I had noticed that their hands, up to the elbows, were covered in blood. Uh oh. We had been warned about crazies. Quick! Mutter something about the weather and make a run for it Liam! I’m sure the knees still have some life in them! However, my stomach growled. In the end, the stomach always wins. And so, I pushed on, ” a ride into town.” My hand quivered near the bear spray.

“Well,  we are a bit full”. The men pointed to the bed of the truck. It was then that I noticed something large and hairy laying on top a pile of wood. A black bear. Now it made sense! These weren’t psycho killers that preyed on defenseless bearded skinny hikers from Canada. They were hunters!

“But you can get in the back with the bear.” There are some rides you never forget and this was one of them. We sat in the back on a pile of wood with a bear between us. Watching beautiful country roll past. All we needed was a beer.

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We thought once we got to the highway the remaining 20 miles to Salmon, Idaho would be easy. We were wrong. So utterly wrong. Four hours passed. We wanted to throw our hiking sticks at passing traffic. To make matters worse, the owner of the gas station we were hitching from kept coming outside and telling us we couldn’t stay there (it’s not like we wanted to!). We planned to call it quits at 6 PM and camp in the ditch with the roadside trash.

At 5:50 PM, a car stopped. They were going to Salmon in a hour after cowboy church. They invited us to join, saying there would be drinks and food. I don’t even think we let him finish talking before we piled into the car. And so in a whirlwind of ten minutes we went from the side of the highway to singing hymns and drinking lemonade with peach cobbler (after putting on a few layers to hide the I-haven’t -washed-for-a-week-smell of shame). Tray (our saviour) introduced us to the congregation and we even had 2 ladies come up and offer us rides back to Lemhi Pass the next day. What luck! We even stayed for the night at the church in Salmon. It just goes to show: In the end, everything will be alright. And if it isn’t alright, it isn’t yet the end. Thank you so much everyone!

DSC02622Apparently Cowboy Churches are becoming more popular.

DSC02624Our night’s accommodation in Salmon.

A Day On the CDT and the Life of a Long Distance Hiker

There is hiking and then there is hikingHiking is what most people know. A nice day stroll to a meadow or lake with some comforts, such as a picnic lunch and lounging in the sun. Some may even be more adventurous and go hiking for an over-nighter or two. Hiking by comparison is quite different. See for yourself:

There is nothing worse than meeting someone on the trails with a far lighter/smaller pack. Nat or "Rainer" (See below) carried  30L. Liam carries 105L. He carried no tent. He had no stove. And I very much doubt we carried enough yarn to even knit three sweaters...

There is nothing worse than meeting someone on the trails with a far lighter/smaller pack. Nate or “Rainer” (See below) carried 30 L (A fellow through hiker. A through hiker is someone who hikes the CDT in one calendar year). Liam carries 105 L. He carried no tent. He had no stove. And I very much doubt we carried enough yarn to even knit three sweaters…

First, the size of the backpack. Hikers don’t have large backpacks, forgoing many luxuries. Some have no tent, only a tarp. Some even carry no stove, just a peanut butter jar. When you are within an hour of where you wish to camp, you add cold water to Mr. Noodles. It slowly hydrates…The ends of toothbrushes are sawn, clothing labels torn off, and pages of books burned after reading. They become obsessed with weight and the never-ending-battle to carry less. It takes over your life…

Liam "Muppet" Harrap

Liam “Muppet” Harrap

Jake "Ducky" Alleyne

Jake “Ducky” Alleyne

Hikers have trail names. Traditionally, you are named by someone else. Each name has a story attached to it. So far, we have met Rainer, Snowplow, Birdy, Viking, Chili, Pepper, Tibetan (He likes to read about Budda) and Strider (He has llooonngg graceful legs). Sometimes you don’t even learn people’s real names.

Muppet (Or Liam)  apparently has a hair problem at the moment. Ducky (Known by Jake to Some) waddles down the trail.

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We usually do around 30 miles a day (40 – 50 km).

What we look like after 50km.

What we look like after 50km.

Mileage! Mileage! Mileage! People think we have a lot of spare time during the day. We don’t. We go from dark to dark. If I get my half an hour to knit, write, and read at the end of the day before falling into a sleep coma, I’m happy. Most hikers do between 35 – 60 km a day. Hmmm no wonder my feet are falling apart (See below).

Sadly, this is after a "good" day. I use to have pretty feet. But alas! No more. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm getting  a pedicure when this is over!

Sadly, this is after a “good” day. I use to have pretty feet. But alas! No more. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m getting a pedicure when this is over!

Your feet fall apart. Rapidly.

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In order to contain the damage, hikers wear running shoes. I’mNeverWearingHikingBootsAGAIN! You try 50 km in hiking boots. Vile! Vile! Vile!

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At a buffet brunch in Helena.

You binge eat. You become obsessed with food. And given the opportunity, you can out eat anyone. We just ran into a hiker who went to a pizza buffet. After eating 28 slices, he was asked to leave. It reminded me of the Simpsons…Our life is a cartoon! http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yL9bPjkOc1Q

Foraging blueberries along the Chinese Wall in "The Bob".

Foraging blueberries along the Chinese Wall in “The Bob”.

Your only fruits and veg are what you can forage or really grab as you rush/pant by.

Saving some Kraft Dinner for later...

Saving some Kraft Dinner for later…

 

 

The horror at finding someone else's mustache hair in the corn...

The horror at finding someone else’s mustache hair in the corn…

You grow a beard. Carrying a shaver just isn’t worth it.

Greenhorn Mountain? GREENHORN MOUNTAIN?! IT SHOULDN'T BE THERE! IT WAS THERE 3 HOURS AGO! WHERE-THE-HELL-ARE-WE??!?

Greenhorn Mountain? GREENHORN MOUNTAIN?! IT SHOULDN’T BE THERE! IT WAS THERE 3 HOURS AGO! WHERE-THE-HELL-ARE-WE??!?

Expect to get lost. It can be hard to tell one sage bush covered hill from another. And navigating amongst backcountry roads is the worst!

Bushwacking near Howse Pass on the Great Divide Trail (Canada).

Bushwacking near Howse Pass on the Great Divide Trail (Canada).

Sometimes there isn’t any trail and you have to bushwack. Also known as character building.

Repairing socks at camp.

Repairing socks at camp.

Everything falls apart. Nature shows no mercy. Eventually, you begin to wear rags.

The worst guide book. Ever.  Not only does it weigh 300 pounds. But it is stuffed with redundant and useless information.  Such as walking single file on the trail, eat every 90 minutes, and don't litter. As this book is made for long distance hikers, it can be safe assumed that THEY ALREADY KNOW THIS! Even directions to some trailheads is useless. For example, the description to the Summit trailhead states, "I don't know where it is. Even though rangers said should it should be obvious' we could never find it. Maybe you will have better luck."  ....Thank you guide book. You have been an ENORMOUS help! NOT!

The worst guide-book. Ever. Not only does it weigh 300 pounds. But it is stuffed with redundant and useless information. Such as walking single file on the trail, eat every 90 minutes, and don’t litter. As this book is made for long distance hikers, it can be safely assumed that THEY ALREADY KNOW THIS! Even directions to some trailheads is useless. For example, in the description for the  Summit trailhead, the author admits, “I don’t know where it is. Even though rangers said it should be obvious we could never find it. Maybe you will have better luck.”….Thank you  Mr. Guide Book. You have been an ENORMOUS help! NOT! BURN FOR IT!

 

You struggle with guides. Eventually you become to realise that some of them are practically as useful as going blindfolded into the woods. Except they weigh more.

The horror of summer being over. Ah!

The horror at summer being over. Ah!

You are always racing Old Man Winter…Gah!

Looking into Waterton National Park, where a wall of rain/hail awaits...

Looking into Waterton National Park, where a wall of rain/hail awaits…

You hike through all kinds of weather. Rain, snow, or shine. Hopefully, just shine. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Hitching into a nearby town to resupply.

Hitching into a nearby town to resupply. However, the US is weird. We have had cars stop and before giving us a ride, they asked if we have any guns. “Oh yes. Of course we do. I mean, we saw the ends off our toothbrushes to save weight, but we still carry an arsenal. Just to be safe from those nasty nasty grizzlies.”

You depend on hitch hiking to towns to resupply. Think of the following the next time you drive past a hitch hiker. Perhaps he has walked to that very spot from another country. Perhaps this is the first time in weeks he has encountered people. Perhaps he’s hitching because his feet are blistered and bloodied. Perhaps its Friday and he desperately needs to get to the post office before it closes for the weekend. Perhaps he is in desperate need of cheesecake and beer.  Perhaps he doesn’t want to be there just as much as you don’t want to pick him up. Perhaps.

Mmmmm Good Morning World.

Mmmmm Good Morning World.

 

You have wet feet. For days. Hello trench foot.

Descending Mount Clemenceau.

Descending Mount Clemenceau.

People seem to always be keen to tell you about upcoming dangers. Avalanches, bears, cougars, getting lost, crazies, the borders, the mexican border (this one especially. We have had people tell us to walk through Texas instead of New Mexico. Of course they fail to realize that we are hiking. To walk to a neighbouring state instead would add weeks!), winter, snakes, and did I mention bears? DSC02514

Hikers become best friends with the postal system. You send things to yourself in the future. Such as maps and shoes. I have even heard of people mailing their backpack to themselves just a few miles down the road. Sometimes you get desperate and do the absurd.

Going along the divide in the Castle Wilderness, by Waterton. While its beautiful, but dry. Like a desert. You walk along on the roof of the world, with water water everywhere in view, but just out of reach.

Going along the divide in the Castle Wilderness, by Waterton. While its beautiful, but dry. Like a desert. You walk along on the roof of the world, with water water everywhere in view, but just out of reach.

Obviously, the CDT follows the divide. Water becomes a huge concern. Sometimes you don’t come across a single puddle for over 25km. Sigh.

Camping on Burnaby Ridge. One of our favorite camping spots.

Camping on Burnaby Ridge. One of our favorite camping spots.

You get to camp in amazing places.

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But no matter what the trail throws at you. You always have that cup of tea to look forward to at the end of the day.

Beers in Lake Louise after 40 days in the bush.

Beers in Lake Louise after 40 days in the bush.

And beers in the next town. Its moments like this that make you realize that all the unpleasantness at times is totally worth it. In the end, it’s one big grand adventure! Yeehaw!