Thursday, September 14 2 Cures for Mud: Ice & Sun

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

SUMMARY:  “The Bobs” (Bob Marshall Wilderness) which we just finished today are notorious for having very muddy trails. No kidding! But today, our last day on trail in “The Bobs”, showed us two cures for mud in the trail.

The first one we discovered this morning: ice! If the path is frozen solid, you can walk on it (rough and bumpy, that’s true, but walkable). Since it stayed very cold for some time, the ice was a help in the morning.

By afternoon, we were on a CDT alternate trail along the Two Medicine River, in a wide, sunny valley, and there we found Mud Cure #2—sun! The mud here will dry quickly if it gets enough sun.

So by 2:00pm we were at the highway, and by 5:00pm we were in East Glacier. But there was no “room at the inn”—not even at the hostel. Once again, we are camped behind a motel. Oh well, we got to hang out with Shepherd and share “I survived the snow” horror stories.

DETAILS:  It was another freezing cold morning–everything outside of the tent was frozen, but everything inside was OK.  Last night I put my wet socks (wet from river fords) under my Ridgerest.  They were still wet, and cold, and oh fun, I got to put them on, but at least they weren’t frozen.  The same for my wet shoes–I had put them in a plastic bag, inside the tent;  good thing I did!  I usually put them outside, but today everything outside was literally frozen stiff.  That included the socks I had hung out to “dry” and also my gaiters!

Shortly after we started hiking, we came to a big meadow, and it was all white with frost.  The sky was completely clear–hooray!  No worries about a snowstorm!  We hurried along to reach Badger Ranger Station, where we would reconnect with the CDT.  We have decided that the route we just finished should be renamed “The Hiker Carwash” instead of “The Little Badger River”.

But one thing we had to face A LOT today was mud on the trail.  “The Bobs” are notorious among CDT hikers for being muddy.  No kidding.  But today we discovered that there are two cures for mud:  Ice and Sun.  As we walked along the CDT this morning, wearing all our layers and gloves and trying to stay warm, we found we could walk right on top of the mud and keep our shoes clean because the mud was FROZEN.  It was a little bit tough to walk on–very hard and very uneven–but a lot better than slipping and sliding and getting superdirty.

After awhile, we turned off the CDT again to take the Ley alternate route down to Hwy. 2.  This alternate, which turned out to be very pretty and pleasant, follows the Two Medicine River along a nice wide, sunny valley.  And that turned out to be the second “mud cure”:  SUN!  The mud here in the Bobs dries very quickly if it gets enough sun.  We still had to walk around a zillion big puddles in the middle of the trail, and sometimes walk the edges to avoid a long stretch of mud in the middle, but because of the sun, there was always DRY mud to walk on.

All around us, the higher mountains are white with snow, some more than others.  Our goal today is very simple:  “Let’s try to get down to the highway and out of the snow!”  The snowy mountains are very pretty to look at, especially with the golden aspen trees, but we are very glad we are not up there!

The Two Medicine River route involves multiple shallow, easy fords, and the cold water felt so good on our very tired feet!  All the aspen trees are turning gold and yellow–it’s like the sunshine has come down to live among them.  Just looking at them makes you feel nice and warm!  Once the morning frost wore off, it turned into a very pleasant day, with a little breeze.  We stopped for lunch by the river, and really savored our time–“Last meal on the trail” before we start roadwalking.

We were actually surprised to find that by 2:00 we were at the highway.  Wow!  We might be able to make it into East Glacier today!  So we turned and headed for town, and I was delighted to discover that for much of the way, the railroad tracks are right next to the highway, and they are busy railroad tracks!   Train after train went by, and I had a blast watching them.  We also were looking at the rugged mountains of Glacier National Park.  It’s like the whole park just rises up out of the country around it–sort of like a giant castle, with steep ramparts.  There was snow lacing in and out on all the peaks.  What a backdrop it made for the trains!   I started thinking about how in a few days, we will get on an Amtrak train to head home, and we will be able to see those mountains for one last time.

At around 4:00, we came to a little restaurant and stopped for a bowl of chili before heading the rest of the way into East Glacier.  Again we were surprised–by 5:00, we were THERE!  Our last “trail town.”  But just as it was at Grand Lake, every place to stay was full, even the hostel.  I did see Elusive (busy eating dinner) and was glad to see he was OK.  But alas, so much for any hope of a bed or showers.  But one of the motels let us camp out back, so we set up our little tent.  Actually, it was a nice spot, among some trees, so we could sort of pretend we were still on the trail.

Then we went in search of dinner, and spotted Shepherd at one of the restaurants.  We joined him and we all shared our stories of adventures in the snow.  Shepherd showed us a picture he took of himself during the worst of it–his beard all full of ice, and deep snow all around.  Whew!  But the restaurant is obviously not used to feeding hikers who are almost done with the CDT.  After eating an entire dinner, we were still hungry, so we headed over to Brownies (the hostel) for a cinnamon roll and coffee, before we headed back to our “camp” and sleeping bags.  Wow, it feels good to be horizontal!

The weather report is for another storm arriving in 3 days, which confirmed our decision to leave tomorrow and head for Canada by road.  It’s 60 miles–if we move right along, we should be able to finish before the storm hits.  Checking the map, we could see there are a couple of little villages/towns along the way, so rather than carry a bunch of food, we will just buy food as we go along.  The other CDT hikers we talked to are planning to take the trail, and will have to spend tomorrow organizing their permits and their resupply, etc, so that will mean they only get a couple of days of good weather, then 3 days of rugged hiking in a snowstorm.  And if they decide to wait here in East Glacier till the weather clears, the trails might be so snowed in that they can’t make it.  We are determined to finish.  So tomorrow it’s “Canada, here we come!”

One Response to “Thursday, September 14 2 Cures for Mud: Ice & Sun”

  1. Joe Pere says:

    We were blessed to have someone send us to Montana for a vacation. We drove to Glacier and “hiked” around Swiftcurrent Lake at Many Glacier on Thursday the 15th. It would have been fun to see you there. Looking forward to reading some more of your journey. Glad to hear you arrived home safely. Blessings!!

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