The Long Overdue Finale

... And so began the “CDT Deli Walk.” On the Appalachian Trail, there was a section of trail called the “Deli Walk” in New York / New Jersey. Every day it seemed we were crossing a road with a nearby sandwich shop. Well, it turns out there is a road that parallels the divide and the boys scoped out an alternate route that would allow us to walk through quite a few towns. The reason for this alternate was predominantly to keep our bellies full and truly boost morale, as many of us were really starting to feel the effects of walking over 2,000 miles. Some of the towns did not have much to offer and what they did have had very specific hours causing us to miss out on meals that could have been. However, we were far from disappointed with our decision when we started to discover all these hidden gems in eastern Idaho and western Montana.

Our first significant stop along the road was in a town called Baker, Idaho. There was rumor of an Amish bakery and it turned out to be the only thing Baker really had to offer. Nevertheless, this trail town proved to be one of the most memorable of any town I have visited on any of my adventures. Upon arrival, we discovered the “bakery” was more a grocery store than just a bakery. The store was able to supply us with all the goodies needed to keep the smiles on our faces and fuel in our tanks as we proceeded on our 100+ mile continuous road walk. The reason I say that this stop will forever be etched in my brain is because of how phenomenal the food was. The deli whipped me up a delectable sandwich which was accompanied by a mouth watering cinnamon bun that I found in the bakery. Not to mention, it was all very affordable. What impressed me the most was the child who could not have been more than ten years of age behind the cash register. It was clear that this store was family operated and evidently family members started training at a very young age. Despite his lack of trips around the sun, he did a wonderful job of taking care of us. We then savored our meals at a picnic table just outside the store and prepared ourselves to stroll into the next town along the way, Salmon, Idaho.

Salmon was easily one of the bigger towns we had seen in quite some time. With a population of over 3,000 people, Salmon had many stores and restaurants at our disposal. As we approached town, I noticed I had regained service on my cell phone. I used the remaining miles left to town to call a bunch of family members, which was a huge morale boost leading into the homestretch to Canada.

The crew and I indulged in some delicious food and cold brews, as we basked in the comfort of civilization. Just as I thought planning could not get any crazier, a few of the boys noticed a river that followed the trail for twenty or so miles leading up to North Fork, the next stop on our road walk.

The idea to tube down to river materialized amongst the group and it did not take long for most of the guys to be sold on said idea. Lunchbox and I had our hearts set on continuous footsteps on this trail, so we decided to meet back up with the guys once their side adventure was completed. The guys gathered up their tubes and Lunchbox and I made our way down to the river to see them off. I could not contain my laughter as the guys took off, three tubes for themselves and an extra one for all their gear. I must admit I was a bit jealous... It looked extremely fun and if all went as planned, they would make it to North Fork significantly quicker than us , also they would have most of the next day to relax and regenerate some energy.

Lunchbox and I continued our way down the road with not much daylight left, as we searched for a place to camp for the evening. The hope was to stroll a mile or so out of town, but it took us nearly four miles to find anything suitable, We stumbled upon a boat launch that also served as a campsite for locals. It did not seem like much, but this place would prove to be one of the more memorable campsites I have had the pleasure of staying at.

Not often do we have cell service while camping and not often are we so close to camp while doing so, so it dawned on me we could possibly make a thru-hiker dream come true that night... we could potentially order pizza to our tents.

I called the only pizza joint still open in Salmon with wishful thoughts in my mind and the hiking Gods were waiting on the other line. It was confirmed they could bring us our desired ‘za and I knew I had already made the right decision staying on foot. “Hiker midnight” is at 9pm, which is right around the time our food arrived. The savory pepperoni pie consoled me until consciousness subsided and I even had some leftovers to fuel me the following day.

Energized by pizza and motivated by quick progress along the road, Lunchbox and I broke down camp early and set off to meet back up with the crew in North Fork.

At this point we were in peak physical condition, so the miles that morning zoomed by and we rolled into North Fork relatively early expecting the guys to be there waiting for us. Much to our surprise, there was no sign of them and reception at this point was nonexistent, so all we could do is hang until they arrived. The “hiker hunger” was very real at this point, so we had no problem with waiting around eating as much as we could shove into our faces. To be perfectly honest, I can not remember how long it was before they made it to town, but once they did, they had quite the story behind their late disembarkation.

It turns out the tubes were not the greatest idea, as the river proved to be much tougher than originally anticipated. Apparently the guys did not make it far before their tubes popped and they were forced to exit the river and make their way back to Salmon. Fortunately no one was injured and the guys were determined to float down the river. In town they found a legitimate raft they were able to rent for the day. They were told they could leave it in North Fork and the owners would pick it up later that day. Despite the mishaps and the differing paths to North Fork, most of the crew was back together sans Bones and Egg Rolls.

Confidence was beginning to sore, as miles were crushed daily and the boys started to devise another plan to stay on the road a bit longer than originally planned. Something in me told me it was time to get back on trail, so by the end of the day I would be in Darby (the next trail town) with Egg Rolls and Bones. The rest of the guys continued on the pavement into Anaconda, the last town before we made it to Helena, the state capitol of Montana.

I finally made it back to the CDT at a road crossing that lead to town. I stuck my thumb out and waited for the next friendly driver to pass by willing to give me a lift. After about a half an hour of hitching, a car finally pulled over. Much to my chagrin, they informed me that I was hitching in the wrong direction and not only did I feel dumb, but I realized how many potential rides had already passed by. This was no time to get down on myself though, as a comfy bed, a shower and a plethora of food were waiting for me in Darby. I hopped on the other side of the road and before long a lovely woman scooped me up and delivered me to my destination.

I’m writing this a year and a half after these moments occurred, so my facts may be slightly skewed, but I’m nearly positive Prophet decided to come into town with us despite his plan to continue on the road. The four of us shared a room, resupplied and then Prophet continued his road walk, as the three of us spent a couple more nights in the wilderness leading up to Anaconda. Shortly after beginning to walk again, I began starting to feel some of the worst foot pain I have ever encountered and would have to deal with this injury for the next week or so. Part of me was starting to regret not taking the less physically demanding route, but as they say, “the trail provides,” and I was blessed with impeccable views for my hardships:

Storm Lake Pass, as seen above, was easily one of the most beautiful places I have had the pleasure of hiking over. My feet were on fire and the sky was crying, but nothing could get me down as I pondered life and did my best to really absorb my surroundings. The weather did not permit me much time to enjoy these mountains, so I made my way down the trail to look for a spot to camp close to town, so I could stroll in bright and early the next day. Bones caught up with me at the end of the day, so the two of us found a spot tucked in the woods just off the road leading into Anaconda. We had roughly 8 miles into town the next morning, which we knew would only take us a couple hours to complete.

The next day was marvelous, as any town day is while thru-hiking. Not only were we able to indulge in the amenities that were offered, my great friend, Inspector Gadget and his brother driver hours out of their way to come see me and make my day. They did this despite knowing that Bones and I were not planning on staying in town very long, as we were on a bit of a tight schedule. Prophet’s parents had been planning on meeting up with us for quite some time and finishing the trail with the gang, so we wanted to make sure to make it to the meet up spot punctually. The walk from Anaconda to Helena was not all too exciting, as it consisted of mostly paved and dirt road walking.

I camped alone the evening prior to hitching into Helena, which I believe was the only time that occurred the entire CDT. I’m normally one of the first from our group to wake up and begin hiking for the day, but it took me a bit to get up, because I was a bit anxious about being alone in grizzly country. I finally built up the nerve to make the push to the road crossing and fortunately there were no bear incidents along the way. Even though the road into town was quite busy, this hitch proved to be somewhat difficult. Maybe an hour passed and then another thru-hiker arrived at the road. He must have been the lucky charm or possibly folks were scared of my mohawk, because only a couple cars drove by before the two of us were scooped up.

My feet were still ablaze from the heat, sweat and all the dust that had built up in my shoes and I could not wait to kick back and relax for a couple days. There was a gathering of hikers at the Motel 6 when we made it to town. This was because it was by far the cheapest accommodation in town. We made it just in time for the McGregor, Mayweather fight, so a good portion of the crew made their way to the casino in town, because they were showing the fight for free. Myself, as well as a few others decided to take it easy instead and I personally did a fantasy football draft in the hotel room. I doctored my feet for a couple days, purchased some new socks and before long they were as good as new. Our rather large group split up into two and crammed our way into a vehicle (two separate trips), as we made our way back to the divide and soon magic would ensue.

As you can see above, the trail started to look more like trail again once we started to head to Glacier (the grand finale) from Helena. There were times we were granted with otherworldly views, but the wildfires were beginning to become a serious issue. We spent nights having trouble breathing due the smoke inhalation and had to be very careful of the routes we hiked. Trail closures and dodging fire became the norm from here on out.

Just before we made it to Lincoln, the next trail town, we were greeted by Prophet’s parents along the road. All of us were meeting them for the first time and they quickly became some of everyone’s favorite people. They were insanely kind, over the top generous and downright fun to be around. We were greeted with Gatorade and fruit to give us that last little push into town. From here on out the entire crew was simply spoiled.

In Lincoln, in Augusta and in Glacier we were living the lavish, hiker lifestyle, for Prophet’s parents were feeding us every day and putting us up in rooms. It could not have come at a more perfect time either, because our emaciated, overworked bodies could really use the extra boost to the finish line. Although our bodies and minds were being taken care of, the wildfire obstacles were becoming more and more dangerous as the days went on.

The next section along the CDT was through the Bob Marshall wilderness, which was rumored to be one of the favorites on the entire trail. We were fortunate enough to see the “Chinese Wall,” one of the more beautiful rock formations you will ever lay eyes on (seen below), before being told by park rangers we need to seek a way around the scorched Earth on our way to Augusta. From my understanding we were the last group to be able to hike through any of this section before it was entirely closed down. This was the case for the remainder of the hike and we were being told that hikers just a day behind us were being deterred from the trail, forcing them to skip or road walk. The trail out of Augusta did not contain much excitement, but Glacier is an entirely different story.

It is impossible to understand the beauty within Glacier National Park without exploring for yourself. Wildfires obscured views for the first couple of days, but that did not alter the buzzing vibe amongst the group. All our hard work would pay off when the smoke subsided and the sun graced us with its presence on the final two days of trail. I can not forget to mention that we were continually being taken care of by Prophet’s parents, but our group grew even larger when Lunchbox’s parents and brother joined in. They gave us a chance to slack pack (hike with a minimal amount of gear) and the food and hotel rooms were paid for until and after we reached the border.

Sadly the fires continued to spread and we were forced to choose a different path than the divide to complete our hike. Luckily for us, anywhere you explored in the park was breathtakingly gorgeous. Not to mention we all got to see our first Grizzly in the wild. It was about 75 yards from us, so it was close enough to be really cool, but far enough to make us feel safe. We were all packing bear spray, so it would not have stood a chance regardless (my famous last words).

Even though I should have been thrilled and prideful to finish the trail, on the final day I remember just wanting to get it over with. I can not speak for the other guys, but I get the feeling that was the general consensus. Relief consumed my body as the woman at the border stamped my passport and let me stroll into Canada. It was not so easy to get back into the States, as if they didn’t just see me walk through. It was comical to say the least having to walk through a metal detector in the middle of the road to return to the homeland literally minutes after we had left. Either way, the mission was accomplished and we spent the next few days unwinding and saying our goodbyes. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t let a few tears slip out. When you thru-hike, you don’t just make friends, you acquire family members for life.

I apologize if this ending seems a bit rushed, but this post is incredibly overdue. We finished the trail a year and half ago and I have been meaning to post this ever since. It was important to me to remember the end of the trail, but what is most important to me is to thank the guys and their parents for taking care of me along the way. I am fully confident I could hike the trail on my own, but nothing compares to hiking with a group of amazing friends. So thank you infinitely, Bones, Egg Rolls, Lunchbox, Kyle, Prophet, Party Saver, Charlie, Deb, David, Marion and Matt for having my back and making the trail more than I could have ever imagined. Your love and generosity did not go unnoticed and will never be forgotten. I love you guys.

And now that that’s out of the way, I am ecstatic to announce that I will be a lot more active with my website. I am going to be blogging about my day hikes and also have some big plans for this year and next. Thank you everyone for your support over the years and hopefully I can pump out some awesome material for you guys in the near future. I’m coming for that triple crown, baby!!

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