CDT day 36, 37, 38: north to Canada!

June 9, 10, 11
Mileage: zero

Tuesday

I sleep. Oh my god, I sleep. When I wake up, everything seems better. I drink tea and eat leftovers while figuring out last-minute logistics stuff. We’re dropping the car off in Kalispell, Montana tomorrow- how will we get to East Glacier from there? Hitching maybe? And where will we print maps?

Spark and Track Meat drive to Chama to pick up everyone’s stuff from the post office and by the time they return it’s mid-day. Then of course we’ve got to eat at the Himalayan buffet in Durango before we leave town- although eating at a buffet when you’ve been zeroing for a few days is always depressing. I can hardly finish two plates of food, and it doesn’t taste the way it should. Bah. Get me back on the trail.

Then we’re driving through beautiful Utah in our fancy rental car, the light and the clouds doing wonderful things. Pink and gold, pink and gold. Sunbeams. After ten we find a primitive campground a few miles from the highway and roll out our bedrolls, the crickets going off around us.

Wednesday

It starts to sprinkle in the middle of the night and we all rise like zombies from our sleeping bags, half awake, and move under/over the picnic table beneath the gazebo and then I’m asleep again and then suddenly it’s dawn.

Today we spend all day in the car. Bah. I need to get back to the trail. Hiking and running and being in nature are how I manage my anxiety, and today, after about a week of doing nothing, that anxiety is starting to feel pretty intense.

My friend Margaret has a farm just north of Missoula, Montana and we arrive at seven, parking in the long grass and pouring from the packed car, wobbling on our legs, amazed to have been transported to this magical mountain-ringed land of lush summertime and long evenings- where even are we? Weren’t we just in Utah? Colorado? How strange it is to travel through space-time this way.

Margaret runs County Rail Farm with her partner Tracy and a couple of cute, dewey-eyed interns. They have goats (and baby goats!), a big farmhouse, and fields of vegetables. We fire up the grill in the warm evening light and grill garlic scapes, asparagus, burgers and goat sausage and eat these things with salad greens from the garden and fresh goat cheese. Then as the day cools and the mosquitoes come out we play “bite the bag”, wherein a paper bag is placed on the grass and each person in turn stands on one leg and tries to pick the bag up with their teeth. As people fail and are eliminated the bag is slowly torn to make it shorter, and the game grows more and more hilarious. I sit on the wooden deck after I’m eliminated and wonder who came up with this game. A group of people in the middle of nowhere, stuck together in an empty room, and then someone is like “well, I have this paper bag…”

It’s so nice to be here, on this farm. It’s so nice to catch up with Margaret. Soon I’ll be back on the trail. Everything’s gonna be ok, dammit!

Thursday

I sleep until 9 a.m. somehow in the guest room of the old farmhouse and when I wake up everything has already happened- people are up and packed, eating breakfast and Margaret and her interns are in the field, picking lettuce. The day is already old. I feel flustered as I shovel eggs and goat sausage, drink black tea and eat handfuls of small, overripe strawberries. Soon we’re packed into the rental car again, driving around Kispell in the hot sun running errands and bickering. Take five feral cats and put em in a hot box for three days. See what happens. Resupply boxes, gear store, printing maps, post office, food must be eaten. By the time we’ve dropped off the rental car and are standing on the side of the road, thumbs out to hitch to East Glacier, its 6:30 p.m. And then we’re hurtling into the pine scented mountains in the back of a pickup truck and suddenly, we’re free.

The highway narrows until all we can see are mountains and trees, mountains and trees. We’re so close to Canada- the great north! Our morale shoots back up like weeds in a horse pasture. Suddenly everything is funny again. East Glacier is a little railroad town I remember passing through on the highline- it was October and the ground was covered in sparkling snow, the big dipper wheeling above me. All my water froze.

Up here in the great north it’s light until ten p.m. Southbounding is starting to seem better and better- we’ll have long days the whole way. We eat nachos at the only open restaurant and talk of hiking the Great Divide Trail in the Canadian Rockies, kayaking the inside passage to Alaska. All the things we want to do. I want to go to Alaska right now- I could just keep going north. Next winter. Maybe I’ll go next winter.

We get a small room at a ramshackle boarding house that feels like it’s from 1850 and I make my bed on a mat on the floor. Tomorrow we’ll get our permits when the ranger station opens, hitch the rest of the way to the trail and, dear god- begin our hike- again.

Photos on instagram