CDT day 42: mystery rashes and broken icecream freezers

June 15
Mileage: 26
765.5 miles hiked

Just as I’m tucked into my sleeping bag, warm and cozy and ready for sleep, my legs start to itch. What the fuck? I lay there, trying not to scratch. If it’s mosquito bites it’ll eventually pass… but it doesn’t pass. The itching goes on, a sort of mild burning all over my legs. Then I hear Spark-

“Do your legs itch? I can’t fall asleep.”

I think of the nettles and cow parsnip we were walking through all day, in the heat. Cow parsnip, especially, I know can give you a rash if you get it on you in the sun. I almost drift off, but then the itching returns. I’m so goddam sleepy. Fuck! At least I’m cozy and warm. It’s been so cold in Glacier- sort of overcast and windy/foggy every day. Even if I’m trapped in this sleepless land of nonstop itching, at least I get to be warm and dry in my sleeping bag. There is that.

I finally drift off around 2 a.m. and wake again at seven. Out of the warm tarp and into the cold world- huddling in the dripping forest with other hikers who also flipped north, eating my granola. I make a hot cup of green tea and drink it with espresso dark chocolate, letting the tea melt the chocolate in my mouth. God I love having a stove.

We’ve got 26 miles today to the little village that is East Glacier- and two passes to climb over. I’m pumped tho. I’m getting back into this hiking thing. I love hiking!

I’m still slow on the climbs though. I inch my way up the rocky switchbacks and through the snowy forest, feeling like a semi truck in the lowest possible gear. It grows colder as I climb, and I keep adding layers. The views up here are breathtaking- those purple mountains and their snowfields, the glittering lakes. So much like where I grew up in Alaska. Oh how I miss it! And cold, too, I think, as I dig the gloves out of my pack. Just like I remember summers there.

At the top of a pass are a couple of steep snowfields, and we get to use our ice axes/microspikes. Still, the snow here is nothing like the snow in the San Juans in Colorado right now. The thru-hiker part of me still feels wrong for having flipped, for not having at least attempted the snow. But the mountaineer part of me, which I just began to develop last winter, understands how stupid it is to take risk just for the sake of ego. (Here’s the blog post of another CDT hiker that I think describes the snow in CO well) So I’m in Montana. I flipped. Nothing is straightforward on the CDT this year, not for anyone. It’s a real ego-crusher of a year. But maybe that’s the lesson. Isn’t that always the lesson?

On the other side of the pass is a long descent and things start to get warmer once we’re back in the trees. In six miles in Two Medicine Lake campground, where we’ve just learned there’s a camp store and a cafe, so we’re rushing to get there. Since I’m no longer climbing I put on all my layers. It’s cold!

“I bet this place has soup,” says Spark, as we walk. “And a big fireplace.”

“Those are some large promises,” I say. But I want it to be true.

There is soup. Not just soup but bison chili. And a huge roaring fireplace. And a couple of other hikers, tucked into a table next to the windows, drinking rootbeer. I’m sitting there stuffing my face when I hear the employees behind me-

“The ice-cream freezer is broken. We have to throw out all this ice-cream!”

“Um, excuse me,” I say, standing up. “But we are hikers and we will eat some of this ice-cream for you.”

The employee somehow agrees to this, and then we’re elbow deep in ice-cream twix bars. Unfortunately I can only eat one melted snickers bar, on top of all the other food I’ve already eaten, before I feel as though I’m going to hurl. This is dissapointing, but maybe for the best. Dairy upsets my stomach, and I shouldn’t be eating it at all. But when you’re in the middle of a thru-hike and someone announces that the ice-cream freezer is broken and they have to throw away all the ice-cream…

Time for the second pass of the day. I’m hiking heavy, but no matter. How glorious it is, to go up into these mountains! At the top of the pass is a bighorn sheep, just chillin. We watch each other for a while. In the last four days I’ve seen six mountain goats, a bunch of rabbits, a moose, and now this bighorn sheep. Montana wins.

By the time I mosey into East Glacier I’m crashing. This section was a doozy, what with the actual climbing. No matter, East Glacier is the perfect place to walk into off of the trail- peaceful and small, just a cluster of cabin-like buildings in the weak northern sun, no traffic, dogs moseying around, barefoot hikers in flannel drinking beer on the porch of the bakery, which is also the hostel.

In the morning, hopefully, our friends will show up- we miss them!

Photos on instagram