CDT day 54: Helena

June 27
Mileage: 7
998.5 miles hiked

I wake in the night to the sounds of engines revving and people screaming at each other.

“You think I won’t do it?” Screams a man, obviously drunk beyond measure. “You think I won’t?” There is the sound of gunshots. A woman is yelling. More revving of engines and then the ATVs peal away over the bare hills and the night is still again. I look up at the big dipper, wheeling in the clear dark sky. I fall asleep.

I wake to more engines. Trucks with banks of LED lights, parked in a circle below us. The people, who I cannot see, are chanting something horrible. I won’t repeat it here. Chanting, and chanting, and chanting. Did I wake in some awful, parallel universe? More chanting. A couple of ATVs tool by beyond where we’re camped, at the edge of the trees. The ATVs stop and a man and a woman scream at each other. Everyone is drunk beyond comprehension. They probably won’t even remember this in the morning. Is this what rural montana parties are always like?

We’re all exhausted in the morning. That party, we say. What the fuck was that party. It’s only seven miles to the highway where we’ll hitch into Helena, with just one big climb. In Helena I have to make my resupply boxes all the way to Grand Lake, Colorado, effectively fixing my hike from NoBo to SoBo. Since Glacier I haven’t had the dried vegetables and protein powder I usually send myself on the trail, and I think I’ve been feeling it. Nutrition, people. It’s important!

On the walk to the highway I end up off trail and must navigate a quarter mile of blowdowns. In between two blowdowns a stick jumps out of the leaves and stabs me in the shin. Literally stabs me. FUCK! I shout into the empty woods. FUCK! OW! The stick poked all the way through my skin, into the muscle a bit. I’m bleeding, blood running down my leg and into my watermelon-print gaiter. Puncture wound on the trail, yay. Fuck.

“What happened to your leg?” asks MeHap, when I reach the highway. “It looks like someone stabbed you with a pocket knife.”

“It’s fine,” I say.

A man in a classic car stops to talk to us, runs home to get his truck, and then ferries us all into Helena. What kindness! We pick up our boxes from the post office and then rent a car so that we can get around without having to hitch/wait an hour for the bus in the heat. Did I mention that we’re having a heat wave? 101 degrees, says the display in the rental car. Heat makes me grumpy. Ugh.

We go to the chinese buffet, which always seems like a good idea until you stop being ravenously hungry and start to notice what’s actually on your plate. Dried-out sushi, cold oily broccoli and a jello square? What the fuck am I eating? There is the fantasy of the buffet, and there is the having of the buffet. These are two very different things.

The boys go to see the new Jurassic Park movie and I wander around Walmart, filling my cart with enough food for eight boxes. I look at the people in the aisles, young dudes in camo baseball caps and women in short-shorts buying infant formula, and think- were you at that party? Were you at that party?

I assemble my boxes in the parking lot of the post office, everything already melting in the heat. Melted chocolate, melted wal-mart brand gluten free oreos. In case you’re wondering, wal-mart carries exactly three varieties of lara bar- apple pie, peanut butter cookie, and peanut butter chocolate chip. They also carry gluten free honey-mustard pretzel sticks and small, plastic 8 oz bottles of olive oil. I’m getting pretty good at wal-mart resupply.

The boys want to go back to the trail tonite so I give them a ride to the pass in the rental car. I have a motel room in town- I need to write my blog, figure out how to put the new memory card into my phone and charge my external battery, which takes all night. As a blogger I am bound to these things. It’s worth it, though.

The hotel room reeks of stale cigarettes, even though it’s non-smoking. Kind of reminds me of my childhood. I clean out the puncture wound on my leg, add neosporin and a band-aid. Hopefully I can keep it from getting infected on the trail. I stay up way too late doing all the little things, even though I know I’ll wake up at 5 in the morning, like I do. I’ll be behind the boys tomorrow, and will likely hike this section solo. I’m sort of looking forward to it tho- it’ll be peaceful, and I can walk/not walk as much or as little as I like.

I fall asleep with the fan all the way up, cold blue lights from the parking lot making their way in around the curtains.

Photos on instagram