Montanaho! (Chief Joseph Pass to Bannock Pass)

130 miles along the Montana-Idaho border in the Beaverhead (Montana) and Salmon (Idaho) mountains. Incredible vistas. Victory over thunderstoms. Body ailments continue. Passed my 600 mile mark. Rest in small town Idaho.

In keeping with silly words like calling this part of the hike Montanaho (a long time CDT name for this region), it’s a good time to talk about trail entertainment. There’s so much time where you’re just out there wandering around on your own out in the woods, that it’s nice to have something to think about other than where to get water, why are my feet hurting, where did the trail go etc… WiseMan as you know has been texting me trail intel, but we’ve also been texting stupid jokes for the other to ponder for the long miles. Here’s a sampling of the trail entertainment that I’ve provided or been left to ponder:

What do you call a deer with no eyes? – No idea (no eye deer)

What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs? – Still no idea (still no eye deer)

What do you call a cross between an elephant and a rhinoceros? -Hell if I know (eliphino)

What does a nosey pepper do? -Gets jalapeno business

What’s the brown thing at the bottom of a banana called? -The bananus

Yes, that’s the quality material my brain has been pondering for hours at a time out here on the trail. So, if you think i’m out here becoming enlightened, you may be mistaken!

Day 31

11 miles

Heading out of town means needing to find a ride. Some towns have trail angels or lodge owners that are super awesome about helping hikers get back to the trail, other towns you just need to stick out your thumb and hope for a quick ride. I’ve been really lucky with hitching on this trail. Apparently Darby was a really hard hitch for other hikers, I saw a Facebook post that one hiker had been trying for 12 hours and still hadn’t gotten a ride the 30 miles back to the Pass.

I’d only been waiting 10 minutes when a big pick-up truck pulling a trailer carrying a load of timber pulled over. The driver, Bill, reminding me a lot of the driver that picked up Cheryl Strayed in Wild, he wore a pair of work overalls over his big belly and a cowboy hat over his sweaty brow and grey hair, and he wanted to know why a woman was out here hitch hiking on her own, and where was my husband anyway? After some initial very pro-Trump and anti-Hilary comments on his behalf I decided it was easier to tell him I was Australian (technically true, although omitting that i’m also an American) and avoid him pinning me down for my opinions on anything in particular.  I did appreciate the ride very much, particularly as he said that he hadn’t picked up a hitchhiker in over 2 years! He was kind man in a red neck way, and at the end of the day pulled over to make sure someone with bad intentions didn’t pick me up instead. He kept giving me analogies like, “do you like M&Ms?”, yes, “well, if I had a big bag of M&Ms and there was one bad one in it, bad enough it would kill you, would you still put your hand in and eat one?”, um, well I guess that depends on how good the good M&Ms were, I probably would if I was hungry and needed to eat. And so went our conversation for about 30 miles. Then he shook my hand, asked me to be safe and wished me well. Thanks Bill!

After Bill left me at the intersection of Hwy 93 and 43, I had a short 1 mile hike along Hwy 43 back up to Chief Joseph Pass and the CDT. There was some traffic but I decided it was just easier to walk up the road, even though it was pavement and hot as hell.

I left town after lunch and so by the time I got back to the CDT it was about 3:30 and my plan was to hike in 10 miles to the first water source along the trail. The hike was mostly along forest service roads through pine forests, although the last few miles were some steep poorly constructed trail up and down some hills. There was some trail magic along the way, there was a cooler stocked by some locals with beer, apples, water and a few other goodies a few miles from the Pass. I sat down and ate a delicious red apple and carried another one with me for breakfast the next day. I love trail magic!

I got to camp a few minutes before the sun set and was treated to a pretty spectacular sunset. There’s a fire 10 miles south of Salmon, a different one to the fire I left in Darby, however this fire was 85% contained and nothing to worry about given that I was to be hiking 20 miles a day through the area. Anyhow, the fire made for a stunning sunset because I could see the fire off to the south-east.

Day 32

22 miles

I think I was on the trail by 7 a.m. today, it took me a while to pack up camp because it was really cold and my hands were too cold to keep doing things without stopping to warm them under my arm pits. Might be time to get my fleece gloves out of my bounce box in the next town and start carrying them! My bounce box is a USPS box that I keep this laptop and a bunch of other spare stuff in that I mail down the trail to the next town i’ll be in. So while i’m out slogging away on the trail, my box happily bounces it’s way via USPS truck to the next town and awaits my arrival.

Today had a lot of shitty trail and a lot of elevation gain. By shitty, that started out by being trail that goes straight up or down a steep hill (instead of by a more moderate series of switchbacks) and then deteriorated into loose big rocky ATV roads that did the same. Yuck! Was a hard day of walking but by the end of the day the ‘trail’ climbed up and out of the forest and got me back up into the mountains and off the approach trails.

The only people I passed all day were a fire crew that were working on a fire right next to the trail, it was small and had been completely contained for a number of days and they were getting ready to finish up at the site. Thank you fire crew!

Day 33

18 miles

Weee, it was cold this morning! I’d set up camp next to a lake at 8500 ft. I don’t think I got moving until 8 a.m. because I didn’t want to get out of my tent until the sun hit and the temperature rose a little. Need those gloves! It was also the first night on the trail that I remember being a little too cold. I’m going to need to figure out a different sleep system if i’m still out here in the fall!

Today’s scenery was pretty awesome! Although again, a lot of ascending and descending, have I been saying that now for the whole state of Montana? My hourly mileage pretty much sucked the last half of the day when I made it up into a really stunning alpine zone because I couldn’t stop taking photos and gawking at the scenery.

The end of the day was a long descent back into a pine forest and out of the high country. I dry camped, that is to say I didn’t camp near water, in a patch of dry pine forest and slept much warmer than the evening prior.

Day 34

20 miles

Today was just a hot slog. Pine forest with no views all day but the last couple of miles. It felt like I was leaving one mountain range and walking in the valley to the next one. Although I think the trail just deviated from the divide down one long valley and back up the next.

One funny thing to note, in an ironic kind of way, is that today was the first day in ages that nothing hurt physically and I could just kick back and get the miles in. I was just thinking over in my head how in 350 or so miles i’d be in Wyoming and done with Montana and Idaho, and that with my body finally giving in to the miles I could start building my daily milage more, and then whamo, something in my hip flexor area stopped me in my tracks. Um, what NOW body, what now? I did a few dynamic stretches on the area and started back up, but as soon as I hit my stride it was back. This went on for a few miles then by about a quarter mile before where I was hoping to camp it got so bad I could barely walk. Hmmm, 70 miles into the middle of nowhere and 60 miles out of the middle of nowhere… what a great place to be stuck without legs that wanted to work.

There was a spring I passed just after it got really bad and I decided I needed to ice it. Only problem was the deepest puddle in the spring was about 6 inches deep. Realizing that i’d seen no one all day I decided it was a pretty good chance i’d see no one else for the rest of it, so I stripped off down to my bra and lay face first in the spring. Had anyone come along they would have seen a pretty much naked girl laying face first in a puddle of water across the trail. Ha! Glad they didn’t. I picked myself up after the mini ice-bath and limped my way into camp, feeling just a tad bit sorry for myself.

I did some more stretching on the hip flexor and associated muscles and rolled it all out a little with the lacrosse ball I carry. I lay in bed that night wondering how on earth I was going to get myself 60 more miles without a working leg, but hoping it would be better in the morning. I figured that there was an ATV trail 2 mountain passes and 7 miles away I could hopefully find someone at if I really had to, or the historic Lemhi pass 30 miles away that I could definitely get a ride out at. I don’t know why I spend mental energy thinking about things before they’re even an issue, but that’s what I do. Plan A, B, C and on it goes until whatever it is actually happens and I get to implement one of them. So far on this trail nothing has actually become injured, knock on wood, but there is CONSTANTLY something that’s painful or hurting and I start my contingency planning in my head. Sometimes I think I just have too much time out here to think about things. Hopefully this hip flexor thing is just another of these passing things.

Day 35

21 miles

I woke and was on trail by 6:30 a.m. eager to get an early start in case the hip issue hadn’t improved. The hip wasn’t painful like the night prior, but definitely didn’t feel normal. I took it pretty easy and as a result it took me more than 2 hours to get just 2.5 miles, but at least I was moving! Then the stars aligned, I got to the top of the ridge and had cell reception! I googled KT tape’s site and watched their video on both groin and hip flexor taping, deciding it was more hip flexor than groin I downloaded the taping guide for hip flexor, pulled out my KT tape and taped myself up. Then I called my good friend Trover who helped me figure out my maximum allowable dosage of Aleve, the manufacturer guidelines are pretty low, if you really need it you can take a lot more than that for a couple of days if you need to nab something that’s gotten really inflamed. Thanks Trover! Between the taping and the naproxen I was moving quicker and feeling better about getting myself out of the middle of nowhere.

I made it to mile 7 where I’d decided my first emergency bail-out point would be and decided I could keep going to the next bail-out point another 24 miles on. It looked like a mean storm was brewing and knowing the next 5 or so miles were pretty exposed I decided I better get myself going or else I would get stuck where I was until the next morning. Nothing like the threat of lightning to get this girl’s legs moving! I spent the next 5 miles trying to outwalk the storm, i was pretty close to the first then second one that moved through, but luckily each was either just infront or behind me. Still, i felt pretty nervous being up there with thunder rumbling so close by, nearby trees provided reasonably good comfort for me though. I’m getting better about dealing with the storm thing, and they do make for some stunning views! Somewhere in the stress of out-walking a storm my hip flexor had relaxed a little and allowed me to walk normally again- what a relief!

I got off the ridge without issue and found safety in rolling hills of pine forest that the trail followed for the next 17 or so miles. There was thunder and rain for the next couple of hours and i was really happy to have gotten through that exposed section when i did.

I detoured off-trail down a road to find water in a spring in the late afternoon. The sun was out by that point and it was really nice hanging out in the meadow taking an ice bath and rehydrating. There’s no on-trail water along this stretch of trail for about 40 miles, so it’s necessary to head off trail to find water every 10 or so miles. Plenty of nearby springs though if you’re willing to walk an extra half mile every so often.

Day 36

22 miles

I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to thunder and decided I better pack up my camp stat before the rain came. A good decision as no sooner had I done so did I get hailed on. Nothing worse than pulling out your tent at the other end of the day and setting up a wet tent!

Today was a cool day from a historic perspective because I passed through Lemhi Pass. Lemhi has a lot of history. For centuries before white man made it to the west, this pass was used by many native Indian tribes to cross the mountains. During the colonial era, Lemhi pass marked the western border of the French Louisiana Territory, and after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 the western border of the US territory. In August 1805 the Lewis and Clark expedition, let by natives, first glanced into Idaho and the western side of the divide. The Lemhi valley was also a settlement for Mormon missionaries and Lemhi pass is actually named after a king from the Book of Mormon.

As if all of that isn’t cool enough on the historic scale, a quarter mile off the pass is a tributary to the mighty Missouri river, which eventually feeds into the Mississippi River. I took a nice long drink out of the spring and stood with one foot on either side of the small spring. If you take my recommendation from my last post and read River Horse, you’ll realize how much significance this has to the river systems on the eastern side of the divide as well as to the Lewis and Clark expedition.

And then just to top off the interesting morning I was having, a family invited me to have lunch with them and I got to eat ham sandwiches and grapes! Such kindness, I was so happy! The mother even gave me another ham sandwich in a to-go bag for later and offered to take all of the trash i’d accumulated in my pack this stretch to make my carry lighter. Awesome trail magic!

The afternoon saw another episode of Kate vs thunderstorm. Storm clouds were brewing as I headed out of Lemhi and embarked on an 8 mile uphill slog to gain the ridgeline, then a few miles of exposed ridgetop walking after that. I wanted to get to town and I was going, screw that storm! I powered up the hill, making only a short detour off the trail 7 miles in for some spring water. The clouds kept building, thunder was rumbling and every time I looked up I was just under the edge of the big storm cloud. I gained the ridge and powered along the first exposed ridgeline and pulled away from the edge of the cloud. To my delight the storm raged on behind me and I got further away from it. I felt so exhilarated by the crazy workout i’d just put myself through, as well as at my victory over the storm that I stood up there on the ridge and shouted over to the giant storm cloud “Hahahaaa, I beat you, you mother*$Ker, I beat you” and waved my poles around in the air at it. Sounds stupid now, but it was awesome!

The few miles of ridge walking were really cool, one foot in Idaho, the other in Montana the whole time. The divide in this part of these states is the state boundary line. Pretty cool. The scenery was stunning. I took the opportunity while I had cell reception to video call my brother in Australia for his birthday. Technology is so neat, the fact that he could show me around his new house in Melbourne and I could show him the view as I walked along the state boundary of Montanaho!

Somewhere along the way today I also surpassed my 600 mile mark. Who would have thought! It’s been a hard 600 miles physically, but i’m still standing, or should I say walking.

I camped on a ridge just down from the main ridge and ate ramen noodles for dinner while watching a herd of elk make their way to a nearby spring below me. I was exhausted from the long day, but really looking forward to getting to town tomorrow in 13 short miles, it’s been a long stretch this segment.

Day 37

13 miles

I woke to a great sunrise from my tent. I just love the sunrises on this trail.

As you can see from the pics below, today was mostly rolling hills of sagebrush. The scenery was vast and beautiful, but my feet were killing me. As they often are. I’d developed an extremely tender spot, despite my taping it yesterday at the first sign of friction, right under the ball of my foot. Argh. EVERY pointy rock that I stepped on today felt like a sharp needle jabbing into my foot, stopped me in my tracks a few times. Was so painful. Argh. The Keen shoes, as it turns out, are also too narrow for these ridiculously wide feet I seem to now have. You know i now have size 9 men’s feet in a wide! I used to be size 9/9.5 women’s, which is a men’s 7.5/8. In addition to this budding blister, my little toes on both sides have been numb for a few days.  It was a really painful 13 miles, but it helped that I knew town and rest were nearby.

I’d organized to call the owner of the Leadore Inn, Sam, from a hill about 5 miles from Bannock Pass for a ride into town, but when I got there I had no reception. I texted via GPS a friend, Dave Fields, for some help reaching him and I heard back that he couldn’t get through but had left a voicemail for him. I was feeling a little stressed walking those last 5 miles because without Sam to meet me, I was very unlikely to get a ride as there’s no traffic along that gravel road but maybe a car every 5 hours, and no cell reception there either.

A half mile out the pass came into view and I saw that there was a white truck parked there. Woah! I went for it as fast as my very painful foot would carry me. As I was almost down the truck started pulling away, I was waving my poles at it and shouting for it to stop. To my surprise the truck didn’t drive off down either side of the pass, but appeared closer to me where the trail dumped down onto a road headed to the pass. It was Sam! He had heard from other hikers i’d been texting the day prior that i’d be likely to be arriving at the pass between 12 and 2 and he decided to take his book up there and read it while he waited for me. Can you believe that! He waited 2 hours for me to come limping down that trial. Thanks Sam. The kindness of people out here and willingness to help out CDT hikers just never ceases to amaze me.

Rest in Leadore, Idaho

Pronounced lead ore, like the mining words. This town is certainly small town Idaho. There are more abandoned businesses along the 200 yard stretch that is Main Street that there are operating businesses. Everyone here is very nice. Especially Sam at the Inn. The Inn has 4 rooms. Main street has a restaurant/bar, a rest-stop convenience store/gas station and a post office. The town used to be a hub in the mining days and when a railroad crossed Bannock Pass providing transportation from Idaho and Utah into Montana.

I spent my time doing what I do best, icing and elevating my various sore body parts. I also got caught up on some Snowbird work, although thanks to my awesome team things are going great back in Little Cottonwood Canyon for the retail team; talked to Keen about sending me a new pair of wider shoes; figured out my plan for Wyoming, yes, i’m only about 200 miles from Wyoming now; and watched some of the Olympic events on tv, i’m happy to see that most of the athletes seem to have various body parts taped up, i’m not the only one in that boat!

As seems to be the way of the CDT, I saw virtually no one on this last stretch of trail, but plenty of other hikers in town. Bright Eyes and her black lab Sadie arrived a couple of hours after me and apparently had been just behind me the whole 130 miles of this last stretch. We had a great time chatting, I think it took us 3 hours to eat breakfast yesterday in fact; it was really nice to have some girl chat time… I don’t do that very often. She’s hiking the trail as i’ve said with her black lab, it’s definitely got it’s challenges, but i think that’s really neat. Funny thing, Bright Eyes knew exactly the places I took a wrong turn on the trail because Sadie had insisted on taking her off-trail despite the fact Bright Eyes knew it wasn’t the right way. Ha. Bright Eyes hit the trail yesterday and a wave of northbound hikers (started at the Mexican border in April) Maverick, Bambi, Buttercup and Sojo came back in Sam’s truck. They were a funny crew, I had a good time hearing their stories of Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico over dinner and beers last night.

My new wide men’s shoes have just arrived with the UPS truck and so i’m hitting the trail again in the morning, big foot style. Wish me luck that these, my 5th pair of shoes in my 630 miles, will give me some pain free walking! I’m feeling hopeful.

Thanks for reading.


13 thoughts on “Montanaho! (Chief Joseph Pass to Bannock Pass)”

  1. Love catching up with you. Sounds like you are holding up fairly well, though it is no surprise you are a bit banged up. Take care, we think of you often and hope for happy trails.

    Paul and Alison

  2. 600+ wow keep it going Kate, maybe we’ll meet up in the Winds, I know a place for a good greasy burger. Love seeing Lemhi pass I have read just about everything there is to read about Lewis & Clark, we will have to go there next time we are up that way.Hope the aches and pain are behind you, best of luck hope to catch you at Green River Lakes.

  3. Gosh Kate, i laughed at your trail jokes but ache all over in sympathy for your sore feet and hip flexor! I’m finally getting close to walking on both feet after my foot fracture but man, it’s been a very long recovery. Physical therapy is going to be my next stage and finally driving, Yay! Hopefully I can get to SB soon and talk to your retail group. I love hearing about the trail magic and kindness of others, so heartwarming. Stay safe and blister free! “To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield” (Ulysses) Lorraine

    1. Ulysses and Dick Bass?
      Thanks Lorraine. Good luck with PT, that’s a long journey. Let me know when you’re ready to get started at SB and we’ll get you lined up with something, MP still looking good!

  4. Hey Kate, I don’t know if you have bandwidth or a device to listen to a podcast, but there’s an awesome one called Sounds of the Trail with stories from thru-hikers on the CDT, Appalachian and PCT. You might even meet some of the contributors as you’re hiking.

  5. I hiked with Avo and Gabs last year on the trail! They’re wonderful folks – glad to see they had trail magic out for you!

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