Trip Report CDT: Montana/Idaho pt3

Idaho High and Low
Historic Dam

I blast off in the early morning once again on roads but now with more gravel side roads/shoulders. Two different locals take time to chat me up as I pass by. Once back on trail it's back to climbing with 3 or 4 passes ahead of me.

Anaconda Pintler

I accidentally sneak up on a local who pulls bear spray on me but thankfully does not discharge it. He makes an off-colour joke mocking me with hands in the air saying, "Don't shoot me". I catch Rabbit once again, he had stayed in town at the motel and hitched out of town. I get stood off by an aggressive grouse once again in the evening and chat with a hiker, Loofah, at the top of a pass.

Looking down into burned out valley

More climbs as I do a pass roughly every two hours. I walk through huge burn areas which occurred last year in 2022. I meet two German hikers, Dread Pirate and Buttercup, who are finishing up their Triple Crown. Shortly after I meet Spoons and Sunshine relaxing in some shade of dead trees. With them is Star Lord who I'd met last year on the Arizona trail.

The next section is a scar on the landscape with barely a tree standing. I begin to count and get to 146 obstacles I have to climb over in 1mi(1.6km). Finally reaching the summit I run into a NOBO hiker. I camp near a lake with a ton of flies and once again mess up my bear hang causing me to give up and sleep next to my food.

Early in the morning at the top of climb I meet Liquor and Spagnum Pi checking out Trapper Peak, the tallest point of the Bitterroot Range to our west. The sky is cloudy and it drizzles on the way to town. I manage 27mi(43.5km) by 1500h and meet Scribe and Space Maker at the trailhead. They try to convince me to hitch into Hamilton instead of the usual town of Darby which most people stop at.

At the junction I stick out my thumb and the first car stops to grab me. A young local named Liz takes me to Hamilton as we chat about thruhiking and her dream of doing the AT. After resupplying it seems impossible to hitch out. I begin to regret my decision but after a long time a local picks me up and brings me to the town of Darby. I meet the NOBO hiker from yesterday again, Jenny from Shanghai and another hiker Lazy Boy.

I still have to hitch back to trail and it's around 1800h. I decide to try my luck for an hour or else just go to the campground in town for the night. After some time a chatty local pulls up and insists he knows where I need to go. A few minutes into the drive I realize he's drunk and I try to keep him attentive as we barrel around twisty mountain roads. Getting back to the trailhead in one piece I manage to squeeze out another 5.5mi(9km) and camp with a hiker named Jon.

Stony Mountains

There is a huge continuous 3000ft(915m) climb today and I catch up to a bunch of hikers: Wheels, Scribe, Space Maker, Veian and one other. The trail is beautiful in this section with alpine views and traverse along the rims of stony basins. My day is slightly ruined by realizing my cold-soak jar has been leaking and so I spend time washing and drying my bag.

Sustained climbing continues as I pass more hikers: Rock, Doctor Dolittle, Dave, Poncho, Annie and Worth It. Worth It and I notice huge pyroclastic clouds in the distance, realizing there is a huge wild fire. She calls 911 and they tell her that it's indeed a new fire but it should not affect the trail.

Pyroclastic clouds

The early morning starts with a nice ridge walk and no fire smoke is visible. I am optimistic and think the fire must have been suppressed overnight. As the day continues on the plume of smoke rises again to assure me the fire is still raging.

I pass a SOBO hiker, Chicago, and then a NOBO hiker, Green Grass. Chicago catches me at camp as we hide away from mosquitoes.

Stony Mountains

I rush to Bannock Pass in the morning hoping to hitch into town. Upon arriving to the pass it becomes apparent no hitching will be occurring out here. Thankfully Chicago who is behind me has a shuttle organized so I just have to wait for that. Ronny, a little old lady pulls up early and I chat with her as we wait for Chicago to arrive. Poncho and Annie make it in time as well as we all share the shuttle into Leadore.

In town, I grab a bed for the night, grab some lunch from the only restaurant in town and grab my resupply food box I'd sent from Helena prior. The town of normally 100 people is busy as trucks drive up and down the strip. Dozens of fire crews from all around the country have come as Leadore is now the staging ground to combat the Hayden Creek fire.

I spend the afternoon hanging out with Poncho and Annie and do some laundry. For dinner I have big plans. At lunch I noticed a sign at the back of diner mentioned a food eating challenge. The last winner was a Canadian so I felt obliged to give it a try. Three burgers, three servings of fries, a large cola and a large milkshake need to be consumed within 30 minutes. Piece of cake as I finish in time and win 100USD and a t-shirt! If only every town had this then I could hike for free.

Food challenge Winning 100USD Depot Trainwreck Challenge

I eat one final meal at the diner the shuttle back with the same crew to trail. The hills of the Montana/Idaho border are steep as the trail follows a rickety fence delineating the state dividing line for the most part. From noon I manage to do ~26mi(42km) before camping having hoped to catch Wheels who is apparently just ahead.


I catch Wheels leaving his camp as I diverge from the CDT to try my first cross-country(XC) alternate. I try to convince Wheels to join along but have no success so off I go. I am ecstatic and suddenly the adventure of the CDT is amplified by choosing a different path. I can't help but giggle as I climb up into ram valley and take in it's stunning panorama. Unfortunately I don't see any rams but I do manage to catch Wheels as I rejoin the CDT.

Top of ram valley alt

The main trail is also XC as the trail vanishes and we make some wrong turns down hillsides. We pass two NOBO hikers in silence on one such detour, neither side saying anything in the quiet of the morning and struggle of the climb. We come upon another alternate I planned on doing, Cottonwood Peak. Once again I try to convince Wheels but once again it's a no. He graciously spares me some of his water as I climb straight up. The views are epic and with a clear sight of the Bitterroot Range across the valley. The descent down is sketchy and loose but I manage only getting a few small tears in the sides of my shoes. I catch Wheels again along the CDT as we cruise over the hills and in the rain.

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