This post was written in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day. Please excuse any errors.
We lounge around Lima, eating healthy food for a change. Wild Land has come up with a roadwalk out of town that will make the upcoming fire detours easier and put him back on schedule. I dream of finishing on my 30th birthday (which is logistically very difficult!) Thatch books a train ticket for after the hike. We plan on hiking together, at least for a while. Finally, I have a little trail family.
Thatch and I head out and slackpack the 20 miles back to Lima along a dirt road by the interstate. It’s easy walking and we crush 20 miles in 5 hours, no breaks. We stop in Lima for a burger, and then it’s another 10, despite starting at 10am, past a tiny gas station where we buy coffee for the morning. We sleep in a field by the train tracks. At 11:30pm, a freight train comes through, blasting it’s horn. I’m completely disorientated, and can’t remember where I’ve camped. I have to peek under my tarp to remind myself it’s a few hundred feet away. It’s more of the same in the morning, leapfrogging each other and stringing out along the road as we adjust our paces for time of day and energy/caffeine levels. I start to think about finishing. The whole trail, I’ve just wanted to be done, to have the CDT be something I did, rather than something I’m doing. But now I’m not so sure. Wild Land mentions I’m welcome to keep hiking with him after the border, and I’m tempted. But then, once we reach the turn off we’re allowed to hitch from, the clouds build and thunder rolls and I realize, I’m ready for this adventure to be over. I’m tired, physically and emotionally. I hurt, and I’m ready for a change of pace. We get a ride to Leadore just before the heavens open. Our ride is a little scary- 90mph down a dirt road, dodging cows. But I’m excited for town. Both Thatch and I should have new shoes there, and thanks to a failure to do math, my shoes are approaching 900 miles. I can feel every rock through them. We double dinner at the little restaurant in town, then camp for free across from the motel, thanks to the nicest motel owner I have met so far. In the morning, I pass the closed restaurant, hit the post office for my shoes, then get breakfast at the gas station. The restaurant is open by the time I walk back, so I get second breakfast. I hang out on the motel porch, drinking soda and messing around on the internet when Thatch comes up. He’s been sick all morning and isn’t feeling better. He tells Wild Land and I that he can catch up. I tell them we can wait a little longer and go to get him a Gatorade and me a sandwich. By the time I get back, the guys have come up with a plan. Sam the motel owner will give us a ride first thing in the morning, saving us a hard hitch. Thatch can recover today and we can crush miles tomorrow. Wild Land and I hang out on the porch with the locals, watching the thunderstorms roll past. We get a late start- 8am back on trail. We immediately walk past a ranch with signs warning about guard dogs. The first vicious guard dogs sits fat and happy surrounded by his sheep buddies, wagging his tail and not even bothering to get up to greet us. The second comes over and walks with us for a while, demanding pets. Thatch and I stop for breakfast and when Wild Land comes up, he has a new puppy friend too. The two dogs identify me as the softest touch and attach themselves to me. I hike on, stopping to pet them often. About six miles past the ranch and Wild Land’s friend has wandered off, but the other dog is still with me. Much as I’d like to take him to Canada, he’s visibly tiring and there’s been no shade or water. I try and chase him off, yelling and throwing rocks towards him. He drops back, further and further, but still follows me. I feel bad, but it’s for his own good. Finally I can’t see him anymore. Thatch will later tell me that a car came and picked him up. We’re accidentally on the GDMBR again, which makes me feel better about our detour. An Irish biker stops to talk to me and I visibly blow his mind when he figures out I’m walking a version of what he’s biking. He can’t believe I have everything I need in my backpack, looking down at his fully loaded bike. He loses interest when Thatch wanders up and we keep hiking. A guy from New Zealand stops to talk to us later. Turns out he knows the New Zealand racer I met earlier this summer. He tells me he finished in 10th place and I am so happy for him. We eat up the miles on the road, with 33 miles taking us to the tiny town of Polaris. There’s a restaurant there, and though the kitchen is closed, the bar tender loads us up with beer and snacks. A couple at the bar chats to us, asking how we all met. The woman can’t believe I was hiking alone and I’m a little short with her, telling her the guys were hiking alone too. Wild Land makes a joke about my height to diffuse the tension. I’m still a little miffed though. I liked surprising people at the start of this trail, but now I am so tired of the off hand sexist comments. We camp on the grass outside the restaurant, and in the morning, there is breakfast. We head out late. Wild Land is slow, stopping at every outhouse. It’s his turn for gastro distress. There’s a hot springs just down the road and we stop there for lunch. I eat my burger and feel nauseated too. I lie down on a bench, but that doesn’t help, so I get up and start hiking. By the top of the hill, I’m feeling better, although Wild Land passes me like I’m standing still, despite his feeling crappy. It’s more of the same in the morning. We crush 15 miles to Wise River, where there is a bar. We spend an hour and a half eating pizza and Thatch and I split a pitcher of beer. Somehow I am still able to do another 20 miles after this. My new shoes are too small and I take Ibuprofen and limp along. Wild Land tells me stories to distract me. We camp in national forest across the road from a ranch and their dog barks all night. Groggy, we hurry to Anaconda in the morning, reaching town before the rain starts.