Continental Divide Trail – Day 121
September 21, 2023
Miles Today/ Total: 8.7 / 2234.0
I woke up about 1:00am to find sleet & snow starting to cover my tent and the ground. It was still coming down and I expected it to last at least through the night.
It was cold again in the morning and I slept in until it was daylight. It had only snowed about 1/2” – 3/4” overnight and it was a light snow in the morning. I packed up my gear, shook off my tent the best I could and started down the trail about 8:00am.
The trail from camp was mostly down hill and I was moving at a fairly good speed to keep warm. A little over 3 miles in I came across a group of hunters at their elk camp keeping warm around a fire. We talked for a few minutes and they asked where I was going. One of the hunters who knew the area informed me that I was no longer on the CDT, but had missed a turn about 3/4 miles back.
Frustrated I started back up the mountain retracing my steps for the last 3/4 miles. Back on the CDT the trail began ascending up toward Rainbow Mountain. The snow started picking up and by the time I was nearing the top of the mountain I was in a full on snowstorm with snow blowing near horizontally into my face. I was now walking in 2-3” of fresh snow.
I reached the wind blown peak and found the rocky surface on the peak snow covered, but not very deep. I approached the opposite side of the mountain and began looking for the trail down. The wind had blown the snow from the top down the opposite side and I was now looking for the steep rocky switchbacks of the trail among 6” of fresh snow. The trail was barely visible and I cautiously began the descent toward Flower Lake.
Once I reached the tree line the trail became much easier to follow and I worked my way across the valley pretty quickly. The trail worked it way back up the next mountain towards Goat Pass. This was also the Anaconda Alternate junction and I turned up the mountain on the alternate to bail out at Storm Lake today.
Once again the top of the mountain was blowing wind and the trail was nearly invisible as I made my way toward Tiny Mountain. Fortunately the ledge around Tiny Mountain was clear and I made my way across this steep side hill just fine.
I reached Storm Lake Pass and sent a message out on my InReach to some Anaconda Trail Angels asking for a ride into town from Storm Lake. I received a response from EG saying he would meet me at the storm lake access road.
I hurried down the trail to meet EG and the weather cleared off some as I descended towards the lake. EG took me into Pintler’s Portal Hostel in Anaconda where I was able to get a bunk for the night.
The hostel was great. The nicest hostel I had stayed in on the whole trail. I was the only one there and had the whole place to myself for the night. I showered, started my laundry, and walked down the street to get some Mexican food for dinner.
Back at the hostel I finished my laundry and started making plans to get home. The weather was going to be bad for another day, 3-4 days of nice weather, then another winter storm coming through. I think I have reached that weather window I knew would push me off trail and going any further north would just make getting home harder. I still have about 500 miles to complete the CDT and will come back when I can catch a better weather window to wrap it up.
The CDT has been a fun, but challenging, trail and has pushed me out of my comfort zone on more than one occasion. Desert travel, high water, snow travel, and bear encounters have all been new experiences for me and have made this trip a great adventure.
Hasta la Vista CDT, I’ll be back…..