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Home » Adventures » CDT » Journal » Montana » Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness

CDT: Anaconda Pintler National Forest (MacDonald Pass to Chief Joseph Pass)

July 2

I had a relatively easy, straight forward day on the trail. Nothing too special occurred on my nice walk in the woods up and down the divide. I scared a herd elk in the morning and heard a couple other groups thundering away from me throughout the day.

I camped on the backside of Thunderbolt Mountain near a spring. Although I do not usually make campfires in the backcountry, especially alone, this site already had a fire ring and the mosquitoes had been getting worse every night, so happenstance dictated I should build one. A very bright full moon filled the sky. Too bad darkness came too late to really enjoy it. There should be time for that later on the CDT though.

A chipmunk posing on a branch
Myself atop the lookout point on Thunderbolt Mountain

July 3

Another day crossing tread, ATV trails, and gravel roads. My hiking pace seemed slow and each step labored, so I really looked forward to my easier days around Anaconda. My feet were becoming sore earlier in the day as well. I do not know what combination of my shoes, socks, and/or feet giving out contributed to this condition.

A flowery meadow in the woods

July 4 — Independence Day

I intentionally started late since I only had to cover a few miles to Uncle Bucks in Warm Springs. Pushing myself to reach Anaconda today would not help much, since the post office was closed, and I wanted to stay in a hotel room after retrieving my box to plan logistics.

Despite the notes on Ley’s maps warning about private property, I tried a seemingly quicker way on roads, but ran into locked gates and private property. My “shortcut” took longer and eventually followed the purple route anyway.

I made it into Warm Springs by early afternoon and unfortunately found Uncle Bucks closed for the holiday, as I feared. I might have been able to walk all the way into Anaconda but did not want to endure the long day with no lodging planned in town. I instead stayed put since Yogi’s guide indicated hikers had permission to camp there. Being out of food was my real problem, as I had planned to eat dinner at Uncle Bucks. I went to bed hungry and looked forward to the “no good restaurants” in Anaconda.

Uncle Bucks is the only things in Warm Springs, MT, except a state mental hospital. Unfortunately it was closed on the 4th of July, while I passed through and had been counting on it for dinner.

July 5 — Anaconda

I left Uncle Bucks early in the morning for the unpleasant road walk into Anaconda along a high speed roadway without any shoulder. Since I had not eaten breakfast I stopped at the first gas station and for sustenance. I then went to Trade Winds Motel to drop off my pack so I did not have to carry it around town, but my room was already ready and they allowed me check in at 10 a.m.! I therefore took a needed shower before grabbing lunch, visiting the post office, library, and doing laundry. Back at the hotel I soaked in the pool and hot tub. While going for a snack, I saw Free Bird and Roaring Lion, who had just arrived in town and were lodging there as well.

An old rail car that used to transport passengers around the area

July 6

I ate the continental breakfast at the Trade Winds Motel before buying groceries and eating lunch. While resting outside after eating I saw Free Bird and Roaring Lion walk past. A little while later Transient rolled by as well, the first I have seen him since he took a wrong turn at least a week ago.

I ate too much of the wrong combination of food, which did not agree with me. I eventually found myself in a bathroom emptying my stomach. The same thing happened the prior night too, twice in less than 24 hours. I had been reading through Proverbs, which contains verses about gluttony. Maybe I should pay more attention to those. After that unpleasant experience I walked the rest of the way out of Anaconda without incident.

While still in town though a car pulled over and asked if I needed a ride, without any prompting. The driver had volunteered building sections of the CDT, happened to be wearing a CDTA shirt, and recognized me as a probable thru hikers. I did not need any assistance, but thanked him for the offer and his help constructing tread.

Since my MP3 player was dead I picked up a discarded newspaper for entertainment on the road walk, and it contained an article about a new doctor in Butte. Through a huge coincidence, that doctor had emailed me before I left, offering to be a trail angel in the area, if I needed a ride near Butte. I never required his help, but what are the odds of me picking up an old newspaper and finding an article about him?

I met a nice couple at the turn off the paved road to Twin Lakes Creek, who gave me water and directions. I hiked a few more miles up the creek and water flume before calling it a day.

The spillover from a dam for an old water flume

July 7

After a couple easier days of short road walks, the CDT returned to its normal intensity, endlessly going up and down mountains. The trail became thin between Twin Lake and Storm Lake, and I had to bushwhack on the way up, but found the trail again at the top of the saddle.

Storm clouds threatened as I scaled Storm Lake Pass, but they held off, allowing me to safely complete the climb. A lot of day hikers (and their dogs) went up the pass as well, none of whom seemed concerned about the weather.

As I hiked to Rainbow Mountain Pass though, lots of thunder, lightening, and rain arrived, and I had to wait out the storm at lower elevations. After the weather cleared I finally made it over.

Although a long distance, I had planned to reach Cutaway Pass and somehow even convinced myself to climb over it. Unfortunately, from the top of the pass I had over thirty minutes descending before reaching a point even slightly level enough to pitch a tent, which did not happen until late in the evening.

Looking up towards Twin Lakes
A swampy clearing beneath the mountain tops
Storm Lake
The trail leading off into the mountains

July 8

I started later in the morning due to last night’s long night hike, so I did not save time overall by my extended hike yesterday. Early in the day I met a German couple who were on their way to completing section hiking the CDT this year.

The rest of the day I spent climbing over passes and descending back into the valleys. I did not move very fast through the terrain as the prior hard day burnt me out.

Despite my late start I stopped early too. As evening approached the trail climbed back to follow the divide, and the probability of further possible campsites or water was low.

Warren Lake
Martin Lake

July 9

The trail inverted and moved from valleys back to atop the divide, staying high, as usual including lots of climbs and descents.

While eating an early dinner at Surprise Lake, a storm blew up and threatened, causing me to finish eating quickly. Other than the nearby thunder though, nothing materialized.

I became lost when the trail disappeared in a meadow, but backtracked and eventually found my missed turn.

Roaring Lion caught me towards the end of the day, despite having taken a zero in Anaconda the day I hiked out.

A grassy meadow amongst the trees

July 10 — Lost Trail Pass

For once I heeded my alarm and started punctually. I needed to reach Lost Trail Pass at a decent hour to get a ride into Darby before it got late. The pass was still over twenty miles away, but the terrain was relatively flat and I intentionally hiked quickly to make time.

At Lost Trail Pass’s rest area I talked with a couple who surprisingly were familiar with long distance hiking, and generously agreed to provide a ride to Darby. In town I camped at Traveler’s Rest RV Park, whose owners were friendly to CDT hikers. I did laundry and had supper in town, this time keeping it all down.

The CDT coincided with the Nez Perce National Historic Trail for a stretch north of Chief Joseph Pass
Sunlight streaking through the clouds
Welcome to Montana’s Bitterroot Valley and Darby