Half a day of hiking brought me to West Yellowstone, my first trail town in Montana, for an afternoon filled with chores.
I hoped to start hiking today by 7 am, and only missed that goal by five minutes. The morning started off cool, and dry (much to my delight, since it made packing the tent so much faster). I continued the uphill I’d started yesterday evening, which grew progressively steeper as I climbed.
Once atop a ridge, it didn’t take long for the trail to enter the first burn area of Montana, though that was fortunately not a very long stretch of trail. Shortly after, the trail exited forest and traveled through a ridge-top meadow. Grasshoppers continued jumping every which way, and another one managed to land in my boot. The trail alternated between forest and meadow for the first half of the morning, and then returned to forest for most of the rest of the day.
For nearly the entire day, the trail was a short distance into the Montana side of the Montana-Idaho border. Three very brief times, the CDT dipped into Idaho, crossing the border as the trail curved around a stand of trees or made a switchback. By shortly after ten, I’d exited Idaho for the day.
Different states bring different trail maintainers. Wyoming started with a ton of markers on the trail (and then kind of petered out). Southern Montana seems to sign side trails, and actually labeled them as “CDNST Side Trail”. The dirt road I was on was also a snowmobile route; road signs lofted high into the air on poles warned of curvy trails and actually set a 45 mph speed limit on snowmobiles.
There was some nice, unique scenery as the trail meandered across the hillside. I didn't see any other hikers, but I did see a horseback rider going up one of the side trails.
I reached the highway at Targhee Pass just after noon, slightly later than I hoped, but with plenty of time to get chores done the rest of the day. I just needed to get into town. The road was quite busy; with a 65 mph speed limit and the pass being roughly at the top of a hill and around a bend, visibility was limited and people just didn’t stop. (Hitchhiking not being allowed in Idaho may also have played a part; the pass was right on the state border.)
After half an hour, I was eventually picked up by the owner of a nearby dinner theatre on his way to West Yellowstone. He’d apparently picked up quite a few hikers this season, but hadn’t seen any northbounders in a while. (Not surprising, given I’m rather late in the season.)
Dropped off at the Slippery Otter Pub, I went inside to meet Fuck-It and Velveeta. Fuck-It had quite the tale to tell; yesterday, he got picked up by a Yellowstone tour guide, who took him on a five hour guided tour of the park, where he actually got to see bison. (There are, apparently, lots of bison in the park, but I didn't see any while hiking through.) His leg appeared to be doing better; almost certainly he doesn’t have a fracture, he just needed to rest a little.
Velveeta's friend Joe eventually arrived, as did Pecorino and his friend Lush, and we all ate lunch together. Pecorino and Lush had hiked into town via the Big Sky alternate route I'd planned originally planned to take, and were going to hike out later today.
Velveeta arranged for a motel room for him, Fuck-It, and me, and then we set about taking care of errands. I stopped at an outfitter and got a new shirt to replace my aging shirt with giant holes on the shoulders. Though a shade lighter than my old shirt, I was very happy to find a replacement was the exact same brand and model. (And on clearance, too!)
We relocated to the landromat to do laundry. Fuck-It stayed to keep an eye on things while I walked across town to pick up our new boots and replacement pole tips that I’d ordered a couple of days ago.
West Yellowstone was definitely a tourist town. Most everything was flashy and overpriced, and tourists (many with loud children) were very present. The laundromat, even with the noise of the washers and dryers and people coming in and out, felt relatively quiet and releaxed.
My new boots, a newer model of the boots I’ve worn since the PCT, felt great. Unfortunately, they didn’t work for Fuck-It. He has custom corrective insoles that didn’t work well with the brand-new boots. I offered him my old boots (that were otherwise going into the trash), but they didn’t have enough cushion left in them to make using them worthwhile. Stuck with an extra pair of boots, I decided to mail them home. I don’t need them yet, but I will need them eventually.
With the new pack I got last week, along with a new shirt, shoes, and pole tips today, for the first time in a while, it felt like I wasn’t hiking on the dregs of worn-out equipment.
We checked into our motel, the Dude Motel, and went across the street to the supermarket. Fuck-It and Velveeta got food for dinner; I instead picked up some food I knew I’d need for resupply, but I’ll be coming back tomorrow morning once I actually inventory what I have and know what I need. (For dinner, I opted for McDonalds; I did this somewhat late in the evening, and it was a cold and rainy walk to and from the restaurant.)
Tomorrow, we’ll be departing from the CDT for about a week and a half, taking our variant of the Super Butte alternate, a massive shortcut that’ll take us in a relatively straight line to Butte. Via the CDT, this would be roughly 500 miles as the trail meanders in a giant “C” shape west along the Idaho-Montana border for a couple hundred miles, then northwest, and then back east to Butte. I’m not yet sure exactly how long the route we’re taking will be, but it should be at least 250 miles shorter, saving at least two weeks of hiking. I’m disappointed that I’ll be missing about 500 miles of the CDT, but if I want to get to Canada before winter weather hits, this is what I’ll have to do.