It all started as I began my descent to Rogers Pass, precisely located at trail mile 294.9. The prospect of laundry, a bed, a shower, oooohhhh I was giddy with anticipation. That was, until I ran into a local hiker who way too eager to tell me about the Lincoln rodeo going on in town this weeekend. "Oh it's a huge town event, every accommodation is completely booked," she exclaimed. All I kept thinking was, how is a town of, I don't know, 10,000 people could be completely booked. In hindsight, that was my first mistake. Lincoln's population is only a fraction of what I had envisioned - can't remember what it is exactly but I'm sure Wikipedia does. Any hoo, I was a little discouraged as I got to the pass and stuck out my thumb but still optimistic that maybe, just maybe, somewhere a rodeo clown with a reserved penthouse suite was sick with the flu and unable to attend.
Only one car passed before I saw break lights come on as the second car slowed to a stop. Fate was on my side that day although I didn't know it just yet. I got in the car and a quick conversation with the driver revealed that Lincoln was in fact full of rodeo enthusiasts. The problem was I needed to stay in town until the post office reopened Monday morning...today was Saturday. That's when J (names changed to preserve privacy 😊) proposed this - why don't I just stay with her and her husband, M, at there cabin just outside Lincoln. The only downside was, there wasn't one! Floored by the generosity, I accepted.
What preceded was one of the most unexpected, incredible weekends of my life. It turned out that a bunch of their friends also had cabins on adjacent properties. I ate incredible homemade food, had a cabin to myself and not only conversed with other living, breathing humans but heard tales of Namibian safaries and baguettes in Paris.
The next day J and M took me to Blackfoot Pathways: Sculpture in the Wild, self described as an 'International Sculpture Park celebrating the rich cultural, environmental and industrial heritage of the Blackfoot Valley. Couldn't describe it any better myself, other than to say, What A Treat! One of the many reasons I hike these long trails is because they take me to places that may have gotton lost in the world of Google reviews and Trip Advisor ratings. And that's not a negative dig on those applications or on places that don't have a five star rating. It's only a gentle reminder to myself to trust the road (or trail) ahead, it can take you to some most unexpected locations.
The website for the park is: www.sculptureinthewild.com
Please, check it out.
That night, rivaled only by the evening before, was another home cooked meal made by the cabin neighbors and long time friends, M and B.
If the past couple days wasn't enough, J even drove me to the post office the following morning, waited while I re-supplied and dropped me back off at the trailhead. In my opinion, the most incredible part was that J didn't know I was a thru-hiker when she picked me up. The whole weekend was a total and complete random act of kindness, trail angels in every sense or the term.
I learned two things that weekend: Someday I want a cabin in the woods in Montana and keep hope - beautiful experiences can come from seemingly dire situations.
So much uncertainty hidden behind that smile (post rodeo intel, pre hitch of the century)
Blackfoot Pathways: Sculpture in the Wild
A sculpture of newspapers, weathered over time.
A house in the sky
M to give the artwork scale
Back on trail, rejuvenated after my time spent with all the fine folks I met at the cabin oasis.
Homemade muffins to-go, made by one of their friends. Really felt like I was roughin' it that day!
I thought it might just have been super windy the day I was ridge walking but the trees told a different story. That looks like wind + time to me.
Just so you know, I don't get the self timer right on the first try all the time.
One of the many fire towers I've past while hiking but this one was unique because it had residents! Well temporary, but still. The couple staying there that night said the Forest Services rents some of the now unused towers out to folks. But put your request in now. The couple there on the 4th of July booked it back in January.
They even kept the old fire detection, survey thingamabobbers whatchmacallets inside.
Downtown Helena. I was informed by a local that every Wednesday in the summer they have a city wide block party sort of thing. There was live music and lots of food trucks that evening. From what I saw looked like a really nice town. I could have spent much longer checking out the city but alas, the trail isn't going to walk itself.
The next day a local trail angel drove me up to the trailhead. I've heard Lincoln can be a tough hitch sometimes so I was super grateful to have a guaranteed ride. He and his wife also keep up two much needed water caches in one of the dry stretches before Helena!
A humanoid of sorts. I'm latching onto anything that even looks vaguely familiar at this point.
Northern Montana was especially tough with the large volume of deadfall littered about the trail. But boy do those conditions make me appreciate cleared trail and the amazing women and men who spend their time clearing it! This the the totally awesome, incredibly phenomenal, super badass all woman crew who had been clearing trail between Helena and Butte/Anaconda. Chainsaws in hand, they go from down tree to down tree doing backbreakimg work so us hikers can walk on through without breaking stride. After the shenanigans of the north, I've made it a personal mantra that any time I pass a tree which has clearly seen human intervention, I bow my head and whisper "thank you kind stranger." All your hard work is not for naught. I, nay, We, appreciate your hardwork immensely. So to those four women and all the trail maintainers out there, I bow my head and say loudly this time, "Thank you kind strangers."
Here comes the rain
This has been a very difficult trail to say the least. I write this from a laundromat in Anaconda, MT, sitting here in my rain gear (because every other article of clothing I own is in the dryer). All evidence leads me to believe I'm the only CDTer in town. A stunning contrast to the past two hikes where I couldn't walk a block without some bearded man or tangle-haired women yelling "Hey, hiker trash" (a term of endearment in the thru-hiker community) To this, now, not seeing a fellow compadre for days. It has taken it's toll. As a self proclaimed introvert, the CDT is doing her best to falsify that claim. This week especially though, meeting a train of simply extrodinary people I was reminded of something simple; to be grateful everyday for the opportunity to pay forward the kindness and generosity that was bestowed upon me in the outskirts of Lincoln, in Helena, deep in the Montana forest. And to all people who have helped me on any of my journeys; taken me in, given me rides, sent me packages, emailed me messages of encouragement, sent me virtual thoughts and prayers- You inspire me to smile, to love, to laugh, to walk, to be a better human, ultimately to pay all of it forward. It may take a lifetime to do but I've got a lifetime to try.
One step at a time, I feel deep in my bones, I'm getting somewhere,