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Great Western Loop: Day 87 - 95: Big Sky to Butte

Day 87: Spanish Peaks (25miles)

Having left the official CDT route days ago, I was now headed into the famous Spanish Peaks mountain section.

The hike started with a 2,500ft (760m) climb over several miles, until I reached a high point at 9,500ft (2,900m)

(Straight ahead (middle of the picture) is the mountain pass I had to cross)

The wind was quite intense and dark clouds had me worried about bad weather coming in, but the weather remained rather stable and slightly improved later on.

(View of Bear Basin, I came up all the way through that valley, you can barely see the trail)

I knew I was up for a challenge in the Spanish Peaks, and crossing the pass eventually got me into a rockslide, that proved to be quite difficult to traverse. The trail was entirely gone and I had to scramble several hundred feet downhill, over loose rocks and gravel, to make it back to the trail.

(The other side of the pass, steep downhill section)

The trail than continued dropping down to about 7,000ft (2,130m), just to climb right back up to more than 9,000ft (2,700m) on the High Lakes Trail. In total I ascended and descended more than 10,000ft (3,050m) that day.

Day 88: Ennis (12miles)

Having underestimated the elevation on the previous day, I hadn't reached my goal of getting close to McAllister in the late evening. I was still some 12miles out, when I started on day 88.

After a reasonably good day I, once again felt very weak and my diarrhoea worsened.

I was hiking downhill for most of the time, but struggled to make significant progress.


My plan was reaching McAllister in the late afternoon and than hike on for another 10-12miles, closing the distance towards the Tobacco Mountains. However, by the time I got to Ennis Lake, I knew that I had to rest.

Upon reaching McAllister I therefore decided to hitch into the nearby town of Ennis for a Nero and a Zero (zero: rest day, meaning zero days hiked; nero: nearly zero miles, usually everything under 10miles)

Day 89: Ennis (Zero)

Hoping to recover and to cure my diarrhoea, I stayed in Ennis for the day and watches the European Championship Soccer game Germany vs England.

Day 90: Tobacco Mountains (20miles)

I left Ennis in the late morning, without feeling much better. I had taken some medication against severe diarrhoea the day before, but by now I was rather certain to have Giardia and a need for more substantial antibiotics.

Therefore I tried to take it slow. Luckily the trail followed a dirt road and was rather easy, even though it still covered quite some elevation.

I even made a few miles more than I had anticipated and yogied some clean water off an ATV driver

(to yogi: hiker slang for making someone feel "bad" for you, so that he offers you food/water or a ride)


Just before finding a campsite for the night an animal really scared me off. I was hiking along a dirt road, when suddenly an animal loudly hissed at me. I was so suprised and shocked by the sudden sound, that I jumped into the middle of the road and pulled my bear spray. I couldn't see anything in the grass, but expected a mountain lion, or a wolf. I didn't dare getting closer to the brushes and slowly moved backwards. A few minutes later I saw a wolverine crossing the road.

Day 91: Old mines (28.5miles)

Day 91 started with my first sighting of a male mule. Once again, the animal was close, but very calm and relaxed. We looked at each other for some time and than parted ways.

I continued following yesterday's road and climbed some 3,000ft (900m) in the early morning.


(Old and abandoned mines)

Once over a mountain pass at 10,000ft (3,050m) the trail dropped down to the tiny village of Mammoth, passing several old mining sites and a lot of abandoned mining equipment.


(That's Mammoth, Mt., just a few families living here)

Just a mile north of Mammoth, the trail once again climbed into the mountains and out of a valley for a final time, before Butte.

After a few miles it dropped into open farmland and an even smaller town called Waterloo.

With limited water resources available, I camped close to Jefferson River and made sure to filter my water twice.

Day 92: Butte (30.5miles)

With the prospect of reaching Butte in the early afternoon, I got up very early. I felt weak and exhausted, had some stomach pain and the urge to vomit. Nevertheless I got up and started hiking.

There were several options to reach Butte and I decided to stick to an old highway for most of the time.

The day was extremely uneventful and interrupted by several breaks that I had to take, due to my fatigue.


Upon arriving in Butte, I knew I couldn't hike on like that. I decided to book a room in a nearby motel for at least 2 nights, so that I could enjoy Independence Day in town and see a doctor.

Day 93-95: Butte recovery (zero)

On day 93 I went to a nearby urgent care facility, saw a doctor and got the affirmation of a Giardia infection.

In addition to that, I learned that my body weight had dropped from ~165lbs (75kg) to a concerning 135lbs (61kg).

For the next days, I would keep a low profile, sleep a lot and take antibiotics to cure my infection. With literally all my clothes (shirt, shorts, underwear, socks) falling apart and making me look like a homeless stranger, I spent some time replacing those items. I even got a hair cut, which allowed me to meet a lovely 81 year old barber in his little barber shop, right next to my motel.

On July 3rd and 4th, I enjoyed some fireworks and a small parade celebrating Independence Day.


Overall, this infection has certainly slowed me down, but I might still be able to make my anticipated completion date of the CDT before the end of July

I'm hopeful to be strong enough on July 6th, to move out again and cover some distance.

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