Day 96: Taking it easy (20miles)
Not sure how my body would react to hiking again, I decided to take it easy after an infection that had really knocked me out. I left Butte rather late and headed east, trying to find a way back to the CDT. I came across a small park and saw a dog following me. Initially he stayed some 30 feet away, but he kept coming closer and closer until he walked right next to me for 2-3 miles.
The dog was very calm and friendly and I was worried about him. So I made a detour to a nearby neighborhood, trying to see how the dog would react. He still followed me, even on the road. In the neighborhood I started asking around if anybody knew the dog, but no one did. We than came to a house, where two Ladies were washing a car and while I was talking to them, the dog lay down under a nearby tree, where he finally got some water. Fortunately, one of the Ladies worked for an animal shelter and knew whom to call, to check if the dog had a chip. I said goodbye to my little companion and continued through the city, which was now the easier option. This proved to be a good choice, as it was a very hot day and the city provided many options to hydrate.
After some 8-9miles I crossed the Montana Tech Campus and followed a dirtroad to the Lowcland Campground, one of the few reliable water sources along the way. At the campground, I met a family with some very curious kids. Norma, a 12-14 year old boy, regularly stopped with his bike at my tent, to ask endless questions about hiking and being outdoors.
Day 97: The lost trekking pole...(34miles)
I felt great on day 97 and started early. With more than 10,000ft (3,000m) of up's and down's, this day would show if had fully recovered from the infection. I made great progress in the early morning, but the trail was boring and I took almost no pictures. Nevertheless, my overall motivation and mood had greatly improved.
In the afternoon I hiked through a dense forest, when I abruptly stopped. With a loud "damn it" I had suddenly realized that I was hiking with only one trekking pole. Oftentimes I carry my trekking poles tucked in between my arm and body, so that I have one hand free, to drink or check my maps. While doing that I must have lost one trekking pole. This was a major problem, as my trekking poles also function as tent stakes and so with only one trekking pole, I wouldnt be able to pitch my tent. Initially I thought I had lost the pole just 0.4miles back, at a place where I had just rested. I dropped my pack and ran back. Unfortunately my pole wasn't there and in the meantime a storm came up. So I ran back to my pack, put my raingear on and started hiking back again - this time with all my belongings. Luckily I found my pole after hiking 2miles (40minutes) in the wrong direction. I was really happy about finding the pole, but also angry about that stupid mistake, which had cost me a lot of time and mileage.
Day 98: Superman on steroids (42miles)
I had camped close to the trail's high point on Thunderbolt Mountain. After less than a mile to the top, I was going mostly downhill for several hours. My spirits were high. I felt completely recovered from the infection and stronger than ever before. I was flying down the mountain like Superman on steroids. Overall a great day, that restored some confidence in my abilities as a hiker.
Obviously, the impact of that infection had been much higher, than I had believed, but now I was back at my A-game. At 3pm i got to the highway that leads to Helena (State Capital) in the west and Elliston in the east. I still had enough food to hike on to Lincoln, but decided to quickly hitch into Elliston for a burger and a beer. Luckily, Eric, a day hiker, who had seen me on trail, offered me a ride immediately and so I didn't had to wait for someone to pick me up. I stayed in Elliston for an hour and than returned to the trail. This time, it was much harder to get a ride, but after some 30minutes a white Pickup Truck passed me and than turned around to pick me up.
I hiked on for another 3hours and took a small detour to find water.
(Old railway bridge)
Day 99: Mountain Man (42miles)
Day 99 started with an easy roadwalk, that cutoff 4 trail miles and stayed closer to reliable water sources. The trail than climbed into the mountains and followed some ridgelines. Unfortunately the views weren't that great, as it was quite hazy.
I met and talked to several people on the way, who were suprises to see a northbound hiker that early. I also met Melanie and Alex, two German hikers whom I had met on a CDT video call a few months earlier. At about 3pm I arrived at one of the most random places on trail. Dave's High Divide Outfitter store. Close to Stemple Pass, Dave owns a small cabin, that he transferred into an outdoor shop. That store is literally in the middle of nowhere, but has become an important and reliable water source in a quite dry section.
(That's the "store"...)
We talked for a while, while I rested and than I pushed on to Flecher Pass, my gateway to Lincoln. I got there in the evening and was lucky enough to get a ride to town from one of the first cars, that drove by.
Getting into Lincoln, I quickly realized I wouldn't get a room here. The small town was hosting a biker event and was absolutely crowded with Hell's Angels and other biker organizations. Nevertheless, I stopped at the local hotel and asked for any vacancies. The lovely owner had none to offer, but allowed me to stay for free in their beautiful backyard, while using their facilities. I gladly accepted and was once again very suprised about the kindness and generosity of these people.
(View of my tent from the hotel's patio)
After a quick bite and my resupply shopping for the next section, I went to bed, but a rock concert kept me awake for quite some time.