Dyer and Riches: CDT Thru-Hikers

All's Well That Ends Wet
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September 11, 2000—Day 130, 2403 Miles—Waterton Lakes, Alberta, Canada — Autumn had reached the Glacier high country by the time we entered the park, and the mountainsides were painted red and brown with the colors of fall. As we awoke after our rest day in East Glacier, we were worried to find the mountains had received their first snowfall. We would now be racing winter to the border.

Guidebooks show Glacier as a picture-postcard of azure lakes and peaks. In low cloud and cold rain, though, the terrain seemed forbidding and harsh. Despite the conditions, we were happy to be back on the trail after the road-walking. This was Montana at its wildest, from the dripping forests to tumbling waterfalls and abundant wildlife. Signs of grizzly bears—piles of scat and recent diggings—were everywhere, but we saw none.

As we crossed the Divide for the last time by Fifty Mountain, visibility had deteriorated again and a persistent drizzle had soaked our gear. After a long and viewless day—and with cold wet feet—we just wanted to get to camp and warm up. Then we saw it, curled up on the trail less than ten yards away. A wolverine! We watched fascinated as it cocked its head and stared at us. That chance encounter, and the spirit wilderness that the wolverine embodied, affected me profoundly. Our fatigue evaporated as we trotted down from the pass, reliving the amazing moment. The CDT has a way of doing this. Whenever the trail seems tough or your feet hurt or you're lost, something happens to remind you why you're out here.

The last morning dawned as gray as all the others that week, and we resigned ourselves to a cold and wet finale. Still, Daniel almost ran the last 15 miles to the border (I hobbled—four days of wet feet had reduced them to bloody stumps). As we approached Canada and the shores of Waterton Lake, the sun appeared, and we reached the boundary marker in strong sunshine. After the obligatory photographs, we ate and drank celebratory chocolate and liquor and laid out all our sodden gear. To a passing cruise boat it must have resembled an international yard sale. We limped into Waterton, where Daniel and I parted company. He still has 500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail to hike back to Oregon, but for me the walk was over.

The Canadian border seems like a pretty arbitrary place to stop. The Rockies have no respect for political boundaries, and the mountains stretch on through Banff and Jasper to the Arctic. But the days are growing shorter now, and it is time to leave the high country this year.

Read Simon's take on fitness and food on the CDT.
Learn about the ecology and politics of wildfires, by Simon Dyer.
Read their reflections on Colorado.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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