For a thru-hike to be successful, it's essential to maintain focus. To that end, I don't allow myself to think about the goal - about finishing, about Canada, until the latter stages of the hike. To think about hiking 3,000 miles when I've only hiked 300 is more than a tad disheartening.
However, once I reached the two-thirds point of my hike (2,000 miles, in Yellowstone National Park), I finally allowed myself to think about the end. After all, it was only a month and a half away. I would soon be going aboe 10,000 feet for the last time. I'd be crossing into my final state. I'd need to arrange my maildrops to the very last towns on the CDT. Before I know it, the end will be here.
I was discussing this with a few fellow hikers the other day. The question - if the CDT were twice as long, would you still hike it? Having already hiked 2,300 miles, would you be stoked on another 3,000+ miles? I realized that, if only the seasons permitted, I would absolutely love to do it all over again. I just love hiking that much.
The Hollow Leg: While my attitude is still upbeat, my body is definitely feeling the effects of nearly 5 months on trail. Around Pinedale, my appetite went bananas. Suddenly those 5-day resupplies I had sent myself were only good for 3 days. I actually ran out of food coming into Leadore and was so hungry that I drank all my water flavoring packets - 5 calories each - just because they were something. I can eat my fill, and be ravenously hungry two hours later. I've had to spend additional time in town in Idaho and Montana, just trying to lessen the calorie deficit I'm running. In Lima, MT, I ate three huge meals in town and left fully fueled. And that day, I cruised up and down a very steep ridgeline. By contrast, two days later, I slogged. The terrain was easier, but energy-wise, I was simply running on empty. I simply cannot eat enough in a day to account for all the energy I'm burning right now.
Flyrannosaurus Rex: As previously mentioned, the mosquitoes were horrendous in the Winds. Since then, they've gradually gotten better. Unfortunately though, they've been replaced by the Flesh-Eating Flies. These horseflies are about an inch long, make an ominous buzzing sound like that of a wasp, and draw blood when they bite. And when you kill them, they leave a disgusting yellow slimelike blood substance on you. They're pretty annoying, and their bite is pretty painful, but they're still better than the mosquitoes. Good riddance to those guys!
Walking the Backbone: One of the highlights of southern Montana has been the routing of the CDT. For the most part, the trail has stayed right on the Divide itself. Oftentimes, my right foot is in Montana and my left foot is in Idaho. And while that means constant ups and downs (probably the consistently steepest part of the trail thus far, even moreso than Colorado), it's also meant great views, wonderful fields of wildflowers, and a top-of-the-world feeling. I must give this section of trail surprisingly high marks.
We Didn't Start the Fire: The entire West is on fire at this point. At least, that's the way it looks. For the past week or so, the sky has been filled with smoke, presumably from larger fires burning to the west. While on the ridge last week, I saw a dry thunderstorm pass well to my south, and a few minutes later, a plume of smoke drifted upward. That fire spread very quickly (fire danger is in the Very High or Extreme categories across most of the West right now) and apparently forced the evacuation of at least one town in eastern Idaho. Nothing's affected the trail so far, but with conditions like this, it's a near certainty that I'll hit a fire closure/re-route or two between here and Canada.
What's Next: I just passed the 75% mark and have only about a month left on trail. The trail will soon leave the Idaho/Montana border and cut eastward, past the mining towns of Butte and Anaconda, before heading north through the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Glacier National Park. The next post will likely be written in Canadian. Don't worry though, I hear Canadian and English are mutually intelligible.