The Dago Diaries

One Italian American's Journey Along America's Great Divide

Day 144, The Poncho

CDT mile 2590.6, miles hiked 29.6

Look I’m a tourist

It’s our next to last full day of hiking, and we needed to make 29.6 miles to make it to Many Glacier and the swift current hotel, campground and restaurant for a well needed hot meal, dry inside conditions and a dryer for our bags if possible.

Saint Mary’s Falls

We left camp a bit later than we planned mostly because it rained all night and in the morning we woke up to our tents that were wet and sleeping bags damp with condensation. We had coffee and slowly packed up, nothing is more miserable than having to pack up a wet tent and gear, and go walk through the rain for the better part of 12-14 hours.

Tatu lead the way, his pace was quick and I could tell he wanted to make miles as fast as possible. We soon were at St Mary’s lake a long glacial lake that is stunning in beauty and size. The deep blue water was amazing but the stiff wind coming across made things cool. The rain had stopped and it felt nice so we layered down for a bit only an hour later to put back on more clothes.

We reached the end of the lake which seemed endless and soon we were in tourist central as we approached St Mary’s falls. We stopped for photos and a lady asked us if we were father and son, Tatu-Jo is concerned his 5,000 miles has made him look old. I laughed and we carried on, soon it started to rain right as we headed to Piegan Pass a large 2500’ish climb. We opted for our ponchos….

Bears rule Glacier National Park

Now seeing how we are at the end of the hike, running low on funds and in BFE we opted for the $3.99 jobs at the two medicine store. As we put them on and soon discovered they would cover our packs and us quite well. We walked slowly uphill in the rain and kept seeing snow on the steep faces in front of us. We trudged along and met some hikers on the way down who went to Virginia Tech, go Hokies. We chatted for a bit and they told us to look for two Grizzlies on our way up a sow and cub down below the trail. I never saw them but Tatu-Jo’s pretty sure he caught a glimpse.

Get us down low its cold

We soon stood atop the pass it was cloudy and windy. The rain and dampness cut like a knife and we hurried our way down the other side as fast as possible. Soon back in the forest we looked at out GPS and discovered we were two hours away.

Hanging glacial waterfalls

The trail was great and the rain stopped. The last two miles were a mess a large horse group had ridden the trail during the downpour and it was a soupy muddy mess. Each step slid or squished and soon our shoes were a pound or two heavier with mud. We soon reached the road and many Glacier lodge. The lodge is really cool but expensive we considered eating dinner there but after seeing that a bowl of chili was $18.95 decided to go to the other hotel by the campground to eat.

Just stunning

We so arrived at swift current and walked into the hotel, who shall be sitting there but Paul and Chantal. We said hello and got added to their name for a table. I ran and grabbed a snack and drink and then got the story to why they were there. The two of them missed a turn and went 5 miles off the trail, after that and the rain they said screw it and hitched to the hotel. they have their tent set up I the backcountry site in the campground where we will be tonight.

An awesome descent to Many Glacier

We got wifi and I received a message from Naomi “The Punisher” that her husband “AYCE” was with their car and could give us a ride back to Portland. I texted AYCE and arranged to ride back with them and snorkel on the 11th. Snorkel and The Punisher have been hiking the GDT and due to weather are finishing early this week. So all 5 of us will drive back home together what an amazing way the universe works to bring so many friends together in remote Montana.

You see AYCE just finished hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail or PNT, which starts in La Push, WA and ends at Glacier National Park at Watertown or Chief Mountain like the CDT. The Great Divide Trail is the Canadian extension of the GDT and runs all way north or Jasper. Since AYCE was done he went to Jasper to help his wife The Punisher and my friend Snorkle, who if you recall hiked in the San Juans with me, they two have had some bad weather so are getting off trial this week.

Anyway, we enjoyed a great dinner and then hit the laundry for some dryer time for sleeping bags and shoes. We rolled up to the site at dark and set up shop. The folks already there had a fire going and despite the rain, we hung out and had a beer before bed.

Tomorrow is a big bay our last full day on the trail. We have 33.8 miles to goat haunt shelter, and only two high passes left to cross. Canada here I come and man are we going to party when it’s over.

Day 143, Tripe Divide Pass

CDT mile 2561, miles hiked 26.2

Now that’s some cat scat!

We woke up and Immediately they had to run to the restroom, ever since our night in East Glacier my gut hasn’t been right but this morning it was all hell breaking loose. I came back from a very unpleasant experience at the restroom and told Tatu-Jo I was not feeling so great. We both hoped it was just a case of town poops and not the terrible sickness he had in the Bob.

We walked on the Old Man Lake trail to start out, and according to the signs and recent information in the news, this is the spot where a park service employee was picking berries and got bit by a grizzly. There was fresh bear scat all over and we made sure to make a lot of noise as we pushed through the berries.

A momma and ew on the pass

The first challenge we faced today was Pitamakan pass a good butt-kicker to get the heart going. We walked up at a steady pace and 3/4 of the way up saw a momma bighorn sheep and ew, so awesome. We reached the top of the pass and it was cold, gray and windy. I threw on my extra layers and we bombed down to the woods for a break. The trail meandered through a valley and up ahead I saw our destiny triple divide mountain.

Now seeing how it’s super cold and the clouds are low and dark gray, many of the highlights for views were obscured, however, what I could see had an autumnal feel as it made me daydream to Halloween. Anyway, I finally got my head back in the game and I sized up the climb. We started up and after about 3/4 of the way up Tatu-Jo needed a snack. We stopped but not feeling well I forced some food down and some water and told Tatu-Jo I needed to get going.

As we climbed we got separated I was in front and just wanted to get this climb over. I was however slowed down by amazing waterfalls, deep red cliff walls, and sheer mountain beauty, man this place Is the crown jewel of the CDT. Soon I stood atop Triple Divide Pass I threw on my sweet new tourist fleece jacket and waited for Tatu-Jo to get there. We snapped a few photos and bailed low to where it was warm and out of the wind.

Red rocks and steep mountains

We dropped down to Red Eagle Creek and when I went to pass gas I nearly pooped my pants. I dropped my pack and ran into the woods. When I saw Tatu-Jo I asked if had any Imodium and he said he was out. We arrived at the first red eagle lake camps and saw Paul and Chantal. We chatted briefly and Paul had the pills I needed. We said our farewells as that is most likely the last time I’ll see them.

Bridges make our lives better on wet days when we avoid fording rivers

We arrived at the far end of the lake and set up our tents. I was drained and feeling ill, but I made my camp and then walked over to the cooking area to get things going for dinner. 4 others were there a nice father and son from Roanoke Virgina and a couple from Minnesota. They had a campfire going and we sat around enjoying dinner and conversation.

As I crawled into my tent the first drops started to fall. As the rain hit the tent I laid down to sleep and hoped in the morning my stomach issues would be resolved.

A small cascade along the trail

Day 142, It’s the Final Countdown

CDT mile 2534.8, miles hiked 10.5

We made it to glacier just 100 miles to go

Ah, nothing like waking up in a bunk room with 11 other guys who snored and farted all night long. Actually, the excitement of finishing has kept me up the past few evenings and I woke before others and headed to the bathroom to get a hot shower before the water ran out. I snuck back in the room got my stuff and dragged it I to the common area to sort and pack.

Dark skies and rain

I made a call to my mom and dad, tomorrow my dad turns 75 and given my remote location it’s doubtful I can call him. We chatted for a long time he filled me in on his birthday plans and travels and I filled him in on my plans to finish. He is very proud of all I have done and that makes me happy to hear, I think he thought I was nuts when I left my job.
I finished packing and then we went for a nice breakfast next door. I had an omelet and then an order of French toast, guess I was hungry. As we sipped coffee we watched it rain outside, we talked about the weather and figured what the hell we were still going for it. We rolled back to the hostel for an hour and Cheesy, Johnny, and Emma came by to bid farewell and wish us luck. With packs on me and Tatu-Jo set off for the CDT and Canada.

We had a short day planned only 10.5 miles to two medicine lake to get our permits and relax some. We walked up out of town in a light drizzle that soon stopped and the sky even looked like it would clear some. We started going up and up and finally hit the park boundary, I reached into my hip pocket to take a photo with tiny, my little plastic hand that has been with me from Mexico and discovered he was gone. I was devastated, to say the least, we had gone a long way together I tried to remember the last time I saw him and where he was. I sent cheesy a text and she went and looked at the hostel but it wasn’t there. I thought to myself maybe he wound up in my bucket today when I was packing up and is back at the hostel or maybe he fell out in the rain on our way to town. Either way nothing I could do so I dealt with the loss and moved forward.

The town of East Glacier below

When we reached the top of the pass it was fogged in so thick we couldn’t see a thing, 5 minutes later though and the clouds lifted up and we had our first glimpse of Glacier, two medicine lake and the beauty we were about to walk through. I was blown away for weeks I was wondering if it was more hype than reality about the beauty of this place but I can tell you Glacier is unbelievable.

Glacier the crown jewel of the CDT

We enjoyed the views and the new warmer temps as we descended down to two medicine. We passed some tourist and then arrived at the backcountry permit office. The ranger and I have the same name, Whitney and she quickly found our permit and gave us the rundown of the park. About 30 minutes later and we were enjoying buffalo chili and an IPA at the store. Since we were only camping right there we took our time, shopping for resupply food, and talking with folks.

Finally, we started back to the campground to set up while the weather was nice. As we came to the office we saw Steve Jones a CDT hiker who got off trail earlier this year and is helping hikers out with rides etc…I finally met Cloud Buster and then out walked stone who I had not seen since pie town.

Three guys in skirts left to right- Stone, Allgood, and Cloudbuster

Now Stone is a nice guy so don’t take what I’m about to say the wrong way, but he gave me a bit of put down and probably didn’t mean anything by it. You see stone went to college on a full ride for swimming and is a collegiate swim coach and very fit he looks at me and say, “Allgood you’re the only one besides Bambi and buttercup I didn’t catch from pie town, and Tatu-Jo I’ve been trying to catch you too. I figured once he was with Allgood I had them.” Basically, he said I was fat and slow so I smiled and said,”well mate looks like you still are only going to catch me because of the car ride here to get a permit before you head back to Maria’s pass.”

I talked with Tatu-Jo about this over hotdogs on an open fire and he said to me, “welcome to the fat kid club of hiking, what did you forget who you are?” He then went on and told me to screw folks like that because we might not look like much but we both know we can hike and out endurance most people. It’s nice to have someone here who understands the struggles us husky hikers face, I know I have lost a lot of weight but even beforehand I have held my own on miles and pace.

We rolled to camp and I’m sure the park service figures since we are thru-hikers we don’t mind some walking because they put us at the farthest possible site there was. As a bonus we are located next to the dumpsters and privy, what could go wrong? We made a fire to cook our hotdogs from the store and all was well until the sky got dark, the clouds got low and the rain started to fall.

Tatu-Jo crawled into his tarp which was leaking terribly and I popped into my tent. We are riding out the storm and hoping tomorrow brings better weather. After all, it’s the final countdown to Canada and we only have 95 miles to go so come on CDT, how about some nice weather for us?

Day 141, Reunion in East Glaicer

CDT mile 2524.3, miles hiked 23

Old friends from left to right Allgood, Wildernessie, Cheesy and Johnny

We laid in the dark listening to our alarms ring, it was so cold and damp neither of us wanted to move. I went and grabbed our food, fired up the stove and woke up Tatu-Jo with a hot cup of coffee. We both packed as fast as we could and then high tailed it out the trail since we wanted to beat the impending storm.

Tatu-Jo marvels at the first pavement we have seen in 265 miles

We walked to the Two Medicine River and decided to take the purple Ley route along its shore and then walk the highway to town. Not only as this route 5 miles shorter it also avoided a lot of up and down which was killing Tatu-Jo while he was sick.

The walk was really uneventful, we saw lots of bear scat and prints but no bears. We had to cross the river a lot and the cold water froze our feet, luckily we soon hit the highway and changed to dry socks and then started down the pavement. About 3 miles from town we spotted a restaurant and walked up to it for a warm up and treat, they were closed until 4 pm.

We sat on the porch and had a snack then a nice lady opens the door and said are you hiking the CDT? Next thing we knew we were sitting in Ramsey’s Firebrand bar enjoying hot tea and BLT sandwiches, the first town food in weeks. The folks were friendly and after warming up we hit the road for the final stretch.

Hot tea and a BLT

I sent Cheesy a note her and Johnny were in east glacier and so was Wildernessie and the French couple. We arranged to meet at two medicine grill and when I walked into the place there sat my old dear hiking partner and Wildernessie who I hadn’t seen since NM. We enjoyed lunch and catching up. Cheesy told me all about the Butte super cut off and Wildernessie talked about her solo hike after we last saw her. It was so great to see both of them.

I decide to go get cleaned up so Tatu-Jo and I walked outside and there were Paul and Chantal the French couple who I last saw in Creede. Now their English has improved, my French is nonexistent but we all greeted each other and caught up. They told me of their travels, showed me the rental car they hit a tree in and then walked us to the hostel.

It was so great to see old friends that I knew in the beginning. It was full circle and fitting for the last leg to see old faces before setting off. We all enjoyed each others company Paul and I chatted for hours in the afternoon and then they left for dinner and we got a ride from Annie at the hostel to go find fleece tops.

A monument welcoming us to East Glacier and the Blackfeet reservation

The weather is forecasted to be cold so we didn’t want to be miserable and figured a cheap fleece would be better than wet down. Annie brought us to the t-shirt shop, we found out it was the end of season clearance so we each walked away with a fleece jacket and hoody sweatshirt to go home in.

Dinner was spent at Serranos a wonderful Mexican place in town. We all talked about the past miles, our final leg of the trip and our futures afterwards. Apparently for the first time in life I’m the lost soul without a clue to my future or what I want to do…..and frankly I love it. This journey has taught me to go with the flow and open myself to the universe. I know things will happen when I get home and soon enough my path in life will present itself. Now I need to concentrate on Canada and my transport home and then I’ll figure things out.

It’s really ending soon but it’s a good feeling to know I am succeeding at a dream and doing things the way I always planned with continuous footsteps and smile in my face the whole way.

Day 140, Outbreak

CDT mile 2501.3, miles hiked 20.5

a very sick Tatu-Jo sleeps by the trail

For the third time on the CD, my hiking partner has the flu. I heard Tatu-Jo wake up and get sick in the middle of the night. I feel back asleep but when I got up he was passed out hard. I checked on him and told him to sleep in. I made us coffee, ate a bar and then we packed up. We said goodbye to Fritz and Amy, Tatu-Jo was way out of it when we left camp.

The two of us walked through the thick brush and high grasses. Perfect terrain and environment for bears, we saw scat but never any bears. I was out in front and when I looked back Tatu-Jo was swerving and stumbling, he was like a drunk. Whatever was ailing him had his equilibrium way off. He had fever and was hurting all over. Some meds seemed to help and we just went slow and took lots of breaks.

aspen trees have turned golden as fall is upon us

Around noon we had only done 10 miles. We stopped at badger creek and I made us mashed potatoes and we dried out our tents and bags. After eating Tatu-Jo laid down for a 2 minute nap, after a good half hour he woke, we packed up and carried on. He was feeling better so we made better time the next ten miles.

We climbed a big hill funny enough we later learned the road we crossed was a trail around the mountain. Oh well the climb was fun but not for Tatu-Jo, viagra jokes when we reached the top we had a cell signal and we soon learned of the snow advisory in effect for our area. Looks like the CDT has some fun in store for the end of our trip.

it pays to look at alternates, we missed this one

We descended down the forest the aspen trees are all yellow and glowed in the evening light. The sky above us held dark fluffy clouds above and we could feel the cold bite to the air, Canada is only 130 trail miles away and probably 65 as the crow flys.

We met some backpackers by the Rangers cabin and after a long chat we hiked on. As we came up the old road I saw two-horse it’s was Snickers Bar Dan and Masie the mare. What do you know it was Amy and Fritz. We stopped and chatted and decided to cook dinner. One thing led to another and we decided to just camp with them again.

I love this horse

It was so fun to camp with them again, just awesome people. I got to spend time with them this evening as Tatu-Jo got his well-earned and well-deserved rest. Tomorrow we hit the highway our first paved road since we crossed highway 12 that went to Lincoln and just kept walking north.

Day 139, Fritz and Amy

CDT mile 2480.8, miles hiked 23.5

Hands-free umbrella use


It rained again last night only this time it poured and we had plenty of thunder and lightning with it. Tatu-Jo tossed and turned all night and even woke me up once when he heard something walking around our tents. Since we are just two in grizzly country we set up next to each other so we look bigger and keep an eye on each other. After what for me was a decent nights sleep we got going for the day.

a burn from more recent years

Immediately I could tell Tatu-Jo was my feeling his best, he was moving a bit sluggish and then told me he hadn’t slept all night because of the lumpy ground and feeling sick. Soon enough he had to go to the woods and relieve himself something was not right he told me. Our only guess is some of the 4-month-old food we got at benchmark is no good. We can’t decide if it’s the Sargento cheddar cheese sticks from May that sat in unopened box unrefrigerated or the tortillas that were there. Either way, something has gotten the better of him and I was not sure he was going to make it.

Fritz and Amy

I felt great as we hiked but Tatu-Jo was a bit sluggish. Like a trooper though he did his miles and didn’t complain. We stopped to rest when he needed to. Soon the sky darkened and rain started to fall. We deployed our umbrellas, luckily Suzy had sent them to us in Helena so we each played around and figured out ahands-freee way to hike with them that worked with our packs. Soon we strolled down the burnt forest dry under our man-made canopy of nylon.

Snickers Bar Dan

We rolled along the trail, I was leading most of the day so I made sure to make lots of noise in case of bears. We saw a few fresh piles of grizzly crap along the trail as we hiked along strawberry creek. We also saw a large bull moose enjoying some grass in the river. It was a great day for wildlife and made the rain soaked day tolerable.

the on had been an amazing new piece of gear

The sun finally poked its head out and we walked in the sun and shade enjoying the afternoon rays. It was still cold but tolerable. All day we had been following horse prints and fresh poop. Now I have seen lots of horse poop along my hike but no matter how hard I hike I never see the horses in front of me. I was saying to Tatu-Jo, wouldn’t it be cool if we came across the horse folks and they had a sweet camp and food to cook for us.

the brand means love Montana, and man I do love Montana

We came down the valley and there by beaver lake was Fritz standing along the trail. We stopped and said hello, and got to chatting about the hike and the area etc…soon Fritz’s wife Amy came up and started talking with us, they offered us extra food and since we are both low on food we jumped at the chance. We sat down by their awesome done tent and saw their 4 horses munching away in the grass.

Amy pulled out tons of food more than you could ever imagine. Backpacker pantry, paleo food, some Thai stuff and we were in awe, she even had corn and dehydrated tomatoes, veggies what a treat. I sat waiting for water enjoying some granola with milk and getting to know Fritz and Amy.

The two of them have been married for almost 20 years and live by glacier national park in a place called Babb. The two of them are avid trail riders and have some beautiful horses. The big red one was super cool and the old mare was a sweetie. The two of them were out on a 10 day ride and man they had a sweet set up. They told us about area, their horses and then we chatted about bears.

The two of them have a ranch and being so close to the park see lots of bears. Fritz told us the most amazing story about when he worked for the forest service doing trail crew. Him and 3 other guys were walking up a trail and at a switch back Fritz was ahead and heard “a bear has so and so.” Fritz walked off the trail and sees this other guy standing off with a grizzly on its hind legs with a pick axe, wondering if he should drill the bear with it. Fritz started to bang his shovel and make noise and the bear dropped down and charged him.
As it got up to him he whacked it on the head with his shovel and glanced the down hill ear. The bear was stunned and charged him again, and again he whacked it with his shovel. The bear dropped down a bit shook it’s head and said that’s it I’m out here and ran away.

It was early but it’s cold, Tatu-Jo was not feeling well and said let’s camp here. We asked if it was ok and we went and set up camp behind them. Tatu-Jo crawled into his bag at 6:15, the best thing to make him better is some rest. So while he napped I hung out with Amy and Fritz and had a great time.

look at that smile, camping with horses hooray

Even though we should have hiked a few more hours it was nice to slow down, sit by beaver head lake and relax in the company of kind souls who love the wilderness and much as we do. It is a nice way to spend the beginning of my last week on trail.

Day 138, Spotted Bear Alternate

CDT mile 2457.3, miles hiked 24

a cool trail sign gift

Seeing how we need to arrive in East Glacier on Sunday and preferably as early as we can be since it will be our last town stop before the end, we opted to cut off 17 miles and do the spotted bear alternate. Now the alternate in the map looks straightforward; drop down to junction walk down Spotted Bear River and walk up Pentagon Creek to switch back pass. This pass will then take us to clack creek and down the backside to the CDT.

bear research

We made quick time coming down from the Chinese Wall and soon found ourselves navigating a muddy trail along the Spotted Bear River. The sides of the trail were a combination of high grass and huckleberries, finally, we found some ripe berries and munched as we hiked along the trail. The vegetation was wet from the previous nights’ downpours so all morning we got soaked as we hiked through, it’s sort of like hiking through a car wash.

We stopped in a sunny spot by a creek and I took the opportunity to clean up some. This is a long run for us between towns and the lack of shower and laundry has us smelling rank, but worse so I’m covered in salt and dirt that eventually causes the dreaded chaffing and IBS (itchy butt syndrome). So I washed my body, my boxers briefs and my socks, set them on my pack to dry as I hiked and away we went.

now that’s some serious bear scat

At 1pm we stopped by the river for a break and to dry out our shelters and sleeping bags. It rained hard on and off all night and our stuff was damp and clammy. So we spread out our yard sale, Tatu-Jo took a nap and I went for a dip in the water and cooled off my sore feet. It felt great to relax a bit, enjoy the river and rest since we only have to go 117 in 5 days we have decided to slow our mileage a bit and this allows for a more relaxed day.

After our long break, we came to a remote forest service cabin and met a solo hiker out on a 2-week loop of the bob marshal wilderness. The guy had a .45 caliber revolver strapped to his chest, hello bearanoia. We chatted with him and then 3 USFS law dogs rode up on horses and towing 4 mules. They were on patrol and super nice guys we talked about the hike and the area. The one ranger told us that 900 grizzly bears live in between Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall, and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas. Man no wonder we see so much sign and already saw one. We bid our farewells and started our grind up to Switchback Pass.

Now Switchback Pass is a fitting name I am convinced they decided to see how many switchbacks they could put in over 6.5 miles. Tatu-Jo and I climbed for what seemed like a full day but really it was a few hours. On our last push uphill we met “uncle Walter” a nice retired section hiker who has been hiking the CDT In sections for 20 years and has completed over 1000 miles, now that’s dedication.

We passed over Switchback Pass and dove down to the first water found for dinner. I fired up the stove, Tatu-Jo hit the water and we both chowed down. As soon as we were done the temperature dropped and we began to shiver, so we loaded up the packs and started back up the trail. We only made it about a mile and decided to camp. We are tucked into a grove of lodgepole pines and in the morning well drop down to rejoin the CDT.
I got a message from Suzy on my Delorme saying I have been gone for 3 seasons and its time to get home before winter, man if she only realized how hard I am pushing to do just that. Just 8 days to go, it is so surreal yet I am so ready to get to Canada. We chatted today about things we look forward to when we get home. For me it is a trip to the ocean, I miss the salt air, the marine layer, and fresh seafood. I can’t wait to get to the beach and walk along the surf in the sand letting the sand wear down my clauses. I’m going to eat a giant bucket of steamer clams, then a crab and wash it all down with a nice Oregon IPA. I guess we need town soon I’m daydreaming, night dreaming and blogging about food I can’t have. Oh well soon enough I’ll be at the Pacific and enjoy it’s bounty, until then I’m determined to find me a prime rib in town!


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