The best laid plans.
For the past several weeks my daughter Amy had been planning an ambitious father-daughter adventure for us. She had a week off, so we were going to visit the John Day Fossil Beds and Crater Lake in Oregon, and then climb Mt. Shasta in northern California. However, the price of gas and her reluctance to leave her dog TJ for a week caused a change in plans. Instead she decided to do a few different adventures in the Helena area -all dog-friendly and some dad-friendly.
Let the staycation begin.
I convinced Amy that we start with a two-day, one-night backpacking trip on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) between Lewis & Clark Pass and the Dearborn River. A few years ago, I did an out-and-back hike from L & C Pass to Caribou Peak. It was a long day (22 miles), but I was impressed with the area, and wanted to show it to Amy. I thought it would be fun to walk the next section as well – the stretch between Caribou Peak and the Dearborn River. So, Sunday evening we left my car the end of the trail in Dearborn Canyon (70-mile drive from Helena) and then Monday morning, my son Keith gave us a ride to the Alice Creek Trailhead northwest of Lincoln (60-mile drive from Helena) to begin our 28-mile walk.
The Great Divide.
The hike was more difficult than I remember – carrying a 30 lb. pack takes some of the fun out of walking, but the weather was perfect and the hike was all I hoped it would be. I love that the section of CDT from L & C Pass to Caribou Peak stays right on the Continental Divide pretty much all the way, providing fantastic view in all directions. About 10 miles into the hike, the CDT does drop below the actual continental divide – about where we left the trail to climb Caribou Peak. We started hiking at about 8:45 am and reached the summit of Caribou at 3:30 pm. (Photo Tour)
Above the CDT.
After almost an hour of perfect summit time, we followed the divide down and then up and over another peak, before rejoining the CDT and following it to a nice meadow where we camped Monday night. We slept well after walking 16.7 miles, including 5,000 feet of elevation gain.
What goes up . . .
Tuesday was great too, but different from day #1. We walked 11.9 miles, mostly downhill through forested areas, far below the actual divide. The highlight was walking the last 4-5 miles along the Dearborn River. It would have been nice to stop for a swim at Devils Glen, a spectacular series of waterfalls, but the Dearborn was raging with spring runoff.
When we got back to Helena at 4:30 pm Tuesday, I took three Ibuprofen with a liter of Pedialyte on the rocks for a chaser. Meanwhile, Amy was already plotting her next adventure – another two-day one-night trip with TJ on the CDT from Rogers Pass to Stemple Pass. Wednesday morning, we dropped her car at Stemple Pass, then I took her and TJ to Rogers Pass. I returned to Helena for a nap.