CDT 2021: Day 135, Nez Perce Trailhead to Lowland Campground

Well, I hit the rowdy road, and many kinds I met there

CDT Hikers laugh together

Hiking with Polecat has allowed Top O' and me to be more flexible in how we hike. We've already been able a few times to slackpack and reverse our direction for better efficiency. That was especially true in Big Sky and Whitehall. The changes we made let us keep our footsteps connected while maximizing the time we spent walking.

DateThursday, August 26, 2021
WeatherPartly cloudy with some smoke; temperatures from low-30s to low-80s
Trail ConditionsGravel and dirt roads, then trail with an easy climb
Today's Miles11.5
Trip Miles1976.4

Today was another opportunity to be efficient with our hiking time, though we didn't need to walk in a reverse direction.

Last night's campsite was under an hour's walk from Interstate 15, the highway we could take to Butte. We only needed to go there to buy food and fuel, and we would be wasting most of the day if we chose to stay there overnight. Thanks again to Polecat and his truck, we had time to shop for what we needed and walk another nine miles.

Dawn sky

The morning started unexpectedly cold. It didn't help that we were trying to get an early start, which meant I needed to wake up before dawn.

I knew right away the temperature was below freezing when I found frost on the inside walls of my tent.

Top O' loads gear into Polecat's truck

Top O' and I loaded items into Polecat's truck that we didn't want to carry. We didn't need much because we were only walking 2.5 miles before he picked us up.

Top O' walks on a gravel road

I don't often start walking in the morning wearing my insulated jacket, but it was necessary today. The sun still wasn't up when we started.

The short distance was all on a gravel road that went gradually downhill. We reached the interstate highway in about 45 minutes. When we arrived there, we climbed into the truck and Polecat drove us to Butte.

Doggone and Caveman

We headed first to Annie's Cafe, a family-run diner. The food was good but the service was slow. It was just as well that it was slow, though. Before we finished, we were startled to see Doggone and Caveman walk in.

I knew Doggone was in the area, though I didn't have any idea he was this close to us. He was getting ready to move his trailer with Taxilady to a new campground.

The last time we saw Doggone was in Colorado, though we came close to seeing him in Wyoming.

We had not seen Caveman since the night we met him at our makeshift campsite north of Yellowstone on Day 124.

Top O' lays out gear to dry in the sun

We were in and out of Butte so quickly we didn't have much chance to see the town. After shopping for food at Safeway and picking up few more items at an outdoor gear store called Bob Wards, we headed back up the interstate. By 11:30 we had returned to where we left the trail this morning

Before we started hiking again, we decided to spread out our gear in the sun. The overnight frost had made everything in our tents damp.

Top O' walks on another gravel road

When we found a National Forest campground was nine miles away, we decided to meet Polecat there. Now we could leave some of our gear in his truck and continue slackpacking.

Getting there would mean hiking nearly a mile off the trail, but it would be worth the effort. The campground offered amenities we rarely have a chance to enjoy, like pit toilets, water spigots, and picnic tables.

A CDT sign with bullet holes

The first mile after leaving the interstate highway crossed a flat valley called Elk Park. We walked on a gravel road, which was the official CDT route.

A couple of unusually large signs were posted along the way as if to confirm for skeptics this was the official trail. Sadly, they had become targets for locals exercising their Second Amendment rights.

Top O' walks on yet another gravel road

The terrain gradually became a little hilly when we re-entered Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, and we started a climb of about 600 feet in elevation. By now we had turned onto another road, which was narrower than the first but still well-maintained.

After walking two miles from where Polecat dropped us off, the trail flattened again for a mile before beginning another climb.

Top O' walks in a forest

We left the road about a mile farther and began walking on a single-track trail. This led us into a forest.

The trees here were small and closely spaced. From the looks of the trees, they were planted after a large logging operation cleared the forest several years ago. Their trunks were blackened, which may have been the result of a controlled burn.

The trail took us up another 500 feet to an elevation of 7,100 feet before beginning a slow descent.

Single T

I met a hiker going up as I descended, and I soon realized I knew him from the AT in 2017. His trail name was Single T, which came from how he spells his first name, "Mathew," not "Matthew." We chatted for a long time, and he told me he had recently seen Boomer, another hiker from that year.

I hiked with Boomer and Jason, along with Jason's dog Maple, on and off from when I first met them in Virginia. We reached Mt. Katahdin on the same day. Single T joined them toward the end of that trip and I met him in Maine.

During our conversation, Single T pulled out his phone to show me a picture of him standing with Boomer and Jason on Saddleback Mountain.

"I took that picture!" I laughed. It was the same photo I used in my post about Day 161 of that hike.

A campsite at Lowland Campground

I didn't have much farther to go before reaching the road that led to the campground. Though Single T was hiking in the other direction, he decided to backtrack and camp there with us.

The campground had 11 sites. There weren't many other campers around when we arrived besides Polecat.

We hadn't been at the site long before several more hikers arrived. Along with Loverboy, Spench, Spamcake, and Cheeto Jackson were two others. One was Tobey, whom we met in Colorado on Day 79. We last saw her in Wind River Range on Day 103.

We had not met the other hiker before. His name was Kegger.

Polecat, Top O', and I bought beer and soft drinks when we were in Butte, so there was plenty to share with everyone tonight.

Hikers sit and talk around a picnic table in Lowland Campground

It was fortunate for us that Polecat had selected a large campsite. We wound up with nine tents there, along with Polecat's truck and a tarp he set up in case of rain. It was also good the campground was mostly empty because we were noisy. Lots of conversations were going on at the same time.

Of course, we were thru-hikers, which meant we went to bed at the standard "hiker midnight." That is usually by sunset, if not before.

Though we quieted down by dark, the campground didn't remain that way. I was awakened around midnight by someone racing up and down the road on a noisy 4WD vehicle.

The disturbance was not helpful to me. I needed sleep if I was going to increase my daily mileage. Tomorrow will be another opportunity to do that.

Well, I left my happy home, to see what I could find out
I left my folk and friends, with the aim to clear my mind out
Well, I hit the rowdy road, and many kinds I met there
Many stories told me of the way to get there
So on and on I go, the seconds tick the time out
There’s so much left to know, and I’m on the road to find out


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.