This summer, ITA crew leader and former employee Clay Jacobson will be hiking the Continental Divide Trail starting north and going south. The CDT spans over 3,000 miles from Canada to Mexico and crosses through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. We’re happy to be following Clay along his journey and will be posting his updates from the trail! You can see all of Clay’s blog posts here.

Update 3: July 13

East Glacier Park, MT>Augusta, MT (133 miles)

Total miles so far: 231

We hiked out of East Glacier on July 5th, after picking up our resupply after the July 4th holiday. Our first 15 miles cut through the outskirts of Glacier National Park to Maria’s pass. At the pass, some of the BNSF trains we passed at a siding reminded me of the days I used to ride the Highline from Seattle to Minneapolis. It was tempting to take a free ride that didn’t involve hiking, but we scrambled over the intermodal train cars and set up camp in a first service campground across the street.

From this busy pass with a highway and heavy volume train line, we hiked off into the Bob Marshall Wilderness. This is one of the biggest wilderness stretches on the CDT, at over 1 million acres. For week 2, it was a bit intimidating, with our confidence and trail legs just starting to set in. Our plan was for 8 days, a big push so early into the hike. Undeterred, we hiked on into the vast and beautiful Bob.

For the first few days we followed long creeks, climbed a pass, then followed the creek in the next drainage, getting deeper and deeper into the wilderness. Day 3 we entered a massive burn and downed lodge pole slowly became more and more of a factor. By the time we hit sun river pass, the jackstrawed logs were constant and 3-4 logs deep. For miles we scrambled over and under the downed trees, slowly making progress in the scorched burn scar. 

At last the trail cut up towards the ridge, away from the burn. We ran into a trail crew who, to our great relief, told us the trail ahead should be clear for miles. They were right. We climbed up to the North Wall, catching the rain and hail of a building thunderstorm as we reached Lake Levale. The waters of the lake were an effervescent aquamarine, the color of which I’d never seen in an alpine lake. The lake was cradled against the North Wall, with hundreds of feet of sheer granite cliff face hanging above. We walked along the North Wall for hours, dipping from one glacial bowl to the next, alternating between pristine high alpine meadows and muddy bogs.

We cut back down to the bottom of the river valley and wrapped around to the Chinese Wall; similar to the North Wall but instead of giant repeating bowls, the Chinese Wall stretched on for miles in a smooth, uninterrupted face. These natural features are truly unique, and await those who brave the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

After the Chinese Wall, the trail wound us down to the South Fork of the Sun River where we hid from the sun under a pack bridge. Before we finished our lunch we were joined by a young horse packing couple who offered us beers in exchange for our trail co diction reports. Then, after 8 days of slogging through the wilderness, we emerged intact. We spent the night at Benchmark Wilderness Ranch, chatting with Tom and Norma, the caretakers. There, we got a shower and picked up our food resupply.

The next morning we hitched down to Augusta to charge our batteries (no power at the ranch), and to our good fortune, we were picked up by a former Montana State legislator. He and his wife were extremely kind and treated us to lunch in town. We all wolfed down some massive burgers and are now set to spend the night, with a ride back to the trail scheduled early tomorrow morning.

-Clay “Woodward” Jacobson