We woke up early with intent on leaving before 8:00AM with Wire Rims. Today was the day of the complete solar eclipse over the United States. We heard Liam and Kate wake up and knew that if they got out of their tent and talked to us, there would be no way we would make it to trail until later that day.
We woke up before sunrise in an attempt to get out of Leadore for the solar eclipse. We heard the crinkling of Wire Rims packing up his cuban fiber LightHeart gear tent and knew that it was definitely time for us to wake up and get out of our tent. The morning was cold, but we started to see the light of the sun. We had still not made up our minds on which route to take. We wanted to hike the trail, but with air quality getting much worse and knowing that the majority of the current wildfires were just ahead of us on trail, we seriously considered the alternate route that a dozen hikers had taken just a couple days before us. We packed up our bags with thirty minutes to spare before Sam would be heading up the pass. We then heard the faint noises of Liam and Kate waking up.
“Garbelly and Critter, “ Liam called.
Sure enough we knew we would again be eating breakfast at the Silver Dollar. We talked our plan over with Liam and Kate and decided on staying in town for the eclipse and then heading up the pass and walking towards Anaconda.
When we walked in we were greeted by the always excited and confused Becky.
“Why are you still here.... never mind, what do you want to eat? Most of the hikers eat the deep fried French Toast. It’s not on the menu. You haven’t eaten that yet,” she rattled.
Deep fried French toast it was. Liam and Kate ordered and then we continued to sit for a good hour before she reappeared from the kitchen.
“What do you want to eat?” she asked.
At this point we were used to her normal scattered demeanor. We reordered the French toast, mistakenly ordering one plate each. We then sat and talked for the next thirty minutes in the otherwise silent restaurant.
Becky was not planning on going outside for the eclipse simply because she had yet to hear about the eclipse. We told her we had an extra pair of eclipse glasses and she agreed to come out and look at it when it happened. We all gathered outside around a picnic table and watched the sky for any signs of what was to come. After about 45 minutes passed the sky begin to enter a very strange dusky light. The already quiet town of Leadore somehow got quieter and more still.
The sun became more and more dim and we looked up to see it only a sliver. Everyone became silent for the near total eclipse. It was a lot more powerful than we imagined.
Now, we had a decision to make. We had been advised by many hikers ahead to take an alternate route to Anaconda. In addition, our friend who was busy fighting fires North of us told us to do whatever it takes to hike fast through Montana before the fires get worse. It was predicted that the fires wouldn’t get any better until the first snow. The air we were breathing, and had been breathing, was a dense cloud. On the other hand, there was the CDT. Hiking high into the cloud of smoke on a stretch known for little water. So many things played into this decision; Critter's asthma, getting to Canada before the trail closed, and road walking.
We decided to follow the hikers ahead of us and take the route that would get us to the Chinese Wall in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
We headed up the pass and continued past the trail turnoff without stopping. In fact, we walked another 15 miles down the road before it turned into pavement and we came to our turnoff. Bloody Dick Road. Not a very inviting road, but that was our road. After walking up the road and filtering water, we found a sign for a block of public land. Perfect. A place to sleep.
We cooked dinner on an antelope filled hill and watched the sun dip beneath a horizon of smoke, reappear and then sink below the Earth’s horizon. It had been such a strange, yet phenomenal day. Once we found a flatten mound just large enough for our tent, we began setting up in the dark. Our eyes were beginning to adjust just in time to see a nighthawk swoop down in front of us before taking flight back up to the sky. We stood in wonder. It swooped again right at our eye level. We could feel the whoosh if it’s body and hear the single flap of its wings gaining height once more far beyond us our rooted feet. In this moment everything was here. Being here, filled us with happiness. In our solidarity and solitude, a distant barn light told us that we were not as alone as we usually were. A comforting and uneasy feeling.
Cheers to the calm, clean air,
Garbelly and Critter