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A Month of Magic in Montana

A Month of Magic in Montana

Trail magic. Something hikers look forward to, something that can absolutely turn your day around, something generally unexpected. Trail magic is something given to hikers with nothing expected in return. On the AT and PCT, this often comes in the form of a cooler of cold sodas at a trailhead, or someone grilling brats and burgers for hikers in a campground. Trail magic is plentiful on these trails and comes in many forms, and hikers sometimes start to expect or rely on it. 

Out here on the CDT, I expected there to be zero trail magic, or maybe just one or two instances on the entire trail. Montana has absolutely proven me wrong. While there hasn't been a single trailside cooler or anyone specifically intending to be a trail angel, the magic here has been incredibly heartwarming and generous, leaving us feeling exceptionally lucky and supported.

I expected hitchhiking along this trail to be tough, since it is much less well-known than the AT or PCT. Montana has (so far) been wonderfully easy. Coming out of Glacier National Park, the very first car pulling out of a parking lot pulled over to hitch us to town, and insisted we take some cash as well. When we got to the highway trailhead for our most recent town, we found that other hikers were looking to hitch as well, making us an intimidating group of six dirty vagabonds- we figured it would take FOREVER to get anyone to pull over. Everyone went to sit in the shade while I walked out to the shoulder. The second vehicle pulled over and took all of us, dropping most of the group off 30 minutes from trail and then taking us another 20 minutes to the next town, narrating the local landmarks along the way, including the ranch where they film the show "Yellowstone". This wonderful human then took us to a popular local diner, where he had breakfast with us and picked up the tab before dropping us off at a great place to stay. Hitching out of this town was a bit harder but after walking about half hour with our thumbs out, a man with his 7-year-old son picked us up and drove us to the post office and convenience store, insisting we get something to help boost his karma before driving us all the way back to the trail.

Even when I haven't been looking for anything, the magic of Montana has provided. On a long, hot roadwalk, a USGS vehicle pulled over and offered us cold water, snack bars and fresh cherries. On a lonely dirt service road, a truck pulled over and asked a lot of questions about the area, none of which I could answer. The driver marveled at what I was doing and about the long water carries and gave me an ice cold bottle of water. A woman pulled over just before an asphalt road walk, offering us a ride and warning us that the upcoming miles were terrible. We trudged on to maintain our continuous footpath, despite it becoming probably the most dangerous "trail" so far. 

The trail towns have been mostly wonderful, with businesses and residents being super helpful and accommodating, sometimes allowing for free camping on lawns or extra late checkout from motels. People have been enthusiastic to have hikers in their town, bringing in business for their restaurants and lodging options. These things aren't necessarily trail magic, but have been surprising knowing that this trail still does not yet have the popularity of the other two big trails.

As I continue south, I am filled with gratitude toward the people of Montana and the trail towns that support the CDT. I am constantly surprised by the ways that the trail provides and how kind people can be. They fill my heart and soul as much as the mountain views and wildflowers, and connect us all together in this crazy journey. Thank you Montana!

- Scribe

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