• Mary Anderson

On the Big Sky Alternate Route

From where I am sitting right now life and time feel like such contrasting things, yet they are so closely intertwined. We live life for a certain amount of time and then we die.

I'm thinking about this because I am sitting by myself in a very large open area surrounded by rising mountains. Down in the center of a dip sits the remains of an old cabin. It looks like it was made without any nails and had just wood for a roof. It is falling in and the people who lived here are certainly long gone. But I can imagine them here, running cattle on the open ground in this isolated spot, shivering to keep warm in winter.

The cabin was most likely built here for the same reason I am stopping here for the night: water. I am getting mine from a pipe running into a cow trough. It seems like pretty good water. I imagine theirs came from the wet patch just below the cabin. No fancy pipe for them.

As I sit here eating dinner I feel how fleeting life is. Yet, ironically, just the next week or day now feels like an eternity. It struck me that what I am doing is difficult in this 90-degree-plus heat with little to no shade and long stretches with no water. My hip or groin or something is hurting enough to cause a limp, and I feel weary. I have a steep, long climb tomorrow over uncertain terrain with a fairly heavy pack. I suspect it will be one of those days I have to chunk down into minutes just to get through it.

I am certain the people who lived in this rundown cabin had plenty of days like that. Yet none of it really matters now. It reminds me that my challenge out here is to try to find something beautiful in each moment, because in the end my life will be fleeting. That I passed this way will mean little to nothing to anyone but me in this moment, so I might as well make it a good one. I think I'll start my day tomorrow with some happy songs.


Above: Along the Continental Divide Trail heading south toward Whitehall, Montana, mid July 2021. Photo by Mary Anderson.


When 63-year-old Mary Anderson set out to hike the southern half of the 3,000-mile Continental Divide Trail in the spring of 2020, nobody thought she would make it. Hikers give themselves trail names, and Mary’s was Old Lady Hiker. A few days into her solo trek, she ran into some younger hikers who decided she needed a new name. From then on, she was known as Mary Badass. In the fall of 2020, Mary began writing her story in a Korongo workshop hosted by Kimball Library in Randolph. This summer, she is blogging from the trail as she hikes the northern half of the CDT.

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