GREAT FALLS - Carly Swisher and Fey Reynolds spent 58 days trekking across the Treasure State in a canoe, on a bike, and on foot.
“We canoed 149 miles, we biked 1,029, we hiked 340,” Reynolds said.
MTN News talked with them just after they returned from the trip.
The two are the first people to complete the journey along the newly-designated Montana Trail 406.
"You have everything from watching a sunset over the mountains to also sitting in a pile of grouse poop on the same day,” Swisher said when asked how she would describe the experience.
Looking back, they feel they were well prepared. When MTN News interviewed them when they set off on the trail in June, they had a canoe full of supplies.
"Our logistics that were so complicated going into this, the bikes, the boats, the backpacks, that worked out really smoothly,” said Swisher. "So that was great. All our boxes were where they needed to be. The one time they weren't we got it figured out. I mean, you could always be, like, 'I wish I had done more.'"
Their advice for others thinking about taking on the trail? Be prepared, be okay with being uncomfortable, be flexible, and of course have fun.
"We actually got recognized. People were either following us online on Facebook or had seen the news from when we left Fort Benton. That was really fun because everyone would get excited. They were excited they were actually seeing us out there,” Swisher said. "We would get excited, like 'Oh! We got recognized.' Then, people just want to talk about the trail. Like 'What are your experiences?' They're also outdoors, they're experiencing their trip, so it's fun to connect and make those connections."
"There were a couple people who said 'You're my hero that you're doing this!.' That felt really good because I feel like a pretty ordinary person. Also, I think that kind of goes to show that with the right planning that ordinary people can do things like this,” said Reynolds.
Work is planned on the trail for the fall of 2022, including efforts to get state recognition through a joint resolution in the next meeting of the state legislature. Work is also underway with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to address trail access issues.