Saturday, July 31, 2004
I Got My Wish--Part II
I can't remember where I slept last night, probably because right now it's after hiker midnight and a lot happened today.
I got an email from Yogi, who was leaving Lima, Montana, on our zero in Leadore.
She said the old CDT was "something like 30 miles shorter" than the new one, and she reported they'd made excellent time between Leadore and Lima.
So we trimmed our food down a bit before we headed out of Leadore in anticipation of a shorter leg. Since we had so much to do, we didn't really review our maps or descriptions before we hit the trail. Or at least I didn't.
I don't deal with that kind of abstraction very well. I can't read the whole description of the route and keep it in active memory. The book is most useful to me when I need more information than the landscape provides. I scan through, remembering landmarks mentioned until I get to where I am. Usually, it's a sharp turn in a lush meadow that has me/us off the track. You would think that reviewing maps and descriptions would be my highest priority, but it doesn't work that way for me. I like to cross a bridge when I come to it.
Today, we were coming to the junction of the old CDT route and the new CDT route. We had to choose, which meant we needed to review the guidebook, its supplement, the guidebook maps, Jonathan's maps, and the DeLorme atlas maps.
In short, all our printed resources.
The new route looked great, full of the stuff I enjoy while hiking: views, wildlife, and cool other stuff. The old route was pretty much a road walk, which means fast miles and a direct route. Road walks can be dull as USA Today and harder on the feet.
The initial reaction within the Traveling Show to changing from the quick route to the scenic was less than unanimous. I even had a little hesitation. If I KNEW I'd finish in New Mexico this year, I would be more inclined to go rather than save the two "extra" day of hiking.
In the end we reached a satisfactory compromise. Both routes cross Bannack Pass (not to be confused with Bannock Pass from a couple of days ago), so we agreed to do the first part of the new route, then drop back to the old route after the pass.
I'm SO glad we did, and this is just the first day.
The mountains around here are a bit more dramatic than in the last few weeks. We climbed up a river canyon, then around a peak, arriving on the area described as a plateau. It was a high open area with no trees, but lots of elevation variation.
Nevertheless, one of the first things I saw was one of my whishes for this trip: A herd of antelope! We got to watch them for a bit, and as we moved closer (following the trail), they became aware of our presence and started to run. But it wasn't a random run. They herded, creating a tight flow of moving beast, like a river of shiny fur. It was great. There were probably 75 antelope in the herd.
Before we got to where the antelope were, to the right and a little below us, I spied a HUGE herd of elk across the drainage, and another equally large herd above the first and much more distant. Some elk were grazing, others lounging on the green carpet of grasses. In all, the herds were on the move, but ever so slowly. They moved at the pace of grazing, that is until they became aware of us.
It's interesting to watch an alert pass through a herd. Somebody first saw us, then those around saw us.
Nobody panicked, but then when somebody else sees that many others are all looking at something he or she hadn't yet seen, they get a little panicky. A little start grows startling others around. Then the first ones think, "Oh, maybe the panicky ones see a bigger danger than we see." Then somebody bolts.
The elk herd moved like a river, sweeping up stragglers and flowing over the bulging hillside until they were out of site.
Of course, the elk have nothing to fear from us, but they can not distinguish between our photo-curious presence and the intrusion of violence-crazed hunters that will blow their friend's brain out, maim their child, or disturb their neighborhood.
I found a great big bone on the plateau and did a little 2001 learning-to-kill-with-a-tool humanoid rendition, which I then repeated for Spur's on-camera video. I made monkey noises and everything.
We made are way across the plateau unsettling more elk in the process. The wind was harsh, the light fantastic, and the water scarce. Spur and I headed down from the Divide to get some water. On the way, in the stream I'd later pump out of, I saw a baby elk skull. It was probably still born.
We contoured our way around, setting ourselves up for an early ascent of Cottonwood Peak in the morning. The weather looks threatening, but I'm going to sleep ouot anyway. It's so windy tonight.
Friday, July 30, 2004
Elk Out Of Leadore
I awoke earlier than I would have liked, but it allowed me to get everything done, except my overdue journal entries. Oh, and the massage exchange we'd talked about, and re-doing Apple Pie's braids.
Such is the timeline of a town stop: Some things HAVE to get done, others, I WOULD LIKE to do, but the real purpose is to rest and recover. That's the order of priority for me, so the R-n-R rarely happens.
Mike and Aleta at the Leadore Inn let us use their computer with Internet access, which was really nice, and I hopped on this morning.
We the headed to breakfast, then to the PO to get rid of the boxes that follow me around.
Back on the trail at Bannock Pass, we began the climbing that would eventually take us to 10,000' for the first time on this hike. The Divide here is open grass with tree patches falling off to the side every few miles.
In the afternoon, I had a great view of a herd of elk. I watched them grazing on the spring-crisp grass from above, my presence muffled by the wind sucking across the Divide.
Night greeted us with a full moon. Somehow I missed the first full moon of the trip, so I am secretly thrilled to be soaking in the cool rich light of this moving spotlight.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Zero Number Seven: Leadore, Idaho
I woke up alone in my own bed. What a treat. I'm used to sleeping alone, so sharing a bed means a less-than-ideal night of sleep.
I felt like I had too much to do when I saw both Apple Pie and Spur napping.
Apple Pie napping is no big deal, but Spur rarely naps. Don't they have chores??
One of the things keeping me busy was Leadore's new library. I got lots of captions to my photos. I also deleted more than 3,000 emails, most of them junk.
The food in Leadore's restaurants was limited, so, since we had a kitchenette, I decided, after two rounds through both stores, that it was time for and there were ingredients for some kind of tacos. I rounded up frozen beef parts, corn tortillas, tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, salsa, and onion. I forgot the cheese, but Spur picked some up after his long nap.
We pulled the outdoor chairs into the center of the lawn and ate our tacos outside in the setting sun of the pleasant Idaho evening. It was a nice peaceful dinner with no PocketMails.
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
Red Route to Leadore
Great trail today. I woke up before the sun was up. I went back to sleep. A bit later, I was doing my morning chores as the golden pink sun sped up behind a white pine tree. The horizon was warm and thick in what appeared to be smoke from a forest fire.
Despite the warm tones, it was cold. Spur's VIT (very inaccurate thermometer) said it was 38 degrees.
As the morning progressed, I noticed the recent work on the trail. And the trail was replacing bad, steep jeep tracks.
I took off and soon was ahead of Apple Pie and Spur. My destination? Bannock Pass, the gateway to Leadore, Idaho. (Leadore is pronounced lead, like the metal, and ore, how the metal comes out of the ground. I know I already said that, but it takes practice to get it right...)
We'd slept 14 miles from the pass, and I wanted to get to Bannock Pass as soon as possible. First, the sooner I/we got there, the sooner we could start hitching. Bannock Pass is known as a long, slow hitch because it's a dirt road with not much traffic.
Since we had such a clear rendezvous point, I just hiked on, not adjusting my pace for the group. I walked along miles of fancy fencing. The trail just kept on going, moving through trees, posting through sage hillsides, and uh, where are my maps? I lost my maps, guidebooks, notepad and pen. They were in a Ziploc that I had in my front pocket. I used to keep the packet zipped in my camera bag, but I wanted better access. Now I had no access. Should I wait for Apple Pie and/or Spur to come along?
I decided to keep following the trail until I could not follow it any longer.
The blazes and signs continued, and I walked and walked, pushing for the pass/bed/hot meals.
The plan worked: I found myself approaching Bannock Pass as the noon hour wore on. I didn't stop to eat lunch. Why would I when I could eat in town?
My final approach allowed a view of the road approaching the pass. Wow. I wasn't seeing any cars. Not one. Hum. When I was about 1 minute from reaching the pass, a giant red pickup zoomed past. My feeble hiker shouts were no match for a cresting diesel going 60 MPH. The first car I'd seen on the road, and I'd missed it.
When I got to the pass, I realized I needed to figure out which way to hitch to get to Leadore, but without maps it might be tough. Wait! DeLorme maps to the rescue again. I kept those for access only when I needed them. I discovered that the red truck had been going the way I wanted to go. Oh well.
I began my hitch preparations, including combing my hair, dabbing water on my face, retracting my poles and attaching them to my pack, and changing attitude from I-gotta-get there to pick-me-up-I'm-not-an-escaped-convict.
I got all my chores done before even one car came by. I reevaluated where I was standing. I looked at where I was standing in terms of the driver's perspective. I was not pushed for time. I might as well use it to increase my chances of a ride. Now I just needed cars.
I wandered over toward the cattle guard on one side of the pass to look for a dust plume from a vehicle going my way. Nothing.
But then I heard a sound. Within the next 10 minutes four cars going the opposite direction came by.
Finally, a beat up pickup truck stopped. It was an old guy who knew lots about local Indian history and had been catching 5-pound trout at the reservoir today. He didn't know where the Leadore Inn was, but agreed to help me find it.
Turns out, it's not hard to find anything in Leadore as long as its there. The Leadore Inn was easy to find. I thanked my ride with visions of a bed racing in my head.
Mike answered the door and let me know that both Apple Pie and Spur were already checked in.
It turns out the lost maps had a red route and a purple route. The red, real CDT was signed and blazed, so that's what I hiked. They'd taken the shorter, purple route and had left a note at the pass that I missed. Their ride picked them up 20 minutes before I'd arrived at the pass.
Soon we were off for some remote trail angeling. A hiker from a few years back buys milkshakes for hikers who show up. It's a great way to give back.
Oh, I forgot to mention, the group is now the Traveling Show. I starting singing, "I was born in the wagon of a traveling show/Mama used to dance for the money they'd throw...", and Apple Pie pulled the name out in a Eureka! moment. I don't recall why the opening lyrics for Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves came into my brain, let alone out of my mouth. Let's just call it channeling.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Lewis and Clark Country
Our earliest start yet: 7AM. We walked along the Divide in gentle dappled sunlight in the morning. Our first destination was water. Spur and I got off the trail a bit, and Apple Pie got ahead thinking Spur and I were ahead. Luckily we met up at Puttee Creek (MT54).
The next stop: lunch at a high spot with views to the east. After lunch we moved into fields and hillsides abloom. The base color was yellow, with purples and blues breaking the bounds, all on the Divide.
We dropped down to Lemhi Pass, historic because of the Lewis & Clark's passage on their westward trek. Lots of new improvement at Lemhi Pass, including a pit toilet and new signage. A woman doing some work in one area agreed to take our excess trash, which in my case was quite a load.
We dropped down to Sacajawea Memorial Camp, which does not allow camping, but does have a spring.
We are counting the miles to the next town, which is Leadore (Lead, like the metal, and Ore). This stretch has felt long and a little harder. So the pass represented a milestone closer to town.
Since the only place to stay in Leadore has only three or four rooms, I was a little anxious because I wanted to sleep in a bed. The pass was a good place to ask for some help. The first guy thought I was an axe murderer, but was polite within that impression. The second guy agreed to make a reservation for us.
We'll see if he remembers.
The improvements and volume of people are because of the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark's journey through this part of the country. Sacajawea was their guide in these parts.
Most of the walking we did today was on roads, none of them paved. Many miles of road were on the Divide, which sometimes meant we were in the trees, and other times presented with great views.
As the sun set, we were walking through wide open spaces with huge, mature white bark (?) pine trees perfectly placed in the landscape. A landscape artist could not do better. We walked facing the rising half moon, scaring cows and their calves.
Tonight we are camped out on the Divide in the loveliest grassy open area with dramatic trees and ever-present wind. I am most fond of this camp site.
Monday, July 26, 2004
The Divide Takes the Prize
Last night I woke up around 3 and found a tick on me. It came right out, not having gone in very far at all. It was feisty and angry about being torn away after being so close to a meal. I slept another 3 hours.
Woke up in the sagebrush field to strange animal sounds. The distant, but loud, eerie moaning could be best explained by the nearby cows, but it's hard to fathom that a cow could make that noise.
Our goal today was 22 miles so we welcomed the morning road walk since we knew we had some tough sections later on. The general progression of the day was from dirt roads that any car could travel on, to jeep roads, to barely roads, to wide trail, to a footpath trail, to no trail.
We walked on dirt roads; soft forest duff; spongy, damp meadows exploding with flowers; rocks that sound like glass when they first touch; steep talus slopes; compacted dirt, and tough, rocky trail.
After a lovely cross-country climb, we reached Cowbone Lake. We all went skinny dipping, enjoying the relatively warm lake and relatively bug-free environment.
About the time we were putting our clothes on, three extras from The English Patient arrived looking like French Legion soldiers. The fishermen yelled hellos from across the lake.
While I was puttering around the shore, I found a huge tooth in the water. My first impression was that it had to be from a bear. I had decided to keep it when I read the guidebook for an entirely different reason. Jim Wolf explained that some thirsty cows that had just been herded up to the lake got excited when they saw it, even though it was frozen, ran out onto the ice and all drowned. Their bones are still visible. And I then knew that I a dumb old cow tooth. I threw it back, feeling relieved that I wasn't taking something that I shouldn't have taken.
The time at Cowbone Lake was renewing and refreshing. We were set for the potentially hardest part of the day: getting from the lake to the Divide. The challenge was that it was a very steep transition and no trail exists.
I may have mentioned that the CDT is not yet complete, and this is one of those places.
The climb and route finding was relatively easy, and soon we reached the Divide.
It was amazing. We had great views into Montana and Idaho. We got to the highest point yet on the trail. We walked sections where the Divide was as wide as the trail, dropping off in both directions, and sections were the Divide was wide and flat. I am amazed at the amount of diversity of terrain, how the look can change, up on the Divide.
Yesterday and today I think I started seeing ash from Mt. Saint Helens. Is it possible? We really are not that far from mid southern Washington.
We did 17 miles today and are all sleeping out on an old jeep road. It has been 4 days with no rain. I almost hate to report it since that alone could change our luck.
This trail is amazing when it's at its best. The Divide is the place to be.
Sunday, July 25, 2004
The Rock is Getting Harder
We made it out of our Lena Lake campground at 7:15. The scenery was spectacular all morning. It seems like the rock is getting harder, so there was a little more struggle between the mountains and the glaciers. Further north, the glaciers pretty much had their way with the crumbly mountains. Here in the Beaverhead National Forest, some of the mountains are a little more jagged.
Saw a young grouse today with light and dark speckled feathers. I've been seeing grouse just about every day. They are small chicken-sized land birds.
They can fly, but it's awkward and loud.
After some lakes and passes, we dropped down into forest and followed the creek that flowed out of Rock Island Lakes. Then we made a long, steep climb up in forest, then dropped back down. If there was a pass, it was hidden. Being buried in the trees, unable to see landmarks or the surrounding landscape, the climb seemed so unnecessary. I like knowing where I am and why I'm there. I did see six what I think were morel mushrooms growing on the trail. I wish I could have completely ID'd them. They would have been yummy as an appetizer.
Later in the day, we found ourselves low, and road walking through sagebrush.
I was grumbling to myself wanting to be in the mountains, up high, not in some cow-infested yucky spot. Then I looked up and saw the light of the setting sun on a peak. As I admired its subtle qualities, it occurred to me to look behind me.
We got to see was not subtle. It was the most incredible sunset. I usually don't take photos of sunsets because they are such a popular subject, but the colors in the sky and layout of light were exceptional.
I'd think that I'd taken enough photos and that I should get hiking again. Steps later, I'd be floored by the increased drama and shoot off another half dozen photos. I did this many times. I know I'll have to suffer through editing them, but I don't have to do that tonight.
We are camped about 5 feet above the sage in a lightly pined area. I'm comfortable and tired.
Saturday, July 24, 2004
Cirques and Circus
I woke up in the same mood that I retired with. I grumbled my way though breakfast, and my first climb of the day. When I reached the top, alone, the trail turned onto the narrow ridge and wound delicately to maintain the edge of the ridge. The beauty of the morning light on the inspirational trail lifted my spirits some.
It also brought more of my emotions toward the surface. I hiked on, occasionally choking back tears. When I emerged on a promontory that put me in the sun again after a cool, shadowed morning hillside, I couldn't hold it back any longer. I took off my pack and cried in the nurturing light. The white rocks supported me, and the trees and mountains were my witnesses.
Apple Pie and I had been inadvertently hurting each other's feelings, and we were learning to navigate our reactions and our interactions. Thus the tears.
I think Spur and Apple Pie arrived at my point of distress at the same time. We spent about an hour talking through the issues. It did not end with a group hug. Spur was acting as counselor/mediator, but didn't quite get me there.
I hiked on to more beautiful scenery. The morning was full of cirques: fairly steep-walled mountains, often curved, created by the weight of a glacier sheering off the part of the mountain that's now boulders, rocks and sand.
The texture of the sub-alpine cirques I saw today is great. The peaks are not too far away, the crumbly rock creates a jumbly face then piles of grey rocks pushed around by the weight of each winter's snow, and then the monochrome harshness gives way. Today, the trail pushed through the transition zone from the rock of the mountain to the wet softness of tree'd meadows with red, yellow, purple, blue, pink, and white flowers smiling from their varied green beds.
I worked my way to the Divide where we agreed we'd have an early lunch. During that lunch, we spent over 2 hours making emotional mileage sorting out hurt feelings, reflecting on what was said earlier, bla, bla, bla.
I'm thinking of hiking on, leaving the group. We are not making the progress necessary each day to finish the hike unless there's a particularly mild winter.
I like the group, but I'm not sure I'm willing to sacrifice a completed thru-hike to stay with them. I could be hiking more each day. I have the energy and the food necessary.
Hiking after lunch dropped us down to some lakes.
Dinner brought more discussions, then we hiked to Lena Lake, where we are camped.
I'm in a better mood, but still trying to figure out what's going on. I'm sure the constant irritation from the bug bites is not helping matters.
Don't send me emails trying to boost my spirits. I'm allowed to have a down day. Email me in a week if this mood continues.
Friday, July 23, 2004
Bugs and Me
Have I mentioned this yet? I have bites all over. Some just go away, but other linger, itching and looking bite-like for more than a week. I knew it would happen, but in the midst of the misery, I have to question my reasons for wanting to be outdoors at all, let alone living outside for 6 months.
At lunch, I killed 34 horse flies. If you don't know what these are, let me tell you. They are big, black and fly circles around you when you walk, buzzing your ear, then find a way to land on you, then take a big bite of flesh. They can even bite through my shirt, which is dotted with blood from bites. It hurts so much when they chomp, I usually kill them. The attacks are even worse when I sit down. They can land at will, not being bothered with swinging body parts.
It doesn't make for a very relaxing lunch to have to be alert for flying insects constantly, so, in these conditions, I usually put on my windshirt no matter how hot it is. The windshirt provides a great barrier. Sometimes my windpants go on too so I can relax.
Today had a lot of steep up and steep down. The trail that led us to where we are camped had three crossings of the North Fork of Sheep Creek. It all combined to make me grumpy about what seems to be poor trail design. I guess I'm grumpy all around.
Here's some good things to write about: I saw delphiniums today, the first on the trail, and these were beige with blue centers, a color combo I'd never seen.
I also got my first blueberry. It was close enough to ripe to enjoy. I also had a small handful of red huckleberries. Oh, and I heard no thunder all day, perhaps a first.
Thursday, July 22, 2004
Today Didn’t Happen, For a Reason
When I woke up this morning, the first thing I thought about, after peeing, was getting in the hot tub. I love to get into hot water when I'm still half asleep. Alas, the tub enclosure was locked, so I padded my way back to the room through the cold morning and slipped back into bed.
We had said yesterday that ideally we'd be at the post office when it opened at 8:30. I think we were still at breakfast at 8:30. And the room was buried in three pack explosions: None of us had made any progress toward packing.
Then, somehow, it was lunch time. So, we had lunch, then it was 2. We finally started hitching around 3, but it could have been later.
What were we doing? Well, I was trying to get out journal entries from July 10, 11 & 12. I'm so behind, as you know.
We made it back to Chief Joseph Pass in two rides. When we arrived, Apple Pie was in a bad mood from an earlier misunderstanding. As I wandered around the entrance to the cross-country ski areas (where we'd met Ed and Gordon), I noticed the forefoot of a deer, cleanly severed at the first leg joint, perhaps the knee, maybe the ankle. I picked it up with a rock and a piece of bark and offered it to her with the hopes that it would make her laugh. It did.
We began hiking today knowing that we'd be hop scotching between Montana and Idaho as we walked the Divide for the next many miles.
Our first goal was a spring that several people had mentioned that we not miss.
We missed it, I think because we were traveling so fast. We looked for it after we'd passed it. Spur eventually found it, but then we discovered that nobody needed water for dinner, so we ate.
During dinner, the weather began to build. The thunder we'd been hearing all afternoon grew closer and louder, as did the dark gray clouds which had been so pretty in the distance. Well, the clouds grew just closer, not louder. I've never seen a loud grey.
The clouds darkened the day and made the lightning flashes visible, but the thunder was still startling in its loudness and nearness.
Soon hail the size of large peas was falling, but it wasn't too heavy. The rain was light too. Neither interfered with our dinner, a detail for which I am thankful.
We were focused on finding the spring before dinner that we forgot the trail took a sharp left. We continued along the dirt road we left before dinner. It climbed a bit, then led to a place with a great vista made even more spectacular by the clouds of the now-breaking up storm and the setting sun. It was one of the best visual moments of the trip. The light was spectacular, the clouds ranged from dark grey to white, and the warm horizontal evening light and the clouds combined to make a great hat on the landscape. Oh, and there was a rainbow and a peculiar and dramatic cloud formation.
Spur and Apple Pie continued to take in the view as I scouted for the trail, which seemed to peter out. Suddenly it occurred to me, looking at the foundation for a removed watch tower, that we were on Anderson Mountain, and had missed the turn. None of us would have purposely come up here, but none of us would have missed it either. I know I was happy for our error.
So we hiked back to the place we had dinner, which was on the trail we should have stayed on. Hiking this evening was great. We had scenic views to the west, south, and east. Of particular note were the number of mariposa lilies in bloom. That's not quite the name. They have three white pedals with a burgundy eye in the middle.
We are camped in trees on the Divide near a place with a great old Divide Way sign and promise of water nearby.
I'm happy to be sleeping out.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
The meadow was lovely in the morning. We bumbled around a bit trying to figure out what road, out of the many, that we should be on, then started walking.
Soon we were on MT43 on our way to Highway 93, which I would later find out goes from Alaska to Guatemala. We just wanted to get to Chief Joseph Pass, which we estimated was about 6 miles. We knew it was up and to the west.
The first mile marker I saw on Hwy 93 said 7 miles. The next mile marker gave me the information I needed: 6 miles. We'd have a decent ascent to the pass along a paved two-lane road.
Before too long, I saw a herd of elk, about five young ones and six female adults. I got to look at them while I hiked until they caught wind of me and disappeared like magic into the trees.
I saw a rusty hand saw by the side of the road and decided to carry it up to the pass. There's all kinds of junk along roads.
Spur had a burst of energy at some point and passed me, reaching the pass before I did.
When I got there, he was already talking with Ed and Gordon who have a large red pickup truck. (Pickup truck means potential ride to town.) Ed and Gordon are painting the outhouse at the pass as part of their responsibilities with the cross-country skiing club in the area.
Apple Pie arrives, and we continue to chat about, of course, what a great section of trail we missed and how it was the last section in this area to be completed.
Gordon informs Ed that he's finished his portion of the work for now and that he should give us a ride to Sula. We hop in the back of the red beast and descend.
The shopkeeper Marge is glad to be rid of our many boxes piled up around the store. We are happy to have them and happy to have a lunch.
We get a little cabin, but they upgrade us to a big cabin, which gives us room to do all the town chores.
Sula is a stopping place for lots of bikers, and I chatted with a few while we were waiting for something to happen.
One of the things that eventually happened is that we played miniature golf.
The course was across the highway, arid and tiny. I made the best of it, even getting a hole in one.
Had a great, and HUGE dinner at the Rocky Knob. The Sula Country Store and Resort only serves breakfast and lunch, so we asked about places for dinner. The Rocky Knob came up many times, but it's 4.5 miles down the road. Ugh. We asked Marge about a way to get there, and she offered to take us there, wait while we ate, and drive us back. She'd wait in the bar for us.
Marge got her last drink to go and drove us back.
OK, so this town stop sounds great, right? Well it gets better. Back in the mountains, Apple Pie and I had been joking about going to the Sula day spa and having all sorts of pampering. Sula has a hot tub, a large, enclosed, CLEAN, hot tub. The three of us soaked and talked 'till we were nearly asleep, walked through the comfortably chilly night air and got into bed. What a great stop.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
No Rain All Day
It didn't rain at all today.
Last night I finally resorted to earplugs because of the thunder and large drops of rain drumming on the taut tent. I pulled my cap over my eyes and slept through most of the night. Breaking camp in the wet, burned forest was particularly messy, I mean fun, no, messy.
We had a good portion of our day's uphill early in the day. I was sluggish all morning, but revived at lunch. I need to rethink my breakfasts. As my breakfasts have evolved, I lost the fat, and fat is a great fuel for me.
We walked through a lot of burned forest today. What I've noticed is how long it takes for new trees to sprout. The fire today seemed several years old, but I saw only a few new trees, and none over 4" tall.
The Divide looks different on different parts of the trail. Yesterday, it was jagged, bare rocks. Today it was wide forest sloping off in two directions.
Some of it was burned, some alive.
The wildlife count started recovering from its moribund state today. Saw two ground birds, a deer, and moose tracks. Also saw a new flower. To me it looked like a cream-colored monk's hood. I got a photo, but the mosquitoes were distracting so it may not turn out.
Met north-bounder, Fred, today who wore his pack in a way that would cripple me in a day or so.
We took a wrong turn today, and I'm partially responsible. The choice of trail looked so clear. Now, instead of 5 miles to Chief Joseph Pass, we have 9 miles.
Oh well. We'll still be in Sula tomorrow.
We'd been hiking along what we thought was a purple (alternate) route. After miles and even after dinner, Spur decided to check our location. Oh, we are off the map. So we looked at our options, using the DeLorme maps and the maps on our GPSs, and found a way for a road walk that will allow our hike to be continuous. Icky road walks are good motivation to pay more attention to the trail resources, but I don't sweat mistakes like this too much. They are going to happen, and it's part of what makes the CDT such a nice trail to hike: It's not a walk in the park. Way-finding requires many different skills and a lot of attention, especially when one's guard is down.
Also met Becky and Dave, two light hikers heading south fast. I was sorting out the next puzzle about where the trail is around Shultz Saddle. I was expecting to see Apple Pie and/or Spur when I looked at the motion in the corner of my eye. I hiked with them a bit until they got just out of site at yet another confusing junction.
I enjoy hiking with Spur and Apple Pie. We laugh a lot, find a lot to talk about, and our paces, modified so we can hike together, work well.
There's a little moon crescent out tonight, and not a cloud to be seen. It's a good night. Good night.
I Don't Know How We Ended Up in the Backyard
I don't know how we ended up in the backyard. The cards had been on the table for more than an hour. I was ready. I came here to do what has happened. My emotions are here, but yours are pouring off your face. How can you cry so much? It's making me angry. The smoke drifting up from the ashtray poisons my compassion.
I want to name your faults. I want to blame your halts. You tried to end it so many times, sabotaging my devotion. Now I'm the monster for choosing to move on.
And then, a sign. A hummingbird floats in front of your face and sips a tear. I know I can leave this love, you who I loved, and find a sustaining love.
I leave like the coolness in the morning. In my head to your shouted words: You were adrift when I met you. I hopped on your tenuous raft just long enough to know I wasn't safe. I can't hear what you are saying as I close the gate, but the whole neighborhood can.
I used to enjoy driving up your street. I take a deep breath of satisfaction and compassion as I drive down it, probably for the last time.
Monday, July 19, 2004
Black Soot Mud and a Little Thunder, Please
What a day. We awoke in the clouds, I had three bits on magic in the morning, we walked into two thunderstorms, and we enjoyed a sunny dinner on some rocks. And the bugs were only really, really bad for 3/4s of the day.
Rainbow Pass was a great place to sleep. The Divide is so sharp there, we were lucky to find enough space for the two tents.
I don't think I mentioned this earlier, but I'm bouncing my tent. I prefer to sleep out, and Apple Pie offered to let me crash if the weather turns wet. So far, it's working well. I still have my w/b bivy and bug bivy, so in a pinch, I could manage a rainy night solo. It hasn't come to that yet.
It rained a little during the night, and we awoke in the clouds. Luckily, the clouds were breaking up and moving so I got peeks of peaks. For the first time, I was the first to be ready to go.
Although the clouds were lifting a bit, we decided against hiking the Divide cross-country. What use is being of on the Divide if your head is in the clouds?
I led the way on the trail, down to the first water. Before we got there, we saw a full rib cage and neck vertebrae, fleshless and white, sitting on the deep green bear grass on the side of the trail. The fact that the remains of deer or young elk was next to the trail was irrelevant to nature. Our government, businesses, or special interest groups could not shield me from the truth. I was reminded that if I were out here long enough, those could be my ribs.
The next highlight of my morning is somewhat of a puzzle. I found a possibly-worked, thumbnail-sized piece of obsidian. Did a contemporary human bring it here to live close to the land? But more interesting, did it arrive here long ago, and where did it come from? The volcanic West Coast? If so, that's amazing.
The next treat was at mosquito-infested Johnson Lake. I stopped to be eaten alive, glanced across the lake and saw a bald eagle sitting on a tall snag at the edge of the lake. I didn't learn anything from watching our national bird.
I think we left the Anaconda/Pintler Wilderness today, just so you know where we are.
The CDT maps we are using have the red route, the 'real' CDT, and purple routes, which are alternates. Since two organizations lay claim to routes, neither are finished, and there are many choices and trails. Walking the CDT is not as defined as either of the other two long trails. The vibe seems to be that as long as you have a continuous walk from border to border, and at least tried to stay near the Divide, you've done the CDT. And sometimes a continuous walk is not possible or practical.
We took a purple route today that cut out a pass-drop-to-forest-climb-to-pass cycle we've been in for a while. The purple route took us by a lovely lake, where we had lunch, into a cirque, up to a high, flat area with a great view, down a scree slope, and up a grassy slope to rejoin the trail at the next pass.
I'm sure it was much prettier and much more interesting hiking that yet another tree-filled valley.
On our way to dinner, we walked into our first thunderstorm. What would be the last local flash and crunch brought me to my knees as I ducked under a tree. A few seconds after the flash, a close and loud ripping boom moved to one side, then piled up above me and let loose. I wasn't praying when I dropped, just reflexively protecting myself.
It cleared up, and we walked into bug hell.
Bug hell is a particular kind of hell. The bugs in bug hell are mosquitoes and bug hell is thick with them. Bugs or not, we had a great dinner on a big pile of rocks with a view and lots of sunshine.
Our afternoon walking took us through a lot of burned forest, and we ended up camping on a burned saddle. Everything that touched the ground or trees would have been covered with black soot, but as soon as we started setting up camp, the thunder we'd been hearing all around us, moved overhead and unleashed a downpour that made the same items covered with black soot mud. Oh, and the downpour started just as the ground cloths had been laid out. I'm in Apple Pie's tent, and it's raining as I try to finish this entry so I can go to sleep.
Sunday, July 18, 2004
Some Days Have Their Ups and Downs
At some point during the night I was awakened with splashes of water on my face. I looked around. Spur's bright journaling was the only sign of life. I was convinced the trees would provide enough protection from the rain, but I was half asleep. Not long after I hear Apple Pie say, "Cupcake, it's raining pretty hard," and she expressed a desire to have me join her.
I prepared the stuff I was leaving behind for the rain to wash and carried my pads, bag and pillow over to my new home. I didn't sleep well for the rest of the night, but I did have a great dream about getting a commission to do the master plan for a wealthy private high school.
We got an early start so that we could make it to Rainbow Pass, about 19 miles away.
The most amazing and unexpected thing happened today. I was walking along through forest when something caught my eye. Wow. It was an erratic. l looked around an saw a few others, then I looked at the rocks at my feet: Granite!
Within the course of a short distance, we transitioned between the sedimentary/ metamorphic rock of the last 400+ miles to good ol' granite. I knew the Rockies had been covered in glaciers in the past, but to my eye trained in the Sierra, I saw few similarities. Then I untangled the mystery: the geologic basis of the contemporary landscape was different so the results of glaciation were different.
The area with granite also had larch trees, the deciduous conifers I first learned about on the PCT.
Today had lots of ups and downs, a lot of it very pretty. At one point I was working up a set of switchbacks which, on one side, had a very sharp drop off just after the trail's turn. High up I was approaching one of these dramatic turns when two fast-flying Clark's Nutcrackers split their synchronized path around me. I could feel the wind from their wings on my legs. I spun around to watch their diverging trajectories, one into the trees above, the other back into the vastness of the air in the cirque.
We reached Rainbow Pass, where we set up camp. The pass was the highest point yet on our hike, somewhere around 9,200'. In the morning, we'll decide if we are going to hike cross-country along the Divide, or drop down on the trail. I hope the weather will allow us this little adventure.
When the stillness of drifting off to sleep settles in, I sometimes experience a remnant of the physical sensation of the day. In Glacier, I'd feel my feet slipping away on the snow. Tonight, I'm feeling the annoyance of bugs buzzing my face.
Flowers today: yellow columbine with pink pedals, Indian paintbrush, lupine, rein orchid, penstamen, violets, and more.
Saturday, July 17, 2004
Another Day on the CDT
Last night I had dreams about hiking with Yogi and about being in a giant outdoor mall/discount outlet with Anish and someone else. Hum...
A squirrel nibbled at one of my food bags last night. I usually critter-hang my food on a small tree, but last night's site offered no such option, so I laid my food bag on the braches of a big tree. I heard the squirrel sound the alarm in the early morning upon discovering us. Then it shut up when it discovered my food.
While we were breaking down camp, an interesting something ran by very closely. It was the size and shape of a small weasel. The fur on top was dark; below, white, except some exceptionally red patches toward the front underside.
We walked through clear cuts most of the morning, then finally made it into nature. After days of road walking and some clear cuts, by the end of the day I was celebrating being on a real trail while crossing an unmanaged stream.
Our first destination of the day was Storm Lake. Visually, I could see that something weird was happening: All the streams were flowing the wrong direction.
I was listening to music as we approached the lake, but I soon heard the noise.
Then I remembered that it's Saturday. Engines. Engines struggling. At first I thought I was hearing Jet Skis, but it turned out to be just cars. And trucks.
Why buy high suspension and all the four-wheelin' stuff if you can't use it to destroy nature?
Storm Lake was full of cars and people. And it wasn't a lake at all. It was a reservoir. What were "supposed to be" outlet streams were really inlet streams because the landscaped had been altered.
Since our first priority at the lake was a swim, we stopped short of the masses, found a nice spot to have lunch and access the lake, and got to the business of a dip in the lake on a hot day.
I was surprised that Spur went skinny dipping, and he later admitted that it was peer pressure than most influenced his decision.
The lake was great.
The one advantage to being around people with cars is the opportunity to get rid of garbage. We had it at hand so that when someone agreed to take it, we could hand it off before they had second thoughts. It worked.
Much later in the day, we passed a camp on our way to sleep at Flower Lake.
Dogs emerged from the camp barking, one wet from sleeping out in the rain. The wet dog turned out to be very friendly and nice. It walked us to camp and hung out a while.
I got settled in a hollow of trees, hoping the rain would stay away all night.
The site was nice, and probably the furthest from the trail that we've ever camped.
Friday, July 16, 2004
The Heat Was No Fire Under Our Feet
We left Anaconda today AT 2PM! It just sort of happened. I was worried and apologetic because I had to go out to breakfast. I couldn't eat the breakfast the B&B was serving 'cause it had ham it. I didn't intend on delaying our departure, but I really like a good, big breakfast when leaving town.
Well, I got lunch too. As the time passed, we decided that we might as well have lunch, so we retuned to Stage Line Pizza. Yum. I'm enjoying eating pizza on this trip.
We couldn't delay the inevitable and set out in the moderate heat to begin our sidewalk and road walk out of town.
I stopped at the Safeway and got a large bottle of pomegranate juice, a banana, and a sugar-free dark chocolate bar. Once out of town, our road walk was a highway walk. We walked facing opposing traffic.
We progressed a few more miles before we found ourselves approaching a bar. In we went for a round of cool, non-alcoholic drinks.
As our miles for the day became double-digit, people driving the road became more friendly. One guy stopped to offer us a ride. Apple Pie and Spur, who were behind, had other encounters that they reported when they'd catch up.
After a little debate, we finally identified the correct route to Twin Lakes and promptly had dinner. A local had seen us from his house and driven out to talk with Spur. He'd given him the scoop, including that there are grizzlies in the area we are entering. So, it made sense to eat right away and camp elsewhere, probably at the reservoir the local mentioned.
We walked through forest raped by logging and found the tiny reservoir used to feed water to sluices headed in different directions.
We did 12 or 13 miles despite our late start.
I should not have had the sugar-free chocolate bar. My gut did not like it.
Thursday, July 15, 2004
Zero Number Four: Anaconda, Montana
Hickory House B&B is great. I think a B&B is the way to go. Easy laundry, comfortable spaces, extra space and a claw foot bathtub. A bathtub-only room makes me slow down, which is good. It's impossible for me to take a fast bath.
It is kind of gross to soak in my own trail grime, but it's soon a memory.
What a long day. It feels like we were in Anaconda for at least two days. Got 1/2 hour in at the library, got a massage, ate a large anchovy, artichoke heart and onion pizza, and drank gallons of water. And I was finally able to connect to the Internet with my laptop. Mad Dog is a business that offers Internet access for the purpose of gaming. They had a LAN with large screen monitors, and a few boys playing loud shoot 'em up games with each other and strangers somewhere in the world. I just plugged into their LAN and uploaded and downloaded freely. It looks like Mad Dog's going out of business though. It's a great idea: get the noisy games out of the house and still know where the kids are.
I am having a hard time getting fresh vegetables in Montana. They just don't exist. I asked at the health food store, which had nothing fresh, and they could not help. The best I can do is onions, bell pepper and the occasional slice of tomato with a burger. Lettuce is all iceberg. I'm craving greens, but there's not a spinach salad in sight.
Anaconda is lovely and cheap. Mary Jane at the B&B said she just heard of a house closing for $15K, but most are higher.
We went out to a traditional Montana dinner house, where they served no vegetables. I had lots of lamb though. The interior fell short of camp, and really didn't offer much. We were the only customers in the windowless, dingy place. And since when does fine dining include a TV in the bar?
The evening walk home was very pleasant. I declined another soak in the hot tub.
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
No Doubt Spiderwebs, Heat, Trespassing and 29
The CDT after Champion Pass had not been walked for a number of days.
Spiderwebs, sometimes concealed, sometimes backlit by the diagonal morning light, violated the CDT corridor. If I'd see them, I'd avoid them, but several times I'd get a big web in my face and beard. Once, my angle changed such that the web became lit as I stepped into it. I reflexively backed away, but I did a full face plant on the whole matrix. Annoying.
I soon reached Four Corners, a junction with CDT significance. From Four Corners, hikers can either continue along the Continental Divide toward Butte or take the Anaconda Cutoff.
It would seem like a no-brainer, however most previous hikers recommend the Anaconda Cutoff, an alternate route that eliminates a near loop around Butte, Montana. The loop is all road walk and reported to be full of ATVs and dirt bikers from Butte. In short, it's not a wilderness experience.
The Anaconda Cutoff involves road walking, a little cross country, and ambitious hikers can reach Anaconda in a day.
We chose the Anaconda Cutoff, and from our starting point at Champion Pass, it was a 29-mile day.
While we were following the dirt roads toward our destination, I stopped to get water and wash up. I saw a wasp nest tucked in a tree. Apple Pie and Spur got ahead as I dallied. It wasn't too long before I caught up though. By the time we got to the place where we might be doing the bad part of the cutoff, I was ahead. I saw a two-track jeep path and a cairn. This could be the place we leave the road and head cross-country across possibly private land.
We took it after consulting our resources.
Our interim destination was Warm Springs, which sat at the floor of the valley next to I-90 and looked relatively close.
Soon we were jumping our first barbed wire fence. We walked along another barbed wire fence until we had almost reached another. We crossed under the fence we'd been walking along to avoid disturbing the cows huddled in the corner of the fences, then hopped another fence.
The highway looked no closer as we set out on another two track that took us at an angle away from Warm Springs. We walked and walked, and I made animal sounds: a barking dog, a whelping sea lion, a braying donkey, and giraffe. Apple Pie tried to make a cat sound. The dog growled back.
Soon I was out on my own again, but we rejoined again at the gate, the locked gate. The triple-locked gate. I twisted my head around the fence to see the No Trespassing signs on the other side. Oh well.
A car was coming, so we high tailed it over the fence and made like we'd been walking on the gravel road all day.
We needed to cross under I-90, so we took the first right we came to that showed an underpass. It's here that I left the alfalfa baling, Apple Pie, and Spur behind. My destination? A small store in Warm Springs.
Miles later, I arrived. I stepped out of the heat and intense sun into Uncle Buck's, and it was more than a store. It also had a restaurant. A quick glance at their menu revealed that if it can be fried, they'll serve it.
I ordered $18 worth of deep-fried food matter and a pitcher of water. Before too long, Spur arrived, then Apple Pie.
We talked to one of the owners about getting to Anaconda. He said that if we didn't take the road, we'd hit a slough that would be impossible to navigate.
So we set out in what we thought was the correct direction, and ran into the Montana State Hospital, which looked like it would hire Nurse Ratchet. A concerned maintenance guy gave us strange-sounding but accurate directions to get to Highway 48. Only, once we got out of the employee housing area, we decided to take a dirt road rather can cut across to the highway. As we made our way, the ground grew a little mushy. Next, the road ended by looping back on itself. Then I remembered about the slough. So, with Spur in the lead, we began walking through a huge field of thistles toward the highway. We dubbed our route “The Anaconda Cut Off Cut Off”.
On the last barbed wire fence of the day, Apple Pie got scratched hurrying to get to the other side before a police car came screaming by. She dubbed her boo-boo her "Anaconda Cut Off Cut Off cut." We laughed.
Flying on fat from lunch, I set out, clocking myself at 16-minute miles, or just under 4 miles an hour. Before I got too far ahead, a car with Oregon plates slowed as it approached us. (We were hiking facing the on-coming traffic.)
She rolled down the window, and I said, "Are you from Oregon?" She replied, "Are you going to Hickory House?"
It was Mary Jane's daughter, Sara, who Mary Jane had offered to send to pick us up when I spoke to her to make a reservation from Uncle Buck's. I'd said no, but here Sara was, with a nice smile and a warm demeanor. We explained about a continuous hike, and not wanting to take a ride since we were technically on the trail. She understood and gave us the good news that we were only 3 miles from Anaconda.
I walked another 4 miles to the road that lead to Anaconda and dragged my load up Commercial Street looking for Main Street.
I'll stop dragging this journal entyr out.
In a few more miles, I got to the B&B, eventually found our room and got into a warm bath to soak off the grime. Apple Pie and Spur came as while I was washing my feet, which I was doing like they do in commercials; leg extended in front with toe pointed over my head. Somebody got a picture, and eventually we all had our picture taken in the classic bathtub pose.
We were too late for dinner in town.
We really hiked 29 miles today.
Good night from a bed with cotton sheets.
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Not Red and Not Purple
Apple Pie and I were hiking together and followed the CDT signs. This led us to diverge from both the red and purple routes on our maps. However, we didn't know about the divergence until we were well into it. Instead of either route, we went up and over Thunderbolt Mountain. The trail was manageable, with one steep and very vague section. At the top of that section we came across CDT signs, so we continued on. I spied an elk a little later.
Since we were not on either of the mapped routes, it meant that Spur was probably not on the same path, but Apple Pie reviewed the maps and discovered a way to make our route converge with both the colored routes.
We passed by a lovely lake, hiked on a bit more, and when I arrived at the intersection, Apple Pie was talking with Spur and reported that they'd arrived at the intersection at the same time. Pretty cool.
When hikers get separated, there's always catching up that needs to be done, even if the separation is just for a few hours. We'll chat about where we were and what we saw, and report about any other details. It's funny, even the shortest separation can require the length of the separation to get caught up.
Many miles and landscapes passed when we arrived at the obvious dinner spot: a big tree cutting place for wheeled campers. We even had log seats with backs.
The rain began as we left dinner, and Apple Pie and I started into the Indian/Pakistani couple. We had to stop because we were laughing so hard. I was doubled over in hysterics over her comic timing. Poor Spur just hiked along thinking who knows what. At some point Ganesh (me) came up with the idea of DownUnderWare, or perhaps it was DownUnderWhere because it was spoken, and therefore indiscernible.
We leapfrogged with the Otter all day, finally passing his home for the night tucked away in the trees. Just after that, we moved under large power transmission lines.
As the sun set we were walking up grassy hillsides, and, toward the top, the cows were jittery. So we got to see the drama of cows with calves freaked out of their minds and kicking up dust in the horizontal evening light.
Our hike continued, leaving the horizontal light to fall flat and letting the darkness creep around us as we pushed forward along the dirt roads. Champion Pass, our evening destination, put us in a good position for our goal of getting to into Anaconda the next day. We'd never done 29 miles in a day on the CDT, but the pull of town was strong.
At some point during the day we passed through Leadville, an ex-ghost town. I tried to imagine what it would be like for someone moving to Leadville 100 years ago. I bet it was not a destination for a family.
The last note about today is that I had bad, smelly gas all day. Just what you wanted to know.
Monday, July 12, 2004
Three Tiny Ripe Strawberries
Three Tiny Ripe Strawberries
We hiked through lodgepole pine forests of many different qualities today. The mature forests were the nicest. The logged and thinned areas were the worst. We went through strange thick stands of stunted lodgepole growing close together. None of the trees were more than 15 feet tall.
The mature forest, and some on their way to maturity, had a sea of green below them. I think they are red huckleberries, but I'm not sure. Got to eat three tiny red alpine strawberries today. Yum. I have not mentioned it, but we've seen wild strawberry plants in blossom almost every day on the hike. I've lived in commercial strawberry country, and I think I've seen more plants on this hike than in the vast fields of central coastal California.
Road walking was the theme of the day, lots of road walking. Most are former logging roads, but some are also recreational, when hiking is the lowest on the food chain. We can always get plowed down by a bike, but only sometimes by a motorcycle or ATV. So far people have been sane.
It's not even dark yet, and I'm nodding off. I thought I got a lot of water today, but I'm so thirsty. Hopefully there will be water early tomorrow.
Saw Sara and Oshi today. They were northbound, making up a small section. The Otter also showed up, making it a gathering of six CDT thru-hikers in one place.
We are camped on an open hillside, but on a level spot.
Sunday, July 11, 2004
Has Anyone Seen My Hike?
What a long day. It did not rain on me last night, and I did not need to invade the Otter's space during the night. My hopes of an early start were, as usual, wrapped in a warm sleeping bag and muffled until it wasn't such an early start.
I was on the trail by 7AM. Plus, there's also Apple Pie's penchant for a late start. Surely I can cover those extra miles and meet up with them about the time they get there. "There" is Mullan Pass, the place the alternate route and the main CDT rejoin.
I quickly left the Otter behind, setting a pace that takes no prisoners. I plow through my morning, stopping occasionally to figure out where I am. There's an important turn to make, and there are lots of junctions, only some of them signed. The trails also come in at strange angles, which sometimes helps, sometimes not.
I have three sources of information to find this turn: The Wolf guidebook descriptions, Jonathan's maps, and the GPS. I usually use the maps. They provide the most direct way of finding my way. The GPS comes out next. It tells me my position in relation to contour lines or other landmarks that I might be able to match up with on the map. Last comes the guidebook, unless I'm in a tricky area, but that won't come until later in the day. Through the morning, I'd been using the map, looking for features in the landscape that corresponded to the distinctive sideways sharp “V” the trail took.
For some reason, as I grew close, I chose to look at the guidebook for a change.
Luckily, a pair of angels came along on their way to their cabin in the woods.
I approached the large vehicle and asked, "Do you know where you are, and if so, can you show me on this map?" They knew the area well and soon got me oriented on the map.
I mostly have room in my brain for one detail. Of course, that's a lie, but I use it as an excuse sometimes. This was one of those times. Had I been looking at the map instead of the guidebook, I might have remembered that I was looking for Road 622, or something like that. As soon as the woman hears that I was going to Mullen Pass, she said, "You need to take Road 622," and as she did, I recalled that I'd just been stared down by cows at the beginning of Road 622.
It was literally two stone throws away, back the way I came. I thanked them, and they drove off, honking as promised when the passed the junction, which was about 30 seconds later.
Soon I was passing through the cows and calves that had stared me down earlier, plus some neighbors, which included a particularly jittery one that ran in my direction of travel to escape me. Cows are weird because they are half wild and half domestic, kind of like football fans.
I'd finally found the trail, the turning point to hooking back up with Spur and Apple Pie. I walked about 100 yards and came to an un-signed fork. I went through the whole route-finding routine again. I took the fork to the right and had a walk along a fairly level jeep road. I made my way around and up, passing under power transmission lines which were inaccurately drawn on the map. Soon I reached the Divide which offered great views. I settled into another good pace.
At some point, I looked ahead and noticed something that, in the end, was frustrating: the Otter was hiking about 30 minutes ahead. How did he get so far ahead? I wasn't off trail very long, maybe 10 minutes. He'd found a different route, a shortcut, and taken it. Ugh. I felt that if the Otter were ahead, I wasn't going fast enough.
I redoubled my focus and pace, and gained on the Otter. I came across him in an opening in the lodgepole forest we'd entered. He already had a line up, and he was drying his stuff out. I ate one snack and moved along.
One of the details of this route was water: there wasn't much. I carried my capacity, 2.8 liters. Otter had a lot more, but was more concerned than I about where the next source would be.
I set off on the road, aware of my care-free attitude about the water. And, wouldn't you know it: Soon I saw a parked truck. I walked up and met Brad, who was filling his water bladder. He'd slept there in his truck and was prepping to continue his hike & bike of the Montana CDT as a weekend warrior.
He had lots of water and let me fill my bladder. I was released from my concern for water for the time being, and had a nice chat with him.
I began a long descent,which I thought would never end, toward Mullen Pass. I was hungry, but didn't want to stop 'till I'd caught up with Spur and Apple Pie.
I finally arrived at Mullen Pass at 12:30, a little frustrated at the time it took me to get those miles done.
I quickly found trail mail entitled, "Where's My Cupcake?"
They'd waited 2 hours for me there and left at 11. Ugh. They did leave a plan:
They were going into Elliston to let me catch up. Earlier, we'd decided to skip Elliston. I had enough food to skip the resupply box waiting there for me, and we reconfirmed our commitment to hike together so I could pass by the maps for the next section.
I found a place to sort of duck out of the wind, ate a quick lunch, and was soon on my way. For some reason, staying on-trail between Mullen Pass and Priest
Pass seemed to require constant vigilance. The guidebook gave landmarks every tenth of a mile, and they were sometimes subtle.
I also got some great sights. At one point the trail is an old narrow-gauge railway bed. Following along this tread led to a dilapidated trestle. This once-grand structure, with its rough-hewn, over-sized timbers, showed the effect of time, weather and gravity. Nature was taking over. A tree even grew up through the middle.
After a traverse of a lovely grassy hillside with views, I arrived at Priest Pass to witness a family unloading ATVs for a day of loud, dangerous recreation. And no hikers.
I then hiked through mature forest sections toward McDonald Pass. The trail ended up on a peak with lots of transmission equipment and transitioned to the access road for the towers on the hill. The road finally ended near McDonald Pass, but I still had a walk up the four-lane freeway to the actual pass. The freeway shoulder was the trail, so I couldn't hitch it. When I got to the top, I saw Apple Pie & Spur hitching. Apple Pie came running toward me. They'd been trying get a ride for an hour and twenty minutes with no luck. We began to jabber to get caught up on what happened and who was where when, and I joined the hitch. We soon got a ride in the back of a pickup.
Elliston is small. The Last Chance hotel had four rooms, and they were all booked so we moved on to Stoner's Last Chance saloon. The nearly-full bar fell silent as we entered the dark, smoke-filled establishment. We ordered what we could from the bar menu. We found out the store, the third and final business (other than the PO) in Elliston, was closing in 10 minutes, so we headed over for snacks and supplemental food.
The guy at the hotel gave us a ride back up to the pass.
We headed up to a vista point, took a short set of stairs down to the trail, and headed off to see more of the Continental Divide.
We hiked in a few miles and set up an early camp.
Spur kicked back against a burned tree and the warm light of the setting sun made its way through the trees lighting his face. He looked so content and at home. What a great guy.
I'm sleeping out and my personal forecast is that it will not rain tonight.
Saturday, July 10, 2004
It's Like Thunder, It's Like Lightning
Spur took off at the crack of dawn while Apple Pie and I hung around on the logging road braiding her hair.
Five minutes after camp we saw several great places to camp. Oh well. At some point we caught up to the Otter who shared the morning climbs with us.
I caught up with Spur and the Otter on top of Nevada Mountain, where we had lunch. Apple Pie came in before too long.
The Otter and I left together, but soon I was hiking by myself, enjoying the rhythm.
Then I found something amazing: a note from one 1979 CDT hiker to another couple folded with two 1977 dollar bills. Scott "CDT '79" was congratulating Heath + Sue on their progress and provided the dollar each for them to celebrate in Waterton. I found the folded bundle underneath a trail sign with Nevada Mountain in one direction and ? Mtn in the other.
I can only guess as to how it stayed hidden for so long: an old part of the sign was on the ground. Perhaps the note had slipped behind it, next to the pole and the note fell to the ground when the sign fell away.
I photographed the note, folded it and the bills back together as best I could, put the packet in a Ziploc, then buried it in the rocks holding up the sign. I put a note that I found it on the 25th anniversary season of its writing. It was an exciting experience.
I continued along alone, arriving near my destination of Dana Springs, the first water in a long while. The forest opened up in to fresh, green grass dotted with wildflowers. I then passed through a wall of mature trees and saw a larger grassy hillside.
I'd also been keeping an eye on the sky. The clouds look threatening, but no more so than almost any other day with clouds. I see white puffy clouds, smooth, depthless, dark grey clouds, and other miscellaneous clouds. Oh, and there was some thunder, again like most days with clouds.
As I ambled along the two-track admiring the flowers, I heard the Otter call my name. I looked down the hillside to see the Otter standing at the edge of trees. He invited me to join him. He was waiting out the 'storm' because he needed water at Dana Springs, but it was too exposed. I said I wanted to check things out. I took a few steps towards the as-of-yet unseen springs when something caught my eye.
From the trail, it looked promising. I headed down toward the white patches, hoping they were not rocks. They were not. In a few steps, I found myself amid several large puffball mushrooms. One was as large, if not larger, than my head. So I took some photos, posing with my brain.
The thunder was building up, but not of too much concern, so I continued toward the rise. From there, I could see Dana Springs. It was pretty exposed, so I decided to, well, head to the highest spot around. It looked interesting. I didn't spend much time there, deciding I didn't want to look like an idiot if I did die on the highest spot during a lightning storm.
Then it began to pour. I tried to wait it out under some trees, but this rain was unrelenting. Tree by tree, I made my way down to where the Otter was, whoop-whooping to narrow in on his location.
The rain let up as I got closer, and I saw that he had his rainfly up in trees.
I lingered outside, trying to decide what to do. I was a little cold from the rain, wind and dropping temperature, so my brain was sluggish.
We were out of sight of the trail, and I didn't want Apple Pie or Spur to pass.
I finally decided that I would put my pole across the trail. The Otter mentioned that I might leave a stick arrow instead. As I set out into the open field, I saw a flash and dropped my trekking pole as a pile of thunder poured out on top of me. I even winced, like it might hit me in the head. I quickly made my way up across the field and to the trail, made a large stick arrow, and, cautiously eyeing the sky as if I could avoid a bolt, hot-footed it back down to the trees.
At the edge of the trees, I tried to decide what I wanted to do. I looked up and saw the dark clouds above me moving in a bizarre way. I wasn't going to get water just now.
Instead, I grabbed my sit pad and slipped under the Otter's makeshift shelter, the Otter Den. We got a few drops as warning, then the sky opened up with thick rain which soon turned to hail that covered the ground. The shelter needed nearly constant adjustment, but it worked.
I was anxious to get water and go, but the Otter's conservative respect for the power of lightning kept me in the Otter Den longer than I might have on my own.
In all, I was waysided about 45 minutes.
I decided to leave before the Otter because the storm seemed to be moving on, and I was too wet to be sitting around much longer without getting into my sleeping bag. I crunched across the field and went to Dana Spring, avoiding the trough at first. The Otter arrived and suggested that the trough was the place to get the water. I was cold and a little punchy, but I eventually made my way over.
After I finished pumping my water, I saw something disturbing: Apple Pie's footprint.
Shit! They'd missed my arrow and were hiking to catch up with me not knowing that I'm behind them. Not good. I set out and began tracking them. The freshly wet soil of the trail and jeep roads facilitated following them. I even determined when they had met up with a blue pickup truck that we'd seen earlier.
We hiked and hiked, racing to catch them. The real issue was that on rainy nights, like tonight is shaping up to be, I sleep in Apple Pie's tent. Of course, the Otter offered to let me stay in his tent, but I didn't want to invade his space.
So we hiked, and soon we hiked past the junction where there's an alternate route. We hadn't discussed which route we would take, but their tracks told me they were taking the main CDT route, not the alternate.
I continued pushing with my hiking, but we eventually had to stop for dinner. I thought we might have caught them during their dinner, but it wasn't going to happen.
I would repeatedly say, "I'll hike to that tree/sign/curve/rise, call out, and then I'll hear them call back, then I can stop." I hiked miles doing this before, then after dinner. We finally stopped as it was getting dark, which was also the time we'd found a navigation arrow they'd drawn. A very perplexing navigation arrow. It indicated that they were going to hike down to intersect the alternate route. From my reading on the map, it looked like it would cause them to lose forward progress.
I was too tired to make a decision then, so we easily found a flat spot and set up. I'm sleeping out next to the Otter's tent. I can dash in if I need to.
From a thin, lodge pole pine forest without my posse, good night.
Friday, July 09, 2004
I Take You, Sweet Lupine, Into My Dreams
I awoke last night on my windy perch to a wildly fantastic view of the Milky Way. Then I put on my glasses. Wow. To add to it, behind me, down in the low lands were some lights that looked like a cluster of fallen stars twinkling on the ground. I have no idea what they were because some of them changed color like stars seem to do. I just let it be magic as I drifted back to sleep. I awaked again to pee and had the same incomparable view. And, like a puddle of light in the indeterminate distance, the fallen stars still shone for me.
In the morning, I could not see the fallen stars.
I was ready to leave camp at the same time as Spur this morning, a first. We set out together leaving Apple Pie to request that we leave clear markings at intersections or ambiguous places.
Sometimes the Divide is forested and sometimes it's in the open, on top of it all. This morning it was in the forest. This evening we watched amazing light from grassy slopes.
In parts of the forest and parts of the open Divide, and especially in the transition areas between them, the lupine are in bloom. Wide expanses of lupine also offer up a sweet fragrance that is fleeting, which is best because the fragrance in larger doses would threatens to be cloying. I find the smell very soothing, and I smelled the lupine frequently today. Plus they are a lovely purple.
We've entered an area with active logging. At least they seem to be clear cutting chunks that leave treed corridors and maintain some integrity to watersheds or something. They clearcut in patterns, and there's got to be a good environmental reason for it. There's certainly no bottom-line reason for it.
The weather today, especially this morning, was lovely. The skies were clear, the temperature comfortable, and the winds still. We are camped on an old logging road that has a Firewood Cutting Area sign at the intersection with the main road. We picked the spot out in the dark. We are all sleeping out.
Thursday, July 08, 2004
Victims of Efficiency: The Rest of the Story of the Lincoln Vortex
We got into Lincoln, Montana, mid-day on July 5th. I arrived knowing I needed new shoes. After the usual meal, check-in and shower, I checked out town. No hiking shoes here. But you know that.
On the 6th, 10:30 came and went. We were frantically packing up trying to meet our checkout time, be ready when the shoes arrived, and get a ride to the pass before Bob at the Sportsman's Motel had to leave for a distant doctor's appointment. No shoes. As we were sliding out the door, past the cleaning lady trying to get in, Spur checked his PocketMail one last time. He groaned. Ready (his wife) had emailed: Our shoe order arrived at his home.
A quick round of problem-solving and phone calls gave us a timeline. We were going to get the shoes forwarded from Ready if she could get them to FedEx by the day's deadline. The alternative was to reorder the shoes from RoadRunner. It was tense there for about 45 minutes, but we finally heard that Ready'd gotten them out.
A quick check with Trudy and Bob, the owners of the Sportsman's Hotel, told us that we could have the same room again, another relief, although we were pretty much packed already. Apple Pie and I were actually overjoyed to have another zero. Yesterday'd felt tight, and there was still a lot we could do. We hugged, and I swung her around in the late morning rain.
We spent the afternoon in the library accessing the Internet. I cleaned up my journal, deleting duplicate entries and sequencing it correctly, made captions for all my photos to date, and deleted junk email by the 100s.
We've also been hanging out with the Otter, who's thru-hiking this year. He's great and full of stories. I read the beginning part of his southbound PCT hike, which is no longer online, but soon available in bookstores. His site is The Otter Den. He's a golf pro from Florida, which is the last thing I would guess by looking at him. We've had several meals with the Otter, and he came over to watch The School of Rock with us. But the Otter is not the vortex. The shoes are the cause of the vortex.
So we spent another night in Lincoln. Apple Pie and I could hear Spur snoring in the next bed, which was a first.
The next morning was full of activity. Even 24 hours after our false start, it felt tight getting everything together by checkout time. We made it out of the room and moved the back porch of the office/manager's house while we waited for the FedEx truck.
But again 10:30 came and went.
I asked Spur if he'd gotten a tracking number from Ready. He hadn't, but soon had it. A disappointing call to FedEx revealed one missing bit of information.
'On-time' delivery in Lincoln, Montana, is 4:30PM.
At this point we were all chomping at the bit to get out of town. We had lunch, then Spur headed to the library. Each time the doorbell rang, I'd run to the front of the hotel. At about 2:15 the memory of the earlier disappointments dissolved when I rounded the corner, saw a FedEx vehicle and a woman with a box from Road Runner.
I'd ordered two pair to make sure I got a pair that worked. I chose the Asics
Gel Trabaco VII because they fit. I sent back the NB 807s, and we were off.
Over my Head in a Stream of Swift Wind
Part two of today's journalling began when we hit the trail. Bob from the Sportsman's Motel drove us up to Rogers Pass, delivering us back to the trail at about 3:40.
We hiked south from the pass to the dirt road that is the CDT and began our climb back up to the Divide.
The day was fairly clear and none of the clouds were threatening. The breeze was easy, but it grew as we climbed.
Up on the Divide, the wind was fierce. I could feel it pushing against my poles like water in a strong current when crossing a river. But the wind did not have a waterline. The full strength of the wind pushed at my whole body, at times making it difficult to correctly place a foot.
The constant bombardment added to the intesity of being on the Divide, with its amazing views of green hillsides of grass and trees, on a day with good visability and strong sunlight.
The wind can take a lot of energy to walk in, but today the landscape was returning the energy.
We are camped in some trees, and I'm sleeping out in a place that's getting a little too much of the breeze. But it has a nice view.
I'm happy to be on the trail again.
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Zero Number Two: Lincoln, Montana
Jumping into the experience: At the table next to us in the Rainbow Cafe (no, it's not) are three ladies, and the quote is, "I just said to her, 'Comon Lettie, let's just have a Scotch, get into our robes and watch Fear Factor.' I just love that show, with (a show that follows) and Who's Going to Marry my Dad?"
You might have had to been there, but being here, it was surreally funny.
I woke up early with worry and now have waves of relief sweeping over me fairly regularly. I determined that Lincoln has nothing like a running shoe for sale.
So my worry was how to get to Helena and back today. Finding shoes in Helena that would work and getting around in Helena were other worries.
Then, Road Runner Sports to the rescue. For what now seems like an incredibly low price of $20, they are overnighting shoes that should work. Let the shoes come to me, not me to the shoes. I was dreading a stressful town day. Now I have time to do all the regular town stuff, including RELAXING. Yipee!!! Spur came up with the idea of overnighting them.
We moved to the Sportsman's Hotel with Yogi's recommendation. It was a nice upgrade. Got lots done, including a few hours in the library accessing the Internet.
Dinner was Taco Tuesday at Lincoln Logs, a restaurant that's in a former filling station. Taco Tuesday was less than impressive.
Monday, July 05, 2004
Exit Right, Down to Lunch
We heard later in town that it rained more last night that it normally does in the whole month of July.
I slept through most of it. The ONLY good part of packing up in the morning was knowing that, unless things went terribly wrong, we'd be getting into town, Lincoln, Montana.
This town stop means new shoes. We are going to take a zero so that Spur and I can get new shoes. We are not sure how we are going to do it. At best, Lincoln will have shoes that work. I'm dreading the thought of a day trip to Helena on my zero day. There's just too much to do without the added trip. I can not leave town without new shoes. The New Balance 1100s, which have just over 200 miles on them, have completely failed. As of today, I can not tighten the laces to the top because the plastic cinching panel has ripped off of the shoe. Ugh.
The miles came quickly and soon I was at Roger's Pass. Spur and Apple Pie soon joined me, and we began hitching.
A guy with a distinctive meerschaum and woman passed us in a red pickup. Soon he was back and offered us a ride in back.
I've never been in the back of a pickup going 80MPH. I'm glad I had a hood on my wind shirt, and my head screwed on correctly. Both helped keep my head attached in the buffeting wind. I kept my head low, so my memory of the landscape as we descended to Lincoln is fuzzy.
We arrived in Lincoln in time for lunch. PondeRose's was mediocre; the Blue Sky Hotel friendly and central, but uninspiring; and the town itself quiet. We've got a room with more beds than we can fill. I have a whole queen-sized bed to lay out my stuff, and it doesn't have to come off for me to sleep. Spur and Apple Pie fought for the top bunk. I can't imagine on a thru-hike, fighting for the top bunk. Apple Pie won. My feet would object, especially in the morning.
We went to the main hotel in town to have a fancy dinner and the Otter joined us. I almost ordered elk, but I think if I am going to have elk for the first time that it should be fresh. Maybe elk is like squid and should be frozen before eating. Maybe next time. Rob of Loxley joined us at an adjoining table at some point.
It's fun rooming (and hiking) with Apple Pie and Spur. We get along well.
Apple Pie and I have lots of fun with words and language.
Sunday, July 04, 2004
Life on the Divide--Seeing Where the Water Goes
We had a spectacular sunrise, and the rain began to fall just as Apple Pie and I left our first house on the Divide. I slept in her tent 'cause it's easy, and there were so few flat spots.
It was a light rain, the type of rain I've learned to ignore while backpacking. Why take the time to remove the pack, open it (releasing the ice axe in the process), dig out the rain gear, put it on, repack the pack, hoist the pack, only to have the rain stop a minute later? A little water never hurt this hiker.
Sure enough, the rain did stop.
Our relationship with the Divide before today had been fleeting at best. We'd have a climb up, cross the Divide, then drop down. It was a little exciting, but not like what we had today. Our whole day was going to be on or near the Divide. I found it pretty cool to walk knowing that I was on the line that defined, in certain terms, a division on the entire country.
The scenery was varied and lovely. At one point, we had what sounded like thunder below us. That was a first for me.
Toward noon, I found a nice little shelf overlooking a valley. The shelf offered protection from the wind. It's here that we decided to have lunch. Because it wasn't raining was the best reason for having lunch just then. And a good thing we did. As soon as we started walking, hail erased the memory of the moments of sunshine we enjoyed during lunch. We moved in and out of low clouds which were dramatic and disorienting. The weather continued, but eased up in time for dinner, but not without more hail.
The Divide has very little water on it. Apple Pie and Spur gave me water to cook dinner when we decided to stop to eat because it wasn't raining. I knew we could get water by hiking off trail a bit at Lewis and Clark Pass, so I headed down. On the way back up I saw what I think was a young weasel stick its head out from some rocks. It was so cute.
From Lewis and Clark Pass, we continued, eventually traversing a huge open hillside covered with grasses and wildflowers. And fog. The occasional cairn would help us adjust our route because the trail was often faint or non-existent. At some point we lost the trail. We knew we were at a critical navigation point, yet the rain pouring down urged us to keep hiking. We eventually stopped during a downpour to determine that we needed to take a sharp, uphill left until we hit the trail. We quickly found a strong trail and continued. We should have stayed on the high route.
Now that we were on the trail, finding a home for the night became our highest priority since night was falling. The map revealed lots of steep terrain, and the hour was growing late. Spur spotted a small saddle and went up to scout it.
Despite the wind, we chose the spot. Apple Pie and I are in her tent again.
It's a wet night.
Here's what the others are saying about today: rain, hail, steep climbs, wind, more rain, more hail, more steep climbs, etc.
Saturday, July 03, 2004
More Rain, The Otter, The Divide and Wow
We didn't have any rain yesterday, but the rain returned today. It wasn't bad at all. I just ducked under thick trees when it got bad. During the last downpour, the three of us shared a tree for a nice little huddle. I never put my rain jacket on. It never seems to rain long enough to truly warrant a rain jacket.
The trail for most of the day followed the Dearborn River. Along the way I photographed an amazing flower. It has to be an orchid. It had a white pouch below three 2" light green pedal-like spears twisting away from the top. The final ford of the Dearborn River was thigh-deep and swift. We cooked dinner not long after that, then began our ascent, which actually started with some lovely meadows.
After dinner, we ran into the Otter, a solo thru-hiker. His tent was up, and he was cooking on the side of the trail. I read part of his sobo PCT journal, so it was nice to meet him.
At the Divide, we had a choice: follow the designated route or continue following the Divide. We chose the latter and were well rewarded with spectacular clouds and amazing light. Camp tonight is on the Divide. It's truly amazing to be up here.
On the climb up, I was listening to music. The songs of two playlists (Fun I and Nomad I) are intermixed because of a technical error on my part, but the combo worked anyway. The artists range from Dolly Parton to Nine Inch Nails, Kate Wolf, to the Sugarcubes, and Nina Simone to George Michael.
The air is still, the sky mostly clear and full of stars, and the mice active here on the Continental Divide somewhere in the middle of Montana. Good Night.
Our route tomorrow will continue along the Divide and rejoin the designated trail in a few miles.
Friday, July 02, 2004
Seventeen and Resupply
We zoomed into Benchmark today. Spur, as has become the norm, left camp at a respectable thru-hiker hour while the three of us (Apple Pie, Hiker816, and I) slept in, eventually getting out of camp at 8:15.
The miles came quickly no matter what the map said. And the map said a lot today, some of it confusing.
Spur left a note for Epheneigh guiding us toward our destination: a road leading us to Benchmark Wilderness Ranch. He'd talked to some packers who'd pointed him in the right direction.
We started the road walk, but soon got a ride in an empty minivan. The road walk was not the CDT. It was off-trail, and therefore OK to accept rides.
And I can't continue telling the story without breaking the news: Hiker816 is getting off the trail. Many circumstances make it a good decision. Although he's prepared to hike the trail, he missed all of Glacier NP because of earlier partner mishaps. Yes, he could have gone back and done it himself, but be was not prepared to do it alone at this time. So when he left E. Glacier with us, he knew he might not go far on the CDT.
The PCT won out in the end. Hiker816 is going back to finish sections that he missed when he hiked in 2000: Belden to Cascade Locks. You may be able to
find out more about how he missed that section at his site.
Back in the minivan, Hiker816 secured a ride to at least Augusta, possibly Helena. Adios Hiker816.
When the minivan pulled up to the locked Benchmark Wilderness Ranch gate, Rob of Loxley greeted us.
Those of us who had paid the $25 package fee in advance had packages waiting outside in metal containers. Those who hadn't could see their boxes locked inside the main house.
We all took showers and the lucky ones, Spur and Apple Pie, got all the hot water. I suffered through a cold shower, but I got pretty clean. And I got to wash essential clothes in the sink.
To sum it up, I got to rest for 5 minutes after my chores were completed. Rob of Loxley's box was visible, but not accessible, so we left him behind.
I got us a ride at the Benchmark driveway. A red pickup with a small trailer picked us up and took us half way. Then a white pickup with a four-horse trailer picked us up. We joined a dog and three bales of alfalfa in the back. At some point in all the in and out of trucks, I lost my bear spray. We'll see if there's a story that develops from that detail.
Soon the map and terrain were arguing in Apple Pie's head. Spur and I were trusting the CDT sign we'd seen on the way in, but Apple Pie helped us see the light. We had to return to where we'd caught our second ride in the white pickup.
Since I'd noticed that most people going down this dirt road seemed to be in huge trucks with objects in tow and going 50 MPH, I suggested we take a trail back, rather than walking next to waves of fast-flying gravel. The trail was fine, until it wasn't. The "wasn't" part was water that couldn't be crossed without getting wet. Silly as it may sound, sometimes Spur likes to keep his feet dry. I find it impossible (or too much effort) to keep my shoes dry, but he has managed, for HOURS on end on this hike, to be dry footed and dry socked.
At the beginning of the water, I mistook a tiny one-legged frog swimming to the left as a sign that we should try the crossing on the left. I almost fell in and most certainly got my shoes 3/4 wet. So much for the uni-pod amphibian being my animal spirit guide. I trudged us through unmapped trails, eventually leading us back to the road with flying gravel when the trail pooped out in a service area.
We make our way back, and I even make the effort to check with our first ride, but they don't have the bear spray. Spur and Apple Pie were still wringing out their socks when I return from my fruitless mission. We continued to the trailhead and . . . begin hiking.
It's an upstream hike. We are hiking up the Straight River, and the irony of seeing two bull elk, one with a really nice rack, grazing together on the river in the evening light is not lost on me.
We soon got to a junction we were expecting then found a nice place for dinner.
We camped early (8:15), so I have lots of time to journal. The three of us have started journaling while sitting together. It's nice. We remain focused, but pull from the group for answers about spelling, facts of the day, or to share particularly well-written sentences.
I'm sleeping out again, and the bugs are light.
The title of this entry, Seventeen and Resupply, in case you are perplexed, means that we hiked 17 CDT miles today AND got in a resupply, which, in my book, is an incredible feat.
Thursday, July 01, 2004
Thunder, Chinese Wall & Ghost of Jesse Unveiled
I was happily sleeping out last night. I'm not sure if the lightning or the thunder woke me up, probably around 1 AM. I didn't worry much. Counts of 12 and 15 were common. It all seemed to be happening on the east side of the Divide. The whole thing was kind of exciting; to be near this sudden ruckus which lit up the sky and land energized me, though I was mostly asleep. Like momentarily flipping the covers off of a night dark as the first, each flash revealed the tasks that I suddenly realized I had ahead of me.
The wind had kicked in and that had me worried that it might rain.
I heard that Apple Pie was up, and, in response to my question about temporary housing in her Europa II shelter, she started to move her stuff to make a place for me.
I stuffed everything into my pack, including stuff that was hanging on limbs to dry out, slid my pads and bag into the generous cavern, and wrapped the gear that didn't make it into the tent in my groundsheet. With my last task I got a flash-boom that made me flinch liked I'd bumped my head on the bolt. I quickly climbed in my new home: this thin silnylon shelter would protect me. It was cozy, especially as the lightning to thunder count decreased. A light rain began to fall, and after a few false starts caused by the storm, I fell asleep.
Spur has been wanting to hike on his own schedule so he left the next morning pretty early. I'd guess that he had a two hour lead from when we left camp.
During that time, I saw what think was a mountain goat. I noticed a white shape moving into trees way across the cirque. It move with unbelievable speed and sure-footedness. I tried to get some shots, but digital zoom always requires explanation, like, "See that white blob? No, THAT white blob. Yes. I think that's a mountain goat."
This morning we reached the Chinese Wall, one of the legends of the CDT. While the North Wall was impressive, it had a little more horizontal and vertical zigzag to it. The Chinese Wall is more wall-like. Again, it's impossible for this scribe to begin to describe the scale of this geological formation and its effect on the area just below it. You'll just have to go see it for yourself.
At one point, Spur was ahead, and Apple Pie and I were hiking near each other.
I said, "Lunch up there?" pointing to a distant rise. She agreed, and I set out. I found my way up there, mostly by following, well, I don't know what. I'd sometimes be on the trail. Once I had the thought that Yogi, Goof, and Dewey had hiked this way and maybe I was on the same non-trail that they'd taken. I want to catch up to them, but it may never happen.
I saw a new face, along with Spur's, when I reached the proposed lunch spot. It was Rob of Loxley, formerly the Ghost of Jesse. Spur had passed him at My Lake earlier in the day. Rob of Loxley missed this section during his 2000 (?) thru-hike because of a fire, so he has returned to complete it and talk a lot.
My first impression was that Rob of Loxley had a dog, since there was a dog at the lunch spot. It turns out the dog was just up there in the middle of nowhere awaiting his owners' return.
Apple Pie, then Hiker 816 joined the lunch jungle, bringing light showers with them. I finished up and went out exploring. I walked and scrambled up to the wall. My motivation was a good vista of the length of the wall, but then I realized that I wanted to touch the wall. I did, crossed a snow field, climbed higher, got more respect for the local sheep and goats, and made my way down.
While on my little expedition, I saw a flower I've never seen before. That's always exciting. It's tiny and light blue with each flower center having a range of different colors. Hey, in case you have not seen my flowers, check out
my flower photos.
As the day's hiking brought us to the end of the Chinese Wall, we started to see more people. Fourth of July weekend created the time for people to choose a destination. Many were choosing the Bob.