CDT MT Section 2

Day 59: Red Eagle Lake

I decided to sleep through my watch alarm. I didn’t mind sleeping late. Our destination was not too far and the trail ahead looked pretty easy. So it was already 6am and the sun was starting to rise by the time I started packing up.

Jacob took a bit longer to eat breakfast than I would’ve and needed to filter some water before leaving, but we still got out of camp by 7:30.

We connected with the Virginia Falls trail within a mile, and with it came the hordes of day hikers. Families, people walking slowly. No problem. This was expected. And it was worth joining a popular trail to be able to see those falls. Virginia Falls in particular was impressive, though still not nearly so as Apikuni.

As soon as we crossed the bridge to continue on around St. Mary Lake, the crowds disappeared. The trail became overgrown with brush so that we couldn’t see our feet. It wasn’t surprising that this section of trail was less popular since there was nothing to see for miles ahead that couldn’t be seen just as easily from the road, but it was simultaneously annoying and relieving.

I won’t get into the detail of our conversations or the trail whose features are largely unremarkable, but I will say that Jacob likes to take pictures of things specifically to record on the iNaturalist app. For instance, a strange berry that resembled a tomato on the inside, or a flower cluster with a beetle sitting on every flower.

At the end of the section, we climbed over a hill to reach the creek, but instead of continuing up the creek to reach our destination, the trail took a two mile downstream detour over a bluff overlooking the creek to a bridge, then went up the other side of the creek. We stopped at that bridge for lunch. We also collected some water and wet ourselves in the creek because for two miles to either side of the creek we walked in the direct sun in the remains of a burned out forest. The bridge itself was our only source of shade on the whole section aside from a handful of trees that survived the fire. We ate lunch directly beneath it.

Jacob had flagged a great deal by the time we were hiking the last 3.5 miles to the lake and camp. He made very few remarks about anything and answered anything I said with only a single word. He seemed to be stumbling a bit more often too. He said he only wanted to lie down in the shade. Personally, there was enough of a breeze that I wasn’t too bothered. Since we weren’t climbing anymore, I wasn’t sweating too badly. And I had plenty of that I-slept-in-today afternoon energy.

We were both excited to finally see Red Eagle Lake come into view as we came over the last rise. We were soon walking through the campsite at the foot, and it was completely exposed. There were already some people set up there and playing in the water. They indicated the water was quite frigid. The water in the creek flowing out of it, though, had not seemed that bad.

We reached camp about 3:30. All the others had been there for hours already, so we got a slightly less shady campsite. After we stashed our food in the storage area and dropped our packs in the campsite, Jacob fell asleep under a tree and I joined the rest of the gang on a shady stone beach with a nice breeze. I tried wading out, but the soft, silty muck got too deep to walk through. I lay around on the beach for a few minutes, then went back to set up my tent in the direct sun until I was burning up again.

So instead of putting my mattress in my tent, I inflated it on the beach, waded out until the muck got deep, climbed on top, and went for a float. It worked just fine as a pool float, and the lake never got more than a few feet deep. It was cold, but only my arms were deep enough in it to feel it. I paddled out to the middle of the lake and back again. Coming back was upwind, so my arms were starting to feel worn out from paddling by the time I reached the shore.

I hung up the mattress next to the food prep area to dry and eat sat on a sunny log in hopes my shirt and shorts would dry too. Then I realized it was actually supper time, and it was not just that everyone else ate unreasonably early. So I went to fetch my water. By the time I got back, my mattress was on the ground. It had fallen when someone had taken their food bag down. I hung it back up and got all my food stuff out and by the time I had done that, it had finished drying. So I put it in my tent and went back to have supper.

Another couple had come in by then, Link and Smiles, and I warned them away from my wet sunny log. I needed that sunny spot so I could dry with what little sun remained.

I didn’t quite get dry, but right after I finished supper and got up to pack all my non-food things back to my tent, the shadow of the mountain finally swept across our campground. So I went to bed a little bit damp. But that was fine.

It was not even 9pm when Jacob and me hit the sack. We wanted to use as much of the daylight as possible the next day. We had a big day ahead. So every minute of sleep counted.

Trail miles: 14.4

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