I woke at 5am and got started on my chores. Aside from finishing a blog post, I also sewed up the rip in my shorts. As I was packing up, I could hear a lot of talking down the hill in the pass.
I climbed down to the pass just before 8am to begin the one mile climb. At the top, I passed Bob, whom I had camped with and spoken to many times coming through Glacier.
Just past the top of the hill was My Lake and Creek. There was a good campsite there, though buggy. I had completely emptied my water bag to make my breakfast, so I stopped here to fill up, as well as to apply insect repellent and sunscreen. While I breaked, Bob passed me, soon followed by Al, whom I would not actually meet until later. At this moment, he spoke of enjoying company and loving to have someone to talk to even as he hardly slowed down.
After passing over the next ridge, I finally came in view of the Chinese Wall, a much bigger wall than the one I camped below two nights prior. The next 7 miles or so were along the base of the wall. As it was hot and exposed, every time I came within range of a snowfield, I left the trail to collect a wad of ice to apply to the back of my neck. This trick gave me enough extra stamina to pass Bob just before I stopped for elevensies. I passed him again sprawled on the grass at the top of the next hill, moaning “Siestaaaaa.”
There was only the Moose Creek headwaters to traverse before climbing up to the highest pass. I was up there by noon. Al and another extremely affable grandfatherly type were there chatting, but what was not there was a view of the wall. I was told that the one man’s hiking partner had climbed up to the wall to see the view, and there was indeed a steep trail going right up to the wall, so I gave it a visit. On the way down, I passed another snowfield and made my biggest ice collar yet. Bob was already sprawled at the top of the pass, so I told him about the snow in case he wanted to cool off.
I fled down the hill then, hoping to have finished 10 miles by lunchtime. I stopped a little bit later than planned having already put down 11 miles. I needed water for lunch, and the first good place to get some, the creek known as West Fork South Fork Sun River, happened to be at a campsite already occupied by three strapping middle-aged men taking their time in getting ready to climb up to the wall. There was much stretching and rearranging of gear and even just sitting. They didn’t leave until I was nearly ready to go myself. Worth noting that in that period I was passed by Al, Bob, the other pair, and what seemed to be a father daughter duo on horseback with a dog going down as well as a Forest Service Trail Crew mule team going up. It was a very popular trail for a Thursday.
Very soon after leaving the site, I caught up to Bob and the other pair chatting. One was changing into his water socks to ford a stream that had an easy-to-walk log across it. I stopped to talk for half a minute and assess how many more stream crossings were ahead. There seemed to be major crossings in 1.1, 2.2, and 4.4 miles. One of the pair of weekenders insisted that one of those was a mandatory shoes-off-feet-wet ford.
Fortunately or not, they were wrong. The first crossing was easily rock-hoppable. The second had a footbridge. The third was just a spot where water was running down the trail, only a few inches deep and walkable. I passed the father-daughter horse team just before reaching the latter, receiving the comment “You’re fast.” “Well, the trail is pretty easy,” I said, meaning, “You must be absolutely crawling that I was able to leave 15 minutes after you passed on horseback and still catch up to you.” Upon reaching the trail stream, I found Al sitting there finishing up dinner. The horses passed us both a moment later, then Al left.
I continued taking my snack break until Bob arrived. I was already packing when he passed, so I was chasing him just a couple of minutes later. I passed him half a mile on just before he stopped to camp, or so it seemed. He always did like to make camp early, I think.
I hiked on as fast as I could, hoping to get in a good five miles before dinner. I was hiking fast enough that I caught up to Al and passed him about an hour later. I had told him already I would stop for dinner in two hours and keep hiking on. I did exactly that, stopping at a cute little stream across the trail with some nice sitting logs. He came up behind me and grabbed some water. He chatted a minute or two, then said he was going to hike down to the big bridge and camp there.
An hour or less later, I started hiking again. I intended to continue until sunset. I found Al still in the process of making camp as I reached the hill above the bridge. There were a dozen tents there already, people down on the riverbank, and even someone cowboy camped on the beach right above the water (which is super against the forest service ban on camping within 500ft of the bridge). I had no interest in sleeping among that crowd, so I crossed the bridge and continued another mile.
I didn’t think I would be able to find a nice campsite on the trail I was walking, so I turned off at the next trail junction and walked a quarter mile through a stand of lanky, scruffy pines, half of which were fallen, the other half of which distinguished themselves from all the other trees in the valley by being alive. On the other side of the stand, I made camp surrounded by trees on one side with a nice 180 view of the Sun River valley stretching out unimpeded below me.
Trail miles: 25.2
Distance to Benchmark: 5.3 miles (corrected)