I woke up at 5 and turned on my phone to finish the blog post…and realized I would fall asleep again if I tried to do that. I was too sleepy and needed to get moving. So I decided to write the rest of the post little by little during each break throughout the day so that by the time I encamped that night I would only have one post to write. This plan worked out just fine.
I was hiking out by 6:30, the cool air filling me with energy as I climbed to the top of Straight Creek’s canyon and over the small pass into Welcome Creek’s canyon. I bet there would have been an interesting view from the pass if the Dry Cabin fire weren’t just a few miles away.
By 8, I had finished the first four miles into Welcome Creek Cabin, which I found already gift wrapped in fire protection foil. A crew of 4 was working on protecting the structures in the area with the wrap and setting up a sprinkler system. Although the edge of the Dry Cabin fire was only 8 miles away, the commander said it would take it two weeks to reach the cabin at its current rate of growth. They had some time and were just being proactive. The one other cabin in the area was already wrapped and ready to go.
Anyway, they were taking a break on the porch (except for one guy who was getting the piped spring flowing again), so I got them to plug in my phone to the cabin’s solar power system while I filtered some water and took my break and chatted with them. They went back to work maybe half an hour after I arrived, wrapping the hay shed, and I got my phone back 10% more energized. And I was feeling energized too.
After about two hours more walking at a decent pace over mostly level trail, I pulled off down an overgrown side trail and worked my way over to the Dearborn River, which I had been following at a distance since the cabin. I found a nice spot in the shade next to the water to take a break. The water was too far down a steep bank to reach, but the sight and sound of it made the detour worthwhile.
Less than two hours after leaving that spot, I reached the junction where the CDT went down a different trail, leading immediately to the spot where I had to ford the Dearborn. It felt so nice and cool in the river, I walked across it three times. Then, I found a shady spot nearby and had a long, leisurely lunch besieged by flies.
Two minutes’ walk from the river, the CDT began a long, steep five mile climb to the top of the ridge. Despite my lunch energy and presoaked shirt, I climbed it quite slowly. It took a solid two hours and some change just to reach the creek where the trail briefly leveled out to switch mountains, a mere 2.8 miles. Part of it was the heat. My shirt dried way too quickly to keep me cool. Part of it was the seven-days-of-food weight of my pack. But part of it was the vast quantity of ripe strawberries growing along the trail that I had to stop and pick and eat every time I spotted them.
Anyway, as soon as I reached the little creek, I stepped across it, pulled my pack off, threw it to the ground, pulled out my ground cloth, spread it out, and threw myself to the ground too. And I sat there for well over half an hour before I got up the gumption to put another couple of miles down (of course soaking my shirt in the creek first).
Right around the corner, I came upon a guy camped in a huge teepee with a dog that went crazy as soon as it saw me. It was a very fancy and heavy tent that could only be brought this far up a mountain with the aid of a horse team. The horses in question were tied to a high line just up the hill, explaining all the ground stomping I’d been hearing while collapsed next to the creek.
The next section of trail was a series of steep switchbacks straight up the edge of the ridge, climbing some 500 feet in just half a mile. The trail leveled out only slightly at the ridgeline, continuing to climb across a breezy burned out section with an excellent view of smoky haze until it reached the top of the mountain and a less burnt area. Which is to say there were still plenty of living trees. Just down the hill on the back side, I found a shaded log to sit on and make dinner. It was less than a mile total from the creek I had left last, but it took me an entire hour to get there.
After dinner, I was not energized and raring to go. I wanted to go to bed early, in fact. The idea I had was to get to sleep an hour earlier than usual, wake up an hour earlier, and thereby get an extra hour of walking in the cool morning air as opposed to the boiling afternoon air. If it worked and got me where I wanted to be feeling less tired at the end of the day, I would just keep my schedule shifted one hour earlier like that.
And I’ll be honest, I was plum beat by the time I walked the half mile down the hill to the meadow where I camped. Heck, I was beat by the time I sat down to dinner, but an hour later? I was about to fall asleep just from sitting down. And I had to set up camp like that? It took me far longer than it should have to get to bed just from how slow I was moving. But I was in bed, teeth brushed, everything squared away early enough that I finished writing my post before nine. And I may have even been fast asleep by nine. Maybe.
Trail miles: 17.5
Distance to MacDonald Pass: 92.7 miles