CDT MT Section 4

Day 72: Flesher Pass

I didn’t sleep very well. I woke up uncomfortable throughout the night. I think it was because my site was out of level in exactly the wrong way. So when the 4am alarm went off, I rolled over and got the what might be the best sleep of the night. Then, I woke to the sound of birds at 5 til 5.

I figured that sleeping in didn’t have to complete ruin my schedule, so I started packing as quickly and efficiently as I could. I was ready to go before 6am despite thinking I didn’t have enough water to make it the six miles to the next source and running back up the hill to fetch a bag of water.

Normally, I would walk two hours without stopping after first starting out, but as I came around the next mountain, I could see some strange buildings in Cadotte Pass below. Closer inspection and study of the Guthook comments revealed it to be a yurt owned by the Wildlife Research Institute for the purpose of studying golden eagles, which fly right over the pass on their usual migrations.

It was also open. It was the coolest building for hikers since the Toaster House in Pie Town. There was so much stuff inside. Of interest to me was the shower stall full of water cans, some filled with water…guess I could have saved that fifteen minute trip. It also had solar shower bags hanging from the rafters above the stall, so I grabbed some soap from what could be called the kitchen area and took a demi-shower. I at least got my hair and pits clean. I didn’t really want to wash my legs because then I’d have to reapply sunscreen and insect repellent immediately, which seemed wasteful.

There were also atlases of Montana. The newer, better one had the page with my current location torn out, but the older one was at least detailed enough that I could compare the track of the CDT to the Continental Divide. It was never all that far from it, even when it was down in a valley. The section I was currently on pretty much stayed right on top of it.

I finally mustered the gumption to go climb that steep hill I’d been putting off. 761 feet in just 0.4 miles is not a climb to sneeze at. It could very well be a climb to wheeze at. But it was short, so fresh legs and a good mood made quick work of it. A couple of miles later, I was in Rogers Pass.

Here there was a privy with a trash can, so I lightened my load slightly. Then I climbed up the hill until the trail crossed a creek and took another snack break while I filtered water. I filled my water bag completely because it was nearly 13 miles to the next potential water source, and it was hot and humid and, frankly, a drinky sort of day.

Just as I was finishing up, those kids I had seen at Benchmark and coming out of Augusta showed up (all except Wildcard). I knew they had gone into Lincoln because they had signed the log in the yurt with the previous day’s date, so I wasn’t surprised to see them just getting back on trail after a big, late breakfast.

Heaven and Punisher, the two guys I’d seen fetching boxes from Benchmark Wilderness Ranch and hiking on that one morning, passed me on the way up the hill. They were climbing like I normally walk on level ground. Another pair who knew me was coming up behind me. I was inspired. I would let the guys in front of me pull me and the ones behind me push me, motivation wise. I vowed to keep Heaven and Punisher in sight until I stopped for lunch at 1pm.

It didn’t work out that way. I put on so much speed and leg pumping that I was actually gaining on them. In about an hour, I completely ate up their minute lead. Now, they didn’t seem like they were working hard, so it may be that they actually just slowed down. When I was about to catch them, they stopped outright to wait for one of the guys behind, so I passed on, trying to keep that pace they set for me all the way until 1pm like I promised myself. I climbed and descended the ridge as fast, I think, as I had been going chasing them.

Promptly at 1, I threw out my ground cloth in the middle of a field on a saddle. During lunch, I checked my mileage, and found that even with the massive climbs and the extra water weight, I had managed six miles in the last two hours. Sure, I knew it wasn’t a sustainable pace for me. I could tell by how stiff and worn out my legs felt. But it was nice to know what it’s like for all these young kids who keep passing me.

All these young kids passed me during the 45 minutes I was eating lunch. The last three were the Hat Trick, Snot Rocket, etc. group. Although they easily outpaced me on the next section, I caught them taking a break a few miles later. They were just finishing up. I followed them down to the start of a long, steep climb, then stopped to take a break of my own. It hadn’t quite been two hours since lunch, but it was close, and I needed more energy for that climb.

I should mention here that it had been cloudy–truly cloudy, not just the usual smoke haze–all day, and about this time, there started to be a few scattered raindrops. Those three told me it was supposed to rain proper that night, even though it didn’t seem all that serious at the moment.

After a 20 minute break, I started over the next hill and was down into Flesher Pass. Hat Trick, Little Skittle, and Rocket were already there, having already completed the 0.6 mile round trip to the water. I dropped my pack and took my water bag and filter system down there. I filtered two liters while I was there and brought two more back unfiltered. The others were gone by the time I got back, as expected.

I sat down right there on the old road bed underneath the highway and made and ate supper with the traffic passing above me just so that I didn’t have to carry that water any further than necessary.

It was about 6 by the time I set out to do my last hour of hiking. After I passed the nice Flesher Pass campground and trailhead with its fancy picnic table and bear box, I started climbing out of the pass with the rain getting slowly but surely more intense.

It slowed down again right around seven when I finally found a good campsite, right in the middle of the ridge, medium-soft rocky-sandy dirt, no dead trees around (all had been cut to manage the Horsefly fire a couple of years before), and generally great for weathering rain.

I got the tent up as quickly as possible and then did the rest of my preparations from comfortably inside. I used up the last of the charge on my mobile battery and got to sleep comfortably by nine with the rain picking up and coming steady for the next few hours. By I was high and dry all night long.

Trail miles: 21.6

Distance to MacDonald Pass: 53.5 miles

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