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CDT MT Section 8

Day 49: Sacagawea Memorial Area (Lemhi Pass)

There was definitely some rain during the night and early morning, but it seemed to clear up after I started getting up. I took some extra morning tent time to do some pump sack and glove repairs before getting ready for the day, and as such, I didn’t leave the tent until after 8 when the sun was shining bright, and didn’t start hiking until after 9.

It was a hot morning and it started with a hill climb, but luckily the trail had been routed away from the ridgeline road along a nice set of switchbacks through the meadow. It wasn’t too much further into the day when the trail joined the 4×4 track though, and I was just following that road for the next ten miles probably.

I took a couple of morning breaks a few minutes apart, the second at the only spring I would cross for the rest of the day. I had carried a decent amount of water out of Leadore, but I added a good bit more here just because I knew it would be hard to come by for a while. I did not run short of water this day.

I also walked out with a good bit of that cold spring water on my shirt to combat the heat of the moment. I was also pleased to see, once I joined the OHV road, snowbanks across the trail. I tucked a good-sized bit of snow in my Buff twice during the day. Just after that, I came by some of the burned forest that was presumably intentionally burned the previous year as part of the efforts to control the Trail Creek Fire.

As far as the daily storm clouds go, they had the decency to wait until the afternoon this day. The first bit of rain came down at the end of lunch. There was occasional thunder, but mostly it was just the clouds. And later on, the trail went back into the forests to stay for quite a while.

Just before supper, a gang of dirt bikes and a 4×4 came up at full speed having a blast. The small child on the smallest dirt bike was running way behind the rest. Coming down a steep rocky hill, I was passed by two trucks. The second stopped to talk. They were headed up to one of the aid stations for the endurance race the next day (remember the pink flags I mentioned yesterday?). More on that later.

Almost the whole day, I had to keep my head net on. Certainly if I took a break. Whether I was out in a meadow or in the forest, I was surrounded by not just mosquitos but flies, including the tiny ones that bite through fabric. I don’t think I got bitten too often, but even with the net on, it was annoying.

By supper time, I had decided I could make it to Lemhi Pass before dark, so I got it done as quickly as possible. It was about 6 miles from where I stopped for supper. Unfortunately, supper somehow signaled my bowels that I needed a bathroom immediately, but I refused to lose the time that would take. I just clenched and bore the pain when it came.

I did the last 6 miles to the pass in 2.5 hours without taking another break. No break was possible to make my goal. The longest pause was to briefly chat with the occupants of another truck headed up to the aid station. The dirt bikes flew past me again in the other direction before the trail left the road again. And finally it became a nice single track through pretty meadows again. But I was clenching and chasing the sun and only thinking of getting to the pass.

When I got close to the pass, the trail wound past campers and the campers who would be sleeping in them. It was a popular spot because, as I would eventually find out, the Beaverhead 50k would start there at 7am. The trail spit me out onto the road again across from the spur down to the Sacagawea Memorial Area, land of picnic tables and vault toilets. It was 9:30, the sun had just fallen behind the hill, and I still had a quarter mile to go. The clench was more desperate.

There seemed to be plenty of people camped right around where the road looped, but I looked down and saw no one occupying the perfectly flat campsites down the paved trail below the road. I dropped my bag on one of the picnic tables there and went right up to the toilets to end my suffering.

On my way out, I diverted to a truck with the lights on and campers out and about. The girl I first talked to was willing to turn on the truck to give me a bit of energy for my phone, and she already had the right cable hooked up. So I left my phone charging and went to set up my tent. What had looked like perfectly leveled soil with gravel was actually pavement with some dirt and rocks in a thin layer on top, so I had to use rocks to stake out the tent, and the rocks were just barely heavy enough. The setup would not have withstood a windstorm.

Then I went down the paved trail to the spring to fetch some water. There was a signboard there that was very excited about this spring being one of the sources of the Missouri, but every spring and stream on the north side of the divide I’ve gotten water from in the last week has been a source of the Missouri. I was far more intrigued by my late discovery that there were leeches living in this stream.

Water filtering and teeth brushed, I went back to get my phone and it had received an impressive amount of charge, so I was super thankful. I learned that they all were participants in the race and was even offered a beer. I also got to see the ramblings of their 17yo dog with dementia. Best yogiing experience of this trip so far. They also informed me that the 50k would start right there at Lemhi Pass at 7am, so if I didn’t leave until after that, I wouldn’t have to deal with racers passing me very much–the 100k started at Bannock Pass at 4am, so I could still be dealing with some stragglers among their number. Also that there was an aid station five miles in to help with the whole issue of the 19 mile water carry I would otherwise be facing. It sounds like my timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

On the other hand, the trail ahead is likely more difficult than what I just came through. My feet told me mileage like this probably wouldn’t be happening every day. Not getting to sleep until nearly midnight would not be happening again if I could avoid it.

Trail miles: 18.3

Distance to Lost Trail Pass: 96.2 miles

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