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CDT MT Section 8

Day 51: Pioneer Creek

I woke up a few hours into the night and exited my sleeping bag. In under two minutes, my teeth were chattering. Even zipping back up again wasn’t enough. I had to put my jacket on. Even so, I took my shorts off completely in hopes it would give my legs a better chance to heal.

Thanks to the cold and the shade of the trees, I was able to get a full eight hours of sleep for once, sleeping right through my first alarm and finally cracking open just before 8am. The sun was up, but it was still kind of chilly. I figured I could take the day a bit more easily after such a big push the day before and hopefully not irritate those hot spots on my legs again now that they were feeling slightly better.

I laid in bed until nearly 9 finishing up the abandoned blog post and didn’t finish packing until 10. At that moment, I turned around and noticed I wasn’t alone. There was a girl who had hiked sobo from Glacier starting at the beginning of June. She was stopped to fetch water from the spring down the hill (which I had enough water to avoid visiting). I didn’t find out her name, but she did tell me she was on a visa from England and intending to complete half the trail this year and half next.

She volunteered all that without being asked. She described the next section of trail and what Glacier had been like when she started (the whole section from the GttS Road to Two Medicine was closed due to bear activity–very sad). She also pointed out that the race people had left behind a lot of gear I hadn’t seen when I arrived the night before. I looked poked at it as I hiked out–a couple of EZ-Ups, a dozen empty water barrels, and two piles of ice cubes that had yet to melt.

Speaking of things that had yet to melt, there was a ton of snow on the trail once I climbed back up to the ridge. Mostly it could be walked over or around. The trail went straight down off the ridge into Montana after 3.4 miles. I took lunch at the bottom of this hill–it had already been 4 hours at my relaxed pace–and investigated a log cabin with a collapsing wood and tin roof nearby. It looked like it could be fixed up if someone wanted to turn it into a shelter.

Then the trail went up a bunch of switchbacks to get over a ridge, and the snow was blocking most of the switchback turns on the other side. I walked over some of the snow, but where it was steep, I cut straight down and avoided it altogether. I slipped once when I did try to step on the steep snow and got my glove muddy catching myself. It took way longer than it would’ve in fall. I wonder what percentage of the year that section of trail is completely clear and easy. It couldn’t be more than 25%.

The next section was very wet, the trail frequently passing small ponds and crossed by streams of various strength. I stopped at one of the faster, heavier ones to collect and filter some water. The mosquitos were somewhat more prevalent here from all the water, but they would only get more so as I continued to descend into the valley.

Soon, I came to the turnoff to Janhke Lake, which was 1/4 mile off trail. I figured since I was taking an easy day, I’d go check it out. There were lots of horseshoe prints in the snowbanks crossing the side trail, but no apparent footprints. The first thing I came to was not the lake (which was hard to see through the trees down the hill) but a group of four collapsing cabins. One was almost entirely intact except that the roof was missing several sections of corrugated metal and sunlight shown between the boards. In short, it would be really easy to convert it into a serviceable shelter for hikers. Fix up the roof, install a door, cover the window, and that’d be good enough for us. Heck, we wouldn’t even mind the absence of a door.

I popped down to the lake, but it honestly wasn’t that good of a lake to see or go near. So I started back down to the CDT. I was surprised halfway by a dog barking at me loudly from behind. A very pretty black and white dog that took guarding very seriously. His owners came down on horses right behind him. They had been fishing at the lake and I hadn’t seen them. Apparently, their horses had seen me. And that was the last two people I saw that day.

It was getting hard to walk from those hot spots on my legs even though the trail was really easy. Just a gradual descent into the valley through the trees. Mosquitos were following right on my tail the whole way. When I stopped for a moment, they immediately swarmed. I stopped on a log beside the trail to make and eat dinner from 7 to 8, and even after applying some more repellent, they stayed constant companions. I am certain I killed at least two dozen during that hour. Probably many more, but they just kept coming. What better way to spend my time waiting on food to cook? The downside was fishing their squished bodies out of the water I had just boiled.

Just beyond that spot, I came into the first of the meadows. They looked fairly similar in floral composition to many meadows I had been in before but smelled strongly of jasmine. I was so intoxicated with that bouquet, I missed a poorly marked turn by a quarter mile and had to backtrack.

The side trail brought me to the overgrown following Pioneer Creek downstream, but I quickly lost the trail in a swampy meadow. I was carefully crossing streams in the grass on fallen trees and looking for an easier way when I realized the trail was actually a hundred feet away. And when I worked my way through the woods to it, it was a dry gravel road. It didn’t stay easy to follow. There were meadows where it had turned into just more of the grass. But I managed to stay on it until the end of civil twilight.

It came out into another meadow above the creek just as it was really getting too dark to see without a headlamp, but I managed to find the one spot without so much grass and lumpiness to pitch my tent. The dirt was too soft to hold a stake well, but I figured it out with the addition of some rocks. And once again, I got to sleep just before midnight.

So yeah, not a particularly big or effortful day, but after supper, the chafed spots started aching again anyway. And by the end of the day, some of my left toes were quite raw. But at least I got to enjoy a full day of nice weather for once. Not a drop of rain. I’m thankful for that.

Trail miles: 12.9

Distance to Lost Trail Pass: 63.9 miles

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