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CDT MT Section 8

Day 52: Rock Island Lakes

I didn’t quite get my full 8 hours this time, but I got pretty close. I woke up at 7:30, taped my toes, ointmented those chafe spots on my legs, and packed. When I emerged from my tent, there was a man in a white cowboy hat standing in the trail looking at his phone. He waved, I waved back, and no words were said. I went back to packing and when I looked up again, he was gone.

The trail cut down the bank of the creek just below where I camped and crossed it on a huge beautiful bridge. Which is good because it was rushing by something mighty.

A few miles later, I came to Berry Creek, just as powerful, knee deep at the crossing, no bridge. Fortunately, there was a huge forked tree across the creek just downstream that didn’t even require much balance to cross on. Dry feet maintained.

I took my morning break along this relatively easy bit of trail in the valley. It was low, wet, and shady though, which meant plenty of mosquitos, more and more of them as the day went on. I looked up and saw a clear blue sky, not a single cloud all day. Never a worry of a sudden sunshower or the sound of distant thunder rumbling.

The trail followed a road went up this creek for a while, mostly just far enough from it that it was out of view in the trees. But at one point it could be seen following a very picturesque oxbow meander in an open meadow right next to the trail off to the left, very distracting like. At the same spot, the trail left the road straight up a hill at a right angle to the right. Seeing as how my head was turned to the left, I did not see this exit. So I added an extra quarter mile to my trip with the backtrack I walked myself into.

Just before noon, I came upon the man in the white hat again. I noted his small day pack and binoculars and the fact he was coming back the way he had gone. A short morning out and back hike in hopes of seeing wildlife, I guessed. I asked if he’d seen anything interesting, and he said I was going to have to get my feet wet crossing Hamby Creek. I didn’t like the sound of that, but I saw no reason to accept his bold claim without verification.

I arrived at said creek two hours later, right about lunchtime. It was relatively swift and ankle deep at the crossing, but it spread out wide in random narrow channels through the meadow around it. I tried to follow the creek upstream, but it got boggy quickly, and the bushwhacking would clearly be a hassle. I tried downstream. I quickly found a much shallower crossing but decided to go further, picking my way around the trees that wanted to pull my net off my head as I passed without stepping into the wettest parts of the bog. It was much easier going than upstream, and my efforts were quickly rewarded with a rotten old tree in the water going all the way across. It was soft but supported me without issue. And the walk back to the trail on the other side was trivial, just a few tree branches and no big.

So I grabbed a bag of water to filter and spread out my Tyvek in the shade by the trail to eat lunch. And then I kept walking, hoping to make it over the hump to Miner Creek by 7 for dinner.

It was a gentle climb out of the creek through thick woods frequently crossed by streams both medium and small. There were channels dug beside the trail which had been built up in wood frames to keep it dry in some places. All this water meant mosquitos were thicker than ever. I took another break around 5 when I thought I wasn’t too close to water, but it didn’t really matter. The swarm came with me, and if I swatted or caught and crushed them, more came out of the woodwork to replace them. The repellent kept them off my legs and hands, but they occasionally bit through my shirt or shorts. Picture Neo swatting Smiths in the Matrix Reloaded Burly Brawl. All I could do was the same as Neo: fly away as soon as I got the chance.

Speaking of my shorts–it took a lot of adjusting, but I found one specific way to wear them one once they get soaked through with sweat in the crotch so that they keep my legs from rubbing without further irritating the previously mentioned diaper rash (for lack of a better descriptor) areas. So I should be able to get better mileage in future barring other slowdowns.

The slope down to Miner Creek involved a very slight gradient spread over some nine switchbacks. I could see from the map they had been cut in sometime in the last decade. I’m sure the sobos appreciate them, but I could have done with something a bit steeper. Anyway, Miner Creek was crossed by another one of those big beautiful bridges, and I had reached it by only 6:40

I went up the other side until 7 and found a big boulder to stop for dinner. The mosquito war was back on. I’m sure I killed well over 50 during this meal, the tiny squished bodies disappearing into the grass, not even having the decency to pile up into mounds to commemorate my murder spree. There should be some memorial to my efforts to repeatedly slap the ocean to stop the tide coming in.

After supper, I had less than 3 miles to go to Rock Island Lakes and committed to getting there by 10. And the mosquitos were going to follow me there. All that supper energy pushed me right up the hill without the need for a podcast distraction. It got pretty dim out by 9:45, but I pushed onwards and upwards.

At 10, I was at a meadow bog below the lake requiring a difficult rock hop to keep the feet dry and I did it with what little light I had left. Then the lake was there and the hunt for a campsite was on. There were some flat spots by the water, but the ground was wet or muddy, and I’m not fond of waking up to condensation all over my head. And then there was a steep rocky hill into the lake. So I stopped to put on my headlamp (over the hat and net) and climbed the hill back to where the trail was.

Near where I rejoined the trail, my light caught the eyes of a tiny fawn watching me. When it noticed me noticing it, it slinked quietly off into the trees. So I found a faint trail up the hill from the actual trail, possibly a game trail used by the likes of the fawn. I followed it up a slight incline and found a huge, flat, open clearing with dry ground, far enough from water I should be mostly condensation free in the morning. And there I set up camp under still clear skies. In the tent by 10:45 and asleep a bit after midnight.

Trail miles: 15.0

Distance to Lost Trail Pass: 49.0 miles

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