It’s another beautiful day in the valleys of Southwestern Montana. Once again, blue skies all day. A summary of the trail: giving the mosquitos a pied piperesque tour of several adjacent valleys just east of the border ridge.
I wanted to wake earlier, and I did. I woke first around six, then dozed with my watch right in front of my face until it went off at 6:30, and then I got on the trail by 8. I’d be walking on less sleep, but I could shift the schedule for the whole day back to where it should better be.
Right off the bat, I passed a sobo. He was aware of several people around him. He knew about the Tasmanian woman from Goldstone Pass and a few more behind. But he was eager to get to Jackson that day, and only wanted to know about snow before he went on. He didn’t even want to introduce himself.
The guy right behind him was much chatter, and did tell me his name was Sundancer. He had a bit more to say about the trail and his experience so far, but not much super actionable to me.
Anyway, I climbed up toward the pass to the next valley watching a bald eagle catch some huge aerials over the valley. When I got very close to the top, it shot over the top of the ridge course enough I could clearly see its head with the naked eye. I could hear its calls as it went out over the valley behind me.
Approaching the top of the pass the trail was covered by several snowbanks, but the situation was much worse just on the other side of the pass. Sundancer assured me this was the worst it would get for the rest of stay in Montana, at least the parts of what I was headed toward he had hiked. But it was annoying. I lost the trail under the snow right away and ended up walking/sliding straight down two of the snow fields to get to the part of the trail lower than the snow.
And just as I did, a pair of guys with a very well-behaved corgi dog appeared behind me. They were a father and son on their annual backpack, and they didn’t really care about the trail. They just set up camp near the lake just below us and started exploring. They had just returned from trying to climb Homer Youngs Peak from the wrong side, but determined it was too difficult. (The dog was pleased to turn back.) They left me headed off in another random direction.
I stopped for a break a few streams later to filter some water, then started the climb up to the next saddle that would pop me over the ridge into the next valley. I soon passed another couple with a dog, but this dog was, too quote the woman who picked him up to keep him from trying to bite me, “a little shit.”
There was a good bit more snow to find the trail through going both down and up to the climb out of the valley. Just before I reached the top, it was lunch time, so I found a nice flat top boulder in the shade and ate.
As soon as I came over the saddle into the next section, those two guys with the corgi were there again. They had come straight across the boulder field the trail had skirted and beat me there. I saw the pack they had dropped first before they appeared coming down out of the woods from the ridgeline on my other side.
The dog laid down in a snowbank, giving me the idea to ward off the hot sun with a nice ice pack for my neck. As soon as I moved in that direction, the dog started barking at me despite having been a perfect lady at our earlier meeting. What was wrong with me that every dog wanted to bark?
This valley was the land of lakes. The trail went down to cross Big Swamp Creek on a nice bridge then straight up toward the vicinity of Lena Lake. I took the side trail when I got there and it was probably the prettiest lake I had yet encountered in Montana. I wanted to swim but lacked the time. Instead, I filtered some water from it while I took a break in the shade nearby.
Back on the trail, it was time to take it easy with four miles of relatively level walk through the woods. It was reminiscent of the middle part of the previous day in terms of the trail being surrounded by water and mosquitos. I followed Slag-a-melt Creek all the way up to Lower Slag-a-melt Lake in time for supper.
It was a perfect little spot I found for supper. I would have loved to have stayed. There was a rock fire pit built high, and a ton of firewood was already laid in nearby. A fire is surely keep the bloodsuckers away! But I could not spare the time when I needed more miles.
Another short climb brought me over yet another pass into another valley. This one wasn’t quite so rich in lakes, but I noticed there were a lot more rocks and trees in the trail. I met a guy setting up camp not too far in. I forgot his name, but he was sobo. He had a pretty good headnet situation going himself, and was wearing all his raingear. I figured I’d given my own swarm enough of a break after only a minute, and decided to continue our walk before they got restless.
Past a little lake, the trail dropped off the side of a hill, worked its way around the edge of that hill until it reached a cataract, and dropped me at the edge of the day’s biggest climb yet. Since I was racing the sun, I climbed all those switchbacks pretty quickly, then sped up even more as I finally crossed the cataract creek I had been climbing beside and headed out onto the border ridge. The view into Montana from here, just after sunset, was beautiful. The view into Idaho had nothing much to recommend it at this hour.
I practically ran to the top of the ridge to force the mosquitos to knuckle down and give chase. They were already starting to ignore the time-release repellent I reapplied 3 hours earlier at dinner.
I was already yawny, having been up 15 hours on six hours sleep, but I had set my sights on the next landmark on the map: a small lake with a stream. It was already dim when I got down the hill to the stream crossing, but I saw the lake, no bigger than a cow tank, shortly after crossing. I wandered around it looking for a tent site, but there were lots of rocks and nothing flat. Short of going into the wet grasslands around the stream flowing into the lake, I settled on a slightly canted spot on some grass and small pebbles. With the air mattress down, it was comfortable enough.
I quickly slipped inside bringing only one mosquito with me and got to sleep by 11:30.
Trail miles: 14.2
Distance to Lost Trail Pass: 34.9 miles