I don’t want to firmly conclude that there are fewer mosquitos in Idaho, but this day’s experiences do point in that direction.
I woke up at 6 to find a mosquito in my inner tent with me. I killed it, decided six hours of sleep wasn’t going to cut it, then rolled over and passed out again until nearly 8.
That was when I noticed I had left the bottom of my tent flap unzipped. Thank goodness mosquitos are pretty stupid on the whole. There were dozens of mosquitos perched on the outside of my inner tent, on the underside of my rainfly, or buzzing around between the two, just waiting for me to unzip it again and give them a crack at me.
As I packed up, there were a couple of light sprinkles of rain that came and went quickly. They pointed to it not being the same kind of weather as the previous two days. Only two more mosquitos slipped in while I was moving things in and out of the inner tent in preparation to face the day. They both died to a single stroke. Finally, with everything clear inside and repellent smeared on, I donned my head net and crawled out into the mosquito maelstrom. I looked up… and the weather was actually beautiful. A few small hazy clouds here and there, but a good bit of blue too. I started hiking around 9:30.
I had to stop twice within the first mile. The second stop was an early snack break when I arrived at the first strong flowing spring of the day. I had used up the last of my water on my breakfast shake and wanted to wait until I had climbed up to the treeline before adding the weight back on.
It was 11 by the time I started knocking down miles in earnest. The first 3 hours and 6 miles consisted of walking along the flat boundary where the grasses and trees met the steep rock piles. It was a hot, humid day, and the shade up there was inconsistent at best. Luckily, where shade did last through the day, there were piles of snow, and I happily packed some around my neck.
The trail went over a saddle into another valley, wound around the top of that valley at the same height, and then passed through another saddle, switching from a eastern facing slope to a western facing slope because I was now on the other side of the Continental Divide. In other words, I had finally departed Montana and was about to spend some time fully in Idaho.
For some reason, the trail rarely spends much time in Idaho. The last time I was firmly in the interior of Idaho for more than a mile was during the road walk where I was dropped off leaving Lima. Before that, it was last year when I was walking into Yellowstone. But on this day, I would be all the way in Idaho for a straight 11 miles.
Anyway, I was starting to get hungry at this point, but when it’s just a rocky cut in the side of a hill, there’s not really any room to sit or spread out. I knew I would have to get all the way down into the South Fork Sheep Creek canyon before there would be a convenient place to stop. I came around the end of the ridge and started the long descent around two, and shortly after found a nice shady log to lunch on.
And this is where I noticed a stark contrast from that morning. I assumed that because I was out of the breeze (of which there had not been enough to counter the stifling humidity), the mosquitos would be bad again, but there were only a few. Plenty of flies, though.
Just past where I stopped for lunch, I came to a creek and there was someone there beside it, all covered up with jackets and headnet, fast asleep. No response to greeting, so I walked on by.
Further down the canyon, thunder began to rumble overhead. There wasn’t some big thunderhead cloud, just some thin dark thing that stretched across the whole sky for a while. It took forever for any rain to come of it, and when it did, it was just occasional drops. It was still hot and humid, so it felt nice. When the wind started blowing harder, I did stop and put on my Packa, but I don’t know if it did me any good. I think when the light rain ended, I was just as wet inside from the all the sweat it caused.
I didn’t take another break until after 5. There were several tricky creek crossings on the way down the canyon, but I kept my feet dry. Then the trail went out across the hillside, up and over a short ridge and down into the North Fork Sheep Creek canyon. There was a short climb in here that I feel was actually, no exaggeration, 45 degrees. Like if it were any steeper, I could have reached out straight in front of me while standing erect and touched the trail. Why no switchbacks? But after going over the ridge, it was mostly downhill to the creekside. Which is good because I was feeling low–both on energy and hydration.
Also, during the long descent, the hook on the ends of my right gaiter finally gave way. It had been getting looser for weeks, and its neighbor has been out of commission since I started this year thanks to a manufacturing defect. Without it, the gaiter was sliding up my shoe, twisting around, and catching all the overgrown brush. Luckily, the hook stayed attached to the lace it was hooked around, so I was able to secure it and bring it down with me.
So, when I finally made it to the old cabin (blocked off and clearly not intended for public access, though I am jealous of whoever used to live down here so far from everything), I first flavored, electrolyted, and drank a liter of water, then had some snacks, then took off shoes, socks, everything to let my feet dry out reapply tape where it was coming loose. Finally, I got out needle and thread and fixed the gaiter. I even moved one of the bonus hooks from the side to the end so it would be even more secure than it had been.
By this time, it was well into the 6 o’clock hour. I would have had supper right then and there were it not for the fact I had just drunk the last of my water. So I packed up and walked a quarter mile to the creek crossing (a big creek, but a dry crossing with the aid of some narrow logs someone had carefully placed and some bushwhacking) and stopped on a log just the other side. I came back down with my dirty reservoir and took back 3 liters to filter. As soon as enough had filtered to cook with, I set to it.
Again, there were fewer mosquitos than there had been that morning. More than at lunch, sure, but I could easily ignore them. And there had been nearly none bothering me on the cabin porch. Just a ton of flies.
I was startled by a noisy fellow who only had negative things to say in response to the standard “how are you?” He was equal parts eager to complain and reluctant to stop moving. Maybe the mosquitos were chasing him or maybe he just had a bad day. He turned around for a moment to ask if the cabin was open, strange since he would find out for himself in moments, then went back to the water and disappeared without an introduction but with perhaps many muttered curses.
After supper, I started climbing. It was mostly on a road, presumably the driveway for the cabin. It was grown over and had water flowing across and down it, but it wasn’t that bad. On the other hand, the swarm of mosquitos following me grew as I went. And then the road got really steep. Like 30 degrees steep. After pushing up this really steep slope for a bit, I checked the map. Turned out the trail left the road right before the steep bit. I backtracked. A fallen tree had blocked the turn-off so I hadn’t seen it. The actual trail went back into the woods and involved switchbacks and much less steepness.
I also found a freshly fallen cherry gummy on a rock in the trail. Clean and untouched, it only had a bit of rocky grit stuck to one end. It must have been dropped by the guy having a bad day an hour before. I pulled off and tossed the part with the grit stuck to it and ate it. It was delicious. I might start adding gummies to my own hiking snacks.
The last part of this trail cut back over toward the road and passed some nice views of the valley I had been in. When I reached the road right at the barricade that blocked it, I was also at the top of the hill and at the state line. And there was a nice established campsite right there, so I made camp.
And of course, the mosquitos swarmed while I did. Not because I was back in Montana, obviously. That’s just a coincidence, right? I managed to get inside with only one of them slipping in with me.
But there was another sound besides the constant mosquito drone coming from the vestibule. I sat up and watched in the dim light of the nearly full moon through the rainfly and eventually caught the silhouette of what could only be a mouse on my pack. Hazard of using an established site. I relocated my snack bars and Starburst from the pocket in the brain to my bear can, which I had eaten from enough to have the extra space to fit them. But even with the pocket empty and wide open, the mouse came back and kept bothering my pack, so eventually I just decided to pull it in the tent with me and sleep with it under or beside my legs. It honestly wasn’t that bad, being half empty anyway.
I knocked off around 11:30 and went to sleep soon after.
Trail miles: 15.0
Distance to Lost Trail Pass: 20.0 miles