Day 56: Salmon
I was not in any particular hurry. I didn’t really start getting ready until a couple with a dog came walking through noisily talking about nothing. I didn’t really hear what they were saying, but I certainly couldn’t sleep through it. I think I woke up about 7, started packing about 7:30, and started hiking around 9.
I turned down the next road, but it turned it ran parallel to the highway. It was the continuation of the road I had been walking the previous evening, a formerly straight shot now interrupted to improve the intersection with route 43. There was no direct trail down to Lost Trail Pass.
I found an old unmarked overgrown road that went in the right direction, probably used by loggers and firewood collectors. It dead ended at the edge of a steep decline down to route 43. A huge cloud ahead rumbled at me. By the time I stepped onto the curve at the last quarter of a mile until highway 93, I saw a pickup truck stop to give a lift to a hiker that was already waiting to go north to Sula or Darby just as the rain started. Lucky her.
The rain got more intense as I crossed the highway, so I just went straight across and into the rest area. I stood under the shelter for a minute or two, but the worst of the storm had already passed. It pretty much let off right after arrived. So I went back out to the road and set up to thumb down a ride.
No luck for an hour, and then another storm rolled in. I thought it wouldn’t be serious, but it got pretty intense for a few minutes, so I retreated to the rest area again, this time putting my Packa on so that I wouldn’t have to come back.
I finally got a ride a little before noon, so a total wait of a little over two hours. Not too bad. His name was BG (yes, that’s the actual name–no relation to the Gibb boys I’m pretty sure) and he was a father of 7 on a complicated summer vacation involving a stay with his hoarder mother-in-law and ferrying one daughter back and forth from a camp in Rexford. In any event, his twelve passenger van showed clear signs of being lived and slept in by kids, but there were none in it at the moment. He was very chipper, but he sure made life as a committed Mormon sound stressful. Anyway, he was headed through Salmon anyway and dropped me right in the middle of town.
It was two blocks to the laundromat, so I had all my clothes washed by 1:30, so I just walked on down past the Bear Country Inn where I had just reserved a room to the Dollar General to get started on my resupply and get some razors and shampoo. And why not a Gatorade and a Dr Pepper and some Pringles to eat in the parking lot too? But anyway, I came back to the motel about 2pm carrying 3 bags in addition to my backpack and poles.
They weren’t quite in when I arrived since check-in isn’t normally until 3, but they checked me in as soon as they did return because they were nice. I lost an hour doing nothing but generally resting and getting some podcasts started downloading before I finally went and got a good shower and shaved.
Then, I walked down to the outdoors store and got some picaridin wipes since they had no lotion and the wipes claimed to last 12 hours. I took them back to the motel, emptied my pack, finished my ice cold Gatorade, and set out for the real grocery store which was only a couple of blocks away.
But first I was interrupted by the hotel manager knocking on the window of the lobby from the inside and calling me in. He had seen me wearing my pack and wanted to return the trekking poles I had left in the lobby when I was gathering up all my other bags. Like I said, they seemed pretty nice. But that’s a big whoops on my part.
Anyway, yeah, grocery shopping took about an hour, and I got halfway through packing it all up when I got back to the motel (i.e. I got the bear can packed) before I realized I ought to be heading out to dinner. I picked out the Shady Nook Steakhouse and Lounge by the river, and walked over there. On the way, I poked around the town arcade to see what machines they had there. Honestly, it wasn’t much, but it still felt anachronistic that it even existed as just an arcade. Even more anachronistic was the payphone on the side of the building. It looked like it could theoretically function. I should have picked up the handset to see if there was a sound.
Anyway, I crossed the river, lamenting at the high indicating I would be missing the performance of Twelfth Night in the park the following weekend, and promptly stepped in some gum. I had to pull gobs of gravel off my shoe and scrape the sticky mint goo off thoroughly before I could get to the restaurant.
The place was busy, and the host spent a solid five minutes trying to convince me to eat somewhere else. He said he couldn’t legally seat anyone else. I could go in the lounge but the bartender was busy. There was a 1.5 hour wait to get any food. He named some other places selling food. But I didn’t want what the other places were selling, so I went in the lounge and sat at the bar.
The bartender was not too busy to get me a beer and a menu, nor to take my order of the prime rib special with mushroom soup and French fries (because they had just sold the last baked potatoes). The soup he brought me as soon as I ordered, and I phoned home while I was eating it. The prime rib came before I could finish the call or the soup, fifteen minutes maybe twenty tops. Good thing I didn’t let the host scare me into eating a burger at the bowling alley.
The couple next to me didn’t get their meals until after me, and they both had baked potatoes. Ergo, they had ordered the last two. And they said they were done and pushed back their plates with both potatoes only half-eaten. Ergo, they only ate one potato between them. If they had split a potato, or ordered a side they actually wanted to finish eating, I could have had one too. No, I’m not salty about it, you’re salty.
After a delicious local nut brown ale, I paid the check and walked back to the motel to settle down for the evening. It was too warm to also when I came in, so I got the air going. I did no further packing. I made some calls. I stayed up really late uploading blog posts. The cell service in town was abysmally slow all day, but got fast enough to get things done quickly just after midnight. And then I finally got up to brush my teeth close to 1am. I went to sleep listening to an entire Inabakumori playlist.
And despite all that walking, none of it counted towards the trail.
Day 57: Forest Road near Trail Creek
I woke with my 7am alarm. After wasting an hour on the net, I dressed and walked past the continental breakfast in the lobby because a hiker cannot subsist on Lucky Charms alone. The motel had a deal with 6 Soups down the street to get 10% off any meal, so that’s where I went for breakfast. The tiny young waitress did a great job keeping me supplied with coffee as I ate plenty of toast, hash browns, French toast, sausage, and eggs that were cooked a bit more than I had asked for. It was enough for many hours of hiking.
But what I needed the energy for was packing. After some time in the bathroom, including one last shower for the road, I left myself just 45 minutes to dress for hiking and finish packing. Which was exactly the right amount of time, it turned out, because I checked out just after 11.
I started walking out of town, but was distracted by the Farmers Market in the park. I stopped in to look around, listen to the bluegrass band, and get a root beer, cupcake, and bee sticker from the girls raising money for the local dance center.
On my way out of there I stopped to talk with a couple that was new to town and had adopted a new 1.5 year old dog named Fin (Finnegan) who they said had been poorly socialized but treated me just fine, so maybe they just told me he was being unusually nice to me to make me feel good. Anyway, he seemed like he’d make a good trail dog one day.
On my way out of town, an old hiker called Mountain Grown stopped me and told me not to go any further if I wanted a ride. There wasn’t any place for cars to turn out if I went past the parking lot we were crossing. He also had a dog. She seemed obedient enough but hated the sun and always sought his shadow. He told me about how he hiked the AT in 2007, or rather how he funded it with the sales of morels and weed.
So when we were done chatting, I turned around, stuck out my thumb, and immediately got a ride from a couple in a truck. They were only going 10 miles to Carmen, but I took them up on it. The closer I got, the more of the cars that passed would be headed my way. I sat in the extended cab with their corgi-looking dog Fin (Finley), a 2 year old pup who took a while to calm down and sit still, but never really tried to bother me. Just another good dog. I didn’t get the couple’s names though.
They dropped me in Carmen , a town so small, the only business was the post office, which, since it was noon on a Saturday, was closing. I stood in front of said post office in the 94 degree heat, direct sun, for about 30 minutes until I got my next ride.
Joe was fascinating. He was almost deaf, so I had to shout at him, but he spoke back soft enough I could barely hear him over the air conditioner. But I did learn he used to be a mechanical engineer for Douglas in Long Beach. He worked on the DC-9 (the father of the current MD-11), apparently explaining things to customers and dealing with their complaints. He told me about the creation of the “air stair,” a collapsible staircase that folded into a compartment under the aircraft’s door. In order to not be too much dead weight to cut into passenger and baggage weight, it had to be an ultralight aluminum design, and yet still be able to support 7000 pounds of passengers all stood on it at once. And one time, he told me, it actually killed an old lady when the slide-out handrail collapsed unexpectedly, allowing her to fall the full distance to the pavement below. Still not as flawed a design as the 737-MAX though!
He took me as far as the store at North Fork and left me there about lunch time. So I went in to explore the store. It had a full gear store on one side, like everything you would need to hike except maybe the big three and food. On the other side, a full convenience store, plus a liquor store, gift shop, bar, and ice cream counter. And the whole thing seemed to be manned by kids in their twenties.
It got plenty of business, being right at the turn-off for the put-in for rafting/kayaking the Salmon River. And it got plenty of business from me. I started by trying a pint of local beer they had on draft. Then I got a Hot Pocket, nuked it, and took it outside to eat at a place I’d found to plug in my phone. Then I went back and got a scoop of mint chip in a waffle cone because everyone else was getting huckleberry and mango sorbet, and that’s so basic 🤪.
Finally, I took up a post across the street from the boat inspection station, again in the direct sunlight in the afternoon heat, and this time I got passed over and over and over by cars going my way (which was probably less than a quarter of the cars around). I took nearly two hours, but I finally got a ride from Tony, a local to Gibbonsville, another 10 miles up the road. After a brief stop at his buddy’s driveway (who wasn’t home), he took me up into the national forest, near where Deep Creek flowed past the highway. I had him drop me in a turnoff that was on the wrong side of the road, but I figured there was little enough traffic that anyone stopping could figure it out and cross the road if need be.
This was a shorter but more annoying wait. I did get the occasional big cloud to shade me, but I was also being relentlessly attacked by a deer fly, or some similar kind of very fast maneuverable biting fly. I put on some more repellent, but it still chased me and could not be caught or swatted.
Luckily, I didn’t have a long wait here. Ulli stopped in his heavily modified Astro after only about a half hour. He took me right up to the pass and dropped me off a little before 4.
I took the Gibbons Pass Road from the intersection up to a spot where another road cut across to the trail. The sun was beating down this whole time, and I probably hadn’t walked more than a mile total before I stopped to get a big drink and a small snack. I got a little bit of cooling from a short sunshower, but nothing intense enough to react to. I really didn’t feel like getting up and leaving in the muggy heat that followed.
The trail was similar to what it had been before I had visited Salmon. A flat ridge top crossed by a nearly level track surrounded by thin pine trees that couldn’t have been more than a decade old. There were clear signs of logging every so often, and the trail signs were full wooden boards placed high enough on trees that the snowmobilers could still look up at them when the trail was buried six feet in snow.
I briefly took the wrong trail and found a camp with a truck and a trailer, but I did not meet the occupant. This was the only other human out this way at the moment. One could probably live that way nearly full time without attracting any notice.
The wide road narrowed to a single track again and began gently descending. Around 6:30, I stopped again for supper on a log with a bit of shade. There were plenty of flies and ants around while I ate, but only one or two mosquitos.
I set out again a quarter past 7 or so, looking to only go a couple miles more and stop early. I went around and was stopped in my tracks by the tail end of a small black bear retreating at full gallop. I went ahead somewhat more slowly, but didn’t see it again.
In a mile and change, I came to a road crossing and left the trail. The road here went parallel to the trail, but much closer to Trail Creek, and I wanted to grab some water before I went to bed.
I walked down the road some ways. I could eee the bushes marking the course of Trail Creek, but no great campsites. In the end, I climbed up a hill across a lot that had been clear-cut and found a flattish spot in the dirt behind the branch pile I could pull up bits of wood and rocks from to make it campable. I marked out the spot, then went back down across the road with my dirty reservoir and found a path through the bushes to a small beaver dam I could catch water spilling over. I climbed back up and hung it to filter on a tree at the edge of the cleared lot while I set up camp.
I tricked the mosquitos by first untying my shoes, then walking my bear can and stove to the other end of the lot, then hurrying back to my tent, stepping out of my shoes, and diving under the tent flap left draped but unzipped before they had a chance to catch up. I was in and down by 9, but I spent the next couple of hours working on this post. While I did, some large animal walked all around my tent and up into the woods. Judging by the fluting sound it made twice, I’m assuming it was an elk, but I could see nothing from inside.
I gave up worrying writing at 11 with this post still unfinished, but it’s finished now isn’t it?
Trail miles: 5.8
Distance to Butte: 118.6 miles