I woke up before 6 feeling surprisingly well-rested for once. Also, there were far fewer mosquitos under my tent than the previous morning. Since my pack was already in the tent with me, I didn’t even have to unzip the tent to do most of my preparations. I got started hiking about 7:30.
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.
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.
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.
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 don’t know how to feel about this day. It certainly had its ups and downs.
The bustle of packing and cars moving had me up before six. I tried to roll over and go back to sleep, but it was clear it wasn’t going to work. I had less than six hours of sleep, but I was already wide awake. I started getting ready. While I was finishing packing up the inside of my tent, I could hear the amplified announcer up the pass counting down to the start of the 50k. I started hiking back to the trail at a quarter to 8, and when I climbed the hill to the pass, I saw all the cars and campers that had been parked all over the night before ringing the parking area and people all around like a party.
There was definitely some rain during the night and early morning, but it seemed to clear up after I started getting up. I took some extra morning tent time to do some pump sack and glove repairs before getting ready for the day, and as such, I didn’t leave the tent until after 8 when the sun was shining bright, and didn’t start hiking until after 9.
It was a hot morning and it started with a hill climb, but luckily the trail had been routed away from the ridgeline road along a nice set of switchbacks through the meadow. It wasn’t too much further into the day when the trail joined the 4×4 track though, and I was just following that road for the next ten miles probably.
I took a couple of morning breaks a few minutes apart, the second at the only spring I would cross for the rest of the day. I had carried a decent amount of water out of Leadore, but I added a good bit more here just because I knew it would be hard to come by for a while. I did not run short of water this day.
I also walked out with a good bit of that cold spring water on my shirt to combat the heat of the moment. I was also pleased to see, once I joined the OHV road, snowbanks across the trail. I tucked a good-sized bit of snow in my Buff twice during the day. Just after that, I came by some of the burned forest that was presumably intentionally burned the previous year as part of the efforts to control the Trail Creek Fire.
As far as the daily storm clouds go, they had the decency to wait until the afternoon this day. The first bit of rain came down at the end of lunch. There was occasional thunder, but mostly it was just the clouds. And later on, the trail went back into the forests to stay for quite a while.
Just before supper, a gang of dirt bikes and a 4×4 came up at full speed having a blast. The small child on the smallest dirt bike was running way behind the rest. Coming down a steep rocky hill, I was passed by two trucks. The second stopped to talk. They were headed up to one of the aid stations for the endurance race the next day (remember the pink flags I mentioned yesterday?). More on that later.
Almost the whole day, I had to keep my head net on. Certainly if I took a break. Whether I was out in a meadow or in the forest, I was surrounded by not just mosquitos but flies, including the tiny ones that bite through fabric. I don’t think I got bitten too often, but even with the net on, it was annoying.
By supper time, I had decided I could make it to Lemhi Pass before dark, so I got it done as quickly as possible. It was about 6 miles from where I stopped for supper. Unfortunately, supper somehow signaled my bowels that I needed a bathroom immediately, but I refused to lose the time that would take. I just clenched and bore the pain when it came.
I did the last 6 miles to the pass in 2.5 hours without taking another break. No break was possible to make my goal. The longest pause was to briefly chat with the occupants of another truck headed up to the aid station. The dirt bikes flew past me again in the other direction before the trail left the road again. And finally it became a nice single track through pretty meadows again. But I was clenching and chasing the sun and only thinking of getting to the pass.
When I got close to the pass, the trail wound past campers and the campers who would be sleeping in them. It was a popular spot because, as I would eventually find out, the Beaverhead 50k would start there at 7am. The trail spit me out onto the road again across from the spur down to the Sacagawea Memorial Area, land of picnic tables and vault toilets. It was 9:30, the sun had just fallen behind the hill, and I still had a quarter mile to go. The clench was more desperate.
There seemed to be plenty of people camped right around where the road looped, but I looked down and saw no one occupying the perfectly flat campsites down the paved trail below the road. I dropped my bag on one of the picnic tables there and went right up to the toilets to end my suffering.
On my way out, I diverted to a truck with the lights on and campers out and about. The girl I first talked to was willing to turn on the truck to give me a bit of energy for my phone, and she already had the right cable hooked up. So I left my phone charging and went to set up my tent. What had looked like perfectly leveled soil with gravel was actually pavement with some dirt and rocks in a thin layer on top, so I had to use rocks to stake out the tent, and the rocks were just barely heavy enough. The setup would not have withstood a windstorm.
Then I went down the paved trail to the spring to fetch some water. There was a signboard there that was very excited about this spring being one of the sources of the Missouri, but every spring and stream on the north side of the divide I’ve gotten water from in the last week has been a source of the Missouri. I was far more intrigued by my late discovery that there were leeches living in this stream.
Water filtering and teeth brushed, I went back to get my phone and it had received an impressive amount of charge, so I was super thankful. I learned that they all were participants in the race and was even offered a beer. I also got to see the ramblings of their 17yo dog with dementia. Best yogiing experience of this trip so far. They also informed me that the 50k would start right there at Lemhi Pass at 7am, so if I didn’t leave until after that, I wouldn’t have to deal with racers passing me very much–the 100k started at Bannock Pass at 4am, so I could still be dealing with some stragglers among their number. Also that there was an aid station five miles in to help with the whole issue of the 19 mile water carry I would otherwise be facing. It sounds like my timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
On the other hand, the trail ahead is likely more difficult than what I just came through. My feet told me mileage like this probably wouldn’t be happening every day. Not getting to sleep until nearly midnight would not be happening again if I could avoid it.
I woke up before sunrise, around 5 or 5:30, and put on slippers to go to the bathhouse to get my fully charged phone. A dark cloud on the horizon told me I should also grab my dry hiking clothes off the fence. I was already freezing by the time I started back to my tent, but warm again as soon as I climbed inside. I drained my phone halfway between then and nearly 8, mostly on uploading blog posts. I was starving, but nothing but the post office opens in Leadore until 8:30. I packed up then, last to leave the park. Even Mark, the caretaker, had left. I walked into town about a quarter after 9.