Categories
CDT MT Section 11 CDT WY Section 1

Day 96: Summit Lake

I went back to sleep after the 4am alarm on purpose, and then, figuring 6 hours of sleep was plenty, especially since my back was miraculously not hurting in the usual spot or between my shoulders, I started packing after the 5am alarm. I hit the trail just after it got bright enough out to put up the headlamp, around 6:15.

Just before 8am, I had to take a break in the woods above the trail, and I heard some footsteps crunching by on the road below. I caught up to the owner of those feet a mile later sitting beside the road with his JetBoil out. Cooking something at 8:30 after walking only 5 miles or so? I think he said his name was Windy. He said he didn’t have a permit for Yellowstone and just intended to stealth the first night, then stay in places like Grant Village that didn’t need permits until he hiked out of the park. Apparently, hiking through with no permit is a common tactic for sobos and rangers are not being too hard on them when caught.

So I hiked on another mile to the pond, the last water source for the next 17.5 miles. It was extremely muddy and it clogged up my filter almost instantly. I ended up spending well over an hour babysitting it, squeezing it, backflushing, clearing air, etc. just to get two liters filtered. I walked out with a dirty liter still in the dirty bag. Knowing i had no choice about doing a 24 mile day, I really felt that lost time.

I also really felt the heat. It was shaping up to be a hot one by usual Yellowstone summer standards, in the mid-80s. It was also bright, sunny, and clear. Cheerful weather, but I was still, as I had been all evening the night before and all morning to this point, just walking down a wide, dry loose dirt and gravel road. There were occasionally trees, but they were small and there was little shade to be found along the road.

Eventually, the trail turned suddenly into the woods from the road for a mile or so, and I found a very nice bit of shade with a good sitting log in this little section of single track, so I stopped to have lunch. Soon after that, the trail joined another dirt road, followed it up onto a higher plateau, and stayed on it for several more miles. Even when it seemed like a single track might return, it was just a way to get to another ATV track that had been eventually blocked to motor traffic but still looked like a dirt road.

It wasn’t until I was approaching the Yellowstone boundary that the single track returned for good. The boundary turned out to be a bit anticlimactic for how much advance planning is required to legally hike through Yellowstone. A tiny little boundary marker sign. And it’s not like this was not an official park trail. It gets plenty of traffic from CDTers. Do better, Park Service.

From the boundary, the next half mile is a steep climb for some reason. You can see me get winded climbing it in the video. It levels out a bit after that and opens up. It’s not a very interesting section. Two miles of that and the trail enters Wyoming, leaving the “Zone of Death.” And here is where I left Idaho for the last time. There’s no official marker for the boundary, but a hiker made an unofficial one.

There were quite a few nobos coming out of the park as I came in, but the last one I saw before I stopped for supper was the biggest surprise. It was Kaleidoscope from the PCT last year! In a brand new pair of tie-dye-colored shorts (and by brand new, I mean he probably hiked the whole CDT thus far in them). He was the same as ever: cheerful, fast, eager to get going, not much for small talk. The encounter started and ended so quickly, I didn’t even think to take a picture until he was already walking away.

Anyway, I stopped right after that, just before 6, on a log in the shadow of a tree. I had enough water for dinner plus enough to get the last 4 miles to camp if I filtered the last of the mud in the bag. With some babysitting, I managed to get all of it filtered in the time it took to treat my entree and use the result to make dessert. I accompanied dinner with the last can of cider packed out of West Yellowstone, or 90% of it anyway, since it did explode on opening and pushed foam out with such force that trying to suck it up just pushed it down my windpipe. Not very effective.

From there it was a relatively flat 3 miles to Summit Lake campground. I started seeing and smelling signs of the volcanic nature of the park. There were white flats where plants weren’t growing that were dry and smelled of sulfur.

But that didn’t stop Summit Lake from being wet and beautiful and full of life when I reached it. The clear, calm water was a lovely contrast to the muddy pond swarmed with yellow jackets I had spent the morning next to. After dropping my food and attractants in the food storage area, I wandered around until I found a nice flat spot not too far from the water. I set up and then went to collect some of that good clear stuff. Then I turned it brown through backflushing my filter into it until it was flowing well enough to fill my clean water bag.

I thought I would see Windy camping nearby since he said he was going to try to stay in official campsites, but it turned out I had the whole lake to myself. Not counting the wild animals of course. From there, it was 8 miles to the Geyser Hill boardwalk, 10 miles to Old Faithful Village, and 21.2 miles to my next campsite. In other words, I could get up early, spend some time hanging out with the geysers and the town food, and still have no trouble getting to camp at a reasonable hour. It was going to be another warm clear day following another warm clear night. Nothing but fun to look forward to.

Trail miles: 23.2

Distance to Dubois: 109.9 miles

Categories
CDT MT Section 10

Day 94: West Yellowstone

Despite the severe pain along my spine from sleeping, both in the usual place at my lower back and in the new place between my shoulder blades, I tried to roll over and sleep in a bit. With only a two mile hike to the road to catch a hitch, and nothing to gain by being in town before 7, I had little reason to be hiking down before sunrise. As it was, I emerged from my tent just after sunrise.

An hour’s mostly downhill road walk later, I was at the highway. I crossed the road and stuck out my thumb. An SUV that had been parked there immediately turned around and picked me up to drive me to town. Zero wait hitch achieved.

The driver was Paige, a young Uber driver living in both Bozeman and Idaho Falls, switching locations every Sunday. It wasn’t Sunday, but this time she was headed to Idaho Falls to get a lift kit and several other things put on her car. She had left Bozeman so early she’d had to stop at Targhee Pass for a short nap to have enough energy to get to get destination, yet she seemed quite full of energy now, happily chatting right up to the front of the Running Bear Pancake House where I asked to be dropped. Thanks Paige!

I was able to get a table as soon as I walked in despite the restaurant being fairly busy and popular, and I was fortunately seated right next to a post outlet. After placing my order, my watch ticked over to 8am, and I immediately called the just-opened Yellowstone Backcountry Permit Office. A very friendly and helpful ranger picked up on the third ring and fifteen minutes later I had a permit in my email. Far more painless a process than I was expecting.

After breakfast, I called Mama while I walked to the laundromat/shower across from my motel. I couldn’t check into my cabin until 3:30, so I paid for a coin-op shower before running my laundry. After two loads (because even my backup clothes smelled sour after being exposed to all the dampness on that last leg) and nearly 20 dollars in quarters, I had used up most of the morning. That included a trip to the convenience store to get some toothpaste and earbuds to watch TV while I waited on my clothes to dry (and some root beer and pickled carrots–why not?).

So I packed up and went to the supermarket next. There were two in town. The first one I went to was small and had limited selection, so I ended up going to both. If I had known about the other to begin with, I could have saved a trip. At the second, I also bought a bunch of pastries and ate them on the bench outside while packing up the last of my resupply.

But that didn’t mean I was full. Oh no, it was lunch time, and there was a barbecue joint down the street. I sat down and spent the early afternoon working on a half rack of ribs with cole slaw, toast, housemade BBQ chips and a couple of microbrews from the area.

Even after all that, it wasn’t even 3pm yet. But I didn’t know what else to do, so I just went the motel and sat outside the lobby whittling until the manager arrived and checked me in a little early (just after 3).

Finally, I could spend a few hours just chilling (and then warming up once I turned the wall heater on) in my room, trying to work up an appetite for dinner and making one other important phone call.

Finally, I figured it was time to get supper, but in the crowds of this bustling tourist town, I didn’t want to wait for a table at any of the restaurants, so I called a pizza place down the street and ordered a pizza and side salad to go.

Half an hour later, I walked siren to the convenience store to buy a 6 pack of 2 Towns Cosmic Crisp Cider (and some Watermelon Wiley Wallaby to nibble as I walked through town) and then to the pizza place to pick up my order. I carried all this back to my cabin and ate the pizza and drank a cider on the front porch.

Actually, I should have ordered a personal pizza. After a day full of eating, I ran out of room for pizza after eating 3/4 of the small 10″ pizza I had purchased. Then again, the cider was bubbly, and I made room for the last few pieces just by burping.

It would be another couple of hours before I made room for the salad. But I did it. And then I stayed up to midnight watching videos, chatting, and doing work on the blog, getting through another couple of ciders along the way.

Even on the mattress, my back still hurt, but I eventually found a comfortable position and hoped I would be able to sleep in until 6, given how late I was getting to sleep compared to a usual day.

Trail miles: 1.8

Categories
CDT MT Section 10

Day 93: Targhee Divide/Creek/Pass

I woke to a world of moisture. There hadn’t been much rain, but the temperature plunge brought on a ton of condensation, especially as I was situated between two water sources in the long shadow of a mountain. I could hear the muffled tinkling of my 6am alarm through the hood of my bag as I fought toward consciousness.

I didn’t mind that I slept late. I wasn’t even in a hurry to pack up. It was after 8 by the time I left camp and the sun still hadn’t reached me. The chill breezes did, though. It was one of those “keep the jacket on until the last possible moment” situations.

The first thing I did out of camp was step up on a log that rolled on wet ground, slip off, and fall, banging both shins directly into the wood. A very Tarkovsky way to start the day.

The climb up to Targhee Divide was really fast and easy. Just a bunch of switchbacks on a gentle grade. I was at the top before I knew it, in the sun and gusting wind. A mile or so later, I was on the divide, 10000 feet above sea level for the first time this year.

I walked out along the ridge toward Targhee Peak a little bit. I considered dropping my pack and climbing it. It seemed rather close and not too high. But the heavy cold winds were trying desperately to toss me off the ridge and anyway I wanted to get some miles done.

A few miles down into the bowl behind the ridges, I stopped at one of the forks of Targhee Creek for lunch and water collection. While I was there, I was joined by three mountain bikers and their dog. They lived nearby, and were riding that day the same bit I was hiking, but northbound. They lived near enough that they would be able to drive home by the end of the day.

From there I had to cross a bit of a valley to the Lionhead Ridge. While diverting from the trail to briefly visit a stand of trees, I stepped over a snag, dragging my knee along a sharp end of a branch, and causing enough bleeding to call for a bandage.

It fell off when I stopped most of the way up the climb to the top of the ridge for a snack break, but the wound had clotted by then. This climb seemed a lot steeper and longer than the one in the morning even though it was shorter by miles. It was just later in the day and warmer.

Actually, it was perfect hiking weather all day, especially once it warmed up. Sunny, temperate, and much better visibility than usual. This became especially apparent once I came up onto the ridgeline, which is the actual Continental Divide and the Ida./Mont. border. I could just barely see around 50 miles in every direction from the high points and could not stop taking panoramas of it all. Even the Tetons were faintly visible, though perhaps not so much they would show up in pictures.

The only complaint I had was the wind. The ridge was pretty exposed and the wind was gusting hard enough to knock me off my footing and peel back the brim of my hat at times. I hadn’t gotten such a pummeling since Piegan Pass in Glacier. It was pretty cold too.

I was especially worried about the biker I passed going up just before I stopped for dinner. He had gear strapped all over the bike and was actually planning to spend the night out in the range somewhere. But it seemed like some of that stuff might catch the wind really well on those switchbacks.

Even behind a row of trees, the wind was taking all the extra heat out of me while I sat and cooked dinner. I was glad to finish and get back in the sun as I continued down the ridge. The wind got less powerful as I descended too.

Finally, around 7:30, I spotted a little plateau down a snowmobile track off the trail. I was close enough to the road to hear the traffic and didn’t really want to be any closer. It seemed like a perfect place to spend the night.

Soon I was in my tent, getting ready for bed as some guy came down the hill yelling “Heyo!” every 5 seconds and being answered by 3 or 4 echos. I wanted to yell back “Shut up! The bears heard you the first ten times!” but figured he’d be gone down the hill soon enough anyway.

So, yeah, a short, easy, beautiful day way up high. Easily the best views since Glacier.

Trail miles: 15.8

Distance to West Yellowstone: 1.8 miles

Categories
CDT MT Section 10

Day 92: Mile Creek

I woke up a little before 4am, then again with my 4am alarm. I decided to sleep in a little just because I was cozy and in no hurry.

Just after 6, I was ready to walk through that frigid water. My feet were already cold from walking around in my sockwas all morning, but the pain in my toes was as strong as the previous morning by the time I reached the other bank. Even after I got my boots on, it was a mile of hiking before the feeling came back to normal in my toes and I could walk normally without having to think about every step.

The narrows of Hell Roaring Canyon were spectacular, but my awe was replaced by more pain when something stung or bit me on the top of my head out of nowhere. Shortly after that, I stopped for a break, thinking it might be nice to have my hat on instead. In the middle of the break, who should come up the trail but none other than Blitz himself, whom I left behind in Silver City and have been expecting to pass ever since. We chatted for an hour or so about the trail ahead for each of us before going on our respective ways. Just for reference, Blitz has been doing regular 30s and has hiked about 2000 miles in the time it took me to hike only about 1300 miles. Sure, I’ve had more than a week’s worth of zero days by now, but even if he took none, he’s still hiking nearly 50% faster than me on average. Guess he’s earned that trail name.

Anyway, not much to say about the next bit of trail. A few miles of walking on a dirt road over rolling hills. There was a guy on an ATV walking three hounds.

I stopped on a hilltop overlooking Henry’s Lake for lunch. Several trucks and ATVs pulled up near me while I ate. The wind started picking up and gusting pretty hard. It blew my bottle over just after I had finished filling it up, wasting a lot of water. I had to use almost all of what I had left to refill it.

I stretched the dregs for the next 5 miles until I reached water again, which involved crossing the highway and climbing a mile up Black Mountain before starting to work my way around it at that level, looking down over Raynolds Pass and the strangely similar looking houses of all those who lived there. Along this road, I opened a gate for a forest service truck and the guys inside offered me a Smokey the Bear Buff. I declined because I’m perfectly happy with the Buff I have.

I took my afternoon snack break an hour late so that I could collect some water to drink with it. Then I stopped for dinner and more water collection at the Mile Creek bridge a mile later. The wind was blasting really hard by now.

From there, the trail began to slowly scale the side of Black Mountain via the Mile Creek ravine, going straight up the hill at quite a gentle slope right next to the creek. There was still some very potent wind, but it died out as I climbed, protected as I was by the sides of the ravine. Eventually, I think the weather changed. The severe weather statement on the Weather Channel app said the wind advisory ended at 7:30, but it was already little more than the occasional light puff by the time I stopped just before 7.

If I were to go any further, I would have to climb several miles of switchbacks up to the mountain ridge with no chance of a campsite. If I wanted to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, I had to stop there. There were no cleared campsites, but I found a nearly level spot on a narrow ridge and cleared it myself. I don’t need much space. Temperatures were dropping and I was glad to crawl inside my sleeping bag. I hoped I wouldn’t wake to a jungle of condensation again.

Anyway, there was no need to hurry out of camp in the morning. I had a room booked in West Yellowstone for two nights hence and not much travel left to get there.

Trail miles: 20.2

Distance to West Yellowstone: 17.6 miles

Categories
CDT MT Section 10

Day 91: Hell Roaring Creek

I woke up at 4am and it wasn’t raining. It hadn’t rained at all since the previous evening. But the sun had gone down on a wet meadow and the night had been very cold. In other words, conditions were ideal for everything in my body-warmed tent to be coated in condensation.

So the morning started with toweling off the ceiling and inside of the rainfly. The wet socks I had hung up were still soaked, of course, and so were my boots. When it came time in the packing up process to put them on, it was mere minutes before my toes were painfully cold. That pain continued all throughout packing up, while I eagerly looked forward to getting started hiking so I could warm up.

Then I looked at the map and saw that I was going to need more water to get through a 17 mile dry stretch. I scooped some out of the creek and started it filtering, then found myself running in place and jumping up and down with my hands in my coat pockets while the filtering seemed to just drag on forever. The pain in my toes was only reducing to the extent I was losing feeling in them, and my fingers were starting to ache as well. Eventually, I have gave up on letting the filtration finish and just tossed the dirty reservoir in my bag with water still in it so I could start. I started up the trail around a quarter to 6.

After a half mile, the top of the first steep hill, my toes had already warmed up to stop hurting and I was warm enough to stop and take off the jacket. I also took the opportunity to put up my headlamp, which I hadn’t actually needed once I started hiking because twilight had already begun.

The morning started with a climb of about 2000 feet to within sight of the summit of Taylor Mountain over the course of less than 10 miles. It wasn’t a continuous climb though. Rather, there would be a short steep climb followed by a short drop, then repeat, mostly through wet grassy meadows. As it was cloudy all morning, the sun couldn’t dry the grass, and so my boots, my socks, and my feet stayed wet the whole time.

On the second short climb, I met Hot Lips and Caveman, nobos who started in April, coming down and got an update on the sobos in front of me. I didn’t know either of the names I heard. No surprises there. I knew it was not a popular section and that everyone I knew before was long gone by now. If you’re wondering, yes, Hot Lips does bear a passing resemblance to Loretta Swit as she looks now.

I stopped at the summit of the next hill for my first morning break. It was a great view, but I wished it was less cloudy.

After one more little climb, I finally came steeply down to join the road that zigzagged up the side of Mount Taylor. This was the longest single climb of the day, rising more than a thousand feet in about 3 miles. It was a really easy climb in terms of grade and slope, but it was an hour straight of relentless climbing. I didn’t stop for a break until I was nearly at the highest point of the trail, just below the peak. I had finished 9.5 miles by 10:30 and was already very near the highest elevation I would reach the whole day.

It was still fairly cool, breezy, overcast, damp. My feet were still soaked. But soon after I started walking again, a thick fog rolled in over the mountain ridge. Passing through a low-hanging cloud, I couldn’t see more than two dozen feet in front of me. Soon, I saw a silhouette pop up behind a ridge and fade into view. I stopped my podcast and took my headphones out in prep for a conversation.

It was Mooch, another nobo nearing the northern end of the trail. He didn’t have much interesting to say about the trail behind him, so I gave him some news about the trail behind me. He didn’t seem in quite the hurry as the two earlier had. I wasn’t either. I had a pretty good pace going.

There isn’t too much to say about the remainder of the day. It was more downhill than up from this point. The sun came out enough before lunch that I could change my wet socks for ones that were now only slightly damp from riding outside my pack when I stopped to eat.

I took water out of a nice little creek just before dinner time, and submerged a boot entirely in mud trying to get to it. I guess that’s what they’re for.

I stopped for dinner near Lillian Lake, and while stopped I got to swap back from the slightly damp socks to the others that had completely dried outside my pack. As the grass dried, so had my boots, so my feet could finally be completely dry while I walked. I tried to give my towel some time to dry in the sun, but dinner didn’t take long enough to make a dent in that amount of moisture.

It also hadn’t been able to dry the slippery mud in the trail where it was shaded by trees. The next mile after supper was a descent in such mud. The mud was just the right consistency to preserve a set of perfectly clear bear tracks that had taken that same trail ahead of me sometime earlier that day, presumably not too long before. I continued seeing those tracks for the next couple of miles until I decided to stop for the night.

I had come to a crossing of Hell Roaring Creek that couldn’t be done without wet feet, and while there was a large clear meadow on the near side, there didn’t seem to be any good camping on the far side. Since it was already time to knock off for the evening, I decided to save the crossing for the morning. I spent the next ten minutes wandering around the meadow areas looking for a good, clear, level spot before finally settling for something somewhat imperfect but not rocky and only slightly lumpy. There I made camp and turned in after checking the weather. No rain predicted for the night, some chance of scattered showers the following evening. Should be another good day of hiking.

Total miles: 22.8

Distance to West Yellowstone: 37.9 miles

Categories
CDT MT Section 10

Day 90: Aldous Lake

I woke up to the 4am alarm, but no sooner had I awoken than a thunderstorm rolled in. I’m willing to pack up in the dark, but no way I’m going to pack up in a thunderstorm and get all the dry stuff wet. I slept in until the storm passed and the rain stopped at 5:45.

The storm was immediately followed by a heavy cold wind. So I needed extra time to dry the wet stuff that I could (and water had pooled under my mattress and under my pack from where my Tyvek had caught it, being more waterproof than the sheet it replaced, but I have an idea to stop that from happening in the future) and I had to stop packing frequently to warm my hands when I lost feeling in them. As such, it was almost 7:30 by the time I hit the trail again. It was still cold enough I kept my down puff jacket on for most of the morning.

All night and morning I could hear the distant bleating of sheep, but I was only a mile in when I actually came upon the herd. Two of the sheepdogs came up to see me and then returned to the herd. A couple of minutes later, I saw a Latino man on a horse with a horse and some dogs with him who said he was taking care of the sheep.

Right after that, I had to throw my Packa on because it was raining again, though it only lasted a moment. Soon, I arrived at Rock Spring and stopped to take my jacket off and take a morning break. I took another morning break a couple of hours later at the top of a hill when the sun came out and there was a brief bout of blue skies. The water in the grass along the trail had soaked through my boots and then my socks, so I changed into relatively dry socks here and hung the wet ones on my pack.

Although they managed to dry somewhat throughout the day, it wasn’t fast or thorough because the blue skies were rapidly replaced by the ever-present smoky haze.

I saw a couple of grouse beside the trail. I saw three fly off the trail in the afternoon too. That’s the most grouse I’ve ever seen in a single day.

Of course, when I came to the creek where I had been waiting to collect water, I saw more sheep in one view than I’ve seen in my life total. And some goats and, of course, the loyal but skittish dogs protecting the flock. I sent the flock into chaos and disarray on my way through. I scooped up some water from the creek, but I carried it far enough away over the hill that even the most egregious sheep couldn’t see me before hooking up the filter. The sheep may be gregarious, but they aren’t particularly friendly, and they smell. I didn’t want to eat my lunch around them.

Oh yeah, I was starving at this point. I sat on a rock and took an hour lunch while my phone charged and my water filtered. Then on again, up a steep climb, and then down.

Mostly the trail was going along the sides of the ridges leading down from Baldy Mountain here. I stopped once on a random rock in the hillside for my afternoon break. I decided against getting my Packa out when I left to give my socks a little bit longer in what little sun was getting through the haze and trees, but a mile or so later, the ominous dark clouds had gotten close enough and thick enough that I stopped to put up the socks and put on the Packa. From there, the trail pitched steeply downward toward Aldous Lake.

On the steep descent, I met “Metric Ton, a nobo LASHer – Long-Ass Section Hiker” to quote the man himself. It had just started raining and I was stopped to zip up the coat and put my hood up, looking down instead of ahead, so he spooked with his shouted greeting from below.

We chatted about the usual pleasantries and hiker small talk–names, places of origin, gear problems and suggestions, the weather–but all I could think of the whole twenty minutes until he finally got his raingear on and got around to taking the picture he had asked for was that he was keeping me from getting to the trailhead and eating dinner.

Further down the hill, I came to a creek overrun by huckleberries that seemed ripe. I tried one, but huckleberries are always kind of meh until you put a bunch together and add sugar.

When I arrived at Aldous Lake, I started seeing the day hikers. It’s a very popular little day trail. There was a whole family gathered on the bank, one older boy throwing a line in the water. The mom told me which side of the fork was the trail ahead. Another family with a pair of dogs stood near the bridge over the inlet stream. They told me there were little cutthroats in the lake, and also sent me the correct direction from the fork they were standing in.

A mile later, I started seeing a lot of salmonberry bushes along the trail and some of them were ripe and exquisitely sweet. Salmonberries absolutely taste great on their own, better than raspberries even, though they do share the problem of getting seeds stuck in your teeth even if you’re careful not to chew them.

I soon realized there would have been even more ripe salmonberries along the way when I caught up to a couple coming out with huge packs after an overnighter at the lake. The girl was carrying a zip-lock full of them. When I got to the trailhead, I signed the register, then went over to the parking lot just as the girl went into the privy, leaving the man to load their packs into the truck. He confirmed that they would make a pie from the berries and something else too. He said Winco used to sell bottles of them for 25 dollars, confirming what I had inferred about how hard they were to find. They had to be picked in the wild and their growing season is extremely short.

Anyway, I was starving again, but it was raining and I didn’t want to make dinner in the rain. Fortunately, the privy at this trailhead was the kind with a little 3/4 enclosed, covered porch of sorts in front of the door. I could sit in there under the roof, far enough from the door not to block it to anyone who needed it, but still entirely protected from the wind and rain. And, in fact, no one needed the privy for the half-hour I was under there.

It was still sprinkling slightly when I returned to the trail and began the climb back up to the divide, but it fell off within the next half hour, and the last hour of hiking it didn’t rain at all. I grabbed some water out of the next creek and hung the reservoir from my neck to avoid having to take my pack off and remove and reattach the Packa, so even though I wasn’t getting rained on, I did have the swinging bag of water constantly bouncing off my chest. Of course, once I was up the steep, slippery mud hill, the trail came out into a grassy meadow. A wet grassy meadow that wanted my boots, socks, and feet to experience that wetness too. I didn’t want to stop until I found that perfect spot again, but I was also eager to get those wet socks off and let my feet dry. I’ve heard that trenchfoot has been known to impede hiking somewhat.

Ironically, the perfect spot turned out to be right next to a creek much further on, so I needed have carried that water up the hill around my neck at all. I started it filtering as soon as I had my tent erected (always the priority when you don’t know what the weather is up to) but because I hadn’t cleared the last of the bubbles from the line, it still hadn’t finished by the time I had everything else ready to go. All I could think about was getting my boots off, but I couldn’t go to bed without that water. I went back and got the bubble out and it finished right up.

Finally, I could get in my tent and take off my boots… but no. It was at this moment I discovered a knob of wood, a broken stump of a sapling or errant vertical root that had been hiding in the grass exactly where I had pitched. I couldn’t move it and there’s no way I could sleep on it, even if it didn’t pop my mattress. I had to move the tent. Which is quite a difficult task with a non-freestanding tent already full of all my stuff. It took another 20 minutes. I was half an hour late getting to bed, all told. But I got it done, and done to an extent that all would be dry if more night storms rolled through.

I turned in finally, hoping for an early start and unmolested by storms and a mostly dry day of hiking. That’s what I needed to be able to get the miles done.

Trail miles: 19.0

Distance to West Yellowstone: 60.7 miles

Categories
CDT MT Section 10

Day 89: Lima

The whole reason for coming into Butte at all was to get to Lima, as I said in the last post. Why? Because of the Black Mountain and Trail Creek Fire closure, blocking access to some 130 miles of the 350 miles I’m skipping. I’ll come back and do the skipped section when most of it isn’t closed.

Yes, the closed section includes the spot where I left trail magic, which means that very few people get to partake. Perhaps the magic will stay there until next year, but it seems likely it would be removed by trail crews in the intervening time if it even survives the winter freeze. It didn’t go completely to waste though. There were at least three comments mentioning it posted on Guthook before the closure.

Anyway, the easiest way to skip that section would have been to take the Big Sky alternate directly from the Butte East Ridge to West Yellowstone via Big Sky. I wasn’t aware of that possibility because it isn’t listed on Guthook, but even if I had been, I probably wouldn’t take it. Firstly, I came to walk the Continental Divide, and that would be a major detour off it. Secondly, I already have two resupply boxes to deal with by phone in Sula and Leadore, so it’s a lot easier to just go to Lima to get the box I left there in person and then get on the trail from there.

And the easiest way to make the trip from the northern I-15 crossing to the southern I-15 crossing is Salt Lake Express bus B10A from Butte to Lima, which leaves once a day at 5:30am. All of which is to say I woke to an alarm I set for 3:32am. I wasn’t the only person awake in the campground at that hour, but I was certainly the only one in the primitive tent camping area.

I was mostly packed by 4:30, except I needed to eat the strawberries and cream oatmeal I had bought for breakfast, two bowl-packages worth. I boiled some water and poured it into each of the bowls, then, considering making tea with the remaining hot water, I went to open that pocket on my pack and spilled one of the bowls. Luckily, the table was pretty clean, so I scooped it back into the bowl and ate it anyway.

I also collapsed and packed my trekking poles into my pack for the bus trip. Then I loaded up and set off up the Blacktail Creek bike path toward the bus station.

None of this packing operation or walk required the use of my headlamp. There was just so much artificial light around. The bike path was a little darker, but there were distant building lights and street lights, a sliver of moon, and Our Lady of the Rockies floating blurrily and eerily in the sky behind it all.

When the path came to a major road, I took a pedestrian underpass below it and emerged next to an elderly steam engine next to a convenience store that was open. I went inside and bought a breakfast burrito, a hot coffee, and a new bottle of sunscreen since I hadn’t been able to find any at the campground store.

The bus station was right down the street and I rolled up at 5:25 with the boarding process already begun. I was immediately confronted by a driver asking if I knew where I was supposed to be and then reveling in the fact that I guessed wrong. I had thought it would be the bus that said Salt Lake Express clearly on the side, but it was the van pulling a trailer that looked like it could have just been a random vehicle parked there until I got close enough to make out that it also said Salt Lake Express on it. Luckily, the rude driver was not my driver. Mine was actually super nice.

I ended up riding two hours next to a girl who was clearly in severe emotional distress, falling apart in tears even as she studied Ecce Homo via a confusing abstract idea web drawn in marker on her notebook, waving her hands over the connections distractingly. One of the men in front of me was clearly not all there either, though I didn’t notice until the driver told me about bizarre things he had been doing. I was just watching Netflix the whole ride on my phone (except during the one 15 minute potty break at a Safeway in Dillon) and didn’t pay much attention.

Anyway, I arrived in Lima around 7:30, pulled my pack out of the trailer, and headed over to the motel. I found the proprietor right away and he let me into the room where all the packages were stored. My box was at the very bottom of the pile in the very back corner.

At first, I just left the box there and went to find a power outlet for my phone and a bathroom. Then, I came back and opened it to see what it had. It didn’t quite have everything I needed, so I went to the convenience store next door. In addition to the apple cider I was missing, I grabbed a sandwich, some Beecher’s Flagship cheddar sticks, and a root beer (why not?). They didn’t have any protein powder for my breakfast shake, but they did have some instant coffee, so I figured I could just make do with thinner shakes for a few days.

I met the shuttle driver at his truck at 9. It looked like I was the only one headed out to the trail this morning despite it being a beautiful day with little smoke haze to be seen. It was about a half-hour drive to the Continental Divide which also happens to be the Montana-Idaho border (and, for the most part, the converse of that is true as well). He stopped so I could get a picture of the sign, then continued south to where the trail passed under the interstate. Here, he crossed the median on a gravel path and dropped me on the side of the interstate.

“How do I get to the trail?”

“Just hop the fence. Then go over to that road there that goes up that hill over there.”

I donated him a twenty for the lift. Can’t let a good service like that go out of business. Then he drove off, leaving me to figure out how to get over the wire fence without breaking anything (especially my brand new pack).

I stopped a half-mile down the road on a survey marker to put on sunscreen and bug stuff and lube. Then it was time for a long climb on a dirt road.

I really felt like I was back in northern New Mexico. Nothing but dry prairie grass and shrubs on the hills around me. When there were trees, it was clear that cattle hung out under them. And there were not very many of those. Mostly there was no shade.

There was finally a patch of trees a few miles in, and since it was 11am, I stopped under one for a snack break. I took a nice full half hour, then went back to climbing that hill.

By 1, I had already entered the Targhee National Forest and found a nice sitting rock in the shade for lunch. It wasn’t quite a footpath yet, though, as I was passed by a family of ATVs as I finished up. But soon I reached the top of a hill, crossed a cattle guard, and joined a more traditional footpath just as a light rainshowers passed by, sending me to the side of the trail to fish out my Packa as quickly as possible. It had already passed by the time I was halfway up the next steep hill.

That climb finally put me on the divide proper, right next to the fallen barbed wire fence that runs along the state border. I followed this for quite a while, still out in the open with occasional scattered trees. I found a large sitting rock in the shadow of one such tree and took my 3pm break.

Not long after this, the trail dived steeply down into a gap and climbed out again, but just before the climb got steep, it passed a pond. Since I was low on water by now (having last filled up at the motel), I stopped here for dinner. It wasn’t a very attractive spot to collect water: scummy, muddy, crisscrossed by deadfall, full of frogs, red bugs, and other insects dead and alive. But it was the only water I’d see on the ground for the rest of the day, and I didn’t even have enough to cook dinner, so I filtered some and then cooked and ate.

As mentioned, the climb out of this area got quite steep and, other than a brief little respite, continued for a full mile. On the steepest part, averaging well over a thousand feet per mile (over 12 degrees angle of elevation!), I first met a couple of guys going down and then another rainshower. This time, there was a tree I could stand under while I put my Packa on.

The next bit of trail after that rain died down enough to not require me to keep the rain gear zipped climbed less steeply through an actual forest. I kept walking well past my normal stopping time of 7pm, looking for the perfect campsite that was basically level and wasn’t surrounded by dead trees, of which there were so many on this hill. Eventually, I came to where a huge wide open meadow was visible from the trail, and left to go pitch my tent in the middle of it. I couldn’t resist the view. And the way there was no chance of getting killed by a falling widowmaker in a storm.

And it was clear there was a storm coming. Clouds everywhere, even as the sun set below them. I was cozy in my tent and ready for bed before the rain started, but it did rain and rain hard and heavy. There were some chilly wind gusts and some good, loud lightning strikes. It continued for well over an hour.

I don’t mind the rain so much when it happens after I’m in bed. It sounds nice. And hopefully, it means no smoke the next day.

Trail miles: 14.4

Distance to West Yellowstone: 79.7 miles

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Meme

Meme #10

All zeroes covered. Buffer restored. Last meme for a bit.

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CDT MT Section 6

Day 88: Butte

I got up at 4 and on the trail a bit after 5:20. I had no breakfast mix, so I just ate a ton of chewy bars and Airheads all morning, multiple stops to do so.

At one of those stops, a bunch of cattle moved up to a spot across from me and a young heifer stared at me the entire time, unmoving, unchanging.

I passed one tent on the way, no sign of activity, but I guess there are some people around.

A little before 11 I came under the freeway and took a break in the shade for nearly an hour, then did the last mile to the interstate exit.

I waited an hour there and only three vehicles passed going southbound. None wanted to take me. So I texted Weatherman, a trail angel in Butte, and he carried me back to the KOA in Butte.

I checked in, pitched my tent, then a while later, I walked to a restaurant for a huge lunch including a huge chicken salad. I was there for a couple hours and got caught up on my blog. I also bought a bus ticket to Lima for the following morning.

Back at the campground, I got a light shower and some clothes in the wash. I sat outside charging my devices and making some plans for the next month. Yes, unless the whole state catches on fire, it’s going to take me an entire month to get through Wyoming.

But there kept being light showers chasing me away from the charging station (which was out in the open for some reason), so eventually I moved the charger into the laundromat.

With my clothes clean and back on me, I headed back to my tent to get to sleep for an extremely early start.

Trail miles: 11.4

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Meme

Meme #9

Another zero to cover…