Saturday, September 10 Muddy Trail & the Chinese Wall

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

SUMMARY:  We were very excited about seeing the famous “Chinese Wall” cliffs today, and hurried along the best we could with “6-day heavy” packs. We are also learning to deal with the frequently muddy trail here—hikers end up walking on the edges of the trail because horses have turned the middle into a mudhole.

It’s quite a climb getting up to the Chinese Wall, but hooray, we are back in green, vibrant forest instead of walking through miles of dead trees. Finally—the Wall. Wow! Just amazing and impressive. It’s mostly grey, but it’s a layered grey. The trail goes pretty close to the base of it, but stays back a bit for safety—you don’t want a big cliff rock falling on you! We are camped near the Wall tonight. Tomorrow we head for an alternate route that is shorter than the official CDT.

DETAILS:  We packed up quickly in a chilly morning, eager to see the Chinese Wall today.  Oh man, our packs feel heavy, with 6 days of food.  At first, the CDT was a multi-lane trail going along the wide Sun River valley, and right from the start it was also a MUD challenge!  I guess it rains a lot here, plus there are horses, and the result is that we hikers often end up walking precariously along the edges of the trail.

We saw several other hikers today, including Elusive, Shepherd, Freebird and Hotshot.  Elusive, Shepherd, and ourselves are planning to do the “Spotted Bear” alternate to the CDT, to save 13-14 miles.  I hope it turns out to be a good alternate, not another one where we end up lost!  Freebird and Hotshot were a bit concerned about weather.  According to the report they heard, another storm is coming in, with “wind, rain and snow.”  All the more reason to take the shortcut!

While we were eating lunch, along came a local couple returning from a backpack trip, accompanied by their super-personality-plus little half-blind chihuahua dog, “Chula”.  When they stopped to talk to us, Chula started rolling around on the ground, trying to take off his tiny sweater that they had put on him this morning, to keep him warm.  Both the husband and wife were carrying guns (in hip holsters) and the wife had a “bear bell”–an old pot with spoons attached to it that jangles and bangs with every step she takes.  We talked about the bears, and they told us, “All our ranger friends here–they all just sleep with their food.  Hanging it is too much of a pain.”   Yeah–and most of the time there is no PLACE to hang it, anyway.

We headed off into the afternoon, on the big climb up to the Chinese Wall.  The trail was still muddy, but the compensation is that the forest and meadows are green and beautiful!  When we stopped for a snack break, we found a nice soft grass patch, and were sort of half sitting, half lying there, eating our Snickers, when along came Shepherd.  We are still amazed that we are keeping up with him at all.  We asked his opinion about the weather report.  He said what he heard was “very cold, with a 20% chance of rain.”  Since it was a clear, sunny day, we hope his report is the right one!  We definitely don’t want another go-round with snow!

Finally, very late afternoon, we got our first glimpse of the famous Wall.  Wow, is it awesome!  It’s very high and goes on for miles.  The rocks of the Wall are layered, various shades of gray, and it is very obvious that the whole thing was all uplifted at the same time.  I tried and tried to get pictures of it, but big problem–the sun was low in the sky, BEHIND the Wall, so any time I aimed the camera at the Wall, the sun glare made it impossible to get a picture.  And if I aimed the camera more sideways, the cliffs were already in such shadow that they didn’t show up well.  I guess the best time to get here would be in the morning, so the sun would light up the Wall and picture taking would work.  Oh well.

The CDT trail turns and follows the Wall for a long way, and we hiked along oohing and ahhing.  It’s very obvious that the strata in the cliff are from the Flood, and the uplift probably happened towards the end of the Flood, when as the Bible mentions (Psalm 104), the mountains “rose up”.  It reminded us of the east side of the Sierras back home in California, where you get the same huge cliffs that all uplifted at the same time (only there, it’s granitic rock with lava stuff down at the foot).

There was a strong, cold wind blowing, so at suppertime, we found a little hollow to get down into–it was just big enough for Fixit and I and our packs, and we had a great view of the Wall.  As we were there eating, along came Elusive.  “Looks like you found a nice spot!” he said, and headed on.  So did we, and kept going till 7:00, when we found a nice campsite.  We are a little bit worried about the weather.  It looks OK right now, but things can change really fast up here.  Elusive, who is ahead of us now, promised me to make a really clear “turn here” sign tomorrow, so when we get to the place where we are supposed to go onto the alternate route, we will know where to turn.  I am praying for decent weather, too!


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