Wednesday, September 13 Hiker Carwash & Muddy Feet

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

SUMMARY:  Brrr it was cold for us Californios this morning! (25 degrees). It was hard getting out of a warm sleeping bag. But we were hoping to put a dent in the miles before we reach the highway to East Glacier. The trail climbed slowly higher, with snow getting deeper, up to Badger Pass. All that fresh snow was beautiful, sparkling in the sunshine once the clouds went away, but by mid-day, the trail was turning into slush and mud, impossible to avoid.

Worst of all, on one section, horses had gone through and all the mess they made had frozen solid, making hiking there a nightmare. Finally Fixit and I turned off the CDT onto a shorter alternate with a nice but very overgrown trail, where the wet plants made for miles of “hiker carwash”. Oh well, it was still very pretty following the Little Badger River. We’ve got a great campsite tonight, “cow-approved” and it’s cold!

DETAILS:  Brrrr, it was cold last night!  The condensation that formed inside our tent had turned to ice, so as we were getting up, every time we bumped into a tent wall, we were showered with little flakes of ice.  My shoes were partly frozen (had to bang on them a bit before I could get my foot in), and the wet socks and gaiters I’d laid out to dry were frozen solid.  All that made getting up and getting packed up into a bit more of a challenge!

The temperature was 25 degrees when we started hiking, and the sky was covered with solemn, solid gray clouds.  Fixit and I were wearing all our layers, just trying to stay warm.  The trail was still down in the Strawberry Creek Valley for awhile (though slowly climbing), and the snow which fell last night was all over the plants, but not a problem on the pathway.

But of course, the higher we went, the more the snow, until finally even the trail was buried.  I was glad once again to see footprints, and in some cases, even what I call “trailbreaking” ahead of us.  Finally the sun came out, and the fresh snow was sparkling everywhere.  We entered a burn zone, where there were no tree branches to help minimize the snow, and at that point, the trail became VERY buried.  Hooray for whoever was ahead of us; he just plowed on through, which made it a lot easier for us!

At the top of Badger Pass, I held a “mini-celebration”–we officially began to hike our LAST Bear Survey Map.  We had decided, in view of the fact that it’s mid-September, and we’ve already been snowed on several times, that our wisest course of action will be to roadwalk from East Glacier to the border.  So this Bear map will be our last trail map.  I asked Fixit to take my picture at the top of the pass, holding the map (and surrounded by snow).  I thought I was smiling when he took the picture, but looking at it afterwards, I thought “Oh dear, I look awfully grim.”  I guess I was just too tired for a proper smile.  Oh well.

So now we were on a “run for the road” and took off from the summit very eagerly.  But oh no!  Only a short distance along, and we got into a total mess.  We weren’t lost–the trail itself became a horrendous lumpy, icy horror.  Apparently yesterday, during or just after the snow fell, a large group of horseback riders had come in from a side trail.  The horses had left many deep tracks in the slush, and during the night it had frozen solid.  So we were faced with a surface of solid ice that was almost impossible to walk on because of all the holes.  And we could not go along the edge of the trail, because it was a “raised bed” trail, and there were no sides to walk on.  So Fixit and I gingerly slipped and slid and did our best.  After only 15 minutes of this, I was exhausted and fervently hoped things would improve.  (Afterwards, talking to other hikers, we found that everybody had a really rough time on “the horse trail in the ice”!)

But what else could we do–we had no choice but to keep going, and we did.  And hooray, finally at Beaver Lake, the horses kept going straight ahead, while the CDT headed off to the side.  Whew!  Now the only problem was that because the sun was out, the ice and snow were melting, and the trail had turned into a sort of slushy brown pudding, with very few ways to avoid getting mud all over our shoes.   Once again, oh well.  Suck it up!

At lunchtime, we found a sunny, somewhat dry spot to stop and eat.  Elusive stopped by for a few minutes.  He and Fixit are the two oldest CDT hikers this year, and we really enjoy talking to him.  We just wish he wouldn’t blow off the realization that God really loves him and cares about his situation.  He’s very much a “can-do” guy, but there are limits to “can-do” and its variant “me do”.   And neither can-do or me do can fix what a friend of ours calls “the howling wilderness of our inner self” where only God’s peace and forgiveness and holiness can change the whole terrain.

Awhile after lunch, we reached the turnoff onto a Ley alternate trail that provides an easier and shorter route to Marias Pass.  We left the slush and snow behind, and found ourselves instead in what’s called a “hiker carwash”–lots of wet bushes and plants hanging over the trail, which we had to push our way through.  We stopped and put on our raingear, and I got to yell, “Hey bear!  Hikers coming through!” almost continually as we shoved our way along.

Finally we were down in the Little Badger River valley, and stopped for dinner in a very comfortable, soft grassy sunpatch by the river.  It felt so good to be warm again, and there was a beautiful view.  We looked back at the snowy mountaintops and thought, “We were just up there!”  All around us were aspen trees, turning yellow and gold.  Beautiful!

A little while later, we reached and crossed the Badger River, then our alternate route turned and headed back toward the CDT.  We found a nice campsite up above the trail which was cow-approved (had to kick an awful lot of dry cow pies away before we could set up our tent).  We find that the cows are not stupid about where they choose to hang out, and we just have to do some cleanup before we can set up.  We were under a nice grove of trees (always a good thing), and the ground was flat.

But there was a sort of bit of sadness, too, knowing that this is it–our very last campsite on TRAIL.  Tomorrow morning we will be back on the CDT, and then by sometime in the afternoon, we’ll be at the highway.  We figure on roadwalking to East Glacier, then send our resupply box home (we won’t need it), and head for Canada.  So the end is in sight.  I am glad, but I am sad.  The thought of going home soon is so wonderful, but the trail is so beautiful.  I will just try to savor every moment that is left.


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