Archive for the ‘Idaho’ Category

Saturday, August 21 Racing the Fire

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

SUMMARY:  The days are getting noticeably shorter—it was a little hard to see the trail this morning. We are still in a gorgeous alpine area, but that also means very rocky trail. After lunch, we began to notice the faint drone of an airplane coming and going.  Not good. Airplanes “hanging around” in wilderness always mean something bad. But what? A couple of hours later, we realized it was a fire, probably a couple of creek drainages over from us. Hmm, not good.  The air was getting smokier and smokier as we hiked along.

At around 4:00pm, we heard a shout behind us “Busted!!!! You guys are baad!” It was another CDT hiker racing down the trail. Turned out the CDT is officially closed, due to the fire, and we didn’t notice the notice. The other hiker (Popeye) DID see the notice and decided to see if he could just run through the “closed zone” before anybody spotted him.  So now we were all racing to get away from the fire, and hoping we don’t get in trouble. Hiked till 8:30pm.

DETAILS:  Even though we camped in a meadow, all our stuff and our tent was DRY this morning–no frost, no dew!  Yay!  But at 5:20, which used to be our “get up” time, it was still so dark that the stars were out.  So we stayed in our sleeping bags till 5:45, when it was still pretty dark, before we started packing up by headlamp.  We figured it would be a tough day on the trail today–the map shows lots of ups and downs, and we already know the terrain is really rocky.   But we really wanted to get in enough miles today to set us up for getting into Sula tomorrow.

Our expectations of tough, rocky trail were all fulfilled.  Sigh.  I feel so bad, because when it is very rocky, I have to slow way down.  I wanted so badly to make lots of miles.  It was frustrating.  Scenery-wise, WOW–continued awesome, alpine, amazing!  We stopped for a Snickers break on the beach at Lower Slag-O-Melt Lake.  It’s called that because there is so much volcanic glass here–many of the rocks have shiny black obsidian-type rock mixed with the regular rock.

There were also several steep climbs to do, and again, I found myself gasping for breath and having to go way slow compared to what I can usually do on uphills.  But on the good side, one of those uphills involved walking along the edge of an “almost-cliff” mountainside, and I was very happy with myself that I could walk right along it OK, and keep a steady pace.  In years past, I literally would have been too scared of the big dropoff to even try to walk it.  And kudos to whoever did the work on that part of the trail!  What an awesome piece of trail engineering!

But in the afternoon, we began to be a bit concerned.  On the other side of the ridge from us, we began to hear the constant drone of a circling airplane.  That is never good in a wilderness area–circling airplanes always mean something bad is happening–it could be a fire, or a lost hiker, or some other trouble.  As we walked farther along, we gradually began to smell smoke and see a bit of haze, so we said to each other–“Oh great!  A fire.”  Looking at our maps, it looked like we would be OK–the CDT trail was going away from where the fire was.

Awhile back on the trail we had come to a sign, dated APRIL 13 (today is August 21) saying that the CDT was closed due to fire.  But at that point, there was no sign of a fire, and the date on the notice was so old, that we walked on by.  But what we didn’t notice, as it turned out, was that at some point there was ANOTHER notice (which we never saw) dated August 17, saying that the trail was closed.

So we just kept innocently hiking into the afternoon.  At 4:00 pm, we had just finished a very long climb and were heading down into the next valley doing some mild grumbling about “PUDs, grrrrrr” and eyeing the ever-growing smoke on the other side of the ridge, when we heard shouting behind us–“Hey!  Fixit!  Hey!”  We turned around to see who it was, and it was a CDT thruhiker (who is from Italy), and he was RUNNING down the trail toward us, yelling “BUUUUUSTED!!!!  Busted!!!!  You guys are so busted!!!!”  He came panting up to us and said, “The trail is closed because of the fire!  You’re not supposed to be here!”  “Huh?” we said.  “We never saw a sign saying trail closed.”  Well, there was one, and Popeye (the Italian) said he DID see the sign and decided to run as much as possible and hike straight through the “closed” zone, hoping that he didn’t get caught.

Well, that was scary news.  The smoke was getting worse, the noise of the plane was constant, and now we had the fun of worrying about being caught in a “closed” zone.  That would mean a big fine and maybe worse.  Popeye took off running again, and we decided, “Let’s push as hard as we can for as long as we can, and see if we can make it out.”  So from that point on, we did not stop, not for a snack, not for dinner, not for anything.  We just pushed it, and yes, even ran a bit where it was safe to do so, running as far away from the fire as we could get.  This included some more steep PUDs, and despite the breathing difficulties for me, I went as fast as possible, praying, “Please, Lord, help me!”

So from 4:00-8:30 pm, we did not stop.  No snack, no dinner, no rest, no anything.  At 8:30 we were still 2 miles from the edge of the “closed zone” but it was starting to get dark and we dared not go any farther.  So we found a flat spot, set up the tent and ate some dinner before bedtime at 9:30, which is way past when we normally call it a day.  But the smoke situation is  better, and we figure that we are safe for the night.  And I am sure that Popeye made it out of the “zone.”  We will, too, tomorrow morning!   And I doubt that any rangers will come along the CDT tonight.   I am very grateful for Popeye’s warning, though, and I did thank God for sending him along to let us know about the situation we were in.

Saturday August 20 Back to Alpine

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

SUMMARY:  We spent the morning doing easy hiking down in the Pioneer Creek valley—there must have been one pioneer who quit, though—we passed a half-finished log cabin. Around 9:00am, we missed a key junction where we should have turned right, and went 1 1/4 miles before we realized our mistake. Grr!

But we got back on track and spent the rest of the day going uphill—gradually at first, then steeper as we got higher, back into a spectacular alpine zone. It has everything a backpacker could want—lots of lakes, wildflowers, meadows, dramatic rocky peaks. The only people here are CDT hikers. We did see another NOBO today, but he’s young and fast, and passed us easily. We are very tired from the steep rocky climbs, but it is so beautiful here!

DETAILS:  Yesterday we were a bit worried about “what if that fog comes back tonight?” so we made sure to camp in a grove of fir trees (they stay dry underneath a lot better than pine trees do!).  But we woke up this morning to clear skies and a bright, almost-full moon.  Because of the moon we were able to pack up and get on the trail sooner, which was good.

Then we had easy walking through meadow and forest to a river crossing, where there was a BRIDGE!  Yay!  I was thinking we’d have to ford it.  Near the bridge we saw a NOBO camped–the first we’ve seen in ages.  He said there were 2 more guys behind him.  I guess we’ve reached another “hiker bubble”?

After the river we went down through a very pretty valley, where we passed a half-finished cabin.  It looked like somebody had got the walls halfway done, then gave up.  A short while later, we stupidly missed a key turn and kept happily hiking along as fast as we could on the very nice trail which even had “CDT footprints.”  We can recognize the distinct footprints of other hikers, and we knew that those footprints were genuine CDT.  But when we stopped for a snack, I looked at the Garmin and said, “Oh no!  We missed the turn!”   Back we went, and when we got to the junction, I added a BUNCH of stuff to the “Hikers!  Turn here!!!!” indicators, which were there, but we’d sailed right past them, trying to walk fast.

The trail then headed up, but not too steeply.  One of the NOBO’s caught up with us (we call him “Kilt Guy” because he hikes in a kilt) just as we were finishing lunch (which was a freezedried dinner we got for Christmas from our daughter.  Chili mac!  Yum!).  From there, it was all uphill on mostly rough and rocky trail.  We met some dayhikers who were out with their very yappy dog (which they were carrying, thank goodness!).

Eventually we reached Rock Island Lakes–very pretty, with a backdrop of impressive, rocky cliffs.  Now we were really climbing, back into alpine country above timberline.  The uphill grew steeper and steeper and the scenery was spectacular, but I had a hard time of it–for some reason I started to have trouble breathing on steep uphills.  I got to the point where I was gasping for breath and had to stop for awhile.  I have never had this problem before–it is weird.

We made it to the top of the climb and began the downhill on steep, rocky trail–slow going.  But there were blazes on the rocks–orange triangles with a dot over them.  There were also some very nice rock causeways going through the swampy areas.  And…there was still some snow, even in August.  The wildflowers are in full bloom, there are dramatic mountain peaks, and lakes tucked into every spot where you could possibly tuck a lake.  I was very surprised we didn’t see any “regular backpackers.”  This seems like prime backpacker country.

By 7:00 pm, we were still up above timberline and had to camp in a meadow.  Oh boy. That means maybe frozen shoes tomorrow morning??  I am very tired, and also frustrated because I had hoped to do more miles, but between all the rock and having trouble breathing, I didn’t do very well.  Wow, this is beautiful country, though!  It would be worth coming back to.

Friday, August 19 Rocky Mountains

Friday, August 19th, 2016

SUMMARY:  Well, we had two new experiences on the Divide today.

  1. This morning, till 11:00am, we were in a cloud that had settled over the mountains overnight. Felt like a summer day back home!
  2. The Divide changed from being a broad grassy or forested ridge to being very rocky and narrow, with a cliff on one side and a steep dropoff on the other.

We even got to climb a “knife edge” type ridge. The weather is much cooler today, which made an ideal day for hiking. The trail in the afternoon took us way down into a very pretty valley, then over a ridge into another one. Wildflowers! Springs! So pretty!

DETAILS:  Even though our get-up time is now 5:40, it was still very dark when we were ready to start hiking.  I could hardly see the trail.  But after a few minutes of hiking, we discovered WHY–it was because we were IN a cloud/fog, in the forest.  Everything was misty, and there was a cold wind blowing.  We finally stopped to eat breakfast (shiver, shiver, brrrr) and hoped for a nice big PUD to climb so that we could get warm!

Eventually we were out of the forest, and oh boy–the Divide had a sheer cliff on one side and a very steep downslope on the other.  And instead of grassy ground, it’s more like a rockpile–impossible to make a trail on, so we were back to “follow the rock cairns” in a bitter cold wind on a very narrow ridge with the big dropoff right next to us.  There were a few very determined, rugged trees clinging to the rocks.

And then surprise! We met Medicare Pastor and Rockstar again!  They are SOBO-iing this section of the CDT!  It was fun to talk to them, but then we really needed to move on.  We found a warm, sunny hollow, out of the wind, where we could have lunch, then it was back to steep climbing up another knife-edge ridge.  The wind continued to be bitter cold, and we were wearing our down jackets even on the uphill!  But the fog/cloud was slowly clearing away and we had more and more blue sky.  Wow, what a scene!  This whole area is so rugged and rocky and impressive!

Finally the CDT headed down, way down, into a very pretty green valley, with springs and lakes and wildflowers.  The trail followed the valley for awhile, then up we went again, over a ridge, and down the other side.  That’s where we are camped now, in a grove of fir trees.  Our feet are sore from the very rocky trail today, but wow, it was so awesome!

Thursday, August 18 Paying Our Respects to Lewis & Clark

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

SUMMARY:  We spent the whole day walking on the Divide, aiming for the famous (if you are into Lewis & Clark) Lemhi Pass, which their expedition correctly identified as the Continental Divide. Near the Pass is an equally famous spring which Lewis & Clark figured was the ultimate source of the Missouri River.  They weren’t correct on that one, but who cares?

We went to that very spring and drank a lot of its cold, great-tasting water, then loaded up with more, because we are facing 25 miles of no water. Groan. Our packs now weigh a ton, with 5 days of food and a lot of water, but it was fun to “hang out with Lewis & Clark” for awhile!

DETAILS: There was a very bright, full moon early this morning, but we still needed to bump our “get up time” to 5:40.  After we’d been hiking for awhile, we had a couple of “animal encounters”.  First there was a herd of elk, and second, there was a young bear.  Fixit spotted the elk herd; I spotted the bear (which was running away as fast as it could).

We pretty much spent the whole day up high, walking on top of the Divide.  This took us through several different kinds of forests, with different kinds of “ground covers.”  One of the forests had many dead or dying trees, which normally would mean everything looking gray, but not here!  The dead tree trunks and branches were covered with neon green lichen, which gave the whole forest a bright green look instead!  When I was a kid, and we were camping in Yosemite, I remember playing with bits of that bright-colored lichen–I liked making little “log cabins” out of twigs, and then making “gardens” around them with the lichen. There were also some very pretty meadows and some very overgrazed pasture (complete with cows).

We were anxious to get to Lemhi Pass, which is famous in the story of Lewis and Clark.  They correctly figured out that it was the Continental Divide, and that meant (on their westbound trip) that they were now headed “downhill” to the Pacific Ocean.  We reached the Pass, and it was really great to know we were walking in the footsteps of history.  There are roads here and there in the Pass area, and at the top, it was a little bit confusing with many different ways to go.  Our goal at that point was the famous spring which Lewis and Clark thought was the ultimate, farthest source of the Missouri River.  They were wrong on that one, but wow, it is a nice spring!  The area around it is sort of like an oasis with a picnic area. The spring itself is fenced, but so much water is flowing out of it that we had no problem filling all our water containers for the 25 mile waterless stretch in front of us.  And there are a couple of rocks placed so that you can stand and “straddle the Missouri”.

First, though, we had to wait for a grandma and grandpa who got there ahead of us.  They are on a road trip, and one of their “passengers” is a stuffed animal owned by their granddaughter.  Every time they come to something noteworthy, they take a picture of the stuffed animal at that very spot, then send the pic to their granddaughter.  So they were posing the animal by the spring and taking pictures of it!  So cute!  We didn’t mind the wait.  Once it was our turn, we not only got our water to carry, but also drank a lot right then and there.  Cold!  Ahhhh!

But we could not linger too long…gotta make miles.  Groan, our packs were heavy when we put them on.  Water WEIGHS!  Looking at our maps, we saw that the trail out of Lemhi Pass was described as “faint and poorly marked.” Fortunately, it turned out that was an obsolete note–the trail was fine, with some occasional rocky stretches.  And it was uphill, too–a big climb out of the Pass.

Tonight we are camped in a forest.  It was hard to find a spot–the ground is all so rocky.  But I was pleased to discover that even with some slow-going steep climbs, plus hanging out at the spring, we still managed to do almost 25 miles.  (24.6, to be exact)

Wednesday, August 17 It’s Another World Here

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

SUMMARY:  The first guy we talked to up on Bannock Pass when we were trying to hitch to Leadore yesterday greeted us with, “Hey, hikers! Welcome to Idaho!” And that’s what it was like for the whole brief time in Leadore—everybody treated us like family. Even the Leadore Inn is basically a mini-motel in the backyard of a house.  Right now, it’s full of CDT thru-hikers.

If you want to, you can go sit on the Inn porch with the locals. Probably at least some of them will openly be “packin’ heat” (carrying a gun). They have not much interest in the news or fashions or any of that. They have their own world here and it’s not fancy, but it’s secure. We got a ride back to the trail from the Inn owner, and found a well graded, well marked CDT! WOW!

SUMMARY:  Last night it was so late by the time we got to our room at the Leadore Inn and we were so tired, that we just went straight to bed without even taking a shower.  Well, we remedied that, first thing this morning.  Man, does it feel good to be clean again!  Then we strolled over to the Stage Stop, hoping to get some breakfast.  They were supposed to be open at 8:30 am, but that time came and went, without any sign of anybody coming to open it up.  So since we were very hungry, we went back across the street to the restaurant, where once again, there was only one lady working, as both waitress and cook.  But since there weren’t very many people, it was OK.

While we were there, we had fun talking to Brazil Nut.  She is from Brazil (hence the name), and she is so strong and so full of energy and very upbeat!  This is her second time through the CDT, this time SOBO.  She’s working on getting a “Double Triple Crown”, where you do all 3 long trails both northbound and southbound.  Wow, she can eat–she ordered and ate TWO entire breakfasts.  But since she does a lot of miles every day, I’m sure she burns off those calories really fast.  She told us that the CDT trail is much improved over the year when she did it before.  “I usually don’t give money to things,” she said.  “But after I did the CDT last time, I gave them money to help fix the trail and put up more signs.  So every time I see nice trail and a new sign, I say ‘That’s my penny!'”

After that we had a race against the clock, trying to get everything done before our checkout time of 11:00 am.  I needed to do our laundry and go to the store to finish up the resupply stuff and then load our food bags.  I didn’t quite make it before 11:00, but the Inn owner was very kind and said, “No worries–I will do your room last.”  Actually, everybody here in Leadville is supernice.  The Inn is actually a house with a sort of mini-motel out back.  If I weren’t in a hurry, I could have joined the locals sitting on the house porch.  They are a colorful bunch.  Among them was one of the guys who were out scouting for their “wood permit” yesterday.  From what I can see, the people here don’t just sit in their house and watch TV…they go over and talk to their neighbors.  Everyone is very laid back and very friendly, and very conservative.  (Funny how so-called “liberal” people are so uptight all the time and so-called “conservative” people are so easy-going)   The owner even said, “I can give you a ride back to the trail at 2:00.”  We told him we’d try to hitch back before then, but if we had no luck, we’d take his offer.

I finished all the chores and we went over to the Stage Stop for lunch, then went to the road and tried to hitch back up to the CDT.  No luck.  None of the cars/trucks coming by were planning to go all the way up there.  So in the end, we did take the 2:00 ride.  The motel owner was planning to meet a CDT hiker who was coming in.

Once we were back on the northbound CDT, we were amazed at how nice the trail was.  It had obviously been worked on recently.  There were switchbacks and contouring, and plenty of marker posts and signs.  Nice!   As we walked by the new signs, I said, “Look!  There’s one of Brazil Nut’s pennies!”  The air is still very smoky.  Down in Leadore, I had asked the locals, “Where’s the fire?” and they just rolled their eyes and said, “There’s a lot of fires.  Not just one.  They’re everywhere.”

The CDT route was still up on the Divide, mostly in forest, with some meadows, too.  There were fences, built “Lincoln Log style.”  Finally we were out in the sagebrush again and admiring the views of deep, dramatic canyons when rain arrived, that lasted for about 45 minutes.  Actually, the rain was a good thing–it got rid of the smoke for a little while.

Tonight we are camped up high, in some trees.  We are both pretty tired–once again, we had less than 24 hours in town.

Tuesday, August 16 LEADORE, Here We Come!

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

SUMMARY:  This morning we decided to make a try at reaching Leadore by tonight—a 24 mile run. On the PCT, that would be no big deal. But the CDT—we didn’t know what would happen. There was a really nice little spring where we used our cups to collect water, and off we went, with lots of walking on top of the Divide on the broad grassy ridges where the pine trees grow in the shape of oak trees and deep, rugged canyons lead off the sides to the valley way below.

We were pushing hard, and the trail was not quite as difficult—we could follow it OK most of the time. Got a ride down to Leadore in the back of a pickup truck, ate dinner, and collapsed!

DETAILS:  From what we could see on our maps, it looked like there would be no water for a long way, so the first thing we did this morning was walk along the CDT for about a 1/2 mile from our campsite to where there was a tiny spring near the trail.  It was still very dark when we got up, and I was a bit worried that it would be too dark to spot the spring, and we might miss it, but no problem–it was easy to see in a meadow.  And it was tiny–we had to get out our cups in order to catch the water.  It was very tasty, cold and fresh.  Nice!

Then we continued along for about 12 miles of hiking on grassy ridgetops with great views.  The pine trees up here are growing in shapes that are more like oak trees.  I could almost imagine that I was back home in California, hiking grassy mountainsides dotted with oak trees.  Along the way, there were numerous survey markers to show where the Montana/Idaho border is located, so of course we had to stop and take pictures:  “Here’s me with one foot in Idaho and one foot in Montana!”.

Those pictures worked, because they were more close up, but I am still bummed at not being able to get any good landscape shots, due to smoke in the air.

Around noon, we came to what looked like a wall of mountains right ahead of us, and wondered “How will we get through that??”  While we were wondering, we came across a very nice spring, hooray!  Out came the water bottles and we made cold, cold “bug juice” and drank about a liter each!  Then we headed for “the wall.”  Surprise!  What we found was very nice, PCT-type trail, that did some switchbacks and contouring on a very nice grade till it was up pretty high, and at that point, instead of rollercoastering, it continued to do nice level contouring.  Amazing!

As we walked along, we were passing deep, narrow canyons that dropped off to the valley below.  Way down there, we could see occasional patches of green where there were irrigated fields.  Up here on the Divide, the plants are all dry except for a few little lupines and a lot of flowers (don’t know their name) which are shaped like small balls.  They start out yellow, then gradually change to orange and red.  Very pretty!  I was glad for better trail, because it gave me a chance to really look at everything without having to come to a complete stop.

Fixit and I were hiking as fast as we could, still hoping to reach Leadore by tonight.  The nice trail was a big help, but occasionally it did cross rock fields, where I slow to a crawl.  I have a wobbly ankle that I don’t trust and I don’t want to sprain it, so while Fixit goes bopping across the rock field, I walk very slowly.  In between the rocky bits, I tried to push as hard as I could.  We’ve heard that the hitch into Leadore from Bannock Pass can be very hard, because the road is so seldom traveled, and I wanted to get there before dark.

I need not have worried.  We were at the road by 5:30.  The way it works is that you can see WAY down the road, and if any car comes along, you can spot it in plenty of time.  It was our dinnertime, so I said to Fixit, “You watch the road while I get out some food.  If you see a car coming, tell me, and we’ll do like Yogi says, “Stand in the middle of the road and MAKE them stop–you may not see another car for hours!”  So we had something to eat, and still no cars.  We waited and waited.  I was beginning to think we’d have to spend the night camped there, when (going the wrong way) along came a pickup truck with a couple of guys.  They said they were planning to get a permit to go in and pick up downed wood, and were on their way out to look for where would be the best place to do that.  “We should be back in a couple of hours,” they said. “If you’re still here, we’ll give you a ride into town.”  OK, then, no worries about how to get to Leadore.

But I still was watching the approach road to the pass, and after awhile, hooray, another pickup truck!  We did the Yogi thing, standing in the middle of the road, to beg for a ride.  The truck was full, passenger-wise, but when we offered to ride in the back, they said “OK.”  So that’s how we got into Leadore.  And actually, though it was pretty chilly riding in the wind back there, the views were incredible.  The road follows a canyon with spectacular rock formations, sort of like Castle Crags in California along I-5.  Beautiful!

It was getting pretty late by the time we reached town.  The first thing we did was head for the Silver Dollar restaurant.  We discovered a whole table of thruhikers there, so joined in.  After we’d placed our order, I left Fixit at the Silver Dollar and walked a few doors down to the Leadore Inn, where I signed us in for their only remaining room.  The Inn owner was surprised at how late I was showing up.  I told him we had to wait quite awhile at the Pass and came in the back of a pickup truck.  He laughed, “Hey, I’ve seen hikers coming in here riding in a BOAT on a trailer!”

Back at the Silver Dollar, we (and all the hikers) ended up having to wait TWO HOURS before our food arrived.  And that was our first introduction to something we would see over and over again in Montana–in many of the restaurants, there is only one waitress, who is ALSO the COOK!  So you have to be prepared to be very patient!  By the time our food came and we ate it and got back to the Inn, it was past 10 pm.  All we could do was collapse, we were so tired.  But it is good to be here!

Monday, August 15 Another Game of Hide and Seek

Monday, August 15th, 2016

SUMMARY:  We are surrounded by magnificent mountains, but no way to get a picture of them because of smoke haze. We made very good time with our hiking till about 10am, and then the CDT decided to play hide and seek again. It went way up onto a broad ridge, using wooden posts and rock cairns to indicate the route, then disappeared. We spent the next 4 1/2 hours searching, bushwhacking, consulting our Garmin GPS (which was a huge help) and studying our maps.

We did make progress, but it was slow. Finally at about 2:30pm, the trail stopped playing games, and settled back down into being a nice clearly marked trail, so in the end we were still able to make our minimum of 20 miles. Grrr, we could have done a lot more if the trail had behaved itself. But the scenery today was glorious, and tonight’s campsite has mountains like a wall on one side, and on the other, it’s sloping to the valley far below.

DETAILS:  The sunrise this morning was very red–there is so much smoke in the air.  Here we are, surrounded by magnificent scenery, and I can’t get any pictures of it because of all the smoke. Sigh.  This morning’s trail was well-posted and well-cared for; we made some good miles, until 10:00 am.  That’s when the route headed out onto the massive ridgetops of the Divide, where it’s basically grass and rocks and a few CDT posts.  A VERY few.  Too few.  We started getting into a pattern of, “Where’s the next post?  Do you see one?”   “No.”  Then we’d stand there looking and looking.  Finally we would give up and get out the Garmin and the maps.  We’d locate the next waypoint and head for it.  The problem was, a lot of those “head for it” adventures involved some steep ups and down and going through bushes.  But each time, we would manage to find the waypoint and (sometimes) a bit of “trail”.

One of the worst of these “where’d the trail go?” challenges was almost unbelievable.  We had found a bit of the trail and were cheering and following it downhill into some trees.  At that point, it totally disappeared, AGAIN.  Well, actually, it turned out, it didn’t disappear–it just made a 90 degree turn to the left.  There was no signpost to show this–no rock cairn, no sticker on a tree, no arrow on the ground made with sticks…nothing.  Somehow we were just supposed to “know” where to go?

Well, out came the maps again, out came the Garmin, and we figured it out, but grrrr, it was frustrating!   All this “fun” continued till 2:30 pm, when we found ourselves once again on marked, clear trail.   Fixit says he likes the adventure of figuring out where to go…I worry about beating the snow to Canada.   But we both agree that we LOVE the Garmin!   Today would have been a nightmare without it.  We would probably have had to bail off the trail and roadwalk into Leadore.

And also, despite the frustration, the scenery up here is awesome.  We have the massive, muscular ridges of the Divide, plus rugged, rocky mountains to look at.  Some of them still have snow lingering on their north slopes.  We passed Morrison Lake–very pretty!! and wondered if the guy we met yesterday made it here OK by his shortcut route.  It was too early to stop and camp, but we did stop and look at the lake.

Tonight we are camped way up high on a ridgetop–wow, the views!!  On one side of us the mountains are like cliffs, rising high, and on the other side, they slope down to the valley far below.  It is gorgeous.  And when I did the math, I was so happy to find we had managed to do our 20 mile minimum after all.  We could have done way much more if we hadn’t lost so much time hunting for the trail.  But if we really push it tomorrow, we should be able to make it in to Leadore.


Sunday, August 14 Ridges and Mountains

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

SUMMARY:  The trail today was a good variety! First we were walking along grassy ridges, following posts. Great views, but a little bit smoky. We were looking a lot at the serious mountains right ahead of us and wondering “How do we ever get through?” Our maps showed very rugged terrain, and the trail was convoluted, trying to wiggle through.

Well, the mountains turned out to be beautiful—rocky cliffs & valleys, lakes, wildflowers, rivers…and we enjoyed the trail. Tonight we are camped in a grove of trees in a little mountain valley, with cows mooing and a creek running. Very peaceful!

DETAILS:  The sky was covered with a thin film of clouds in the morning, and (sigh) the air itself was a bit smoky.  There must be a forest fire somewhere (Yellowstone, maybe?  While we were in Lima, we heard that lightning had started a fire there)  While we were eating breakfast–in the shadow of Mt. Garfield, brrrr– along came a 73-year-old NOBO section hiker.  He told us he had completed the PCT (it took him 7 years) and now he is working on the CDT.  “The CDT is way harder” was his comment.  He was headed for Buffalo Spring, and soon hurried away.

We had plenty of water, so were not concerned about Buffalo Spring, which was a good thing–it turned out to be basically mud & crud.  Yuck.  But for the rest of the morning, off and on, we were leapfrogging with the section hiker guy.  At one point he showed us the very cool Bear map waypoints he has on his phone.  Not only does the app show you which way to go to get to the next waypoint, but it has a picture of what it LOOKS like AT the waypoint, and then it tells you which way to go after that and what to look for.  Pretty amazing!

In the morning, we were up high on grassy ridges with great (though smoky/hazy) views in all directions.  At Bannack Pass, we met two 4-wheeler vehicles who gave us COLD water (nice!) and also showed the section hiker a quicker way to get to Morrison Lake, where he had a resupply waiting for him.  One of the 4-wheeler guys is a local, who grew up around here, fishing, hunting, riding and camping.  He described to me the amazing wildflowers in the spring and the wonderful smell of sagebrush right after a rain.  Wow, nice!

But up ahead of us, there were no more grassy ridges.  Instead, there was a high wall of very impressive-looking mountains.  As we walked towards them, I was thinking, “How will we ever get through there?”  The map said that yes, we would get through–on a very convoluted, twisting trail.  I just hoped we’d be able to follow it OK.

Well, it turned out that the trail was actually pretty good.  There were some uphills, but reasonably graded.  And we used the Ley map to take a shortcut down a canyon, that saved us 3 1/2 miles of official trail.  At the end of the shortcut, to get back to the CDT we had to crawl under a barbed wire fence and ford a creek, but it was worth it, to save over 3 miles!  All through the afternoon, we were hearing rumbles of thunder, and had occasional sprinkles of rain, but nothing more.

After the shortcut, we were walking along a green, rocky river valley, then over a ridge and down into another valley.  And that’s where we are camped now, in a grove of trees, near a creek.  We can hear cows mooing.  The sun has been trying to come out, but not quite making it, so it’s a sort of cloudy sunset tonight.  We feel like it has been a very nice day of hiking!

Saturday, August 13 As the Trail Turns

Saturday, August 13th, 2016

SUMMARY:  We spent a lot of time today trying to stay with the CDT in all its twists and turns. Some we spotted, and the scenario would be “Wait! Stop! The trail went that way!” Then whoever was in front had to do a course correction. But several times we both missed a turn and kept happily heading along a grassy ridge or across a meadow or through the woods, thinking we were on the CDT. Finally we would realize our mistake, and then Garmin GPS to the rescue!

We also had a couple of long, steep hill climbs that wiped us out quite nicely. But in spite of it all, we still managed 24 miles and found a place to camp with a beautiful view of Mt. Garfield.

DETAILS:  Our goal today was to make at least 20 miles, or even 25, if possible.  But the trail had other ideas.  Not too long after we started this morning, we arrived at what looked like nice NEW trail, freshly built, and contouring around the mountain rather than going straight up it and straight down on the other side.  There have been several of these new “contouring” sections, and we thought this was another of them.

So we walked happily along, enjoying the nice trail, until we realized, “Wait a minute–this isn’t going AROUND, it’s going DOWN.”  A check of the Garmin confirmed our concern–the CDT was behind us,  up there on top of the mountain.  So we turned around and walked back up to find the real trail, and finally located it–a faint trace that (of course!) went straight up.  We are still not sure what the nice new downhill trail was all about.

This continued off and on all day.   Several times we were sure we were on the right route, then something would seem “off” and we would stop to look at the Garmin and groan and figure out a way to bushwhack back over to the CDT.  One of our bushwhacks took us down a grassy ridge where a herd of cows got very upset when we showed up and started running down the ridge ahead of us.  We felt really bad about this–I know the ranchers hate it when hikers scare their cows.  Back home, many of the trails go through cow pastures, and the cows there are so used to hikers that they hardly even move at all, even if we are very close to them.  The cows we met today were freaking out when we showed up.

One of our concerns as we came down that ridge was “We have to find water!”  We were just about out of water, and when we got to the creek where we expected to find water, it was dry.  Oh no!  But we kept on going and kept on looking, and finally spotted a spring, up the hill a bit, where we could get water.  Whew!

Finally the CDT left the grassy ridges and went into forest, with lots of ups and downs and twists and turns.  Fixit was hiking ahead of me and he was in what I call “thinking mode” which means he is actually sort of oblivious to what’s going on around him because he is thinking about something.  I’m such a klutz that I have to stay focused on what the trail is doing so I don’t trip & fall, so I have to do my thinking when I am NOT hiking!  Anyway, in one half-hour stretch, THREE times I had to yell and yell to Fixit, “Stop!  Come back!  There’s a junction here!  We have to turn!” because the CDT route had once again done a twisty turn and headed off on another “side” trail, and he didn’t even see it.

Scenery wise, this afternoon was awesome!  We were back in the real mountains, with meadows and creeks and forests.  It was really pretty and really rugged.  The trail was mostly lumpy and rough, too.  I kept thinking about wanting to do at least 20 miles, and getting frustrated, but then I’d try to remind myself to just enjoy the beauty of this place.

Tonight we have a great campsite with a view of Mt. Garfield.  Clouds are building–we might get rain tonight.  Fixit and I are totally wiped out from doing several long, steep climbs, plus all the bushwhacking.  But when I checked the maps, I was amazed and delighted to find that in spite of everything, we still managed to do 24 miles!

Friday, August 12 Wow, Montana-ho!

Friday, August 12th, 2016

SUMMARY:  The Divide Mountains here in Montana-ho (we call it that because we are right on the dividing line between Montana and Idaho) are like no mountains we have ever seen before. They are huge and magnificent. They remind me of ancient sleeping (but powerful) giants, covered with a gold velvet cloth, heavily embroidered in sage green.

And we are literally walking right on top of the Divide, which means lots of big ups and downs. The views in every direction are glorious. We began our hike today just before noon, after being dropped off on the shoulder if I-15, so we had less than 24 hours in Lima. Tonight we are camped on the Divide, with a very colorful sunset.

DETAILS:   We lazed in till 7:30 am (nice, after usually being up at 5:30!) but I needed it because last night I stayed up till 10:15 pm doing our laundry, which REALLY needed to be done!   Our clothes were total filth!  They hadn’t been washed (except for a few sock rinses) for two weeks.  Gross!!  We had a great breakfast, once the restaurant opened, and then I went across the street to a c-store to get more food for our packs.  I was concerned a bit, because every SOBO we have met so far has been grumping and moaning and groaning about the “awful PUDS” between Lima and Leadore.  It’s only 103 miles, and we figured on doing it in 4 easy days, but now I am reconsidering and got enough food to last us generously for 5 days.  When I loaded our food bags, they were heavy.  But we will chew into that!

Mike, the wonderful motel owner, drove us back and dropped us off on the shoulder of the Interstate, where he had picked us up, so we jumped the fence again and headed out on the frontage road.  We walked around 2 1/2 miles, to where our route finally turned away from I-15, and stopped for lunch.   It could have been a very hot day, but there were plenty of clouds to keep us cool.   We followed the second road, as it crossed a big valley and headed up a canyon, then finally there was the CDT, where the trail  wasted no time in going up the first PUD of what did turn out to be many more!

The rest of the day was like riding a rollercoaster, up and down, following a fence line for many miles.  We met two more SOBO’s–Baldur and Half Mile!   We last saw Half Mile in Grants, way back in New Mexico!  He is hiking alone, now–his wife has headed home.  He said that the PUDS get less extreme after awhile.  I thought to myself “Wait till you get to those insane killer steep hills south of I-15!  Talk about extreme!”

I have to say that the scenery up here is magnificent.  The mountains are different from any I have seen before.  There are hardly any trees, and the mountains just look massive and powerful.  The best way I can describe it is to say that I felt as if I were looking at sleeping giants, covered with a velvet cloth of gold (the shimmering, goldbrown grass) that is embroidered in sage green (the sage bushes, which are like traceries on the mountainsides).  Fixit and I stopped at the top of every PUD to catch our breath and just take it all in.  It is so beautiful and so powerful.

Our only concern as of this evening is WATER.  We both left Lima carrying 4 liters, which is a big load for us–we normally don’t take more than 3 each.  It’s been so warm and the hills so steep that we’ve drunk up a lot already, and have 5 miles to go till the next water (hopefully) at a creek.  We are camped way up high on a saddle between two hills, and the sunset is gorgeous–huge clouds all colored red and gold and orange.  We are really starting to feel the pull of Canada–we so want to get there BEFORE the snow does!