Wednesday–June 22, 2005
Location–Kootenai Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana
A twelve hour bus ride to Fargo, a fourteen hour train ride to East Glacier Park, then today, a four hour shuttle ride to Waterton Townsite, Canada, and I’m on my way south on the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail a little before four.
Waterton Lake is a special place, framed around by mountains. I get a few pictures, but hurry along to the border at Goat Haunt. The ranger/customs station closes at five-thirty, but even though I don’t arrive until seven, ranger Zach Dylong kindly checks me through. I reach my designated campsite a little after eight. It rains all night.
Thursday–June 23, 2005
Location–Elizabeth Lake Campsite, GNP
The hike today takes me over Stony Indian Pass, a climb of nearly half a mile–then back down. The day is perfectly clear, just a light breeze.
Take pictures of some amazing scenery. The snowmelt is swelling the streams and waterfalls. A great day; I’m beat.
Friday–June 24, 2005
Location–Many Glacier Village/Campground, GNP
Another perfect day, another climb, close to a half mile up, over and down Red Gap Pass. More amazing mountains. Saw six mountain goats on the cliffs above Red Gap. Late evening getting into Many Glacier. This trail is kicking my butt.
Saturday–June 25, 2005
Location–Reynolds Creek Campground, GNP
A long day yesterday. It was late when I arrived at Many Glacier Village. Got on the phone, took a shower, then went for supper at the Swiftcurrent Restaurant. All my CDT friends have told me about the great pizza, but I went for the spaghetti. Got a good night’s rest. Feel a lot better this morning.
The climb today, from five thousand feet here at Many Glacier, will take me up and over Piegan Pass, at over seventy five hundred feet. The day starts and stays iffy, rain off and on up and over. When the sun breaks through to shine on the snow-covered peaks, it’s a sight to behold. Lots more good pictures, I hope. Make good time descending Piegan and arrive at the campground (two primitive sites) at four. Time to soak my tired, sore feet in Reynolds Creek. More rain this evening.
Sunday–June 26, 2005
Location–Atlantic Creek Campground, GNP
One long, tough day ahead, up and over Triple Divide Pass at eight thousand feet. Vertical ascent and descent of half a mile both ways–and this a 24 mile day.
It has rained all night and it’s still drizzling this morning. The day will be cold and dark. I’m out and moving by seven.
High wind and pepper-sized sleet at the Pass. No views today. I stumble off the mountain to Atlantic Creek. It’s very cold–and still raining. Set up my tent and roll in. Don’t eat supper or hang my food bag until after dark.
Two fellows I passed on the climb saw a huge Grizzly just after I passed them. Guess the old fellow was hiding from me. Sure was an exciting story to listen to in camp.
Monday–June 27, 2005
Location–Two Medicine Campground, GNP
Another climb today, from five thousand feet here at Atlantic Creek, to over seventy five hundred at Pitamakin Pass. The rain returns as I ascend into the clouds–and the snow-covered trail, two to three feet in places for nearly a mile. Cold and eerie up here; plenty of wind to go around too. The climb isn’t as difficult as on previous days. My legs are much stronger now and I’m getting used to the thin air.
Make good time dropping down through the glacial hanging valley, past the waterfalls roaring with snowmelt. Nothing to see here in the clouds, just the sound of the falls.
The rain is coming in again as I reach Two Medicine. All my gear is wet so I decide to take the shuttle down to East Glacier Park and get a bunk at the hostel. Good decision; it pours all evening and into the night.
I’m in the sack by nine, snug, warm and dry.
Tuesday–June 28, 2005
Location–East Glacier Park, MT
The day dawns clear. A blessing. But I know the trail will be pure mud before and after the rocks. Take the shuttle back to Two Medicine at eight and I’m on the trail, up, up, up again, by nine. Climbing is getting easier with each passing day. Today it’s sunny again, the scenery absolutely breathtaking. At Scenic Point, I’m headed out of the sharptops that are Glacier; behind me are the snow-shrouded peaks, to the east, the Great Plains to the far horizon. And south? South looms the massive complex of snow tops known as “The Bob,” Bob Marshall Wilderness, where I’ll be spending the next week or two.
After four miles of ankle-deep mud, churned up by the rain–and the horses, I’m back in East Glacier Park.
Saw no bears, but had the joy of observing mountain goats in the rocky cliffs above Stony Indian Pass. Also saw deer, moose, marmots, a marten and lots of birds.
Stopped at the magnificent Glacier Park Lodge for a cold frosty. Ahh, don’t get no better’n this!
Wednesday–June 29, 2005
Location–TR101/TR136 Bob Marshall Wilderness
Sure glad to be back in East Glacier again last night; more rain, hard at times. I was in one of the little cabins at Backpacker Inn, owned and managed by Pat and Renee Schur of Serrano’s Mexican Restaurant. They have been very kind to this old man, letting me leave my bounce box there. The Inn is neat and clean and the food is very good. Thanks, dear friends, I hate to leave East Glacier Park.
Decided to do a roadwalk for the first ten miles today. Nomad (no relation!), who went through south of the Lodge said the mud was just as bad or worse than coming in from the north. Had enough mud yesterday to last me this entire odyssey–so it’s a roadwalk to get out of here.
Near Marias Pass, there’s a trailhead that leads hikers into the Bob Marshall Wilderness. I turn from the roadwalk there–to find more mud churned up by horses, but I’m soon out of the worst of it.
Use my GPS for the first time this afternoon. It’s slick. Will tell me where I’m at within a few feet. So, if I come to an intersection in the trail and am not sure where I’m at, out comes the GPS. Took a little of the old-dog-new-trick thing, but I think I’ve got it.
A great day for hiking. Make camp around six, get a warm, cooking fire going with some liter wood. Have a good warm meal and roll in.
Thursday–June 30, 2005
Another fine day for hiking, cool and clear. The treadway is another thing entirely though. Mud, mud, and more mud, churned to ankle-deep mush by horse traffic. Horses can mess up an otherwise fine trail, big time, and the trail (through the green tunnel) is one fine mess.
This is the first day I’ve hiked without seeing anyone, no hikers, no fishermen, no horseyback riders. Got the “Bob” all to myself.
Lots of little trickles all along to fetch water. Meltoff from the snowpack, especially if there’s a trickle right below the snowfield, is the greenest-blue, ice-cold drink ever. I should treat this water? Ha! Haven’t had to treat any of my water yet.
Friday–July 1, 2005
Location–Round Park at Open Creek
Mouse chewed both tiedowns off my tent last night. Didn’t hear a thing. When I sat up this morning the whole thing collapsed on me. I’ll be able to fix it. A little line, which I have, and it’s good as new.
Another beautiful clear, cool day. Met a trail work crew this morning. They said the weather should hold through tomorrow, so I decide to take a little longer route, about 11 miles further, so I’ll get to see both the North Wall and the Chinese Wall. Was that ever the right decision! Saw four goats on the cliffs that form the North Wall today. Staggering heights. The little kid kept running ahead of momma. Nanny couldn’t catch him. Also saw two mule deer and numerous white tail. The North Wall is one spectacular place. Glad I took the long way around–well worth it. Should have good weather again tomorrow for good views of the Chinese Wall.
I think I’ll have enough food to get to Rogers Pass and the hitch to Lincoln. The hike is going just great.
Saturday–July 2, 2005
Location–Below Spotted Bear Pass
A hard, stiff climb above seven thousand feet today, to get up and into the Chinese Wall. But what a gorgeous day for viewing this very special place. I have it all to myself. Picture taking time for sure. No goats here but lots of deer, marmot and a variety of colorful birds. Jonathan’s maps and my GPS are really helping me along. I can pinpoint where I’m at most anytime I like. I’m in the wilderness, yes, but the trails here in the Bob Marshall Wilderness are well marked and maintained. Find a just fine place for the nite, right by a rushing whitewater brook, brink-full with meltoff. Oh, the weather can be very fickle. Hiked through some light sleet coming out of the Wall.
I’m out of the Bob Marshall and into the Scapegoat Wilderness now.
Sunday–July 3, 2005
Location–Benchmark Campground +
Don’t know how long the rain lasted last night; I went right to sleep.
The hike today is pretty flat compared to recent days and I make good time. Pack trains of horses and many hikers heading up to the Chinese Wall. Sure glad I went through there yesterday.
Actually, since leaving Glacier National Park, where one must stay at assigned campsites, I’ve been hiking longer days. My tentative itinerary was set up very conservatively, and I expect to move south faster than is shown on that schedule. So, I’m in Benchmark today instead of the 4th, because I’ve been steadily chipping away at the mileage for the upcoming day, and today being a short day into Benchmark I picked up a day. Actually, I’ve picked up two days, as I’ve got enough food to hike on to Rogers Pass, skipping the day in and back to Augusta. I believe this will be the longest stretch I’ve ever hiked without resupply, seven days and over 170 miles.
Supper’s cooked, chores done, time to roll in.
Monday–July 4, 2005
Another fine day on the Divide. Met a young trail maintainer, Chris. His folks live in Newfoundland. Got on the wrong trail today for about two hours, for hikers only, straight up and straight down. But the horses have been here, somehow. It’s absolutely amazing where horses can go. They’re like mountain goats up here. Hiked hard, a long day. Happy Birthday, America!
Today I need to get off the mountain and into town, to Lincoln, for resupply. After lunch today I’ve got one English muffin and two spoons of peanut butter left, that’s it.
The day goes fine until I head up the mountain from Lewis and Clark Pass. My maps are working. My GPS is working. My compass is working. But my dizzy skull isn’t with it today.
The trail, what there is of it is overgrown, with poor or ripped up signage. I get off the Divide and onto the wrong ridge. I knew I wasn’t going the right way, heading west when I should have been going southeast, but I kept going just the same. By four, I was clear off Jonathan’s map, nowhere near Rogers Pass, so I baled.
Down the mountain I tumbled, along abandoned logging roads, finally to reach the gravel road leading to the Ranger cabin below L&C Pass. Figured I’d hitch to Lincoln. No vehicles out here though. No luck. It was dark by the time I reached the highway to Lincoln. No shoulder; dangerous, but I hiked on until I came by a well-lit place, Nabors Drilling, Ltd. I headed over. The door was open and I was invited in by Shawn, one of the drillers. “Take off your pack and have a seat,” he said. After exchanging the usual, he asked, “Are you hungry.” Well, the old Yogi in me kicked right in, don’t you know! In a moment we were in the kitchen and Shawn had a platter of hot chicken and a huge bowl of pasta sitting in front of me. He let me pitch in the grass behind.
Ahh, so the day worked out okay.
No perfect hike anymore. The section of the CDT between Lewis and Clark Pass and Rogers Pass will forever remain unfinished–wherever it is.
This trail has many acceptable alternate routes though; I’ll use the roadwalk into Lincoln as mine.
Wednesday–July 6, 2005
Location–Near Granite Butte Lookout Tower
What a great time during the Lincoln diversion.
This morning, Shawn arranged a ride the remaining seven miles into town with two of his roughnecks, Jason and Ritchie–but not before I was offered a full breakfast platter by the camp cook. Sausage, potatoes and scrambled eggs with cheese and a muffin. Oh, and brimming cups of hot coffee.
Also had a great talk with Fraser, who’s folks live in Newfoundland. He’s training for an ultra long-distance crosscountry race.
In town, the school is open. They’re getting ready for fall. Was hoping the boy’s locker room might be available so I could shower and get some grit rinsed out of my clothes. Met two happy folks, Kathy, the superintendent, and Carla the principal. They said yes–and provided me a towel!
What a stroke of luck–that I decided to put my hiking garb on (shorts and gaiters) rather than my town pants, because at the Welcome Gas Station a lady approached me to enquired if I were a long distance hiker–seeing me in hiking garb, pack, sticks and all. After some reluctant (and expected) hesitation, Joni loaded me up, then drove me the seventeen miles back to the Pass. What luck!
Got in twelve miles before sundown.
Thursday–July 7, 2005
Lots of tough climbs and descents today. Another butt-kickin’ for the old Nomad. There are still patches of snow along the trail at higher elevations. I love snow cones. This sleet-consistency snow is just like that used to make snow cones. I break the crust away, make a snowball and then munch it until my hands get too cold to bobble it any longer.
Saw the biggest, midnight black (huge) moose. The encounter startled him more than it did me.
Got lost as usual in the high meadows. You’d think it’d be easy enough to tell which ridge was the Divide, but it’s not. Sure am wising up, though.
Another glorious day in the high country!
Friday–July 8, 2005
Lots of old mines and diggings along today. The ravines out here are called gulches. First there’s Faith Gulch, then Hope and finally–Charity. Interesting FS road numbers, like 1856, 1859.
Missed a turn–again. Cost me a mile out and a mile back.
Had a problem getting a hitch to Ellison. US8 is straight-ahead four-lane, traffic flying. Everybody ripping along at eighty, no way to stop if they wanted. After walking most of the five miles to town, a fellow finally locks it up and skids to the shoulder.
Not much in Ellison, Last Chance Saloon and Motel. That’s about it. Kind folks at the bar. Jack buys me two burgers and fries. The little four-room motel is booked up, so I decide to head back to the Pass. Ed, one of the bar customers, drives me up.
Good folks in Ellison.
Another fine day along the Great Divide.
Saturday–July 9, 2005
Location–Near Blackfoot Meadow
Slept well in the campground below the communication towers at McDonald Pass.
Kind of an iffy day again, wind and clouds, but oh what a welcome change from the heat of yesterday. Got blisters on my hands from the sun.
Just a nice steady hike today, a few ups, a few rocks, a few downs. Got lost a couple of times as usual, mainly in the meadows where the cow paths mingle with the CDT treadway, which is usually much less worn than the cow paths.
More mining prospects and large pits. Also the remnants of old log buildings that made the mining camps.
Rained on me off and on, but the evening turned out fine. Got a nice cooking and heating fire going to fix my supper and relax awhile before rolling in.
Sunday–July 10, 2005
Location–Near Four Corners
Another fairly flat day as go the ups and downs, but plenty of rocks. The CDT spends more time off the Divide than on today, so have no problem finding water. When the trail keeps with the Divide, there’s no water for miles, not the case today.
Saw a heard of fifteen mule deer. They seemed more curious than frightened, but caution finally overruled and they all fled to the timber.
Saw two folks on mountain bikes. That was it all day.
Intermittent rain in the afternoon and evening. Beautiful sunset.
Having a fuss of a time with my right knee. Persistent but tolerable pain. Have doubled up on the Osteo Bi-Flex and coated aspirin. Been through this before. A few more miles and it’ll all smooth out.
Monday–July 11, 2005
Decision made way back was to take the Anaconda cutoff, thus lopping off a big loop in the Divide around Butte.
The time off in town is so very much welcome. This is the first motel I’ve stayed at since beginning this odyssey. A welcome break, indeed. A short roadwalk into town and the hike today is completed by noon.
Met Eric and Doug at the post office. They’ve hiked from Old Faithful north. When they finish in Canada, plans are to flip back to Old Faithful, then head south to finish their hike at the Mexican border. Timing is such that we may meet up again. Hope so–nice fellows.
Get a room downtown at the Marcus Daily. Post office isn’t 100 yds. away. Ditto for the library–but alas, it’s closed due to budget constraints. Looks like the city fathers didn’t get their way–“Okay folks, you’ll just have to do without your library for awhile!”
Hit the jackpot with mail. Lots of cards, my bounce box, and other well wishes from friends.
A good day to rest. Be back on the top of the ridge again tomorrow.
Tuesday–July 12, 2005
Great stay in Anaconda, first motel this trip. Thanks to all for your cards and letters, your thoughtfulness.
Lots more pictures to send to Justin, my Webmaster. They include some great shots of the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness areas–also the Lewis and Clark, Helena, and Deerlodge National Forests. I’m starting to get the hang of digital photography. It’s sure a lot easier getting the pictures off for loading on my Website, just pull the memory card and mail it, then pop in the one Justin has returned.
I’ve a roadwalk all the way up to Storm Lake, where I’ll enter the Anaconda/Pintler Wilderness tomorrow after a final climb to the Divide.
There’s a great spring at Spring Mountain, just when I’m running low on water. Lots of folks stop to fill their water jugs.
My right knee is very troublesome; the pain is steady. Seeing the little cinnamon/brown bear along the final pop to Storm Lake takes my mind off the knee.
Storm Lake is a natural lake, enhanced and enlarged by a dam. It is a very lovely place.
It’s late evening when I pitch, to build a skeeter foggin’ fire. I warm the rest of my four-dollar chicken dinner from the Safeway Deli, then I’m gone for the day.
Wednesday–July 13, 2005
Storm Lake lived up to its name this morning. A thunderstorm came through just before dawn to wake me. I pulled the fly down on my tent and turned right back over for another hour of sleep. When I awoke again, the sun was up–the storm gone.
Lots of climbing today, steep stuff as the trail goes from pass to glacial valley and back to pass again–elevation changes in excess of a quarter mile each time.
My right knee continues very much a problem, slowing my pace considerably. The downhills are excruciating. Popping the coated aspirin helps. 2400mg gives some relief. No way I’ll be in Wisdom Friday at this pace.
I do manage to make it to Warren Lake. Sure hope I can do better tomorrow.
Thursday–July 14, 2005
Location–Near Buck Ridge Meadows
Another painful and frustrating day with the right knee. No less than 5600 feet vertical change with some of the gnarliest tread I’ve encountered in a long time. Up or down today; that’s about it. Glorious unspoiled scenery–and a continual fog of skeeters, right through the heat of the afternoon. The Pintler is all mine today, no one else out here.
No way of making it to Chief Joseph Pass tomorrow, it’s just too far, even with good knees. I set too rigorous a schedule through here. Perhaps I can get in around noon Saturday.
Saw sixteen elk in a single herd, and lots of little fellows, like marmots and squirrel.
Another beautiful day, in spite of the constant swarm of skeeters. A lot of soggy wood on the fire tonight–smoke ’em away.
Friday–July 15, 2005
Location–Below Chief Joseph Pass
I’ve been continually blessed with perfect weather, and today the good fortune continues. Continues also, the sore, painful right knee. Stopping for only a moment, to take a drink or to snap a picture, and it’s back to a pathetic hobble again for another fifty yards. Perhaps there is some improvement though, as I’ve been able to reduce my intake of coated aspirin. Wow, have my ears ever been ringing–overdosed for sure.
The entire mountainside all around has burned, part of the ’98 fire that devastated so much of the Rockies. Hot, dry, powder dirt–and rocks, lots of rocks. Should I want to look around, I’ve got to stop, or risk stumbling and doing a header straight down.
A rumbling in the distance this afternoon, like a truck engine, a low-pitched grind. But there are no roads out here within thirty miles. What gives? Then I see their heads moving just over the crest of the ridge. Elk, lots and lots of elk–and they’re moving fast, single file. I count at least forty, some with huge racks. In a minute they’re gone. Nothing left but a cloud of dust.
Some of the treadway the CDT follows through these Wilderness and National Forest areas is well maintained, the blowdowns cleared, signage good at intersections–but some not. Not is the scheme today, a scramble over, under, around and through blowdowns. I’m covered with soot and dirt. At almost every junction I must stop and take a GPS bearing for fear of wandering off in the wrong direction. Still manage to get lost much too often, but manage to find my way back.
A lot of the tread today is above 8,000 feet. Snow cone time–at least the slushy part. There’s just nothing feels better to a hot parched throat than snowfield slush, nothing!
Carried an extra day’s food just in case. Smart move. Another smoker fire for sure tonight, to keep the skeeter swarm circling at a distance.
Saturday–July 16, 2005
Got off trail again late yesterday. Went down Elk Creek drainage instead of Hogan Creek. Everything clicked on the map, so I hadn’t taken a GPS bearing for quite awhile. This morning I do. What is this? I’m nowhere near where I should be. Too far south and east of Chief Joseph Pass. How do I keep doing these stupid off-trails anyway! Same thing happened the day I was to hitch to Lincoln. What a screw up that day turned out to be.
Okay, mister great explorer, now what! Oh, and you’re out of food, guy.
Checking the map–there’s Chief Joseph Pass. There’s Wisdom–and according to my GPS, there’s me, right in between. Turns out, the road leading down from Elk Creek intersects the main road to Wisdom. Time for another one of Nimblewill’s alternate routes, seems. Longer, of course (aren’t they always!) Oh yeah, I head for the Wisdom highway.
A half hour wait with thumb extended and I’ve got a ride with a former BLM fellow. Even make it to the PO before it closes to get a surprise package from dear friend, Jingle.
I hobble around town, have lunch, then check into the little local motel.
Not a bad day after all. A time to rest and a total cleanup will sure feel good before heading back up the mountain tomorrow.
Sunday–July 17, 2005
Location–Pioneer Creek below Big Hole Pass
Great time in Wisdom. Met all good people–at both cafes, and especially Tina, owner and manager of the little Sandman Motel. Tina let me make credit card calls on her personal phone. Then this morning, she drives me the near 30 miles back up to Chief Joseph Pass and I managed to get hiking by ten.
Today, on the Divide, I step back and forth between Montana and Idaho. Run into a scout group from Minot, North Dakota out for sixty miles of the Bitterroots.
As usual, I manage to get lost, just past the turn to one of the few springs. The trail just disappears in a meadow. I search for over half an hour, up and down, back and forth–no luck. Finally bushwhack two miles to the next pass where I know the trail will be.
It’s been only a 17-mile day, but it’s nearly dark before I arrived at Big Hole Pass, and Pioneer Creek below. Lots of elk and whitetail today.
Monday–July 18, 2005
More beautiful weather. Have I been blessed with the weather! While everyone in the rest of the country is enduring the sweltering heat, I’m up here in the cool, clear air. Slept in, again. Don’t get out till 8:30, not good.
Knee pain is steady, no better, no worse, but it’s really wearing on me. Having difficulty maintaining a meager average of mile-and-a-half per hour, but I manage to keep plodding along. Hiking like this is not fun. I know, though, that the knee will get better with time, and I find comfort in that thought.
Experience one of the toughest pulls (climbs) ever today. It just keeps coming; up, up, up. Had to dig my sticks in just to maintain footing. Total ascent of 1500 feet.
I’m in the Beaverhead National Forest, the Bitterroot Mountains. Rugged, rugged place. Sure hope these ups and downs taper off a little soon.
Pass lots of old prospect sites today, ruins of old cabins and building sinking into the earth.
Slag-A-Melt Lakes are high-held, glacial lakes, with the rugged saw-toothed mountain ridges their reflected backdrop.
I brave a swim in the cold water, then let the warm afternoon sun dry and warm me.
Tuesday–July 19, 2005
Out to a good start at eight, another big blue Montana sky.
Today it’s another bumpy ride, lots of climbing, from one glacial hanging valley with its high-held lake, back up to another pass–and on and on it goes for the day.
See three other folks today. Stanley had just parked his quad-trac and was heading for Black Island Lake with his casting rod. Also talked to Dallas and his son from Butte. He’s a minister. Said a prayer for me (for my leg, actually).
Managed to stay on trail the whole day. Nice new treadway to begin with, then old unmaintained, overgrown tread with blowdowns every 50 yds. Some of the ascents and descents are extreme. Took two tumbles but none the worse for wear. Sure could have done without the thousand-foot climb right near the end of the day. Knee still the same. If I stop for more than a moment I have one tough time getting going again.
Very tired. Pitch camp. Get a cooking and fogging fire going. I declare, I don’t believe I’ve ever been so bothered by the pesky skeeters. They punch right through my clothing, even my hat.
Wednesday–July 20, 2005
Great day for hiking the CDT, another blue Montana sky. Got a roadwalk all the way to Cowbone Lake. Well, actually most of the road is for quad-tracs or other high clearance vehicles, but what a change from the last week of ups and downs. Have a short pull toward the end of the day, but nothing like the recent climbs.
More elk today, and lots of whitetail. Forgot to mention the huge old gray moose that crossed my trail yesterday.
Cowbone Lake is a lovely spot, get in early–by five. Take a swim and wash some grungy clothes.
Northbound hikers, Kevin and Adrian come in around five-thirty.
Enjoyable evening, enjoyable day.
Thursday–July 21, 2005
What a great evening last with Kevin and Adrian. Had a good cooking and fogging fire going and we had some really fine conversation. Oh, and Adrian doctored my knee with some natural salve she’d made herself. Oh yes, a great evening.
Another beautiful Montana day to enjoy. First order is to bushwhack up to the Divide from Cowbone Lake. There is no trail. Kevin and Adrian came down from there yesterday evening, so I’m not so apprehensive about the climb after talking to them about it.
I make it fine and am on my way again along the Continental Divide, which, here, separates Montana and Idaho.
The exciting thing today, and the occasion of which I’ve been anxiously awaiting is reaching Lemhi Pass/Sacagawea Memorial Spring, for it was August 9th last that I crossed Lemhi Pass on my hike to the Pacific, o’er the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. I reach Lemhi Pass by seven-thirty.
No improvement in the knee today, even though the hike along the Divide was an easy day for a change. I think it took nearly a month for my left knee to come back in ’98. Just have to be patient and pray it heals okay.
Friday–July 22, 2005
Sacagawea Memorial Spring is a very special place, so much meaning and importance in the history of the American Northwest–and to me, especially. The cold, refreshing water flowing from the spring is just as I remember from the past. I enjoyed the picnic area, cooked my supper on the grill there, then pitched back away from the Memorial area.
Today dawns cool and clear and I manage to get up, break camp and get moving by seven-thirty. It’s a long haul from Lemhi Pass to Bannock Pass, the signs say 28 miles, my maps, 25, either way, with a little luck I’ll make it in time to hitch a ride down the 15 miles to the little village of Leadore, Idaho.
The Trail follows the Divide mostly today, more ups and downs to contend with. The views to the east and west are to the horizon. Legions of mountains, especially to the west. One can only wonder as to the thoughts that occupied Captain Lewis when he saw them. Had he previously doubted the existence of a Northwest Passage, he for sure knew as he stood in Lemhi Pass, looking at the unbroken wall of mountains to the west–there was no Northwest Passage.
I manage to make very good time in spite of my hobbling along; get off trail only once for less than ten minutes, and manage to reach Bannock Pass before seven–with thunder and lightning crashing and flashing around me. As I wait here, I can see the gravel road coming from the east that leads over the Pass for at least a distance of five miles. There is no movement on the road, no telltale dust to indicate a vehicle is coming. In forty minutes, two trucks with trailers hauling loads of the slim and straight lodgepole pine go by. No luck. Guess their boss told them, “no riders.” Finally, just before eight, Laura, from near Leadore, and hauling a mare in the back of her pickup from Dillon, stops for me and I’m on my way to Leadore.
A steak and baked potato at the Silver Dollar and a spot at the little four-room Leadore Inn and I’m in by nine-thirty. It’s been a long, hard, but rewarding day.
Saturday–July 23, 2005
Location–Water tank near Poison Creek
Friends who’ve hiked the CDT have told me about the great trail town, Leadore. Jingle says it was her favorite. I can certainly see why–friendly, kind, happy and generous folks all. Aleta, owner and operator of Sandman Motel for over forty years took me in–and took time to do some heavy-duty sewing for me on her commercial machine. Debbie, at the Sagebrush Cafe really caters to hikers; great grub (extra heapings for hikers), and free milkshake! Marynell at the PO was very patient with me, helped me get some things boxed to send home–very kind.
Becky at the Silver Dollar Bar and Cafe greeted me when I arrived town, bright smile and a welcome, Hello! Super steak and baked potato. She got me set up with Aleta at the motel.
At my beckon call, Aleta drops everything and drives me the gravel road back up to Bannock Pass. Thanks, dear friends in Leadore. You have made my stay in your little village most memorable.
I’m on the trail again by 2:30. I’ve a roadwalk along the Great Divide. Wide open views to the eastern prairie, the wall of massifs to the west. Saw a big pair of pronghorns right on the Divide. The headwaters of Missouri actually begin somewhere along here.
I’m hiking with one foot in the Salmon NF in Idaho, and the other in the Beaverhead NF in Montana. Manage to get to the first water tank near Poison Creek. Good water. I find thirty-five to forty elk loitering at my campsite. There’s an entire rick of firewood cut and stacked. Skeeters are vicious, as usual. My knee remains the same. Hear the elk off and on all night.
Sunday–July 24, 2005
Clear, cool day. On the Divide all morning. Meet Porter from Montana. He’s section hiking north. Turns out to be a long day, short miles. Got a pebble in my shoe late morning. Wish I could remember who said this—I believe it was Robert Service. I’ll paraphrase: “It not the mountain your climbing that’ll wear you down–it’s the pebble in your shoe.” Early afternoon, finally had to stop and dump the pebble!
What a demanding day. Climb, climb, skid, skid. Oh yes, another old familiar phrase, this one perhaps anonymous: “Thank you, Lord, for the level ground. Oh thank you, Lord, for the level ground. Yes, thank you, Lord, for the level ground–’cause everything else is up or down.” Labored up and down to (and from) over nine thousand feet.
On the open Divide the trail disappears in the meadows. I get lost frequently, then find my way again. Camped at eight thousand feet. Many more elk today.
Very tired. Knee persists a problem.
Good water at Meadow Creek. Perhaps this little trickle is the true headwaters of the Missouri.
Monday–July 25, 2005
Location–South of Deadman Lake
More blue Montana (and Idaho) skies. Still hiking the boundary between Montana and Idaho. The trail will soon turn from generally south-southwest to east, then northeast as the Divide changes direction. The trail follows the Divide, so I’ll go that way.
See many more elk today–and cows, lots of cows.
With the problem I’ve been having with my knee, I decide not to do the horseshoe loop around Nicholia/Deadman Pass. Will stay with the business of the general route. The side excursions will have to wait.
The evening cooking-turned-warming fire feels good. Plumb tuckered, as usual. Sleep is no problem.
Tuesday–July 26, 2005
Been concerned and apprehensive about this day ever since reading Jonathan’s notes–about poor tread, lack of signage, confusing (or no) trail, and all the cow paths that crisscross the CDT, making it difficult to stay on track. But turns out, I did just fine. Oh yes, I got lost some and had to consult my GPS a few times to figure where I was, but the day went well and I was able to do the long miles.
Had an angel riding my shoulder today for sure. Prayed for safe and sure passage–and it was there for me.
Hey, the knee did much better today. For all your blessings–thank you, Lord!
Wednesday–July 27, 2005
The bushwhack back to the Divide from Shineberger Creek is a straight pull–up. I’m on the crest by eight. Another bright, clear day.
The Divide here is a true rollercoaster, the only flat spots, where the ridge quickly changes from either down/up or to up/down. Some of the pulls are stand-up dirt bitin’ steep, the downs, skidding and sliding knee busters. Praying helps–“Please, Lord, help me up this one; please, Lord, don’t let me crash down this one.” By noon I’ve reached the alternate route leading to I-15. It’s downhill all the way for nearly ten miles. I make Monida by five.
Monida’s heydays were when folks rode the train up, then changed to stagecoach for the ride across the Centennial Valley to Yellowstone. All’s left here now is old decaying store fronts moldering into the ground, a mile of rusting junk cars, trucks and buses–and a pay phone to call the hiker friendly folks, Mike and Connie Strang, at Mountain View Motel in Lima. I get Connie on the phone. She sends Mike right away to fetch me the fifteen miles to Lima.
Grill your own steak at the Peat Bar and Grill. Post Office right by. ATM at the Exxon. Another neat little trail town.
Pounding the gravel road didn’t help either knee today. Ah, what a blessing to be clean again, if only for a short while.
Thursday–July 28, 2005
Location–Near Rock Spring
Had a grand time in Lima. The Strangs, Mike and Connie, really made me feel welcome. “Used to bicycle around a lot,” said Mike. “I know what it’s like to be lonely, dirty and tired. Been right where you are now. A friendly hand, a little help along, it meant a lot to me. Givin’ some back now.” You sure are, Mike.
The Strangs moved out here from Nebraska a while back, to be near their daughter and son-in-law. Son-in-law just offered a job in Connecticut. Yup, they’re movin’. But Mike and Connie, they’re staying in Lima. Big Sky is their home now.
At three, I’m finally ready to return to the trail. Mike has just returned from a Lewis and Clark meeting (the Corps of Discovery, passed through this area 200 years ago this September) and he drives me the 20 miles back to the road south of Monida.
It’s a gentle climb back toward the Divide, but I’m strugglin’, with a overloaded pack–and tummy. This is cow and sheep country, even up on the Divide. Lots of cow patties to dodge as I hike along. Ha, good friend of mine, trail name, Tric, has a different take for the initials “CDT.” He says they stand for “Cow Dung Trail.” Sure enough the treadway here!
Doesn’t take long for the trail to start the old roller coaster again as the ridge heads for the sky–then pitches off to the next pass. The high ground is open ridge or meadow here, offering terrific views–and tortuous rocks, round rocks, from the creek beds of a million years ago. Gotta slow down; won’t make Rock Spring tonight, got too late a start. That’s okay. Find a delightful spot on the high ground to pitch and watch the sun drop behind the legions to the west. Good fire for cookin’, skeeter foggin’ and de-chillin’.
Friday–July 29, 2005
Location–Near spring at head of West Fork Creek
The trail today stays high, near 8,000 feet, mostly on the Divide. The tread here is little used, woefully lacking of signage or blazing, and poorly maintained. I spend a good part of the day thinking I’m off-trail and lost–only then to come upon an old, solitary, healed-over axe blaze, indicating I’m on trail–or perhaps no blazing, nothing for a fair distance, especially in the waist-high grassy meadows–because I am, indeed, off-trail and lost. Under these circumstances I do well to make one mile-per-hour, oh so frustrating when I’m accustomed to averaging nearly three. Sure makes for a long, short-mile day. Do believe I’ve set myself too optimistic a schedule for this section, especially hobbling along as I am.
When looking out at distances of fifty to sixty miles, there’s bound to be the least haze. I thought the day was perfectly clear until I noticed a faint jagged outline lifting and dancing on the far horizon. “What in the world is that?” I whisper to myself. After taking a compass bearing and figuring the approximate distance, I realize I’m looking at the Teton Range, the other side of Yellowstone. Then, upon looking closer, I also realize that the contoured, lesser pinnacled yet lofty range I see set before the Tetons is the Yellowstone, where I’ll be hiking some four days from now.
I declare, if the skeeters haven’t followed and pestered me nearly the entire day, only to drop back and be relieved later by the horse flies. I rub my arms and knees with crushed sage and the tender shoots from deer tongue, which helps some.
A threat of rain, then a little sleet in the late afternoon, but the evening clears nicely.
The mountains far and about are mine–no one else up here today.
When we’re nearer the stars are we closer to heaven?
Saturday–July 30, 2005
Location–Hell Roaring Creek Canyon Pass
Company today for sure. First I hear this God-awful racket, like children hollering and carrying on, then I recognize the bleating of sheep, many hundreds of sheep. They’re all over the mountain–and the trail before me. I managed to dodge around the cow plops, but there’s no dodging this stuff, whew! Looking closer at my map, I see I’m in the official U.S. Sheep Experiment Station. Quite an experiment! There was a faded old sign I saw back. It did alert me to the sheep. The sign also read, “Danger, Guard Dogs.” Don’t see any guard dogs, just lots of sheep. Hah, and yeah, one black one–part of the experiment, I suppose.
Been hiking these past few days in the Targhee National Forest. I imagine each forest jurisdiction has its own superintendent, with his/her own priorities. Some care about the CDT, and it shows in how the trail has been constructed and cared for on the lands they steward. Others, I guess, care more about cattle and sheep. As far as the Targhee goes–yes I know, momma said, “If you can’t say something nice, keep quiet.” Well, okay, but anyway, as far as the Targhee goes, I’m very happy to see the sign today that reads, “Leaving Targhee National Forest.”
I’m in the Eastern Centennials now. Very nice tread, well cared for trail. A relief and a blessing.
I decided when preparing maps for this trek that I’d take the Macks Inn cutoff. This route lops off a long, arching, horseshoe-like segment of the CDT. It’s not the “official” route. But it is the choice of most thru-hikers–and it’s the choice I made.
In order to get from the CDT and down into the little village of Macks Inn, it’s necessary to bushwhack the four-plus miles up Hell Roaring Creek Canyon and over the Divide (the CDT is down on the other side here). Rain sure came today, not a lot, but enough to muddy up the canyon and soak everything. By the time I’ve climbed to Hell Roaring Creek Canyon Pass, I’m as wet and dirty as I believe I’ve ever been on any trail.
I set camp and manage to get a smoldering, smoky fire going right in the saddle of the Pass. While supper’s cookin’, I rig a drying rack for my clothing. Things quit dripping, but they ain’t dry.
The evening chill comes on, but I’m warm and dry in my little Nomad tent.
As I drift off, I’m thinkin’, “Danged if I ain’t gettin’ the hang of beating around these mountains.”
Sunday–July 31, 2005
Location–Macks Inn, Idaho
My maps and the notes by Jonathan indicate a faint trail leading from just north of the Pass over to cut trail from a trailhead to Sawtell Peak. I pick up the trace on an old, washed out woods road. I’m on my way to Macks Inn, downhill all the way.
But no fun for the knees. Oh yes, after favoring my right knee for the past 200+ miles, my left knee is now also complaining. The right knee is definitely getting better; the left one will quit griping soon too, I am confident, thank you, Lord.
The manicured trail leads to a wide gravel road with much traffic. In just awhile I’m on US20–then Macks Inn where I manage a reasonable-rate room at, where else, Macks Inn!
Oh what a pleasure to shower away the mud and launder the crud from my clothes.
Oh, one more thing to talk about today. The subject: “Getting Old.”
In this installment we’ll dwell on the topic of forgetfulness, the short-term kind. In my case, really, really short. Okay, episode one: I’m now on my third pair of sunglasses. And the gone ones? Laid them down one minute. Walked off and left them the next. The last brand new pair, they lasted two hours. Forgot them the first time I took ’em off–two hours! That was three days ago. Been squinting into the high-mountain sun ever since. You’d think I’d learn, wouldn’t you!
This next little deal, episode two, is more to do with dumb than with forgetful. You see, I’ve pulled this same trick before; it’s just that I don’t remember. Anyway, two days ago, the morning was very chilly. Donned both my short and long-sleeved shirts. Warmed up quick after the first hard pull, so off came the long-sleeved. Instead of taking time to open my pack, I lashed it “securely” under my pack cinch. Yup, next stop a couple hours later, no long-sleeved shirt–no more. It was my favorite; you know how you have favorite things, maybe more sentimental. It had over 10,000 miles, either on my back or in my pack. Dang, dang, dang!
Oh, but this last one–this episode takes the grand prize for forgetful. You might guess there’s no water on the Divide (it divides the waters!). Yesterday, after a long stretch on top I needed water, so I pitched off the mountain to a little trickle I could see way down below. On the way back up, and shortcutting over a couple of secondary ridges, I sat down to take a bearing. Yup, you guessed it. Got up, put my pack on, grabbed my sticks and walked right away from my GPS. Left it laying right there on a rock. The blessed thing is bright yellow. The rock was black, the grass, green–walked right off and left it. Jeez! Oh, but don’t you know what I’ll never forget, what I’ll always remember? It’s the sickening, lowdown-hollow feeling in my gut three hours later when I reached back in my pack pocket for my GPS and it was gone. I’ll remember that!
This forgetfulness, it’s getting old! I am old.
Monday–August 1, 2005
I was fortunate to get a room in Macks Inn, and at a very reasonable rate. It’s tourist season here, campers and sightseers galore. Had good grub at Henry’s Fork Cafe, probably the best salad bar for this whole journey. Stuffed myself on the AYCE buffet.
The hike back up to the CDT follows paved, gravel, then tank-trapped old forest service roads.
Meet three bicyclists from Indiana on my way up and we have the most pleasant conversation. They enjoyed a couple of my ditties–and we talked about the Lord.
Ensuing thunderstorm, which quickly overtakes me, drives me off the trail and into my tent. Dive in just as the deluge begins. Rain on the roof brings instant, deep sleep.
Tuesday–August 2, 2005
Location–Summit Lake YNP
The rain ends sometime during the night and the day dawns clear and cool.
There are two or three different ways to reconnect with the CDT this side of Yellowstone. I choose the short, direct one–that requires a half-mile bushwhack. I’m able to work my way through the infant evergreens (this whole area burned along with the Yellowstone in ’98) and the dead, burned blowdowns, and find the trail just fine.
On the trail again, and in a short while I meet my first northbound thru-hiker, trail name Trauma, from New York State. He’s hiked the IAT and knows Dick Anderson and many other of my friends along the IAT in Maine, New Brunswick and Quebec. We have a grand time talking trail–and about mutual friends before heading our separate ways. Good luck, and congratulations, Trauma.
Finally put Montana and Idaho behind me at twelve, over 800 miles in these two states. With my tramping through on the L&C NHT last year, I’ve put in over 1,600 miles in these two states. Two down now on the CDT, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico to go.
I’m in to Summit Lake by four, prepare my evening meal, then hike on toward Yellowstone. The now predictable afternoon thunderstorm drives me into my tent at seven.
Knees complaining more today–but I get in the miles anyway.
Wednesday–August 3, 2005
Location–Shoshone Lake, YNP
Rains off and on all night, but the day dawns clear again. I’m limping down the trail by eight. Can’t seem to get the kinks out this morning. The knees are remarkably troublesome. Sweet Lord, keep sending me along, you know I’m not a quitter.
Reach the first geyser basin, Biscuit Basin, by eleven. The CDT follows the walking paths past the most spectacular of the pools and geysers. Get the traditional shot of Old Faithful. The trail passes right by.
Pick up supplies for three days at the YNP General Store, get my backcountry permit, some mail off, then head south.
More geyser basins at Shoshone Lake. YNP, what an amazing place. Never seen so many folks having a good time! Me, too. Knees come around in the afternoon and the hike on south to Shoshone Lake is very pleasant.
In the evening, and nearing my designated campsite, I meet Ben, one of the backcountry rangers here in Yellowstone. It was near dusk and he was heading for Lake Shoshone, to his kayak there, and the trip down the lake to a backcountry patrol cabin tucked away in a cove. As we stood and talked, enjoying the sights of one of the largest geyser basins in all of Yellowstone–just the two of us, Ben remarked, “Think about this when you’re enjoying the solitude of your backcountry campsite on the lake tonight. I heard on my radio a few moments ago that every hotel and lodge room, every regular campground slot in the Park, all are full tonight.”
As the lake stills and the evening turns nigh, echoes across Lake Shoshone the unmistakably shrill, eerie-hollow call of the sandhill crane. The break of silence ushers in such a peaceful, quiet time. Ah yes, Ben, we do enjoy the solitude!
Thursday–August 4, 2005
Location–Heart Lake, YNP
Something struck me as interesting while in the Park, while seeing and passing all the folks out enjoying Yellowstone. Suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but it seemed that roughly only one out of four individuals (or groups of individuals) was Caucasian. I saw not a single black in the hundreds and hundreds of people rushing about. Of the one in four, I heard only about half speaking English. The world may not love we Americans, but they sure love coming here and seeing the marvels and enjoying the beauty that is our nation–and we’re happy to have them.
Heart Lake has a small but interesting geyser basin all its own. Little bubbling/boiling pots and kettles of steam, and small volcano-coned geyser spouts, some no larger than a donut. If hardboiled eggs suit your fancy, this place could whip you out a crate or two in no time!
The trail passes right by the Heart Lake Ranger Patrol Cabin. The resident ranger, Richard Jones, greets me by the tool shed. “Got your backcountry permit,” he asks with a smile. I drop my pack on his porch and we talk about the Park and his job here. He kindly changes my campsite to one that’s much more suitable and along my way, where I can have an open campfire to prepare my evening meal–and get in five more miles to boot.
I’m in just as the sun sets behind the rugged silhouette of Mount Sheridan. Heart Lake, and this place of such majestic beauty–tonight it’s all mine!
Get a cooking and warming fire going in good order. What a blessing; the skeeters have backed off. Oh, what a blessing. Their incessant attack can sure wear on a fellow.
Dear friends, who’ve kept me in your prayers, thank you! I’m still poppin’ the coated aspirin and vitamin-I like candy, but I have done so much better today. What a joy to hike without the constant knee pain. Thank you, friends–and thank you, Lord, thank you!
Friday–August 5, 2005
Location–The Divide, South of Fox Park
There was surprisingly little traffic on the Yellowstone backcountry trails, though they’re well marked and groomed. I did meet a family, grandma included (carrying a ton), on their way back to Heart Lake trailhead. They were into the climb up from the lake. Grandma kept repeating, “My feet, oh my poor feet.” Sure hope they made it out okay.
I’m hiking from Heart Lake by eight, to another glorious day.
I’m leaving the Park today to enter the Teton Wilderness, but not before getting off trail. I miss a trail fork and climb too high above the Snake River and get into a literal hell of blowdowns. There’s a trail, though, and I struggle along for nearly an hour before realizing the trail I need to be on is right next the River, nice, clear, groomed trail. I bushwhack down and am on my way again.
Finally see “Yogi” today, while struggling in the blowdowns, so that off-trail ordeal was well worth it. Nice sized brown bear. He didn’t hang around long. I tried getting my camera out, but he was up and over the ridge in no time.
In the evening, I meet some fellows doing a frog study (yes, surprisingly, there are peepers up here).
Make very good time today and get far beyond my planned destination for the evening. Climb to the Divide, there to pitch by a high-held glacial pond. I huddle by my little fire until the chill of the high country urges me along to my humble shelter.
Saturday–August 6, 2005
Location–Togwotee Pass Lodge/Cowboy Village, hitch to Dubois
No, I didn’t hike forty-one miles today. I’ve managed to pick up mileage each of the past three days, so I was able to shoot for Togwotee today. Probably did more like 25 or 26 miles. I’m just too lazy to split my itinerary mileage, so I just lumped it together to preserve the posted mileages I have up for the remainder of the journey.
This area is very popular for pack trips into the wild, and the trail today is like a highway. It’s flat, and I haul. Meet a number of pack teams, both directions, all with their weathered old cowpoke trail bosses–and the pale, red-faced “tinhorns” bouncing along behind. Also, lots of folks heading for a party back in a remote place called Hawk’s Rest.
I follow an alternate route down to the South Fork of the Buffalo River, then over and across bridges on both the South and North Buffalo. Glad I didn’t have to ford these two rivers. Deep, rushing current, both.
Make the final climb to Togwotee Pass Lodge/Cowboy Village and am at the highway by a little before seven.
Homemade, another southbound thru-hiker, is standing on the road shoulder with his thumb out, hoping for a ride to Dubois. I join him and we share pleasant conversation.
In awhile a van slows and pulls to the side. “I’m Dave from Maine,” smiles the driver as he greets us. I see the Appalachian National Scenic Trail decal on his back window right away, so I know we’ve got a ride to Dubois.
Great conversation on the way in. Dave is a climber, loves the dizzying heights. Just came down from scaling one of the Teton sharptops today, the one right next the Sentinel. Good for you, Dave, I’m thinking. I’ll stay on the (relatively flat) trail, thank you!
We’re in Dubois by a little before nine. Get a room at the very nice Stagecoach Inn, then rush to the Cowboy Cafe for a steak and baked potato before they close at nine.
A long, but very rewarding day. The knees are holding; what a blessing!
Sunday–August 7, 2005
Sunday, a day for rest, the first one for me since beginning this odyssey 47 days ago. Picked up an extra day yesterday, so am taking it off today.
Lots to do. Catch up on journal entries, email friends and family, sew up my ragged clothing and gear, and just rest–for a most welcome change.
Monday–August 8, 2005
Location–Near Leeds Creek
Nice town, Dubois. Fine Motel, Stagecoach–and everything nearby. Shop enough food for seven nights, eight days. This is the longest stretch without resupply, some 170 miles.
At the post office, the clerk tells me that Dubois has no police department. The sheriff takes care of things for the city. So there’s no reason waiting until I reach the city limits to start hitching. Don’t remember if I mentioned that it’s illegal to hitchhike in Wyoming. So, right outside the post office, out goes my thumb. Bingo, not a half-dozen cars pass and this petite young lady, Elizabeth, stops and picks me up. I can’t believe my luck. She drops me off below Togwotee Pass, where the trail crosses. I have skipped ten or so miles of roadwalking between Cowboy Village and the road-crossing here below the pass. Figure I’ve paid my dues on roadwalking. This is not a pure, continuous-linked hike by any stretch.
The trail begins on a woods road. Somewhere, I miss a turn and get off-trail, so I decide to bushwhack (I never seem to learn). It appeared to be a shortcut back to get me back on track. Well, I’m off-trail for tonight, somewhere near the Divide. I’ve completely missed Sheridan Pass, where the trail crosses.
Perhaps I’ll get straightened out in the morning–not going to worry myself about it tonight.
Tuesday–August 9, 2005
Location–Short of Roaring Fork Bridge
I continue bushwhacking the “shortcut.” GPS (My support crew in Missouri sent me a new one), says I’m still a half-mile from the trail. Finally intersect it, a snowmobile route, right on top of the Divide. It carries me along for several miles. Oh yes, then I miss another turn, the one leading to Lake of the Woods. I end up on an all-weather gravel road. Can’t believe it, this is an actual shortcut!
Then I promptly miss another turn, putting me over a mile from the trail. Another bushwhack. Finally make it to the Highline Pack Trail, to follow it several more miles. In the evening I end up on a quad-trac rut where I set camp under the spruce. I think I’m off-trail–again.
Wednesday–August 10, 2005
Location–Short of Trail Creek Park
Well, I’m not supposed to be on this quad-track trail, but it looks like it goes to Gunsight Pass, where I need to cross. It doesn’t. A fault of mine (one of many)–I’d rather take a lashing than turn back, so I bushwhack over the Divide–again. Thence to crash straight down the other side. I’m in the Winds for sure now. They’re part of the Teton, Bridger Wilderness. I camp short of the pull to Trail Creek Park.
Thursday–August 11, 2005
Location–Short of Fall Creek
Camped last night below Three Forks Park. It’s a long, hard climb up to Vista Pass and Cubs Rock Pass this morning. Constant rocks. High, rough, wild country, tundra-like.
I’m hiking (stumbling along in the rocks) at 11,000 feet. Lots of glacial lakes. No one else on the trail.
I pull up short of my destination for the day, Fall Creek, but it’s getting dusk and I’m just too tired to continue.
The evening turns very cold. Would you believe the skeeters are still after me!
Where I camp, I meet Jeff and Steffey Swain from Pinedale. They have packed in by horse and are spending a couple weeks in the high country. What a pleasant change, having others around.
Friday–August 12, 2005
Location–Near East Fork River
This morning, just as I’m preparing to break camp, Jeff comes over and invites me for coffee. What a kind thing. I dearly miss my coffee in the morning. I join them!
Jeff knows the area up and back and goes over potential routes to take. He even loans me one of his maps. I’m not out and on the trail until ten! Today I’m making good progress, though the tread is rough and rocky. I dearly wanted to hike Cirque of the Towers, but a Forest Service employee I met today said that snow is in the forecast for areas above 9,000 feet. The Towers are well above ten. Not a good idea to go in with the skimpy foul weather gear I’m packing, so I opt to pass the Cirque–a disappointment. I also skip Big Sandy Lodge, where many hikers send extra supplies.
Today, again, I’m hiking at 10,000 feet. More rocks, lots of high-held lakes. Still in the Bridger Wilderness.
The evening turns very cold, but no snow. I pitch in the cover of boulders and spruce. Didn’t make it to Temple Lake.
Saturday–August 13, 2005
Location–Past Temple Lake
There’s frost everywhere this morning.
Today will be remembered for the climb up and over Temple Pass, near 10,000 Feet. At the Pass, I meet a family from Seattle, with two young children–just when I thought I was becoming the great mountain climber. The youngsters were popping right along, bright smiles!
A storm comes in late afternoon and it turns very cold. See more moose.
At Little Sandy Lake I lose the trail again, but I know it’s nearby and I’m sure to locate it in the morning.
Camp again in the cover of boulders and Spruce. Very cold, windy night.
Sunday–August 14, 2005
No, I didn’t hike thirty miles today, just picked up another day.
I manage to find faint trail this morning. The climb to the Divide is marked by small cairns, and I’m able to follow them okay. I’m on the Pacific side of the Divide for the first time in awhile.
The trail is dropping now as I leave the Winds and the Bridger Wilderness.
Another wrong turn late in the day but I recover and reach the highway to Lander by seven.
At the road gate, a family camping nearby befriends me with a cold fruit drink and a piece of fried chicken. On the road shoulder now, Bill, a fellow I’d talked to earlier in the day along the dusty two-track, is heading back from a day fishing the East Fork of the Sandy. He sees me standing with my thumb out and picks me up. What luck! He drives me all the way to Lander.
In Lander I check into the Pronghorn Motel–and just have time to hit their cafe for the best t-bone steak and baked potato I’ve had in a long time.
Of the eight days food, I’ve got one package of beef ramen and quarter of a bag of M&Ms left. Cut that one close!
Monday–August 15, 2005
A zero mile day.
I’ve caught up with Zack and Buddha, and along with Garlic Man and Andrew Knutsen (a local triple-crowner) we enjoy a fine breakfast together.
Stop by the Bureau of Land Management for information on the water sources in the Great Divide Basin, where I’ll be headed tomorrow.
Relax, catch up on email and journals.
Tuesday–August 16, 2005
Location–Upper Mormon Spring
My stay in Lander was most enjoyable; nice town, kind folks.
I join Zack, Buddha and Andrew at 7:30 for breakfast at the Oxbow before Andrew shuttles us back to the trail. Zack and Buddha treat us but they’ve decided to take another zero day in Lander.
Ten o’clock and Andrew has me back on the trail at South Pass City.
I’ve been told that the middle of August is not the time to be crossing the Great Divide Basin, but looks like I might get a break today; it’s overcast and cool.
The trail out is two-track gravel. As I crest the hill out from South Pass City, seems the whole Basin appears before me. Not a tree or anything green anywhere in sight. Just rocks, sand and sagebrush. Not long and the wind starts kicking from the west-northwest bringing a noticeable drop in temperature. I stop, put on my long-sleeved shirt over my “T” (had another one sent from home) and get my poncho out, just in case. Not long again, the rain starts as the wind kicks harder. On goes the poncho. Looks like the least I’ve got to worry about is the heat.
The trail through the Basin is well marked but I still manage to make a wrong turn. I soon see the error and am back on track.
The Basin is low, compared to the surrounding rim, but I’m still above 6,000 feet and climbing. Been told I’ll see many pronghorn and wild horses in here. Keeping my eye open, but none along today.
The rain keeps on steady all afternoon, and it’s uncomfortably cold.
From the information provided by the BLM office in Lander, I’ve entered the coordinates for Upper Mormon Spring. My little GPS clicks down the miles, with the arrow pointing me right for the spring. Late evening and the spring comes right in at the zero reading. Good water and plenty of dead sagebrush for my evening cooking and warming fire.
The rain has finally stopped. Oh, and hey, there’s nary a mosquito out here in the desert!
Wednesday–August 17, 2005
Location–Past Crooks Mountain
I’m up and out to a cool, clear day. Shortly, behind me comes another hiker–Steve. He’d also camped near the spring. We hike along sharing good conversation–until the day darks over and the cold rain descends again. We keep trudging along into it. Thought I’d have a couple of days, at least here in the high desert, without wet feet, but it’s not going to happen.
Lots of pronghorn today–and cows and sheep–but no wild horses.
The ponds where we’d planned on getting water for the evening are disgusting, churned to a muddy froth and contaminated by hundreds of sheep. The shepherd that tends the flock has a little camper on the ridge above. We go there. He’s out with the sheep. We decide he won’t miss a little of his clear, clean water stashed in his water tanks.
The storm finally moves off to the east, leaving the evening cool and clear. We head on up the next rise, find a couple of flat spots by a gulch and call it a day.
What a pleasant change–having someone to hike with!
Thursday–August 18, 2005
Location–Past A&M Reservoir
I head out a little after seven. Steve’s feet are weary from the long miles we banged out yesterday, around thirty, so he hangs back. His planned route will take him up from the Basin and onto the rim. Where out paths diverge, I leave a short note for him in the sand, wishing him a safe journey. Steve’s already done New Mexico north to the Colorado line. He’s southbound now, as am I, from Canada, with a little over 800 miles remaining to complete his CDT thru-hike–congratulations, Steve!
Not long, the sky darks over again and the cold wind kicks anew, out of the west-northwest just as before. The tread is very good and I make the miles. Lots more pronghorn, maybe a hundred or more–and horses–I see a beautiful paint, a pure white, a pure black with a colt, and numerous other roan. They hurry away. I try for a picture, but I’m afraid they’re too far off.
At four, the rain starts, the wind comes harder, and it turns bitter cold. Intense flashes of lightning. Crashing thunder. The storm and the driving rain move with me. For the next four hours the lightning and thunder are directly overhead. This is the most intense electric storm I’ve been in since being struck by lightning in Quebec. I become sore afraid that this might be my time. I pray to God for just a few moments break, so I can pitch my tent and get out of it before dark.
My prayers are answered, as the break comes just before eight-thirty, and I hasten to pitch between the scatter of thorny cactus and sagebrush. I’m in just as the wind returns. I must cling to the walls of my little tent for fear it will be ripped away. It’s well after nine before the storm moves on east. I am soaked. My clothes are soaked. But somehow I’ve managed to keep my sleeping bag dry. What a blessing to climb in and finally get warm again.
Lord, oh Lord, what a day!
Friday–August 19, 2005
I’m up and out again by a little after seven. The sky appears very iffy. Sure enough, by nine the rain comes in again. But this mild storm proves short-lived as it quickly moves past and the late morning sun burns it away.
The hike today follows a pipeline cut, nearly straight, up, over and down the rolling hills of the Great Divide Basin. The tread, a bit sandy at times, remains good and I make fair time. Many more pronghorn, also horses. And I see the goofy looking little horned toad today.
I’m shooting for Rawlins now–a day ahead of schedule. So the mileage above actually reflects a two day additive. Actually, the individual mileages for the past four days are: Tuesday-25, Wednesday-30, Friday-36, and Saturday-28, for a total of 119.
The pipeline road turns to county paved, the county paved to US281, bringing a roadwalk of some 18 miles to town.
I’m hot and weary, but I’m in by five-twenty.
This day ahead that I’ve just pulled? Ahh yes, I’ll burn it right away for a welcome day off tomorrow!
Saturday–August 20, 2005
A zero mile day, as I rest, sort my bounce box, and generally keep my feet up and take it easy.
Two doors down last night, lo and behold, appeared Leslie and Dave. Met them way back in East Glacier Park, the day I got off the train two months ago. They’ve also hiked New Mexico already. So, they’ll finish their CDT thru-hike at the Colorado/New Mexico line around the end of September. We shared a great time together, recounting experiences along the trail.
Sunday–August 21, 2005
Location–Past Lone Tree Creek
The day and one-half break was good for me, but I’m hiking out pretty much locked up this morning. Can’t get my arms or legs moving freely. Finally acting my age, I suppose. Takes better part of two hours (and as many Vitamin-I) to finally work the kinks out.
The trail from of Rawlins is also a long roadwalk. Memories of the last two hikes come back to me. They were almost total roadwalks. I squint to see the road as it shrinks to a point toward the horizon.
Rawlins is an oasis in the middle of this arid (say desert) high plains prairie. It’s tucked away down in a wide, open-ended cove. Trees grow there, but only in yards and landscaped business areas, where they receive much care through periodic watering.
Lots of frontier/old west history here. The road I’m hiking along today, which heads me back up to the Divide, crosses the old Overland Trail. That old wagon trail followed the Platt River up to its headwaters, then wiggled its way through Bridger Pass just west of here. Passing through the Great Divide Basin, I hiked along the route of the old Oregon Trail and the Seminoe Cutoff branch of the old California Trail. From 1843, and for 25 years–until the railroad came through, over half a million folks journeyed west over these old trails.
Jim Bridger left his mark on the area. Many land features hereabouts are named after him. I mentioned Bridger Pass. And there’s Bridger County. And tomorrow I’ll be hiking past Bridger Peak, located on the Divide.
All the old towns along southern Wyoming are/were railroad towns, which sprang up along the route of the Union Pacific Transcontinental Railroad. The old Mormon Trail and the Pony Express route also came through here.
Toward evening, and as I continue climbing, I’m leaving the prairie to enter the sub-alpine mountain zone. Here I see the first trees in the wild for better part of the past week. There’s quaking aspen, Englemann spruce, fir, and lodgepole pine. Oh, and there’s still plenty of sagebrush, enough old dead, stunted snags of which I’m able to get a fine cooking and warming fire going. A kind Native American stopped to offer me water–a blessing, as I haven’t yet reached the first brook flowing from the mountains.
A beautiful sunset. Ha, somehow the afternoon thunder busters didn’t find me today!
Monday–August 22, 2005
Location–Past Jim Creek
Just about got the road walked out yesterday. For this morning I don’t go far until the trail breaks away to a two-track, then a single-track, as it climbs, taking me back up to the Divide.
Yup, doesn’t take me long to get lost. Sure glad for my GPS and the compass rose–with coordinates–on each map. No problem getting straightened out and back on track, but not before I manage to get up and walk away from another pair of sunglasses. Isn’t this the fourth time I’ve pulled this stunt? Jeez, you’d think by now I’d have come up with some way of keeping track of my sunglasses. Sure it’s funny. Go ahead and laugh. I’m laughing!
Saw lots more antelope yesterday; not so many today, but up here, there’s mule deer and white tail. Heard many coyotes last night. What a mournful call. Sends chills right up your spine.
Today I’m back in the rocks again. The two track roads are littered with rocks. The trail is a ribbon of rocks. Appropriate name–Rocky Mountains. Take away the rocks and the pile of dust left wouldn’t make a decent-sized hill.
Tuesday–August 23, 2005
The trail stayed to the Divide all afternoon and evening last. There’s no water on the Divide. It’s the high land, no streams, no springs. I was out of water and it was turning dusk. What to do? Ah, but what luck. Just below Bridger Peak, which has its head in the sky at 10,000 feet, just off the north slope, I found two huge fields of snowpack. And below the peak there were small wooded areas of spruce. Wood for my evening fire and snow for water. I pitched in the shelter of the spruce, back from the cold, harsh wind. Got pitched, got a fine fire going, and scampered down to the snow drift for a bag of the white stuff just before dark. What a fine evening it turned to be! I sat by the warming fire for the longest time, watching the lights from the little communities of Encampment and Riverside flicker in the valley below.
I’ve only four miles to the highway this morning, where I hope to hitch a ride down to Encampment. There’s a motel there, a bar, a cafe, and a small grocery store. Maybe I’ll get there in time for a good breakfast.
I reach SR70 a little after nine. No traffic. I mean NO traffic. I stand at the Pass for over half an hour. Not a single vehicle–in either direction. Finally, two vehicles go by–in the opposite direction. This doesn’t look very promising. Okay, it’s twelve miles to Encampment. That’s four hours to hike it out. I’m out of food. Gotta go in. Start walkin’ Nomad.
Four miles and an hour and twenty minutes later, the fourth vehicle going my way stops to pick me up. Thanks, dear Lord, thanks. The old codger drops me off right downtown Encampment. I’m in before noon–but not for breakfast. The two cafes are closed Mondays and Tuesdays. The grocery store is out of business. Ah, but the little motel is doing fine. Get a room, a shower, then the motel owner drives me to Riverside, where I’m able to resupply for the hike on to Steamboat Springs. Also get the best burger and fries I’ve had in ages. As my friend, Wolfhound, would say, “Life is good.”
Wednesday–August 24, 2005
Location–Just Past Colorado Line
Had a fine stay in Encampment. Neat little town, much like the farm-to-market village I grew up in.
In Encampment, everyone knows one another, helps one another–like Connie, the barmaid at Pine Lodge Cafe/Bar. She knew I’d have a time hitching back up to the Divide this morning, so while chatting with her yesterday, she offered to drive me up. We meet at the Cafe for breakfast, then we’re off. She has me back on the trail by ten. Thanks, Connie. Oh, and thanks, Dezi, owner/innkeeper at Vacher’s Bighorn Lodge–for your hospitality and kindness.
The hike today is mainly along the smooth-flowing ridge that can be the Great Divide–when it chooses to be kind to we intrepids. The range here is the Sierra Madre in the Medicine Bow National Forest.
Where the Divide is flat like this, it’s usually pretty much beat down. Through here today, I’m following the old Center Sheep Driveway, kept widened by countless quadtracs.
At four-ten, I cross the border between Wyoming and Colorado. Three states down now, over half the hike finished–two more states to go. Thank you, Lord, for the wide, safe passage. Guide me on and keep me in your care.
Thursday–August 25, 2005
Location–Just Past Middle Fork, Elk River
Finding water has been a near-constant problem for the past many miles through southwest Wyoming. But here, this morning, that all changes. The mountains of Colorado see plenty of rainfall, and when the trail wanders just the least bit from the crown of the Divide, there are numerous little brooks and spring seeps. No more lugging 50-100 ounces of water–at least till I hit New Mexico.
Lots more wildlife now; mule deer whitetail, little chippies and squirrel, all kinds of birds, most with their very own song to sing. It’s certainly a welcome change, having their company. Many of the birds are inquisitive, flying along from evergreen to aspen to evergreen ahead of me as they chirp away.
Late morning, comes along Cactus and Bonner, northbound thru-hikers. They hope to make it to Canada before the snow really starts flying. We enjoy a fine chat, then I wish them success and a safe journey on. As I turn to continue my trek, I’m thinking, “Sure glad I’m heading south, not north.”
I’ve lucked out the past two days; managed to dodge the afternoon thunder busters. The one building today, which appears to be heading directly my way veers off to the southeast just ahead of me. Hey, I’m actually hiking south for a change!
I hike on past my planned destination, as there’s still plenty of daylight. Up, up and more up I go as I head for Three Island Lake. I can see the light of evening through the trees above. It’s the pass just above the lake. I judge it to be perhaps an hour further on. Two hours later, and at dusk, I judge the pass to be perhaps an hour further on! The Rockies are so enormous. Trying to judge distance out here can be totally bewildering, as this situation proves. There’s no getting used to the expanse. In my case, there seems to be no improvement in judgment–none!
I take water from the lake outfall and pitch for the evening, perhaps just a short distance (perhaps not) from Three Island Lake.
Friday–August 26, 2005
Location–Beyond Buffalo Pass
The lovely Three Island Lake was just above where I camped last, so I had nearly reached it. Just as well I didn’t, as there’s no camping allowed near the lake.
All around me this morning, on the grasses, sedges and low bush, there’s frost. And on the lake, the most remarkable steam shroud hovering there, the sun mixing and turning it in glistening shades of gold and silver.
I hike along for the first hour with my hands in my pockets, sticks tucked under my arm. By late morning, and as I once more reach the high, open meadows on the Divide, the sun has warmed me nicely.
The trail pops along, rolling from dark green-grass seeps below to bare-rock domes above. It’s then I see it looming ahead of me–Lost Ranger Mountain. I know the trail goes up and over, but I can’t believe I’m going to climb up there. But the ascent starts soon enough, gently at first, then around and through rock-strewn side spurs, across two large, sloping snowfields, to finally turn straight up. The final 300-400 feet take all the strength left in me. I can hear the wind howling around the last rocky spur, which until now has protected me. As I crest the summit the force of the gale pitches me away. It is bitter cold. I fumble for my GPS with my stick-stiff fingers and manage to turn it on. When the little gadget is locked on at least four satellites it will give out elevation. Here on Lost Ranger it’s reading 13,347 feet.
The descent is a freefall, through more boulder and rock-filled tread. If the remaining 700 miles of Colorado are anything like what I’ve just experienced, I don’t know if I’ll be up to it.
But just as I’m suffering these doubts, the trail miraculously flattens, the rocks leave, and the day warms. I hike along with total ease for the remainder of the day. Mulling most of the day, I finally resolve to take the oncoming mountain peaks–when and only as they come, and doubt no more. I managed Lost Ranger. I’ll get up and over the rest just fine.
At Buffalo Pass, as is the case in so many other places along the trail, there’s no marker on the other side of the pass. Searching, I find a trail used by the quadtrac and motorcycle folks. I hike it on up for better part of two miles before finding a sign indicating that I’m, in fact, on the CDT. Seems the folks working the trail like to put up all kinds of CDT signs and markers where there’s “pretty” trail, but avoid any indication of the trail’s existence in the not-so-pretty places, like here.
Lots of quadtrac folks, bicyclists and day hikers in this last section, a change from the near-total seclusion along the trail in Wyoming.
At dusk, I take water from one of the many high-held lakes and carry it a mile or so to a sheltered evergreen copse.
The evening fire gives me a hot meal for warm innards, warms my outards, and lights the night as I set my camp.
I’ll long remember this day, the snowfield crossings, the leg-numbing climb, the bitter, howling wind–and the doubting. Ahh, but then, too, I’ll remember the sweet satisfaction of success!
Saturday–August 27, 2005
Location–US40 at Rabbit Ears Pass/Steamboat Springs
I’m awake at dawn but can’t muster the nerve to roll out to the chill of the early morning. I finally break camp and get on trail by seven-thirty. More frost, more hands in the pockets.
The trail is most kind this morning, only nine or so miles to Rabbit Ears Pass. I reach there by eleven.
What memories, this place. The large boulder holding the plaque commemorating the dedication of the highway over Rabbit Ears, it’s still right here. I was only nine or ten then, sis was maybe four. That was nearly sixty years ago. Dad took us on a trip through the Rockies one fall. I remember to this day first seeing the remarkable rock formation above the Divide for which this pass is named. The bronze plaque is still here too, badly faded now. The narrow old highway is full of cracks, potholes and patches. Few pass this way any more, as this old road has been given up for a new Rabbit Ears crossing further south. I linger in the middle of the old roadway for the longest time. It is quiet now, no traffic like back then. Oh, if we could only go back, to relive just a few special times. But time is our captor and we must obey. Dad, mom, these memories, they are so precious–I miss you so.
The trail crosses the old road and leads on south. My thumb goes out at the new pass. The cars fly by. Finally a fellow from Tellico Plains, back east, stops and picks me up. I’m in Steamboat for lunch.
Sunday–August 28, 2005
Southbounders Dave and Leslie are right across the street at the Rabbit Ears Motel. Had a good visit. Dave brought by some goodies to boost my energy, snacks and dried veggies–thanks, Dave!
Steamboat Springs is a touristy town, with all the usual front street shops–high end designer wear, fancy jewelry, posh restaurants with menu items topping a hundred bucks, fudge and ice-cream shops, you name it. But I liked the town, believe it or not! Had to pay seventy bucks for a room, but it was a seventy buck/room kind of motel–a good value. All the usual retail stores, like WalMart, Safeway, the discounts and drugs, etc., they’re located on the south side of town, away from the old downtown area. Neat layout. And the merchants apparently foot the bill for the free bus service all around. Smart merchants. Yup, neat town, Steamboat Springs.
I’m up, pack on, and out the door by nine. Get the bus to the city limits where my thumb goes out. Five minutes and I’ve got a ride with a fellow who’s headed for Rabbit Ears to hike the mountain with his family and friends. He drops me off within a quarter-mile of where I hitched in yesterday. I’d planned on skipping the roadwalk from where the new highway crosses the pass, over to CO14, but soon have second thoughts and go ahead and hike the four miles or so.
Today is mostly a roadwalk, beginning with US40, then CO14, then gravel secondary, and finally, high clearance unmaintained FS roads.
By late evening, and just before turning off CO14 comes Greg, the kind fellow who gave me the ride up earlier in the day. “Hiked Rabbit Ears for you–a great day. Need any water or anything? How about a ride to the top of the hill?” he says as he jumps from his truck to greet me again. I give him my card with the nimblewillnomad.com website on it and encourage him to let his daughters, Gretchen and Ann, sign my guestbook. Thanks, Burkholders, all (and Sadie the lab, too), for your kindness!
Near dusk (and still climbing) I begin seeing folks camped all along the FS road. Looks like hunting season is cranking up. Primitive (bow and black powder) will be first.
It’s been a long day, back in the Routt National Forest, the Rabbit Ears Range now, but I make it to Indian Creek, there to top off my water bottles, then it’s on a little further up the mountain to a secluded spot in the spruce. The evening fire is a most welcome old friend.
Monday–August 29, 2005
Location–Near Haystack Mountain
It’s a challenge to roll out and get moving early when it’s cold and the frost is on. The longer I stay snug in my down bag the warmer it becomes outside–but I manage to get moving by seven-thirty.
The Divide along this Rabbit Ears Range is rugged and the trail tries to stay with it. Lots of wild ups and downs, a thousand feet or more of vertical change at times. One stretch is a razor-sharp hogback, no wider than 50-75 feet with near-vertical walls straight off either side for better part of half a mile. It’s breathtaking scenery but unbelievably rugged–jutting boulders, loose rock, narrow off-camber tread. Each foot placement is critical. Gotta stop if I want to look away.
This day has been one of the most physically demanding of this entire journey; my energy is completely spent, but I must yet go down the mountain a fair distance for water if I plan to have a hot meal tonight.
At dusk, and back near the ridge again, water bottles full, I find a flat area and an old fire ring. This is home.
Tuesday–August 30, 2005
Location–Past Ruby Lake
This old lumberjack’s camp I’ve pitched at is open to the east, so the sunrise brings immediate warmth to my little estate. That gets me up and moving by seven. Good thing, for as my map indicates, the trail crosses tight 100 foot contour lines nearly all day. That means more near-vertical ascents and descents. These kind of pulls and drops are a major chug up here at ten to eleven thousand feet.
My energy level has been noticeably lagging the past three days and I’ve suffered a nagging headache, maybe running a mild fever. I know it’s futile; there’s no way of keeping any pace through this kind of tread anyway, so I slow to a stagger-on that this old worn out heart can tolerate. Slow, slow ups, and scary don’t-bust-it downs. Perhaps one mile an hour for much of the day. Hard to make twenty miles like this. “Just keep your head down and pull the mountain, old man. There’ll be daylight through the pine–you’ll see it soon enough–at the top.”
I’d like to get into Grand Lake early tomorrow so I can find a room, get a bath and launder these smelly old clothes, so I stay the trail until dark. I manage an extra four miles past Ruby Lake. This sets me up for a noonish arrival in town. I’m pleased with the day, but pooped.
Oh my, reading this entry over, it sure enough sounds like I’m miserable. You’re probably wandering, “Why’s he out there anyway; what’s the use!” Well, I have taken time today to find pleasure in this trail, in this hike. I’m in the Never Summer Wilderness now, rugged but picturesque–on the Never Summer Trail. It’s a challenge for sure, but at the same time, it’s an experience–no, it’s a blessing few could ever know or understand.
I think the problem is: I’ve just had a bad attitude since that four-hour thunder buster in the desert.
I pitch for the night at Bowen Lake. Cold, harsh wind. Warm fire. I fix my sleeping pad behind me for a reflector. Hey–no skeeters!
Wednesday–August 31, 2005
Location–Grand Lake, CO
The wind calms during the night, and in the pine here by the lake, encircled by lofty mountains, the morning dawns mild.
First order of the day is to climb to the ridge by that lofty mountain. I’m pleased to find my stamina and energy level much improved. I’m able to top the ridge in less than an hour. From here, it’s all downhill, from near 12,000 feet above Bowen, down to 8,000 feet at Grand Lake. Memorable views from the open ridge.
It’s a bumpy rollercoaster all the way on the North Supply Trail. Lots of loose rock plus off-camber skid plates to keep my attention. This is definitely a don’t-bust-it morning. But I manage good time and arrive town right at noon.
Kind folks at the Bighorn Motel cut a rate deal for the old Nomad. I hit the library to check the progress my Webmaster, Justin, has been making in a total makeover of www.nimblewillnomad.com. Wow, is it ever impressive! Check out the photos. They ain’t bad, and do they ever load–whiz-pop and they’re up, full page if you like. Thanks, Justin! I know it’s been a difficult task, but the new look is stunning.
Ted, a local in the lumber trade, buys my evening meal, one of the best rib eyes I’ve chomped into in many a moon–a tip-off from Rhana, the morning cook at Bears Den and Paws Pub.
My tummy’s full. My clothes’ clean.
Now all to do–hit the grocery first thing in the morning and I’m on my way to Silverthorne, where my “Support Crew,” Joyce, is coming to see this lonely old codger.
Thursday–September 1, 2005
Location–Near Caribou Lake
My stay in Grand Lake was most restful, much needed.
But for brief remissions, I have suffered an alarming loss in energy and stamina. The rash on the back of my left leg, above the knee, is continuing to spread and doesn’t appear to be the usual skin irritation, as from crossing paths with numerous noxious plant such as thistle or dock.
The hike today is pretty much a cruise along and beside the picturesque Shadow Mountain Lake. By afternoon, I’m at Monarch Lake, where the climb begins in earnest, up and along Arapaho Creek.
By the time I reach Caribou Lake, my energy and strength are totally spent. This loss of stamina is baffling and scary, as I have always been blessed with boundless energy.
I stumble about, pitching camp, building a fire and fixing supper.
In my little tent and on my sleeping pad now, I find it difficult to settle in comfortably, due to the nagging pain caused by sores along the back of my left leg, and now up to my hip–a very restless night.
Friday–September 2, 2005
Location–Just over James Peak
Frost all around again this morning. Sticks under arm and hands in pocket, I manage to get out and going a little after seven.
The High Lonesome Trail meanders along, rolling up and down through the forest of lodgepole, fir and spruce. But the climb comes soon enough, past Devil’s Thump Park, up the ridge and into the rocks below Devil’s Thumb Pass.
At the pass, the “trail” turns to the Divide, to follow it along above 11,000 feet for the rest of the day.
My destination is James Peak, but I’ve been told not to camp on this mountain, due to the high risk from exposure and the potential for severe weather. James Peak is a domed pile of rocks that stands well above 13,000 feet.
I struggle up through the rocks and over the top, to immediately bale off the other side. It’s a scary descent through the jumble of boulders. Spikes of granite rise from the precipitous slopes to reflect the harsh light of dusk. The cold wind comes as I search the narrow chasm for a flat spot among the rocks.
This is the highest, narrowest and most exposed place I’ve ever had to pitch camp. As the wind continues unabated I manage to get my tent up by anchoring it with rocks. No hot meal tonight.
I am unable to sleep due to the intense pain along my left side.
Saturday–September 3, 2005
Location–Off trail at Silverthorne
The morning dawns cold and the wind persists. As soon as there is light I’m up and climbing again. First comes Mt. Bancroft at 13,250 feet, then it’s down, up and over Parry Peak at 13,400 feet. Next baleoff and boulder scramble takes me up and over Mt. Eva at 13,100 feet, ditto for Mt. Flora at 13,100 feet, and finally Colorado Mines Peak at 12,000 feet.
There is tread now, which I follow down to Berthoud Pass at 11,000 feet.
The climb back up to the Divide on the other side of the pass goes straight up. My energy is in the tank. The climb is a crawl as I dig my sticks and stagger up. By now I realize there is no way I’ll make it to Jones Pass, only sixteen miles for the day, nor will I ever make Silverthorne tomorrow, a twenty-one mile day.
By the time I’ve struggled and pulled myself over Stanley Mtn. at 12,500 feet I am no longer able to continue.
A side trail leads down the mountain to the mines at Butler Gulch. I take it. Near the mine entrance I’m offered a ride to Georgetown and I-70.
Dear friends, my CDT southbound hike has come to an end, at least for this year.
For the past number of days I’ve suffered a marked loss of energy and stamina, along with a nagging headache and marginal fever. At the time, I noticed two small sores on the back of my left leg. I thought perhaps the irritation was from brushing the countless thistle along the trail. The sores, however, have since spread. I now suffer multiple, open lesions from just above the back of my left knee, up my left thigh, all the way to the small of my back. The pain has become so intense that I have been unable to sleep.
As I compose this final journal entry, I now know that I am suffering, not from a rash, but from a disease known as herpes zoster (shingles), a dangerous, potentially chronic, and extremely painful condition.
Dwinda Joyce, my dear friend and support team, who is here to see me in Silverthorne, diagnosed the condition immediately. She insisted, and rightfully so, that I end my hike and return to Missouri with her–to be seen and treated by her doctor.
As I write this, we are in eastern Kansas, near Topeka, heading home.
Dear friends, for you and all who’ve taken inspiration from my writings and from this adventure, I’m truly sorry I’ve let you down. Please know that there is no one more disappointed about my quitting than me. Quitting isn’t my nature. The simple fact: I could no longer continue.
But I am optimistic. There will come another day–there will be another time.