Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Day 23 - Sumo and Dixie visit, and trail magic happens

Another beautiful morning on the CDT. You know why? Because we got off the rollercoaster! This may be a temporary reprieve, but we spent the first 10mi of the day, walking down forest service roads, which are practically a vacation compared to the ups and downs we've been trudging up and sliding down.

We are most definitely in cattle country, walking through lush green valleys, surrounded by herds of cattle. Some short coated and black (Black Angus?), and some shaggy red and white (Hereford?). I know that the idea of a cow is usually a benign one--but they strike fear in my hearts. Maybe it's because they weigh a ton (a literal ton or half ton), or because they are skittish and unpredictable. Or because they heard me joking about their children as "schnitzel on legs", and glared at me while urinating. There is something most definitely unnerving about walking through a field and having 30 sets of eyes follow you, and knowing those sets of eyes are attached to large, swift creatures.

These large, swift creatures also eat like large creatures, and the trails and fields are spattered with hubcap-sized cowpies. We carefully pick our way through them, but some of those evil bacteria (giardia, crypto, etc.) in them must be making their way into the water. We are treating our water with Clorox bleach (2 drops per liter + 30m), which turns our water into the swimming pool at the local YMCA, but we are still ambulatory, so it must be working. In case you are worried that this is *not* good for us, Swiss Miss' father did call the Clorox 1-800 consumer hotline, and they confirmed this was a-ok.

Wayfinding has continued to be challenging. Gangles and I are convinced we have some bad, chaotic ju-ju attached to us, so followed the Swissfits and Bear Bait to Macdonald Pass today. This was a battle for the ages--their general competence and GPS devices vs. our stochastic force for being misplaced.

I'll call this one a draw. We did get to Macdonald pass without tears, but we did get lost a few times. We walked by some decaying railroad trestles, built up ~20', and then lost our way on a well-used game trail. Eerily, someone had tacked a deer skull on one of the trees, which we should have seen as a harbinger of chaos and being lost, but we merely interpreted as unusual home decor.

We drifted farther and farther off the CDT, and had to bushwhack back east, including a shady slither under a barbed wire fence, and wading through navel-deep grasses. On the plus side, this did prompt a fascinating history lesson from Swiss (PhD candidate in American History) on the history of the American cowboy, and the effect of barbed wire and refrigerated box cars on cattle drives in the late 1900s. I am honored and edified by travelling in such learned and sophisticated company.

We finally found our way back to the CDT, made it up Priest Pass with another minor bushwhacking incident (CDT: 2, sobohobos: 0), and down to the Macdonald Pass. There, we were greeted by Sumo (AT '06), and old friend of Swiss', and his lovely Australian Shephard named Dixie. Dixie is a real looker, a red and white mural with a beautiful fluffy coat and two different colored eyes (blue and brown, like Kate Bosworth). She has lovely Southern manners and deeply bred herding instincts, so kept us tightly clustered and safe all night.

Sumo had so thoughtfully prepared some trail magic for us, with a veritable hiking feast: pizza, cookies, chips, chocolate, milk, wine and beer. And better yet, we had a chance to swap stories about thruhiking, and hear about life in Montana, aboard a fishing vessel in Alaska, and desert hiking. Sumo, you're the best--thanks for coming out to meet us.

Mileage: 19mi from Dana Springs to Macdonald Pass

p.s., Montanans seem very friendly! As we were walking along Hwy 12, we had several friendly honks, thumbs up, and peace signs flashed at us

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