Sunday, July 21, 2013
Day 35 - pep talks, state borders and wishing we were in Leadore
We left our beautiful camp this morning and hightailed it up a few steep climbs. We finally caught up with everyone at the first of the two passes today named 'Big Hole Pass', which is apparently a common name. Everyone seemed sluggish this morning, possibly a sign we should have taken a day off. But, there is no time like the present, so while I was wistfully thinking that my parallel universe self was playing mini golf in Sula, my current universe self was trudging down the CDT.
Gangles and I had just started to descend down from a ridge when we saw several horses tied to trees, without humans in sight. The CDT continued very steeply down a rocky looking jeep road. Had we not noticed the horses, we would have never noticed the brand spanking new trail just to our left. It looked as though it was just carved (for skiers, think fresh powder, it looked so good). This trail didn't appear on the Ley maps or on the GPS. So, leap of faith, we jumped on it. This had potentially terrible downside. The trail maintained altitude, while the jeep road (marked as CDT) descended sharply.
We took the gamble, and practically skipped down the new trail. There were foot prints, but we had no idea how long it would last. The danger with newly carved trail is that it could just stop, leaving us stranded on the side of the mountain. Fortunately, we started to see signs of recent humans, a couple of pickaxes lying against the mountain side. We came upon 3 people, sitting on the trail, eating a can of sliced peaches. This was the US Forest service crew who had been cutting the trail, which was started last year. We profusely thanked them for their hard work in improving the trail. I asked if they were native Montanans, and they told us we were in Idaho! I knew we skimmed the border, but didn't realize that we were on the Idaho side at the moment. They said they had tied one of the horses in Montana, and the rest in Idaho. Maybe this was a political statement? Anyway, they mentioned we were lucky we were here today, since the trail would be closed tomorrow--they were going to dynamite the tree stumps on the new trail. We had noticed that the tree stumps had small holes dug around each one, maybe the circumference of a can of soda. I imagined it cartoonishly, each tree stump festively surrounded with a red stick of dynamite reading 'ACME'. Also, heard some exciting news that Train, Swallow and Stag had been through a few days earlier. Maybe we'll see a few more thruhikers in Leadore. Thanks again to the trail crew for all of their terrific work, and for getting the latest news.
We continued down to Bradley Gulch, where the trail was not finished, and we essentially bushwhacked the last 0.25mi, following flags tied to trees, and fresh blazes. The CDT became quite confusing after this. Ley mentions on the map that we should stay generally left, but that the trails are not clear. We did come across a cabin, which I wanted to explore, but Gangles counseled against it, making the relevant point that we are still relatively close to where the Unabomber's cabin was found. The Swiss Fits did check it out, and apparently, it was an old prospector cabin filled with random detritus.
We pushed on, and started the long climb of the day, over 2000' in total. When we finally crested the pass a few hours later, we were much relieved. The pass had loomed in front of us for the entire climb, both visually arresting and heart stopping in steepness. The photo is from the top of the pass, where Gangles passed me one of our rationed snacks for the day.
We were wiped out, both physically and emotionally, and on a strict stop for breaks every hour. We finally dragged ourselves into camp, which was absurdly buggy. I couldn't use my hiking poles for the last 2mi, I was too busy wiping mosquitoes off my sleeves. They were descending in bunches, several at a time on each shoulder. I had a special rotation, wipe the left sleeve, right sleeve, and head to clear each area. I imagine I looked like a giant housefly, rubbing my hands together. And all the while, that horrible tormenting whine of mosquito wings in my ears. I may have to relent and apply the DEET I've been carrying, but avoiding because it is so poisonous.
We all finally got into camp, and I built a very small fire circle, digging it out and encircling it with rocks. The smoke helped a bit with the mosquitoes, but the morning will be tough. Tomorrow should be fun, if arduous. I've been told we are in one of the most remote parts on the continental U.S.--there are no roads within 25mi at the deepest point. I was shocked to learn this, and how much infrastructure there is in this country. A true backwoods experience, so I'll savor it. On the plus side, tomorrow is supposed to be quite scenic, even as we have another long day (~25mi) planned.
Oh, I have a small secret. I can tell you since the other sobohobos won't see this until I post it in town anyway--I'm carrying a Sprite. This may not seem like a big deal. But let me explain. Out here, for whatever reason, we all seem to crave soda. Full sugar, ice cold soda. And we don't carry it because it is heavy. A bottle of Sprite is 20oz. To put that in perspective, a full day's worth of food is ~2lb (32oz), so to bring 20oz out on a long, tough stretch and save it for a few days in is a real luxury. I keep meaning to bring it out to share, but we've had other special moments. Yesterday, Grinder thoughtfully packed out a can of Coke, which we all passed around. And today, Grinder, Bigfoot and BR were given 2 cans of beer by some strangers. So, maybe tomorrow, on a long day, we can all share a Sprite and lift our spirits.
Mileage: ~21mi from Nez Perce camp to small unnamed lake in compass rose on Ley map MT 50