Sunday, August 4, 2013
Day 48 - Sawtelle
We woke up on the ridge, and saw my favorite of good omens, a hummingbird flitting around the pine trees. Miraculously, the gale force winds had cleared since last night, and the hummingbird was not being pelted around the mountaintop. I have never seen as many hummingbirds as I have in Montana. This morning was the first time I saw one land on a pine tree. I had actually been wondering if they had feet.
As we were packing up, we met two very chill Nobos, Sycamore and Brian, rolling by. They told us to definitely see the Cirque of the Towers in the Winds. We wished them happy trails and started our walking for the day. We continued to walk along the ridge, around 9,500' with spectacular views. We were the tallest thing around, which is reassuring to know that there are no major climbs coming up. Except for that ridge our size ~5mi (which means ~10mi in trail miles) in the distance. The scenery was lovely, on the bare ridge, ducking into the pines for a few moments, to pop back out onto another great view.
We were still on the 14mi waterless stretch, so I was drinking water sparingly. We approached the jeep road for Blair Lake, which is the first water for Sobos. This is a cistern down the side of the road, but a few Nobos told us that there was a dead bird, so I was hoping to make it a few mi to the next one. We met Papa Smurf, a Nobo, who was rapid fire feeding us tips: stay on the North side of the Hell Roaring Creek during the bushwhack, dinner theatre is amazing, get pizza in Sawtelle). He was a very enthusiastic man, but not wearing a red hat or pants. He did have a small Papa Smurf figurine on his pack. Nice guy.
We then bumped into two dads and their five sons, who were arranging fishing tackle. They were hiking to Blair Lake to go fishing, and one of the dads confided he was trying to burn off some of his boys' energy.
We started up the hill, and Gangles got ahead of me. I somehow got turned around and spent an extra hour wandering down to Blair Lake and back up, but eventually found her near Lillian Lake. We had opted to take what is known as the Mack's Inn route (vs. the Henry's Lake route), which requires a 5mi bushwhack along the appropriately named Hell Roaring Creek. The bushwhack starts at Lillian Lake, and we walk along the creek until it dries up, then pop up to a jeep road. Nobos had been warning us that it was wet and swampy, and very slow going (~1mi /h). We began with several small stream fords, then managed to find part of a roughhewn trail. For the next few hours, we were on and off this frustrating trail, which would appear strongly and then peter out into meadow.
We finally reached a large rock cairn with a green ammo box on top. I opened it up to find a trail register, and a nalgene with a few empty shells. While we felt as though we were in the middle of nowhere, reassuring to know that other people had been there, too. We saw the usual suspects (Aarbug, Tim & Sky, Pyrilla, Sparrow) just ahead of us, and nice to see the names of many of the Nobos we've met along the way.
We made our way to jeep road, found the faint trail, climbed to the base of Sawtelle Mountain, then began the 9mi walk into town. Sawtelle Mountain Peak Rd. is a windy gravel road, nicely graded, but replete with hairpins and many curves to account for the steepness. As a result, we had terrific views of the valley down below from different angles, which got nearer and nearer, til it disappeared into the pines. And we saw few trucks / cars, one of which asked us what we were doing walking along the road with backpacks. We explained the CDT, and she told us to be safe. She offered us a ride, but we had to decline (goal: continuous footpath from Canada to Mexico), but was very nice.
While we saw few cars / trucks, we did see many ATVs out. Seems like the thing to do around here is an evening, post-dinner ATV ride. We saw couples on romantic rides sharing one ATV, or pairs on separate ATVs, an entire family (mom, dad, 3 girls) cruising around Looked fun. And a lot more sensible than walking at that moment.
But no complaints, since we got in to the Island Park Lodge for dinner (try the cornbread!), and a nice tent site tonight.
Tomorrow, we'll hit the border of Yellowstone National Park.
And, thanks to Bigfoot's coworkers for sending the true Philadelphia treat, Butterscotch Krimpets! Such nice, neat handwriting. And so considerate. Engineers rule.
Mileage: ~28-30mi from a ridge to Sawtelle