Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Day 14: The End of Montana!

July 29: I woke up and hit the trail at a fairly normal 6:45am. Before I left camp, I walked out to the bridge across the creek and looked for the tree that fell the night before but didn't see any obviously recent tree falls. The trees were thick along the creek, though, so I couldn't see very far and I didn't care enough to make a thorough search of the are.

There was a lot of road walking today! The first 10 miles of the day led me up this gravel road in a slow but steady climb. Not a single vehicle passed me the entire distance!

I followed the gravel road higher and higher. I had a 10-mile road walk ahead, but it was a relatively slow climb. A steady upward trend, but not steep or difficult.

During the entire 10 miles, not a single vehicle drove passed me. It takes hours to walk 10 miles and it seemed suspicious to me that not a single vehicle drove by the entire time and I started wondering if the tree that fell blocked the road just out of view of my campsite and unless someone happened to carry a chainsaw in the back of their truck, they wouldn't have been able to access this portion of the road. I had no way of verifying this theory, though.

Finally the trail veered off onto a proper path for a few, glorious miles. The trail passed near another fire lookout tower that was a half-mile off trail and I was tempted to visit it but not only was it a half-mile off trail, but also hundreds of feet higher in elevation. I had enough photos of fire lookout towers on this trail. I didn't really need another one that badly.... So I skipped it.

The real trail only lasted a few miles before it dumped me out on another five or six-mile road walk. This road walk started off with a paved road (boo!) before turning to gravel (yeah!). Along this stretch, two vehicles drove by--one of which stopped to ask if I was hiking the PNT.

It took three days, but finally I had someone actually speak to me! And he already knew what I was doing out here! Wow! We chatted for maybe 5 minutes. He asked if there was anything he could do to help but there wasn't really anything I needed. He was in the area because he dropped off another thru-hiker at the trailhead earlier in the day that had resupplied which floored me. There's another thru-hiker nearby! And not more than a half-day ahead of me! Maybe we would cross paths? I wondered how fast he hiked.

Eventually I reached the end of the road walk where the trail started climbing steadily again--the last big climb in Montana before I expected to reach the Montana-Idaho border tomorrow. I looked at the distant peaks to the west. That was Idaho country.

I stopped by a dinky little trickle of water after 18 miles of hiking. It was the last known reliable water I could count on for quite a long distance and was my destination for the day. I sat down and took an hour long break, cooked dinner and relaxed.

But the trail had had so much road walk today and the ups and downs were so gradual, I knocked out the 18 miles rather quickly. And I still felt strong and good. And I still had hours of daylight available. I decided to push on. I loaded up with a whopping 5.5 liters of water for the long, dry stretch. I needed enough to last me the night and into the next day. At least I wouldn't have to cook dinner with it since I did that already.

The trail continued climbing a ridge at which point following the trail became a challenge. The rocky top didn't clearly show a trail of dirt surrounded by grass--and following the route became more a matter of looking for the next cairn and creating your own route to it. Nor did the rocky terrain make it easy to travel quickly. My pace slowed to a crawl!

The path seemed to veer around the side of a mountain top which had me doubting that I was even following the correct trail. Both my map and GPS tracks showed the trail going up to the top of a ridge and following the ridgeline back down to a saddle, but the cairns I followed appeared to be directing me around to the back side of the ridge. Was I going the wrong way? Had the trail been rerouted? Were my maps just plain wrong? I had no idea and it filled me with dread that I might have been hiking in the wrong direction.

On the plus side, I found a nice water source along the route and filled up with nice, cold spring water. The water I carried had warmed up to outside temperatures which were unpleasantly warm. The water I carried wasn't bad, but it didn't taste great either. The cold water was a refreshing and pleasant surprise!

I was tempted to stop and camp right there but I didn't see any suitable places to do so on the steep slopes and continued onward.

On the other side of the ridge, the trail veered northward around the ridge eventually leading me to the saddle where the trail reunited with my map and GPS tracks. I was definitely back on the right trail again! I still wasn't sure if my maps were out-of-date or just plain wrong, but I was glad my actual location matched up with where I expected to be again. It's a little unnerving when the trail doesn't go where you expect it to!

The saddle had a nice, wide (and waterless) clearing where I finally stopped and set up camp just a few miles short of the Idaho border. I had broken my distance and step count records that I set just the previous day by walking 24.0 miles according to my GPS and taking 58,595 steps according to my Fitbit. Kicking ass and taking names! Yeah! =)

Tons of boulder turkeys (i.e. grouse) on the trail!

Hey, look at that! I passed the 200-mile mark on the trail today!
Another road walk....
Slash pile

1 comment:

Arlene (EverReady AT 2015) said...

Absolutely love your pictures and especially the close up shot of the mushroom! Thx for sharing.