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Posts Tagged ‘Rogers Pass’

E.D (Easily Distracted): “Can you just walk around Lincoln with open containers? Like Montana had open carry?”Local lady with a tall boy in her hand: “On the fourth of July you can in Lincoln!”

Me: “Maybe it’s the same as sticking a lawn chair in the back of your pick up and calling it extra seating…”
Spending the fourth of July in Lincoln, Montana was an experience indeed. We found other hikers at the breakfast spot: S.O.L, Andrew, Wagon Wheel, Raven, Grits, and Bird Dog. Every room in Lincoln was booked and people from all over seemed to converge on this tiny thousand person town.
We found a singular shower at an RV park and camping there for about $8. Deal. Then we found a laundromat at the trailer park which had a broken coin machine that said “not working yet.”
After having some beer, we hung out in our little tent city in the RV park. We found Tails, Chaps, and their dog Skeeter. Hot Springs hitched up from Helena to join the festivities and take advantage of cheap camping.
Our big crew did go to enjoy the fireworks show that seemed to be the talk of the town. They started around 9:15 or so and we found a comfortable spot on some grass. When it seemed to end, we mentioned how good it was and a local said, “That was just the amateur show, the real one’s going to start in a few minutes at 11pm!”
Then bam! Way larger and grander fireworks burst into the sky. Holy shit, she was right!!
When we migrated back to the RV park well after hiker midnight, we realized the owners had turned on their sprinklers to water their lawn…and some of our tents…and Patch’s sleeping bag which he had set up to cowboy camp. Luckily, the bag didn’t soak completely through and he had time to dry it out fully the next day. Damn lawns.
After lounging all morning and repacking food bags, The Darkness and her boyfriend Mikhail showed up and gave us a ride back up to Rogers Pass. Of course, on the way up, it began to rain and visibility decreased consistently.
We popped out of the car and threw on rain gear, debating our decision to leave town in the rain.
With a two thousand foot climb out of the pass, we entered the rain and migrated up. We all went our separate ways with our heads down. I had to take off my rain gear because it was too hot to climb in it and it was only misting. Right before I left the trees, I threw the rain gear back on and suddenly realized I was on a ridge. That was it? The climb’s over? I checked Guthook. I was indeed on top of the ridge. Cool.
I proceeded at the pace in which I could keep the rain gear on and not sweat. Sometimes this meant pausing more, sometimes it meant speeding up. The visibility ranged from about 20-50 feet and the trail bounced up and down along what looked like a cool ridge. Once or twice I realized I was close to a cliff to the east, but couldn’t see how far down it went. The wind was gusty, but I could still walk straight, so it couldn’t have been over 30mph gusts.
I caught up to The Darkness and she made multiple references to The Exorcism in relation to the current weather. We ran into a nobo section hiker named Rambler who told us that an Israeli guy named Ronnie was ahead of us. Then The Darkness got ahead of me when I had to pee.
Later on, I ran into a dude with a large pack and poncho facing north, mumbling to himself, and examining an iPad. Hmmmm.
Me: “Are you Ronnie?”

Ronnie: “Yes, how do I know you?”

Me: “The section hiker said you were ahead.”

Ronnie: “Ah yes, well this is supposed to be all downhill to Fletcher’s Pass and yet we are going up.”

Me: “It’s never all downhill.”
I passed Ronnie who seemed like he was in a bad mood from the weather and the terrain, but he kept trying to talk as I got further and further away.
Eventually, I got down to the pass and was evaluating where I had to go off trail for water when Ronnie started yelling from the other side of the pass. I decline to answer until he reaches a point where he doesn’t have to scream and he said he’d go get both of us water if I’d  watch the packs. Deal.
Then Patch came down and Ronnie started mumbling again about how getting water for three people was too hard and we should get Patch to get us all water because he was tall. I didn’t quite see the logic in that, and Ronnie bolted down the road with his water containers and mine, leaving Patch.
A beat up old car pulls up and a guy named Rick leans out the window.
Rick: “Y’all want some water?”

Patch: “Yes, please!”
We began chatting with Rick and he had a mouthful to say about Ronnie.
Rick: “If he woulda just talked to me, I woulda gave him water, but he don’t wanna talk.”
When Ronnie got back, he saw Patch getting water from him, passed me my water and mumbled a lot. The Darkness came up for water and made a nice exit from the strangeness. Tails, Chaps, and Skeeter came down to join the road party as well.
Finally, we migrated to a trailhead with a privy and hastily set up tents, ate dinner, and promptly feel asleep. 13 miles of cold and wet tired us all out. It didn’t help that we hit the trail at 2:30pm either.
The next morning was overcast with glimpses of sun. Our tents, jackets, and pants were all soaked, so we took a lazy morning to mostly dry them out.
While we used the sun as a dryer, out popped S.O.L and Andrew who wanted to dry out while they waited for Wagon Wheel to hitch back.

We knew there was a privy with a trash can we could hit around lunch, so we aimed for that.

Tails: “People are going to work right now and excited about TV and things…and we’re excited about a privy…”

Me: “And a trash can!”

The day went slowly as we proceeded through the low water area switching between trail and dirt forest service roads. We did find a good spring about 15 miles in and we knew we’d dry camp later that night, so we packed out more water than usual after cameling up.
We made it another few miles before finding a sweet little meadow before a big climb to camp in which would hold all of our tents. We had a small tent city going already, then Wagon Wheel joined us, which meant we had dinner music as he played his backpacking guitar.

 

The meadow campsite

Deciding that we couldn’t be lazy three days in a row, we got up at 5am and were on trail by 6am. The first climb went quickly and I ran into Andrew up on the ridge trying to order new shoes from Zappos and attempting to explain wool toe socks to the customer service lady.

The vertebrae Christmas tree

The first 11 or so miles were up and down along a beautiful ridge. I did find a dead tree full of vertebrate in one of the meadows that swallowed the trail. Often the trail disappears into meadows and reappears on the other side somewhere.
The climbs on the ridge after we were already on top were to get around really neat cliff bands. On the last downhill, descending off the ridge, we found Dana Spring aka dead squirrel water. We had to drink some though. We treated it. It had a slightly funky smell.
We had two options: follow dirt forest service roads for 14 miles or for 10 miles. We opted for 10 miles. It did have one funky intersection which Ley identified and had a helpful note about. The water there was all contaminated with cow shit. Dead squirrel water or cow shit water.
Scallywag and I waited at Priest’s Pass for The Darkness, E.D, Tails, and Chaps. When they didn’t come after we cooked and ate for an hour, we pushed on another few miles and camped with S.O.L, Andrew, and Wagon Wheel five-ish miles from town.
We got up at 5am again to get to town early. At 6am we were off. At 6:30, we were bushwhacking. It was a little too early to be bushwhacking, but it was only about 20 miles of getting scraped and poked.
When we emerged back to the trail, we saw Sarah doing yoga and she excitedly bounced toward us. She got the trail name Hatchet somewhere.
Hot Lips was still rustling in her tent, so as we passed I said loudly, “Morning Hot Lips!!!”
She stopped rustling and didn’t say a word.
By 7:45 we were at McDonald Pass to find a very frustrated Patch who had been unsuccessfully trying to hitch for an hour. With everyone converging on the road, it was difficult with eight of us trying to get rides. Scallywag and I took a two person ride into Helena and began finding a room for all us.

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The group left Bob’s cabin at varying times, Scallywag, E.D., and I were the last to trickle out a little after five pm. We followed Straight Creek instead of hiking a mile back to the trail, then over Elbow Pass. Straight Creek was pretty, although very burned and didn’t go over the steep pass.
Chatting along the way, we stopped to eat dinner around 7, then looked for the next “campsite,” or really just a flatish spot. Not too long after, we crossed a creek and were in a burned meadow. We were tired, our buzz had worn off, and it was almost 9pm…hiker midnight.
We found a campsite in what seemed like the only living trees for miles, but it had flooded and squishy moss had grown. We instead found a spot where most of the snags had already fallen and camped there hoping a tree wouldn’t fall on us.
Waking up, no dead trees had fallen on us, so we left thankfully. We followed the river for awhile, then another creek when about 10-12 miles in and me taking about fireweed for awhile, we found another cabin with a privy whose seat moved if you shifted your weight wrong.
There we found The Darkness who had gone about 12 miles out of Benchmark when we had only done about 6. She was beat from pushing herself to reach Rogers Pass where her boyfriend Mikhail planned to meet her. It was hot again. The horse flies were out. Apparently they hurt so bad because they don’t bite, but rather suck the blood up through your skin. Nasty buggers. We’ve been trying to kill every one we can. Luckily, they are not the fastest of creatures.
We continued down the Dearborn River to where Ley makes three routes with a note that just basically calls the area confusing. It wasn’t hard following Guthook. Plus, someone had pulled an AT move of throwing some sticks across the trail you should not take. Classic.
Patch caught back up to us and told us another crazy tale of going on sketchy parts of the Divide. Crossing our deepest ford yet, the water rose to just above my knee braces, but the current wasn’t strong. It was just cold and wet. Then the doozy came. We had to climb about 2,500ft up and now water would become more scarce. We really haven’t had to carry more than a liter the whole time until now.
 I saved the tunes for the crazy shit we were about to do. I put on some electronic music and was going uphill at a steady pace. E.D. was right ahead of me when she stopped about half way up the first part of the climb. I paused to see what she was looking at…a spine lay to the side off the trail with no other bones around and the trail was covered in dark brown and white hair. It looked as through maybe a cat had jumped down and killed a moose or elk. No skull to tell.
The second part of the climb looked steeper. It still had switchbacks, but the gradient of them was getting more drastic. It was past dinner time. I ate a bar and kept plugging. Of course, when we got to the “top” it kept going up doing a ridge for another half mile, but at least it became less steep. We passed Amy and Jerry and Amy was limping badly from blisters.
We started to descend into a small basin with a tiny spring, a tiny creek, and a big meadow. Flatish. Awesome. Meadow will be dewy, but at least flatish. A Swiss couple named Jeanine and Patrick were already camped there and graciously shared space.
Eating dinner away from our tents at 9pm, it seemed like all our brains had fried from the heat and exhaustion. With nowhere to hang our food, we all decided just to sleep with it that night.
The next morning from within our tents, we began the morning conversation topics: the upcoming day, food, poop etc.
E.D.: “How many miles do we have to Rogers Pass?”

Scallywag: “24”

The Darkness: “No…21!”

Me: “It’s 24…”

The Darkness: “I counted the numbers on Ley’s maps and it says 21.”

Scallywag: “Guthook says 24.”

The Darkness: “Damn.”
The Swiss couple began laughing at us.
I let the air out of my neoair. Hissss.
E.D.: “Noooo.”

Scallywag: “The sound of motivation.”

The Darkness: “Whyyyyy?”
We did manage to get hiking by 8am, which had been late for us. We immediately had to climb another 1,000 feet. Steeply. No switchbacks. It was like the AT climbs, but going up to around 8,000 ft. And it was hot. Well shit. Absolutely beautiful and totally worth it.
The entire day was spent going up and down and over ridges. The tread on my sandals took a beating and I ski/skid down some stuff but didn’t fall. At least not yet. I made a mental note to order new sandals in town.
We met a Canadian named Canacker. He sat at a small lake with us when we loaded up on water. The water had lots of little red macroinvertibrates in it. The Sawyer squeeze took care of them.
The day was hot and the miles went slowly due to steep terrain with epic views. At about 6pm, we hit Lewis and Clark Pass where one could go .4 miles down to water. The Darkness and E.D went down.
We debated about just staying there. It was a “road” but it was definitely a 4×4 road. The Darkness still wanted to meet Mikhail at the pass in 8.3 miles. We decided that we wanted to get at least the next 1,000 foot climb out of the way and camp by a spring or a saddle after the spring in 3 miles. That climb just went straight up. Part way through, a female moose ran across our path. That was cool.

 

On the top, we waited for The Darkness whose feet had blistered horribly. When she got there, she asked if any of us had accidentally grabbed her map. None of us had. Her GPS batteries had died and none of us had AA batteries. Damn. We headed down to the spring scheming about getting her a map.
However, as we ate dinner near the spring at 8 something pm, we realized even with only six miles to go, she probably wouldn’t make it to the pass before 11. The trail had started playing this disappearing act where it would lead into a meadow then disappear and reappear on the other side or disappear in a sea of blowdowns. During the day, a map would be ok, but at night,GPS or Guthook would be significantly easier.
The five of us decided to suck it up and night hike with her to the pass where Mikhail could bring us a gallon of water so we didn’t need to carry extra. Deal. Since we could conveniently see the cell tower, she could text him. He could also watch her spot device which was moderately creepy.
Getting too and from the spring, we hiked out with Guthook trying to find a trail. Then we’d “cooey” when we found it. All of our feet seemed to rebel at the idea of hiking after dinner into the night after such a long ass kicking day, but they did better after a bit. The trail continued with a few more large bumps.
The sun went down, but we knew it’d still be light enough to see until about 10:30. All of us had our headlamps on, but of course they didn’t get turned on until we stumbled too much. We passed a yurt and had to fan out in the dark twice more with Guthook to find the trail. Then all of a sudden a very well trodden trail appeared. A bright orange, but not blood moon came out and lit the way. The trail took us all the way down to Rogers Pass where one car was waiting.
At about 11:45pm…almost actually midnight, well past hiker midnight, we stumbled into the road. Mikhail rushed into his trunk and handed us not only water, but four powerades, two chocolate bars, and two large bags of potato chips saying, “I don’t do what you gotta do, but I do know you need salt.”

“camp “

All four of us sank down to the ground thanking him and devouring chips. After The Darkness and Mikhail headed away, we looked around for a spot to camp and settled on cowboy camping in the middle of the trail because it was the flatest spot.
At: 1:47am a large truck rumbled up. They idled. Two scruffy men got out of the truck. The hood pops. I shift to appear still asleep on my stomach and can peer above my sleeping bag slightly. I look up and E.D.’s eyes bug out. My eyes bug out. We listen. They’re leaking oil. They’re smoking cigarettes and looking under the hood. They realize people are sleeping on the trail fifteen feet away. They turn off the engine and make less noise. They drive away. E.D and I are relieved. Patch and Scallywag slept through it.
In the morning, E.D and Scallywag get a hitch into town first, then Patch and I got a hitch. A young woman turns around to give us a ride out of her way to Lincoln. I get crammed between a six week old baby and a two year old. My backpack goes on my lap and a box of diapers on top. The two year old hands me a book. I read.

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