Posts Tagged ‘Tracks’

After Jetta cooked us a delicious breakfast, we headed out into the Great Divide Basin, which had also been called “the suck,” “tick heaven,” or a “death march” by other hikers.
Lucky for us, we loaded up on podcasts on the brewery’s wifi and had plenty to listen to as well as music.
The first day through the basin went by relatively quickly and we all jammed out while we plugged along on the dirt roads and four wheel drive tracks. Monotonous, yes, but not maddening…yet.

The only shade we found all day was underneath an underpass on the dirt road that only four wheel drive cars could drive on.

That night, we night hiked for a bit until we got to the 30 mile mark, then all three of us cowboy camped and watched the stars.
 The second basin day was, not surprisingly, like the first day. It had a few hills to add into the mix, lots of cows, lots of cow poop water, and it had quite a bit of wind.
By that evening, a little of the madness started to creep in. We did another 30, placing us halfway through the basin. We cowboy camped near a spring and set it alarms for 4am to try and pull a 40.
4am seemed to come really quickly, but I had slept in my hiking clothes, had a pro bar ready for a walking pre-breakfast, and already mixed up some crystal light energy: i.e. crack…caffeine does wonders.
We were moving by 4:30am, mostly just because it was too cold not to move. I even had my puffy on while we started by headlight.

Bocce in the basin

About six or seven miles in, the sun had come up and we hit another spring where we planned to have breakfast. Then…inside the metal tube that turned on the spring…we found bocce balls! A small notebook read, “Bocce in the basin: CDT trail register.”
As we ate, we read through it, signed it, then played a round of bocce. Great start to a forty mile day.
The hills from the previous day were gone and we could see the trail for miles upon miles ahead of us…straight…flat…hot…sandy…straight…straight…
I switched back and forth between podcasts and music most of the day.

By mid afternoon we all looked at each other with eyes that darted around searching for something new to look at…even cows. We mooed at them and they mooed back. Occasionally, I would attempt to converse with them, but all they said was moo. Surprisingly, I could hold a decent one way conversation with them.
 Sometimes we would see pronghorn or wild horses in the distance. They broke up the monotony a bit.
Then, I started staring at my feet because I realized all my entertainment could be found there in the sandy dirt. There were tracks and signs of life galore there! If I paused, I could figure out when a mouse crossed, then a cow, then a hiker with Brooks Cascadia trail runners. The possibilities were endless, they just took a little thought to figure out. That gave my wandering mind a break from staring straight ahead at the next twenty miles of walking.
We ate dinner at Bull Spring and Memphis had an encounter with a bull who did not want to share the spring named after him. The bull, however did not hassle E.D. nor I.
Plugging back into another TED Radio Hour podcast, we kept going on into the night watching the stars get brighter and brighter.

Then the unexpected happened at mile 37.7 for the day. There was a car by the side of the road at a funky three way intersection. As we tried to look at Guthook without ruining our night vision, the back door popped open and Knacker leaned out, “wanna beer?”
“YES, please!”

We sat, chatted, and drank a beer with him. He understood when we thanked him and kept hiking 2.3 more miles. Memphis decided 37.7 miles was enough, so he had another beer, and stayed there.
In the morning, Knacker slack packed us into Rawlins.

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“Don’t say we’re hiking to Mexico at the border crossing, Yogi says they won’t believe you,” I reminded the car.”We’re just hiking through Glacier National Park, right,” The Darkness agreed.
As we approached the Canadian border, border patrol asked us the usual questions and we answered.
Border Patrol: “Where are you going today?”

Me: “We’re going to hike through Glacier National Park”

Border Patrol: “So, you’re driving another six hours then?”

Me: “Um, no the Glacier National Park right there…I can throw a rock into it.”

Border Patrol: “Ah, Canada has a Glacier National Park, too eh”
After we get through with a minor misunderstanding about bear spray, we made it to Waterton Lakes National Park (in Canada) and find a parking lot near Waterton Lake. The Darkness and I reorganize our packs and eat a bit. My amazing Mom, who offered to drive my car back to Seattle, helped and watched.
Right as we started to leave, it began to rain. Mom did manage to take a picture of us before we set about trying to find the trail. The first park was actually paved, which we got a kick out of.
We walked along the west side of Waterton Lake up and down over the cliff sides for several miles talking and being lightly rained upon.

Border monument

Then, out of nowhere I saw a privy! How convenient! And just a little bit further was the border monument. The rain had stopped for a bit and we took the opportunity to take a bunch of photos.
After another few miles, we came to the campsite that we were supposed to stay at according to our permit. The border patrol station we had to check in at was a mile further. I was hungry and wanted a snack, so we took a twenty minute break at the campsite and set up tents.
As we walked toward the border patrol station chatting, two bulky dudes came toward us, the bigger one treading lightly in five fingers.
Border Patrol”Can you both read?”

Us: “Yes…”

Border Patrol: “The sign at the border says come immediately to the border patrol station”

Us: “That’s where we’re heading now.”
There’s never any point in arguing with border patrol.
Border Patrol: “Can we see identification?”
We hand them our passports.
When he flips open the passport The Darkness hands him, he says,
Border Patrol: “Have you really been to the south pole?”
I knew immediately then that something was wrong and that one of us had my Mom’s passport and she had one of ours. We went with them to the actual station.  At that point other agents proceeded to use other methods of verifying The Darkness’s identification with her driver’s license while another agent told me where I could get a singular bar of cell service. I went to make sure that my Mom could get into the US and we didn’t have to hike the 9 miles back and switch passports. One of the border patrol agents said we should just keep hiking because they couldn’t actually deny entry to US citizens. I did not know that fact. Finally I managed to get through on roaming and after hearing mom got in, we continued back to the campsite, convinced they had cameras there. I suspected a pair of boots hanging in a snag near the food hanging pole.
On day two, we left the campsite with cameras and motion detectors and hiked over toward the highline trail. We had a steep climb ahead of us. The Darkness was ahead as we checked a sign for a trail junction and walked past it.
The Darkness: “Bear!”

Me: “Shoulder hump… It’s a grizzly…”
We both started talking to it, bear spray extended and it paused to look at us. A long moment passed and the bear seemed to decide that we weren’t moving (even though we were slowly backing up) and it turned around and went down the trail in the direction we wanted to go. And that’s the closest I’ve ever been to a grizzly…about 40 feet. Too close.
After seeing a griz that soon in the day, we felt more focused as we proceeded. The trail read quite brushy, but easily identifiable. After crossing a short stream, we heard something moving. As we rounded a bend we saw a backpack…just a human. So we didn’t startle him too much, we approached and said,
Me: “How are you doing?”

Guy: pauses to think. “I’m old.”

Me: “That’s a good response. I’m Veggie.”

The Darkness: “I’m The Darkness.”

Guy: “I’m Wayne, where are you two heading?”

The Darkness: “Granite campsite, you?”

Wayne: ” That’s a huge day! I’m just heading to Fifty Mountain Campsite. It’s always full of grizzlies!”

Me: “We’ve already seen one by the ranger station today.”
Wayne let us pass him and we discovered that I tend to move uphill a bit faster and she moves downhill a bit faster, so I led uphill when,
Me: “Bear!” It didn’t see us. A very distinct shoulder hump on an extent large mass lumbered in our direction. ” Hey bear…” I wanted it to realize we were there.

The Darkness: “That’s a big bear…hey bear…”
The larger griz looked at us for a moment, opened its mouth then ran straight uphill into willow looking bushes. That one was about fifty feet away…still too close.
When we got up higher, the trail started playing “now-you-see-now-you-don’t” with the snow in the trees and I put the damn trail runners on instead of my sandals to kick a few steps. I figured that if I was carrying them, I should use them. My feet rebelled…it felt wrong.


Bear prints!

We got to a large snowy meadow and crossed it toward Fifty Mountain Campsite. The meadow turned back to grass and yellow wildflowers toward the end filled with small boulders scattered about. I kept staring across at the rocks when one moved. Not a rock. Bear.
This one is about 200 feet away. It’s lumbering around eating some plants. We stop. It smells us and climbs on top of a rock to watch us. We sit and watch it. We decide that we should eat lunch and watch the bear across the meadow. We can’t tell what type of bear it is from that distance without binoculars. The bear leaves and heads toward the campsite. A few minutes later, another larger bear, with a very clear shoulder hump lumbers across the meadow toward the first meadow bear. Four bears in one day!
After lunch, we walk toward the campsite and where the last two bears went. As we peak at the campsite, the sky behind is looks like it’s going to explode. The entire horizon where the clouds moved from looked dark and had filled with thunderheads. We had a discussion. It was already 2:30pm and we still had another 12 miles to our campsite over Cattle Queen and Ahern Drift.
We decide to stay put despite what our permit says because we didn’t know how much more snow we would have to cross since no reports had been made about the Highline Trail when we got permitted for it. We set up only one tent in the back and hid under the trees for only a brief amount of rain.
After a bit, we went down near the “food prep area” and found Wayne. He thought we made a good decision. A woman named Tamar comes and the four of us have the campsite all to ourselves.
Right before we go to bed, Tamar says, “I think I’ll come with you two in the morning over the highline.”

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Hop-a-long and I raced down the 3500 ft drop to the Post Office to get our packages before it closed at 1pm.  Whoever we camped near was still asleep when we left.

Plugging along, as soon as the descent began, we saws the fire on the other side of the canyon sending up an enormous amount of smoke and covering quite a large area.  We walked down seemingly straight toward it.  It switchbacked downward for the most part, but definitely still made my knees hurt a bit, so I had to go a bit slower.

I found Hop-a-long at the Belden Town “Resort” which pretty much consisted of the entire town minus the “Post Office/Museum” and a small convenience store/RV park about 2 miles down the road.  She had found Trooper, Cowboy, and Tracks eating breakfast, so we joined them and before long Snow Turtle, Aggassi, Swanson, Bird, and Freebird joined us.

Immediately, the forest service began telling us our options.  Their first spiel went something like this: the PCT is closed between Hwy 70 (Belden) and Hwy 36 (Chester) due to the Chips Fire.  All the side trails in the vicinity connecting the two highways are also closed.  The fire started small but has grown.  It was human caused and is only 10% contained.  Option 1: walk Caribou Rd up to the end and take a bike path to Hwy 89 and walk/hitch to Hwy 36, then walk/hitch to the trail crossing.  Option 2: walk/hitch Hwy 70 16 miles to Hwy 89 for 36 miles, then walk/hitch 5 miles to the trail.

We sorted through food, blogged, snagged a shower from Funk and Troopers cabin, and drank some beer while we mulled over our two options.  In the process of drinking beer on the porch, the forest service came back over in a panic mode and told us not to hike up Caribou road because the fire had spread that way and they were going to evacuate all the campgrounds and RV park.

If we had to hitch it, we definitely weren’t going anywhere that evening to get stuck on one of those sides of the roads.

That night, we all crammed into one cabin: Funk, Trooper, Cowboy, Shep Dog, Chef, Pocahontas, Hop-a-long, Dead Animal, and I.  In the morning, the fire had spread even more and had dumped ashes all over the deck.

Dead and I began hitching right outside of Belden Town and got a ride down to the corner store from the Post Office lady, but then were stuck there for five hours.

During that five hours, pretty much only forest service people passed who can’t pick anyone up in a government vehicle.  We got talked to by several of them ascertaining that we weren’t trying to walk through, and then by the cops.  One of the cops pulled the dick cop move of questioning us about who all was ahead of us in that cop tone with his arms crossed and his sunglasses on in the shade.

“So you don’t know who was a day or two ahead of you?” He asked for a last time.

“No, I caught everyone I knew directly ahead of me in Belden,” I replied.

“You didn’t see any non thru hikers? Like around midnight?” He kept at it.

“No…its not uncommon to night hike though.”

Grunts, “you know you have to hitch around to Chester?”

“Yeah, but we’ve been standing here for 4 hours…wanna give us a ride at least to the next road?” I asked annoyed that by talking to us cars wouldn’t even think of pulling over.

“We have to go to Belden Town. Sure you didn’t see anyone?”

I’m sorry, I thought cops were supposed to help people.  My bad.  All those taxpayer dollars.  I may not be a resident of California, but I’ve sure spent enough money in your broke ass state in the last three months for a 16 mile ride.

Eventually, one of the cooks at Belden Town took pity on us since he had some time before work, turned around and picked Dead Animal and me up and subsequently Cowboy and Shep Dog down the road since they gave up on hitching and began walking.  Hwy 70 was a very dangerous road to walk on: curvy, no shoulder, and high speeds.

“If I’m late, I’ll just tell him I drove hikers to the next road. You guys give us a lot of business, they won’t care,” he said.

He dropped us off at the “Y” of Hwy 70 and Hwy 89 where a bus was supposed to make a non route stop there on the way to Chester if hikers were there.  We had 20 minutes to spare, so we threw our thumbs out in case anyone would take us sooner when Joe picked us up in his truck.  A former Navy guy who now fixed appliances kindly drove us all the way to a Chinese restaurant in Chester.

There, we found Heehaw, Kristo, and Swiss Army who were the last ones to make it through the walking detour.  I inhaled two lunch specials.

As Dead and I wandered around, a blue truck came up and rolled down the window, “Do you guys need a ride anywhere?  We’re looking for hikers to help.”

“We need to charge our phones, but we’ll be done in an hour,” Dead said.

“Ok, we’ll be back here for you then!” She said.

And they were, Ron and Karen came back and drove us to the trail where PipersMom had left trail magic coolers.

We got back and hiked to the first water.  All the same suspects were there listening to Kristo and Heehaw play guitars except Hop-a-long, Funk, and Trooper who got later rides and didn’t make it that far that night.  Overall, it worked out, but mostly sucked because the half-way point was burning.

On the pct-l, reports have been coming in over the Chip’s Fire explosion and saying it’s going nuts, there are more evacuations and Hwy 70 will probably soon close.

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