CDT Day 18: unnamed peaky thing to Rodgers Pass – Bonus Climb Sunset Camp to Golden Water Source Camp
Miles hiked: 18
Total miles: 284
I was surprised to wake and find that I was still holding on to the negative emotions from last night. Shopping for new sunglasses with crappy cell service, my torn pad, no time for writing. Sure, I didn’t sleep great with the wind flapping the tent and my pad deflating within 30 minutes, but this sunrise, and next to the woman I love? It was a new day. I needed to leave the bad parts of yesterday behind. By the time I scarfed five double stuf Oreos and took a piss, I was feeling better. More than just toxins, waste, and kidney juice, I released all the negative emotions, cleansing my body and mind. Ready for a new day.
The 5:30am alarm was timed perfectly to have us awake for amazing sunrise views. The sky was clear so there was nothing to shade the molten smudge of the sun as it emerged above the infinite flatness of eastern Montana. The scene was cool through the tent mesh, but way better when I got my lazy butt up for the aforementioned urination. We watched the sun climb higher, slowly making moves to get hiking, wondering if Canyon was up and watching it too. At 7am we said our goodbyes to Canyon and left the peak to get back on the trail.
The fabulous ridge walking continued for miles as we crunched our way south on the actual Continental Divide. Most of this was above the treeline so the views were endless. It was easy to stumble off the trail for I was paying so little attention to foot placement. The folds of the earth blurred to the horizon, detail fading to silhouette outlined with a humid haze. I really wished I had my sunglasses, but again, Spice generously lent me her pair for some of the brightest bits. We also both applied eye-black to make these trade-offs a little less heartbreaking.
We scooted along the roller coaster ridge, sometimes following cairns instead of legit trail across bald summits. I loved it. We swooped down through a bursting meadow of yellow and purple then across a mini desert section to Lewis and Clark Pass. I used my umbrella and Jolly Ranchers to get me through this particularly hot section.
A giant climb up a grassy summit totally kicked my butt. It was ridiculously steep. I felt the beginning of a twinge in my right butt cheek, so I sat down for a break before reaching the top so I could recharge and observe the building clouds blow by. Spice joined me and we watched a massive thunderstorm pummel the miles of ridge we had just walked to the north of us. I couldn’t really imagine a more exposed place to be with lightning flashing. But we soon got our own turn.
Another storm was brewing behind us while we rested, eating gummies and almonds. There was no thunder yet, but it looked mean. Up to finish the last bit of climbing, then down with as much haste as my tired legs could muster. The view East over the plains was awe inspiring, mushroom clouds of rain blotting out the world.
Thunder did start to rumble overhead as we filled our bottles at a muddy spring. We were among trees now so I felt a little better, but the delay between flash and boom was insignificant. I was anxious. Lightning scares me more than anything else one might encounter on the trail. With bears and other potentially dangerous things, at least there is a chance at fighting it off. With lightning, there is no fighting, only prevention. I hear that lightning on human violence is rare, but I felt particularly ‘at risk’ walking around in a thunderstorm with lightning rods in my hands. I was happy to follow the trail down into denser trees before I could learn too much about the subject.
By the time we started going up again, the storm had blown east and clear sky appeared to be coming our way. Afternoon sunshine brightened our world as we bumped up and down again and again along the ridge. The air was fresh and the walking perfect. Our hopes and dreams of a yurt filled with bagels and cream cheese were dashed when we found it locked, but that couldn’t get us too down when the scenery was so beautiful. We took a break there anyway, for a sock change and calorie refuel. At 6:30pm we got going for the final push to camp.
Up and over two more peak things then down to the highway at Rodgers Pass. As we crossed the wide pavement, I was appalled by how far in advance I could hear on coming traffic. Cars are so noisy! We ate dinner shortly thereafter at a rushing creek. We considered hiking a couple of miles further, taking care of the next big climb before camping, but I was beat. I was ready to sleep. Spice, who was hopped up on caffeine from a 6pm coffee was ready to hike all the way to Mexico, but not me. No way.
Even low and in the trees, we were treated to an epic sunset of bright orange and deep red on a building thunderstorm overhead. Flashing lighting convinced us that cowboy camping was a bad idea so instead we pitched the tent on a terribly uneven surface, hoping that our tired bodies wouldn’t notice. The rain came and lightning flashed brightly through my eyelids. I feel cozy and safe next to Spice, right where I want to be. What a great day.