CDT Day 29 — July 24
Anaconda Hiker Hut to Rainbow Saddle
Scooch Closer 2.0 Camp to Naked ‘Shwhack Alpenglow Camp
Miles hiked: 25
Total miles: 456.2
Town sleep doesn’t usually treat me well. Too much artificial light, too much human noise. But Anaconda sleep was alright. Half expecting to be woken by sprinklers at an inconvenient time, I was delighted to sleep in a little. My body needs all the rest it can get.
The sun was shining bright with promise of another hot day as we packed up our junk pile and made moves to get back to the trail. Of course, not wanting to be rude, we couldn’t do that until after eating a burrito and mac n cheese for breakfast, and then lounging in the coffee shop for a short while. In the end, we were right back where we left off on the highway, hiking generally south at 9am.
The remaining road miles came easy after our short day yesterday. We passed a really cool school bus parked with a “For Sale” sign in the window, but otherwise hiked on without drama. However, it was with great relief that I turned off the pavement for the final time to head back into the mountains.
Spice and I hiked fast to Twin Lakes, commenting on the change of scenery. I was thrilled to see bare rock once more shooting high overhead and making pointy things in the distance. The last section was great and all with gentle rolls and easy walking, but I’m really in it for the mountains. The demands can be great, the rewards are worth it.
It was at the lower of the two lakes that the nakedness of the day got ratcheted up. First we went skinny dipping in the shallow water, careful to avoid being sucked down into the muddy bottom, then somehow decided that it was a good idea to hike naked from there. Definitely Spice’s idea. The trail beyond was really cool, ducking and dodging around trees rather than cutting through them. The greenery was close in, sunlight barely reaching the floor, making it feel like an obstacle course. Up and down, squishing in mud, hopping over one two three creeks. It wasn’t fast progress, but it was engaging. The bugs were too numerous and our nakedness too complete to allow for a break, so the miles washed away without much focus beyond putting my feet on stable ground and keeping mosquitos off of my exposed cheeks.
We finally caught a breeze and a short rest at the top of a super steep climb out of the trees and into a field of fragrant lupine. Their smell reminded me of those purple scented markers from my childhood. From there we decided to bushwhack about half a mile in order to cut off a lightbulb of trail around Stormy Lake. In the end, I made some pretty shoddy work of it so I don’t think we saved much time, but it was a fun way to test our ankle strength. Covered in spiderwebs and back on trail, we turned uphill to finish the climb to Stormy Lake Pass.
As we approached the last set of switchbacks. I heard the distinctive squawk of children drifting from high above and appreciated the fortune of this fair warning. I stopped Spice when she rounded the corner and we casually re-clothed ourselves, thinking that we had plenty of time. However, not a minute later, a gaggle of kids of varying ages scrolled by. Whew, that was lucky. Surprising adults with nakedness while hiking is one thing, but surprising kids might be a sex offense for all I know. Dodged a bullet there.
Even with clothes slowing us down, the final climb to Stormy Lake Pass was not so bad. I made it up there, then scooched a little up adjacent Mount Tiny to see the views. Evening light lit a dense congregation of peaks, some granite, others crumbly black and red shale. Spice joined me and I enjoyed her warm company and the cooling breeze on my sweaty back.
An awesome traverse across a steep and shaded slope put me at Goat Flat. Spice took her time behind me, dancing the whole way. Wide open views kept up as we cairn hopped across a wide grassy ridge back to the official CDT. A friendly pair of super fit runners caught us by surprise, their enthusiasm for the wilderness palpable and invigorating. They also let us know that there aren’t really any grizzlies in the area, which is nice to know.
I felt fine on a switchbacking descent into forest before another big climb to a saddled shoulder of Rainbow Mountain. By the time I got to the top, the sun had set, yet the horizon was still aflame with alpenglow. I was undeniably tired now, not having eaten enough probably. Spice, who kicked my butt up the hill was somehow full of energy and still dancing. I was bewildered, and didn’t resist when she jammed chips in my mouth.
The sky was totally clear, so we felt good about sleeping on the exposed ridge, setting up for a good sunrise tomorrow. Not much energy left to do anything besides eat and sleep. What a day. Mountains are pretty cool.