CDT Day 36 — July 31
Pyramid Peak shadow to Homer Youngs Peak shadow
Too Dark to Name Camp to Fancy Seeing You Here Camp
Miles hiked: 24
Total miles: 580.9
Well we keep trying to get an early start, but it hasn’t happened yet. Not like we had much of a chance this morning with our late dash last night. We made a plan to stop earlier, around 8pm, tonight so that we can get ahead of these lagging mornings by getting some more sleep. We’ll see if that works…
But not this morning, no. Slept through all of the alarms. First one at 5am, finally up at 6:30am. I was on the trail behind SpiceRack at 7:20am, practically half the day already gone. My favorite part of most days is finding Spice after spending a few miles apart, waiting at an awesome view or good water, always smiling yet contemplative. What deep question does she have for me today? I finished the climb from yesterday up the last rocky switchbacks, views expanding in glorious abundance of granite crumbles and hazy morning ridgelines. On a sweeping shady traverse to the next saddle, I found Spice doing what she does best. Sitting for a pack-on break.
We switched from shady side to sunny bowl shortly thereafter. I was feeling fine and couldn’t get over how quickly the scenery had changed on me. We were now back in the mountains and I felt like we always had been somehow, even though the last big peaks, the high Anaconda-Pintlers were days behind us. Green meadows, Alpine lakes, chutes of granite scree and boulders swooping up to bald peaks. My kind of place.
Spice and I brainstormed winter plans as we hiked down then back up to Mountain Pass (8973ft), passing by a metal post marking the MT-ID border. I can’t guess how many times we’ll flip across it for the next few hundred miles. Views from the top were, again, pretty good. Another glacier-carved basin waited for us on the other side.
Slag-a-melt lakes and creek quickly disappeared, though their beauty is worthy of a much longer visit, as I bombed down an old mining road trying to catch up with Spice after making an emergency pit-stop. Down through forest until turning sharply up an intersecting valley. Up through more forest until finding Spice sitting on the trail, mixing cookie dough for lunch.
The spot was kind of crappy, by design as I later learned, to keep us from lingering too long. Spice was out early, but I hung around writing for almost an hour longer. By the time I left for the last 10 miles to camp, I knew I had to fly for any chance of catching up.
I plugged into some music and jammed down to Big Swamp Creek, the nastiest creek I’ve ever seen, then started the first of the two remaining big climbs of the day. The air was rich with oxygen and moisture down this low so I was grateful for the breeze that stayed consistent on every other switchback. Dripping with sweat, I found a bit of relief after reaching an alpine bench filled with wildflowers and views. Clouds were fortunately back in the picture, keeping things cool.
No sign of Spice at the pass. I had to stop and appreciate the next view though. A really freaking cool moraine extended from the sharp face of Ajax Peak, waves of rock frozen in time like cooled lava. Patches of snow throughout. Light and shadow played across more sharp peaks extending south. Rugged stuff. I could have stayed there for a veeeery long time.
Down and around the snout of the moraine through a meadow bordered by trees. At the next big creek I was relieved to find evidence that Spice had been there, her bottles of Aquamira waited for me in a heart of pebbles (my filter broke, remember?). I washed my salty shirt and treated a liter of water.
Now expecting, hoping to find Spice around every corner, I pushed on to climb the next, better-be-the-last pass of the day. I sucked salt from my mustache on the way up granite switchbacks, savoring the contrast with my sweet Clif bars. Though I was in bright sunlight, rain blew in from over the ridge, creating a spectacular scene, filling the bowl I was climbing out of with sparks of light. I appreciated the eye candy, coolness, and earthy fragrance for the final few turns to the pass. No Spice up there either. Damn, she’s moving fast! I stood in the rain shadow of a stunted pine to catch my breath and wait for the shower to pass.
The rain had swept the trail clear of all footprints so I had to trust that she was up ahead. Of course, she is. Where else would she be? Finally, there was Spice, looking like a dork in her rain gear, finishing up a break at the elbow of a switchback.
No break for me though. Gotta get an early night for an early start. Four hours of pushing myself without rest had taken its toll on my feet and it was easy to see why it had taken me so long to catch Spice as soon as we started hiking again. I tottered on numb stumps while she floated away. I couldn’t keep up.
A few miles of easy trail to camp. A grind for me, but we made it early as planned. Spice collected water, set up the tent, and washed my socks while I stared into space. It was all I could do to scoop beans into my mouth and fall asleep. Legs good, feet blasted. More breaks. Less not breaks.