Day 39: Montana? Idaho? To Bannock Pass (Idaho Falls) – Sunrise Slopey Porch Camp to F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Camp
Miles hiked: 19
Total miles: 654.7
Today was a pretty chill day as far as hiking days go. And the contrast between where we were at the beginning and end if the day is almost too drastic to comprehend. SpiceRack worked some magic so that this bizarro-world of thru-hiking seat-of-your-pants living went off without a hitch.
We were up early to catch the sunrise and catch the day. Hiking, back on the dirt road at 7:15am. If you think that’s not particularly early, yeah, well whatever. It’s about as good as we can expect these days. We only had a short day scheduled anyway. Spice, through the magic of the internet, had arranged a ride with a trail angel from Bannock Pass to Idaho Falls, two hours distant, at 6pm. We needed to make it 19 miles by then. No problem if the elevation profile was to be believed.
Trees kept me shaded and cool for the first few miles and I found a good rhythm along the gentle uphill. Even when the trees fell behind, the breeze and altitude kept the walking temperature just fine. Fine views silenced my thoughts along a grassy ridge. Wild mountains, perhaps the White Cloud range, to the west demanded most of my attention, but the looking was good all around. I peered into the basins and examined the jagged peaks like I was trying to memorize every detail, yet knowing that I was absorbing absolutely nothing. It was meditative and calming.
I walked alone like this for miles, scaring a few cows along the way, before catching up with the three dudes in a patch of shade. They were surprised to see me, thinking that Spice and I were still ahead. Nope, if you are hiking by 5:45am, you will likely pass us by. They left, Spice arrived. We left. Down to a shady spring for a top up and rest.
I attended to some new blisters, then left Spice there to tackle the climb of the day. Nothing really. Up, hot, dry, exposed, wonderful. Then down through the widest landscape yet. Easy cruising through golden grass on the crest of the lumpy divide. The scene was so big that nothing moved. Like walking on a treadmill in front of a massive screen.
I finally made it to the next stand of trees, though I could have walked like that all day without complaint. The dudes were finishing up lunch. I was just getting ready for mine. SpiceRack blew by us, oblivious to our shouts and claps, lost in some heavy music and a land of her own. I caught up and convinced her to give me company while I ate some ramen I’d been soaking all morning.
I plugged in some tunes for the final up and over to Bannock Pass. It was hot, but my pack was practically down to bare baseweight, so I mixed jogging with fast walking all the way. Out of the trees, into sagebrush desert. I found the dudes again huddled in the only patch of shade for miles, just above the pass. 5:15pm. Spice was five minutes behind me, and we all kicked down the dirt road to the other dirt road to await our ride, amazed my the remoteness of our present location.
Chad showed up right when he said he would, a charcoal Kia van his steed of choice. This generous soul answered Spice’s request for a ride to help us get to a trail wedding in the Winds many hours driving, or three weeks walking on the CDT, to the south in Wyoming. He drove two hours from his home in Idaho Falls just to pick us up, bringing cold beverages and crisp veggies with him. What an incredible dude. We loaded up and settled in for a smooth ride.
We bombed down the highway through a truly fantastic landscape. I couldn’t help comparing it to the Owens Valley in California, my favorite place in the whole world. Giant granite peaks, unbroken to the west separated from dryer, rounder mountains in the east by a wide valley of sage. Utterly empty. Heaven. An in between place that I would never have visited if I were not hiking the CDT.
Two hours later we pulled into Idaho Falls full of carrots and soda. We said farewell to Chad after dinner at the Thai place and moved into our accommodation for the next two nights. SpiceRack did it again, booking an incredible Airbnb last minute. It’s a loft worthy of New York hipsters, above a downtown restaurant. It is waaaay too nice for people as dirty as us and reminds me of a sitcom set. We will zero here tomorrow, then rent a car for the drive to the wedding the next day.
Woke up in the dirt. Fall asleep in a king sized bed, showered and fed. Do you see how strange this lifestyle can be? SpiceRack is amazing for making this all happen. Chad is amazing for going above and beyond to help out hikers in need. Thank you both so much!