CDT Day 46: Red Conglomerate Overlook to Modoc Ridge – Milky Way Camp to Sunset Ridge Cowboy Camp
Miles hiked: 20
Total miles: 749.3
A late start and brutal terrain made today’s 20 miles feel like 40, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a great time. I had heard a lot of moaning and groaning about how difficult this section was, reports which turned out to be accurate, so I was ready for it. However, the effort was rewarded, bigly.
The sun was high and warm by the time SpiceRack and I left the overlook where we had camped. We made quick work of the final climb to a pass thing, then dropped down a wide ridge into the world of cow pastures and cow pies below. Spread ahead of us to the east was a scene of crumpled earth. Grassy ridges and fingers rose steeply to the Divide, which meandered up and over numerous high points. I knew we were going up there. It was going to be great. It was going to be hard.
And it was. After lunch under a shady pine at Shineberger Creek, we ‘swhacked up through sagebrush, collecting stickers and seeds in our socks, to one of these fingers before following it up to the ridge. I was drenched in sweat at the top, but a ferocious wind quickly chilled and dried my shirt. Bathtub rings of salt the were evidence of my struggle. It was about 4pm. Spice was right behind me and we spent the rest of the day stumbling, laughing, cruising, cursing the ridge and wind.
This was great fun. The wind was blowing 30+mph, making it difficult to walk in a straight line as we followed a fence of barbed wire along the MT-ID border. I lost my hat multiple times and nearly nicked myself on the barbs more than once. The trail was ludicrously steep at some points, and I struggled to find my rhythm on the maddening rollercoaster.
There was plenty to distract from the hard work, however. The views, of course, were as staggering as the wind. Vast landscapes in all directions. The flats of Idaho to the south, the flats of Montana to the north, and more peaks and hills everywhere else.
We flip flopped over the border perhaps a dozen times in eight miles of ridge, the old fence doing little to keep us in or out. The round stones that made up the trail left me questioning their origin, perhaps an ancient seabed millions of years ago. Who knows? I’m no geologist. We surprised a herd of sheep, then watched them migrate in single file across a steep slope. Spice sang Three Little Birds on loop as the evening wore on.
We took a hard left to follow another finger into the valley as the sun set behind Garfield Peak, not once but twice. We were planning on making it all the way down to the valley floor before camping. Instead we decided to take advantage of the views, lack of mosquitos, and dying breeze to cowboy camp for the first time on this trip half way down. No complaints here. That was hard walking and I think it earned us a sunrise to go with the sunset.