It was snowing when we got up and it snowed all day, though the accumulation was not that much – a few inches. It was a light snow, but pretty and a white Christmas. Yeti and I spent a quiet day. After a small breakfast, we did presents – more stuff than we usually do. Yeti’s main gift was a new avalanche transceiver, so I got him a bunch of small things like ski-scrapers, a calendar, a small water bottle for hiking, bon-bons and a copy of O magazine – a joke, as he is always saying he aspires to sit on the couch, eat bon-bons, and watch Oprah. He gave me new slippers (shearling lined), Thymes Limited lavender bath wash, shea butter hand cream, and also avalanche gear.
Then I got busy cooking: lamb roast, Yorkshire Pudding (a first for me), green beans, salad and dessert. We also had a nice Cabernet to go along with the meal. Dessert was easy, courtesy of left-over pumpkin pie from Thanksgiving, which I had frozen. Salted-caramel gelato accompanied the pie.
I had decorated the house with greens and the table looked lovely with a centerpiece of balsam and white pine boughs, candles, flowers, and Yeti’s St. Nick collection. The tree was a local one – a Douglas Fir, though I did not go out to cut it. It is more old-fashioned with lots of space between the branches, so that decorations can hang down…a very sweet tree if I do say so.
After eating the delicious meal, we went for a walk in the snow around the neighborhood over to the pond. Now, relaxing and listening to Christmas music….the holiday goes too fast.
Yeti and I had a great time at ALDHA WEST this year. It was held in Keystone, CO at the Keystone Science School very near Silverthorne and Dillon. The CDT goes right through here so it was a no-brainer to go. Shroomer, who we met in the Winds this summer, presented on his Madagascar trek, so we wanted to see him also.
We headed out on Wednesday afternoon and drove as far as Cody, WY. On Thursday we got out pretty early and drove the back roads to Silverthorne. They were good roads and many antelope were seen along the way, as well as beautiful scenery. The Grand Tetons were in the distance as we got further into Wyoming, though I do not think we could see the Winds. We did drive through a bit of the Wind River Reservation, though. Going through CDT trail towns was fun: we stopped in Rawlins for lunch at the Cloverleaf Café, which had Mexican food, not what I’d expected from the name. But it was good and we also drove through Riverside/Encampment as well as on the road that both Yeti and I had taken from Grand Lake. I was just getting back on the trail in 2009 outside Grand Lake and as I was alone, I did a road walk on back roads. I thought it was safer as I did not know if my foot would hold up and did not want to risk high snow or have to self-rescue from the trail if anything want wrong. It was great déjà vu.
We stayed at a motel in Silverthorne and on Friday headed out to Ptarmigan Peak Trailhead just 5 minutes from the motel! We had a great hike (weather cooperated and was sunny or partly sunny for the entire hike) up, up the mountain, through Aspen groves, evergreens and above tree-line on those great open divide grassy hills. Up to almost 12,000 feet by the top. A great day with unbelievable views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks.
It was off to ALDHA West for dinner and socializing Friday night. Next morning, we went over there for breakfast and the fun began. Good presentations on the Brooks Range in Alaska, Shroomer’s talk, and an interesting one on thru-hiking the Colorado 14ers. Nita from Pietown was there also and Jeff Kish, who asked me about joining the PNTA board. Hmmmm….I probably will do it. I went for a short hike after lunch during free time along the river by the Keystone Science School. Yeti was not feeling great and in the end we did not even stay for dinner. Headed back to the motel, though we did stop for a light supper at the Red Mt. Grill. Then, we went back to the room for an early night.
We got an early start next morning, as we both wanted to get home in one day if possible. This time we did a slightly different route, starting out on the same back roads into Wyoming. We had a brunch at the restaurant in Riverside and then by I80 diverted heading to Casper where we picked up State 25 for a bit until it reached I90. It was I90 all the way home from then on. We got home about 7:30pm – not bad. All in all a great trip.
This was a magnificent loop backpack in the Spanish Peaks area accessed through the Flying D Ranch (owned by Ted Turner). The route begins at the Spanish Creek trailhead and goes for about 4 miles along the creek pretty level, then gradually climbing to a junction. From the junction, you can either go to Spanish Lakes or turn left to Mirror Lake, which would be our path.
That first afternoon, September 6th/Wednesday, we got to the trailhead about 4:30pm after I’d finished my classes. We hiked in 4 miles to the Mirror Lake junction, where there are some flat spots and obvious camping. Though right on the trail, we camped there as we assumed we would not see any other hikers. Yeti and I set up camp and had our sandwiches and soon packed it in. We’d made about 900 feet of elevation gain.
On Thursday morning, September 7th, after coffee, we proceeded up the trail towards Mirror Lake. The trail gets much steeper here. Unfortunately, the smoke was pretty bad and the views were all hazy. It’s a shame, as the terrain is spectacular with craggy peaks all the way in the surrounding views. Mirror Lake is aptly named: the circle of peaks are perfectly “mirrored” in the water. We stopped for a snack break here, finding several camp spots to the left of the trail.
Climbing up from the lake, you follow a pretty babbling stream – good water even though it’s been so dry all summer. Looking back, the Spanish Peaks loom dramatically.
Again, the path gets steeper and rockier approaching Summit Lake, a glacial lake ringed by stony faces of the many mountains. It is a beautiful spot – more isolated than Mirror Lake. You could camp here, though you’d have to search around for flat spots a bit further away from the water. We had a nice lunch here, cooking hot meals as we had the water source. We knew the ridge we’d be up on that evening would be dry and planned not to cook that night.
From the lake, you lose hundreds of feet to walk through a greener valley enclosed by the surrounding peaks. We could see Beacon Point and Indian Ridge ahead, which was our destination. One more lake (Thompson) and several streams were in the valley; I later wished I’d carried one extra liter of water. But, I didn’t want an extra 2.5 pounds on my back for the big climb ahead.
The climb up to Beacon Point was tough – very steep and much more rugged than I’d anticipated. Amazing rocks, jagged peaks, and some knife edge trail was on the agenda. Yeti had to take it slowly, as it was a really relentless steep up and hard on his heart. But, we finally made it to the top over 10,200 feet! This was our high point. We had a break up on the open crest and looked at our route ahead: a long down over a knife edge to a saddle, then up again to a treeless crest with a huge cairn on top. There we’d walk along the ridge for bit, head down, then up again to the ridge.
Views all the way were unreal: too bad for the smoky haze. With blue, blue sky this would have been gorgeous. It was quite wonderful anyway, and an exciting hike down and up to the other side of Indian Ridge. By this time, it was 6pm and we hoped to find a camp spot further along the ridge where there were some scrubby trees. Luckily, we did find a flat spot that wasn’t too rocky and set up the tents. We were quite tired and only cooked hot drinks to conserve our meager water. No water up here until we reached a lake several miles down Indian Ridge. A good sleep and quiet night with a full moon.
On Friday morning September 8th, we left without any coffee and made our way along the ridge to Thompson Lake. The ridge walk was very pleasant with a few ups mostly down now! A short steep down brought us to the lake, which was only a small snow melt filled spot. Lots of birds there enjoying a drink. I made some coffee using lake water and practiced with our Sawyer filter that Christine had given us for Christmas. It was kind of slow, but worked fine. Yeti and I were both remarking that we’d seen almost no wildlife.
After our nice stop, we headed off glad that it was going to be a downhill walk from the lake. Just about 15 minutes from the lake as we rounded a bend in the trail, Yeti says, “Bear.” It was a sow with two big cubs. The cubs had scurried up the trees and the sow stood guard. We were several hundred feet away, so didn’t feel too worried. The sow made no threatening moves and once we made noise, she and the cubs ran away! Well, we were thrilled to have seen them and with a good outcome for humans and bears!
Down, down, down we went through the trees and very dry vegetation. We turn off the ridge and eventually you see signs for the Flying D again. For a while, the trail parallels a branch of Hell Roaring Creek, but high above the water. After about 9 miles, we’d come out by our car opposite from where we’d started. Great trip and we got out early enough (noon) to make it back to Belgrade to treat ourselves to lunch at the Spotted Horse!
We got up at about 6:35am and made coffee. By 7:30, we started down and very soon came to the falls. Not too much later, we were at the junction with the main trail that we’d started on. It was only a bit over 2 miles back to the car, so Yeti had miscalculated the miles. It had not been 11 miles yesterday, but more like 7. We met quite a few people coming in, some day hikers others clearly backpacking, including two young guys with monster packs. They had an inflatable boat in the packs – we could see the oars sticking out! Better them than me. Soon, we were back to the car by 9am. We decided to head home for showers and to the Spotted Horse for breakfast! And, that’s what we did. Yum. Great trip. Next on the agenda will be a loop to Summit Lakes.
Unlike our thru-hikes we got up later at 6:45am and actually made coffee before setting out by 7:30am. I took some early morning pictures of the lake as we left.
The junction which goes up to Jerome Rock Lakes is only about a tenth or two of a mile back the way we came in. The trail goes downhill a bit passing small meadows filled with wildflowers and a small pond. Then, it goes up steeply. We gain about 1,000 feet to 9500ft at the pass. It is a spectacular climb. With meadows, views of all the peaks around – quite craggy. Though a tough climb for Yeti, we make it up for a well-deserved break at the pass. Here we have 360 degree views – too bad it’s hazy with smoke, though not as bad as previously. There is a breeze and it is getting rid of some of the smoke. We can see Lake Solitude on the other side of the pass, where we will be coming to on the way to Jerome Rock Lakes.
The way down is via a contour of the hill to a ridge with a trail junction sign. We follow the Lake Solitude Trail, which is steep down at first before it moderates going very close to the lake. This is probably where you should come for solitude – no people in evidence. The trail goes sharply left (look for the cairn) and continues for a bit at a moderate grade. This trail is spectacular – well worth the climbing. At the next junction, we fork left to get to the lake. There is an established spot (probably not legal for camping though there is evidence that people camp there) and we stop for a long break for lunch. Just opposite is a bigger site, where it’s okay to camp. You must be 200 feet from the lake.
After our meal, I explore along the lake front and did find another site, probably too close to the water but clearly used. No one here, so again, maybe the better option to Spanish Lakes which is more accessible especially to horse packers. This lake is also surrounded by rocky, craggy mountains and seems more remote. It’s a quiet, relaxing break.
Yeti and I discussed our plan and decided to continue on down the Pioneer Falls trail to find a camp. We’d have a short way out. Yeti said he thought we had 11 miles from Jerome Rock Lake, more than I had thought.
Now, we were going downhill so the going was pretty easy. Mostly, it wound through some forest, meadows, more forest. We’d been going almost two hours and started to look for sites – I had not seen anything suitable yet. After a wide open part of trail, grassy and with Aspen trees, we started down through some woods and found a camp right next to the stream and by the trail. We decided this was it, as we’d not seen anything else. We set up here.
One young woman passed with just a fanny pack as we prepared our meal. Later, three folks on horseback and two hikers came up and tied the horses up just near us. They went down the trail a bit for water and when they returned we struck up a conversation. Some lived in Bozeman, the others were visiting from the east coast, including a woman who lived in New York. They headed back and we got ready to pack it in for the night. More reading – I wanted to charge my phone around 9pm and realized I’d forgotten to bring the cord. I had the charger but no way to connect it – I’d simply forgotten that piece! Oh well, we would be out before the phone died.
Yeti and I left early to do our Spanish Peaks loop backpack. Our first stop was the Coffee Pot for breakfast. They have delicious and filling breakfast sandwiches, made fresh. Just about 12 miles further to the turn off into Ted Turner’s land. One lone bison was eating grass by the roadside.
There were several horse campers at the trail head. The horses were grazing peacefully as we set off. For about the first 4 miles, the trail is fairly level with just small rolling ups and downs. It follows the South Fork of Spanish Creek to a junction. You can either take the Mirror Lake fork or the path to Spanish Lakes, which is what we did. At the junction, we bumped into Mike, a guy who was out with his son and the son’s friends. They had gotten separated as they hiked in the evening before: Mike camped at Mirror Lake and we surmised that the guys were camped just ahead over the creek crossing. Then we noticed a note made with sticks “Mike” pointing the way over…. They were indeed at the camp. We chatted a bit with them and headed off – uphill and steep-ish!
We took it slowly and stopped for lunch at trailside. Soon, the kids came gamboling up followed shortly by Mike, who stopped to get a load off and chatted with us for a bit. They were heading to Spanish Lakes also to fish.
Got to the lake about 3pm and found quite a few people. One group had a really nice site that was the nearest to the lake and they’d staked out the lake front there too. They didn’t seem too friendly and we didn’t want to horn in on their privacy. We searched around a bit – by the stream there was another set camp with two tents. We crossed the stream and almost immediately found a potential site. Yeti and I went looking a bit further on and we came upon some mules and a camp in the woods. We decided to just camp at the site by the stream.
After setting up camp, I went to take pictures of the lake, which is surrounded by high jagged peaks. A bit like Cirque of the Towers in that respect. We had not explored to find the other two lakes, one of which we think is higher up and the other behind a rock “hill” as you first approach the lake. I think the guys we met earlier went to the higher lake, because we did not see them. I sat by the water for a bit, then went back to camp. We cooked pretty early and soon headed off to our tents. Both of us read our e-books until we nodded off. Quiet night.
We attended the Pacific Northwest Trail Association’s event at Deception State Park in Washington that featured a presentation by Ron Strickland and a showing of Alex Maier’s film, Sense of Direction. Quite a few hikers attended. Rebecca and John Roberts hosted many of the attendees; we arrived on Friday August 4 and were lucky to get one of the inside rooms. Freebird and Raven were there also – it was good to catch up with him. He has been hiking almost non-stop for years, including having completed the Te Aroroa trail in New Zealand. The crowd on Friday night for the Roberts’ BBQ was not too big, but Saturday night tons of the people were camped out in their backyard!
As part of the event, Yeti and I went on a short hike in the park. One of the local people who showed up ended up “guiding” the hike as we arrived late and missed the official group. Sue turned out to be great. She was knowledgeable about plants as well as the area.
The PNTA had a tent set up with an information table to educate the public about the trail and to promote membership. Lewis was there doing trail maintenance demos cutting logs. We went to a talk on interpretation and went to Ron’s talk and the documentary. We all headed back to The Happy House after. The youngsters stayed up pretty late, so we didn’t get much sleep. We’d be leaving very early the next morning as we wanted to go all the way home in one day! Long drive.
The weather cooperated and was not too hot, but smoke was evident even in Washington at the coast. It’s a bad fire year. PNT hikers are being affected with fires in MT and Washington in the Pasayten.
On the way to the PNTA event in Washington, we stopped in Winthrop overnight because I wanted to add it to my 2018 town guide. While far from the trail, it’s a full service town and some hikers have been going there. There is a hostel in town and we stayed in one of the private cabins, which was very nice. The bathrooms are in the main house, but the cabin was very new and had AC (it was very hot). There was a PCT hiker there who we chatted with and drove back to the trail at Rainy Pass the next morning. On the way, we stopped at Mazama, which is a potential hiker re-supply point especially for PCTer’s, but PNT hikers can get off at Harts Pass also to get there or to hitch into Winthrop. Ravensong, a PCT trail angel, has a hiker hostel in Mazama, though she may only be open September and October. I’ll put it in the book also.
Winthrop is accessible as well from the Ross Lake parking lot on Route 20, though it’s a 60 mile hitch. There are plenty of cars on Route 20 so it’s probably not too hard to get a ride. The town has lots of restaurants, a nice coffee place, Rockinghorse Bakery, and two gear shops.
At 4:30am two climbers (I’m guessing) came by with headlamps! They start early…must have camped at Big Sandy Lake. And just at about 5am, lightning and a bit of thunder made me very nervous. It was the kind of lightning that just lights up the sky – not bolts. It passed soon, but not before it sprinkled a bit – great, a previous breeze had dried the tent and now it would be wet again. Luckily, as we got up the breeze started again and the tents were mostly dry by the time we packed up.
Usually, we pack up and head out, but in our more leisurely hiking style for this trip – I made morning coffee before we began our trek back out. It was a cool morning, clear and a great start to the day. When we got to the snow field, we put micro-spikes on right away. The snow was a bit more consolidated, but you could have gotten over without traction. I was happy to have the micro-spikes on though, made it feel more secure. A fall wouldn’t have killed me, but it would have been nerve-wracking and a fast ride down the hill!
It was a lovely hike out that early. I always enjoy the early part of the morning. It’s cool, few people, and the light is great. I took lots of pictures on this trip. It sure was easier going down! As we were going out along the lake, Yeti commented that he was very tired and would probably feel it next day. I was tired too. We got back at about noon and headed back to Pinedale. We stopped there for lunch and called ahead to a motel in Driggs to book a room for the night, so we could break the trip home up a bit.
We arrived in Driggs, ID and got settled in, took showers, rested a bit. I went for pizza later for supper (Yeti had kept some of his lunch and ate in the room.) and then came back and read for a while. Slept well that night! I was exhausted and so was Yeti. All in all, a great trip.
Tomorrow, we’d be home within 3 ½ hours and still have most of the day to unpack and relax. We were both happy that the trip went so well. I’ll go back to the Winds anytime in a shot! And to Big Sandy Lodge!
The day began with a scrumptious breakfast: breakfast burritos, an egg, potato and sausage bake, French toast, sausage links, fruit salad, juice and coffee. What a delicious spread to start off the hike. I had to refrain myself so as not to start the hike too full. We met the other couple, Rodney and Julie Moore from Georgia, and had a nice social time with them and Shroomer and Katie. Rodney and Julie were horse-packing into a lake for a fishing vacation; the lodge also provides horse packing trips! Natasha gave us all our bag lunches and we got ourselves packed up and said our goodbyes. Hope to see Shroomer and Katie at ALDHA WEST in Colorado come September.
Yeti and I drove over to the campground and trail head for Big Sandy Lake. Holy moly – we were not expecting the crowds. We just barely found a space to park the car. But we did and soon headed off. The trail to Big Sandy Lake is fairly moderate with a 600 foot elevation gain over the six miles to our trail junction. It’s a very pretty trail with terrific scenery. First it starts in a woodsy stretch ambling along a fast moving creek. Gradually, the dramatic peaks of the Winds begin to show through the trees; these mountains are very distinct with jagged tops and unusually eerie shapes. Many people were coming out and most had fishing poles. Fishing and climbing seemed to be the dominant activity for folks here.
We took it steadily and Yeti seemed to be doing well. I was a bit anxious that he make it through the hike after our unsuccessful trip to Clark Fork. But, all seemed to be going well – the real test would be the climb when we changed to the trail to Jackass Pass leading to the Cirque.
The CDT route uses the Big Sandy Lake Trail and we soon came to the junction where the CDT peels off. There is also a connector trail to Big Sandy Lodge. Soon, we came to open mountain meadows carpeted with wildflowers. Both Yeti and I are on a kick to get to know the flowers. It seems that I can only remember one or two new names each time and I have to look them up repeatedly before it sinks in!
Several CDT thru-hikers passed us; it was fun to bump into them. We had a nice snack break and got to the main part of the lake. Many people were camped along the lake; it’s a popular spot. Around noon or so, we got to the trail to Jackass Pass and started the big climb. Twenty or so switchbacks take you way up over the lake – great views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Soon the jagged peaks of the Cirque become visible. Yeti and I took it slowly to ensure that he’d not tax his heart and lungs too much. We really wanted to finish this hike.
Lots of people were coming down from the pass, too. Most were day hikers who were base-camped at the lake; though it would be possible to get to the pass from the campground parking lot in a day for a strong hiker. After the switchbacks, you come to a flattish meadow – again filled with wildflowers. Then the trail descends to a stream, where we had lunch. After the stream crossing, you must climb and negotiate a boulder area following cairns to find your way among the huge house-size rocks. Next comes North Lake – you descend to the lake walking around its eastern edge to climb again to Arrowhead Lake.
The trail stays high above Arrowhead and you can’t even see it until you get to its northern shore. A long snow field connects the upper parts of the trail. When the snow isn’t there, you would continue to descend on the actual trail (mostly snow covered now) and then ascend the other side up to the pass. We started over the snow field first without micro-spikes, which was doable without traction. But part way over by a big rock, we stopped and put them on. It did make me feel more comfortable and secure. I went very slowly over the snow. Once over the snow, it was a short climb up to the pass, which is signed. We whooped and cheered: we made it! Can’t take it for granted anymore. Yeti’s determination and our careful progress got him through.
At this point, we had already decided to camp as high as possible. On the other side of the pass, you would descend into the Cirque to Lonesome Lake. You cannot camp within a quarter of a mile of the lake shore, so we thought we’d go part way down and then find a flat spot. As it turned out, we found many spots right by the pass so we decided to camp there. We even found a spring-fed pool of water – what a great spot. Jackass Pass is at 10,800 feet. The Cirque looms up before you. What a panorama! It’s hard to describe how stunning this area is – a truly sacred place.
We dropped our packs and went a little further down the trail to take in the full view of the Cirque. A cirque is basically a “circle” of mountain peaks with a big basin or bowl beneath. A tent was set up further down trail off to the side on a prominent place – what a view they’d get! We found Texas Pass on the other side of the Cirque – still quite a bit of snow over there. Originally, we were going to go over Texas Pass and loop back to the parking lot via the Shadow Lake Trail. That entailed a cross country trek over the Pass (no trail) and bushwhack over to the other trail on the north side of the Cirque. But, we had changed our plan and decided it was best to hike out the way we came in. It would have been a difficult slog for Yeti with his current health issues.
Once we set tents up, we were hungry and cooked dinner. People kept passing, most were climbers, however, a CDT section hiker named Claire came by and we chatted. She had originally planned to go over Texas Pass but was warned by some folks she’d talked to that the pass would be covered with tons of snow…..a bit exaggerated. There was snow but the pass was doable. Anyway, she had set up her camp at Big Sandy Lake and walked up with a day pack. I think she regretted not coming up in spite of the warning once she saw she could have gotten across. Oh well.
Later, two more thru-hikers came by our camp (visible from the trail – no trees). They were still trying to get over Texas Pass that evening. The woman was named Fainting Goat! That’s an original trail name.
Hope they made it okay. It was already 7pm and though they were probably in typical thru-hiker condition, it seemed a bit tight. At one point, I could see them down by the lake, but was not able to follow them up the pass. Binoculars would have been nice. Not sure it they went for it that night or camped and continued in the morning.
Yeti and I read our e-books for a while and turned in. I think I got about two hours of sleep when rain pitter-pattering on the tent woke we up. Yeti said he’d seen lightning in the distance, but I couldn’t see any and did not hear thunder so I wasn’t too worried. We were totally out in the open and a big thunderstorm would have been very scary. The rain didn’t last more than a few minutes, just enough to wet the tents! From then on, however, I could not get back to sleep. It seemed that I was tossing and turning all night. And, I had a headache, which was most likely because we were at almost 11,000 feet. Anyway, I rested though I did not sleep deeply.
We left Driggs to go to Victor, where we’d hoped to have breakfast at Scratch, a restaurant that seemed to have fresh, farm to table style food. However, the information that we’d researched for the IBT Town Guide was wrong and the restaurant was not open for breakfast on Thursdays – only Friday through Sunday! That was a big disappointment. We’ll have to update the info in the town guide for next time.
In the end, we went all the way to Pinedale before finding a sit-down Café, The Wrangler’s Café. It was fine…I was really hungry by then. Jackson would have been closer, but Yeti really did not want to stop there. It does have tons of traffic; we just hit the outskirts of town so avoided most of it.
About 12 miles east of Pinedale, you head off towards the mountains on several good and wide packed gravel roads. It’s dry, desert country with the mountains looming in the distance – a stark beauty. The ride to Big Sandy was more and more remote and beautiful. Desert colors are dusty greys, purples, sage green, yellow and brown. The final 9 miles are on a much narrower gravel road, so you have to watch it on corners. The way was well-signed and we found the lodge easily.
Big Sandy Lodge, which Yeti and I both skipped on our CDT trip, was great. It’s rustic but not a dusty old camp; the cabins are simple, but nice and clean and lighted by kerosene lamps. They give off a nice mellow light. Showers and toilets are in a clean bathhouse not too far from our cabin. The main lodge has the dining room and a lounge and both have big fireplaces.
The lodge sits by Mud Lake, a small lake with dramatic views of the Winds for a backdrop. The lodge provides a row boat that you can take out. We didn’t do that, but did take a short walk. Otherwise, we lounged around reading (we’d arrived pretty early in the afternoon). Around 5pm it got a bit dark and rained very briefly and lightly, no lightning or thunder. Shortly after, the clouds blew off and the sun reappeared.
As we were relaxing, a Mercedes camper pulled into the spot right next to us. It was Shroomer, a long-distance hiker, and his wife Katie!!! Small world in the hiker community. It turns out Shroomer knows Julianne Baker (Yellowstone); he’d met her on the PCT. He is an avid mushroom collector, hence the trail name. He’d picked pounds of porcini mushrooms and spent the afternoon slicing them and laying them out on the picnic table to dry! Yeti and I had a great time talking to him and Katie. They’d already had a nine day backpack and came in for a night for showers and food. Hiker paradise at Big Sandy Lodge.
One of the owners, Natasha, was very nice and a great cook. She made and served dinner at 6pm in buffet style. It was delicious. A thru-hiker would go nuts. I’m sure Shroomer and Katie had a great time eating here — I know I did and my appetite was not revved up the way it would be when thru-hiking. The menu included meatloaf (regular and gluten free for Shroomer and Katie), scalloped potatoes, carrots, summer squash and peas, cornbread, and peach cobbler for dessert. The potatoes and cobbler were baked in cast iron skillets. It was the best peach cobbler I’d ever tasted … I had two helpings!
We sat at dinner talking to those two for a long time. Two other people had been expected, but it turns out they arrived really late and missed dinner – their loss. We met them next day.
I slept well here. The cabin was snug, the light by kerosene lamp was cozy. It was not great for reading, so Yeti and I used headlamps for a bit while we read ourselves to sleep. Very quiet, peaceful night.
I worked today until 2:30 and raced home so we could hit the road. The first leg of the trip took us to Driggs, ID where we stayed at the Pines Motel Guest Haus, a mom and pop home-style guest house. We had a nice room in the old part of the house…a bit of a warren of corridors to get to it. It shared a bath with a couple of other rooms, hence the very reasonable price of $60. The host was at the Montana Shakespeare Group’s performance when we arrived – the same one we saw in Bozeman featuring a George Bernard Shaw play.
Pretty much went to bed early. Featured photo is from the trail near the Cirque.
It was a very nice hike out: cool morning. I made some coffee before we left camp…another thing we don’t usually do. Our general style is pack up and get going!
Yeti had studied the map on our phones (Backcountry Navigator) and we’d used paper maps also to find woods roads that would go around the terrible bushwhack. We did not want to do that again. The early morning quiet made for a pleasant walk out. Got feet wet at the stream crossing….that’s where we picked up the road route.
We got back to town really early, about 9:30am. To top things off, our car’s battery had died (during the accident some interior lights had popped on and we’d both forgotten them) so we got a jump from Miki at the motel. Got some comfort food (a huckleberry milkshake) at the Pantry and off we went home.
The hood was tied down with bungees and part of my bear rope! It was kind of a tense ride back. We’d just stopped at a gas station not too far from Missoula, when the engine overheating light came on. We drove back and got some coolant- even though it did not seem very low. That worked for a while, but the light came on again as we approached Interstate 90. Luckily, we made it to the highway, limped into the truck stop, and called AAA to haul us home. We’d had enough … and blowing the engine would have been the limit.
Lucky for us, the wait was not too bad and the wrecker came within the hour. We traveled in the cabin with the driver and he had us home by about 4pm. Glad to be home. The car is in the garage. We’ll call our insurance company to haul it to the collision place in the morning. I’m bushed and I think still a bit in shock from the whole episode. I’d never been in a car accident before.
We started very early before 6am and walked through town to the Spring Creek Road, a gravel road parallel to Lightening Creek. We’d driven up to find the trail head yesterday, which is about 2 miles in just off the main road. The trail is covered in brush, so we almost missed seeing it. I noticed what looked like a path by looking between the bushes…and that was it! Hardly a significant trail head beginning.
The bits of trail in the woods were clear, but in open spaces it was pretty overgrown. We were able to follow it until it led right up to private property. So, Yeti and I headed down a main road and then bushwhacked around the private property to find the trail again beyond the house. We did see forest boundary signs, but it was not entirely clear if we managed to stay on public land the whole way. Luckily it was a short and not too dense bushwhack.
For a short while, the trail was basically an old jeep track, but soon we had to branch off right and ended up in a horrendous bushwhack with dense brush and trees. Man, were we glad when we hit a woods road. This lead to a stream crossing (after passing by an intimidating sign saying Private – VIDEO cameras in action!) and finally a real trail…No. 120.
Trail 120 had good tread and immediately started climbing. This is when Yeti started to have significant breathing issues and we were stopping every 10-20 feet to let him catch his breath. The trail continued up with great views as we got higher. The full climb was over 3,500 feet of elevation gain! We stopped for lunch in a shady tree-lined spot and I was wondering if we’d make the miles. After lunch as the trail climbed, I suggested at one point that we do a sit down break and Yeti readily agreed. I asked him if he really wanted to keep going, he was so clearly struggling and had taken several Nitro already. He replied to my query that he was not having fun. But, he still said, “I hate to give up, let’s go a bit more….” After about ten minutes, however, he said, “I can’t make it, do you mind if we turn back.”
I was actually relieved. Watching your partner struggle so much was not fun either. We’d made it a bit over 8 miles up the mountain. So, we decided to go back to our lunch spot which was flattish and camp there; we’d hike out in the morning and go home.
It was a nice afternoon and evening…a bit longer to be in camp than what we are used to and my silly E-book didn’t work. I did not realize that you had to “activate” the E-books before they’d work! So, I had nothing to read on my phone except stuff I’d read already.
The night passed by quietly….
Clark Fork Ill-fated journey
Yeti and I set out for Clark Fork, Idaho with the plan to scout a new route for the IBT from Clark Fork to Darling Lake. Supposedly, there was a new trail that would avoid using Lightning Creek Road. When we were about 100 miles short of our destination, we were traveling NW on MT Route 200 and a deer that was mostly hidden in high grass at the side of the road jumped out in front of the car. Keep in mind that many straight back roads of Montana have high speed limits so we were going pretty fast. I was driving and jammed on the brakes once I saw it and realized the deer was coming my way. At first, it feinted right as if it was going to run into the field. Unfortunately, there was no way to avoid hitting the deer: it would have caused a catastrophic accident had I swerved into oncoming traffic or into the ditch on the right.
Needless to say, the deer came onto the hood cracking the windshield and damaging the front bumper and hood. The poor animal ended up in the ditch on the opposite, left side of the road. Poor thing. The worst in terms of damage to people and car was that the stupid air bags deployed. We didn’t even need them; we came to a controlled stop and had our seat belts on, so our bodies were not flung forward.
The air bags are a mixed bag – no pun intended. They are made with lethal chemicals (look it up!) and while these chemicals “degrade” as the bag is deployed, we were sprayed with noxious, toxic dust. Yeti, whose heart and lungs are already compromised, was having terrible trouble breathing. The bags blind you too, so for a while I couldn’t see anything out of the windshield! A scary feeling. I just kept the steering wheel straight! The bags on the side of the car obscured the door handle and both of us had trouble getting out at first. Apparently, Yeti climbed into the back seat and got out the back door and immediately collapsed just gasping for breath. It was a traumatic event for people and animal both. Of course, the deer was killed. I hate to think of it. Too bad, they have not learned to avoid these weird metal objects careening down roads.
Several cars and a DOT truck stopped and wanted to call an ambulance, but we didn’t need one. They called highway patrol, but in the end we left after waiting for about 45 minutes with no patrol car in sight. The engine seemed fine and after first heading towards Missoula we decided to stick to our trip plans and went on to Clark Fork. What a drama!
We got to the motel (we had called to tell them about the accident) and settled into our room. Yeti called State Farm to get our insurance claim going…they felt because the air bags went off the car was probably a total wreck. Of course, we were driving the new car. Those airbags did us no good! Kind of ironic – as they are meant to save you.
Yeti and I went to the Squeeze Inn for dinner, which we’d been looking forward to. The owner came and talked to us; she is quite a character—kind of a latter day hippie, new age, foodie, artistic type. Very social and friendly, too. We had a nice time sitting on the outdoor deck for our meal. On the way back, we stopped at the Clark Fork Pantry to get sandwiches for tomorrow’s lunch. Better than hiker food!
Up early in the morning to begin the hike.
Early morning yoga got us going before breakfast. Chuck made final farewell comments and a small group of the hikers accompanied me on a walk on the grounds to Sky Top, which is a nice view point above Pilgrim Pines. You pass by a beaver pond on the way.
Shortly after we got back, many of the group headed off home. I stayed with several others including Mary Lou and Ann for lunch. After lunch, Chuck drove me to Keene to get my rental car and the other two ladies to Manchester for their flights home. All good things come to an end.
I headed off toward Albany to visit an old college buddy I’d lost touch with. On Saturday, I’d be NYC bound.
Thanks to the hikers, Chuck Anderson, and the wonderful Pilgrim Pines staff for making this a great week. I hope all had fun hiking and meeting new friends – I know I did. Happy trails!
Summit day. Again, I changed the itinerary by choosing a different route than originally planned for hiking the mountain. I chose the Marlboro Trail instead of the White Dot for two reasons: (1) it’s on a quieter side of the mountain and would be more pleasant for the group; and (2) it was not quite as steep. I’m glad we did that route – I think it’s also more beautiful. The White Dot is the most traveled, but I don’t think the best scenically.
The Marlboro still has plenty of difficulty to offer, with ledges and rocks galore. And, views. We had another great day, a bit hazier than Wednesday, but still a good day. We took our time on the steep assent taking breaks now and then for snacks and water or to snap photos. Again, I was impressed with the gung-ho spirit of the hikers: everyone met their particular challenge head-on and all of us got to the top and safely down. And, we had fun doing it. Al came along again as did Joe; both did a great job helping us get up and over the rocks. Al was informing us of features and critters along the way.
At the top, we met people, but it wasn’t terribly crowded as it sometimes can be. Most of us went a bit lower near the junction of the Pumpelly Trail to have lunch. It was a bit protected from the wind and a bit quieter. Mary Lou and Ann opted to stay high on the mountain for their repast.
Try as we might, we could not see Boston—oh, well. But we could see all of the surrounding valleys, Jaffrey, Gap Mountain, the Packs, Little Monadnock and more. Al met some hiker friends up top, too…small world.
On the way down the mountain, Al found an amazing patch of lady slippers. I have never seen such a large grouping.
We got back to camp late afternoon and got cleaned up for dinner. After dinner was Homespun, a friendly summing up event. I missed it though because I joined Dawn, Joan, and Ann to go see Win in the hospital – it would be my only chance to see her before the trip concluded. She was in great spirits as usual and already feeling better. It was a good decision to seek medical attention. Her son was planning on coming up to pick her up over the weekend. Go, Win!
Back to camp and bed….
Excitement in the air as it’s sunny and promises to be a terrific day for our Cliff Walk adventure. First, yoga, breakfast next, pack up lunches and GO! We got a bit of an earlier start and with our helper Al Stoops in tow drove to the park headquarters, which is the starting location of the Parker Trail. The trail is an easy-going and gentle climb in the woods leading to the beginning of the Cliff Walk. Al, who knows the mountain as well as a lot about flora and fauna, hunted salamanders and showed us a new brown variety (not the bright orange EFT) that likes to live under decomposing logs.
At the junction of the Cliff Walk trail, our route starts climbing steeply and soon comes to a stout ladder leading up a steep rock face. Al and I traded places at the front and middle of the group and Joe was the all-important sweep. Because many had different hiking speeds, we got a bit spread out but the front group always waited at key outlooks or bends in the trail for all to catch up.
Over rocks, up ledges, through the woods we went. Great views from rock ledges dazzled us as we made our way towards Bald Rock. Features along the way included Hello Rock, Thoreau’s Seat, various trail intersections, Wolf’s Den and an abandoned mine. Our hike ended at Bald Rock where you get an amazing view of Mt. Monadnock and surrounding hills and mountains, like the Packs. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm. We had a nice lunch and took a group photo; Ed did a nice job herding us together and using his timer on his camera! And, he didn’t even fall down as he raced to join us for the photo! Nice going, Ed.
Our way down was via the Lost Farm Trail, which was a bit gentler and didn’t have the rocky ledges to negotiate. We returned to Pilgrim Pines psyched by our accomplishment. I was proud that everyone made it and that in spite of some trepidation by one or two who were less experienced, they overcame any fear of the rocks and did it! Bravo to us all!
We missed Win and Lauren who did not accompany us on this hike. We had another great meal – ho hum isn’t that tedious that I have nothing but boring praise and more praise for the meals!
Tonight the “entertainment” was me! I gave my Pacific Northwest Trail presentation in the chapel. It’s still one of my favorite treks. Hope all enjoyed it. I like to promote the trail; it’s a beauty.
Unfortunately, Win had been feeling crummy all day and Joan, a PA, convinced her to go to the emergency room in Keene, where they checked her in to the hospital. We were all concerned about Win, especially her “partner in crime” Dawn.
I intended to hike to Spanish Lakes, the over to Jerome Lakes & back to car staying overnight. Then, after sleeping in or near my car I wanted to do two more overnight loops. Best laid plans sometimes don’t work out. I got up fairly near Spanish Lakes but the creeks were so high that, after getting knocked down twice after trying to cross I decided I didn’t really need to chance it & turned around & hiked up the “High Lakes” trail. It had started raining earlier (twice) but then stopped. After trudging through the snow up & over the Ridge it was getting near dark & clouding up again so I found a suitable campsite & set up my tent. I had made sandwiches so I wouldn’t have to cook the first 2 days. I read a while & then fell asleep. I woke up at 10:30 to heavy rain. It rained fairly hard & steady for about 2 1/2 hours, then off & on the rest of the night. I was warm & dry in the tent though. The next morning I headed up to Jerome Lakes, lot’s of snow! Then down the trail by Pioneer Falls & back to the car. I had 2 very difficult stream crossings on the way.
Near the trail head I ran into some folks doing short day hikes & they told me the weather was going to be colder & rainy or even snow up higher. Since the creeks were running so high & bad weather predicted I made the decision to just blow it off & go home & do day hikes in the Bridger’s, weather permitting. Good choice as it did end up raining & even snowing up high.
On the hike in I saw lot’s of wildflowers, Lupine, Larkspur, Glacial Lilies, Arrowleaf Balsamroot, Strawberries (no fruit yet), Chickweed, & others I can’t remember.
The picture is one of he easier crossings although the wet logs were slippery. I had to cross it twice as it was before the one that knocked me down. A good time though except for all the rain.
The day began with Awakening Yoga at 7:15 which I held in the beautiful chapel nestled in the trees. Breakfast followed at 8am. The plan for today was to pack up our lunches, go over to Gap Mountain and then drive into Jaffrey to visit the grave sites of author Willa Cather and Amos Fortune, a former slave who purchased his freedom and became a noted Jaffrey citizen.
A few Road Scholars stayed behind (Win and Ann went into Keene for lunch and Lauren did walks by camp) and the rest of the group valiantly headed off in light rain to the trail head. Michael Chelstowski accompanied us as sweep along with two Pilgrim Pines staff. Kitchen staff thoughtfully packed two thermoses of coffee and muffins in the vans for us to enjoy after our wet hike.
The Gap Mountain Trail climbs about 700 feet to an open “summit” that – when clear – has a great view of Monadnock. Today, we hiked up in the trees with rain dripping, sometimes coming down lightly and sometimes coming down more steadily. The group remarkably kept up their spirits. Obviously, when we got to the top – surprise, no view. We didn’t stay long up there and the coffee and muffins were certainly welcome to the scraggly and wet hikers!
Some of us opted to continue to Jaffrey while the others drove back to camp in one van captained by our Pilgrim Pines helper, Joe, where they could enjoy hot showers and respite. The Meetinghouse in Jaffrey is a typical New England style white church building with a tall steeple, once used both for worship and for town meetings. The historic grave yard sits just next to the Meetinghouse and has scores of old gravestones. We easily found Willa Cather’s grave and had to search a bit to locate Amos Fortune’s site, which had clearly had new and elaborate grave stones added more recently. Amos Fortune was a former slave who had purchased his freedom and went on to have a successful leather tanning business in Jaffrey. He died in 1801.
On the way back to Pilgrim Pines, Kelsey, our valiant driver, turned the heat up high to dry us out and get us warm. The group was glad to get back for showers and a rest before dinner.
Once again, a fabulous meal followed by entertainment. John Cucchi and Andy Larson, a folk/blues/jazz duo on guitar and fiddle, serenaded us with familiar and original tunes. What a way to end a wet but satisfying day. Luscious homemade cookies were provided by the kitchen to sweeten our mood.
I was so glad the hikers rose to the occasion and went out to hike in the rain…onward! They are an impressive group.
Already, I am changing things around. Luckily, though it is overcast and cool, it is not raining so the agenda is Tippin Rock with Ryan Owens in the morning and lunch back at Pilgrim Pines. Then, we ‘d head over to Toll Road Trailhead and go up to Monte Rosa using the Toll Road to the Monte Rosa Trail. We’d return via the Fairy Spring Trail. I chose this amended route, as the route I scouted would be wet with slippery ledges – not as good an option.
Ryan came at breakfast: he was great, a naturalist and conservationist. He came along to Tippin Rock, a short hike very near Pilgrim Pines in lovely woods on private land that had a conservation easement. It wended through mixed north eastern type forest where we observed many varieties of fern, pines and spruces, birch and beech trees, as well as other local flora, including wild cucumber. The Rock at Tippin Rock actually sits on a “fulcrum” and rocks when you push it with a bit of heft!
We went back to camp for lunch and then off we went to go up to Monte Rosa. The Toll Road is an easy grade but is a pleasant walk in the trees. Ed, Sarah, Nat, and Barbara were excited to have their pictures taken by the private home that we passed on the way up to the Half Way House site, a former hotel that burned down in the 1950s. Their family used to own the private house and they had spent happy days there exploring Monadnock.
From the Half Way House area, we joined the Monte Rosa Trail, which was a narrower trail through woods. It got rockier and a bit ledge-y as we climbed. The weather was a bit rawer at the mountain, kind of misty, windy, and damp, but it did not rain. After some scrambling we arrived atop Monte Rosa with its signature weather vane!
We didn’t linger long as it was blowing and damp. On the way down, we split off at the Fairy Springs Trail, which passed by the spring gushing out of a rock ledge. A very pretty hike and a bit more of a challenge compared to the morning. Everyone did great!
Win did not come with us in the afternoon. She is an intrepid hiker/mountaineer and adventurer, who had a serious accident while hiking in Yosemite resulting in one of her legs being amputated below the knee. That did not stop her, however, and she’s had many hiking adventures since. More recently, though, she’s had some set-backs with other health issues. What an inspiration she is though for all of us.
After another fabulous dinner at Pilgrim Pines, the hikers’ group enjoyed a wonderful presentation by Steve Hooper of a film trailer about Mt. Monadnock. What a story he told about how the creators of the film worked to raised funds and produce this interesting documentary. I hope that Public Television broadcasts it. We all enjoyed the film and talk. Next, Ed showed us some pictures of Monadnock and his earlier days hiking the mountain. A great end to a successful day.
Tuesday’s weather was not looking favorable, though Wednesday and Thursday would be dry and sunny. I shifted the itinerary yet again. On Tuesday, we’d keep it easy and do just Gap Mountain and possibly check out the Jaffrey cemetery where Willa Cather was buried. We’d do the Cliff Walk on Wednesday and leave the summit for Thursday to allow the rock ledges to dry out thoroughly. This would make for much safer hiking and more fun!
I still had the Cliff Walk on the agenda today. Participants would be arriving in the afternoon, so I wanted to get the hike done in the morning. So, I left a bit earlier and went over to the Toll House Road parking lot to try that approach. I ended going past the turn off for the Parker Trail and opted to head up the Do Drop Trail instead of back-tracking. It was a steep approach to the ridge where the Cliff Walk was and a bit hard to follow in parts as it was not blazed along the way. Once I joined the Cliff Walk, the route took me up and down rocky ledges with scrambles passing great view points along the way. Additionally, the Cliff Walk has several interesting features such as Thoreau’s Seat, Wolf’s Den, and a Graphite Mine site. It ends at Bald Rock with great views of Monadnock.
I returned doing the full length of the Cliff Walk, down the ladder and back to the Toll Road via the Parker Trail. Can’t believe I missed the sign on the way up! I must have had my head down just as I passed it!
I was excited to get back to Pilgrim Pines to meet everyone. Unfortunately, the weather got wet Sunday afternoon and the forecast was a bit gloomy through Tuesday.
The first person I bumped into was Ed from Canada! Ed would be joined by 3 siblings – all of whom had a deep family history with Monadnock, which added much interest to our trip. The hiking group totaled 14: Julie, Nat and Sarah from Maine; Barbara from New Hampshire; Dawn and Joan from New York; Ann from Maryland; Lauren and Tom from Tennessee; Mary Lou from Florida; Enid and Kateryna from Massachusetts (Kateryna is originally from Ukraine); Ed from Ontario; and the amazing Win from Georgia. It’s a diverse and dynamic group with amazing adventurers, scientists, counselors and health professionals, and just plain good folks!
It was a great welcome at dinner for the entire group: hikers and watercolor artists (the other Road Scholar trip that week). What a nice combination of people. Chuck was terrific and it was fun to meet the group. The food at Pilgrim Pines was amazing and plentiful. I was sure I’d gain pounds even though I would be hiking every day!
Following dinner, the hiking group convened in the Fireside Room for a general orientation. Each day, I would have a co-leader and staff to help with the group. At orientation, I discussed the fact that we might have to jockey the hike schedule around based on the weather and hoped everyone would be flexible. It rained all night!
Today’s scouting trip took me up to Monte Rosa on Monadnock and also to Gap Mountain to check out that trail. I chose the Marlboro Trail approach to Monte Rosa, switching to the Marian Trail and Great Pasture Trail to get up to Monte Rosa. It rained a bit as I got up toward the junction of the Marlboro and Marian Trails, but only a light drizzle, so not bad. By that time, the trail is already rocky and ledge-y. The Marian Trail slabs around the mountain on its western side, a quieter, less traveled section. It heads down and up along the side of the mountain, some scrambling was involved to get to the Great Pasture Trail. This trail goes steeply up through trees until opening out onto the rock ledges leading to Monte Rosa. Nice views from this vantage point of the valleys and of Mt. Monadnock summit.
I came down the same way and raced over to Gap Mountain to scout that trail, which is only a bit over a mile. It is mostly in forest, opening up near the end on clear ledges where a view is afforded of Monadnock to the north.
I headed back to Pilgrim Pines and had dinner in the dining room.
Deb and I had breakfast at the dining hall and Fancy Free, my AT friend, arrived shortly after. She was coming along as I scouted the summit route up Monadnock. Deb headed out and we headed off to Monadnock State Park HQ to go up the White Dot Trail.
As I remembered, the White Dot was quite challenging. It has a very steep middle section with sloping granite rock ledges to climb up and over. We proceeded rather slowly taking time to check out the views along the way (and to catch our breath). It was a warm and sunny day and we made it to the top in 2 hours – longer than I’d anticipated. Plenty of people were up at the summit and it was breezy and cool. From the top, Monadnock has spectacular 360 degree views all around. Fancy and I think we saw Greylock in the distance and closer by, Pack Monadnock. We dutifully took some photos and off we went down via the White Cross; I wanted to see if it was a better route down for the group.
The White Cross was less steep and had fewer big ledges to clamber down, so it’s a good choice. We also briefly scouted the Parker Trail to where it intersects with the Cliff Walk.
Fancy had to leave when we got back to camp, so I gave her a hug and sent her on her way! All in all a great day.
My sister Deborah and I took our time driving up to Pilgrim Pines from Boston. Our route passed through Concord, MA via Route 2, where we stopped for refreshment and a peek in Grasshopper -– a clothing shop I like. I got a great pair of cotton yoga pants, which I really needed.
Off we went then to Peterborough, NH, a lovely town with lots of interesting shops, eateries, and the great Sharon Arts Center Craft Gallery that features local NH artists. Deb and I enjoyed our stay there. Lunch was delicious at the Twelve Pine Restaurant & Market, a casual place where you can get salads, sandwiches, soups and other delectable food and drink. We then went over to the gallery and the book store before heading over to Pilgrim Pines.
What a wonderful greeting from Chuck. He and his wife, Liz, took us out to dinner and welcomed us warmly to the camp. I have a lovely cabin with kitchen for the week. Deb stayed the night.
Hiked today with the BWAGS on Hell Roaring Creek Trail in the Spanish Creek area. Great little hike of 10.2 miles (per my GPS). I was surprised that only 4 other people showed up. Wonder why, as it was the holiday and a beautiful day. Anyway, it was kind of nice to have a small group.
The trailhead is on Hwy 191 and begins with a steepish up taking switchbacks through forest. Good trail the whole way and filled with wildflowers. One of the other hikers, Judy, knew more about the flowers – she’d just taken a wildflower hike. We saw tons of flowers: various kinds of mustard-related flowers, bluebells, glacier lilies, lupine, biscuit flower, arrow leaf balsamroot, larkspur, pussy toes, clematis, and a beautiful small pink fairy slipper – apparently an orchid and related to lady slippers. What a great time for wildflowers!
Once you reached the top of the first ridge, the trail headed down towards Hell Roaring Creek. You cross a wide wooden bridge and then slowly climb some more, but it hardly feels like a big climb. It seems mostly gently rolling….paralleling the creek. Sometimes you are very near the water and then quite high above it. There was quite a lot of water in the creek rushing downward. Snow is still melting! A group on horseback was coming out…that would be fun. One of these days, I must do a horse trip.
Judy also is interested in birds and told me that Audubon does more hikes through June and then again in September. She is half Chinese and very interested in the history of Chinese in Montana, including in many of the ghost towns. She worked for the BLM in a ghost town for a summer.
We went in for a bit over five miles to the junction with Trail 110 and stopped there for lunch by the creek. Lovely day…warm without being too hot. We had a nice lunch under the trees before heading back the same way. We met more people coming in as we went out…another horse group, doggies, and a few groups of hikers. But for the most part, it was not crowded. This was a very lovely trail and I would do it again in a heartbeat. It also connects to many trails in the Spanish Creek area, where Yeti and I plan to do some short backpacks this summer.
All in all a very nice day.
Last night, I suggested to Yeti that we do a hike the next day. He agreed, but said, “Let’s do an overnight and head toward Fox Creek Cabin.” This is one of our favorite hikes – not too much elevation gain, but a varied walk up canyon with tree covered sections, climbs by rocky outcroppings, and a large open meadow with fast flowing creek.
So, off we went on Thursday fortified by a delicious breakfast at the Spotted Horse!
There were quite a few cars at the trail head. Not a big surprise, as we didn’t get a very early start. We immediately met two mountain bikers ending their ride…it’s a popular spot for biking and dog walking for the first few miles. After that, you don’t see many people. It’s a bit of a climb for about a quarter of a mile, then it is a more gradual climb.
Most of the way, we followed the creek, sometimes it would be just feet away and sometimes as we climbed up canyon, the creek was 100 feet below. Just now, with snow melt in full swing, water is gushing and bubbling over the rocks. No worries for water on this hike. Fewer wildflowers than at the Buffalo Jump as it’s higher up and gets a bit less direct sun, but we did see lots of glacier lilies and varieties of violets and some penstemon.
There are multiple water crossings with log bridges and at about the five mile point you pass a camp site in the woods just off the trail. We thought of coming back here to camp after hiking for a bit further. Small blobs of snow began to appear in the trail which were consolidated, so that we did not post-hole very much.
The meadow appears about 6 miles in…it’s an open expanse of grass bordered by some trees. We continued on for about half a mile to the turn-off for the cabin. At first, we had planned to hike a bit higher — we were so early — but the snow was getting deeper there and we decided to turn back.
Yeti saw flat spots as we hit the meadow and suggested checking out the area over by the creek for a possible place to camp. Glad we did: we found a great old campsite, which had a nice kitchen area with stumps to sit upon and even a log tied high in trees for hanging food. So, this was home for tonight. It was only about 3 o’clock.
We set up, got water at the creek just feet away, and started to play cribbage — Yeti brought his lightweight backpacker set. It got cloudier and soon thunder rumbled and it started to rain lightly. We repaired to Yeti’s tent and continued our game. I’m just learning, but though Yeti beat me, I wasn’t far behind in points! It rained on and off for a while, but eventually stopped and the sun re-appeared.
We cooked an early dinner – glad to use up some of the hiker food we had left over from last summer. After dinner, we hung the food bags and did a little walk around the meadow. Moose-tracks were everywhere and lots of droppings near the camp site, too. But, no midnight visitors!
We went to bed pretty early, too. I had a copy of the NYT puzzle which I played with for a while and Yeti read an e-book on his phone….then we turned in. It wasn’t particularly cold yet, though by morning the temperature had gone down probably into the thirties.
Got up about six or so and we made coffee and had breakfast in camp, which is not our thru-hiker pattern. It was kind of nice to not be in a rush to do miles! We only had about 6 miles mostly downhill and we’d be back to the car. It was a pleasant morning, cool and clearing. Near the end of the trail, we bumped into people coming up for a morning walk…several couples and people with dogs. By, nine thirty we were at the car and soon heading back home. It was a nice interlude and great to be out in the woods. We are both getting cabin fever, but with snow still pretty deep higher up, it’s hard to get out many places yet. No sense slogging through spring snow or mud.
Today, Yeti and I did one of our favorite hikes by the Madison River. The route parallels the river high above along grassy bluffs, which abut Ted Turner’s ranch. Views are spectacular as the hills have few trees and those that do exist are small. So, when you get up to the top of the hill you get a panoramic view of the Madison River Gorge, the river, the mountains in the distance and grazing cattle or bison, if lucky. Ted Turner raises bison and sometimes herds dot the hills. We didn’t see any this trip, though a small band of horses were grazing on his land. Wildflower sightings included shooting stars, small groups of white phlox, and one yellow bell! Bird-song accompanied our walk and made me feel that spring is here! I hope to take the Audubon bird workshop next year at this time; this year, I was simply overbooked with continuing education classes, work, and presentations.
This is one of our favorite hikes: it’s not too long, only a few miles, but it has some good climbs so you get a nice workout. And, for this season, it tends to be dry since it is so open.
Dan Roberts of Daniel Roberts Stringworks & his wife Rosemary invited me to join them in Helena to celebrate Dan’s induction to Montana’s Circle of American Masters (MCAM). They picked me up & we drove to Helena to the capitol building where the ceremony took place. Several of Dan’s friends & family were there plus Cyndy Andrus, the new future mayor of Bozeman & other dignitaries. There were three people being inducted, two women for weaving & Dan for his outstanding luthier skills. It was a nice affair & we got lunch after. Then we all went to the Blackfoot River Brewery to chat & have a couple of beers. A great day!
The picture shows Dan on the left & Beverly Polk from Wilsall, MT one of the two women who also got the award.
Yeti and I did our first spring hike at Madison Buffalo Jump. We figured that there’d be no snow or mud there. As usual, our route is a bit off trail and hugs the perimeter of the state land. Some wildflowers were up, including patches of white phlox, shooting stars, and yellow bells. The photo here is of a deer’s antler found in the grass. It was a nice sunny day with a bit of wind as we rounded the top of the high point. The route finishes by curving around the private farmland high above the jump and heads down the grassy hills back to the parking lot. Total mileage is just under 4 miles. It’s one of our favorite places for an invigorating workout that is not too long. Great views all around as it’s so open. Off to the Spotted Horse for lunch!
On the Idaho Boundary Trail when you arrive in Oakley, Idaho for resupply, at Clark’s Market the owner Arlo Clark who is a very friendly guy has a friend named Van Woodward who owns the Woodward’s Country Store in Weston, Idaho which is the next stop where you can get food and ICE CREAM! In 2012 Mike O’Brien met Arlo and he asked Mike if he would take a note to Van. Of course Mike did and Van really was really surprised and had a good laugh. I knew about that so in 2013 I asked Arlo if he wanted me to take a note to Van for him again. So I did. The Mike did again in 2014 and Melanie and I did again in 2015. We are now called the “Hikers Express”. It’s good for a laugh and a free ICE CREAM Bar! Now it’s a tradition.
For More Info: IDAHO BOUNDARY TRAIL (IBT)
Forging your own path: Creation of the IBT
The Idaho Boundary Trail is 2,500 mile backcountry adventure (if you stick to the “main” route) and was conceived by Yeti and his friend Mike O’Brien in 2012. Affectionately known as the two geezers (they are both older hikers), Yeti and Mike planned the route by studying maps and satellite photos, hiking the route, and tracking it using a GPS. They painstakingly put together a route that would adhere as closely to the border of the state as possible. Idaho is unusual in that its perimeter is mostly public land, affording the hiker a wealth of varied landscapes to explore. The trail zig-zags back and forth across the border, seeking out the most interesting sights.
The IBT is not an official trail and is not supported by any non-profit or state or federal agency. It is the inspired creation of two long-distance hikers who wanted to have a pure wilderness experience and to “hike their own hike.”
Over the next few years, Yeti and Mike refined and changed the IBT as necessary to avoid private property, and to correct routes that were impassable. In some cases, they developed alternate or easier routes that give the hiker choices based on his/her abilities or desire for challenge. They like to call the really monster sections, the “geezer routes,” because the two of them hiked them. They have kept them as the main route. Easier paths are offered for those who are not up to the geezer challenge.
Yeti and Mike decided to start the trail in Clarkston, WA and go counter-clockwise to get through the Owyhee Desert before it gets too hot and to make it through the Selkirks before snow flies up north.
Yeti, a seasoned long-distance backpacker, has hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) among others. He considers the IBT to be even more of a challenge than any of these other trails, because large sections of the IBT are unmaintained, unfinished, and just downright rugged. But, for those who enjoyed “embracing the brutality” of the CDT, it is the next step up, and a magnificent 2,500 mile journey.
Mike O’Brien & I (Yeti) created the Idaho Boundary Trail (IBT) and first started hiking it in 2012. I had to drop out due to severe sun stroke that year but Mike did the entire hike.
In 2013 I (Yeti) hiked 1750 miles of the IBT but tripped hiking at night & ended up with a serious concussion. It took me two days o hike out vomiting and seeing double, but I got out.
Mike hiked the IBT again in 2014.
Then, in 2016 I finally finished the trail with Melanie Simmerman (Lemstar). Melanie did the entire trail in 2016. You can visit the trail journals below:
Mike O’Brien’s Idaho Boundary Trail Journal 2012
Yeti’s Idaho Boundary Trail Journal 2013
Mike O’Brien’s Idaho Boundary Trail Journal 2014
Yeti’s Idaho Boundary Trail Journal 2016
Melanie’s Idaho Boundary Trail Journal 2016
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) spans 2,600 miles from the U.S. border at Campo, Mexico to Canada, wandering through desert, High Sierra pinnacles, rugged Cascade mountain ranges and remote meadows. Thru-hikers may encounter snow in the high mountains and swift-moving streams to ford, making a PCT journey both exhilarating and challenging. Yogi’s planning books are highly recommended (http://www.yogisbooks.com.)
For more information, go to the Pacific Crest Trail Association’s website at www.pcta.org.
I hiked this as a thru hike in 2007 & a little more than half in 2006, then the rest in 2008 but I didn’t do journals either of those years So I have done it twice but only once as a thru hike.
This is a great trail to do as a first time thru hike. You can view the journal below:
Yeti’s Pacific Crest Trail Journal 2007
The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) is one of the most ambitious of our National Scenic Trails. Ranging from 4,000 to 14,000 feet, the CDT passes through a variety of ecosystems from tundra to desert. Hikers can expect to see a variety of wildlife – grizzlies, elk, mountain goats, and deer – and hosts of wildflowers carpeting its remote mountain meadows. For the long-distance hiking community, the CDT is one-third of the “Triple Crown,” and approximately 150 ambitious travelers attempt to complete a thru-hike each year. Parts of the CDT are still in the planning phases, so expect to bushwhack incomplete sections or walk the roads. When completed, the trail will extend 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada. Yogi’s planning books are highly recommended (http://www.yogisbooks.com).
For more information, go to the Continental Divide Trail Coalition’s website at www.continentaldividetrail.org.
Melanie (Lemstar) Simmerman & I (Yeti) both were hiking the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in 2009 separately but met in Grand Lake Colorado. She was the first hiker I had seen on the trail after hiking through New Mexico and Colorado. We actually started hiking together when we met up again in Encampment, Wyoming. We did split up for awhile in South Pass City, WY but rejoined in Salmon, Idaho and finished the hike together. You can visit both our trail journals below:
The Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) extends 1,200 miles from the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park to Cape Alava on the Pacific Ocean. The trail wends its way through the Rocky Mountains, the Selkirk Mountains, Pasayten Wilderness, North Cascades, Olympic Mountains and Washington’s Wilderness Coast. While hiking the PNT, you will travel through three National Parks and seven National Forests.
Characterized by high mountain views and dramatic valleys, the Pacific Northwest Trail offers a rugged backcountry experience. Conceived by trail visionary Ron Strickland in 1970, the PNT was designated as a National Scenic Trail in 2009. The PNT, however, has yet to be fully completed on the ground. The trail is largely unmarked, so you can expect to be challenged by route finding and bushwhacking.
The Pacific Northwest Trail Association is the non-profit with the mission to protect and promote the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail (PNNST), and to enhance recreation and educational opportunities for the enjoyment of present and future generations.
For more information about the trail and hiker resources go to www.pnt.org.
Yeti did the PNT in 2010 but at Ross Lake Resort in Washington with only 460 miles to go my right knee finally gave out after hiking 12,000 miles bone on bone. I was forced to come out and I got a full knee replacement and returned on the same calendar day and finished the hike in 2011. It just continued on in the same journal. Melanie was working full time so she had to do the PNT in sections 2012, 2013, 2014, & with Yeti in 2015. I hadn’t seen anything of the Olympic Mountains since it snowed or rained every day while I hiked through in 2011 so I wanted to see them.
Yeti’s Pacific Northwest Trail Journal 2010 & 2011 I didn’t do a separate journal for 2015, Melanie did hers for both of us.
Melanie’s Pacific Northwest Trail Journal 2012
Melanie’s Pacific Northwest Trail Journal 2013
Melanie’s Pacific Northwest Trail Journal 2014
Melanie’s Pacific Northwest Trail Journal 2015