This is a section of the IBT I had to skip in 2016 because of fire closure. Blog entry follows.
IBT Trip: August 2018
Aug 2,3,4: Lost Trail Pass to Hamilton
We stayed over Wednesday night in Darby at the Mountain Spirit Inn. Thursday morning, we left early to drive to Lost Trail Pass where Yeti and I headed up the steep Ski Trail into the woods. It’s the same route initially for the IBT route that goes back to Darby via Nez Perce Pass, but I’ll diverge and begin to go more northeasterly towards Hamilton. Yeti came in about 4.5 miles and turned back; I went on along the road and shortly turned off onto trail 171 which I’d use for the entire day. I was lucky as most of the climbing was the part in the morning. Most of the rest of the day the terrain was moderate, though open to the sun. I slabbed along mountain-sides, passing fields of wild flowers. Views of the valleys were somewhat obscured by smoky haze from fires. I didn’t see any other hikers. By the late afternoon, I started down toward Hwy 93, where the campground was and expected to run into Yeti at some point. I had the downhill; he had a steep climb. We met a couple of miles from the road and hiked back down to the campground. It was on a river and very nice. I pitched my tent, got cleaned up, and since we had a car we drove to a restaurant and had a great meal.
In the morning on Friday, Yeti and I headed out directly from the campground. The route took us up about 1,000 feet on a woods road. Great views back of the valley and the mountain I’d come down the day before. It was a steady climb for several miles. We branched off onto an old jeep track heading up a ridge. Across the way, we could see an old fire look-out cabin. Yeti again came in about 4.5 miles and then we parted. He would go around to the Hamilton side, find a campsite near where I’d come out, and meet me tomorrow on the trail. I continued up the track. Lots of views into the valleys on both sides of the mountain once I got to the top. I then headed downhill on FS road moderately for several miles: I could see the road snaking around; it kept curving into canyons, so the distance was more than it looked. Again, no sign of people. Hot day again and I was grateful for any shade. I did pass some homes after leaving the National Forest and before doing another gradual and relentless climb on gravel road. I decided to stop to make dinner at about 4:30pm and then hike on, which I like to do sometimes. It gave me a break after a long, hot exposed climb and energized me so that I could do some more miles. I did a big day, over 25 miles, I think. Camp was a big turn-out along the road.
On Saturday, I got up early and figured I had one small climb. But, after just a very short while I started to descend – so I was further than I thought. So, I had a very pleasant morning hike – downhill all the way on FS road, and I did great miles. Mostly views of trees, quite pretty. I stopped mid-morning for a longish break, made coffee, and enjoyed the early sunshine. Before long, there came Yeti; he’d gotten up early and hiked in several miles already. We figured we’d get to town early enough for a late breakfast! He’d found a great campsite by the river just near where the road I was hiking came out. We drove to Hamilton and it was too early to check into the motel, so we went to breakfast and then read in the library. That evening, we had a good supper at a wine tasting room. BC Winery – local stuff and it was good.
Aug 5,6 Hamilton to Lochsa Lodge
This was the last stretch, about 46 miles to Lochsa Lodge and would be more challenging terrain. Sunday morning and we drove from Hamilton to Blodgett Creek trail-head. There was a campground there and several cars in the parking lot, so I figured we see people, which we did. The trail climbs up a narrow canyon along a creek, has several picturesque waterfalls, and is rocky. One of the hikers coming down the trail had seen a bear and though we saw quite a bit of scat, we did not see any bears. Yeti turned around at the 5-mile point and I soldiered on. Trail conditions were not great – very overgrown in parts and I made slower progress than I’d hoped. By lunch, I doubted that I’d be able to get in 25 miles that day, which is what I’d hoped to do. Finally, I left the overgrown trail and in mid-afternoon heat started the steep climb to Blodgett Pass. Though a hard grind, I enjoyed it more than the more level last miles, as it was not overgrown with vegetation and I had great views of the long canyon I’d just come up. Again, I stopped to cook on the way up, so that I could then just hike until almost dark. Glad I did that. Was I glad to get to the pass and it was worth it. It was stunning with dramatically shaped peaks on both sides. I still had another climb up to Frog Lake and encountered a blob of snow on the north side. I was glad to be going downhill and it was already late. At this point, I hoped to be able to eke out a 22-mile day, which in fact is what I ended up doing. I went as late as I dared, stopping in a burn area at about 9:15pm. I was beat.
Got as early a start, but I needed to be able to read the GPS as burns tend to obscure trail. The going was good for about an hour – got to the junction where you would go right to ascend to a cabin on Lookout Mt. I proceeded on and then came the burn area from hell, deadfall and no trail. Thank goodness for the GPS. This slowed me down, because I was basically navigating solely using the GPS. Every now and then trail would re-appear.
Finally, after a couple of hours, I crossed a creek and was on more stable trail, or so I thought. Now and then deadfall, but it seemed okay. Then, the trail got rougher with many more downed trees and sometimes overgrown trail and downed trees. I was getting anxious, as I had more miles to do than expected and figured I’d get out later than planned. Yeti would end up having a longer wait at the other end. It was a frustrating day; slow hours of climbing over trees. If not for that the terrain was mild, and I should have been able to do better time. Finally, the trail seemed to clear and then I spied Yeti’s card on the trail; he’d been there! At first, I wondered if he somehow was behind me, but realized that was silly. I motored on and after about an hour, saw him topping a small hill in front of me. I yelled out to him: we were both glad to see one another. He’d left so early and then waited hours wondering where I was. And, he’d forgotten his food and was hungry. That is why he’d turned back to get to the car. Now, we could relax. I was happy to find out that the spot Yeti had camped was closer and we had less to hike out. I was beat again and so thrilled when we got to the car. Nevertheless, I had had a great time despite the last tough day. On to Lochsa Lodge and a great meal. Total miles for this trip was about 102 miles.