Location- Atlantic Creek
Elevation- 5,443 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 10.7 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 68.6 miles
Weather/Temp- 70s 80s scattered clouds
Injuries- scrapes, cuts, stings
Pain level- none
Wildlife encounters- Bull Moose, Grizzly, Big Horn sheep
Days without shower- 3
Days without Laundry- 7
Another day, another hike filled with overgrowth, nettles, blow downs, trail blazing, and wildlife.
Woke up healthy and alive again; from the get go, we had company. While eating breakfast in the campsite, we heard a loud “snap” behind us. Schweppes stood up first to see what it was, and low and behold it was a big bull moose grazing on some twigs about 20 yards away. Of all the moose we’ve seen so far, this was the first bull with a set of antlers. He regarded us cautiously once he noticed us, then slowly worked his way up and over a hill. Funny enough, we ran into him again on the other side shortly after we began hiking around 9:30 am.
We only had to hike 10.7 miles to our next stop, so as usual we were in no hurry. Trekking through more burnt forest, we had wide open views through the charred trees, but the undergrowth was going wild. For the first few miles we were once again getting stung and scratched by the hostile members of the foliage. Because of the fire, there were tons of blow downs (fallen trees) across the trail. Sometimes we could step over them, crawl over them, crawl under them, and when they were really bad…just walk around them. Walking around them usually put you into more scratchy and pokey vegetation.
I was leading when we hit an open straight away, and immediately noticed a large Grizzly sauntering down the trail away from us, about 75 yards away. I stopped Schweppes and we both recorded some less than ideal video footage of it. The bear still had no idea we were there. So we walked part way up the embankment next to us, so as to get a more complete view of his activities and yelled “AYYYYYYEEEE OOOOOH” as loud and multi tonal as we could. The Grizzly didn’t even spare a glance in our direction; he just took off south down the trail. For almost half a mile we could see his thundering paw prints on the trail before he veered off, disappearing into the charred forest. That was the last of the bears today. A fairly mundane and safe encounter, but my first Grizzly none the less!
Soon after the bear, we began another nearly 3,000 ft climb up to Triple Divide Pass. While halfway up the pass and looking down, I noticed a herd of Big Horn sheep moving across the bare rocks far below. Too far for a picture, but close enough to give me that warm fuzzy feeling every time I see wildlife.
Trekking up and over these passes is hard work, but easily the most surreal aspect of any day. You go from being in a valley with almost zero perspective, to looking down on everything there is to see with more perspective than you know what to do with. Tracing all your steps up to that point, all the way back out of sight. It makes you feel like a giant with an appetite.
The pass itself had it’s share of snowpack on it. More than Red Gap, but much, much less than Piegan. Physically, Triple Divide was harder than Red Gap, but I can feel I’ve already gotten stronger since then, so I made much shorter work of it than Red Gap.
Schweppes and I usually go our own paces up the passes, and since he’s quicker than me right now, he’s currently always ahead on the climbs. As I hit the worst of the snowpack, I turned on “Tuesday Afternoon” by The Moody Blues and slipped into a numb transcendence.
I’ve said it before, I almost never play any kind of music. Although it’s highly motivating, it definitely takes a huge toll on my animal spotting; which is my favorite thing to do out here. I never played any on the AT, and only began to play it at certain times about 900 miles into the PCT. Since then, I don’t saturate my hike with music, but choose opportune times to utilize it. I never play it out loud, only with one ear bud in. I’ll only put in both if I’m completely in the open (usually high up), or if I don’t have Katana with me (like I didn’t for half the PCT).
Anyways, what I’m getting at with the music is this… Have you ever wished/felt like you needed a song playing in the background of your life? Like your own personal theme song of the moment? I do all the time. Hearing it from an outside source like a radio, or speakers in the car never do it justice for me though. I can only replicate that transcendent feeling with ear buds (I have to hear and feel the music inside my head), and only when my body is on complete auto pilot, my mind is free to wander, and there is a feast before my eyes. Hiking above tree line, high over the landscape, wide open, blood pumping, endorphins rushing…is the exact recipe for that transcendent moment when the perfect piece of music can put me straight over the edge into Nirvana. It’s like a shot of adrenaline you can feel electrifying your entire body as you feel the goosebumps rise, as well as a constant pulse of “happy” pumping straight to your brain. I can simulate almost the same feeling when running and listening to music; but it doesn’t even come close to producing the same level of effect as my hiking recipe.
After rounding up over the pass to another beautiful view, it was an easy three miles down to our pre-destined campsite.
While sitting and preparing our respective meals, Schweppes accidentally spilled his half cooked rice all over the ground. Within a minute, this tiny little song bird, slightly larger than a half dollar began flying over to us and landing right in front of the spilled rice, then right in front of our cook pots, then it began landing and fluttering on our arms, shoulders, and backs. It was either the friendliest or the balls-iest bird I’ve ever seen. I managed to get one short video of him landing amongst our cooking station, and that was it. Once Schweppes scooped up the rice and tossed it away, the bird disappeared.
We have another 15 mile day tomorrow over another Pass, then into another campground like Many Glacier. I’m not looking forward to the crowds, but I’ll certainly partake in some nasty National Park food. Perhaps some more potato skins that are more skin than potato. Speaking of crowds, I’ve been amazed at how few people we see on the trail. We haven’t seen any other thru hikers since the first day, and the only other people we see are day hikers, or overnight hikers. We only ever see them when we get close to junctions leading to other trails. It seems the only people using the official CDT is the thru hikers, and for good reason. I don’t think the trail is maintained by anything other than the animals walking on it. The only time I ever see any kind of real/recent trail maintenance work, is when we approach popular trail junctions.
Personally, I love the lack of maintenance, despite how painful and frustrating it can get. This trail isn’t billed as a well marked and maintained path. It’s billed as a wild ass trail where you choose your own adventure and make your own way however you can. I’m quickly growing to love this style of trail over the others. It’s certainly providing a more isolated and authentic experience; in all its wonderful and no so wonderful forms.
We’ll see what tomorrow holds for us. I should be getting Katana back in two days! Interestingly enough, I’ll be getting her back right at the start of one of the most challenging sections of all the major trails. Not in a way you might think, but I’ll explain it when the time comes…