Day- Day 25
Location- Bank of Deerborn River
Elevation- 5,256 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 23.7 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 243.4 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 70s, 80s
Injuries- sore, soggy feet
Pain level- low
Wildlife encounters- rodents, angry grouse
Human Beings encountered- none
Days without shower- 1
Days without laundry- 5
Woke up alive, no worse for the wear. It rained a few more times during the night, but nothing torrential like it had yesterday evening. My shoes were still pretty soggy underneath my hammock, but that wasn’t a huge deal.
Was hiking by 7:30 am and feeling strong. I planned to hike a few miles to warm up before eating breakfast. I was in a deep canyon of the surrounding mountains, so I was stuck in shadow for the first few miles of the day. This meant that all the overgrown vegetation was going to be thick with dew and residue from the rain last night; and it didn’t disappoint! My shoes were as wet as if I’d jumped in a lake with them within seconds, and my calves, thighs, and forearms were soaked as well. Icy cold dew on your bare legs early in the morning will wake you up quick.
After about 3.5 miles, I stopped to have a light breakfast of granola clusters. I still wasn’t very hungry, but out here…you eat because it’s your job; whether you like what you’re eating or not. You won’t get far with an empty belly, or at least you won’t enjoy yourself while getting there.
The first 14 miles or so of the day were almost exclusively burn zones. I didn’t see another human being for the entire almost 24 miles today. Being alone through the burn zones for that long gave me the impression of being the last human alive on a scorched earth. The fact that there isn’t a lick of cell service for his entire 200 mile section only solidifies that feeling; you couldn’t reach out if you wanted to. The burn zones are almost totally without shade, so I deff got some sun today.
The feeling of vulnerability that comes with being alone and cutoff from all human contact is fairly strong; at least for me. If something were to go terribly wrong, there is literally no one to turn to, and nobody to even know what happened or go looking for help should you become incapacitated. Besides the vulnerability, there is also a great deal of confidence that comes with the situation as well. Knowing that you are the ONLY ONE you can depend on, while trusting yourself enough to put yourself in this situation in the first place; generates an incredible amount of inner strength that you know will be with you the rest of your life.
Do I feel a certain amount of fear being constantly alone and camping alone in this wild back country? Most certainly. However there is no courage without fear. If I was without fear throughout this experience, then I would be indifferent. If I was to go through a list of things I’m indifferent about, it would be an incredibly boring list. I am not indifferent about any facet of my hiking…especially this hike. Each day that I’m alone out here, will be easier than the previous day. I derive a great deal of solace from that knowledge. “Tomorrow will be better/easier/less stressful/etc.,” no matter what I encounter.
The silence of the burnt out skeleton forests is eerie. In the more severely burnt areas, many times the only sound will be the odd insect buzzing, chirping, or clicking about; or just the sound of the wind making its cliche howling noise as it passes through the bare boughs and branches.
Around 13 miles into the day, I began tracking the footprints of two other individuals. The torrential downpour yesterday evening wiped the trail clean of all tracks; human and animal alike. The only fresh tracks I saw the first half of the day were deer that had been walking the trail overnight, or early this morning. Judging by where I first began to notice these fresh prints, I pinpointed the most likely area that the individuals had camped. They were trail runner foot prints, so I knew they had to be thru hikers. I deduced they had camped in a grassy area about 11 or 12 miles ahead of where I camped last night. If they were keeping to a 20 to 25 mile average, then I could gain a few miles or break fairly even with them if I broke 20 today too. So that became the main goal. I officially have some mystery human beings to track down and meet; granted I don’t miss them in a town, or on an alternate trail/route.
I saw very little bear shit today (all dry and old), and no bear tracks. I assume their population must be thinning slightly, the further I get from Glacier National Park. I assume it will probably start to increase as I get closer to Yellowstone.
It’s funny, as you walk along and see different scenes and habitats of the natural beauty around you, your mind starts to fill things in automatically. You see a bend in the river below with a small clearing adjacent to it; your mind fills in a bear standing on the bank, staring into the water. You pass an empty pond surrounded by lush forest; your mind fills in a moose wading across it, scooping up aquatic plants. You see so many little scenes throughout the day that would embody perfection, if only they had that one extra bit of wildlife to fill in the blank. It’s rare moments that you actually get to see scenes like this (think moose in the lake at Glacier), as the wildlife usually surprises you in the last place you’d expect it.
Lunch and dinner consisted of instant rice, freeze dried peas, bacon bits, chicken bouillon, and celery salt. The beef and chicken bouillon cubes that I now boil into my water with every meal are a life saver. I’ll never hike without bouillon cubes ever again. They totally switch up the bland taste of whatever I could add to boiling water. The only question is…for how long?
It’s 29 miles to the next road into a town, then another 60 miles to the next town after that. Initially I was going to skip this town coming up and do another 100+ mile push, but I’m already craving some new backpack foods; it might be time to bring back the bagel sandwiches; I was thinking about them a little bit today…
The next 29 miles look like the most brutal miles I’ve seen on the elevation profile to date. In a perfect world, I’d bite the bullet and do all of them so I could wake up at the road the next day. However, this is looking like a stretch. Realistically I’d like to get at least 20 miles tomorrow, but that will all depend on the trail conditions. It looks like 8,000 to 10,000 feet worth of climbs and multiple passes between me and that road; including the highest elevation on the trail to date (going south), at over 8k feet. I’m looking forward to getting some real/epic views again finally. We’ll see what tomorrow holds…granted I survive the night 😉