Continental Divide Trail – Day 38

Day- 38

Date- 7/29/17

Location- shore of Johnson Lake

Elevation-  7,667 ft

Distance Traveled Today- 26.8 miles

Distance Traveled Total- 475 miles

Weather/Temp- partly overcast, drizzling

Injuries- none

Pain level- low

Spirits/Morale- lonely

Wildlife encounters- dog

Human Beings encountered on trail- 4

Thru hikers encountered on trail- 0

Days without shower- 1

Days without laundry- 6

Hunger/craving- sushi


I did not sleep well last night, but it had nothing to do with getting cold (which it surprisingly didn’t).  Between the deer snooping and stomping around my camp and the multiple rock slides throughout the night…I didn’t sleep very peacefully. I was in and out of it all night.

I kept waking up all the way through morning, and didn’t get out of bed until after 7:30 am. When I stood up out of the hammock, I immediately felt queasy like I was going to throw up and began to get the cold sweats. I sat down on a rock to fight the urge to puke, but the metallic taste was strong in my mouth and my stomach was in knots. This continued for about ten minutes before completely going away; I have no idea what caused it. Had it persisted, I would have turned back to Anaconda, or at least the Zombie Truck. There would have been no point isolating myself further if I was going to be getting sick. As it were, the sickness stayed gone and I pushed ever onward, getting an 8:15am start…too late.

If the forty mile day was physically the most painful day in recent/not so recent memory; then today was physically the most challenging in regard to climbs in most recent memory. Over the course of almost 27 miles I climbed and descended more than 12,000 feet. By no means did I crush the climbs quickly; I used a steady burn all day. I made up time on the smoother downhills and whatever flat-ish areas I was graced with, keeping all my breaks brief. I only sat down to rest at the top of every climb and the bottom of every climb; and only for a few minutes. I took twenty minutes for lunch early in the afternoon, and that was about it.

It seems I have one good scare at least once a day. Today’s scare was a really good one. I was sitting in the middle of a switchback near the top of a climb eating breakfast around 9:30am. It was a very sheer descent, so the switchbacks were tight, and the drop offs aplenty.  While sitting cross legged, I was looking out at the expansive view beyond the drop off of the side of the trail in front of me. As I glanced down to dig in my food bag some more, a large black animal came quickly scrambling over the edge of the drop off where there wasn’t even any trail! I first saw it out of the corner of my eye, noticing it was coming straight at me. Before I had time to focus, I was sure it was a black bear after my goodies, and possibly me too. My whole body jerked, ready to spring into defensive action! In that same split moment, I realized it was a black dog, maybe some kind of lab/pitbull mix with maybe something else; I really couldn’t tell. Anyways, the heart attack inducing pup was friendly and I needed the company. I got up and looked over the ledge to see a young man sitting down on another switchback a few hundred feet below. That silly dog had smelled my food and ran straight up the sheer face of the mountain to get to me. Anyways, I cuddled and played with the little mutt until his owner eventually made his way up and continued on after sparing only a few words. This was literally as exciting as my day got.

There were no more animal sightings and only a few brief encounters with day hikers out for the weekend. The climbs were long and intermittently steep. Luckily there were many overcast patches of sky, and more than once I was fortunate enough to do a climb in cloudy shade and even a light sprinkle once or twice. I could hear thunder rolling throughout the entire day, regardless of whether the sky above me was infinite blue, or scattered gray. The micro weather systems simply floated between the mountains, ridges, and valleys; every so often gracing mine with their presence.

The entire day was almost all forested with very few stretches being tree-less, even on the passes. Speaking of which, I set a new personal record today by traversing five separate passes. My previous record was four on the PCT during a 35 mile day through the Sierra Nevada. That day was physically much harder than this one, come to think of it.

When I crested my final pass, I was greeted with smoke, smoke as far as the eye could see. I was unable to see any flames, but I could see exactly where it was rising thickest from the forest…one ridge over from where I planned to camp. Doesn’t bother me, a lake is the safest possible place I could be in case of a fire, so I feel comfortable about my location.

It was slightly before 9pm when I rolled up to my shore side camp spot on the lake. I like to call it a day around 9pm because it gives me one more hour if useable daylight. I maybe could have gone over the 1,000 ft pass just ahead of me, but I was just way too tired.

I’ll be honest, I don’t like camping next to meadows or lakes by myself. They attract too much “prey” wildlife, which in turn attracts the predators. Already since the sun has gone down I’ve spooked several deer away from my camp, plus something else bigger and hooved; either an elk or a moose. I’m going with elk, because I can now hear one randomly calling somewhere nearby. Yes, lots of activity around the big lake.

I’ve also heard a noise I can’t place. It keeps flying over me, and it’s incredibly loud. I’ve never heard anything like it, and it’s moving very fast. It sounds huge, because I can hear it coming from a long ways off, and can continue to hear it as it fades far away. I almost thought it might be a drone, if it wasn’t for the random whooshing of air. Maybe a Pterodactyl…

So I’m anticipating another long night with all this noise and activity. This is where having another person would come in handy; I’d certainly sleep better. Although I know deep down that there is a 99% chance nothing will mess with me…I have to stay somewhat alert for that 1% chance; I just can’t help it.

The terrain tomorrow doesn’t look as unforgiving as today’s did, so I’m going to try for 30 again. So long as each day is a little better than the previous, I really can’t complain. I feel like a snowball rolling downhill; I just keep gaining momentum and speed as time goes on. Instead of wearing down a little more each day…I get stronger.


  1. Wow! A close encounter with the highly endangered red-speckled western pterodactyl! I hear they’re making a comeback in the mountains of Montana for the first time since Adam gave away his rib.

  2. Strange that I had the very same experience in Custer State Park in SD in the Blackhills. It was almost dark and I kept hearing something swish over me sounded like it was literally on top of me. Three of us were there and we could never figure out what it was. Your description of it sounding like a drone was spot on. That’s exactly what I wondered out loud. We could see some birds flying around but they didn’t look big enough to have made that sound. Happened at least four or five times. Kind of freaked me out and I wasn’t by myself so I could only imagine how you felt. Nice of the lab to drop by for a friendly hello even if it did get your heart a jump start! The pictures are awesome and love the Great Great Grandma Cedar. Very Cool!

  3. I too love, love, love the beautiful photos of the terrain. It’s the only way I’ll ever see the CDT. I wouldn’t be able to sleep a wink with all of the nighttime activity; hope you could. Please stay safe and well…no more morning sickness.

  4. Really beautiful photos,especially the lake picture. And I love that twisted looking tree! So nice that a friendly dog came to be with you:)

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