Location- Island Park, Idaho
Elevation- 6,411 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 17.4 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 794.5 miles
Weather/Temp- clear 70s
Pain level- low
Wildlife encounters- zero
Human Beings encountered on trail- 4
Thru hikers encountered on trail- 4 nobo
Days without shower- 0
Days without laundry- 4
I enjoyed myself immensely today. CD was up and out of camp by 6:30, but it was so cold, I couldn’t peel myself out of the hammock. I didn’t get packed up and moving until almost 8am.
At first, this bushwacking section looked like it was going to be a real doozy. Once the trail disappeared into overgrown wetland riddled with creeks and other small estuaries/mud pits; my first instinct was to feel hopelessly lost. Looking at the path on my GPS, it showed the invisible trail going straight along the main creek and surrounding marshy areas. The highlighted path actually kept crisscrossing the creek, which seemed really dumb.
If you could only interpret 50% of what you were looking at on a topographical map, then you could easily see that the entire bushwacking section was funneled through a tight gully. You didn’t need the officially highlighted path on the GPS to get you where you needed to go. In fact, if you followed the pre-programmed path on the GPS, you were inviting Mother Nature to bend you over her knee and spank you unmercifully.
In relativity to the actual direction of this stretch of trail, if you simply stayed north and high of the creek flowing down the center of the gully, then you could avoid the worst of any muddy/wet obstacles. So that’s what I did; I kept north of the creek, and as high on the north embankment of the gully as required to avoid what was below. There were multiple animal paths and savvy hiker paths to follow, which made progress that much quicker. There were some very overgrown areas that couldn’t be avoided, as well as some muddy patches and short creek crossings that were running down the sides of the gully, but nothing worth fussing over.
Anyone who’d found themselves waist deep in mud or water, or trudging up the creek while using it as the trail to navigate the gully…did this stretch the very, very hard way. I’m guilty of doing things the hardway quite often, so I have no room to talk. However some things just click for some people, while they’re completely lost on others; regardless of intelligence or background. This spot had gained near legendary infamy amongst hikers when it really isn’t any worse than many other areas on this trail…maybe just a little longer.
After navigating the bushwack and some more obscure trail, I ended up on a gravel road for a further 12 miles into town. It was totally uneventful without any views or real scenery all the way into town. I never caught up to CD, and I never ran into him here in Island Park. We never exchanged numbers or real names, so we have no way to get a hold of each other. I suspect I’ll run into him in the morning, at a cafe, or back on the trail. I plan to get a mid to late morning start tomorrow.
As of now I’m only about 20 miles from the Wyoming border. I can’t wait to put Montana and Idaho behind me. This trail has been a real grind for me, and a new state will be just what the doctor ordered. It’s always around the 600 to 800 mile mark of a trail that I mentally begin to really feel the weight of the journey. Once I push through that mental low point/wall, I’m good to go until the end. I call it my “going native” transition, and once it begins, I only grow more native by the day.
I’ve made an executive decision. I’m not going to grow my hair or beard out for this hike. I’m going to keep my head and beard shaved, BUT…I’m going to grow out my mustache; possibly a handlebar, but definitely a trash-stash/porn-stash at the very least. As soon as I can find a pair of clippers or a salon (whichever comes first), it’s happening…