Date- July 26, 2019
Location- Tendoy Creek
Elevation- 8,012 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 28.8 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 690 miles
Weather/Temp- partly cloudy, overcast, 60s, 70s
Pain level- zero
Wildlife encounters- hundreds of cows
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 2
Last night was very comfortable, and not the least bit cold. I awoke around 1 am to stars so bright they were nearly shining through my eyelids.
Last night was nice, but today was hard earned. I was hiking by around 7:30 am, about 1.5 hours behind Jetpack. The trail through this section, much like the previous section, traverses the border between Montana and Idaho. That border is mostly marked by jeep track. Jeep track more or less describes the type of road you wouldn’t take anything less than a four wheel drive on – usually.
The jeep track through this section is extremely steep with loose gravel as well as chunks of rock, big and small. And when I say “steep,” I mean well over 100 ft gained per 10th of a mile. Your feet are sliding on the ascents, and you’re trying not to fall or slide into a run on the descents. The only cool thing about them is they’re usually very open and exposed, and you can see how far you have left to reach the top.
For the first 8.5 miles this morning, it was only steep jeep track roller-coaster ups and downs, non-stop. I felt good, and knocked it out fairly quickly, even hiking with Quiet Man for around 3.5 miles. He has a hard time with any inclines, especially the steep ones, but so long as we were talking, he never stopped once on any of the inclines we tackled.
I learned a long time ago, as a personal trainer, that if you got people to focus on something other than the pain and burning of what they were doing – they could do a lot more without trying to pause or take a break. Of course this tactic only worked on people who didn’t yet have the discipline to push themselves to their fullest potential on their own. Out here, while hiking, any excuse you can find to stop and let the burning cease for a few moments will do. It’s similar to working out in a gym, yet simultaneously completely different. You get more “passes” for wanting to stop in the middle of your set out here than you do in the gym.
The trail remained mostly shade-less for probably 85% of the day. Luckily there was a thin vale of overcast clouds cutting the sun’s heat in about half. Though it looked like it might rain a few times, it never did.
I had almost 13 miles by noon, and caught up to Jetpack on a climb around 1 pm. Up until about the 15-mile mark, the trail hadn’t been so bad besides the steep jeep track earlier on. After 15 miles, things got tough… and convoluted.
If the trail wasn’t getting confusing with cow paths, or disappearing altogether – then it wasn’t even lining up with where the maps said it should be, or the GPS for that matter.
There was about a 3 to 4 mile stretch of nonexistent trail where you were simply bushwhacking over barren, sagebrush covered hills from point A to point B, and then repeat. Sometimes Point A or B was a cairn or a wooden post. Sometimes it was nothing. Sometimes you were just heading in a general direction while hoping to catch sight of a point B. Sometimes point B was false, and belonged to some other pathless trail or traverse.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t remember the exact route I’d taken in 2017. Not that it mattered, because I’d made that one up as I went along too. This year was no different. A new year, a new path through sagebrush hills and mountains.
Near the base of a very steep, trail-less 700 ft climb, I sat down to sugar up on some Sour Octopus Gummies. What happened next was something new to me. As I chewed an orange Gummy and began to swallow it, I had one of those “without warning” instant sneezes. I blew chewed-up Octopus Gummy into and out of my nose at mach-Jesus.
I don’t know what my face looked like, but I felt really stupid and confused… and grossed out. For the next 15 minutes I was picking and snorting nasty chunks and blobs of orange sour gummy out of my nose. So I ate them again. Waste not, want not. Just kidding! A more hardcore thru-hiker might have re-eaten them, but that’s not me. That will never be me. Even if I’m dying of starvation.
Alas, after close to ten miles of sweating, huffing and puffing, head scratching, cussing the land and the trail makers – the last 5 miles were more or less brainless, if not filled with hundreds of very scared and very vocal free range cows.
I did see one interesting thing today. In the late morning I witnessed a baby chipmunk chasing a butterfly down the jeep track. At first I thought it was coincidence and just running away from me. After several seconds I could tell it was definitely tracking the low flying butterfly and even jumped three times to try and snatch it out of the air. Cutest thing I’ve seen since the bear cubs last week.
Today was only about a mile shy of a 30 mile day, but it felt like a lot more. If I had things my way, we would do a 33 mile day tomorrow, but I believe Jetpack is set on a 25. I think the weather might deteriorate tomorrow – I’ve got my fingers crossed.
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