July 20, 2017

Miles: 20

PNT mile 160.5

Camp: By Boulder Creek, Montana

Today was a rather big day for us. We were woken at 3:15 am to rain on our cozy little cowboy camp. There was quite a lot of commotion as 5 hikers scrambled to put up tents and keep our gear dry. It doesn’t happen often, but it is a risk in any cowboy camp. After I was in my tent I had a hard time getting back to sleep and 2 more small rain showers passed in those wee hours.

Finally, we all accepted the reality of morning at 8am…a late start for all of us, but we went to bed late last night. We set ourselves up for a 20 mile day with a huge climb. We pretty much would have to go that far to camp by water and fortunately it doesn’t really get dark until 10pm around here. So, we went in knowing it would be a tough day and it started with a 7 mile road walk.

We left the comfy trail by the lake and onto highway 37 where we pounded pavement as cars and trucks sped by. I’m beginning to want to let go of being a thru hiker to avoid that in the future. I don’t mind a road walk if it is dirt, but highways aren’t built for walking.

I struggled with a bad case of chafe on the thighs as I hobbled down the road after the guys. Just like old times really, my short legs trying to keep up with these long strides. It’s still the life I want to be living though, at least for now.

After 6 miles on the highway we runes onto the Lake Koocanusa bridge which spans nearly a half mile across the lake. I tried to avoid vertigo by not looking down and made it across in the hit sun, sweat crystals further aggravating the chafe. It was all I could do to get down the road. Without the guys, I’d probably have stopped a few more times, but time wasn’t a big luxury today. We have so many miles and only so much food, so we can’t be dawdling too much this section.

It’s a new ailment for me really, the chafe. I’ve had it before but something about this bout is incredibly uncomfortable. It was a long hard road walk that finally brought us to our lunching spot. We ate by a creek that we had to scramble quite a ways down to, but we are supposedly about to face 10 waterless miles with a big climb. We are talking 3000 ft in 4.5 miles. It’s going to be a bit slow I think. At least for me.

After lunch we jumped on trail and immediately began climbing. The air was hot and the sun direct on the south facing mountain trail. I took slow steps and let everyone but James get ahead of me. He was behind me somewhere. I took no breaks except to dig into some fresh huckleberries on occasion, and to drink water. Sweat was pouring off of my face like a faucet and I worked hard to stay on top of my thirst. I took it real slow and steady with micro breaks in the shade and sips of water.

Finally, 3 hours later, I summited Webb Mountain. The views were lovely and far reaching. We still had some miles between us and no water, but we relaxed in the shade for a while before pushing on. That climb was a challenge for all of us. I felt pretty good if not a bit beat up and a lot thirsty. I wasn’t dehydrated though I wanted to lay down and drink a lot of water at once.

A mile or so down the trail, Judd had found a small pond and we all too what we needed to get on to the next stream. Righton had moved on first…but suddenly he was coming back. I thought it was somehow the wrong trail at first and my tired brain had a small temper tantrum inside about back tracking.

Then he told us he had seen a mama grizzly with 2 cubs up the trail. The mom bluff charged him as he backed away. We could feel his adrenaline as he told us about it all and we grabbed our bear spray cans to head on as a group. We made lots of noise and didn’t see the bear again. I’m still cool with not seeing a bear on trail. Righton was pretty shaken up and I can’t imagine I’d be any better off.

We hiked together after that which I loved. I felt pretty good in the cooler temperature and the easily graded trail and kept up with their fast pace. It was hard for me to do so but I wasn’t going to fall behind in grizzly country and did it reminded me of so many days on the CDT. I love being in a group, especially this one. Too bad it is only one section. I have to cherish it.

Speaking of, it is late and I am spent. I’m ready to close my eyes and call it a day.

Goodnight.

P.S. Pink’s toe still bothers him but seems to show slight improvement. Fingers crossed!

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