So rather than write about how we got to Canada, we figured we’d just show you…kind of.
More posts to come. WiFi and cell coverage for uploads is sparse on theses parts along the CDT. Suffice it to say we are safe and doing well.
So rather than write about how we got to Canada, we figured we’d just show you…kind of.
More posts to come. WiFi and cell coverage for uploads is sparse on theses parts along the CDT. Suffice it to say we are safe and doing well.
Our itch to complete the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) is about to be scratched. After completing two “marriage testy” projects that took waaay longer than intended, and a “lightning round” of packing, we are all packed up and on our way to where we left off last year. Leadore, Idaho.
From Leadore, we’ll put our truck in storage, and our buddy Mike will pick us up and drive us to Glacier National Park. With any luck during an early morning visit to one of three Glacier National Park backcountry ranger offices, we’ll have a reasonable itinerary that has us starting at the Canadian border (Chief Mountain) and heading fully SOBO on the CDT.
The plan is to hike from Chief Mountain to Leadore, and then drive to Rawlins. (We completed Rawlins to Leadore, NOBO on the CDT in 2020) Once in Rawlins, we’ll put our truck in storage and continue SOBO all the way to the Mexican border, finishing at the monument at Crazy Cook Corner.
God willing our intended adventure will be devoid of Injury; Unpassable Weather and/or Event(s); and more importantly, a Family Emergency. Any one of these would send us home, as was the case last year.
Physically, we feel better prepared than last year. We’ve been training consistently for 12 weeks, increasing distance, pack weight, and adding strenuous hills and stairs. We completely overhauled our diet, and have each lost last year’s average leaving town pack weight (30 lbs). We are curious to see how we will fair being significantly “lighter” on our feet. I can’t say that we really reduced our actual pack weight…but we tried. What can I say, we pack for “Murphy’s Law”, of which our adventures tend to attract.
Most people’s idea of an outdoor adventure is a weekend hike or week long camping trip, ours combines the two and super-sizes them. One of my favorite and most genuine responses, especially from people who aren’t habituated to our idea of fun and relaxation, is “…and you do this on purpose?!” ‘As a mater of fact, yes’, is our reply. This is generally followed by a head wag and a verbal response of, “You people are crazy!”
Why as a matter of fact, I guess we are. If it’s like any of our other adventures, there’s bound to be a “train wreck” or two, and plenty of breathtaking scenery. So buckle up peeps, and break out the popcorn. It’s time for another 2moremiles adventure!
From Steamboat, it’s a relatively short drive to any number of ski areas. Because our friend Kenny was going to be in Breckenridge, we decided that Copper Mountain was calling our names. Copper Mountain congers fond memories for me as well. The resort opened in 1972 and I skied it sometime in the mid 70’s…by myself. I recall, on more than one occasion, being dropped off and skiing all day till my grandmother or Uncle picked me up. It was a reward for helping to “babysit” my younger cousins. It was a different time when you could explore and fly solo as a youngster and the adults didn’t have to worry about being charged with or arrested for “child neglect”.
Our biggest challenge was finding a place to stay…for free. While there were plenty of places to stay, hotel wise, campsites and Forrest Service/BLM land was a little challenging. With the exception of one location, all of the numerous Forest Service/BLM campgrounds were closed for winter. We did luck out however and found an opened gate to scarcely visited campground in Heeney (Elliot Creek) on the west side of the Green Mountain Reservoir off the I-9, toward Silverthorne. Nothing on/near the locked open gate to the campground noted that it was closed like all the other campgrounds we had perused. As it turned out, it was only a 45 minute drive Copper Mountain to ski. Piece of cake!
During our exploration of the Green Mountain Reservoir, we were amazed at the number of ice fishermen that littered the frozen mass of water. You gotta LOVE fishing, to do that over a small hole cut in the ice during freezing temps. We were also treated to meandering herd of mule deer and small herd of Big Horn Sheep, beside and on the road that led us to the Elliot Creek campground. We were amazed and intrigued at how the sheep so deftly negotiated the steep rocky cliffs and the narrow and mostly non-existent ledges.
We pleasantly surprised that we had the campground to ourselves, and frankly expected a ranger to come by to finally “lock up”, but that did not happen.
Copper Mountain is a unique ski area in that it is essentially and geographically divided into three distinct levels of expertise. They have buses that take you from one of three free parking lots (that this year you had to make “reservations” for) to one of three Villages: West, Center or East. West Village is mainly for those who prefer “Beginner”/”Intermediate” runs. Center Village is dominated by “Intermediate” runs and East Village caters to the “Expert” Black and double Black Diamond aficionados.
Over three days we skied a good portion of the resort. We highly enjoyed the East Village runs off of their “Super Bee” lift. Because of the wind, we decided not to chance the crusty double black diamond runs on the “bowl” side of the mountain. We’ll save that for next year, and softer snow conditions. Overall the staff for the mountain was great and more importantly, so were the runs. It was everything that I hoped it would be, considering the fond memories that I had. Meeting up with our friend Kenny at Frisco’s Highside Brewing and BBQ for dinner and a sampling of very tasty beer was an added treat.
Once again we had to retreat from another storm. This one was supposed to engulf Colorado for a good couple of days. With that we headed south. We had always wanted to ski Taos, but never found ourselves anywhere near that part of New Mexico…in the winter. Taos it was. We left from Copper Mountain, having skied to exhaustion within hours of the coming storm’s arrival. The drive from Copper Mountain to Taos (the town) was supposed to be a 4 hour drive. Snow flurries pelted us as we descended down highway 91 toward Leadville. We decided that Leadville is a “must visit”, for another trip to properly explore this tantalizing frontier town. By the time we hit Leadville, we were clear of the snow. From Leadville, we followed the 91 until it ran into US Route 24.
Fun fact: The United States Highway System originated in 1926. US Route 24 (highlighted in red) was one of the original highways in the country. It stretches from Michigan (Independence Township), and traverses through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and into Colorado, as far as Grand Junction.
US Hwy 24 is flanked by the Arkansas River, and from the number of rafting businesses that and recreation centers/campgrounds, this is a popular activity over the summer months. As we traveled south, we gazed upon the mountains to our west, that we would be traversing via the Continental Divide Trail, later this summer. Pretty daunting, but inviting.
We continued on the US 24 until it ran into US Hwy 285. This would take us most of the way toward New Mexico and our turn-off onto US Hwy 64. There is a distinct change in the condition of the road when one passes from Colorado into New Mexico. Fog lines are replaced with pot holes, so one makes sure they stay as close to the center-line as possible. I wish I had known about , The Pueblo Revolt of 1608. It would have brought the route we traveled on the US 285, Hwy 64 and later US Hwy 25 and the towns/pueblos we passed to life. So much history (and sorrow) along these routes.
While the route seemed fairly barren, we could not ignore the large barbwire enclosed buildings that wafted the distinct smell of cannabis. Unique cloud formations flanked us as we drove into the waning light. With no moon, we soon were driving in what felt like oblivion, with only our headlights opening a portal to the next realm. Cell service was non-existent. When a horse and buggy (with headlights) passed us from the opposite direction, we thought we might have traveled back in time.
After a circuitous route from US Hwy 64, thanks to “Martha”, we arrived at our lodging for the night in Taos at the Best Western. Morning found us at a local laundromat (our clothes were a bit “gamey”) and the local market (fresh food for the next few days) before we headed to the Taos Ski Resort. Because of Covid and New Mexico’s strict mask and gathering rules, Taos Ski Resort requires that you make a reservation to ski. Had we been paying better attention, we could have made a reservation for the later half of the day and skied an additional day at Taos (live and learn). From the town of Taos, you wind your way via a narrow canyon that leads to a remote alpine village, that is the Taos Ski Resort. The beauty of this resort is that they allow en route camping (fully self-contained) for free. Not only did we travel back in time, but we traveled to another country…somewhere in the Bavarian Alps. (Click on this link and you will discover a unique and endearing story about how this fantastic resort came to be)
Because of COVID restrictions, he resort had limited the capacity to something a little over 3,000 visitors. The moment we drove in, we were more than a little intimidated. Our first glace at the mountain created a “crick” in our necks as our eyes surveyed its face, and a lift that practically goes straight up from its over 9,000 ft base.
This ski resort is NOT for the faint of heart or beginner, as over 51% of the runs are for those expert/advanced. 14 lifts serve 5 distinct areas: West Basin Ridge – all double black diamond; Highline Ridge – all double black diamond; Backside – 50% black diamond; Upper Front side – mostly advanced/intermediate; Lower Front Side – mostly advanced/intermediate. We were treated to some fresh powder which made the steeps a little less terrifying and certainly easier on the body when you have a “yard sale”. I think we would have had even more fun if we weren’t so worn out from skiing Copper the day before (…and if Paul’s sciatica wasn’t acting up ). The fact that we could easily retreat to our camper for a snack (or lunch) and head back up the mountain made for a nice and relaxing time.
We lucked out and skied two weekdays with nary a crowd, and were thankful that we caught the first lift up the mountain on that Saturday morning. By the time we came down, due to lack of visibility, and the fact that we were just plain gassed, we were surprised to see the massive line for the lift #1, up the mountain. We had initially thought that we would just grab a bite to eat and let the weather on the top pass, but once we surveyed the crowd, we called it and decided to pack it up.
We considered heading back up to Colorado to access a few more ski areas, but nixed that plan when I called my dad (who lives in southern NM), and he not only told us that he was not only TOTALLY cancer free, but had also had his second COVID shot. Absent COVID I hadn’t seen him or my step-mom for over a year, due to his cancer treatments. With COVID it had been nearly two years since we had been able to talk face to face, let alone go on an adventure. Confident they were in the clear, they invited us over to visit. What a joyous reunion. We were the first people they had had into their house in over a year, and we were able to give them their first hugs in over a year. One should NEVER be starved for/from and/or underestimate the power of human touch.
We had a great visit, and ate entirely too much excellent food. It was here that we realized that it was time to head home and let our legs, and Paul’s back recover a bit in the comfort of our own home, and especially bed.
It was a good thing that we headed home when we did, for as we approached the Arizona/California border our brakes became a bit “soft”. We made a mental note to check them as soon as we got home. Holy Guacamole! We were SO lucky that during that remaining stretch we didn’t have to slam on the brakes, for when Paul pulled off the right front wheel to look at the breaks, its caliper was missing. SHIT! Further inspection revealed a small but steady leak to the rear brakes. Between Paul’s YouTube mechanic skills, and my brother’s ACTUAL mechanic skills those repairs, and a few others that surfaced out of those repairs, were completed. Hopefully this will buy us another year or two with our current truck.
On the down side, that kind of ended our ski-cation adventures for 2021. Paul’s contortions whilst completing the repairs to the truck and some other repairs within the camper, didn’t bode well for his back. This also stalled our intended May 3rd CDT thru-hike plans.
Not to worry. Paul has healed up significantly and we are currently back to training for the CDT. We expect to start sometime early/mid July, with a SOBO direction in mind.
So this ski season’s adventure found us sampling snow in four states, and at 5 different ski areas. For the most part we did it on the cheap in our 34 year old Alaskan Cabover camper. We would have extended our ski adventure had it not been for some necessary repairs, namely brakes, (and Paul’s back) that needed to be repaired/replaced.
We began this new year (literally) at our home mountain, Mammoth Mountain in Mammoth Lakes California. We were spoiled with blue bird days and wide open runs, devoid of crowds. The coverage was not at its zenith, but it would do as a “warm up” and to break in Paul’s new skis (Rustler 10).
With the exception of a “kindling” incident, wherein I nearly severed a significant portion of my thumb, this 8 day thigh burner was excellent.
Our plan was to return home, stock up the camper and head for Utah. Numerous and necessary snow storms delayed our leaving till the beginning of February. This timing proved perfect, as by chance, friends from Florida were going to be skiing for a week at Park City the same time we expected to be up there, skiing at Deer Valley. Of course, we had to make it through what we now call the “St. George Vortex”. I swear, eververy time we travel through the St. George Utah area something obscure befalls our vehicle…and always just after the sun has set. It is the Bermuda Triangle of auto repair for us. Last year it was the relay switch for the headlights failing…at dark, in the middle of the Virgin Gorge area. This past Fall, on our way to our Wyoming deer hunt, we had another part failure. This happened while driving on a Forest Service road, looking for a place to camp just as the sun was setting…again, just outside of St. George. This time it was the oil pressure sensor.
As we drove through St. George, we held our breath. To our great surprise we made it through, unscathed. We wondered if our “luck” had changed. NOPE! In fact, just outside of Provo, as we weaved our way towards Heber City, we had a “close encounter” with a ditch and center divider. As “luck” would have it, and just after the sun had set, it began to snow as we wound our way up highway 189 toward the Deer Creek reservoir.
Cars were racing past us as we meandered at a gingerly 40mph on the now increasingly slick roadway. Suddenly, having just come out of a relatively benign curve, all four tires broke free from any form of traction. We found ourselves drifting toward the center divider. Paul tapped the brakes and turned us ever so slightly away from the divider. Our truck corrected and then reoriented our trajectory towards the mountain bank, which was preferable, until I saw that unless we came to a stop, we were destined to drop off into a 3 foot deep ditch…crushing my side. “NO, Not the ditch!”, I yelled. Paul then yanked the wheel to the left. Phew! No ditch, but now were headed once again directly into the center divider. Our slide’s speed had yet to change, which meant that a head on collision into the center divider was NOT going to be pretty, especially if our impact protruded into the opposite direction’s traffic lanes. Paul tapped the brakes again. This changed our orientation and put us now parallel to the center divider, but now facing oncoming traffic with my door now headed for impact with the center divider. As we (me) braced for impact, the truck miraculously came to halt, a mere two inches from the guard rail of the center divider. We breathed a momentary sigh of relief, only to realize that we were now fully stopped, in the fast lane, facing the WRONG direction!
We already know that for the most part, our guardian angles (we need two…or more) have to work waaay too hard. This time was NO exception. Throughout this “skating” interlude, that played in slow motion for us, not a single car (in either direction) was on the inky dark roadway. Just previous to this event, the road was packed for the most part. No sooner did we pull off to the right (our left now), but traffic repopulated the roadway. Of course they must have been somewhat perplexed seeing a truck on the side of the road with its headlights pointed in the wrong direction. We, on the other hand, were cognizant of the miracle that had just occurred. We gave appropriate thanks and after several minutes, reoriented the truck in the proper direction. So, maybe its not St George. It’s Utah that is our “vortex”.
Three years ago when we skied Deer Valley, we were able to camp at Jordanelle State Park. That option dried up this year not because of Covid restrictions, but because the year’s previous campers had abused the facilities and it just wasn’t worth to the staff to keep it open anymore for winter en route camping by the boat launch. Not to fear, as there were two private campground/RV parks still available at relatively low rates. We had previously stayed at the Mountain Valley RV park just outside of Heber City, but chose the River’s Edge RV Park and Campground, as it was closer to our destination of Park City. Again our luck carried us through as we got their last site! For $25, we had electricity, with a bathroom (complete with hot showers) nearby. We stayed there for two nights, until we discovered that you can get away with parking overnight at the Park City Walmart. (Shhhhhhh. Be very very quiet.)
As we expected, skiing at Deer Valley, even in snowy conditions was fabulous. The runs, with a sensuous coating of perfect snow, made for near effortless skiing. The beauty of Deer Valley is the absence of snowboarders, the perfectly groomed runs and the helpful and cheery staff. Here we skied for 2 days with our son and his newly proposed to, fiancé. We also dined and watched the Super Bowl with our friends Josh and April, who were out from Florida. We would have liked to have stayed longer, but Big Sky Montana was calling, and besides we needed to save a couple days at Deer Valley when Josh and April were back in another month with their kids.
Hotel prices and camping during the apex of Winter in Montana, specifically at Big Sky prohibited us from staying specifically in Big Sky. Instead, we met our son and his soon to be bride in the ridiculously cold town of Bozeman Montana. Interestingly enough, it is the “fastest growing Micropolitan Statistical Area in the United States”. This means that for the last three years, people have purposely been moving to Bozeman. With the exception of the cold, I can see why people would move here. You have skiing, hiking, fishing, hunting, river rafting and several National Parks nearby. Everything an outdoorsman craves. On top of that you have a quaint downtown area and one of the best restaurants I have ever eaten at in a long time (and Not because of COvid). Sidewinders American Grill had the atmosphere, the food and libations, all modestly priced. It is a must visit for anyone traveling through/to Bozeman. Where else in the world can you find perfectly cooked bacon wrapped (local beef) meatloaf?
Did I mention how cold this place was? For the four of us, this was the coldest we have ever experienced. One night it got down to -22°. Even the insulation of our Alaskan camper could not protect my coveted Frescas and a stowed bottle of wine from escaping their sealed aluminum and glass containers. (The Frescas exploded and the wine froze into a slushy that forced the cork out of the bottle…and oozed all over the bottom of our pantry)
Our lodging in Bozeman was 45 miles southwest of Big Sky and required a little over an hour daily drive to and from Big Sky via the US 191 (Gallatin Rd.). This two lane, well maintained, road parallels the Gallatin River. With our son driving his 4WD truck, this allowed us to sip our coffee and enjoy the view in its wintery splendor from the comforts of the back seat…provided we didn’t fog up and ice over our passenger windows whilst staring too close to the glass.
When they say Big Sky, they mean Big Sky. The 250 runs spanned a multitude of crested mountains (three to be exact) within nearly 6,000 skiable acres. The days averaged single digits…but it was beautiful! We lucked out with our first two days of skiing in mostly bluebird conditions. Colder than I ever thought I would willingly tolerate, but probably the best snow and terrain I have EVER skied. The staff at the Big Sky Resort was great, and was the only ski area (this year) that allowed its patrons inside to warm up…masked up, of course. It didn’t hurt that the main high speed lift, the RAMCHARGER, had heated seats, either! We would have stayed longer, but our third day was SO Brutally cold (-11° and that was the “high” for the day…without the wind chill factor), that we, and most everybody only lasted a couple hours before we couldn’t keep ourselves warm enough to enjoy the snow.
Had there not been another polar vortex mega snow storm pegged to arrive the next afternoon, we would have stayed a couple more days to finish out our 5 days of access with our Ikon Base Passes. Ideally we would have liked to have head back to Utah and ski the Cottonwood Canyon areas (Snowbird/Alta/Brighton/Solitude) but the vortex was specifically headed there. Turns out it was a good decision as avalanche conditions did not dissipate for several days following that artic blast.
We, instead escaped to Buffalo Wyoming, and hid from the storm and “cold” for a day and a half. It is here that we also came across a quaint, extremely busy and fantastic coffee shop, appropriately named “The Fix“. If you are ever in/near Buffalo Wyoming, and “jonesing” for good coffee and/or a specialty drink, this is the place to visit. From there we headed to Colorado. Steamboat Springs to be specific.
For some reason my route mapping app (we “lovingly” call Martha) likes to send us off in obscure and circuitous routes that often portend “white knuckle” adventures while driving. Our “prescribed” route from Buffalo Wyoming to Steamboat Springs was no exception. Martha initially prescribed a very “direct” route. The I-25 South towards Casper with a turn off on State Hwy 257 to State Hwy 220 that intersects with US-287 South, which then takes you to Rawlins. From Rawlins head West on I-80 with a turn onto WY-789 S that becomes CO-13 once you cross the Colorado border, which takes you to the I-40 east and into Steamboat Springs. This was supposed to be a 6 hour drive. 14 hours later, we were NOT in Steamboat Springs.
Everything was flowing smoothly…until we turned off the I-25. State Hwy 257 was two-lane, but well traveled. We expected the same for the WY-220 and the US-287, both of which we have traveled upon before. Problem was, even though the sun was shining brightly, it was winter and the wind was blowing like, well, Wyoming. Within 20 minutes of being on WY-220 patches and stretches of iced over road became more frequent, which resulted in “white knuckle” driving. We had already survived one “skating” adventure, and in this more remote part of the country we did not want a repeat of that, and test our luck…again. With another 2 hours left on this road, we turned around, back to the I-25 and a reroute. Martha was “pissed”. The I-80 West was closed from Cheyenne to Rawlins, because of an accident. Cars were “parked” on the I-80 for miles. When we pulled into the Sinclair in Kaycee to fill up and ask if there was any “work-around” to Rawlins, we were told, “You could take the 220 to the 287, but no one with half a mind takes the 220 this time of the year”. Like I said, Martha is a bitch.
Our only path to Steamboat Springs, now entailed continuing on I-25 to Colorado’s scenic Hwy 14 (Poudre Canyon Rd). This 40 mile twisty-serpentine, scenic canyon drive, while beautiful, was exhausting. Add snow and a setting sun with a max speed of 40mph, and you have a never ending drive. But according to Martha, we would be in Steamboat Springs in less than two hours. Everything was progressing smoothly, with an 8pm arrival to our reserved hotel room in Steamboat Springs, until…it began to snow…ever so lightly.
This was NOT supposed to happen till the next day. WTF! No worries, we were a mere 26 miles to the I-40, that would take us into Steamboat. The snowfall increased, and we found ourselves driving in 6 inches of fresh snow. With the visibility morphing towards a white-out, and the snow getting deeper, once again, we turned around. Another two hours later, we found ourselves in Fort Collins, at a Best Western under renovations, smelling of fresh paint. Did I mention that the heater in our truck had stopped working? Fun times.
From Fort Collins, (even though Martha wanted to route us via the 14-(Poudre Canyon)… again), we took the I-25 to the I-70 that ran us into the I-40. I was an easy and uneventful drive. We were glad to do it during daylight hours, and were glad of our decision to turn around once we saw the snow/ice on the I-40 into Steamboat.
I one thing about Steamboat, is that the ability to “stealth” camp and/or park at their Walmart parking lot, or any lot for that matter with a full-size truck/camper is a non-starter. For one, it is NOT allowed. And two, who wants to drive in the snow? Hence our reservation at the Quality Inn.
I gotta say, Steamboat Springs is a well oiled machine. They have got public transportation, especially to the mountain, down to a science. Why would anyone ever try and drive up to the resort (proper) and park?
We hit the early bus, that just happened to stop just outside the Quality Inn (of which we were staying) and drop us off at the front steps of the Steamboat Resort. Somehow, however, I thought the mountain would be bigger. Maybe it was because of all the stories of, and pictures I had seen about skiing Steamboat.
It felt like we were at Disneyland or something. Color-coded bus stops. People bustling about. Visitors carrying bags filled with Steamboat embolized gear. And CROWDS! Yes. Crowds! One would have thought we had arrived during a holiday or spring break. Nope it was just COVID, and not a single kid was in school, or adult was at work. Unlike Big Sky, Steamboat did not have any place to retreat to warm up. They had even turned off the warm hand dryers in the restrooms…to apparently keep germs from “circulating”. This didn’t dissuade people from storming the mountain to ski though. We were amazed at how many rental skis were on the mountain.
We were glad we hit the mountain early, for as the day progressed, the weather continued to degrade, but the crowds continued to grow. The runs however, were awesome until a cloud descended and made visibility as dangerous as driving in the fog on a busy highway. We skied three days here, and made sure to hit the mountain first thing in the morning. This is unusual for us, in that we normally wait till later in the morning to ski our home mountain (Mammoth) so that those “early birds” can soften up the frozen crust of our “Sierra Cement”.
Not necessary here in wonderful Colorado where the snow is GLORIOUS! Sparkly, champagne, dry and lofty snow. Even though a cloud descended on the mountain each day…and it snowed, we skied each day until we had had “enough”. By the time we were “gassed”, the crowds had gotten to the point of annoyance, and trying to rewarm ourselves had become futile. All in all it was an enjoyable few days.
Along with Big Sky, Steamboat is on our return list for next season. Hopefully everyone will be back at work, and kids will be in school.
In Colorado we had four other ski areas to choose from with our Ikon Base Pass. Where to ski next was an impossible decision, until we heard that one of our hunting buddies (Kenny) was going to be skiing in Breckenridge for the week. While we weren’t going to ski Breckenridge, we could ski nearby Copper Mountain, and meet up with him for dinner.
To be continued…IKON-ic 2021 (Part 2)
*This is from a post I wrote for The Trek on Feb 17th, 2021. I hope you enjoy it as it was a featured link on instagram @thetrek.co
A lot gets packed into 650 miles and 7 weeks spent on trail.
Each portion had its challenges, delights and “forever” memories. And while we did not complete as much as we initially intended, our takeaway from this LASH is nothing short of remarkable.
While our home state of California has tremendous diversity of terrain, we never really thought of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana as being that diverse. Needless to say we were painstakingly enlightened. These are our highlights and their takeaways.
The Wind River Range’s craggy granite mountains, frosted in brilliant white snow against azure blue skies, beckoned us to linger. (Even in the wake of their challenge and treachery.)
Upon our descent of Gunsight Pass (NOBO mile 1835.4), the tree pocked rolling hills, and vast meadows filled with a tapestry of colorful flowers, left us in awe.
Roaring rivers. Frigid and often swift, deep streams. Tranquil lakes and ponds. Magical springs and seeps. They reminded us of the power, necessity, and miracle of this three atom combination…that is water.null
Geothermal “oddities” that boast of an “other” earthly world. “Births” of rivers from trickles of snow melt. A single stream that bifurcates, and flows to either the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean. It was the immenseness of Yellowstone’s natural phenomenon, that overshadowed any “celebration” of human achievement.
Historical routes, sites, and towns. Pivotal passes, such as South Pass, and discoveries that enabled the expansion of the United States…westward. It is here that we most felt the significance of the CDT and what a trek of this magnitude awakens in us.
Anyone who has participated in a long trek across amazing terrain will tell you that the people you meet along the way are an integral component of said trek. Like it or not, we are a communal species. Nature alone can not truly satiate the “hunger” within us.
While the pandemic of COVID left the CDT “population” sparser than “normal”, there was no loss of the trail having provided through the kindness and nurturing of, fellow hikers, town’s folk and absolute strangers, who kinship is unquestionable. Following an uphill, from Yellowstone’s Heart Lake, in the heat of the day, having run out of water, a chance “Hello” provided us our most organic trail magic.
A delightful elderly gentleman, “Fred”, trusted us with access to his van, and the beer and water within, while he continued on with his day hike. It was quite the awkward moment when we reached his white van. We wrestled with actually taking him up on his offer, but then decided that to not accept such trail magic would be “inviting” bad karma.
Salvatore Ambulando – it is solved by walking. You don’t really have to walk far, you just have to fully immerse yourself in the moment to let the “screaming monkeys” inside your head wear themselves out. It is here that you drill down into your psyche and are able to purge the extraneous bullshit that we all collect. The essence of any thru-hike, or in our case a LASH, is that you have so much time to “think” that you often exhaust your “worry/hurt/disappointment bucket”. You come to the realization that “it is what it is” and there’s no senses wasting finite time and energy on it. Forward is the only option. And so you move…forward with each step in exploration, wonder and peace.
Each time we take a lengthy journey, especially on foot, we find that we re-center our minds, bodies and souls to that which is important and fulfilling. We cast off the unnecessary “weight” (mind/body/soul) we have added to our “packs”. Our ability to practice “mindfulness” becomes evermore so rote. This LASH, was no exception.
“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live” – Marcus Aurelius
The quest of discovery is what drives all our adventures. We do our best to be open to learning or discovering something new each day. It takes some doing to feed such a drive, that hopefully will never become fully satiated.
While on this 650 mile LASH adventure across Wyoming and the border/spine of Idaho/Montana we were “fed” by the following:
Just outside of Dubois, Liz from the Black Bear Inn, awakened us to the healing power and properties of a prolific yellow flowered plant, Arnica. Remarkably this amazing plant grows alongside the CDT as it winds its way into Yellowstone.
While camped in Yellowstone, several miles outside of Old Faithful Village we discovered the true majesty of a midnight blue sky whose richly lit stars stretched like a warm blanket from horizon to horizon. In all our years we have NEVER seen such a sight.
The threshold of physical pain and mental override were breached and expanded, on more than one occasion. The human body and its ally (and sometimes foe) the mind, is capable of more than one can ever imagine. Having the support of, and responsibility to another, during those times, “eases” and emboldens one during such events.
With the advent of COVID-19, and whilst hiking this section of the CDT, it has become ever so apparent that the true nature of man is found in his capacity and pension for kindness. Not once on this journey were we ever treated with distain or judged for setting out on this LASH. Of course there are always those who believed we should have stayed home, but then we also believe in the principles of Hike Your Own Hike (HYOH).
The middle (or end) of April we will embark once again on the CDT. Ideally we will set off Northbound from the southern monument at Crazy Cook Corner, at the border between New Mexico and Mexico. Hopefully, we will complete a full blown thru-hike of the CDT. As with last year, things may change or require some adaptations. But what adventure doesn’t.
It seems more and more that vlogs (video “blogs) are the “norm” , and outpacing the written word when chronicling travels and adventures.
Having majored in Communications, with an emphasis on film and video, (many many many moons ago) in college, one would think that would have been my original go-to medium. However, the ability to create travel films or videos some six years ago (when we did the PCT ), let alone two or three years ago, was extremely limiting and supremely daunting.
However, with the advent of the “smart phone” and their ridiculously powerful cameras, and corresponding video production apps, the “ease” and ability to create travel/adventure videos has increased substantially.
While this does not mean that making a meaningful, if not thoughtful, production is a “piece of cake”, it certainly has become significantly less time consuming…unless of course you’re a detail oriented perfectionist…then it takes a more concerted effort.
Here in lies my conundrum. I prefer the written word over video/film for the most part. I find that the written word lends itself to not only conveying more information, but also allows the reader an active role in digesting the information at their own pace. And, maybe even requires them to use a bit of their imagination.
But the lazy part of me, likes the “passive” participation of watching a video/film. I assume that I’m not the only one considering the plethora of videos out there. In fact, a friend of mine recently told me that they are “YouTube” vlog watchers…they don’t have “time” to read.
With that said, we are branching out into the vlogging world. Soon we will be heading out for another extended IKON-ic ski adventure. It is here that we will practice our vlogging. This, however, does NOT mean that I will stop writing. It just means that we (I) will be branching out a bit and adding some short videos as a supplement to the 2moremiles blog.
We have purchased a drone to expand and enhance our footage. We haven’t flown it just yet, as we are watching tutorials so that we have a better chance of NOT destroying it. No doubt we’ll have some mishaps, but then that’s what our Asurion Protection Insurance is for.
Recently, I created a short video about our latest trip to Mammoth Lakes, California over the New Year, with our friend Sandy (aka. “Pole Dancer” from our Half Dome adventure). I did it on a whim, as I figured I better start practicing.
Hope you enjoy it.
8/8: Leadore Idaho
Pleasantly surprised, we scored a room at the Inn. Laundry and a shower were the first orders of business, as I smelled worse than usual. Once that was completed we toddled off to The Depot diner. Here I would attempt to seriously provoke giardia with a full blown chocolate shake. The shake only managed to affect my sinuses, as dairy tends to do. Good. Still no giardia. Once fully over stuffed with food we would never normally eat, except on a thru-hike, we wandered back to the Leadore Inn. Traffic was so sparse, we surmised that we could probably take a nap in the middle of the road.
Once safely in our room, a wild storm battered Leadore. The wind gusted an howled. It oscillated between sheeting rain and pounding hail. Thunder roared and lightning streaked through the sky. We were thankful that I had felt well enough to make it to Bannock Pass, and more importantly that Sam was able to pick us up…and had a room available. We are truly blessed.
Back in Yellowstone we had originally decided that we would go as far as Butte/Anaconda Montana, as we didn’t see Canada or Glacier opening up anytime soon. The plan was to then flip down to Rawlins and head south through Colorado. That got paired down to exiting at Hwy 43, 122miles north of Bannock Pass. From there we would hitch to Salmon Idaho, where we planned a river rafting trip, before heading back to Rawlins. And then when my trekking poles broke, we saw it as a “sign” that maybe we should “put a fork in it”, or at least take a break.
I have to confess, even before we got into Leadore, we had been doing some soul searching. We also knew that given this year’s craziness, there was a high probability that even if we flip-flopped, we still wouldn’t be able to complete the entire CDT in one shot. Before I got sick, we had received information about the trail going forward that wasn’t promising. Some of it was accurate and some was not, as we would later find out. We had been told about multiple 20+ mile water carries, with 4,000 ft climbs. We were told about miles of blow downs that hadn’t been cleared due to late hirings and COVID-19. Blackfeet Nation and East Glacier National Park were still closed, also as a result of COVID19. We also were headed into a predicted heat wave (90-100°+), complete with afternoon lightning storms. The threat of being caught on trail in a fire started by lightning was too real for comfort, especially after having already witnessed two lightning strikes less than 200 yds from our terra firma location.
In any event, we had a decision to make. Do we collect our resupply at the post office and continue the 122 miles to Hwy 43, and then head to Salmon? Or, do we just head to Salmon now?
As there was no way to replace my trekking poles in Leadore. I had one of two choices. Order them online and wait for their delivery…in Leadore. Or, head to Salmon (45 minutes away), play in a river…and get trekking poles there.
As you have probably already surmised, Salmon won out, and so did putting a “fork” in our adventure. We had traversed nearly 650 miles, and frankly we had lost the drive to continue any further. The beach and our comfy beds were calling. We kinda missed our kids as well. As our son told us before we left, “You have nothing to prove. You’ve already completed a full thru-hike. If you only get through some of it, you always have next year. At least you’re doing something.” And so, with that in mind, we decided to pull the plug. In an instant, our proposed thru-hike of the CDT became a LASH (long ass section hike). And we were okay with that. Next season we’ll hit the trail again. This time hopefully at the New Mexico/Mexican border.
Any qualms we had about leaving the trail were quickly quieted when, at breakfast, we scored a hitch from Andrea who owns the Depot and was headed to Salmon around 2pm. Ironically, Andrea is an “expat” from Southern California.
While waiting for our ride to finish her shift, we lounged on the front porch of the Leadore Inn. Seeing that Sam was off picking up more hikers, we decided to continue Sam’s practice of waving to all who drive by the Inn. It was amazing how many waves and smiles we solicited. We would later “experiment” with this in Salmon.
At 2pm, we were on our way. It was a pleasant drive to Salmon. We spoke of the differences between California and Idaho. We spoke of hunting and recreational opportunities in Idaho. We talked of the rich history of this area, specifically regarding the Lewis and Clark expedition, and the Native American people’s that once called this land theirs.
As there was no room at the Super 8, that Amanda’s friend manages, we scored a river side room at the Stagecoach Inn. Here we would spend three nights, and across the street from the Inn we scored a day long rafting trip down the “River to Nowhere”, the Salmon River. From “base camp” at the Inn we explored the fine eateries of Salmon: Junkyard Bistro, The Pork Peddler and Dave’s Pizza. All were very good, but when in Salmon, the Junkyard Bistro and/or The Pork Peddler are highly recommend. In other words, we look forward to eating at both places again, even absent “hiker hunger”.
Considering we rolled into Salmon at the beginning of the weekend, we hadn’t given a thought that rafting trips may be booked for the weekend. For some reason, we assumed that COVID19 would have caused a slow down in business. Nope! Per the Stagecoach Inn, the restaurant servers and the rafting company, they were busier than previous years. What the hell? Turns out that most people coming through Salmon were from out of state. Mostly from California. The citizens in Salmon were thankful for the business, but still a little annoyed with the prospect of the Californians bringing COVID19 along with their money. When we were asked where we were from, and reluctantly told them we were from California, we got stifled scowls. But when we quickly added that we just got off of two months hiking the CDT, the scowls turned to smiles and lots of questions.
The Idaho Adventures rafting company initially told us that they were fully booked, but within the time that we were there, two spots opened up for Saturday’s day trip.
From the Stagecoach Inn, we walked, and explored the entirety of Salmon. We walked to the Sacajawea State Park, and explored the history of the Native Peoples, The Salmon Eaters and the early settlers. Exploring this territory and history brought the book I had been reading, before we left for the CDT, to life.
I gotta say, the Native Peoples really got screwed over by the government in the late 1800’s. Oh hell, lets be honest…they’re still being screwed.
So along came Saturday and off to the river we went. A day long rafting trip was in order. Turns out, the family we joined just happened to be from So Cal. Go figure.
Also turns out that it was the last trip of the season. (Note to self: Book/plan a white water river trip for early June…water is moving waaay faster) It’s a family owned business and the our guide was going back to college, and eventually off to the Alaskan tundra to be a “Bush Pilot”. The good thing though, was we were able to “yogi” a ride from him to Missoula Montana on Sunday morning for our flight back home, the following day.
On a side note, while we were rafting down the “River of No Return”, as the Salmon River is called, we wondered as “water people”, ‘Why in the world we were walking everywhere?’ Maybe we should be drifting the “Rivers of America”. Granted, we plan on finishing the CDT next hiking season, but don’t be surprised if we don’t fit in a “thru-float” of the Mississippi River in the near future. Just say’n.
In total we covered approximately 650 miles over June 18 – August 8, 2020. We had hoped to have completed the entirety of the CDT, but it just wasn’t in the stars for us. By the time we returned home, it became absolutely clear that we had made the right choice to head home. Had we continued, we would been in the middle of a lightning strike fire that started August 11 and later named the “Bear Creek Fire”. Our flip down to Colorado would have been also met with numerous fires as well. Another plus, was the fact that I got really sick…again. It appears that what ever I got on the trail, lingered enough to resurface a couple weeks later, sending me to the hospital, and a months’ long regiment of medication to heal the lining of my stomach and bring my liver enzymes back down to an “acceptable” level. I was tested for everything under the sun (including COVID) to no avail. I am back to full health and training for our next adventures.
Let it SNOW!
8/5: 15.8 miles (2217.1 – 2232.9)
When I awoke it was still raining. The sun had yet to rise and I felt like a new person. Throughout the night I had sipped on electrolyte infused water without expulsion. Things were looking hopeful. Still a bit concerned that I might have giardia, I decided to “provoke” it with a cup of Starbuck’s Peppermint Mocha. The dairy in the mocha should react with the giardia violently. If that is the case, I can just take my Flagyl (giardia specific medication) and all will be “right” with the world…in a few days. But first we need to get to Leadore.
The rain stopped just as the sun began to rise. Paul scampered out to capture the morning’s sunrise with his phone.
30 minutes later, I was still feeling fairly good…compared to the previous day. My delightful peppermint mocha stayed put, so Hmm, not giardia. Most likely food poisoning, I guess.
Today was going to be measured miles. Our only goal was to get to the next water source. A piped spring, some 10 miles away.
As with yesterday, the trail would meander back and forth across the Idaho/Montana border. Cows greeted us from time to time and blocked our path…because they could.
The trail climbed steadily along a forested hillside. Cows moo’d below us in the narrow draws, playing what we could imagine was a bovine form of “Marco Polo”. Paul was anxious about getting to the spring, as he was out of water, so with 2 miles left he went on ahead. I was feeling much better and had a steady pace, so I was comfortable with him surging ahead.
As luck would have it, no sooner did Paul stride out of sight, but I got the distinct feeling of being watched. Simultaneously, I heard the distinctive and hair raising “growl” of a mountain lion. Not sure if the “growl” was for me, I reoriented myself to my knife and pepper spray, and began to talk loudly to myself.
I made it the spring without incident to find out that the spring had run dry. WTF?! It appears that wooden lid to the cistern that feeds the gravity fed pipe to the trough we were to collect our water had been left off. No lid enabled the cows to lick the ground level cistern dry. With a little polish engineering, Paul was able to remedy the situation, and half an hour later water was flowing from the cistern to the pipe. The cows were highly annoyed with his fix.
With plenty of water, daylight, and now energy (compared to the last few days) we decided to make a “run” for Leadore. From the spring we continued our climb, where it peaked at Elk Mountain, where I expected to see elk.
No such deal, but the view was amazing. From here we began a slow descent atop an expansive ridgeline.
Eventually we descended into a previously burned and then current regrowth forest.
It was here that my trekking poles decided to break for no particular reason. I initially thought a latch had become loose, causing the tip of the pole to retract. Nope. It severed two thirds up the shaft. A clean break. No obvious signs of stress. We did a field fix and continued on our way.
The last 4 miles to Bannock Pass followed a shadeless and rugged jeep road filled with sharp, unforgiving, awkward sized rocks. For the most part, Idaho was to our left and Montana, to our right.
With intermittent cell service we tried to call Sam at the Leadore Inn, and see if he could pick us up at Bannock Pass. We quickly discovered that the use of our cell phones was not a viable option. Luckily we have an InReach and were able to contact/message Sam’s cell via our device.
And just like clockwork, Sam pulled into the Bannock Pass parking lot, just as we arrived. As he drove us to Leadore, and his Inn, he recounted the history of the area. The pass is named for the Bannock Native American people’s who lived in this area. Bored under the pass, is a now partially collapsed tunnel that was used to mitigate the grade ascent/descent of the now defunct Gilmore and Pittsburgh Railroad, that used to service the small communities and mines in the area. He pointed out the location of a previous Pony Express and stagecoach stop, where he has found historic relics. Sam was quite the jovial fella, who professed to NOT understand what it is that drives or “inspires” one to do a thru-hike. Even so, he is a major lifeline for CDT hikers in the area. You call, he’ll rescue you from the trail and make room for you at his four room Inn…even if there is only lawn space.
8/4: 6.6 miles (2210.5 – 2217.1)
Morning found the moon still high in the sky. We had a leisurely breakfast with ERL and then departed in opposite directions, wishing each other well.
Today’s path was pretty straight forward, and required no route finding, or even attention to ones footing, for the most part. Follow the ribbon of dirt road over hill and dale, under a clear blue sky, with absolutely NO shade was the plan. A slight breeze cooled our sweat as we walked. Paul was motivated to put the “pedal to the metal”. I, on the other hand was devoid of any energy, much less motivation. Try as I might, I just couldn’t shift out of first gear. It was as if my “e-brake” was still engaged.
This morning found my stomach extremely rumbly. Last night, I could barely choke down dinner. For the past two weeks I have suffered bouts of nausea and extreme, unexplained fatigue. My chest palpitations have become more frequent. Something feels just “off”. While we are religious in the filtering of our water, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I may have giardia…again. (See PCT 2014 post here.) However, all the tell tale symptoms had not fully reared their head. And, considering how focused Paul is with making sure I am properly hydrated, I don’t think dehydration or heat exhaustion is the case. My body is definitely having an internal battle with something, of what, I haven’t a clue.
Two miles into our morning, I found myself plopped down on the edge of the trail unable to take another step. I had already nearly shit myself and was belching continually with waves of nausea doubling me over into the “ready position”. Paul was highly annoyed and doubled back to see what was keeping me. I rallied for another mile until I became overcome with an unrelenting bout of vomiting that rendered me completely spent. It was if I had run a marathon AND done a million crunches, while pulling a wagon full of rocks…uphill. I was that exhausted. Sipping water to rehydrate resulted in its immediate expulsion. Eventually I shed my pack and curled up in the dirt, in the fetal position. Paul, not sure of what to do to help, opened his umbrella, spread out our ground cover and unfurled my sit pad. I expected, after having expelled the contents of my stomach and bowels, that I would very soon begin to feel better. I racked my brain as to how/why I was sick. I recalled that last night’s meal had lost its vacuum seal and didn’t taste as good as I last remembered. Maybe it was food poisoning. That would be way better than giardia. An hour passed. I still could not move. Paul erected our tent, to at least get me/us out of the searing sun. Another hour passed. Still no signs of improvement. By the forth hour, I was able to begin to sip and keep down water. My head did not feel like it was going to explode and the muscles in my stomach and back began to release.
I knew that at some point we had to get moving. We were nearly out of water. If I couldn’t rally and make it to the spring less than 4 miles away, Paul was going to have to head off on his own and return with water. We still had several hours of daylight left, and I was beginning to feel somewhat human again. Another hour later, I decided that I had to move forward somehow, or some way. Besides, we barely had two days of food left, and come hell or highwater, I was NOT going to push the SOS button because I was sick. I, We, could go without food for a few days, but not water, in my current state.
With all the energy I could muster, we packed up and I began my trudge to the spring. I found myself moving about as fast as I had in the morning, but without the waves of nausea. This was a good sign. Maybe the “innards invaders” had been excised.
I told Paul to continue to the spring, and that I would catch up…eventually. He, however, did not let me out of his sight. We made it to the spring with at least three more good hours of daylight remaining. At this point I was feeling “okay” enough to continue another few more miles. In order to do that, Paul insisted that I eat something…and keep it down. While Paul went to fetch water, a tenth of a mile or so off trail, I waited by the post, that marked the turn off to the spring and did my best to choke down the blandest thing in my food bag. A high calorie, chalky, protein bar.
When Paul returned with the water, we had one of two choices. 1. Continue on for another 4-5 miles, so that tomorrow would be a 10 mile hike to Bannock Pass and a ride into Leadore, or 2. Make camp here and see how far we could get tomorrow. At least to the next reliable water source (per ERL), 10 miles away. Menacing skies with thunderous intent and the unexpected expulsion of my protein bar, sealed the deal. We would make camp here.
The fact that I couldn’t keep anything down, gave Paul at least an additional days worth of food. So we had that going for us, if no miles could be made the following day.
No sooner had we (Paul) erected our tent, but the skies opened up and it began to rain ferociously.
8/3: 15.4 miles (2195.1 – 2210.5)
Last night we were serenaded by bugling elk and the crunching of hoof/footsteps near where we slept. In the morning, we awoke to rain pounding against our tent’s fly. Either way, we had two days of walking till Leadore, so it didn’t matter whether we got started a bit late or not. Once the rain abated, we packed up and began the day’s jaunt. Often times without a topo map it is difficult to assess the terrain the CDT will traverse, and more importantly, the route’s “logic”.
To best prepare our minds for the day, we gaze upon the horizon and look for the most challenging and ridiculous climb or route that we would most NOT want to do. We then resign ourselves to the fact that the route we would least favor is most likely the route we will be taking. Such is the CDT and its “brutality”. Even so, today did NOT suck!
With the exception of the Winds and the Green River Lake valley, this day’s stretch has to be one of our most memorable. The morning’s drizzle kept the trail “soft” and the air clear and crisp. The forested area we trod, before our great climb to a wonderland of views and weather, screamed of elk and bear. Bearish claw marks in trees, elk rubs and fresh poop everywhere kept our senses on high alert.
As we continued, we were richly rewarded when we caught an eyeful of elk moving across the face of a hill we were to climb.
We watched, counting the bull elk and marveling at the size of the cow elk as they moved with ease across the steep and rocky terrain.
Once atop the saddle we were blasted with a cold and fierce wind that threatened our footing and made our eyes water.
It was here that we witnessed the enormity of the herd of elk. The elk practically filled the hillside as they swiftly moved across, and then up and over another ridgeline, reaching upwards of 10,000 ft.
As we walked the spine of the 9,600 -9,800 ft high ridgeline, we spied a herd of pronghorn nestled in the fold of the descending hillside, sheltered from the wind. Even with the wind briskly in our face, the pronghorn spied us from a distance, as we continued in their direction. Then, as a tightly knit unit, they stood up and quickly made their way up and over the ridge and out of sight.
As best we could tell, we were on the top of the world. The wind was relentless and several times nearly knocked us off our feet. The dark skies above us added a wrinkle of hesitancy, and urgency, at the same time. Do we wait for the storm to pass, or “charge it” and hope for the best? “Charge it”, was the option. But first, rain gear. This time if we got caught in the rain and wind, we would NOT freeze. Of course at the moment we reached the highest elevation, devoid of any vegetation above 6 inches, the storm hit. It didn’t even bother to rain. It just hailed. Sideways! We couldn’t help but laugh at our luck, and resigned ourselves to our “fate”. If one of us got struck by lightning, at least it was ridiculously beautiful, and we had cell coverage. Atop the ridgeline, from carin to carin we scampered without incident. Cold and wet, but not fried.
With the sun out, and after covering a wide expanse of terrain, we then descended through rocky talas and into a wooded area, where we met an ATV trail that led us to water.
Beside two icy cold creeks that converge into one, called Tex Creek, we ate our lunch and soaked our dusty tattered feet.
The remainder of the day was spent following ATV/Jeep trails over rolling hills, and beside a growing number of cattle. Our route crisscrossed the Idaho/Montana border.
At Morrison lake we took the opportunity to bathe. Cattle lined the hilltop, watching us with curiosity, as if we were ridiculous for swimming in their perfectly good drinking water.
Fully refreshed and loaded up with water, it was time for the day’s end ritual. A climb of another 2 miles. While we could have camped at the lake, we decided that the we would rather make the climb in the early evening with plenty of daylight, then have to do it the following morning. Our plan was to make the climb, and then camp at the first flat spot we could find. Once we crested the top, finding a perfectly flat spot was not that easy. Even so, we had plenty of daylight, so why not push more miles. As we searched for a spot to camp, a familiar figure appeared in the near distance, walking toward us. There was no mistaking the hat, red shirt/jacket and gait. It was ERL! Last we saw him was in the Great Basin and at Atlantic City. ERL had more miles still in him, but decided to camp with us and “catch up”. We shared stories and what each of us has to look forward to as we travel north and ERL travels south, on the CDT. It was nice to spend some time with another CDT hiker. They are so few and far between.
Once the sun had set, it was time to retire to our respective tents. Morning would come soon enough.