July 17: Day 29 (1899.7 – 1915.5) 15.8 miles
As we were packing up, Chimp and Raindance arrived. They started well after us the day prior and ended up camping only 3 miles from us. We weren’t surprised, as they are pretty fast as it is. This is their second time hiking the CDT, and this time they said they were “not in any hurry” as being from the UK, they can’t go home anyways. We watched as they deftly removed their shoes, socks and inserts from their shoes, all while still wearing their tiny little packs. With most river crossings they do this as they find by removing their shoes inserts and socks, their shoes dry faster and their socks stay drier and last longer. Before they crossed, Raindance pulled out a small container that Liz had given them before they left. It was Liz’s special arnica salve. Raindance had graciously offered to deliver it to us. For Raindance to carry something “extra” in her pack is pretty special. We were grateful for both her and Liz’s thoughtfulness. Paul would end up reluctantly using the salve at the end of the day, after having seriously rolled his ankle.
Across the South Fork Buffalo river Chimp and Raindance waded. “It’s fast and strong in the middle, and then gets slower on this side”, they yelled across to us.
Paul crossed first. “It’s pretty strong in the middle. Make sure your footing is secure with each step. Take your time”, were his words of advice and encouragement. Into the river I stepped cautiously. Holy Crap! This water is almost as cold as the snow melt creeks we had to cross in The Winds. The crystal clear icy water washed nearly thigh deep against my staggered legs and firmly set poles. Each step was measured, being sure to maintain three points of contact at all times with the rocky river bed. Of all the river crossings we had done thus far, this one was the swiftest. I can see how someone of smaller stature, or limited water skills would be a bit intimidated. In the back of our mind, we knew toward the end of our day we’d have to cross the North Fork of the Buffalo, and that was said to be more challenging. By the time I made it across, my feet were painfully numb. Gravel coated the inside of my shoes, having been shoved in through the gapping holes in the sides of my shoes. For the next few miles, it would feel like I was walking on stilts before my feet thawed out completely.
The day was expressly warm and dry, so having wet feet initially wasn’t that bad. Compared to our previous week’s trail tread, this tread was glorious. Almost like walking on carpet. It was obvious that a fiercely hot fire had burned through the area we walked, as no new growth could be seen, but an ever expanding meadow was overtaking a previously thick stand of trees.
Vibrant colored flowers accented the meadows and lined our path. One thing for sure, is that the bugs, especially the biting flies were virulent today. Unlike mosquitos that just buzz your ears, these flies like to fly like Kamikaze planes into them. We had sprayed ourselves down with bug spray, but it appeared that the flies had no “respect” for the spray. To keep my sanity, I resorted to wearing my head net. Problem is, is that you have to remember it’s on when you go to take a drink. I dribbled sticky lemonade water down my shirt on numerous occasions.
Some creeks we walked through. Others required log crossings. One particular crossing was too swift to “wade” through, thus my only route across was atop a log, to another log. Logs and I are NOT friends, no matter their height. I can’t seem to stay upon a narrow log laying in the dirt, let alone one suspended over a moving body of water.
This required crossing would take every ounce of courage and determination I could muster, and about 10 minutes (between getting up the nerve and shuffle stepping across both logs), all to Paul’s extreme annoyance.
When we got to the North Fork Buffalo crossing, we came upon Lunar and his crew. Once again, they were traveling in the opposite direction as us. They had started their current leg at Heart Lake. They too had doned head netting, and laughed in understanding as I swatted at a fly that crashed into the side of my head. They told us the crossing wasn’t bad, but the boulders were “super slippery”. They too had heard that several people had lost their footing and got swept down the river a bit.
As it was later in the day, the water at this crossing was comfortable, to point of almost being warm. While the width of the crossing was half the distance of the morning’s crossing, it was just as swift and a little more treacherous and technical, due to the large boulders. The boulders, that were extremely slippery, made it difficult, but NOT impossible, to find secure footing. For those of smaller stature, it would be definitely more challenging.
After lunching on the other side of the river, we continued down the trail and came upon a disconcerting sight. Not only were there large bear prints in the trail, but a tree trunk teaming with bear fur.
An obvious scratching and itching post for a very large bear. Loud talking and awful singing ensued.
This whole week, especially today, was supposed to be “rain-free”. It appears that the meteorologists in these parts are even worse at predicting/reading the weather than those at home. Thusly, we have taken to leaving our rain gear at the top of our packs, and often start the day with pack covers on…just in case.
We however, think we have figured out the rain definition thing. At home, any amount of moisture coming from the sky (unless it’s foggy, or snowing…which is rare) is generally accepted and referred to as rain. Here, for it to be classified as rain, or a weather event, moisture has to fall from the sky for more than an hour…hard. If the moisture is accompanied by thunder and lightning, it’s a simple thunder shower…still NOT rain. Hail, isn’t classified as raining, so it’s just an anomaly, and is more of an event. When the two happen at the same time for a short period of time, it’s just summer, but NOT a weather event, and certainly not recognized as having rained.
Sparse forests opened up into a wide valley flanked by a meandering river teaming with fish. Oh to have the time to fish. Sometimes it’s pure torture. We pass a few perfect campsites, but we haven’t made our mileage just yet. Considering that we ended up having to tamp down tall grass in a mosquito infested meadow with no trees in which to hang our over laden food bags, we should have just set up rather than push that 2 more miles. By this time Paul had seriously over turned his ankle searching for an acceptable campsite. I couldn’t help but think (out loud…unfortunately) had we stopped earlier, that it wouldn’t have happened. So, we were more than a little cranky when we went to bed. In some ways it’s good to have that kind of “hrumpf” when you’re employing the OMDB (over my dead body) method of food “storage”…in bear country.
Let’s hope that Liz’s arnica salve works for Paul. The stalk stuffed in my sock seemed to do the trick for my ankle. I was still a bit sore, but was able to walk the entire day.