CDT: Up Sheep Creek

8/01: 17 miles (Lima – 2179)

Rather than have a 7 day food carry with a 15 mile water carry to start out with from Lima, we took Mike’s advice (Mountain View Motel) and began our section to Leadore via Little Sheep Creek Rd. This would mean only a 5 day carry, and water at Buffalo Springs after a 3 mile uphill.  As always, “short cuts” and alternates are not always easier.

The climb started on a faint trail and then became an all out bushwhack to a sparsely used ATV trail. The ATV trail devolved into a single track that rounded several hillsides and then descended sharply to Buffalo Spring.

Buffalo Spring

Once we watered up, we began a “connect the carins” walk over low brush, atop ridgelines with incredible views.

Today we received our first trail magic on the CDT, in the most unexpected way.

As we traversed a rolling ridgeline upon an ATV trail that the CDT travels, out of the blue a truck appeared behind us. They stopped to talk, and offered us water and beer. In all honesty, we really weren’t in the mood to talk. We were focused on trying to descend to a valley and climb over a ridgeline before the thunder/lightning showers began for the day. But then, who are we to turn down impromptu trail magic. They had “heard” that the CDT travels through here, but had never seen or gotten the opportunity to talk to CDT hikers.  We couldn’t help but oblige them. We talked about the trail, what we carry, and how we resupply. They were a father/son duo. The father was showing his son his old stomping grounds of when he used to run cattle for a ranch he worked for.  He asked us if the trail goes by a Buffalo Jump. Buffalo Jump? We went by Buffalo Spring, but nothing on our route showed Buffalo Jump. In fact, what’s a Buffalo Jump, we asked. He pointed to the nearby limestone cliffs, and explained that the First Nation Peoples’, would often herd the buffalo over cliffs as a way to kill a large number of them in order to feed their people.  (This particular area we were traversing was inhabited by the Shoshone and Bannock …who had formed an alliance.) He took his son to view the Buffalo Jump in this area and to show him the piles of boney remains that still lie at the bottom of this particular limestone cliff. I wish we would have known about this earlier, as we surely would have taken a detour to see this. (If you’re interested in learning about Buffalo Jumps, click here.)

We could have talked with these guys for hours (and drank all their beer), but miles needed to be made and the skies were starting to get angry. 

As we headed down to a valley, in which a string of power poles stretched, it began to rain. Thunder rumbled, and streaks of lightning fractured the dark grey skies in the near distance.  We were gonna have to beat feet to get down the fully exposed valley draw, and up the equally exposed climb, to the cover and “safety” of tree line.

Rain pummeled us as we quickly passed under the power poles. Up we scampered, as best we could, on the increasingly slick trail, as lightning and thunder almost occurred simultaneously. Uncomfortable with the distinct possibility of being struck by lightning, Paul acquiesced to my uneasiness and we headed off trail and into a small basin. We ditched our packs and trekking poles, and laid down in the sage brush to observe the “fireworks”. Paul opened his umbrella and decided to nap through the storm.

Lightning struck there on the trail

No sooner did we “take cover”, but I watched as a thick and jagged bolt of lightning struck the trail we had walked upon, near the power poles. My uneasiness fully realized.  Nearly an hour of uneasiness followed as we lay in the dampening dirt, surrounded by the sweet smell of sage. By the time the storm cell passed, our rain gear (with the exception of my Columbia OutDry jacket), and our Tyvek ground cloth I used to “hide” under, were fully wetted out.  (Luckily, it was early enough in the day that we were be able to dry out our gear during a lunch time “yard sale”.)

Once the rain passed, we walked ourselves dry while “skating” uphill in a odoriferous slime of mud and cow paddies, to tree line.

From here, we wove through a pine forest, sporting recent rubs from either elk or deer, trying to shed their itchy velvet.

From a forest trek, to a grassland traverse, and back into a forest we trod, until we finally descended to the practically hidden Deadman Lake. By the time we arrived, we found the lake’s name more than appropriate.

The color of this lake was a rich tourquoise blue. Fish jumped periodically to scarf up the insects hovering close to the lake’s windless surface. Meanwhile, scattered soft rings of bubbles from its spring fed bottom surfaced like a pot simmering on a low flame. It was quite enchanting.

We camped lakeside towards the “left” end of the lake. As we ate our rehydrated meals, I couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. It was then that I spied a small black bear, across the lake, watching us intently as we ate. Hanging our food properly would be a must. Sleep came early, but was rudely interrupted by cavorting elk just outside our tent. Why we didn’t bother to record this lengthy “conversation”, or even bother to step outside our brightly lit tent (due to the rising Full Sturgeon moon) and video our “neighbors” block party, we will never know. Maybe it was because we were highly annoyed, finally having a completely flat and comfortable place in which to sleep.

When did the presence of wildlife become so “pedestrian” for us?

This entry was posted in Backpacking, Continental Divide Trail, Montana, thru-hiking, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s