8/2 – 16.1 miles (2179.0 – 2195.1)
Due to the previous night’s “block party”, we ended up sleeping in just a bit. We originally wanted to get an early start, due to the necessary climb up out of Deadman Lake, and the fact that the day was supposed to be ridiculously hot. Often times while thru-hiking, best laid plans aren’t always realized, but you make the best of things as you go. I’ve got to say though, once the elk finally bedded down, the night was as quiet as I have ever heard it…even quieter than a during a gentle snowfall. It was by far, our best night’s sleep since we started this trail. When we emerged from our tent, we were pleasantly surprised that our food bags were unmolested, and were equally surprised at how quiet the morning still was. All I can say if that it must have been a rough night for ALL the “locals”.
It was a relatively “easy” climb on a “gentle” sloped trail out of Deadman Lake. A good part the morning would be spent traversing atop rolling hills accented with scattered tufts of sage and bitter brush. We were alone in this wide expanse.
The air was dry, as was the trail. Fine particles of dust billowed beneath our feet as we marched along. At one point, while looking at the trail, as defined in our Guthook app and my Garmin Earthmate mapping, we briefly considered an overland bushwhack to cut off 3 miles. The route looked fairly straightforward, but then it WAS a “short cut”, and we all know how those seem to turn out for us. Paul was somewhat insistent and applying the “short cut”. I studied the proposed route, and considered giving it a try, but I was in no mood for added “adventure” for the day, and told Paul I’d meet him on the other side. Good Luck.
We both stuck to the recommended and signed CDT. This was a good thing, as there would have been a “slide” down a steep embankment, a water crossing, and a scramble up another embankment to reunite with the CDT, in the “alternate” route we had considered.
For the most part, today we were making good time. While it was stifling hot, and the flies were obnoxious, water was plentiful…when needed. Fishing would have been a fun distraction, in the event I had a license, and we weren’t pressed for time and mileage.
Seemingly, as with most days, there is a “balance” to a days’ “challenges”. Today was no exception. We knew at some point, there would be grumbling and/or exasperation to our day. It couldn’t be that simple. Well, it came, of course, in our last 2 miles of the day. For some reason, the trail inexplicably disappears and you are faced with an “Amazing Race” scavenger hunt, for the trail. Numerous comments in Guthooks talked about “look for a skull”, “follow the carins”, “pretty easy to stay on trail”, “head east”, “head west”, and assorted other “clues”, that for some reason would appear and then disappear from each of our phone’s Guthook app. This made it difficult to figure out how to proceed, so as not to get lost. In the end, we couldn’t find the carins, so we bushwhacked up a steep embankment via several heavily tread game (Elk) trails ,till we zeroed in on the CDT. Nothing about this was fun or adventurous. In fact, it was down right miserable to the point of a meltdown, having over-turned an ankle stepping through a tangle of brush.
Once on top of the hill we had to ascend before we could begin our descent to the creek we would be camping by, we saw the most glorious sight. In an instant, it made up for the bushwhack. In front of us was a mountainside littered with elk. We crept to the edge of our hill to get a better look. We counted over 40+ elk. (We took photos with our phones, but the lighting was such that none of them turned out, so we deleted them…sorry) They saw us, but for the most part, were not concerned with our presence. We could have watched them for hours, but as luck would have it, menacing clouds were beginning to form to our left. Thunderous rain was on the way…again.