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.