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!