Badger Ranger Station – Spotted Bear Alt (mile 19)
July 22 (13 miles)
From the Badger Ranger Station to Beaver Lake was supposed to be 18 miles. This was to include, for lack of a better term, a PUD (Pointless Up and Down). Thing is, we missed our turn, but didn’t realize it till nearly 3 miles of NOT hiking on the “redline”. We knew it was too easy. This is where having our Garmin InReach and the Earthmate app it uses comes in handy. It seems that we had in fact stumbled onto a perfect short cut (that actually worked with no bad consequences). The Lewis and Clark Trail continued straight, when we were supposed to turn right. What we were left with was, no climb and an easy, relatively flat, walk through super grizzly country. At least that’s what the prints and poop seem to convey. But trading 4 miles for 8, I’d say we made out pretty good. We rejoined the “redline” for the first time WITHOUT having to backtrack. A definite plus for us.
About that time we got an InReach message from Sheepgoat that he was continuing on from Beaver Lake, but that Hobbit would be waiting for us there. We arrived there about 2pm, had lunch and deliberated as to whether we should continue another 4-5 miles or just stay put. The winds were supposed to pick up. It was stifling hot, the flies were especially active, and the next several miles were through an exposed burn area. We decided that shade, water and not worrying about a dead tree falling on us in the middle of the night was the better idea. Besides, it would give Sheepgoat a chance to let us know how the Spotted Bear alternate was.
July 23 – Spotted Bear Alt.
Up early to beat the heat, we walked through a burn area reminiscent of a graveyard. Colorful flowers sprouted at the base of many a charred tree. We were glad we stayed at Beaver Lake, even though the bugs were ferocious.
Too many deadfalls and setting up in a BBQ pit of soot would have made us grungier than we already were.
Prior to getting to the Spotted Bear Alt, we got another message from Sheepgoat. He made it to, and stayed at the Gooseberry Ranger Station…which he “highly recommended”. The man is trekking. I believe he clocked some 30 miles for the day.
At the junction of the CDT and the Spotted Bear Alt, we stopped for lunch and a nap…and another update from Sheepgoat.
From where we sat, the alternate looked very inviting. Peaks with views and greenery. The CDT looked like more charred trees and dusty waterless trail. Another message from Sheepgoat. “So far so good. 10 miles on the alternate”. He also told us that we would run into a NOBO “Res Dog” and that he would fill us in.
“Res Dog” told us that the alternate “wasn’t bad”. He’d gone through waay worse in Colorado and the Winds. Most of the blow downs had paths already made for work- arounds and would be “easier” for us going downhill. When asked what the mileage of blowdown we would encounter, he replied, “1.8 miles is bad, but everything else is good”. A crew was working on the trail when he went through.
With that we fully committed to taking the Spotted Bear alternate, even though most of the comments on Guthook and the 2021 CDT Facebook page did NOT recommend it.
The “red line” looked like more burn area and blowdowns to negotiate.
Immediately on the Spotted Bear Alt. we were treated to expansive greenery and soon Goose Berry Ranger Station. Here we talked with the wildlife biologist that studies the grizzly bear and it’s habitat. She filled our water bottles and told us that the grizzly was once down to 200 bears, but the population has grown steadily (almost 1000 now) especially in NW Montana and that the grizzly is soon to be off the endangered list. She sets up trail cams in bear habitat area and was in the process of collecting the footage from the cameras to update her count. We asked her how many grizzlies she has encountered. She replied, “To be honest, I’ve been studying these bears for 12 years and have yet to see one in the wild”. Maybe she should be following us on our hikes. We seem to see them.
We continued on and walked alongside a flowing river/creek. We tried to keep our feet dry, with all the water that ran across the path…to no avail.
At the end of our day, having walked through a few blowdowns and beautiful terrain that often smelled like blueberry pancakes, we made it to a vast bench with a hazy yet striking view, and communicated with Sheepgoat once more.
We settled in for what we expected would be a cold night, as snow lingered in a few spots above us, giving us glacier cold water.
As there were not many places to hang our food bags “properly”, we half expected them to be gone on the morning. 1-3 miles of blowdowns. No problem. Switchback pass in the morning, now that was going to be a lung buster for us.