July 23 – 17 miles (felt like 40)
The night prior we camped on a bench 4 miles from the start of the climb of Switchback Pass. The morning was crisp and the sunrise was gorgeous! It was going to be a great day. How could it not, with such a start?
As we passed by Dean Lake a lone buck in velvet sauntered by us. I wish we could have made it to this lake to camp. It was everything a backcountry campsite should be.
Switchback Pass was exactly just that…switchbacks. one thing about the CDT is sometimes with these passes, you never really know where it’s going to take you. You think you know, but 90% of the time you’re wrong, so you just walk and take what is given to you.
We rested atop the pass and took a gander at the vastness before us. This was the first time we really saw how dense the smoke from the fires was.
We descended two miles and then the “fun” began. We crawled, climbed, hopped, slid, scampered, scrambled and weaved our way over nearly continuous blowdowns. Luckily most of the work arounds of the blowdowns had been done by early SOBOs. THANK YOU! It was a matter of following their path…sometimes.
We however, were rewarded with, and took our time sampling, a rather dense patch of huckleberries.
Once down to Pentagon Cabin, it stayed mostly clear… for a mile. Gymnastics continued all the way to the last available campsite, where we squeezed two tents into one site with 3 miles left in the alternate.
When we got to camp, we saw that Sheepgoat had sent us a message. We’d been punked. I guess misery loves company. We all had a good laugh.
July 24 (17 miles)
We debated crossing the creek without shoes and then realized we were still essentially in “The Bob” (Bob Marshall Wilderness), but it felt more like “The Robert” (more on that later), so we crossed with our shoes.
OMG! Nothing like frozen wet feet/shoes in the morning to start your day.
Better yet, throw in an additional 3 miles of fresh and pokey, parkour blowdowns, and you have one hell of a workout.
I already had to duct tape the seat of my shorts due to snagging them on blowdowns, and thoroughly expected to have to use more tape by the time we were finished.
Where the Spotted Bear meets up again with the CDT “redline” there was one final blowdown…an easy step over, but a blowdown all the same. A final “f-you”, as it were. We laughed and cursed “The Robert”, and hoped that the fun loving “Bob” would be coming up as we approach the “Chinese Wall” section.
Needless to say, the Spotted Bear Alt, and especially The Bob Marshall Wilderness left a lasting impression on us. We breathed a sigh of relief when from the alternate junction, to and through the “Chinese Wall” section, the trail was clear and easy tread.
Now we were in the “fabled” Bob. The views were spectacular. The giant geological feature, the “Chinese Wall” towered above us to our right. It’s massive rock face stretched for 12 miles! Every inch of it was fascinating.
Fields of flowering wild garlic carpeted the base of the Wall. If we didn’t have to make miles, we would have walked even slower. As it was, our pace was more of a stroll, there was so much to see and absorb.
We “called it” at mile 217 (SOBO), exhausted and fulfilled. Bob Marshall, an American Forester and Wilderness activist (for whom the 1 million acre Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, dedicated in 1964, through which we were traversing), believed that wilderness areas should be preserved not only for their aesthetics, but so that the public who “owns” these lands could experience “adventure”.
No doubt about it, we were served up quite an adventure, and rose to and in fact enjoyed the challenge.
July 25 (14.5 miles)
We got up early, as we were at the end of the contents of our food bags, and hoofed it to the Benchmark Wilderness Ranch to pick up our resupply.
Miraculously, we were able to “yogi” a ride to the Ranch, from Lori & Dave who had just returned to their car after a several day backpacking trip. This saved us a hot afternoon dusty, waterless, 3+ mile road walk to the Benchmark Wilderness Ranch.
When we arrived at the gate to the Ranch, a herd of horses and mules “greeted” us.
We retrieved our resupply, and for $20 each were able to camp and get a much needed shower.
Little did we know that we still had a few more miles to “The Bob”.