August 8 – 11
8/8: 13.8 mi. (Twin Lakes TH – CDT mile 546.7)
We lucked out and got a hitch out of Anaconda to the Twin Lakes trailhead, from a local trail angel (Free Spirit). As it turns out she had already planned to head up to the Twin Lakes trailhead to hike with a friend. She had just ducked into the Hostel to give Destiny her card to let CDT hikers know she was available for rides. She offered to give us a ride rather than have to walk the highway to the trail head. We seized upon the Godsend opportunity.
Up and early, we cram into Free Spirits car. The highway was an easy drive, but the road up to the Twin Lakes trailhead was more adventurous than I would ever drive my car…and I have 4wd. She said she loves these kind of drives.
Once at the trailhead, we parted ways and literally skipped up the trail. We had two big climbs for the day. Both had to beat a predicted thunder storm.
The trail to Twin Lakes was gorgeous, and opened up at times to “Disney-esque” meadows.
A quick snack break at Twin Lakes and then onto the first big climb. We of course somehow lost the actual trail, and found ourselves on a well worn game trail. This led to a scramble, jungle type bushwhack uphill, through a tangle of trees, in order to rejoin the “redline”.
Up and over the first pass (Twin Lakes), we could now see clouds gathering into menacing shapes and colors. As we made our way down to Storm Lake (appropriately named) the wind picked up and the sun became muted. As we crossed the dam, we spoke with a couple. One of which was a retired backcountry forest ranger, who had actually worked this particular range. We asked her about the pass up ahead and what she would do with the current brewing storm above. She said she would wait it out, as there was no cover after the pass. We took her advice and made our way around the lake to a stand of trees that blocked the fierce wind, and now cold rain. Here we had lunch and took a nap.
It was amazing how quickly and ferociously this storm passed through. In an hour and a half it went from the sun shining brightly, to dark moist skies with a blustery fog sweeping across the lake, to placid calm, and piercing blue skies.
Up and over the Storm Lake pass we climbed to reveal an open bowl of wonderment, and another pass…Goat Flat.
It was stark and treeless, but stunning all the same. It is here that the Anaconda Cut-off meets the CDT redline (mile 544).
We continued down the trail and set up camp at Flower Lake, just as it started to rain.
8/9: 18.4 mi (546.4 – 564.8)
We awoke to a brutally cold morning. My REI thermometer read 34° and didn’t get much over 42° all day! On top of that, we had two hard climbs. Rainbow Pass (9250 ft) and Cutaway Pass (8736 ft). Both passes opened up into beautiful views with wide open bowls. Both climbs however left me totally wrecked, to include the lower third of one of my trekking poles. Luckily we had a rubber tip to place on the end to keep it from splitting further up the shaft.
8/10: 17.2 mi (564.8 – 582)
Two climbs for the morning. Rainbow Mountain at 9264 ft, and then Pintlers Pass at 8736 ft. Both were hearty climbs, but “gentler” than the previous day’s climbs.
As the day progressed, we weaved our way through a dry and heavily burned area with a plethora of tangled blowdowns. As it was tremendously windy, the trees still left standing became suspect and worrisome.
We came across a saddle (not the horse kind) where the wind was absent, but the sound was like that of a roaring waterfall. As we walked along the trail we braced for the moment that the wind would match it’s sound. When we reached that vortex, it was like momentarily being in a wind tunnel. Strangest thing ever.
Collecting water and finding a safe campsite became our marching orders, as the gusting wind was non-stop, and the hazardous trees were a-plenty.
8/11: mile 852 – Mussingbrod Lake Campground. (Creek Fire alternate)
Turns out that where we decided to camp (another saddle devoid of wind, but NOT it’s roar) was the safest place for miles. The wind howled but not a flicker of movement from our tent or nearby trees.
Our 8 mile walk into Mussingbrod Lake was cluttered with countless blowdowns, and even more creeking with failing intentions.
Due to the still burning fires of the Trail Creek and Black Mountain fires, the portion of the CDT that continues to Lemhi Pass and ultimately to Leadore, was closed. This resulted in our reroute to Mussingbrod Lake. Once there, we had to either finagle a ride or walk the 20 miles from there into the town of Wisdom.
We walked into one of the nicest, but vacant campgrounds we’ve ever seen. This campground was laid out beautifully, with an equally pristine lake in which to recreate, sans motor craft. While searching for water, in preparation for our 20 mile shadeless road walk, we located one camper. Jason and Shanon (from Missoula) had an awesome set-up. Great rig, truck, bikes, ATV. They must have been overjoyed to have the entire campground to themselves…then we arrived. We asked them about the road to Wisdom, and they described it as dry and desolate. No cover what so ever. Awesome! But then they offered to give us ride into Wisdom, in “exchange” for tips on backpacking and thru-hiking. Shanon has her sights on doing a long trail.
We gladly accepted the “terms”, and piled into their truck. They were right, the road to Wisdom was dry and desolate.
They dropped us at Wisdom and we immediately went to the Antler which Jason and Shanon said had the best Pizza and Salads…as well as cold beer. They were not, incorrect.
Once fully satiated, it was time to hitch to the Lost Trail Pass. We had NO intention of walking along the shoulder of Highway 43, that from what we could see was fairly busy. Nor did we plan on walking the shoulder of Highway 93 to Salmon Idaho, and then onto Leadore. We have been nearly hit so many times during road walks, that having a “continuous footpath” during closures and/or reroutes is not worth the danger it presents.
Now Hobbit, who ate entire pizza by himself, was not convinced that we could successfully hitch from Wisdom to Hwy 93, let alone to Salmon and/or Leadore. Paul, the eternal optimist countered with,”watch, 10 minutes tops”. In less than 5 minutes, Diane (who owns the Crossing Bar & Grill) came racing toward us in her car. “Get in” she said, “I don’t work for another hour. I’ll take you as far as the Pass”. Wala. Hobbit was more than impressed. We all clamoured in, thankful for our Providence. As we got to the Pass, we saw a red Dodge truck with it’s hood up. “Maybe if you can fix his car, he’ll give you a ride to Salmon”, Diane said with a chuckle.
With that, we unloaded, and thanked her for the ride. Paul then struck up a conversation with the Dodge truck owner, John. They talked trucks and it just so happened that John was on his way to Salmon. John offered to give us a ride once his truck cooled down. Providence once again.
John dropped us at the Saveway in Salmon. The plan was for Hobbit to buy his resupply for the Leadore to Lima leg. Once we got to Leadore, we would retrieve our truck and drive him to the Bannock Pass trailhead. First we had to get to Leadore. As luck would have it, while seated at the food service/deli tables, a man sat beside us and asked us about our packs. We explained that we were hiking the CDT, but because of the fire closures, we were now trying to get to our truck in Leadore, to drop off Hobbit. Guess what? The guy lives in Leadore, and would gladly give us a ride, but sadly he only had room for one. Divide and conquer became the plan. Paul would ride with Bill, and Hobbit and I would wait till Paul returned with the truck. We would eat ice cream in the meantime.