August 1st, 2019
Cabin mm 1077.7 to HWY 26 mm 1099.3, then hitch to Dubois
Distance in miles: 21.6
We nail our early start, timing it so that we only use headlamps for the first 20 minutes. Grizzlies are heavy in the area, so I don’t want to be hiking in the dark for long. I then have to do my morning business off trail a bit and wouldn’t you know it, Relentless goes around a corner to give me some privacy and promptly spies a grizzly go tearing up the hill. I miss it because I’m off doing what bears do in the woods. I figure we will probably see another one somewhere this day but we never do.
We do catch another SOBO, Rain Skirt, from Spain. We have been tracking his footsteps since Yellowstone. We chat for a bit but it is pretty hilly through this stretch and we all settle into our own paces. I want to stick close to the guys on account of all the bear sightings so I take short nature appreciation breaks to keep everyone in sight.
After about 3 climbs, with good switchbacks, we enter a valley that has a long cruiser stretch all the way to Brooks Lake Lodge. The valley is very open, with scenic buttes overlooking. Apparently this area represents volcanic activity that is even older than Yellowstone.
I pass a horse troupe with only three riders but a lot of pack horses. They are loaded to the hilt and I wonder if they are off to set up a field camp somewhere. The horses really shy away from me, even though I talk to them, so maybe they are really nervous on account of all the bears. That’s all anyone talks about around here.
Near the lodge, we follow a dirt road for awhile, thinking we will walk it all the way down to the highway, easy peasy. But a connector trail departs from the road and dives straight down a wash. I say connector trail because it is one of those pseudo trails that was built hastily to get more trail off the road, but no one put any time into actually building a trail. There are a few markers depicting the way through bogs, meadows and messy woods. Mostly I just head down and towards the noise of the highway. From the lack of trail, I’m sure that most people just walk the road from the lake.
We pop out onto the highway, having followed the markers. Guthooks shows the trail coming out about 100 yards up the road and that is where Rain Skirt comes out, looking confused. There are 3 NOBOs down near a creek and I wonder why they are sitting there and not also trying to hitch. Then their ride arrives, but they are going the opposite direction to Jackson. A lady from the group comes up and offers us beer and sodas. We recognize each other from trail days. Her name is Little Engine. A cold beer is very appreciated while standing on the side of a hot road.
We don’t expect this hitch to be very easy, as cars are speeding down a hill where we stand. We deliberate if 3 people is wise but I got plenty of rides with 3 before and am sure we can pull it off. Within minutes, a truck with a stock trailer stops. Margina, who works for the forest service, is taking her mule and mare down for a vet appointment. I can’t believe that a truck towing a trailer stopped for us but there was a RV turning onto the dirt road and she had to slow down anyways. She also backpacks a lot and so knows what we are up to.
We do the first and most important thing in town: eat a burger with fries and a soda. A cute little stand called The Outpost is like a fast food joint but with better food. Then we walk to the other end of town where St Thomas Episcopal Church is. They have a community center building where hikers and bikers can stay for a small donation. There is a bathroom, microwave, fridge, and lots of info about the town. A small community garden grows out back. The place is so cute and next to the old log cabin church…the oldest one in town.
One hiker is there, Screaming Eagle, resting and icing an injury. He is a SOBO, Canadian, and he and Relentless know each other from the AT. A 5th person arrives, a Spanish lady who is bike touring. We go to the KOA to get showered and laundered and when we get back, 3 more NOBOs have arrived. The lady that works at the church says they have a capacity of 8 people but if more come, they will find another church to put them up. That is good because there are at least 8 more coming.
We have pizza for dinner and I take advantage of a good wifi signal to finally get caught up on blogs. I haven’t had good signal and/or my app hasn’t been working since Lima, MT. I have no cell service in this small town but luckily the wifi is plentiful. It’s raining and cold when we walk back to the community center, so I am glad I have a roof over my head this night. There are hotels in town but the rooms are over $100 a night. I’d rather spend that money on food right now.
I go to bed by 10 pm, even though other hikers are still getting situated and the lights stay on until about 1030. It’s a full house, with 1 over capacity, but it works out. There are cots for us to use but most just inflate their sleeping pads. I try a cot, just for something different. I take some precautions to be able to sleep and ignore the snoring. You can’t be too particular when you’re staying at a free place. It’s just like staying in a communal hut in New Zealand.