Wednesday July 20th, 2022, 0620-2100
Rock Candy Mountain to Yaak River, WEBO mm 185.4, Segment 2 Purcell Mountains
26.2 miles plus 0.5 to fire tower, Gain 2400′, Loss 5725′, elevation 3000′
I had one of the best night’s sleep yet. The breeze was refreshing and it was just the right temperature. Riding along the ridge for a few miles in the morning was nice, then we dropped down into the Yaak river valley for the remainder of the day. We met 2 WEBOs who were really nice, a couple, Taffy and Matt. We chatted for a bit about the trail. There are so few other hikers, I want to talk to them all! But at some point, I may need to just say hi in passing. I don’t know at what point it becomes too many but certainly not yet.
We walked a quiet dirt road for a bit, then turned off on a trail that took us over Garver mountain. It was a very easy climb relative to those of the past week. We walked the extra half mile to the top (not part of the official route), where there was a lookout tower and small cabin. I ran into a border patrol agent, who was parking his motorcycle to walk the steep last scramble to the top. He asked me a few polite questions and I happily responded…no need to get defensive like some are apt to do around the uniformed folks. We walked the rest of the way together, instant buds.
The LO was locked, so we tried guessing the combo. I was surprised he didn’t know it. He asked me to look up the mountain’s elevation and we punched that number in, to no effect. Good try though. I thought it was funny that I was his accomplish in some light B&E. He also shared my enthusiasm in peakfinding, showing me some of the local mountains, including Mt Harvey, on the agenda for the next day. I could also see the Whitefish range…just past Eureka and the last range before Glacier. We’re getting so close! I was then intent on eating lunch. I had so many meals that I decided to cook one up there. Wolverine did the same, so we had a nice break.
The rest of the afternoon was spent walking dirt roads. A truck initially passed us, and I noticed about 3 people inside. It came back shortly after, and I only saw the driver. I wondered if it had been someone dropping off PNT hikers at the trailhead. It’s very common for hikers to skip the road walks. I considered it early on but I’ve been pretty happy walking the roads. There has been little to no traffic, so hitching has rarely been an option anyway. I guess we could have asked this driver for a ride to Yaak, but then there’s the problem of getting back to the same point where we left off, and we were pretty remote. Wolverine was dead-set on connecting her footsteps and I was happy to stick with that philosophy. It’s almost always been my approach as well.
We had kind of decided to try to get to the town of Yaak. Wolverine needed to fill out forms for her new job and I was simply curious about Yaak. Once we got to a road that was easy enough to get back to, we tried sticking out our thumbs at the first vehicle to drive by. It worked! Not only did they have a great truck bed to sit in, there was a cooler full of beer. We played bar maids, passing beers through the window in the back to the folks in the backseat, and we all had a most enjoyable hitch into town.
We got in at 5:15 pm, only 15 minutes too late for the mercantile’s open hours. There wasn’t really much else to the town, as far as I could tell. The once famous saloon, the Dirty Shame, was permanently closed. But the adjacent tavern was open and had wifi (no cell service anywhere around the area). I ordered a chicken sandwich and beer, then ran outside to take a dip in the river from the convenient boat ramp. I cleaned up some more in the bathroom, finishing just as my order came out. Laundry, shower and dinner in about 30 minutes…Perfect!
We lingered far too long as usual, trying to take care of business on our phones. There’s never enough time in the day, especially when there’s power and wifi. Eventually the reality of needing to get back to the road and set up camp kicked in. It was late …more so than I even realized because I still hadn’t advanced my watch or phone an hour to adjust for Montana (Mountain Standard) time. It sucked to be loosing an hour, especially on this day. We looked up and down the road, not seeing a single vehicle anywhere. This could be awhile. Maybe we’d have to crash in town? Wolverine worked up some bravery (she’s good at this) to ask a group of people if anyone was driving north this night. As luck would have it, a nice couple, Dan and Cedar, were resupplying at the merc and driving home right past where we needed to go. We loaded all their boxes into their truck bed for them, a fair trade for the ride. Then we loaded ourselves and were off.
The valley had chilled considerably, quite noticeable in the back of the truck with the wind. I was glad to go back to walking on the road, which we did for another few miles. We came to a ranger station that could be rented, hoping to pitch our tents in the backyard. But alas, the cabin was occupied. Just down the road, we found some nice spots next to the Yaak River. I was concerned for wetness and wildlife in that location but it was too late in the day to be choosy. A family stopped by to fish but were soon chased off by the mossies. The dad warned us about the local moose that likes to hang out nearby, but I wasn’t too concerned about giant, poorly-sighted herbivores bothering me overnight. After all, I’ve survived many encounters in the proximity of cows.