Thursday July 21st, 2022, 0700-1900
Yaak River to FR 7183, WEBO mm 160.7, Segment 2 Purcell Mountains
24.4 miles, Gain 6600′, Loss 4000′, elevation 5450′
Nothing bothered us overnight, not even noise from the bridge traffic (all 2 cars). Living under bridges, or at least next to them, ain’t so bad in the Yaak valley. Even better, I was able to sneak a turn in the nearby forest service privy in the morning, coining the phrase privy pirate! Wolverine also took a turn, after my raving about it. It was a primo privy, complete with lots of TP and even wet wipes and hand sanitizer. It’s the little things. Two minutes into our walk, a black bear scooted across the road just in front of us. That makes 4 I’d seen so far on this hike! We turned off onto a pleasant dirt road and followed it for about 5 miles. The red line actually departed well before this but we’d decided to take an unofficial alternative along the road and up the Vinal Creek trail. It was slightly shorter and had less elevation gain and loss. We knew we had a tough day ahead of us, so eliminating PUD’s (pointless ups and downs) seemed like a winning strategy. The road walk was actually very chilly…my thermometer read 47 by the end. But the hike up the creek was pleasant.
Rejoining the red line after a few hours brought us back to reality. The trail went up 4k in about 4 miles. This was the climb to Mt Henry. Once again, I neglected to pay attention to water sources and found myself low on a hot slope. I was sweating so much that I decided to take off all my sun protection clothes and just put up my umbrella. This helped a lot and eventually I made it to the junction for the final bit of trail to the lookout. This lookout was said to be unlocked and available for camping. But as it wasn’t even lunch time nor did I have any water left, I opted to skip it. This felt a little lame on my part, since I knew I was missing out on the best views after already climbing all that way. Oh well.
Just half a mile down, we came to a perfect little water hole \ spring. Someone on the app had described it as disgusting but it was clear and cold as could be. Anyone that complains about the water sources on this trail simply hasn’t ever hiked in the southwest US. We took a lunch break and enjoyed the lovely fresh spring water. It was a real treat to find water so high on the ridge.
We passed 5 WEBOs this day, but only really talked to 2 of them…the first and last. This was the most we’d seen on trail in one day. One of the guys was HorsePower, who we later found out had done a calendar year triple crown hike (PCT, CDT & AT all in one year). He sounded like a beast, since he planned to go another 10 miles or so after dinner. He was kicking butt on the trail and left lots of good notes on the app. Nice guy, too.
The trail continued to kind of kick my butt all day. Being a section of one mountain to the next, there were a few more significant climbs. I got over Purcell mountain well enough but really dragged at the end of the day. The trail went through a valley that was pretty wet and rough, so that didn’t help. Then another climb to Boulder mountain but with no views. It just felt like a lot of effort for little reward, and so was one of my least favorite days thus far.
But it ended well. We had dinner on an open and relatively bug free old road bed. Then we walked another flat and easy mile to camp further down the old road. Here’s a heads up, if you’re squeamish, there’s no need to read further. But for those with a morbid curiosity, read on: I had some extra time in the evening to mess with my Old Faithful. This is what I’d named a wound on my knee. It’d started with the horrible bushwhack on July 5th. I’d banged myself up really good on that one, by far the most cuts and bruises I’d ever suffered from one day. While inspecting all the damage that night, I noticed what looked like a small puncture wound…or a large insect bite \ sting. It wasn’t bleeding like a wound and it felt like something hard was under the skin. I suspected a splinter had been impaled while dragging my knee over so many downed trees, but didn’t recall the exact incident. I tried squeezing it to see if anything would come out but just made it more red and painful.
Flash forward 16 days. I continued to treat the wound with neosporin and to squeeze it from time to time, convinced something was in there. For a few days it was red and inflamed but it did eventually start to heal. Except that every day puss would ooze out the center. That’s why I named it Old Faithful. Either there was a foreign body still in there or it was an infected insect bite that I continued to make worse by squeezing it. The reason I was so suspicious of the first scenario was that I’d read about the same thing happening to Carrot Quinn. She had a stick impaled in her calf for weeks, causing puss to come out regularly until finally so did the stick. This night I’d had enough. I used my toenail clippers to dig around a little and finally just started cutting the top layer of skin. I squeezed one more time and bam! Out came a tiny little twig! I was right!
Poor Wolverine must have been surprised by my shrieking…not from pain but joy! I had to show her the stick popping out and take pictures. I was so proud I’d gotten it out without having to go to a doctor. I slathered the wound once more with neosporin and covered it with a bandaid. I tried to keep the piece in a container but lost it a day later. Oh well, it belonged in the wild. As for the wound, it never troubled me again, already almost fully healed a day later. But I knew I’d have a scar to remind me. Thanks for the the memento, PNT.