July 13th, 2019
Johnson Lake mm 575.4 to mm 606.7
Distance in miles: 31.3
I sleep so good overnight and feel ready for another big day. I plan the day around water, since there is one last creek at 30 miles and then nothing until we get to town the next day. I hope to make it to that creek for the night but there’s still a lot of climbing, around 7000′ according to the app. Nothing looks terribly steep at least.
We make it up to the first pass, Pintler Pass. Then down and then up again to a ridge. I’m already complaining about the heat and the mossies. For the first time, I actually borrow some of Relentless’s deet to slather on the back of my arms…their favorite target.
For the rest of the day, the trail follows more gentle ridgelines. There are still plenty of climbs but also some long graded sections where we can cruise. The trail is a mix of lush forests and burn areas, with meadows and fields of beargrass interspersed. The habitat and scenery changes constantly today and I am loving the diversity.
In the first burn area we run into two NOBOs. At first I don’t even recognize them but as soon as they speak, the French accent gives them away. It’s White Hyena and Clipjumper, or as we are now calling them, Boosey and Fred. I met them in NM first on my way into Lordsburg and then again at trail days. They have switched out most of their gear and are no longer sporting 70L packs, hence the reason I didn’t recognize them. They now look like all the other lightweight thru-hikers, except for a pair of binos that Boosey is sporting. And you know what, I commend her on that. I often wish I had binos for my bird watching.
We are so happy to see each other, giving big hugs all around. Later I think of how I barely know them but like them so much. They are just so friendly, well-spoken, and positive. We catch up on as much as we can on the short time we can spare. They have been skipping around the trail but still have to do Yellowstone, the Winds and all of Colorado. Maybe we will see them again, maybe not.
Luckily another 2 SOBOs happen through so we get a good picture with our favorite French couple. The new arrivals are Towny and Animal. We camped at the same lakes the last 2 nights but this is the first time meeting them. They look like fast hikers and obviously are if they pulled the same big day we did yesterday.
After collecting some water for a dry stretch, I tell Relentless that I’m going on autopilot and start to cruise. There are now many clouds in the sky and it has cooled off. I go down to a saddle, pass on a muddy water source and begin climbing through a burn area with lots of deadfall. There are so many trees in the trail that I just start bushwhacking up the hill, ignoring the switchbacks. I get through some of the worst of the mess just as a piece of hail hits me in the head. I barely get the umbrella up before I am assaulted by this bird shot hail. Thunder rumbles nearby. Here we go again.
I get to the top of the climb and walk through trees as lightning strikes all around. What can I do but keep moving. The cool rain/hail is actually a relief and I don’t even have to put on other rain gear. It clears and the sun comes out again. Suddenly it’s hot and humid. Montana weather, don’t like it, wait 5 minutes and it will change.
I walk alone most of the day, relishing in the peace of the mountains. I feel great today and don’t even want to stop. But I have to when a mother grouse boldly challenges me in the middle of the trail. Oh fun! I go straight for her and she quickly switches her strategy to that of an injured bird, leading me away from her chicks. But they are scattered everywhere and maybe perhaps one needs a little help getting clear of the trail, or at least that’s the story I’m sticking to. Momma does her best but is no match for me. But look, I made sure little Timmy didn’t get stepped on! I also get a great shot with Timmy out of focus and worried momma in the background.
Little Timmy in focus, so cute!
I leave the grouse family to forage in peace, now safely off the trail, me in a most excellent mood for my encounter. I make it to the 30 mile spring just in time for the sky to open up again, hailing and a downpour while I filter water. How ridiculous to be filtering green stream water when I could just be collecting buckets off my umbrella. The sun shines and it’s still hailing. I stand in the soggy meadow and just ponder how beautiful and unique this moment is. My struggles, the elements, the rawness of nature…life all intertwined in its complexities. It’s mind-boggling.
I go a little further for a campsite near a logging road. It’s a huge horse camp but still filled with puddles from all the rain. I pick one of the less soggy spots and by the time the tent is up, Relentless, Towney and Animal have arrived. I’m glad everyone has made it and are in good spirits. We all loved this day for various reasons, even though there were challenges. Unfortunately it starts to rain again so we can’t hang out. We’ve all been neighbors for 3 nights now and I still only know just their names. Thunderstorms roll through all night but I stay dry and sleep well.