July 18th, 2019
Goldstone Pass mm 700.7 to mm 732
Distance in miles: 31.3
We hope for another big day to make the following day a shorter distance into town. It was cold overnight but thankfully did not rain. All my stuff is bone-dry in the morning and easy to pack. A steep climb greets us within minutes and I am happy for the warmth it brings. But then we are on an exposed ridge for awhile and the cold wind forces me to put layers back on.
The sunrise is nice, the rays filtering through the clouds. It stays overcast, windy and cool all morning. This is a good thing since we walk through some burn areas that are very exposed. There’s also no water for almost 19 miles. Mostly the trail goes through logging forests of lodgepole? pine. It’s easy and fast, so I make 15 miles by 11 am.
We decide to delay our lunch a bit so that we can get to Lemhi Pass, which is accessible by car…read possible trail-magic opportunities. Hey, we gotta at least try! At the pass are a bunch of interpretative signs describing the history of the area, namely to do with Lewis and Clark. The nearby Sacajawea Memorial has a spring, picnic tables, and a toilet. Apparently we are collecting our water from the headwaters of the Missouri. Just on the other side of the pass are the headwaters of the Columbia. It’s a beautiful spot and dead quiet. Where are all the tourists? Our dreams of trail magic are put on hold for another time. A great lunch spot will have to suffice.
The loneliest pit toilet in the world at Lemhi Pass.
We have walked a quarter mile off trail to the picnic area and don’t want to go back by the road. I never thought I’d say this, at least not this soon, but we should try to bushwhack back up to the trail. It’s only a quarter mile, after all. There are notes that others have done it. This time it’s an awesome bushwhack! Not only is it easy walking but we encounter a Great Grey owl baby just sitting on the forest floor. I approach to get some pictures but this baby I do NOT want to mess with. Raptors can bite and claw something fierce. It’s clicking its beak to warn us off and it’s a HUGE baby. Besides, I’m sure the parents are nearby and looking after it. It’s still all fuzzy but I can see that its primary wing feathers have come in. It’s just learning to fly. What a great find and all because we were off the trail!
The great grey owl is the largest species of owl by length. Its size and characteristic yellow eyes give it away. It’s a new bird species for me!
We join a road that winds around and then goes straight up the mountain. It’s so steep that my feet slide out at times. The sun is finally present in full force and it has suddenly gotten hot, so I have to keep sipping my 1 liter of water. I hope I have enough to get me to the top. I run into 3 NOBOs: Colonel, Blue Collar, and Gutter Spoon. They of course have flipped up just like everyone else. I probably won’t see any true NOBOs (those that have walked the trail continuously and suffered through all the snow) until Wyoming.
The trail is back up on the ridgeline where there are wide open expanses with huge gnarled trees here and there. I’ve climbed up to 9500′ again but it doesn’t feel that high. There are cows and it’s like walking through a pasture with amazing views all around. It’s one of my favorite parts of the trail so far. The road goes up and down a lot but I don’t mind anymore. I feel like I could walk all day, enjoying the sunshine and endless vistas…walking bliss.
I stop to get water at a spring that’s just off trail. Finding water this day has been tricky. None of the sources have been depicted by the Guthooks app. We’ve had to read the comments left by others as to the location of these sources. I’ve also used my other topo map to see where little blue lines are drawn in. Such springs and creeks aren’t always flowing but it’s a pretty good bet this time of year. I have a bunch of suggestions on how the Guthooks app could be improved…better maps showing such features is one of them.
Relentless falls behind on the climb and still hasn’t appeared by the spring. I even collect extra water for him and wait by the side trail. After 20 minutes, I start to worry that he passed me while I was down at the spring. I left my pack at the top but he could have not seen it…I walked right past Stellar’s bright orange pack without seeing it on the PCT.
I decide to keep going and find a campsite in a mile. It’s still pretty early and I feel so good. But I slow down a bit and just enjoy the peaceful vibe of the place. It’s nice not to be in a rush to get camp set up. I already got my miles in and can relax the last few. It’s still very windy at the exposed mountain tops. I would love to camp there for the views of sunset but don’t want to be battered all night. I go down a bit on the leeward side and find a great spot in the trees. I dawdle by making dinner and then blogging before setting up. I was waiting for Relentless to show but he never does. For the first night since outside of Silver City, I am camping by myself tonight. It feels a little weird but it’s nothing I haven’t done countless times before.
Speaking of my missing hiking partner, I realize that I never formally introduced him. I met him for the first time in Lordsburg, the day before we both started at the Mexican Border. We began consistently hiking together along the Gila River in New Mexico, that is until I had to get off-trail to go spend time with my dad. We kept in touch during that time and linked up again upon resuming the trail at the northern terminus. He hiked most of the rest of New Mexico and the Great Basin in Wyoming in the interim, so he has completed more of the trail than I have.
We didn’t commit to hiking the whole trail together, rather just seeing how it goes. Until this night, it’s gone well I’d say. We have similar hiking styles in that we both like to get early starts, walk all day and not get into camp too late. Relentless is from Massachusetts, where his wife and son also live. He hiked the AT in 2018 just to prepare for the CDT, which has always been his #1 goal. There’s a lot more to his story but I’ll leave it up to him to share one on one. It’s past my bedtime anyway.