Wisdom, MT to Leadore, ID – Where There is Smoke, There is Fire

Day 31

The best part of today was sitting next to Rocket, a 12-week-old pup, whose human gave us a ride back to trail. His human, Tad, owns the Antler Saloon, which we visited last night and enjoyed conversation with his son, Bucky.

This next stretch is kinda long. With heavy backpacks, we only aimed to go ten miles or so today. The sky threatened us with rain a couple times. Massive rips of thunder moved closer to us, but in typical fashion, the weather blew away and we saw no rain.

Day 33

Super late start this morning, but the beauty of trail life is there are no rigid hiking hours. We make our own schedule. Some days we wake up at 4:00 a.m. and some days we wake up at 10:00 a.m.

Enjoy my journal entry of todays jumbled and random thoughts; a hiker’s brain while hiking: Mosquitos, gnats, horse flies, regular flies, hover flies are killing the vibe. My right knee no longer needs the extra support of KT tape. I’ll probably keep my left knee taped for a couple more weeks. I feel so clean after washing off in an alpine lake today. A lot of these lakes are low, presumptively due to the low snow year. We reached 9,200 feet elevation today. Another day of beautiful hiking. Craggy Mountains, wildflowers, abundant water sources, views… wow I wasn’t expecting this section to be so stunning. It was just plumb hot today. Not even a stray breeze here and there. KD saw a black bear tonight, right around dusk!!! It was easily scared off so that’s a good sign.

Hiking with one foot in Montana and one foot in Idaho for the next few hundred miles

Day 34

Our departure from camp was delayed due to KD asking me to help him sew up his shoes. I did a pretty good job but the thread still broke by the time we took our first break. He can still hike in them so it’s ok for now.

The heat. The bugs. It’s the hottest it’s felt so far. And the bugs are the worst we’ve experienced so far. It’s almost overstimulating with the constant buzzing in your ear and crawling on your skin. We had an afternoon quick rain/hail on us. It felt like it cooled off a bit after that.

We met a bicyclist doing the trail on bike! We caught up to him on the steep uphill because he had to push his bike up the mountain, but he outran us on the downhill.

This evening from the ridge we saw the smoke for the first time from the Hayden Fire burning on the ridge west of us. We are headed straight into the path of the wind blown smoke.

Smoke rising from the far right

Day 35

I was woken up a few times last night and several times this morning by a whole slew of nosey deer tramping all around our tent and staring into our tent. Deer are so goofy.

When we woke up it was overcast. A mixture of smoke and rain clouds. It started raining lightly in the afternoon and grew into a heavy rain by evening. We were able to eat lunch and stay dry by hanging out in the porch of a parking lot pit toilet. It was right on top of Lemhi Pass and we even had a nice view from our stoop.

The heavy rain made me feel so cold and made my joints stiff. I let the weather and afternoon slump get me into a bad mood. Sometimes I like when it rains hard and I just sink into my rain jacket and zone out while I hike. Sometimes it just makes me feel sorry for myself. Today I experienced both feelings. When I feel grumpy about the uncomfortable situation I am in, it helps to remind myself it’s only temporary. Anyways, this is what I get for complaining about the heat yesterday!!!

We climbed up to get back on the ridge and we can see we are closer to the smoke of the Hayden fire. I hoped the rain today would help them contain it. This section of “trail” was actually an ATV/jeep road and wildly steep in some parts. The rain eventually stops when we get up on the ridge allowing us to enjoy moody, cloudy mountain views.

We camp on an exposed spot with a beautiful sunset. No bugs today 🙂 BUT we were harassed by mooing cows walking right by our tent, apparently we camped in a pasture they had access to and we’re quite active at night.

Day 36

I woke up this morning in a good mood. The warm sun was shining directly in our tent waking us up. The sky was still hazy and there’s a slight smell of burning wood in the air, but there is no longer a thick plume of smoke billowing from the adjacent ridge.

We walk on an exposed ridge for most the day. My head is on a constant swivel taking in my views in every direction. I’m walking slow and enjoying my hike today. It’s windy but the temperature is comfortable. We only have 16 miles to town and normally I’d be speed walking being this close to town food, but something is urging me to soak in these moments. Everything is so green and it makes me happy. I even allow myself to take a seat on the ground at a particularly pretty spot and just enjoy it.

In this moment, I have no worries. I am not bogged down with anxiety of the future or regrets of the past. I feel so happy to be present here in this moment, on the ground in Idaho, overlooking Montana. I look forward to capturing more moments like these on trail, they are unique and I find they are much harder to come by in the real world.

I was trying not to admit to myself that I didn’t LOVE this trail. At least It wasn’t love at first sight, like it was on the PCT last summer. But today has tipped the scale in the other direction. I’m starting to love and appreciate Montana and Idaho trails for what they are. The trails are hard and not as much of a joy ride as the PCT trails. It’s rugged and feels like true wilderness. Constantly comparing the two trails is not fair. The circumstances surrounding the PCT and CDT are vastly different. This trail is not changing for me, so I must change my attitude for the trail and the enjoyment of my hike. I can love my PCT hike and my CDT hike even if they are totally different experiences. I don’t want to leave this spot and this feeling, but I know more of these moments are surely to come.

When I got to the road, a lady was dropping off two hikers getting back on trail. It was perfect timing as she offered to bring us back to town with her. Jen is a kindergarten teacher in Leadore and cooking dinner at the Mustang Inn tonight. Although we aren’t staying at the inn tonight (but we will be tomorrow night since we are taking a zero) she kindly invited us over for dinner. They cook breakfast and dinner on the three days of the week that the diner is closed. The town of Leadore is doing an amazing job of catering to hikers during hiker season. Tonight we camped across the street at the RV park.

Day 37

Leadore, a town of 105 people, is currently hosting a slew of CDT hikers and 400-500 firefighters battling the Hayden fire burning 18 miles west of town. Every single person we have met in this town is so dang friendly. While waiting for the diner to open for breakfast, a man that looked like Santa Claus struck up conversation with us and we invited him to eat breakfast with us.

I love how the trail crosses my path with people I may not likely meet or take time to talk to in the real world. I so much enjoy conversation with the locals in a trail town and hikers from all over the world.

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