Total Miles: 207.5
The heat of the day passed well into the evening last night. The kind of stifling heat that you’d expect from a closed up motel room and that makes you feel as though even the fitted sheet beneath you is oppressive. The middle of the night brought a brief return to cool before the morning sun threatened to turn the thermostat back up.
Sam greeted us on the porch and we loaded back into his truck for the ride up to where we’d left the trail at Bannock Pass. A wealth of local knowledge, he would point out things along the way like where the railroad once ran before it ceased operation and with it turned a town of three or four thousand into a ghost town nearly overnight. Delivered in the same friendly, instructive tone, his next story was a bit more troubling. He described a close friend who had been harassed by locals—namely, having their well destroyed by way of dynamite—simply because they are hermaphroditic. Even in places as beautiful as this, cruelty is not extinct, especially when it comes to committing the apparent sin of being different.
After delivering us at the pass, we waved goodbye to Sam as he pulled away in his pickup and we started trudging our way north yet again. The trail was unexpectedly nice for the first 10 miles or so, with almost a complete change of character from the trail south of the pass. Gone were the miles on dirt or gravel roads which would periodically become very steep and instead, a single track trail paved with dry pine needles gently switch-backing its way through a forest of lodge pole pine.
Stopping at a spring for a snack break and water, a large, dark-furred hare sat in the shade watching us relax without ever feeling the need to bolt for safety. While we wondered at how unconcerned he seemed to be, I looked at my pack and noticed empty space where my spoon should have been. It must’ve fallen out on the truck ride back to the trail, but it hardly matters now. Ace won’t mind sharing hers….I think.
Strolling our way along the spine of the Bitterroot Mountains, the day that had began so perfectly sunny had quickly become a bit cloud choked, with little storm cells dragging rain across the valley. Mountains will be mountains. We rode out a small shower just by sitting amid a clump of whitebark pine until once again the sun had returned from its game of hide-and-seek.
Turning a corner on our way to another spring to cook dinner, the road was surprisingly covered with waves of snow banks, some more than 6 feet high. Why these would be here, seemingly out of nowhere, in an exposed area that does not face north is anyone’s guess.
Just after dinner, the wind began to quicken and the sky grew dark as we hustled to find a suitable spot to pitch our hammocks and tarps before the next rain shower. We didn’t make it in time. Struggling with the nuances of pitching our hammocks and tarps in inclement weather, both Ace and I were quickly becoming both wet and frustrated. I wonder if a transition back to our old familiar tent might be in our future.