Total Miles: 40.1
Every trail carries with it certain echoes of others, not unlike distinct branches of the same family tree. Terrain, weather, water sources, flora, and quality of tread all combine to make a trail its unique self. With so many overlapping qualities and in spite of their differences, it’s as if all trails share some of the same connective tissue. Call it a Unified Trail Theory.
The morning began under gray but unthreatening skies, traversing bright green grassy hillsides above a tranquil valley below that was speckled with small ranches. Guiding the way were large wooden posts reminiscent of those found on the southern balds of the Appalachian Trail.
Not long before leaving behind the grassy lowland valley, we again traded Montana for Idaho and with it began a stretch of exceedingly well marked trail—perhaps unnecessarily so in some cases…
Slowly, the grasses gave way to meadows blanketed by bright avalanche lilies and ringed by stands of stately aspen. The frequent trail markings continued unabated, so much so that losing the trail even in spite of its very lightly used tread would have required quite a bit of effort.
Above the aspen meadows, the chameleonic trail morphed yet again into a dirt road that stretched for miles, gently rolling through sagebrush that, as if by bitter experience, had thought better of growing too tall. Trudging into an accelerating headwind that occasionally whipped the dirt road into an exfoliating face treatment, it was easy to appreciate the wisdom of that sagebrush.
But the rolling, comparatively gentle character of the trail today was a welcome change after yesterday’s opening act. Staying mostly to lower elevations, the snow that 24 hours earlier had at times slowed our progress to a crawl was nowhere to be found. Our tired feet and bodies were thankful for the respite.
Setting up for tomorrow’s return to the high country, the trail led us along and across Hell Roaring Brook in the late afternoon and fording its icy, swift water was enough to bring burning cold to our shins and feet. With the wind gradually abating throughout the evening, hope begins to rise that tomorrow will deliver less stormy weather than the forecast had predicted.