Total Miles: 884.4
To an outsider, they seem the same. Those are probably fightin’ words to the locals. Returning to the land where this trip had all began, I’d forgotten how challenging it can be to know which state you’re in at any given moment. High atop the divide, the trail is more often than not the line of demarcation between Idaho and Montana. Occasionally there are benchmarks to denote the border itself, usually a steel pipe with a logo stamped into the cap on one end, wedged vertically within a cairn alongside the trail. From up here, local pride on one side of the line or the other seems look an exercise in vanity—it all just seems like one beautiful wilderness.
One thing that’s been on my mind ever since we returned here is the sense of how different the trail we now walk is compared to the conditions we’d left behind in June. The pleasant, dry trail under our feet was anything but back then. Winding along on a traverse of a large basin this morning, we looked downslope from the trail to see that we were perched atop an obvious cliff band that stretched for perhaps a mile or two. What today was pleasant trail would have been a snowy, steep mess had we pushed ahead back in June. I don’t miss the thousands of steps we would’ve been kicking into the snow to have safely passed through.
Aside from being thankful for the benign conditions we have the luxury of enjoying, there were plenty of sights to fill the day even if a human sighting didn’t make the list: A curious hummingbird, it’s buzzing zoom, darting to and fro in a captivating, almost impossible motion that calls to mind the descriptions that people have when spotting UFOs; A dilapidated log cabin perched above a nearby creek, its chinking intact while a once inviting front porch has fallen into disrepair; A young mule deer, at first seemingly unaware of our presence but continuing to approach even after spotting us, revealing a dark, disheveled fur on its face and the gaunt hindquarters of an animal that does not look well.
One thing that has certainly not changed along this border are the PUDs (pointless ups and downs) that are a constant feature. Whether by dirt road or by trail, if there’s a wooded knoll without a view, you can be sure we’ll be climbing it. Though only for perhaps a few tenths of a mile late this afternoon, the gradient briefly tilted upwards at a rate of 1400 feet per mile, ensuring that we’d at least be working for the non-view waiting for us at the top. That’s Montana for ya’….or is it Idaho?
Latitude/Longitude: 45.58474, -113.79858