Friday, August 1, 2014

Day 53: Rocky Meadow to Mink Creek

The Soda Fork of the Snake River was presumably named for the frothy white water raging down the river. We stood on the bank, staring at the deep whitewater rapids at the trail crossing. Just upstream, a high round log spanned the river several feet above the water. Fight through waist deep whitewater rapids or balance precariously on a high log while wearing slick, muddy shoes?  Neither option appealed, but we eventually opted to stay drier, nervously inching our way across the log. 

The North Buffalo Fork of the Snake River also flowed swiftly with whitewater rapids, but the water only reached just above our knees and we crossed easily. 

Mile after mile, charred trees and stumps lined the trail, with a variety of wildflowers beginning the long, slow process of regrowth. Sierra also discovered ripe wild strawberries mixed among the flowers. We gathered as many of the tiny, sweet berries as possible, eating them at once. 

Although the day dawned clear and bright, dark clouds gathered all morning. We ate lunch with towering thunderheads closing in around us, listening to steady rumbling over several nearby ridges. Rain, then hail, began pounding us shortly after lunch. We shuffled along the muddy trail as the rain continued for hours. 

We reached the Parting of the Waters in late afternoon. Here, along the Continental Divide, Two Ocean Creek divides into the Atlantic Creek, which travels 3,488 miles to reach the Atlantic Ocean, and the Pacific Creek, which travels 1,353 miles to reach the Pacific Ocean. 

From the Parting of the Waters, we climbed steeply to a grassy plateau dotted with small lakes.  The Tetons and Mount Moran rose to the west, still dotted with patches of snow. Dark clouds to the north poured sheets of rain. 

On the climb we met Cloud Walker, the second southbound CDT hiker we've met this year. He has already met eight northbound hikers, and I know there are many more behind us. Stride, Smiles, Shutterbug 2, and Smudge should be close behind. Chili and Pepper (PCT '12), who we never saw on this trip, a few days behind. Atlas is five or more days back. And then there are all the hikers who flipped up to Wyoming to hike the Basin and avoid the snow. Last I heard those hikers are still finishing Colorado. 

Although the plateau was beautiful, we did not want to camp in such an exposed area under threat of another storm.  We quickly descended to a lower camp in the trees near Mink Creek. 

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