Monday, June 22, 2015

Day 12: Morrison Lake to Bannock Pass (Leadore, ID)

The Data Book uses the word "road" to describe many different things, from highways or paved roads passable by ordinary cars and trucks to forest service, mining, or ranch roads are steeper and rockier, requiring a 4WD vehicle or quad.  Some are merely a shadow of the memory of a former road, long since abandoned. 

Likewise, in the CDT vernacular, "trail" may refer to established trail tread, an established route marked by signs, cairns, or blazes, or a cross country route that may not bear any resemblance to a trail at all. 

We experienced all of these today as we climbed above Morrison Lake on a steep, rocky, rutted 4WD road, then continuing from ridge to ridge. We veered off on established trail tread as we headed to Elk Mountain, although the trail disappeared from time to time. Realizing that the trail passed by on the shoulder of the mountain, we dropped our packs and quickly scrambled to the top. 

Despite the name, we did not see elk today. But we discovered precious birds, hiding in the tall grass next to the trail. And several times, startled antelope and deer bounded out of our path. 

I hid behind a dense tree and exploded a snowball on Sierra as she hiked by. We both raced to nearby snowfields and the war was on. Laughing and dripping with melting snow, we called a truce a few minutes later. 

Heading down to Bannock Pass, we met our first CDT hiker, Commando. He was heading southbound from Helena, Montana, having flipped up from Colorado to avoid the snow.  He told us what to expect in the tiny town of Leadore, Idaho, where we are heading today. 

And then we saw the elk. Not just one or two. Not just a small herd of 20 or 30. A large herd with at least 100 animals grazing near the river bottom. We heard their plaintive cries as they sensed our presence up on the ridge, and watched as they slowly gathered and moved farther downstream. 

Commando had warned us that the restaurant closed at 7 the night he was in town, so we were pleasantly surprised to find it still open when we arrived. The owner/cook/waitress was clearly overworked, but she put her heart and soul into the cooking, serving up some tasty food. We slipped between the cool, fresh sheets at the motel happy, clean, and well fed. 

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