Sunday, June 14, 2015

Day 4: Ridge Camp, MT to Wire Gate, ID

The morning sunlight warmed the golden cliffs.  Swallows swarmed near the cliffs, diving in and out of the tiny nests they built there.  As I stretched on the cliff's edge, I noticed something unusual about the rock I was sitting on: a seashell!  The rock had numerous seashells embedded in it. 

My body is sore. Every night I inflate my sleeping pad. Every night the sleeping pad slowly deflates until I wake on the cold, hard ground a few hours later. I reinflate the pad, only to wake on the ground again a few hours later. Every. Single. Night. 

Gorgeous views. Interesting rocks. Colorful wildflowers. Snow choked switchbacks. Downed trees blocking the trail. A steep climb to the snow-covered Targhee Pass. All of these things conspired to slow our progress. 

But today was not the day for rapid progress. Today was the day to lie in a grassy meadow, watching a fuzzy bumblebee flit from one colorful wildflower to the next. Today was the day to examine piles of rocks, searching for perfect seashell specimens. Today was the day to marvel at the cheerful yellow sunflowers, the bright magenta shooting stars, the delicate golden glacier lilies. 

Disaster struck at lunch. I sliced my finger open while cutting a cucumber. The cut was super deep, and it was difficult to close the two flaps of skin. Blood dripped from the soaked wad of toilet paper that I applied to the wound. Sierra quickly and calmly helped me dig through the first aid kit for supplies. Sierra really wanted to try her hand at sutures, but I thought we should try less invasive methods first. Together we cleaned the wound and tried butterfly closures, gauze, and medical tape to close up the cut. Afterward Sierra told me, "I'm sorry you got hurt, but that was fun!"

From Targhee Pass we quickly dropped down to rolling Montana ranchland. A lone horseback rider passed by, the only person we saw on the trail all day. In fact, since passing by the rangers in Yellowstone we've only seen two hikers and a few mountain bikers, all near trailheads. 

And that is the challenge in maintaining a remote trail like the CDT. With so few trail users, the wilderness reclaims its own. We spent the late afternoon wading through waist-high grass, weeds, and sunflowers, playing hide-and-go-seek with a section of trail that has seen few, if any, trail users so far this year.  

Back in Idaho (the trail stays close to the Montana/Idaho border for some time), we passed through rolling green hills, forest service land that is evidently under a grazing license for some portion of the year. Ignoring the plentiful cow pies, we set up camp. Sierra tended to my finger, which does not appear to be getting infected, but isn't closing up properly either. 


  1. I love finding those surprising places that once were under water. Can you even imagine the sea being in Montana/Idaho?

    Hope the cut is healing. I sliced my hand on a rock last winter and as a result added Steri-Strips to my first-aid kit. My slice was healing until I whacked it again and now I have a nice scar lump near the base of my pinky on my palm.

    You know it's a BAD day though when you have to a leaky air mattress :(

    1. We've found several places with shells and fossils so far, and it is fascinating! Definitely slows our progress for the day:) As do interesting animals or flowers:)

      I tried butterfly bandages to no avail. I'm adding superglue to my first aid kit ... Or sutures:)