Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Day 20: Schultz Saddle to Trees Below Bitterroot Junction

Thunder rumbled overhead. Brilliant flashes of lightning illuminated the tent.  Then, like someone unleashed a fire hose, rain began pounding the tent.  I looked at my watch. 12:30 a.m.  For the next few hours I lay awake, listening to the storm rage all around us. 

Crawling out of the tent, the drone of a thousand mosquitoes reassured us that we were not the only ones to have survived the storm. Steam rose all around us as the sun warmed the damp logs and plants. The storm seemed to have interrupted the record-breaking heat wave, leaving the day warm but pleasant.  

A small group of elk thundered out of our path. A large grouse ran and flapped into nearby bushes to hide. Soft creeks babbled through lush green meadows filled with wildflowers. We loved our initial introduction to the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness.

We soon entered yet another burn area, the trail barely discernible in places beneath the downed trees. Yet many of the burned trees were still standing, some charred and black, others pale and ghostly white. The wind whistled and howled through the bare, ghostly forest overhead.  

We try to avoid camping near dead trees when possible. Standing dead trees can fall in the night, posing a safety risk. And dead branches aren't suitable for food hangs, because bears can easily snap them off to obtain your food. We eventually found camp in an oasis of living trees in the midst of a large burn area. 

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