Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Day 21: Bitterroot Junction to Creek Below Cutaway Pass

Sunlight warmed our tent, and we slowly emerged from our down cocoons. 

Lots of up and down today. First we climbed to the ridge, only to descend into the Pintler Creek Canyon. Then we climbed over Pintler Pass, only to descend the Falls Branch of Rock Creek to Johnson Lake, where we sat in a meadow and enjoyed our lunch. Again and again we climbed, Rainbow Pass, Cutaway Pass, along with several other unnamed hills and ridges. 

A piercing whistle, followed by the merest breath of a shriek, carried on the wind. Sierra had gotten a few switchbacks behind on the descent to Rainbow Lake, and I had stopped to wait for her. Snatching my emergency whistle from my side pocket, I gave the whistle a good hard blow before dashing back up the trail. More whistles. I echoed them with a few short blasts of my own. We continued to call and whistle to each other until I discovered her down a well-established but unmarked side trail. 

Reunited, we were heading back down the trail to my pack when we noticed two people rushing up the trail toward us carrying only water and bear spray. "Are you guys okay," they asked. Having heard our whistles from their campsite halfway around Rainbow Lake, below, and mishearing the word "where" for "bear," they had rushed up the trail to help, fearing someone had been been attacked by a grizzly.  

A greenish tan frog leaped in front of us into a small marshy pond next to the trail. We watched him as he used his webbed feet to swim across the bottom of the pond, then back up to the surface. Sierra and the frog eyed each other for a few minutes before he resubmerged and swam under a nearby rock. 

It was late when we started our final climb toward Cutaway Pass. Not knowing how soon there would be camping on the other side, we stopped at the only flat camp we could find on the way up, a strange little camp with one flat tent site and three, yes three, preexisting fire rings.


  1. I've found whistles to be highly ineffective, yet yours were heard. Which ones are you using?

    1. We have the SOL Slim Rescue Howler whistles. We really only carry them to contact each other if we get separated, and they are very effective for that. But I would not count on them for contacting outside help other than in a popular hiking area. There are many times on the CDT when we were the only people for many, many miles, and the whistle's range is probably only a mile or so.