Thursday, July 2, 2015

Day 22: Cutaway Pass to Lower Seymour Lake Campground

A strange apparition approached: another hiker, with long reddish hair and beard, carrying a lightweight ULA pack. The hiker grunted an unintelligible greeting without slowing his pace. Another flip flopper?  The first southbound CDT hiker?  Two more CDT flip floppers were quickly followed by three backpackers out for the long weekend. The CDT's equivalent of a traffic jam!

We quickly returned to our usual solitude. A grouse uncharacteristically charged up the trail toward us. A few deer and elk wandered across our path. We saw no other hikers.

Goat Flats was both the literal and figurative high point of the day. A high, alpine meadow surrounded by tall mountains, walking on Goat Flats we felt like we were walking on a colorful, grassy cloud. No goats were in view, but a bald eagle soared overhead, a small rodent clutched in its talons. 

Goat Flats is also where the Anaconda Cutoff diverges from the official CDT. This 52-mile alternate eliminates approximately 140 miles of the official route, making it very popular with many CDT hikers. We are sticking to the longer, official route, although the alternate looks quite beautiful. 

"Blasting Zone Ahead," cautioned a bright orange construction sign.  The work crew was done with dynamite for the day, but warned us to listen for rockfall. We passed several men work with huge 80-pound drills. One of them stopped and courteously smoothed the dirt on the trail before we passed. Broken rocks and other debris littered the trail below. 

We quickly descended past the blasting zone to Upper Seymour Lake, then continued through the forest to the nearly deserted Lower Seymour Lake Campground to spend the night. The campground is littered with wild strawberry plants, although it will be some time before the strawberries are ready. We also spotted a new variety of columbine -- white and yellow -- in the forest near the campground, and many other colorful wildflowers. 

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