Sunday, July 19, 2015

Day 39: Benchmark Trailhead to Spring Near Chinese Wall Pass

We've finally reached "The Bob," the popular Bob Marshall Wilderness in Northern Montana. In stark contrast to the seclusion we experienced at the beginning of our hike, The Bob is teeming with people and horses: day hikers, horseback riders, fishers, weekend backpackers, and pack trains. 

Crrrrrrrrack!  As we traveled through a large burn area, one of the towering charred trees crashed to the forest floor below. Woodpeckers jackhammered loudly, trying to penetrate the bare wood to extract the insects living inside.  A sleek pine marten scampered up the trail and into a nearby tree. Deer stared at us, then serenely sauntered off the trail. 

With so many hikers and riders around, it was impossible to talk with all of them, as is our habit when we meet others on the trail. But we really enjoyed spending time with Dennis and Carolyn from Billings, a fascinating couple who have a lifetime's worth of trekking and bikepacking adventures to share. 

Wired had left another birthday message for Sierra hidden along today's route. We searched the designated spot for some time, but could not find it. Eventually we had to accept the fact that someone else must have found it already, and we hiked on. 

Perhaps we were overly optimistic to think we could find camping in The Bob just before the pass leading to the Chinese Wall on a busy July weekend. In the past five weeks on the CDT, we have camped near other hikers only once (other than at designated campgrounds) and seen one other tent. So we were somewhat surprised to find campsite after campsite, already occupied. We eventually found a small flat space in a meadow, less than a mile from the top of the pass. The meadow is popular with animals, and we will fall asleep to the sounds of a doe clip clopping through the meadow, tearing large mouthfuls of plants as she goes.

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