Aug 11th
West of Bear Lake(2269.4)-E Fork Rock Creek(2296.5)
Campsite Elevation: 8,413ft
Again, I woke up pretty drained and I knew it would be another long and tiring day with menstrual cramps. It just sucks the life out of me and knocks me out for a couple of days. Unfortunately, today was full of lots of ups and downs, so the day would have been pretty tiring even without the cramps. I hiked all day with Cherry Picker again and we started at 7am. We walked through one last burn section before we entered the section of the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness that everyone raves about. The sunrise was pretty cool, but we think its color must be from a far off fire. Apparently, there are many fires around the area, but we have been fortunate that we don’t notice them and there is little haze.

After the burn section for an hour or so, we entered the more forested and mountainous section. Today we went over three named passes and at least one unnamed pass. It was A LOT of elevation change. There was very little level hiking as most of it was up or down. Just to give you an idea, here is a general description of the elevation changes. We started this morning at 7,900ft. We climbed 800ft, dropped 900ft, climbed 1,000ft, dropped 1,100ft, climbed 1,400ft, dropped 1,600ft, climbed 1,000ft, dropped 1,100ft, climbed 1,600ft, dropped 1,100ft, and climbed 500ft. That’s a total of dropping 5,800ft and climbing 6,300ft. Sheesh!
I felt pretty bad because I generally move slower on the uphills and was especially slow the first half of the day today with how I was feeling. Cherry Picker was very patient and was kind enough to stick with me even though he’s one of those guys who could get up these hills with little effort at all. In addition to all the ups and downs, we also ran into many section hikers and people just out for a muti-day trip. We think we spent about an hour today just talking to the other hikers we met. Cherry Picker even ran into a man who randomly had let him stay in his rented cabin in Mammoth a year ago. It was funny cause the guy was the future Cherry Picker in 30yrs as he has been all over and having 16,000mi under his belt, has done pretty much the best parts of all the trails. While they were talking, I was getting antsy knowing we had done very little hiking this morning with all the distractions and I headed up to Rainbow Pass. Partway up, a man and his dog were hiking down toward me. I looked up and he exclaimed, “Wired!?” It was a devoted blog follower named Ski Counsleor(Stu) who has been following my hike and has commented on the blog many times. His daughter Amanda is also a fan of the blog and Stu recorded a brief video of me for her. Hi Amanda! We may even see each other again when I go through their hometown of Helena in a couple weeks. Here I am with Ski Counselor.

It had been a sunny morning and the clouds rolled in again today, but earlier before lunch. Cherry Picker and I had lunch at Rainbow Lake and it sprinkled a bit. Apparently, afternoon rain and thunderstorms are very common in this area. Here is Rainbow Lake as we hiked down from the pass.

I am trying not to let miles dictate my day, but we only had 11.5mi in for the day by 12:10pm and I usually like to have around 14mi more. We had a goal of a lake we ideally wanted to make it to and that was beginning to look like an unrealistic goal if we kept up the pattern of stopping so much. We decided to be more focused and pick up the pace the second half of the day. We even went through the audiobooks I have and chose to listen to the Land of Oz audiobook out loud. It’s the sequel to The Wizard of Oz and was one of the free ones available for immediate download from my public library account. We got 3/4 of the way through the book and it surely helped to distract us from all the ups and downs. The terrain got rockier and the scenery more mountainous as we continued.

Then the clouds darkened and thunder rumbled right over us as we headed toward the top of Cutoff Pass. We pushed hard and just before the top, the rain came down steadily. We found a dry spot in the trees and waited it out for 15mins while we put on rain gear and had my tent to cover up and stay dry. The worst of it passed and we hiked in sprinkles for a hour or so.

We were glad it wasn’t worse, but it definitely broke our rhythm. We ended up stopping at 7pm just 4mi from our goal destination. It was tempting to go further and get to camp at 8:30pm, but we knew that would be pushing it and that the terrain did not allow for other camping in between. I accepted the 27.1mi day, which feels low compared to my most recent average, but acknowledge that it was a great result given all that happened today. Just the elevation alone without the other hikers and weather was enough to justify at lower mileage day. Also, the clouds have hung around and it did sprinkle a bit more since I’ve been in my tent, so it was probably a good choice to quit while we were still relatively dry and had a good camp spot. Here is just a random photo from earlier in the day.

I’m feeling like I’m over the roughest of my cramps and that I’ll be on the upswing starting tomorrow. Cherry Picker will do the first 6mi of the day with me and will be taking the “Anaconda Cutoff” alternate that will save him about 3 days of hiking while I will be staying on the official CDT and doing the “Butte Route.” I’ll explain more about these routes tomorrow. Whew, what a day! Good night.

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