CDT MT Section 9 Off-trail

Day 47: Leadore

As far as the hiking went, it was an even less interesting day than the previous.

I woke at 6, but didn’t see any need to be in a hurry, so I laid there until the 6:30 alarm. While I packed up, it lightly rained several times making me thing I might have to wait or pack up in the rain, but it always stopped within a minute. I left camp around 8:15 and the sky cleared up quickly.

In fact, it was straight sunny the whole time I was climbing the long two mile hill that started the day, sunny enough to be too hot at times. In fact, when I got up on the ridge and saw a snow bank, I grabbed some snow for the back of my neck.

But before that, there was the spring right at the top of the first ridge I reached. Just the part that was piped into a trough was putting out a solid 10L/min. There didn’t look too be any water sources along the trail for the rest of the day, so I grabbed a couple of liters for my dirty reservoir.

Next, I came over the top of Elk Mountain and stopped next to Horse Prairie Mountain for a break on the edge of the cliff.

Soon, the trail met up with yet another 4×4 road along center of the ridge marking the border. This one had a fence along it, but it did pretty much the same boring thing it did the day before. I stopped for lunch (and water filtration) in a stand of trees down the side of the trail for some shade. When I had nearly finished, thunder boomed from not too far away. Expecting to get caught in the rain soon, I packed up as fast as possible and put my Packa on my pack to hike out.

But the rain never happened. I was hiking in shade half the time and sun the other half. I was surrounded by brooding storm clouds, but none passed overhead.

Coming down to Deadman Pass, I saw a truck parked by the ridge and what I would eventually learn was the new owners of the ranch land below cutting a new road at a pretty decent pace.

By 4pm, I had completed the full 13 miles to Bannock Pass. I honestly had not expected to get there so early. I thought I would be coming in late enough to warrant just making camp. But there was plenty of time to try to hitch into town.

It’s not a heavily trafficked road. Based on comments and what I saw, I’d guess a vehicle coming through every half hour. But it was time for a snack break anyway.

There was a young girl waiting there with her dirt bike. Her brother Chance was coming behind with the old wood truck to lead her up to where her uncle and cousin had been cutting firewood. And because she “might have gone 70 up that road” we chatted for quite a while before he arrived. Long enough for a truck to come by heading the right direction but not the right distance. She seemed like an action hero with the bike and helmet, but declined a photo.

When he did arrive, she fired up the dirt bike and they headed up the trail. But moments later, they came back with a 4×4 and Chance picked me up. Turns out they had driven all the way up there to get the wood just to meet the others coming back with procrastination on their minds. And so I was headed into town after only half an hour.

Chance, by the way, is a buffalo ranchhand, moving 3000 head of buffalo around every day. Turns out managing buffalo is a lot harder than managing cattle. A lot more dangerous. A charging buffalo will happily lift the front of your Jeep off the ground if it feels like it. But then, 2 two-year-old bulls have enough meat on them to keep a busy restaurant supplied for a whole month, so all that powerful muscle they have is worth dealing with in the end.

Chance dropped me at the city park. They offer camping and showers for $12 a night. I only had $10 cash on me, but the host said he wasn’t going to put up a fight over 2 bucks. He even threw in a bar of soap for the shower.

I went in for the shower right away. I have to say, I was in there a while. I first emptied my pockets and got in fully dressed. Then I took each item of clothing off and scrubbed it with soap on fold-down accessibility bench. Lots of dirt came out. Then I gave myself a good scrub as well. Only then did I dress in my secondary clothes, wring out the wets, and go out to hang them on the fence. (It’s always windy in Leadore, and this day was no exception.)

I set up my tent and walked back into town for dinner. Everything was closed at 7 except, apparently, the Silver Dollar. It had all the open signs on outside and the door was unlocked… but the place was empty and the lights were out. After I walked through to the backyard and back again, a lady came out of the house next door carrying a baby and offered to make me a hamburger with fries. Steak was off the menu since they weren’t thawed out–I was literally the first customer of the day. So I said I’d take a bacon cheeseburger in the backyard and I took a can of root beer from the freezer case with me.

Half an hour later, I got an incredible deconstructed cheeseburger with some so-so fries (what do you expect with the kitchen being out of operation? you can’t just instantly jump into deep frying). Based on the sign on the door, I assumed I could pay with card–had to, in fact, since, you’ll recall, I spent the last of my cash at the city park–but she didn’t have the machine working nor did she know how to work it. She left my check on the counter to pay in the morning when she would hopefully have it working.

I walked back to the park to get to bed and was accosted by a child doing zoomies across the middle of the highway on a mountain bike his dad had unknowingly lent him. He kept asking random questions and then cutting the bike around to nearly hit me because he had nothing better to do in a small town of 110 people. Thankfully, when we arrived at the park, he struck up a conversation with the other campers, some cyclists eating dinner. They kept him entertained while I got ready for bed. Sorry I wasn’t in the mood, kid.

Sleeping in the park is an assault of sounds: fireworks at dusk, traffic, the periodic whirring of the motor on the orbiting sprinkler irrigation system across the highway, howling coyotes, an owl. The smell of smoke from the campfire the cyclists set became no smell at all when it stuffed me up. I got to sleep pretty late, but it wasn’t due to a lack of tiredness.

Trail miles: 13.1

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