As per usual, I woke at 6, went back to sleep until 7 because it was too cold. But I didn’t do any repair work first thing because instead I was researching whether I would take the official CDT route through the Haggin WMA, which I had no map for, or follow the pre-2015 roadwalk route. I had pretty well decided to go with the roadwalk just because the official route sounded slower and more difficult and the roadwalk was 7 miles shorter. But I did give myself some room to be convinced otherwise, since I didn’t really like the idea of walking down the side of the highway.
Anyway, that diaper rash feeling didn’t really clear up over night, and I was feeling a little bit sore down there even as I woke up. I started walking a little before 8:30, and felt great going up to the ridge where the long descent started, but just a few switchbacks down, I could already tell it was going to be a problem.
At the bottom of the hill just before the lake, I met a sobo whose name I have forgotten. He took the roadwalk route and told me what he could about it. He said there was a part where the Guthook route didn’t really correspond to a trail and he had to obsessively look at the GPS to make sure he was following it, but he found his way and it was fine. And it seemed like the roadwalk was pleasant enough, only 1.5 miles of it on the highway, so my mind wasn’t going to be changed.
I took a break on the shore of Upper Seymour Lake a dozen yards from where three teen boys were trying to fly fish, or alternately get a a line out of a tree without losing the fly. Since I was watching, one struck up a conversation with me, during which the fly was successfully retrieved from the tree and subsequently and almost immediately swallowed by a toad.
“That counts as a catch!” the one who was talking to me and seemed the most competent said.
So I went over to get a picture of the toad that swallowed the hook. By the time I was ready to leave, they had just managed to free the fly from the toad’s mouth, but I have no idea whether the toad would go on to survive the whole ordeal.
On the way past the outlet creek, I spotted a woman reading while seated in a folding chair perched on a rock in the middle of the creek. After a moment of discussion (regarding mosquitos and the dayhikeability of the trail to Storm Lake), I inferred that she was a trip leader or guide of some sort that had arranged to bring all these teenagers up to the lake. (This would be confirmed later by the fact that a Chevy Express passenger van towing a U-Haul trailer was parked in the trailhead parking lot.)
A couple of miles down the trail, I met Chrissy and Evan, sobos walking together, coming up the hill. Evan complimented my necklace then immediately pulled out a trowel and a roll of toilet paper and wandered off into the woods, but Chrissy stayed and chatted with me about her trail experiences until he returned. She was from Florida, so she was glad there was no snow ahead and largely unfazed by mosquitos. (She even wore a Florida pin on her shoulder strap!) I tried to sell her on the Oreamnos Lake alt but I didn’t really ask any further questions about the trail ahead. I took off when I saw Evan was returning. It was still some five miles down to the trailhead, and I wanted to be there for lunch.
I stopped and took a break for a drink beside the trail at 11 something, and before I got up to leave, a horsefly had spotted me and stalked me down the trail. Just a bit further, at the forest boundary, I met a group of four women doing a weekend trip with their dogs–and there were definitely more dogs than women. Most of the dogs had their own packs and none were leashed. But they were all good, friendly dogs that wouldn’t bother anyone. Two were Goldens, Ted and Bailey. Bailey was the spitting image of Copper, right down to her advanced age.
So anyway, the women asked me for a picture with the sign and I tried to get all the dogs in. Then they took mine as well. Why not?
It was another mile down to the trailhead parking lot, and just before I reached out, I passed the turnoff for the woodsy official CDT route. I was leaving the trail.
At the parking area, I headed straight for the privy. I had been waiting to use it all morning, and it would ensure my very last doggie bag would be the only one I needed. When I cane out, I sat down and started applying ointments. Hydrocortisone primarily, as it seemed to help with the pain and swelling of the chafing, but also I needed it for the growing itchy bump on my thigh. Something had bitten me while I was taking pictures with the women and their dogs. I don’t know what it was since I didn’t feel it happen. It was too big a bite to be a mosquito and I surely would have felt it if it had been the horsefly, right?
It was less than a mile down the road to the free campground at Lower Seymour Lake, and it had lots of sites with picnic tables and a surprising amount of shade due to the dense growth of tall, thin pines everywhere there wasn’t a road. The moment I dropped my pack on a picnic table, a woman who had been yelling like a child asked me if I had seen a child with a sixty-year-old man. When I went to ask the campers a few sites down if they could charge my phone while I ate, I found out that the entire campground was on high alert looking for this kid, and the guy I was talking to, Danny, seemed worried even as he was helping me out by tracking down a car lighter USB adapter. But then, just as my phone got plugged into his truck, someone came up to say the child had been found.
So I went down to the creek to fetch some water and then back to my picnic table to make and eat lunch. It was quite convenient to be able to sit at a picnic table to fix lunch. One of those conveniences that you don’t really appreciate unless you’ve been in the woods a few weeks. When I was fed and the water was all filtered, I went back to get my phone (25% gained) and started walking down the road.
I could get shade every once in a while by keeping on the right side of the road, and it was all downhill, just as it had been for me all morning. And since most of the traffic was headed up to the campground, it was convenient to be on the right side of the road so I was never in their way. (Not all of them slowed down to keep me from breathing their dust, unfortunately.) And really there wasn’t that much traffic. In short, while I can’t say much exciting about walking 6.5 miles down a dirt road, I can say it wasn’t that bad.
I did take one break in the shade of a tree on this stretch. There were no shady sitting logs or rocks along the road, so I just sat on my pack. As much as I needed to get moving, I wanted to be done, so I had to kind of force myself to get back up at the end. Frankly, my feet were starting to hurt and the chafing was starting to come back.
I had hoped to bypass the highway walk with some roads I saw on the map, but when I got there, I saw there was a gate locked up tight, so I guessed they must be private land. So up the narrow shoulder of the highway I went. Very annoying. There wasn’t that much traffic at least.
Finally, after what my feet thought was forever, I turned off onto the road with the signs marked Haggin Wildlife Management Area. There was a sign with binoculars drawn on that said “wildlife viewing area.” Further up was a sign insisting upon proper food storage. The official trail also crosses the same land, but further up, closer to the mountains. It’s a very large plot. As for where I was, it was basically cattle pasture. Grasslands with sagebrush covering some parts and dotted here and there with scrubby firs in ones and twos.
I was starving, so I spread out my ground cloth in the shadow of one such tree. There was only one relatively flat spot in its shadow, which was itself several yards away from the tree because the sun was getting low. It wasn’t an ideal place to sit or make dinner, but on the bright side there weren’t many mosquitos or flies.
After dinner, I walked further into the area on the dirt road. After a mile and some change, I came to a creek. It was 8pm and I had already made it far enough to be on schedule. Just as planned. There was a flat spot next to the creek, so I started setting up my tent.
I usually step on my stakes to push them into the ground when it’s too hard, but the ground in this spot was extra hard. I stepped on the first stake and the back of it came right through the bottom of my shoe and in between my toes. it hurt mildly, but I was sure it must have cut me open and I was gushing blood into my sock. I dropped what I was doing and started fighting my shoelaces which, of course, chose this moment to be difficult and get stuck. Anyway, to immediately eliminate any drama, I was barely scratched. No blood. All I got to show for it was the puncture in my shoe (which strangely omitted the hard rubber from the center of the sole all the way down, so that only soft foam rubber protects the middle of my feet), my nice cork insole, and the bottom of my sock.
But anyway, I got into bed an hour early that night, time which I needed to catch up on these posts. There was a cacophony of sound outside from birds, bullfrogs, barking coyotes, and bellowing cows, but they seemed to all calm down as the light faded. I had normal quiet night sounds from the creek, the wind, and the crickets by the time I turned off at 11.
Trail miles: 18.7
Distance to Butte: 33.7 miles