CDT Day 61: Mile 2687.8 – 2708.8 + 1 mile to spring (22 miles – 35 km)

Sunday June 16, 2019

It had rained overnight. In the morning the grey sky sat like a lid over us. Just a sliver was lifted to let the orange glow of the sunrise escape. Birds were singing and it wasn’t raining as we set off from our campsite for the long descent off the Nevada Mountain ridgetop.

Pretty soon the birds worked out that the sliver of sunlight was a false promise, they stopped chirping and twittering. It was a silent walk through steep ups a downs on a dirt road towards the Fire Tower on Granite Butte Lookout.

The 2 mile hike up to the Fire Tower was hard work. It was made somewhat easier by the return of birdsong and occasional patches of sunshine. The Fire Tower is rented out for overnight stays. And today being a Sunday and Fathers Day, there was a family staying at the tower. We did not want to disrupt their day so we waved to them from distance and walked by without stopping.

The clouds had lifted as we descended a half mile off trail to try and find a spring, as the next water source is 27 miles away. We found the spring about 15 minutes downhill from the trail crossing. Even though it was early we decided to have lunch at the spring so that we didn’t have to carry extra water.

The spring was fantastic, flowing strong and clear through a forest recovering from a recent burn. By the time we finished filtering water, drying the tent and eating lunch the clouds had gathered and rain looked imminent.

On the way to Stemple Pass, thankfully the clouds stayed to the southwest of us. Rays of sunlight illuminated the dense fields of yellow flowers. Contrasted against the dark, inky blue sky it looked magical. It made me so happy to see such a beautiful sight. Hammer thought they looked quite pleasant.

I wanted to scoop them all up in my arms and preserve their spring bloom perfection….keep them forever young.

We made Stemple Pass just after 12pm. As we descended towards the trailhead parking we saw two cyclist at the bottom of the hill. They appeared to be pre-occupied filming themselves with a drone to stop for a chat. Stemple Pass looked like a fantastic winter recreation spot with numerous cross country ski trails originating from here.

From Stemple Pass we had a couple of tough, steep climbs. The air felt unusually warm and humid. I was soaked in sweat by the time I rounded the top of the last big climb. By the time Hammer caught up at the top, air temperature had dropped quite suddenly and without too much warning an almightly thunderstorm hit.

We were being pelted by sizeable hailstones while trying to get into our wet weather gear. We walked on for a short bit and soon realised that there wasn’t much of a gap between the lightening and the thunder clap. The storm was right over us. We dropped our packs and sheltered crouching under a tree waiting for the storm to pass. It lasted about half an hour. The hail on the ground was about an inch thick and the trail was flowing like a creek.

And almost as soon as soon as the storm passed, small patches of blue sky appeared. A light mist filled the forest. The forest was silent and it looked quite ethereal after the intensity of the storm.

Unfortunately my camera got wet during the storm and has stopped working. Fingers crossed a night in a warm sleeping bag will be enough to dry out any damage. I won’t know till the morning.

We camped at Flesher Pass Trailhead right on the Continental Divide. Tomorrow we head to Lincoln to resupply for a 180 mile stretch to Glacier National Park.