CDT Day 60: Mile 2663.8 – 2687.8 (24 miles – 38.5 km)

Saturday June 15, 2019

A train whistle blowing was our wake up call this morning. The air was cool and the stars were already washed out of the sky at 4.30am. Most of the morning we hiked on dirt roads. The views over the valley and the range beyong were exceptional, particularly because the day started with a clear blue sky day. A cool breeze made for perfect hiking conditions.

The trains whistling reminded me of the Johnny Cash song Falsom Prison. We had recently seen the movie ‘Walk the Line’ and the song was playing on a loop in my mind. Every now and then…….’ when I hear that whistle blowin, I hang my head and cry“……… would burst out in full voice, much to Hammers amusement.

We left the train whistling behind as we rolled up and over on numerous hillsides. The distant green valleys looked picturesque. The morning peace and stillness was somewhat interrupted by sporadic shotgun fire. Soon after hearing the firing we were passed by a convoy on ATV’s. I don’t think they were responsible for the gunshot. They seem friendly but did not stop.

It was midday when we reached Dana Spring where we stopped to filter water. And before our lunch was ready two couples came by on ATVs. We spent nearly 2 hours chatting with them but never got around to getting their names. Three were from Minnesota originally and one was a lifelong Helena local.

Interesting conversation about the local area. Hammer scored a beer and on leaving they offered us a place to stay, dinner and bacon and eggs for breakfast. It was just 2pm and as tempting as the offer was we still had more miles to cover before settling for the day.

The afternoon hiking could not have been more different. As soon as we left the spring we started a long ascent of Black Mountain which was at 8,100 feet. After spending all morning on dirt roads it was a nice change to be back on trail. Once on top of the mountain, views of a lush green valley opened up to the east.

Dropping over the east side of the mountain we encountered a little bit of snow. Nothing that we couldn’t either go over or sidestep. The east side of Black Mountain led to an incredible ridgetop which joined Nevada Mountain. This would have to be the most heartstoppingly beautiful section of trail we’ve hiked in weeks.

Shingle covered ridgetop with masses of flowers carpeting the ground. Deep green forested valleys dropped away on both sides. It was such an unexpected surprise. It was a tough steep climb in sections but the scenery made it all worthwhile. It reminded us a little of the Goat Rocks Wilderness in Washington but without the huge mountains anchoring the ridgetop. It was so spectacular we did not want it to end. But a cold wind blowing from the east encouraged us to hurry off the mountain and get to a campsite.

The most beautiful birdsong was playing as I was finishing writing this. The wind whistled up the mountain on one side and the birds sang on the other. A simply beautiful end to a surprisingly spectacular day.