CDT Day 66: Mile 2773.5- 2798.5

(25 miles – 40 km)

Friday June 21, 2019

Today is summer solstice and the official beginning of summer. But in this part of North Montana someone forgot to turn on the summer switch. We had another day of traversing a river valley. The day can only be described as wet and cold. Temperatures did not get above 5°C (38°F) for most of the morning. A brief period of blue sky after lunch and back to wet wintery conditions again for the rest of the day.

An overcast grey sky and birdsong greeted us this morning. It was cold but there was no wind so it did not feel too bad. Lots of creek crossing were ahead of us today and at least 3 crossings of the South Fork Sun River. We were both still tired from yesterday and if the sun was shining it would have been really tempting just to stay in our warm sleeping bags and wait for everything to dry. But today is not that day.

We started in wet socks and shoes and within an hour of leaving camp we had our first challenge – the first crossing of the Sun River. It was flowing swiftly and looked deeper then anything we crossed yesterday.

So off with our hiking pants, it was an undies crossing. Hammer made it across OK, but I could see the effort he made in the middle of the current. My heart was racing, as always on these tricky river crossings. My one consolation was that if I fell in I may get washed up on a big pebbly bank to the right. The water was icy cold and mid-stream was an effort not to lose footing. Water level was just below the bottom of my pack. Slowly crab like I made it across – my legs were shaking and my knees had turned blue from the cold when I got out. Such a relief to get that out of the way. We got dressed and started hiking. But it was difficult to warm up even with movement. I was glad we were walking through lush green healthy forest and little wind penetrated to the trail.

The green forest soon gave way to burnt forest areas and the wind funneled through. I was cold and was already dreading the next Sun River crossing. This second crossing was not so deep. My feet were already cold so getting into icy cold water did not seem too much of a shock.

The trail was wet and muddy and must get a lot of horse traffic. We soon learnt why. We passed the Benchmark Wilderness Ranch Trailhead. There was beautiful timber bridge over the Sun River and the trail was like a horse highway, there were plenty of horse tracks and droppings. It was also here that we entered the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area.

We stopped for lunch by another bridge over the Sun River. The sky was still grey but we hoped that the sliver of blue would open up. And for a brief period it did. This brief period of springtime sunshine did not last. The clouds closed in and it started to rain again. While the sun was out briefly we got a glimpse of how beautiful the surrounding landscape can be on a nice day.

The trail followed the South Fork Sun River and eventually the West Fork of the same river. We had numerous crossings mostly of tributary creeks. A tough, testing day. Nice to get into a warm sleeping bag and pass out from physical and mental exhaustion.