CDT Day 81: CDT Mile 575.4 – 597.8

(NOBO Mile 2439.1 = SOBO Mile 575.4)

(22.4 miles – 35.8 km)

Saturday July 6, 2019

Today we start on the Idaho – Southern Montana portion of the CDT. I’ve turned the maps for this section southbound so that mileage increases as we head south.

Hammer and I wake up most mornings now feeling still exhausted from the day before. Last night I started to fall asleep as soon as I got horizontal. It was a real effort to stay awake and write the notes about the day. Hammer stayed awake for a short time listening to podcasts.

There must be someone else camped by the lake further away. Last night we were woken by a strange echoing bark coming from across the water. Sounded like a dog with a constricted voicebox. Hammer thought it may have been a dog. I was easy to convince, so I soon felt back to sleep.

Hammer said he was woken through the night by rain, thunder and lightening through the night. I did not hear a thing. This morning it was all quite.

The sunrise was lighting up the edges of the lake as we left our campsite. The birds were slow to wake. Just one bird whistling, sounded like a train conductors whistle but it failed to bring any other birds to life.

As soon as we left the lake we had a 1,200 foot climb over Pintler Pass. On the way up we had great views towards a very distant snow covered mountain range.

We descended through lush, green pine forest. The trail was boggy in parts from the recent snow melt. At the bottom of the descent we did a big U turn to go up again for what turned out to be a deceptively steep pass. The Anaconda- Pintler Wilderness was not going to let us go easily. The sun was out and it was a beautiful warm morning, with the warmth came hordes of mosquitos. But we can’t have everything. It is finally beginning to feel like summertime on this trail through Montana.

By lunchtime we were leaving the high mountain peaks and entering a softer rolling hill landscape. And the dense, green pine forest did not last sadly. We soon entered a big area of burnt forest. A section of it looked like a fire had gone through recently. The trees were burnt so thoroughly even the roots on some were burnt. Wildflowers were abundant in some sections and provided beautiful contrasts against the blackened stumps.

In the middle of the burnt area on a hilltop there was a section of green forest which survived the fire. The open canopy meant that the sun could reach the trees releasing the beautiful pine forest aroma. It has been some time since we hiked through such sweet smelling forest.

The healthy forest gave way to more burnt area and we spent most of the late afternoon hiking through burnt areas while trying to outrun a storm that was building. A section in a deep gully had the worst blowdowns we’ve experienced on trail so far. Hammer got a few scrapes and cuts to his arm and leg trying to get over burnt logs.

We managed to avoid the storm, the sun returned as we made our way to a campsite by Surprise Lake. The last 2 miles to the lake were through green pine forest. It was much the same as the earlier sections through the Anaconda Pintler wilderness have been, peaceful and very quite. It was a lovely way to finish the day and leave this gorgeous area.

The three days we’ve hiked through the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness have been spectacular. Not just because we had sunshine and blue skies most of the time but the landscape was breathtaking. Not one pass was without some rewards: surrounded by snow dusted rugged mountain peaks, emerald green lakes dotted like jewels throughout the valleys and dense green pine forest that was incredibly quite and peaceful. Being here just after the snowmelt, the lush wildflower blooms have been superb. We leave feeling very grateful to have had the the opportunity to experience this area under such great conditions.