CDT Day 85 (ID/MT – Leadore to Darby)

Marmot, Chipmunk, and Smoke Passes

  • CDT Miles: 2,306.8-2,328.6 (21.8)
  • Total Hiked: 1,449.5 miles
  • Elevation Range: 7,200-9,230

To start off today, I felt inspired to jot down a few Stevie Wonder ponderings. I suggest skipping ahead if you don’t want to waste your time with my ramblings…

This morning, we were hiking out of a valley. When you’re down in the thick of the forest and low areas, you might get glimpses of what’s ahead here and there, but can’t see the bigger picture. It’s only near the top that things open up and you can look back to see what you came through to get to that point. Is there a life lesson in there? I thought possibly, and that’s what led me down this rabbit hole of trail-life parallels.

As I’ve eluded to before, I’m in a period of figuring out what’s next. Since leaving my job in 2019 to hike the PCT, I’ve been bouncing around a bit and that’s the gig with seasonal work (or seasonal trail living 😉 ). You get going on something and before long, you’re looking ahead trying to look up what’s next.

Then there’s the bigger idea of where is it all going and if all these seemingly sporadic “life events” might be connected or building to something more? Or rather, am I just wandering to the next thing that catches my fancy? At times, I feel it could be either of these options… maybe I am actually building a resume of sorts or maybe these are just a bunch of individual cool experiences. I think I’d be ok with it being the latter, but sometimes I do long for a little more structure and lasting community. So you see… I’m in the thick forested low area where I can’t see the big picture.

There are all sorts of things I have to hike through out here… hoards of mosquitos, spikey downed trees blocking the way, river crossings, or any number of obstacles keeping me from my goal. And so, I find a way through, or around, or under or over and keep moving forward. Sometimes it’s easy going. Sometimes it’s a tough climb. Sometimes I slide on the loose rocks and take a tumble.

How do I know which way to go? Out here, I have a trail to follow, most of the time anyways. Sometimes it’s not there, but even then I have a map I can check back on and see if I’m going the right way. I’m not sure what a trail or a map translates to in real life. Maybe it’s that spiritual or moral framework that acts as a sort of guide (for Christian folks, the Bible, or for Muslim folks, the Quran). Or, what came to mind for me too, books in general.

But say maybe there are several different trails I could follow and my map doesn’t seem all that clear for some reason… another source is the hikers that I meet along the way that have information about what’s ahead. There are a lot of southbounders coming our way right now and they’ve been through the exact area that I’m hoping to go. They have insights into how to avoid rough spots or alternatively, where to make a detour for some helpful or interesting feature. There’s probably lots of folks I know and folks who I’ll meet that can offer me advice for what’s ahead. Mentors with wisdom, knowledge, and experience.

Take the trail and the map and the folks who have been up ahead away and I’m left with myself and the wilderness, trying to figure out where to go and how. What then? Maybe this runs through it all, and maybe it’s the key… hiking the CDT, I have a goal and know where I want to go, Canada haha. And even without all that stuff above, I can reflect on where I’ve come to get an idea of where I want to go, and then all that’s left is to try. To move forward and take one step at a time, trying to navigate through it using my instincts and experience. Now, If only figuring out what my goals in life are were as simple as figuring out goals for this trail.


This morning I slept in again. I vaguely remember checking my watch around 3:45am and accidentally pressing some buttons when trying to luminate it. Turns out, I must have turned my alarm off. So, 6:00am, as Snickers was hauling on his pack to go, I unzipped my tent to say good morning and that I’d catch them up the trail.

We hiked up to and then down three “passes.” I think only one was labeled an actual pass, but they all seemed to have that feel of going up through a comparatively low point between two tall peaks. I named the first one Marmot Pass because we saw a marmot up there when we took second breakfast. As the three of us joined one another at the top, I said to my comrades, “This is like real Montana mountain stuff!”

The second, I called Chipmunk Pass because there were an abundance of them as we climbed up and through. The third one was actually labeled Mountain Pass, but I renamed it Smoke Pass due to the wildfire smoke that returned in the afternoon as we hiked through. The end of the day was a series of more gradual ups and downs, but we were quite spent by that point. You may have picked up on it, end of day inuse words like “spent” and “drained.” Mornings seem to be typically bright and we’re enthusiastic, evenings not so much all the time.

Twice today, I seemed to have gotten away from Cheer and Snickers. The first was after lunch. I was hiking up in front and got out of site. When I reached Upper Slag-a-melt Lake (yes, that’s it’s actual name that I didn’t make up), I went up to see it. Actually, I thought the trail went right up for me to see it. The lake was pretty. I started walking around, still on a trail, and bumped into an SCA Americorps crew that had been doing trail work. Thanked them and then continued on only to find out this wasn’t the actual trail anymore, just one that goes around the lake.

After backtracking, I found the junction and waited for Cheer and Snickers . When they didn’t show after about 20 minutes, I thought maybe they’d passed by without me noticing. Smoke Pass was just a bit further, so I went to see if they were waiting for me up there. Nope. As I was about to send a message to Cheer on my Garmin Inreach, a sobo’er came through and when I asked, said he’d just seen them up ahead. After a ways, I finally caught up.

The second time was at the end of the day. Following my reunion with the team, I once again went ahead and got out of site from them. We’d talked about an area to camp, but when I got there I wasn’t seeing any spots, so went ahead. After getting to the end of our potential “zone” for camping, I gave up and settled for a not so great spot. After some messaging using the gps, I found out the others decided to camp a half mile back. We’ll unite tomorrow and I hope to do a better job staying with the group!

Here’s today in photos and vids…

I did not get bitten by the Silverbacked marmot. And actually dared to get even closer…

“Marmot Pass”…

And beyond… down into this bowl, then up and out to the next “pass.”

The view from “Chipmunk Pass”…

Very short side trail to see Lena Lake. Cheer and I took it and watched a Bald Eagle soaring around the lake for a while…

We had lunch right on the trail in a spot that had a pretty steep side slope for a ways. Nobody passed by during our stay, so didn’t feel we were too rude. Stomach stuff seems to be lingering, but has been manageable. I’ve started to wonder if cous cous might be the culprit or part of the problem at least. Further investigations are under way.

The start of the hazy smoke, leading up to “Smoke Pass”…

Post-lunch, I got up ahead and started seeing these black inclusions in some rocks. Was pretty cool looking, looked almost like coal chunks, but that seemed weird to me.

Upper Slag-a-Melt Lake…

And the smokiness above and beyond…

View from “Smoke Pass”…

End of the day push gentle rollercoaster…

Last mile of the day looking for a flat camp…

My solo camp for the night…

Album of the Day

“Earthling” – Eddie Vedder

3 thoughts on “CDT Day 85 (ID/MT – Leadore to Darby)

  1. Ruth Pris

    Hey Steve 🙂 I am still loving your photos and hearing about your adventure in nature. I sometimes fall far behind on your posts, but it is always nice to see that Stevie Wonder is still reaching out to let us know that he keeps moving forward physically and emotionally/spiritually. I appreciate your welcoming us into your contemplations! I am in the second half of my life and I am realizing that the “map” for me is mostly whatever activates my curiosity and inspires me. Books, people, wise ones, opportunities that present themselves, my inner recognition of what feels/seems good and right for me. But beside those things, what seems to be determining which trail I must take, is the life experiences that sometimes feel like major obstacles (in my present moments) and also appear unwelcomed. Simply navigating them, because I cannot figure out a way around, under, over, turns out to be my life trail unfolding. In time…….I hope I will be able to look back over where I have come and see what an amazing trail it has been. What I am sure of and also very thankful for, is that Love is and has been my sustainable energy source and gift to me through all of what seems impossible at first. Sending love to you as you let nature be your constant companion and teacher in life. 🙂

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    1. Thanks for the thoughtful response, I very much appreciate your thoughts. It seems that for all those things you mention as your “map,” those thinks that activate your curiosity and inspiration, it helps to know “thyself.” Meaning, some reflection and meditation is key to unlocking those at times. And as far as the obstacles, yes, that’s the thing too and probably where my whole metaphor starts to fall apart. There are some things that halt us right in our tracks. Being with others and embracing the love in those moments seems like the only thing to do.

      When I posted my ramblings, I was hesitant to phrase things the way I did. I didn’t want it to seem like I feel there’s a purpose for the obstacles and that looking back it was all worth it. I think some hold the view that trials and sufferings are useful and necessary, and even if that’s true, I really struggle with that idea. For me, sometimes really shitty stuff just happens and that’s all there is to it. It’s not meant to be because of some greater good that will come from it… in my opinion. Regardless of all that, I hope that Love is very present in this time for you and the fam. And thanks again… You’re one of the wise ones 😊

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  2. Sherry Hoekwater

    Love your pictures and your thoughts!
    Hoping and praying that you find the source of that Love or that He finds you!
    The one picture made me think of ” Where’s Waldo?” Only instead, “Where’s Snickers”. 😄

    Liked by 1 person

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