CDT day 77: a bushwack and a roadwalk

July 20
Mileage: 32
1373.5 miles hiked

I have a dream I’m on a frozen lake in Alaska with Track Meat and Spark. It’s nighttime and there are ice-skaters and then the northern lights come out, pink against the white mountains. The black ice begins to melt and we’re in a boat, paddling around the lake. I miss Alaska.

I miss the PCT too. The other day, on instagram, I saw a photo of a lake in Oregon along the trail. In the photo there was mist on the surface of the water and the lake was ringed in dark trees. I was surprised by how much emotion I felt, looking at that photo. I almost started crying. If I was on the PCT, I thought, I’d be in Oregon by now. I’d be on my way to Washington. I’d be racing the rain. There’d be blackberry pie waiting for me at the bakery in Stehekin.

I guess there’s really nothing like your first trail.

I wake up to pee at dawn and then can’t fall back asleep. I’ve got a little bit of a sore throat- in fact I feel, as one hiker wrote a few trail registers back, “like a shit sandwich”. Well hell. I guess today will be another slow day.

Except the feeling passes a few miles into the day. There’s an epic climb up to the flowery ridge and I’m crushing it. Then down through some dewy meadows to the junction to the Mack’s Inn Alternate- this is the route we picked to get to Yellowstone. I’ve never been to Yellowstone- what even is it? Originally we’d planned to spend some extra days there on a side trip but now that we’ve taken all this extra time off we’ve decided to just hike through, in order to still finish the trail by our planned finish date in September.

The first five miles of the Mack’s Inn alternate is a literal bushwack. Impenetrable willows, water, steep lumpy hillsides. The route follows a stream through a forested canyon up to it’s source, which is apparently “the most remote source of the Missouri river.” That’s pretty cool. Once I relax and accept my 2 mph pace, this bushwack becomes one of my favorite parts of the CDT so far. There’s just something about navigating upstream without a trail. Something about making one’s way. There are springs, lupine and paintbrush, gentle yellow sun. I’ve only taken one break today, but I feel fantastic- the best I’ve felt in a while, actually. I can hike! My legs are strong! There’s muscles in there! Go muscles go!

The source of the stream is way up near a pass and on the other side of the pass is a gravel road- the road will switchback all the way down, to the highway. Spark and Track Meat are ahead of me- partway down I get a text from Track Meat- There’s a subway at the end of the road.

There is a subway. And a campground. Benjamin is there, our English friend, and he lets us share his campsite. I find the boys playing magic and eating pints of red velvet cake icecream and I sit eating my salad from subway, which tastes really really good, watching the sun set pink over the mountains. Suddenly it’s cold- I can’t wait to sleep.

Photos on instagram