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We are currently on another long distance hike, and the third leg of our "triple crown", the Continental Divide Trail (the "CDT"). Come along with us if you can - if not in person then by following our grand adventure via our "posts from the trail".  Check out our Flickr Photos, which we'll update periodically, and see it through our eyes!

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"Success: To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!" ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Journal Sept 2 – Fire and Ice

Fire and Ice

“Some say the world
will end in fire,
Some say in ice,
From what I’ve tasted of desire,
I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
to say that for destruction ice
is also great
and should suffice.”

–Robert Frost

The clouds overhead blew away in the night. We awoke to a layer of frost on the inside as well as outside of the tent. The water bottles, kept inside had a frozen plug on top and the platypus drinking tube was filled with solid ice. In a word, it was cold. We were warm inside the sleeping bag, so we waited for the first rays of sun, which always make movement so much easier.

We left our camp at the end of the contoured road and bushwhacked up a moderately steep ridge about 1,000 vertical feet or so to reach the trail on top of Taylor mountain. A thick layer of couds filled the valleys to the south. As the morning progressed they would break up and clear off, but for a time we climbed in that ethereal realm above the clouds. The views gradually opened up to the south and we could see the distant, and massive, Grand Tetons.

Unable to contour because of deep cut canyons, we climbed all the way to the main ridgeline of Taylor mountain.

Once there, we passed above the head of Carrot canyon (an immediate favorite, of course) and started our descent. Walking a knife edge divide we could gaze back at the bulk of Taylor mountain and could see north to the Absorka range, all covered in white from yesterday’s snow. Other mountain ranges to the north were also covered with the early season snowfall. Along the usually windy ridgetop many trees were covered in a 2 inch hoarfrost, slowly melting in the midmorning sun.

The windless day, warm sun and still cooler temps made for very pleasant hiking conditions. Our only concern lay directly ahead of us in the rolling table lands east of Taylor mountain. Smoke. A dozen or so scattered plumes of it. The fire(s) looked like a smoldering ground burn, not too threatening as long as we did not have to walk through the middle of it. We walked on keeping eyes and nostrils open. Soon we came across long lines of fire hose, much of it laid next to the trail, as if preparing for some kind of line of defense. At a low saddle we came across two fire managers who had set up a water holding tank, more hose and many generators/pumps. We chatted with them a bit.

We had come across the Willow fire, likely started in June by lightning, first detected in July, and being managed as a wildland use fire by the Caribou-Targhee Forest. But a line had been drawn at the Divide, the Montana border. Land managers on the Montana side, BLM and Beaverhead Deerlodge did not want to let it burn. So, they insisted that any hot spots that migth blow over be put out. As a result fire hose, generators and pumps were laid along long sections of trail. The fire was burning in pockets of sub-alpine fir, and had many smoldering plumes spread over about 4,000 acres. As we continued on we could see pockets that had previously burned, surrounded by seas of unburned vegetation. Very interesting.

Crossing the large plateu above the fire(s) we dropped into the Montana side of the divide. We walked on newly re-routed trail not mentioned by the guidebook or maps. With no warning we found ourselves re-routed away from Blair Lake, a landmark major enough to be the end of a section in the guidebook, and an important water source. Rather than backtracking, we forged on and found an unmentioned creek in a couple miles.

Past Lillian Lake we entered Hell Roaring Canyon. Mt Jefferson towered over the canyon as we walked up its wide valley. Remote, beautiful and feeling surrounded by terrain rugged enough to ensure complete solitude, we were in the heart of the Mt Jefferson Wilderness Study area, managed mainly by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management). The willow lined canyon bottom and grassy hillsides with may small tributary creeks provides excellent wildlife habitat for the full range of flora and fauna to be found in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. At any moment we expected to see moose, elk, bear, wolf, or any other wild creatures.

The spring at the canyon head is considerd the most distant source of the Mississippi River. Of course a river that drains the central heart of the continent with headwaters ranging from the Rockies to the Appalachians has many sources, but none travel so far to the Gulf of Mexico as this one. The source spring was dry at its furthest reaches but water ran in small side springs a few hundred yards down hill. We filled our bottles with water as pristine as possible. Finally, we were beyond even the reach of cows.

We camped just above the pass, having survived both fire and ice for at least another day. Our weather delays have kept us out a night longer than expected, but we scrape together enough left over bits for a descent dinner. We had been putting aside some bits to leave over for just this possibility. We have a dehydrated soup packet, a couple ounces of linguine noodles, a couple ounces of dried potato flakes, a couple ounces of olive oil, a couple ounces of sundried tomatoes, some parmesan cheese, herbs, salt and pepper and we have a nice thick stew. Sandy, if he were still hiking with us, would have called it “Slumgullion.” It went well with leftover tortillas, cheese and peanut butter. Not bad for trail leftovers.

Miles 16.0

One Response to “Journal Sept 2 – Fire and Ice”

  1. Pages tagged "snowfall at willow lake" Says:

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