I slept in again. I remember when sleeping in meant at least 11 am, if not after noon. Now, sleeping in is between 7 and 8 am. Sometimes, I can’t even sleep until 7… What have I become??
I went through a similar process to the day before, getting up and packed, eating breakfast at a leisurely pace, but this time Ambrose hurried me along a bit. At 10 am, he started my 5 hour clock, but I still had a few things to complete and didn’t start until about 10 minutes after that.
That just motivated me to move as fast as I could once I started up the nicely maintained trail to Blackmare Summit and beyond. And the trail helped me out in those first miles. Mostly flat, though trending up, and absolutely no downed trees whatsoever. Even the ground wasn’t too torn up by motorcycle wheels, except at one place early on. I found myself wondering why I had never hiked this way before. The sun was out, and the early going was beautiful as well as easy to hike.
When I found that the year’s wet spring had caused a cross stream to flow over the trail, I wasn’t as disappointed as I might have been had I not been wearing (and testing!) waterproof socks. I’ve seen this phenomenon before (most recently the prior day), but perhaps not to the extent that I was now seeing. This trail stream just went on and on. It wasn’t just water across the trail, though there was plenty of that. This was a stream taking over!
I walked through the water mostly, only going around at one spot where the trail looked more like its own stream and there was a good go around to the right. I hope for the trail’s sake that it got a chance to dry out, because when I finally reached the end of that trail stream, it wasn’t long before I ran into another. At least this one was shorter!
But even with the water on the trail, I was making excellent time. When I stopped for my break around 60 minutes in, I had already traveled a bit more than two and a half miles. I was well on track for 8 miles in under 4 hours. Yes, yes, the majority of the uphill was still ahead, and that might slow me down, but this hour of work would help me have a bit of extra time for that.
Less than 2 miles, and about 1000 feet of gain to go. I set off from my break with determination in my steps. The trail was still well cleared and easy to follow, but the uphill was definitely starting to burn my calves. And I wasn’t feeling too easy about the way the clouds were building up as I hiked higher.
I was keeping an eye on gray clouds that were sliding over to cover my sunshine, as well as keeping an ear out for any rumbles of thunder. While I wanted to make the summit, if the heavens opened before I got there, I’d likely turn back. Mountaintops are just not the best place to be during storms if you have the option.
But so far, it was just clouds. They might not even drop any rain!
I hiked on, resisting the temptation to check the GPS and see how far I had to go. The trail was going to lead me there, and how far I was didn’t matter. It would only waste time to check.
The trail finally made the turn toward the summit at the top of a steep uphill. Then it split! What? There were two trails where I’d expected only one. I did check the GPS here, and found it only had one trail. I figured then that the one to the right was probably a trail to the summit while the left was the main trail, so I followed the right hand fork. It kind of tapered out after several yards, so I pulled the GPS out again and just kept it handy as I continued to hike uphill, making my way cross-country to the summit.
It didn’t take too long to get to what I’m calling Blackmare Summit. Definitely a high point, and definitely somewhere where other people have been, because there was a wooden cross affixed to a tree (though I didn’t find a benchmark).
The view was spectacular, totally worth the effort I put in to reach it. Not only was the land spread beneath me, but the sky was also putting on a show. On the other side of the summit, blue skies with puffy white clouds. On my side? Thunderheads that were now starting to rumble.
I didn’t linger very long at the high point, and I planned to hunker down somewhere not too far down and eat lunch. However, that was before I started descending and saw that the clouds were already drifting through the trees. I dropped my pack under a tree and got my raincoat out of my pack and onto my body just as it started to drizzle.
I had to go and dig a hole, which necessitated some delay, but I decided I didn’t need to eat lunch right then. I could just eat a bar as I hiked. It’s a bit harder to do that when you use trekking poles like I do, but I was willing to put in the extra effort to get the heck off this elevation before the storm started in earnest. The air temperature dropped even as I headed downhill, and then the heavens opened.
Wow did I get wet.
Not only during the actual rainstorm, whereupon I got rained on for about an hour, but also afterwards. The trail had already been saturated with water from the wet spring and yesterday’s (and last night’s) rains. Now? It was just a soup.
I rehiked through the streams that had been flowing on the trail, and I hiked through brand new puddles and streams. At least my footing was never in doubt, thanks to my Softstar Switchback boots. They’re truly the grippiest boots (or shoes) I’ve ever owned. The waterproof socks continued to do their job. Or, I was pretty sure they were.
The thing about the waterproof socks is that my feet are inside them. And my feet generate water (sweat) as I exert myself. This leads to them not feeling exactly wet, but more like slimy. Not a sensation that I liked, but as long as they were keeping outside water out, it was a sensation I was willing to deal with. Especially if the smaller size that I was planning to order when I got home took care of the issue of the socks bunching up under my toes.
Even after the rain had stopped, my clothes were sodden. I was wearing my Go There pants, which have this really neat full zipper to allow me to pee without pulling my pants down, but they are also fairly thick. Water resistant, but once they get wet, they stay wet. But they also stayed warm so I still love them.
When I hiked into camp, Ambrose was in the tent. I snuck over and surprised him with my early return. Then I made all haste to get my wet clothes off of my body, which is to say, all my clothes. It was a bit early for pajamas, but I didn’t let that stop me. These clothes needed to dry out before I hiked out the next day or I would be quite uncomfortable.
Then again… I could hike out in my long underwear instead… I did try to get my clothes dried out by hanging them, but the weather wasn’t cooperating. The sun was stubbornly hidden and rain came by periodically. I ended up putting my wet clothes into a bag that would keep them from getting other stuff wet.
We spent the rest of the evening just hanging out, mostly in the tent. We came outside for dinner, during a break in the weather, but it was mostly too wet to stay outside. At one point, we heard voices and the clopping of horse hooves, but no one rode into our sight. The night brought good sleep.
In the morning, we packed up and hiked out, after doing our pre-hike warm-ups. It was a nice two mile hike. There was no rain, but also no sun, just a steady blanket of gray clouds in the sky. I stayed near Ambrose until the bridge, and then I let my legs loose. I didn’t beat him back to the car by much.
I did surprise a guy who was reading the trailhead board and couldn’t hear me because of the roar of the very full Kennally Creek. He turned out to be one of the horse riders we had heard the night before; he said they just wanted to let the horses stretch their legs a bit after the storm, which explains why they only rode out the two miles.
Ambrose arrived, and we got ready to go. The neatest part about the drive home was that when we were on the last leg of the road back to Donnelly, on an elevation high enough that we were above the sun-blocking clouds, and we could see the clouds hovering over the valley. It was gorgeous.
Less gorgeous was the herd of cattle on the road in front of us, blocking our way completely. There were no alternate routes, so we stopped and waited a bit. A guy on a horse rode up and we asked what we should do. He recommended that we drive forward and keep to the right. The cattle should moove to let us through.
Well, I don’t know if the cattle were just ornery or if he intentionally told us something that wasn’t true, but those cattle did not seem at all inclined to move for me when I nosed the car up to them. Instead, they flowed around the car, mooing and tossing their heads. I was a little worried that they’d attack the car. I was tense as they continued on by, but I couldn’t hold onto it when I saw the little calves. Sure, they could have damaged my car, too, but they were so cute.
The cattle passed us by without wrecking the car, and we were able to drive on. It was nice to drive home through McCall instead of Cascade. This was the first time that I’d been on the section of 95 between New Meadows and Council, and wow is it a gorgeous drive. I’m looking forward to being on it again as a passenger so I can gawk a bit more. I had to keep my eyes on the road this time.