We didn’t wake up any earlier than the day before, but it was much darker in these trees than it had been at the air strip. My headlamp’s battery was pretty drained from using the max setting the morning before, so I had the option of no light or the lowest setting. The lowest setting was adequate to my needs, but I think I’ll not be using the max setting very often in the future. At least not on long trips.
Ambrose started off in the wrong direction again, and I had a laugh as I made sure he was going the right way before I took off. We had some climbing to do this morning that I wanted to have been done with already. I was actually feeling a bit sick this morning and I just really wished we had pushed through and gotten this part done yesterday. But you can’t deal with reality as you want it; you have to deal with reality as it is.
|An early morning start.|
I dealt with it by hiking up that hill. When I reached the junction with the Rock Rabbit Point trail, I dumped my pack and took off to find a spot to dig a hole, despite the fact that I’d already dug one this morning. My guts were working overtime, and it was not comfortable.
Also not comfortable was the temperature as I waited for Ambrose to show up. He was only a bit over 10 minutes behind me, but I was chilled and the sun wasn’t hitting where I sat yet. But I persevered when he arrived and gave him the full 10 minute break. I did have to get up so I wouldn’t start shivering, but I felt a lot better once we started hiking. Except for my feet, which felt like ice and just wouldn’t warm up.
|Ambrose heading out from the Rock Rabbit junction.|
After that break, the trail broke out onto a ridge, and I finally got to get some sunshine to warm me up. I didn’t warm up enough, my feet were still cold, but it was much better. Especially when the trail climbed, and I could really get the heat up.
I had to stop again to dig a hole. I figured the beans in our dinners were catching up with me. Ambrose almost passed by my pack on the ground, but I yelled at him to stop and take a break. I chose a horrible place to dig a hole, because there was about 20% dirt and 80% rock, but I did eventually excavate a sufficiently deep hole.
|The morning mists shrouded the distant mountains.|
|Finally in the sun, but still not warm.|
I don’t know if we would have been as quick if we’d done this section the prior day (when I wanted to do it). To be fair, we would have been hiking up in full sun, especially up on the ridge where there was less tree cover. That might have slowed me down, let alone Ambrose. But we made it to the Mulligan Creek trail in less than 3 hours and I spent just a little time fuming again that we hadn’t done that section yesterday before finally letting it go.
I waited on a log for Ambrose to catch up, because he had seemed oddly concerned about whether or not I knew where the junction was the day before. But when he came up to me, he didn’t even pause for me to stand up, just kept on walking, as if he were never concerned about knowing where the junction was.
I scrambled off the log to follow him. I wasn’t feeling great, so when the trail was more flat I was having trouble keeping up with him – even with that twisted ankle!
Not long after we reached the other junction that led down to Mulligan Creek, we had a break. Ambrose took out the GPS and said we had another mile and a half until the junction. I confirmed by looking at the GPS, but I suspected it was looking at an old trail map, because when I measured the distance on my maps during some down time at Chamberlain, it was less than a mile from Mulligan Creek Spring to the Beaver Creek trail.
Happily, I was right, as we soon reached the junction. It was time to descend over 3000 feet, and then hike about a mile along Beaver Creek, and then we would be done for the day. Just 3000 feet, no big deal, right?
|Hard to tell, but this is the junction down to Mulligan Creek.|
We got to go back into the shade since it was still early and we were descending the west side of the ridge. The descent wasn’t too bad to start. It was a switchbacking trail that took its time to go down, but still made fast progress. AND there had been trailwork done since the last time we climbed the trail, so there were very few tree problems.
But, the high water year trend continued, as we ran into a stream on the trail that has, in the past, been no more than a trickle and maybe a bit of mud. Now, the trail was underwater and the mud was deep and squishy. My boots almost got sucked in, and I was pretty sure I felt water seeping into them. My feet were still too cold to be sweating, so if they were wet, it was definitely from a leak.
They were definitely wet. Not the upper part of the sock that might have gotten water in under the tongue, but my toes. The sock on my toes was definitely wet. I was going to have to return these boots and give up on the “RSM” Altras altogether. They might keep rain, snow and mud off when hiking along clear trails, but they can’t survive what I need them to do. They’re not built for the Frank.
Soon after the wet spot, we reached the stream where we traditionally fill up on water on the way up. Ambrose got some more water, but I didn’t. I hadn’t been drinking a lot that morning, which is a bad habit of mine when I feel too cold. I resolved to drink more on the way down.
|It’s all downhill from here.|
Ambrose, on the other hand, was still eating on his breakfast bar. He hadn’t had anything else to eat, just still working on ONE bar. I held my tongue because at least he was eating, but I was not happy to hear how little he had eaten.
After the stream, we come quickly to the old Estep cabin site. Someone had moved the old stove, but it was still out there. At that point, the trail changes from just descending the ridge to also traversing out towards Beaver Creek. Less switchbacks, more traversing. And we got to be in full sun since the area was still recovering from a fire and offered little in the way of shade. Great views though.
Ambrose was still challenging me on pace. I would have preferred to go a little bit slower, but I was pushed to keep up with him. I thought about the descent I would be taking on my solo trip, something like 5000 feet down over 3 miles down to the Salmon River. I’d have a heavier pack on that descent, but this one gave me another boost of confidence as we continued to hike down closer and closer to Beaver Creek.
When we finally got down to switchbacking again, I tried not to get too excited, because I often misremember trails, especially when I’m not feeling well and want to be done hiking. And I was right, because there were several sets of switchbacks on the Beaver Creek ridge. We took a break at a turn that offered a little shade and a lot of old horse poop.
|I got way too excited to see Beaver Creek – we were still pretty high above it.|
After that, we only had a few more switchbacks before I saw the trail sign and realized that last turn wasn’t a switchback at all. I was happy, but my feet hurt and we still had to hike. Plus it was almost lunch time.
Ambrose said I should go ahead to the campsite, and I didn’t need to hear that twice. The motivation of getting to the campsite brought fresh energy to my legs, and I left Ambrose behind pretty quick. I wanted to get my boots off as soon as possible so I could see why my toes felt like they were being squeezed way too tight.
|Ambrose pointing down the trail.|
The Beaver Creek trail was in very nice shape – for an Idaho trail, that is. Meaning, it was clear enough to follow easily, but still had brush impingement and rocks, and sometimes rocks hidden under brush that are super easy to kick and hurt when you kick them. And, there was evidence of recent maintenance on some of the high rocky sections, but it could use some lopping and chopping.
It was only about a mile to hike, but it felt longer. I was finally warm, down to my toes, and I wanted to be cold again. Especially my feet, which felt both hot and tender. I thought about dipping them into Big Creek with longing.
And it didn’t take long before I came upon the Beaver Creek campsite, which we camped at only once. It’s a bit messy and closed in, so it’s not our preferred site. It was empty, and I hoped the meadow site was empty too.
|The Beaver Creek camping site.|
|I couldn’t believe all the logs had cleared out from here.|
I was in luck. No people at all. I claimed the meadow campsite by dumping my pack on the ground next to a log and sitting my butt down. I would hold it against all comers, for I had hiked for 7 days to reach this spot 3 miles from the trailhead.
I got my boots off and looked at my feet. My toes were all wrinkly on the bottom, but on top the big toes especially looked like they were swollen. They certainly felt tender, and I resolved at that point to return the dang boots and give up on Altra’s RSM. No more! Wet feet in the non-waterproof shoes was infinitely preferable to wet feet in the RSM’s. At least wet feet in the non-waterproof shoes DRY OFF!
Ambrose showed up about 15 minutes later and joined me sitting against the log. It was just lunch time, and Ambrose had still only eaten his breakfast bar. I asked him to consider what he would say to me if I told him that I had only eaten a bar in 6 hours of hiking. He understood the depths of my concern, and ate some lunch, thank goodness.
We were just relaxing for a while, and then Ambrose said he could smell fish in the creek. I was incredulous and decided to go over and look. Big Creek was flowing by, and I remembered my crossing last year. A large tree had fallen across the creek, and I made my way over to sit on it. Then I dangled my feet into the water while sitting in the sunshine. I could have been completely alone in the world. And the world was good.
Our spot was also good. For once, we didn’t need to chase the shade. Our spot by the log stayed in shade all afternoon. I only left it to erect the tent, in a spot that was a bit sunny at the time I was putting it up, but that would quickly enter the shady zone for good.
I was so happy to be spending only one more night on the delaminated pad. Ambrose’s pad, he revealed to me only that night, was experiencing a slow leak. He couldn’t get more than 3 hours of sleep at a time by the end of our trip. If I’d known sooner, I would have tried to help keep it inflated. It’s easier for the other person to inflate it when one person exits for a call of nature.
Ambrose had a bit more appetite at dinner, so that was good. I had a little less, so we were balanced. And it was chicken a la king, which for some reason is always a delight in the woods. Even if I’m not feeling that hungry, chicken a la king will get me eating.
The chipmunks were not shy at this campsite. They kept running up towards us and then going away. And they weren’t the only active animals around. There were plenty of birds flitting about and singing. And, this was so neat, while we were sitting on the log, after I had pitched the tent, but before we ate dinner, a bat flew by our camp.
I’ve seen bats in the wild before, but usually, I’ve seen them at dusk, as a shadowy shape swooping overhead. This was daylight, and I could clearly see the bat and its fur and its little eyes. No time for a picture though, it was too fast.
We were really going to sleep in this time. 6 am! Couldn’t sleep in too much, because it would get hot at the low elevation of Big Creek. I read my kindle until the battery ran out and then I went to sleep. For once, I didn’t wake up even once to answer a call of nature.