Once again, the morning was surprisingly warm. I thought that surely It would have been cold here; it’s always cold at Sheepeater Lake! But I guess it isn’t, because it wasn’t this time. Between the warmth and our agreement from the night before to sleep in an extra hour, getting up was quite pleasant. I think it would be nice to spend a day at Sheepeater Lake some time, but right now we tend to focus on trips where we are hiking every day. We started with more of a destination and hang out method of backpacking, with day hikes, but now we go on the longer routed trips. 

Our pre-hiking stretches were a bit tricky, because there weren’t a lot of flat spots. Even with the tent down, it was hard to do leg swings without kicking plants or dirt. But the arm circles were no problem. After a few pictures, we got back onto the trail. We weren’t far from the outlet of Sheepeater Lake, though I should probably say outlets, plural, because we actually crossed two streams flowing out of the lake. After we left the lake, the trail descended in leisurely switchbacks. 

The trail here is a bit tricky, not because it’s difficult to follow, but because it is steep and rocky. Ambrose once rolled his ankle pretty badly coming down this trail. We were both being careful on the descent. Something that I’d noticed but not really thought about occurred to me as I hiked on the rocky trail. I was wearing one of my new pairs of boots, the Softstars. They are minimalist, natural style footwear, which means there is very little padding between the soles of my feet and the ground. When I wear them, I can really feel the surface of the trail beneath my feet. Some of that leads to me being footsore, as I get used to the boots, but I discovered here that they also allow me to walk more confidently on this type of sliding-rock trail. My whole foot could respond to each change in the texture of the trail, instead of being locked into a single plane by a stiff soled boot. I have never felt so sure-footed on this kind of surface. 

Now, if they would only make a fully waterproofed version, I think I’d have the perfect boots for my next trip on the Olympic Coast. . . 

We made it down to our first break at Fish Creek. This break wasn’t by time so much as it was for me to fill up my water. I thought Ambrose also needed water, but he didn’t. While we were at the creek, I felt the need to dig a hole begin to grow. I mentioned that to Ambrose, because it meant we would need to stop as soon as I found a good spot instead of waiting for the next break. He did suggest bushwhacking into the trees to do it, but I thought there would be a good spot before the trail got really narrow. 

I got my hole dug before the trail fully entered the canyon, which was a relief. There are some parts of the trail where it’s just better that you don’t need to dig a hole, what with the steep drop-off to Fish Creek on one side and thick brush on the other side which tends toward the vertical in the other direction. 
After that, the hike down to Red Top Meadows was a breeze. We really went fast, and the trail was in decent shape. That was thanks to the packer who had just resupplied Logan up at Sheepeater Lookout. To bring the mules up, the trail between here and Chamberlain needed to be a certain level of cleared, and I was very happy about that. 
Usually, we take a break when we reach the trail junction where we take a left turn to head to the Chamberlain Air Strip, but that’s because we’re usually worn out and need it. This time, it wasn’t yet time for a break so we kept hiking. The day was getting hot, but it wasn’t too bad. Not yet anyway. I did convince Ambrose that we should take our break a few minutes early so that we could have it near a stream crossing. Not only was there more shade there, but there were logs to sit on, and, of course, the sound of the water rushing by. It’s amazing how cooling just that sound can be. 
The rest of the Red Top Meadows section, which I consider to be from the Fish Creek junction all the way to the second crossing of Chamberlain Creek – both of which require boots off, typically – was uneventful. Ambrose and I hiked together, and did not need to take another break before our first ford. 
When we got to the point where we would need to get ready to cross, Ambrose surprised me by volunteering to cross back so that he could take pictures of me crossing. I was happy for that, since I don’t usually get to have those kinds of pictures. So I followed him down first, so I could get video and pictures of him crossing first. This also allowed me to gauge just how deep the water would get. This is probably the deepest crossing that we ever do, and the only reason we can do it is that it is extremely slow moving at this point. The creek bends and the water slows and a beaver is helping that whole process along. 
Once he got across, he put his pack down and then re-entered the water. I waited until he got close enough to take the camera and then I headed back up the trail to change for my crossing. The point where I had been standing was about six inches deep in the water, so it wasn’t an ideal place to change. Back up on the hill a bit, I completely removed my pants, because I knew it was deep enough to soak me to the waist. Wet underwear, I can handle, it gets wet enough with sweat anyway, but I prefer not to have my pants be completely soaked. I also changed into my sandals for crossing. For a while, I was using an old pair of shoes for crossing, but I recently purchased these Xero sandals and they did a pretty good job. I do miss the whole closed toe thing for my camp shoes, but the sandals dry much quicker after an immersion. 
Prepared, I made my way back down to the crossing, and then made the plunge. Ambrose helped direct me around a log. If I had gone around it to the left I probably would have gotten in water as deep as my chest, but by going to the right I managed to keep it waist level. The water was cold, but it felt rather refreshing in the bright sunshine. After this deep crossing, there’s a perfect place to change back into boots. But it’s been kind of ruined by the beaver, because if you put your boots back on at that perfect log, then you’ll be getting them quite wet about ten feet down the trail where the beaver’s work has resulted in overflow. The trail goes through grasses that hide up to a foot of water before finally climbing up and away from the water. That’s where we went to put our boots back on. Or, in Ambrose’s case, not to do that, because it’s really not that far from the next ford we need to do and he doesn’t mind hiking in his Teva’s. And, though I took longer to decide, I ended up trying to hike in my Xero’s.
I probably won’t do that very often, because they let in a lot of debris as I walk. But it’s workable for short distances. We hiked past several mud wallows without seeing any of the animals that use them. 
We could smell that they’d been there though! 
In no time at all, we were at the second crossing and able to walk straight through pretty much. Unfortunately, it was then time for lunch and there were really no shade options. I mean, I sat in the shade of a dead tree that extended slim shadow, but it moved before my lunch was ready to eat. Sometimes it’s like that, no shade and you just have to make do. 
By this point, my feet were a bit achy and I was starting to feel less than enthusiastic. But I knew it wasn’t that far to the air strip. 
It just felt that way. 
We hiked on and I began to feel like a packhorse, only able to keep going because I was following the person in front of me. I kept expecting us to be there, but again and again where I thought we were close there was just more and more trail to hike, including trail that I really don’t remember. I wonder, now, if there had been a reroute of the trail since the last time we’d hiked this way. Because there’s a part that I just didn’t remember being so long and up on an elevation. The trail meandered through what felt like miles of lovely flowers that I could hardly appreciate because I was so footsore. I just wanted a break, but Ambrose was like a machine, he just kept hiking. 
At some point, he walked over a small fallen tree and I decided to move it off the trail. He pulled ahead and kept pulling ahead until I completely lost sight of him at times. I was feeling a bit pissy. Like, how could he just walk off like that when he said he wanted us to hike together? I probably needed a snack. I kept trudging on, feeling myself slow down since I couldn’t pull myself along after Ambrose anymore. I dutifully moved what trees I could. Partly so I wouldn’t have to step over them. 
Then I started feeling a rumbling in my gut. I absolutely did NOT want to dig a hole when we were so close to the pit toilets of the air strip. No way. I sped up a bit, pushing my aching feet a bit harder. Then I saw the air strip, and the glorious pit toilet itself and I sped up a lot. I saw Ambrose, then I caught and passed him, letting him know I was on a nonstop trip directly to the pit toilet. He warned me to be careful crossing the stream that’s just before the air strip and I yelled back agreement as I made all haste to the air strip. 
I admit, one of the things I like best about the Chamberlain Air Stirp is the pit toilets. Not having to dig a hole when I need to go is such a treat out there. 
Having made use of the facilities, I felt refreshed and ready to hike. Though at that point I knew that my day’s hiking was just about over. We only needed to walk down the air strip to get to the shady spot where we’d stayed with Bill last year. Though we started with site 23, and I do like that site, it just gets too hot. There’s absolutely no good shade there from about 2 pm until the sun sinks below the ridge after 8. We made our way down and found the site nice and empty. 
Before I did anything, I took some time to take care of myself. I needed to drink and I needed to eat. I also got my feet out of my boots and just spent some time not being on my feet. After a bit of rest, I got the tent up. And eventually I got around to hanging my bear rope. I wandered around the site a bit before discovering someone had mounted a log between two trees, making for the perfect place to hang a bear bag. They’d even left rocks at the base of one of the trees that were ideal for tying the rope around. And I got the rope up and over in one toss, easy!
The critters were particularly bold in the afternoon, with one chipmunk scrambling over to check out our tent while I was sitting about 4 feet away. That’s when I decided that I’d hoist my trekking poles (which were not being used for the tent this evening) up in my bear bag. Usually, I’d unset them and put them on the ground near the tent, but with the bold critters, I decided not to leave such salty temptations out. 
Ambrose cooked dinner at the fire pit. I chowed down over there as well since the shade had made it that far. Then I got my bear bag up and we retreated to the tent. 
Now, Ambrose tells me that this next event occurred just after he had a thought. And that thought was, we’re so alone out here. 
“Hello the camp!” came a man’s voice. 
Another hiker had arrived and would like to also camp here in the shade if we didn’t mind. We didn’t – especially after we learned he was thru hiking the Idaho Centennial Trail! Ambrose let him know I had some info on his upcoming sections and I gave him some details on upcoming sections that no longer had visible trail to follow, but I didn’t get out of the tent to talk. I’m not great around strangers. I wish now that I had gotten out to talk, but when I did finally get out of the tent, I only asked for a photo. No contact info or anything. So, Clay from Washington, if you’re reading this, drop me a line! I’d love to know how your journey turned out. 
I also saw when I emerged from my tent that he also had a Zpacks tent, smart choice. Not a Zpacks pack, but if he’d made it this far, then whatever had had must have been working. He appeared to use his pack for a bear bag, hoisting the whole thing up. We went to bed planning on an early wake up to try and get past the hardest part of our next day’s hike before the sun rose too high. 

Ambrose is ready to start hiking!

Early morning picture of me in front of Sheepeater Lake.

Ambrose crossing the outlet.

More bear grass in bloom.

Fish Creek.

More bear grass at the start of our descent.

Time to head down.

Yay for trail maintenance!

This scat was so fresh, I’m surprised we didn’t see any wolves.

Paw print!

Some great paintbrush blooms on our route.

The moon lingered in the sky as we hiked down the canyon.

Already down to Red Top Meadows!

We took a break on the other side of this stream.

Almost through Red Top Meadows.

Ambrose went into the water first.

Ambrose watches me hike back to get my pack and take my pants off.

This water got deep on me quick.

I made it across safely.

The trail was dry here the first time we came through, but since then it’s always been wet.

A beaver mound.

Some lovely mud wallows.

Last ford of the day.

I found the old Three Blaze Trail junction.

Ambrose hiking away from me.

It was hot and my feet were aching.

At least there were lovely flowers up here.

Will this plateau never end?

One last stream crossing…

The pit toilet! Huzzah!

Hiking over to the shady spot.

We made it!

A bold little critter led me to hang my trekking poles.

A nice tent site, with plenty of shade.

A convenient spot to prepare and eat dinner.

Really easy place to hang a bear bag.

Getting a little better at the selfies. Just a little.

Normally, I wouldn’t post a stranger’s picture on my blog, but I’d really like to get in touch with this ICT hiker.

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