We woke up in the dark. That was the plan, but it didn’t make it anymore fun. Today’s hike would be involve going about 10 miles without any water sources. We started the day at Moose Meadows with water and would end the day near Bismarck Mountain where, if the maps were still accurate, we would find a spring that started Bismarck Creek. And if they weren’t, then we’d have some choices to make. Possibly heading down to Crooked Creek, possibly going off trail to get to water. But those decisions didn’t need to be made in the pre-dawn darkness.

Ambrose and I started off first, while Bill was still getting Mike ready to go. We all knew Bill would catch up no matter how much of a head start Ambrose and I got. While the trail was relatively flat, I stayed behind Ambrose. Each of us wore headlamps to illuminate the ground beneath our feet, though the sky was already starting to lighten when we started out.

By the time we reached the junction that Bill and I had explored the day before, we didn’t need headlamps anymore. And it was at this point that the trail started to climb in earnest, so I gave Ambrose a kiss and started to make my way up the switchbacks at a pace he couldn’t match. Well, maybe he could have matched it for a short time. After all, he’s gotten faster. But he wouldn’t have been able to sustain and keep going if he tried to keep up with my going uphill.

I enjoyed pushing myself to a fast pace going up. I heard when Bill and Mike caught up to Ambrose and they caught up to me as well. We stopped near the top of the summit to wait for Ambrose to catch up. The sun arrived before he did, peaking over the facing ridge with a reddish glow from smoke in the atmosphere.

After Ambrose caught up, we all took a break, and then set off. I was in the lead for a bit, through some sections of burned out trees and a bit more climbing. But then we got to a particularly tricky snag, and I decided to wait for Ambrose to catch up so I could guide him through the easiest path rather than let him possibly waste time getting lost. We didn’t have time for anyone to get lost!

I pointed the way once Ambrose caught up and then hiked off again, gaining ground quickly since we had another little uphill to navigate. Yeah, every time I thought we had reached the top that day, the trail just had to prove me wrong.

The trail made a wide curve to the left, and I could see it making another turn, along with some more uphill, ahead to the right. The ground here was all burned and ashy. Perfect for digging the hole that my body was telling me to get to work on. So I walked to the turn and dropped my pack by a tree so Ambrose would know I had stopped. Then I walked off trail and go to work.

Backpacking with Bill and Mike meant that I had to be a bit more careful with where and when I dug my holes. I figured with them ahead, I didn’t have to worry. Sure, there wasn’t a lot of cover, but why would they backtrack? Ambrose walked up and I yelled over at him to take a break, so he sat down.

And he let me know when he spotted Bill coming back down the trail. He waved Bill off and I finished my business and hustled over to Ambrose. When we caught up to Bill, just at the next switchback, he explained that he had gotten tired of waiting for us to catch up.

We continued on, Bill taking the lead at times, while I took it at others. There were some clear old trails branching off from the main one we walked on. I figured they were old switchbacks. The burned areas have their own kind of stark beauty that I appreciate, but they don’t provide much in the way of shade.

The sun was still not very high, and being blocked a bit by the haze, but the day was growing warmer. We hiked on, some sections through live forest and others not. There was a junction down to a meadow, but our maps didn’t show a route out, so we stuck to the main trail and had some views of the meadow from high above where our trail stuck to the ridge.

At the next break time, I switched over to my skort in the sunshine since there was little shade on offer near the trail. Plus I was still fairly cool. Bill hiked off trail and uphill to get some genuine shade  in a copse of young pine trees for his break. Ambrose stayed by me, not because he didn’t want shade, but because he didn’t want the extra steps and elevation gain.

We passed by another junction, which wasn’t signed, but was fairly well marked – not well marked enough that Bill noticed it though. But after the junction, he did notice we weren’t quite going in the right direction. The horseman whose tracks we were following veered off in one direction while the trail went another, though not clearly. We took some time and eventually figured out where the trail was. I was cranky, but trying not to let it affect how I treated my companions.

The trail semi-disappeared again after Bill hiked on ahead. I waited for Ambrose to catch up after a climb to make sure we at least got lost together. And then I had to go dig a hole, so I told Ambrose he could wait or go ahead. He waited and then, just as I was finishing my business, Bill came back down the trail. Again. I swear, I felt like I couldn’t dig a hole in peace!

Ambrose and I joined Bill where he had found some shade and we all ate lunch. Ambrose and I were carrying enough water that we had sufficient amounts for our lunch. In fact, I was carrying an extra 2 liter bag of unfiltered water that I generously allowed Ambrose to filter into his water bladder since he was running low on water. Yeah, I started the day with 5 liters of water on my back, because I love my husband.

The trail was still spotty after lunch, but we didn’t get lost again. I spotted a disused trail that would have lead us back to Lower Ramey Meadows if it hadn’t been burned out.

I was hiking ahead when my alarm went off signalling the next break. But I decided to hike on, because there was no shade in sight, but the ridge up ahead looked like it might offer some. So I kept going until I found myself some trees, and then I waited in the shade for Bill and Mike, and then we all waited, patiently, for Ambrose to make his way to us so the break could officially begin. We were close, if the maps were right, to our campsite, and water.

Bill hiked ahead to the campsite, and I hung back a bit with Ambrose on the stretch, mostly downhill, towards Bismarck Creek. We were hoping to come upon a Bill getting ready to set up camp, rather than a Bill waiting for us to decide what we should do next with no water in sight.

Before we got to the campsite, I could hear the water, even smell it, how it made for a richer scent of greenery than the higher, drier areas we had been hiking through. A richness to the air.

As the trail made a wide turn, we saw Bill had found an established spot, complete with fire ring, and we joined him, dumped packs, and then we all got ourselves some water. It was actually still fairly early in the day, so we had some time to relax and clean up before taking care of camp chores and dinner. I washed out my food bag, because someone had not sealed up his cheesecake packet after finishing it, which caused my food bag to be sticky inside.

It was Ambrose.

I actually retreated to the tent in the heat of the afternoon because I was tired of being plagued by horseflies. One of them bit me while I was pitching the tent and followed me into the tent when I was blowing up our sleeping pads. I whacked at it with my hat until it was stunned and then carefully impaled it on my knife and threw it outside with no forgiveness in my heart.

I’d had thoughts of climbing Bismarck Mountain, but by the time we arrived, I just wasn’t feeling up to that kind of adventure. Maybe next time.

Crossing the stream that ate the gallon water bag’s top in the dark by headlamp.

But by the time we reached the first junction, it was getting pretty light. 

No sun for the first big climb of the day.

But it came out when I had reached the top.

Mike’s ready to go!

Much of the trail was through old burned areas and tricky to find.

Some parts of the trail had clearly been rerouted.

This is what passed for a trail sign to Club Meadows

I enjoy seeing the rock formations through the trees. If they weren’t burned out, the rocks would be hidden.

A nice ridge walking view.

This is the junction Bill walked past without seeing.

Not the top, but we did stop for lunch after reaching the top of this section. 

I could see living trees, hiding behind the dead ones to the left.

Mushrooms! But not more morels, to Ambrose’s disappointment.

Yeah, this trail sure liked going uphill. Not that I minded.  
I found this shade for a break spot just for Bill. 

Almost to the campsite. Will there be water?

Ambrose makes his way down.

Water! Appearing out of the ground like magic. 

Mike approves of the water. 

I’ll admit, the hiking skort is very cute. But I’m just not sure it’s worth the leg scrapes and thigh chafing. 

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