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Home » Adventures » CDT » Journal » Montana » Salmon National Forest

CDT: Salmon National Forest (Chief Joseph Pass to Bannock Pass)

July 11

I took an easy morning in Darby, eating breakfast, shopping, and browsing the small museum in town. I had another tough hitch out of town. After a long wait I got a ride halfway to Sula, but there had an additional long wait until two young college women eventually brought me the rest of the way, so at least the wait was worth it. I walked only a few easy miles along the trail until finding a nice campsite, a true nero.

The first border marker along the Idaho-Montana border

July 12

After turning off the jeep road south of Chief Joseph Pass, I had a long day of steep PUDs, mostly along the divide. Much of the route lacked switchbacks, with the trail going straight up and down the mountains. Even in the afternoon hiking along a river, the trail still relentlessly undulated up and down.

While taking a rest for lunch on an open hilltop, I spotted smoke from a forest fire to the west. The forest rangers in Darby said this fire should not pose a problem for me, but seeing its effects was still sobering. The mountains have seemed hazy as well for a while. I do not know if that was normal or lingering smoke from fires.

July 13

Some of the mosquitoes seemed to have become impervious to DEET, which was a bad sign. Although with the number of cobwebs I bust through the entire forest should not contain a single bug. That was of course not true, but the insects had mostly been manageable. Between long sleeves, bug spray, and a head net, they had been annoying but not able to bite me.

Today had more switchbacks and beauty, but still continued through endless up and downs. I was back in rocky, mountainous terrain. The day was overcast and sprinkled a few times. That might at least help the fire situation.

I camped on the shore of Rock Island Lakes in an “established” site, a nice luxury. Just after finishing dinner a steady rain forced me inside my tent, and I fell asleep to the pitter patter of rain against its fly.

Slag-a-Melt Lakes
The structures were installed to prevent erosion along the banks,  but it was still kind of funny to see this 'bridge' with a gap over the actual water.
Snow patches up in the mountains

July 14

I started the day with a climb that included both switchbacks and thirty degree slopes — seemingly some poorly designed trail. The profile became easier afterwards, and the middle of the day included an easy road walk along an alternate route.

I stopped for dinner early, with an approaching storm having me cook like The Flight of the Bumblebee. From the time I stopped until putting my pack back on, including cooking and eating, was less than twenty minutes. The storm arrived immediately after I ate, but quit by the time I reached another “established” campsite at Goldstone Lake. The rain left everything cold and damp though.

Skinner Meadows
Looking into a valley

July 15 — One Month Anniversary

Today was my one month anniversary with the CDT. The beginning seemed like a long time ago, but at the same time recent. Many of the days and wilderness areas blended together, but I still retained many distinct memories, especially when looking back at maps or photos. Realizing I may have only be 20% done time wise, with four months remaining on the trail, was almost unbelievable.

I fell asleep and awoke to moose crashing along the nearby rocks and swimming in Goldstone Lake, but they ran away whenever I emerged from my tent. At least I did not meet any bears.

I left the roads and returned to the divide, with some steep climbs in the morning and mostly rolling hills throughout the afternoon.

At Lemhi Pass I explored the historical informational kiosks, mainly related to Lewis and Clark and the end of the “endless” Missouri River. Absorbing some (at least western) historical perspective of the area I hiked through was a nice addition to the spectacular scenery. Mountains were great, but hearing the human story of those that passed through long ago in a much different era added a new dimension.

I developed a nasty blister on my left pinky toe, which was a blister on top of another blister. It did not start hurting until late in the day at least. Hopefully the sore will hold until I reach Leadore, where I can restock my empty Band-Aid supply.

Loose rock along the top of the mountain
Looking out into the plains
The CDT intersected the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail at Lemhi Pass
The sun setting over the Montana country side

July 16

I had a day hiking along the divide, mainly on a jeep road. The morning contained some steep climbs, but the terrain was mostly rolling afterwards. Surprisingly, the foot trail avoided a few PUDs (although not all of them), going around some peaks.

I took one wrong turn, not seeing the obvious cairn next to the jeep road, but discovered my mistake in less than ten minutes as my path curved in the wrong direction.

Roaring Lion caught me as I cooked dinner at a spring. He took a full zero at Chief Joseph Pass, meaning he covered this last section in one full day less than me. I knew he hiked faster though and had expected him to overtake me.

A lot of the CDT traverses BLM land
Jeep road through high plains with Goat Mountain in the background

July 17 — Leadore

After not getting much sleep to people felling trees nearby all night, Roaring Lion and I started on the trail early to hopefully catch a ride from someone driving early into Leadore at Bannock Pass — a notoriously tough hitch with its little traffic. No cars passed while we waited, but a sign at the pass mentioned possible hiker shuttles. The area had zero cell service though (even after scrambling up a nearby hill), so we started walking towards town. Half a dozen cars passed in the opposite direction, but none went our way till we had already covered half the distance on foot. At least we got a ride for the last seven miles. We then relaxed in town, eating at the restaurant and store, and splitting a room at the Homestead Motel.

A colorful sunrise seen through the trees
Leadore, ID
A small country church. According to the sign it still celebrated Mass twice a month.