Thunder Sky Country—Chief Joseph Pass to Miner Lake

7/14 16.5 miles

Forced myself out of the Darby, MT motel when the rain stopped. I crossed the street and stuck out my thumb. Within minutes a woman stopped. Kim Maynard, former Smokejumper, went out of her way to give me a lift right up to Chief Joseph Pass. She worked with my sister’s partner, smokejumper Bert Mitman, in Fairbanks.

Started on dirt roads, saw an elk! Then too many straight ups, straight downs for a weighty 6 day food carry. I mean seriously you never know what the route is put together from–forest service roads, abandoned mining, ranching or logging road alignments, eroded scrambles, modern graded switchbacks, who knows?

So having a bit of a late start, 9:45, I decided to camp at a spot marked Parking. There was another hiker, Japanese, there already so I settled in. He helped look for the trail to the water. An hour later I heard German chatter and Ninja and Snapper walked up the road. Talking through my camouflage tent, I asked if they wanted to camp with me. They did and gathered by my tent to eat and chat. Turns out when I passed them on a pass a few days ago, Ninja didn’t feel well so they found a side trail, hiked out and got her to a clinic. Tonight marks 24 hours on an anti-Lyme med while they wait for test results.

An hour later a crew of teenage ICC rolled in and set up camp and quieted down in good order. After dark their gear trucks came in lights blazing, Diesel engines rumbling. 2 hours later lightening lit up my tent, and thunder blasted like cannons overhead. All was silent at 4. I got up at 6:30 and Snapper whispered through his screen that Ninja was not well. Bummer! They are so funny, so sweet, so direct, so German. I hope it’s not Lyme.

7/15 17.4 miles

So much uphill, so slow. Finally at 3:30 I got over the other side to spectacular views of rock, snow, mountains. Just starting to pick up some miles when a few raindrops fell. Sigh. I stopped to put on my rain jacket as hail shellacked me, turning to fierce rain. Sigh. I pitched my tent at 6:30. Dammit. Now instead of 3 more nights to Leadore, I’m looking at 4. I poured my food sack on my sleeping bag to recalculate my rations.

7/16 21.1 miles

Bailed!! I satellite texted Dan to call Rick at Bunkhouse Hotel in Jackson, MT about 17 miles off trail to see if he would pick me up and had a room. I walked downhill fast 5 trail miles then 3 extra dirt road miles off trail to get picked up at 7:15pm. Of course got rained on at 6:30 again.

The day was good though, the ups at 9000′ are still hard but better carrying less weight. 4 ups but #4 had the most snow of any so far this year but not a problem. The last 2 ups were gorgeous rock cirques like I’ve seen in the Sierra.

I stopped and talked with the Japanese hiker where he was camped at the beginning of the extra 3 miles. I still can’t pronounce his name. I need to get him to write it down for me.

Now at this super cool old hotel. Clean hostel for hikers and bikers, laundry, beer, frozen food, perfect! Also, Pot and Lid, whom I met in 2015 in the desert of the PCT are here. Got a ride back to the trail arranged with neighbor Bob after a second night escape from the thunderstorms. “No, this is not normal for Montana. Never seen anything like it.” Sigh.

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