Oof, that was hard going! Two big obstacles since we left Leadore – a closed section of trail due to a wildfire, requiring a long detour, then just when we were really happy to be back on trail, the weather decided to go all dramatic on us!
We had known about the trail closure around Goldstone Pass for a couple of weeks, so when we got to Leadore we went to see the helpful folks at the US Forestry Service, and with their help worked out a walk-around detour.
So coming out of Bannock Pass after picking up our food parcel at Leadore, we had just one day of pleasant hiking on the Divide before we came to the trail closure signs at Lemhi Pass. From there it was a long hot descent on a dirt road to the tiny settlement of Tendoy, where the three of us (Mithrandir, Neil and I) descended on the tiny store like hot, thirsty locusts. After consuming too much ice cream, cream soda, beer and Fritos (just for the record – I wouldn’t recommend this combination!) we set off along the Salmon River valley which runs parallel to the divide. As this is a lush and fertile valley full of farmland, we were short of places to camp, so we followed the suggestion of the folks in Tendoy and headed up a side road to an information kiosk in an enclosure, owned by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management). This made an excellent camping spot – apart from all the boy racers accelerating up the road to the hot springs all night long!
The information boards made interesting reading too, telling the story of when the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1805 passed through that way, on their quest to find a viable overland route from the eastern states to the west coast.
The next day was destined to be a very long and tedious roadwalk along the valley to the larger town of Salmon, so it was a real bonus to pass through the town of Baker and stop at Country Market, a fabulous food emporium run by Amish people. Mithrandir gorged himself on locally grown peaches, while I made a beeline for the table of doughnuts. The cream filled maple doughnut topped with bacon bits was quite literally a knockout!
Then it was on to Salmon, where we enjoyed some fine beers at Bertram’s Brewery, and stopped for the night, before continuing on to Carmen the next day. A long long uphill roadwalk, which turned into a dirt road, a rough track then finally a steeply ascending path, took us back onto the Divide. But just as we were savouring being back on the trail, the clouds darkened, the temperature plummeted, and it began to rain. We hurriedly put up the tent, cooked dinner, and retreated into our sleeping bags.
But as we lay there, there was a subtle change to the sound of the rain hammering on the tent … At about 2.30am, I woke up and by the faint glow of the moon through clouds I could see snow piled on the outside of the tent. So we knocked it down before it could collapse the tent. We did this a couple more times during the night. When the alarm went off at 6am, it was still snowing, so we turned over and slept some more. By 8am we had decided we really needed to get going, snowing or not, so we donned all the clothing we had, hurriedly packed away our sodden tent, and set off.
The pine forest in the snow was a beautiful place to be, and apart from the cold wet hands and feet, hiking was actually quite enjoyable! As we hiked on, we lost elevation and the snow disappeared, being replaced by slush then sogginess. But for the rest of the day we were mostly walking in rain at lower elevations or snow when the trail went high; when it wasn’t raining or snowing, it felt intensely cold. Even some ridiculously steep uphills didn’t really warm us through. As it was so cold, we only had a couple of short breaks for food. By the time we stopped hiking and pitched our still-soggy tent at 7.30pm, we were exhausted. I did my best to mop out the tent, but it was still a cold damp night – just our luck that the storm hit us the day before we were due to pick up some more warm clothing from our equipment box at Darby post office!
So we were very relieved when I poked my head out of the tent this morning to see a clear sky overhead. It was very cold, and all our gear was wet, but with just 10 miles to go to Lost Trail Pass from which we would hitch into Darby to resupply, we got on our way as quickly as we could, spurred on by thoughts of hot coffee, breakfast, and long hot showers.
And it was a lovely morning to be on the trail, with clouds lifting off the forested mountains and the sun slowly warming the air. We also found Mithrandir again, having accidentally lost him on the way up Carmen Creek when he took a wrong turn. Another bonus – we got a lift within 5 minutes of arriving at Lost Trail Pass! So we got straight into town and that hot breakfast and coffee was ours.
And the best news of all – we thought we would have to divert off the trail on the next section because of a wildfire, but a forestry service guy at Lost Trail Pass told us that after the snow and rain, the wildfire is now out, so we can hike through on the trail!!! Good news indeed.