[cdt-l] Detoured in Dubois

Jim and/or Ginny Owen spiriteagle99 at hotmail.com
Wed Aug 16 13:46:06 CDT 2006

It has been a good and eventful ten days from Lander to Dubois.  We've both 
enjoyed taking it easy through the most beautiful section of the CDT.

The last couple of days in the desert were beautiful and easy with plentiful 
water. The climb over Temple Pass turned out to be much less of a bushwhack 
than the guidebook implies - we were on trail almost the entire way, 
including switchbacks up to the pass (but a nasty 800 foot drop straight 
down the north side). We found Jonathan's shortcut to Big Sandy Lake purely 
by accident, but it worked quite nicely.  In the spirit of adventure and 
exploration on new territory, we followed the Highline Trail through parts 
of the Winds -- since we followed the Fremont Trail last time -- and were 
pleasantly surprised that it was almost as beautiful as the Fremont, and 
much less populated (which made for disappearing tread in a few places, 
making for 'interesting' navigation).  We were well treated at Big Sandy 
Lodge, where we stopped to pick up a food drop and stayed for dinner. We met 
11 southbound thruhikers (Pi, Ahab, Rusted Root, Disco and POD,  Speedo, 
Lovebarge Lisa and Skittles, Mags, Jess and Tradja) plus Sidewinder here in 
Dubois on his flip hike. We missed a few southbound hikers because of our 
(or their) alternate routes.  Long conversations with the hikers we met were 
most welcome after so many weeks of not meeting any other thruhikers, but 
did put a dent in our daily mileage.  It was interesting hearing about some 
of the options that they chose  including side trips to the Tetons and the 
Beartooths, as well as over Continental Glacier and Knapsack Col.  We also 
met Al and Craig Learned.  Al hiked the CDT last year and wanted to show off 
the Winds to his son.  The Wind River Range was as beautiful as we 
remembered - one of the most spectacular parts of the CDT.  My only 
disappointment was that we saw little wildlife - there were simply too many 
people out there.  We saw a couple of moose, four elk and a beaver in the 
Wilderness, then two more moose, some elk and a coyote near Union Pass -- 
not a lot for ten days, especially after the abundance of wildlife in the 
desert.  We ran into some unexpected and excellent trail magic - two men 
camped near Union Pass invited us to visit, then to share their steaks, and 
then to share their campsite.  People can be grand.

Biggest issue at the moment is the forest fire on the CDT between Union Pass 
and Togwottee Pass.  Fortunately we met some southbounders who told us the 
trail was closed or we would have walked right into it.  There was no 
indication  that we saw near Union Pass on the trail that we shouldn't 
continue.  On the other hand, the huge plumes of black smoke, the heavy 
smoky haze, and the flames that we could see from Gunsight Pass certainly 
told us something was amiss!  It seems that there was a lightning fire 
started August 4 that was left to burn.  Because this area is so very dry, 
it spread and spread.  Between the 12th and the 14th it grew from 4000 to 
6000 acres.  Today it is almost 8000 acres.  Now that it is threatening 
homes, they are starting to fight it - but in the meantime, the fire has 
jumped the Divide and is affecting two forests and will close the CDT for a 
while.  We were able to hike down Union Pass Road, but if the fire continues 
to grow, that may change.  The fires looked to be about 5 miles north of the 
pass - too close.

We begin the next stage of our adventure tomorrow or the next day.  We are 
planning an alternate route through Yellowstone and north to Butte that we 
will describe when we finish.  It is something we have been looking forward 
to for a long while, but there is a some uncertainty as to its feasability, 
so rather than say what we want to do, we'll tell what we actually managed 
to do, if we do.  We loved the CDT in southern Montana - but it is fun to be 
creative and invent our own route for a while.  We'll keep you posted - but 
it may be a while.



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