Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark of the famed Lewis & Clark expedition were one of, if not the greatest explorer, in the new America’s. They crossed the unknown land with shear brute and resolve. 75,607 days later I stand at Lewis and Clark Pass in much more pampered and humbling circumstances.
This section of the CDT is know as “The Rollercoaster” because of the extreme up and down over the next 56 miles to Benchmark, my next resupply. The elevation gain gives no mercy, up and down the mountains that stare at you with a snicker. I was tired, sweat pouring down my face and my thighs feeling every step. My shoes were starting to give me problems with holes in the mesh around my toes that let in little pebbles causing me to stop frequently to shake them out. Water is an issue when your walking ridges because there is no water on ridges, those pools and streams are down the mountain and I sure don’t feel like going lower and then coming back up just for a couple liters of water. Yet, with all these obstacles I felt immense happiness and pride.
I wake up still tired from the tough climbs from yesterday and start eating what I’ve nicknamed “vitamins’ but its Tylenol. Since I’m prone to developing blood clots I take Coumadin, a blood thinner, so I’m not able to take the traditional thru hiking vitamin, Ibuprofen, which is better for inflammation but Tylenol is better then nothing. I’m sure my liver or kidney hates me but my legs and back appreciate it. I begin hiking in the gorgeous, challenging ridges. The view down to one of the valleys is gorgeous and while hiking down I try my best at being Ansel Adams, playing with every setting on my camera; Black and white, Vibrant, Sunset and a bunch of other stuff I have no idea what it does.
I spend miles walking the ridges then dropping down and back up the defined trail while soaking in the view and clouds that are moving past at high speeds. The lodge pole pines are barely covered with anything as they struggle to even survive at these altitudes and tough conditions. I skirt past dried up ponds that South Bounders probably used to quench their thirsts months earlier and I wonder what the landscaped looked like to them vs. what I see now. Moving slowly again up a mountain I’m almost happy that my pack is light. Its only light because I’m low on food, only about 2 days left of food and more importantly only 2 snickers and a half bag of chips. This is a problem because candy has become my main stable at this point. I’m consuming about 6,000 calories a day to keep my body going and I know that I’m not reaching that at all. I start eating half rations, swallowing my pride and not ask my other hikers for any of their food because that would be like asking for a first-born or for them to carry my tent. No way, to much pride.
Instead I just crank the music coming through my Yurbuds and start singing along to the Fugee’s. Hip hop is great while hiking because its got a good beat that keeps you going and like any runner knows the right beat can keep you motivated. I’m singing loudly as I start descending the mountain coming into the trees. I turn a corner and smack. I fall to the ground in pain, rolling around on the forest floor grabbing my right foot as it’s throbbing in pain. I look back and see the small stump I had just slammed my right foot into. My toe is throbbing and bleeding. I’m worried I broke the toe. I think about just amputating it and moving on but my little blade would probably cause more harm then good. I instead just sit there for about 5 minutes, pop some ‘vitamins’ and keep going with the pain subsiding the next day.
Being in the Scapegoat Wilderness which is part of the 1.5 million acre Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex is surreal, such a vast wilderness that swallows you. Its full of bears, bighorn sheep, bald eagles, falcons and moose but I had not seen any of them yet. Rainbow trout the length of my arm and northern pike gracefully glide in streams waiting for dinner to come by. I wish I had my fly rod with me now more then ever as I know that this deep in the wilderness, they are rarely tempted by my mere mortal flies. My biggest joy is the sweet tasting water. It is hands down the best tasting water I have ever and probably will ever drink. The water is so clear, so pure that it’s hard to believe that it’s real. It touches my lips and I can already feel its immediate absorption into my body. To treat this water would be like watering down a 100-year-old bottle of Don Perion, it just isn’t done.
I make a few more winding turns on the trail and start noticing more foot prints, more evidence of civilization and realize I must be getting close to Benchmark. I pass a couple of day hikers, a older couple out for the sights gripping their bear spray tightly next to their hip. One last turn and I hit the trailhead and the dirt road. I throw my pack off and sit down leaning up against the old trailhead board and pull out my food bag. I find one lonely cherry starburst sitting at the bottom of the bag and nothing else. I unwrap it, pop it into my mouth and wait for my ride down to Augusta.