The Final Leg of my Hike

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The Final Leg of my Hike

Postby cryptobranchidae » Sun Aug 24, 2008 7:00 pm

The Final Leg of my Hike
I’m writing from a great little motel in Lima, MT. My hiking partner, Eric, and I are stuck here over the weekend waiting on a resupply from the post office. It can be a bit maddening being stuck in one place like this when you’re used to being on the move every day. On the other hand, it’s also kind of nice to do nothing and get some well deserved rest. Hopefully we’ll be back on the trail tomorrow.
From here in Lima, there are only 730 trail miles left to Canada, so I’m approaching the final leg of my hike. The plan is to hopefully reach the boarder by the first or second week of October. Fall is already setting in up here, you can smell it in the air and the nights are getting cold, so I’m starting to feel the pressure to finish this thing.
Since my last email, I’ve crossed some amazing country through CO, WY, and now ID, and MT. There’s been way too much to describe here now, but I’ll try and briefly touch on some of the highlights.
Finishing up Colorado was, of course, beautiful, with more miles spent high above tree line than below.
On one particular stretch in CO we ran into some excitement. Moving down the trail one evening we noticed some strange drag marks in the middle of the path. We followed for a bit before spotting a guy (Ed) lying in the middle of the path. The guy actually looked dead but to our relief he sat up and said “you have no idea how happy I am to see you”. It turns out he was a Denver priest, with the Catholic Church, and he was out on a day hike when his knee made a loud pop and he was suddenly immobilized. He had already been out thirty some hours and endured a frigid night (that he wasn’t equipped for) and was just coming to accept the realization that he was going to be out another one when we showed up. At the point where his knee blew out there was no water available so he had been trying to drag himself along backwards down the trail to locate water. This is where the drag marks we had been following came from. This act of dragging himself along left him kind of a bruised and bloody mess. It was decided that because Eric was a faster hiker that I, he would hike out and call for help and I would stay with the victim and treat him for shock. After Eric left I made some hot coco and some Mac and cheese for Ed before putting him into my sleeping bag. It was a long evening as I don’t have a lot in common with any church, much less the Catholic Church, so we didn’t have too much to talk about. The evening wore on into night so I decided to settle in just in case help didn’t arrive until morning. About 11pm, just as I was dozing off, the first of many search and rescue teams arrived. They immediately went to work on Ed. There was oxygen, IVs, splints, etc… A couple more teams showed up and started making plans on how to get him out. It was quite the spectacle to witness, and I got to witness it all because I couldn’t get any of my gear, that Ed was using, back until they were ready to move him. Finally, about 1am, I started the hike out to the trail head where Eric was waiting. The following days we learned that we made the top story on the Denver news. Unjustly, Eric hogged the spotlight, when they talked about us they only mentioned Eric’s name. That’s cool though, real heroes don’t do it for the publicity ;)
Entering WY we immediately hiked into the grand basin, a huge, high desert. At first it was neat to be in a different landscape after the high mountains of Colorado but after a few days of the windy, hot, barren landscape with very little water sources I had had enough. What little water was in the basin was mostly nasty and fouled by cattle. Using bleach for water treatment, I could kill the nasties but I still had to drink them. It was quite unpleasant.
For enduring the basin I was rewarded with the Wind River Range. The winds were the most amazing mountains I’ve ever been in. Jagged, gnarly, raw peaks; the way mountains are supposed to look. This is also where we made our second rescue. This time it was a 66 year old nurse, Marnie, from CT who was on a solo backpacking trip. She had fallen and broken her wrist so she couldn’t carry her pack. Our plan was to backtrack to where a group of equestrians (horse people) were camped and ask them for help. They agreed to provide us with a horse and one man who would help us get Marnie to a trail junction that was ten miles from the nearest trailhead and road. From this point it would be up to Eric and me to get her out. That night we camped with the equestrians. In the morning we decided to have Eric hike ahead to see if he could catch Heesoo (another hiker we had been hiking on and off with) so we could split Marnie’s load three ways, instead of just two, for the last ten miles out of the wilderness. This left Marnie, the horse guy Mark, I think, the horse Zina, and me. Marnie was a very slow hiker so walking her out of the wilderness was not an option. So once we got Zina away from the other horses and settled down we put Marnie on her. This was no easy task and almost ended in Marnie falling right back off. Marnie was very uncomfortable on the horse, but regardless we made it about three miles down the trail before Marnie started complaining of being light headed and requested being let off the horse. We agreed and decided to take a break. Marnie walked about twenty yards towards a lake we intended to break at before needing to set down. I helped her back up to move her to the shade but she immediately had to sit back down. As soon as she sat down on a rock she lost consciousness and fell to the ground. This, of course, freaked me out a little. I got her up and she came to. I let her rest for fifteen minutes or so before trying to move her to the shade again. She made it about five steps and went unconscious again this time I caught her just in time to let her down gently. At this point, I didn’t know what to do. I let her rest for an hour or so and she wasn’t feeling any better, plus it was obvious the horse guy was anxious to get back to his people, and anyhow, putting her back on the horse in her condition wasn’t going to be an option. Taking all this into consideration, I decided to have the horse guy ride out to meet Eric and have him hike to the trail head to try and get help. We were a good twenty miles from the road so I figured all this would take a while. I set up Marnie’s tent for her, made her some oatmeal, and just let her rest. It was a long day and night and Marnie had other problems that I’m not going to go into here, but eventually about four in the morning a couple search and rescue guys showed up. They examined Marnie and quickly decided to call in a helicopter to evacuate her. It was all over by about seven in the morning but I still had a twenty mile hike to the trail head where I would hitch into town to meet Eric and resupply. I learned later that while I was stuck in the mountains taking care of Marnie, Eric spent the evening hanging out at the command post with a super good looking lady deputy sheriff. I think, if there’s a next time, I’ll insist that I be the one to hike out for help.
After the Winds, it was on to Yellowstone National Park. This wasn’t a great experience for me. I was expecting a safari like experience but all I ended up seeing was two deer. The worst part was I was suffering from a bad case of Guardia all the way through the park. I’m actually still dealing with lingering symptoms. The geothermal stuff was really neat though, and of course Old Faithfull.
Leaving WY I hiked into ID and then MT. The trail follows the continental divide, which in this area is the border between these two states so I’ve been back and forth between the two for a while now. Wild fires are always a concern of our out here and the other evening we hiked directly into one. We had just finished a long cross-country section and decided that going back was not an option so we figured we’d take our chances with the fire. Helicopters flying around with buckets along with a huge towering smoke column and high winds told us that we should take the situation seriously. Regardless, we moved ahead. As the smoke thickened we eventually ran into some fire fighters who told us that they had it under control. We followed them down to where they were parked and they hooked us up with a few MRE’s for dinner. It was evening, and not wanting to carry the heavy MRE’s we decided to camp right there. That night we were treated to a show that I will likely never forget. We had a huge view down into the burning forest. All night long the forest glowed with smoldering fires under a full moon. Occasionally, individual trees would go up like fire bombs. Some of these were so close that we could feel the heat they produced. This was all accented with the sounds of cracking, popping, and crashing of burning and falling trees. Apparently, the fire had been burning for three weeks and the forest service was just watching it and letting it do its thing. We were told that this forest was long overdue for a fire and desperately needed it.
It’s truly been an amazing adventure so far!

Mike
cryptobranchidae
 
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