After an extensive detour to avoid a bear and get a new pack, I returned to the CDT, well on my way towards Yellowstone.
Having a nice, comfy bed, I slept in this morning. After a great breakfast at the restaurant, I took my time packing up, and didn’t leave until check-out time, 11 am.
The continuing roadwalk up the highway was an uneventful 4.5-mile hike gradually uphill. Evidently, the area gets a lot of snow in the winter and the road can be closed; a light pole with a crossing arm had a sign warning that violators could be prosecuted with a fine or jail.
Turning off the highway, I met a southbounder trying to hitch into Dubois, who had just come from the dirt road I was about to take to go to Brooks Lake Lodge. The dirt road was an access road for power lines in the area; I passed a truck with a couple of workers, who were quite surprised to see me pass. (They offered water — which was nice, it was kind of warm out — but I already had more than I needed, especially since I wasn’t going that much further before I could get more.)
Being a power line access road, the road went to a power line clearing, and then followed the clearing straight up a hill, cutting away once where the clearing crossed a very steep valley.
After climbing to the top of a ridge, the trail left the clearing and descended, joining a proper dirt road that led to Brooks Lake Lodge. This dirt road is also part of the old CDT; following it further north will return me to the CDT.
Brooks Lake Lodge is an all-inclusive luxury retreat. Back in Pinedale, when I called to confirm that they’d accept packages, I inquired about spending the night, because why not? I was quite surprised when they said it was a minimum three night stay, at over $800; that quickly put the kibosh on that idea. But despite not catering to hikers who want to spend the night, they were still very friendly and welcoming.
The main lodge building was a large wooden structure; to the side of the main entrance was a picnic table with three southbounders in the process of repacking their resupply boxes. I went over to join them; one of the lodge employees was also there, and showed me where the hiker packages were kept. I picked up my new pack (in a box that looked slightly beat-up) and resupply that will take me to Old Faithful Village in Yellowstone National Park.
The employee was nice enough to bring us fountain sodas from the lodge’s restaurant. By coincidence, the four of us all asked for Dr Pepper; she brought us out glasses full of soda, and then came back with a pitcher so we could have refills!
My first order of business was to inspect my new pack, and move everything from my old pack to the new one. It was unexpectedly, a new model year, which meant that there were a lot of little differences, most of which I didn’t like. (In particular, the combination water bladder pouch and lightweight day pack was replaced with a much less useful fixed pocket, and the brain lost one of its outside pockets.) It also felt a tiny bit smaller, but I was able to get everything repacked without too much of a hassle. After two weeks with a broken pack, I finally have a fully working pack again!
While I repacked my pack, it rained briefly. Later, the sky darkened; I decided to cook dinner to kill some time, because it looked like it was going to pour. I was glad I did: the sky let loose a torrential downpour, with pea-sized hailstones. There was so much splashing from the rain hitting the gravel ground, and the wind, that the roof overhang over the picnic table wasn’t sufficient to keep the water off, and I retreated to the lodge’s dining room to finish eating.
I also called Yellowstone and arranged for my overnight permit for camping in the park. To do this, I had to make a decision on what part of the Big Sky Alternate I was going to take. One route, which leaves the CDT at Two Ocean Pass (which I should reach in a couple of days), traverses the eastern side of the park, completely bypassing the Old Faithful area. I decided, though, that I wanted to go past Old Faithful. I’d been to Yellowstone many years ago, and the geyser basin is something I’ve been looking forward to revisiting. So what I’m going to do instead is follow the CDT through Yellowstone, and then cut off the CDT by road walking directly into West Yellowstone, MT, starting the alternate there. (I think that will also be shorter, and it’ll include more of the CDT, including at least a portion of Idaho, which would be cut out entirely if I depart at Two Ocean Pass.)
I also arranged to send my old pack home, along with a few small items I’d collected on the trail that I didn’t need to be carrying.
All of that took several hours; I finally left the lodge shortly after six.
I returned to the dirt road that brought me to the lodge, and turned north, going past a campground that might have been nice to camp at, except that it did not allow tent camping due to problems with bears.
The trail left the road, becoming a somewhat wide trail that was unusually annoying to hike on: the trail had been completely churned up by horses, and was rough, bumpy, and uneven.
Passing Brooks Lake on the west, I continued north, heading through a meadow flanked with mountains.
I’d assumed that the trail got churned up by equestrians riding on the trail while it was muddy. But then I spotted over two dozen horses grazing in a field, so I couldn’t rule out that the horses were mangling the trail by themselves.
Continuing north, the trail led me past Upper Brooks Lake. Passing the north end of the lake returned me to the CDT.
Back on the CDT, I kept hiking for another half hour or so, and then began hunting for a campsite. With daylight running out, I settled on one near the bottom of a stream valley, in way too much grass. There was a flattish area that someone else had clearly camped in within the last few days. It wasn’t ideal, but the climb on the other side of the creek looked to be along a steep side of a mountain, and a better campsite within the next few miles seemed unlikely.
Thanks to the late start and long stop at Brooks Lake Lodge, I only hiked twelve and a half miles today. With my detour cutting off 13 miles, though, it’s still as though I got a full day closer to the end of the trail.
It’s a little too early to tell, but, my new pack (with working load lifters) does seem to be an improvement on my old one. Hopefully a long day tomorrow will be sufficient to see if the pack is working better than my old one.