Day 141: Gloom
Thursday, September 22, 2022 9:10 pm
Location: Beaver Lake (2116.7 miles)

A dismal, rainy day returned me to the CDT from the Spotted Bear Alternate.

The rain started sometime before 1 am. I woke up again after 5 am, with it still raining, to find water dripping from my tent’s ridge onto my sleeping bag and pack. Also, because of how the tent was sagging from the rain, water was seeping in from the vents at the foot of my tent, creating a giant puddle. (Though, one that was confined to that half of the tent, thanks to there being a slight slope.)

Waking up again after 7, by which point it had stopped raining, I ate breakfast and slowly got ready. When it started raining again just before 8, I went back to sleep, mentally exhausted from the past couple of days and just not feeling like going out in the rain.

I finally left camp shortly before 11, I think for the first time wearing my rain pants to hike in. The rain slowed to a light drizzle, and clouds of steam rose from nearby valleys. (I tried to keep an eye out, but though I didn’t see them, I assumed that Recon, Sprouts, and Velveeta passed sometime earlier.)

Clouds of steam from evaporating rainwater rises from the forest.

A steep downhill into forest gradually mellowed out as the trail began to follow near Clack Creek for the duration of its run downhill. Gray clouds remained overhead, but the sun started to peek through, and the rain mostly stopped. Of course, everything was wet, but the rain pants mostly kept the water off my legs, and a little bit out of my boots. (With the rain, I’d abandoned any pretense of not getting wet, but the longer I could keep my feet “dry”, the happier they would be.)

The trail diverted from Clack Creek to parallel the Middle Fork Flathead River a bit, before crossing. A series of logs and stones across the river might have made for a dry crossing yesterday, but with the rain today, water gushed over the logs and submerged the stones. I briefly thought about just charging through with my boots on, then relenting and switching to my crocs to keep from having completely soaked boots and socks.

Middle Fork Flathead River
Middle Fork Flathead RiverThe crossing of the Middle Fork Flathead River, swollen from the day’s rain.

With the rain temporarily abated, I stopped on the other side of the crossing for a snack break. The sun looked like it was trying to come out, but was being defeated by more clouds of steam rising from the valley. Gambling that the rain would remain stopped, at least for a while, I took off my rain pants and jacket. With an uphill coming up, I’d likely overheat if I kept them on.

Shortly after the crossing, the trail crossed another, dry, channel for the river. I was lucky; the rain hadn’t been sufficient to add enough water to the river to force it through both channels, because there would have been no chance for a dry crossing there if it had been flowing. Shortly past there, the trail passed by a large flat area (which would have been a great spot to camp at last night, if I’d had been able to get another two hours of hiking in) and the Gooseberry Cabin, which had a trail register showing Velveeta and Sprouts had already been there today.

The trail continued behind the cabin, turning east at a junction to parallel the river and head upstream. This section of trail was muddy and very slippery. Going around a bend, the trail turned north. Passing by the confluence of two creeks that formed the river, a small aspen grove stood in an island between the creeks, spared by the five that had otherwise ravaged the valley.

An aspen grove near the Middle Fork Flathead River was spared from a fire.

Raindrops started to fall at roughly the most inconvenient time possible — while I was digging a cathole. I hurried along, and was able to get hiking again before the rain really picked up again. But I was getting worn out (both physically and mentally), and tried to convince myself that it would just be another light drizzle, rather than an extended amount of rain.

I rejoined the CDT, just after the CDT crossed Strawberry Creek, one of the creeks that merged to form river. In doing so, the trail became a lot less muddy. The wind picked up, and I could hear it whistling through the forest of dead trees.

Strawberry Creek
Strawberry CreekStrawberry Creek flows through a burned area.

I followed Strawberry Creek uphill for a while, through a burned, ruined forest. If there were campsites anywhere, they were buried under fallen trees, or unsafe from from the still-standing snags.

Once the trail re-entered live forest, I stopped for a second break out of necessity. A light drizzle made it rather miserable, but at least the trees provided a little bit of shade from the wind.

The rain picked up as afternoon and early evening progressed. Parts of the trail became overgrown, which meant my feet got completely soaked. There was a long stretch with no camping spots, mostly as trail went through or nearby a burn area. As the sun dropped in the sky — not that I could see it doing so — the air got colder. The rain did as well. I started looking for campsites, hoping to stop sooner, rather than later. One campsite I was looking for was near a burn area; if there was a flat and safe spot to camp, I didn’t see it, though that could well have been because I was cold, and didn’t want to stop moving until I was actually stopping for the day.

By this point, it was raining hard enough that it was difficult to use my phone; even if I could keep rain off the screen, my fingers were still wet, and humidity from being in my pocket soaked onto the screen, making it not properly recognize when or where I touched the screen. I pushed on towards another campsite I was able to find in my trail guide, at Beaver Lake. By the time I’d gotten there, it was after sunset, and though I saw a tent, I almost missed the turn, only seeing it because I saw Sprouts returning to camp after getting water.

Recon, Sprouts, and Velveeta had already been there a while, and were sitting underneath a tree sort-of staying dry while cooking dinner.

I set up my tent, trying to get it under a tree to reduce the rain falling on it, without much success. With the rain even heavier than it had been, water got into the tent while I was setting it up. I didn’t have much of a way to dry it out; my towel was already wet from wiping the inside down this morning, and then not drying throughout the day.

I was quite cold, and I was exhausted, and for (I think) the first time this hike, I was too tired to even think about cooking dinner. Instead, I just ate snacks and extra pop tarts. It wasn’t anywhere enough calories to replace what I would have cooked, but at least it was something. Basically everything was wet. I changed out of my soaking wet clothes into dry clothes, and put on the pair of long underwear I’d gotten in Helena to help warm up. My feet hurt so much from the cold that I opened the packet of hand warmers I got in Helena and threw one of them into my sleeping bag, hoping that would help. They didn’t initially seem to work well, but after a while, they started to warm up and my feet stopped hurting.

Somehow, in spite of my late start and rainy weather, I managed to hike just under 20 miles today, so at least I made descent progress. But that didn’t keep today from being rather miserable. The Bob Marshall Wilderness is supposed to be one of the most scenic parts of the trail, but right now, I’m just not seeing it.