[pct-l] Hidden in the Haze

Jim and/or Ginny Owen spiriteagle99 at hotmail.com
Wed Sep 6 10:07:00 CDT 2006

Yes, we are still alive.  At the moment, we're running around Ennis, MT, 
taking care of the usual town errands.  The last few weeks have been really 
good - albeit more difficult in some ways than expected.

Begin with fires - first we were kicked off the trail in Dubois, Wyoming 
because of a fire on the trail.  A few days later, as we were entering 
Yellowstone, we saw another huge plume of smoke and that telltale orange 
glow directly in front of us.  For the next 24 hours the question was, "Is 
the Lamar River Trail closed, or not?"  We didn't see any people, so it 
seemed like a possibility.  Turned out there was a fire on Calfee Creek, 
just off the trail, but ours was still open.  A week later, as we were 
hiking up the Gallatin Crest, we again saw smoke ahead of us.  Sure enough, 
there is a fire near Hyalite Peak, not far from our route.  See the pattern? 
  The whole area is blanketed in smoke at the moment - from at least four 
major fires.  We didn't see much of the Spanish Peaks - they were hidden the 
whole time we were hiking - but we know they are tall.

As you know, we decided to create our own route through Yellowstone and to 
the north.  We aren't quite finished with this alternate - but we can say 
that parts of it were really nice.  The river walks in Yellowstone were 
relatively easy, and quite pretty.  Though badly burned in the fires of '88, 
there is a lot of regrowth, and not all the old trees were burned, so it 
didn't have the depressing effect that fire damage usually has on us.  Eagle 
Pass was beautiful, and we really enjoyed Eagle Creek - but the North Fork 
of the Shoshone River looks like a war zone - total devastation from the 
fires and very little new growth yet.  Specimen Ridge in Yellowstone was a 
very long day (21 or 22 miles depending on which sign you believe), but a 
spectacular one.  The Sky Rim Trail on the northwestern edge of the park was 
also spectacular, especially the hike over Bighorn Peak.  We actually saw a 
lot of petrified wood in the petrified forest - pieces a foot or more long.  
That was fun - though of course we left it all in place for others to enjoy. 
We enjoyed the rest of Yellowstone, but the high country was especially 
beautiful.  The Gallatin Crest Trail north of the Park was a strenuous 
roller coaster, but felt very remote and had beautiful views while we were 
there (just before the smoke shifted).  I would have liked to do the whole 
route, but water issues forced us to shorten the hike at Windy Pass - which 
was an interesting hike in itself.  The Spanish Peaks area is very rugged - 
a real challenge.  With daily climbs and descents of 4000-6000', our knees 
rebelled, but it was still enjoyable.  There is a lot of water up there - 
lakes and streams everywhere.  The mountains are unlike the usual round 
yellow Montana ridges - these are steep granite with sharp peaks and lots of 
talus.  Very different - quite beautiful in its own way.

Wildlife was abundant.  We finally saw a bear, yesterday, but elsewhere we 
saw wolves, coyotes, foxes, bison by the dozen, elk, deer, moose, bald and 
golden eagles, antelope and mountain goats.  It was quite a hike.

People were also abundant.  Seems that hunting season is starting in 
Montana.  Mostly just goat and sheep right now, along with bow hunting, but 
they are out there.  Time to get out the orange vests.

Physically we're a bit tired and sore, but nothing unusual.  Mentally we're 
still charged to continue.  We'll be flipping to Glacier when we reach 
Butte, then hiking south.  We're looking forward to the next couple of 
months.  Fall is here - the leaves are turning, the hills are red and 
yellow, nights are getting very chilly - but the days are still warm and the 
hiking is terrific.

Walk softly.

Ginny and Jim


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