Tuesday, August 18, 2015

June 25 Day 60 - June 27 Day 62 - The Story of Dana Spring

This is the part where I pull the bad blogger card as well as the serious hiker fatigue card. I stopped taking pictures. Whether it was because my phone's storage was full, I really do need to get a phone with more memory next time around, or I just wasn't seeing the beauty around me, I'm unsure. It was more Montana. A lot of the same. A lot of great views that all start to look like the same great views we just saw.

Anyway, Guy and I left Lincoln later than everyone else. They got on trail in the late morning and Guy and I took our time and hung out with Frodo at the pass.  I was quite down on the day out of town. My mood couldn't seem to stabilize and I definitely felt like I needed some space. Guy was forced to listen to me lament existence for a while and ask him questions about what motivated him to keep hiking on. It was time for some solo hiking. We both came to terms with that idea. We were technically both out here as solo hikers and we had both wanted time alone to hike and experience the wilderness for ourselves. The opportunity came in the form of Papi Chulo.

Papi had plans to rent a car in Helena, our next town stop, and head toward Missoula, where he would meet his friend and go play in the hot springs nearby.  Anybody who wanted to head that way as well was welcome to join. My dad reached out to me to let me know that I had family in Missoula and they were particularly wonderful family members who I should go visit if I could, his best-friend-cousin and his cousin's wife. The timing was spot on, as it often is on trail, and I decided to join Papi, Beads, and Kramers and head to Missoula for a couple of days. Guy and I thought this would be a great opportunity to have solo hiking time too. He would head out from Helena and take the Butte route, the official CDT, which is almost 100 miles longer than the Anaconda Cutoff, an alternate that most hikers take. I would take the Anaconda route in order to catch up to Guy and Guy would do big miles on the Butte and we'd meet in Darby. Lots of places you've never heard of, doesn't matter, it's a good plan.

Great. And so the stretch from Lincoln to Helena was rather uneventful aside from my lack of spirit and constant attempts at not bringing Guy down as I questioned the meaning of life. As we do sometimes. It was also toeing 90-100 Degrees outside almost every day. That may have instilled a deeper feeling of mortality and nihilism to my hike.

We had longer water carries than usual, like 10 miles up mountains, which wouldn't be terrible in theory but was because of the heat. On a particularly hot day near the end of this stretch we were looking forward to Dana Spring, the water source at the end of this particularly elevation-y 10 mile stretch. I had finally gotten to a point of irritation with clothing at this point that I took scissors to dress and cut about an inch and a half off the bottom of my hiking dress to use as a wrap around shirt/bra with my swimming suit style underwear. I couldn't wear more than that with this heat. Luckily my skin doesn't burn easily, but I did apply sunscreen just in case, especially to the paler parts of my now exposed body.

We both ran out of water by the time we got to the top of the climb and it was still another few miles downhill to Dana Spring. It would be an extraordinary understatement to say that we were parched by the time we saw the spring in the distance. Mouth gummy, head floating, body moving a bit more sluggishly than usual, but there was the spring, .5 miles ahead! A wooden fence surrounded the spring itself to keep the cows out, and the metal pipe was just down the hill allowing the fresh water to pour into a trough.

We quickly filled up our water straight from the pipe, no filtering, and drank a liter immediately. Then we proceeded to dump cold water on ourselves and dance around in joy at the prospect of being hydrated once again. It was a great time for lunch and maybe a nap in the shade, so we made our way to a copse of trees nearby with our full water bottles. There were chatted, ate, and dozed, covered from head to toe to keep the biting bugs away. We were in full horsefly and mosquito season now.

As I adjusted my position at one point, I opened my eyes and saw a hiker passing by, away from the trees, closer to the spring,  Chrome Dome sun umbrella up.  Could it be? It looked like Grim! I called out, startling Guy from his sleep, and sure enough, Grim turned and smiled and came our way! We were wondering when he was going to catch us! He had been sitting at the spring for an hour and a half without us seeing him in our tree shelter! We almost missed him! He told us his story about meeting some other hikers, Handstand and Machine Gun, who he's been hiking with, which slowed his pace down from our projected Grim catch up path. He also asked us if we saw the squirrels in the spring.

Excuse me? Squirrels in the spring!? Questions we communicated with silence and seriously significant looks to each other.
"Yah, there's like 7 of them dead in there. Did you not see the post on Facebook about it?"
"You did filter the water before you drank it right?"
"No................" Uh oh!
"They looked very healthy." Grim assured us.
"Healthy looking dead squirrels?" Guy asked with a defeated laugh. The poor guy is vegan too.

After a bit of back and forth about who would get sick first, or at all, me or Guy, Grim concluded (he's a nurse) that Guy would be the more likely one to get sick because he had taken antibiotics more recently than me and he was vegan so his gut bacteria would be less ready to deal with rotting animals. Score?

This worry remained in the back of our minds for the next few days, waiting for an inevitable bout of severe diarrhea that never came. Thankfully. Those squirrels were eventually removed by the caretakers of the spring and future hikers were much less queasy about drinking the water, filtered or unfiltered.

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