Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dirty Feet, What a Treat! - 31 Mile day hike in the Swans - Trail #7

Yeah, I know, I know ~ nothing like starting an entry with a pair of dirty feet! Sorry about that but I wanted to show you the results of yesterday! No blisters, just caked on dirt from the trail.

Last week I convinced my friend Dave that we should do Trail #7 in the Swans (originally we talked about doing trail #7 in its entirety, but the voice of reason came out when we checked out the map a bit better, and realized this isn't the best time to do it with the bear activity at its highest point of the year). Susan (Dave's wife) and Jeff wanted nothing to do with our "plan".

The free weekend that we had in common was this weekend, and we decided on the same piece of trail that I did last year for my first Ultra Marathon (Swan Crest 57k). Come to find out that race was scheduled for this very same weekend.

We headed out of Missoula on Friday afternoon about 3:30pm to do the car shuttle. Since we weren't officially doing the "race" so we would have to be self sufficient and take one car to the end point (Swan Lake Forest Service Campground), and take the other where we would camp (Napa Point Trailhead).

Once we settled into camp and got everything organized we made dinner which was this delicious recipe that I found a few weeks ago....thought it might be good for a carbo load...Smoked Salmon & Artichoke Pasta.

We got to bed pretty early ~ just after it got dark enough to see the sky lit up with stars.

4:30am came early, we rolled up our tents, bags, pads, etc...threw them in the car and we were on the trail by 4:53am.
Dave and I did pretty well for the near hour or so in the darkness, despite the near crashes from tripping over a rock or stump or something. Depth perception and the details are not easy to see, even with a headlamp!

This is Dave ~ nice and close to a sign to check out what it says. We thought it would be pretty disheartening if we lost our way that early in the trek!!! So, we double checked at each intersection in the darkness.

To wait for the sun to rise was quite suspenseful, since by the time it was starting to lighten the sky we had made our way up to INSPIRATION PASS. Let me tell ya, it was such an inspiration, especially the time of day we happen to hit it...

We had climbed and climbed to get up to this pass and then we stayed up high for quite a while making our way around these cool rocks and scraggly trees, and high mountain lakes.

After this first part of the trail - the minutes, the hours, the day just seemed to slip by. The scenery was amazing on this trail and I almost wanted to eat it! Same urge I had last weekend. I think it is the mix of colors in the landscape this time of year that get me. We saw every shade of red, yellow, and orange in the underbrush coupled with vibrant greens of the tufts of beargrass, tamaracks and lodgepole pines, and a sky of blue blue blue. Oh, and those high mountain lakes were a color all their own.

We saw these really neat flowers (this may be what they look like when they have gone to seed) They look like a long plumed aven (aka Prairie Smoke) but they had different leaves. The leaves looked similar to the leaves of carrots. Do you know what it is? Doesn't it look like the back of a woman's head, with the wind blowing her hair (ok, the neck is a little scrawny)? We also saw tons and tons of pearly everlasting, and huge patches of fireweed that had gone by.

We saw lots of traces of bears - holes in the trail where they had dug for food, huckleberry stains on rocks, foot prints and of course ~ scat. We saw deer and tons of deer and elk tracks, too. It was a heavenly wilderness day in the mountains of Montana.

Once we got to about mile 26 we started to drop rapidly in elevation and filtered some nice cold mountain water for the rest of the hike.

We were also able to see Erik running in the race three different times! He looked strong each of the times that we saw him and it is no surprise that he came in third! Congratulations E! You rock!

The whole trip took us 9 1/2 hours almost exactly. And just in case some of you folks from Maine are still reading...The distance we went is roughly the distance from Houlton to Danforth, or, Portland to Bowdoinham....but it was not flat and not at sea level. We gained a total of 7500 ft through the course of the day.

It was a great hike that Dave and I have already talked about doing the run next year. My plans were to run that race again this year until the plans of Iceland took hold. Maybe it will work out that I run it next season. I better start training!

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