The Dago Diaries

One Italian American's Journey Along America's Great Divide

Day 119 Leadore, ID

CDT mile 1970.4, miles hiked 23.8

sunrise on the divide


I jumped out of bed this morning it was brisk but I knew I was going to town and as a bonus I would see my buddy dirt monger there.  I packed quickly and we set off in the dark.  A few shooting 

stars streaked the sky as we climbed up to the ridge.  It was a wonderful twilight and we watched far away as the sun crept over the eastern mountains and the valleys below.
We stopped to strip off clothes and get ready for the warmth.  The trail followed along the divide and then dropped us down only to place is at the base of elk mountain.  The mountain was our big climb for the day, 1500′ and it was steep at times.  We climbed away and about halfway up came across a small herd of animals.  We weren’t sure what they were they sort of looked like caring but maybe was just a group of teenage male elk.


We finally made the ridge crest and Tatu jobstopped to see if he hit a signal, he did.  So we called Sam at the leadore inn to arrange a pick up at 3:30pm.  As we rolled the ridge and the descent, which actually had a ton of up and down, we got closer to pass.  At 3:28pm we rolled down to the road, Sam was there dropping off 6 sobo’s.  Now anyone who is in Idaho heading south this late is a fool and will most likely get snowed out or not finish, unless you are Dirtmonger or legend and doing 40 mile days.
We jumped into Sam’s truck and away we went to leadore.  Sam is a great guy and his to and from trail service is great beachside bannock pass is remote with very little traffic so having a ride is huge deal.  We asked Sam about some recent drama we saw on Facebook about the ride and what it cost, basically he told us this, “I do it for tips $5 covers my gas, $10 covers gas and some of my time, $20 makes me smile all day”. Now granted this round trip is about 45 minutes to an hour for him, and you can fit as many hikers at once so it’s a damn good deal.


When I arrived my good friend Dirtmonger who is like a brother to me cam walking out and yelled “nerds”.  It was so awesome he was there we piped into the room and all states to catch up and hang out.  We retrieved my many boxes besides my regular resupply Suzy had sent me new shoes and long underwear plus my alcohol stove to finish the trip.  My brother don and his wife Julie sent me home made ginger cookies and few other treats, Shera sent me a box of awesome snacks, and my frowns space girls had sent me goodies too.  Needless to say the boys and I crushed the cookies and then figured we better have lunch before sorting all the food.
We went to the bar and ordered drink for all and burgers, as the food came out we started to eat.  All of a sudden Charge started to get dizzy and few faint.  We got him some water but it didn’t help he got all sweaty and his eyes went glassy.  Dirtmonger and I held him from falling over and he went into a state of unconscious.  We fetched a Gatorade and got him to take some sips.  I ran to the hotel to fetch up rehydrating salts and by the time I returned he was alert and doing better.  Man that was a hell of a scary moment and changed things for charge as he decide it was best to keep hiking with us to Darby.
After the scare we we t back to the hotel, drank beer, watched the okympics and caught up. Dirtmonger is a great guy who for the past couple of years had rough go at if.  I helped him through the good and bad and we have become very close on life.  To get over his troubles he worked his butt off all winter and is now out hiking for a year.  It was great to catch up on trail and joke around and just have day to enjoy with minimal chores and no where to go.  I think I needed to see him as much as he needed to see me.
We neede the day with another trip to the bar to have some fun and food.  We drank beers and played pool.  Our little Korean friend themometer was there and we brought him along and got him whisky.  The little old guy has motored along the trail to this point, but now his time has come to an end, he is having leg problems and running low on cash so he told me in his own way it was time to go home. 
Finally at 11pm we called it a night and went home to get some rest, well amongst the snoring and darting we managed to get some.

Draft 118, Tatu-Jo’s School of Simple 30’s

CDT mile 1946.6, miles hiked 30.2

an old cdt marker leading the way


The alarm went off at 4:30am we to be hiking by 5am.  Charge was already up and packing when I stirred he takes a bit longer so he was up first getting ready so he could leave on time.  I let my stove and made some coffee as I packed up.  It’s the persons meteor shower so as I was packing I watched some shifting stars.
With headlamps on we started down the trail, we had a few hill climbs up and down and as the dark turned to light we descended into a valley to circle a mountain.  As the sun rose we were greates by amazing colors and soft alpenglow on the mountains.  We stopped as the sun warmed us to strip down and put on sunblock.  We at snacks and got back to hiking.  By 9 am we had done 10.5 miles, Tatu-Jo said it was time for our hiker Union break so we all sat down to snack and bs.

palying with elk bones


We kept going, we weren’t hiking super fast but we were getting in miles.  We were able to talk and we have been getting to know charge better, he’s a solid guy from Spokane Washington who works in Vail in the winter.  He is super chill and really smart and bonus he is my age so we have plenty to talk about.  He is planning to come with us to leadore and spend the night, so with our simple 30’s we’ll be there tomorrow.

amazing rocky mountains


The trail wasn’t so easy today we had lots of hills and small mountains to go up and down.  It was mostly grassy and sage brush but at times the trail disapeared and we did lots of cross country.  As we came down one hill we met two sobo’s, elevated was a nice gir from Australia and the other guy was at kickoff but didn’t recognize me.  I guess my new Afro, big beard and new thin figure have me incognito these days.
After the next climb be plopped down to eat again and take I the views of the mountains as far as we can see.  It was about 3 and we had done over 20 miles.    We lounged and then got back to it.  We walked and took breaks and rolled the last 10miles up and down hills enjoying the day at a nice pace.  
We loaded up at the last spring and stated the climb until we found some trees to cowboy camp in.  Tatu-Jo told us that we did good and this was his way of doing simple 30’s get up before dawn, walk leisurely all day and wala 30 miles done.  
Now it’s time to sack out and do it all over again tomorrow.  I got a message on my Delorme from my good friend Dirtmonger who is coming southbound he is going to be at the pass tomorrow when we get there so we all plan to spend a nice evening in leadore and catch up.  It will be great to see him and hear about his epic hiking season so far, he has already done the sky island traverse in Arizona, the pct Nobo and now is hiking the CDT.  I can’t wait to see the guy he is like a brother to me and catching up in town is something we weren’t sure could happen but thanks to Tatu-Jo’s simple 30’s it is going to happen afterall.

Day 117 old home day

CDT mile 1916.4, miles hiked 29.8

charge getting ready for the day


I awoke to Tatu Jo’s alarm at 4:30, rolled over and passed back out.  My Altham finally rose me about 5:25, I did my morning routine and at 6 am we walked out of camp.  Zorro and easy strider were still asleep so tj said, “come on boys time to get up we are out of here.”  We never saw them since as I imagined they kept on sleeping and woke up an horror tow later.
We strolled along the first five miles and eventually found Charge packing up to go.  He got in front of us yesterday and we finally caught him.  The three of us took off an hoed together for the day.  The trail went up and down like the day before but not as dramatically.  During one of our climbs the sky was begging to get dark, we looked up the hill and saw a hiker coming our way.  As he got closer we recognized him it was Half Mile and hiker famous for mapping the pct and then making a free gps app for all hikers to download.  He is hiking the CDT this year for fun and had flipped from NM.  It was fun seeing him I we chatted for a while and then got moving.

rain on the horizon


The sky got very dark and and a storm moved in over us.  We stashed electronics, and put on rain gear.  As we got close to a gate we saw a southbounder coming our way, it was girl and we recognized her, it was Dora the Explorer who I know from the sierras last summer.  We ran up to her and greates eachother, she talked about the hike and then told me she was hiking with D=RT and hiker I have known for some years.
We hiked on and tried to find the buffalo caves, unfortunately they have been filled in by the quarry, but we spotted a hiker so I yelled dirt and low and behold he came up to say hi.  I nearly didn’t recognize him his hair is long, his beard like a wizards and he had lost over 40lbs.  We caught up and then each went out own way.

sunset before camp


The storm picked up and dropped rain and hail for a bit before tapering off.  We pushed our way up over the hills trying to make deadman lake.  We did some bushwhacking to save miles, made the lake by 7:45 and kept going.  For our final miles we climbed a large hill and tucked into the trees to sleep.  A late dinner, some blogging and now sleep tomorrow we plan to do a mid 30 so I need all the rest I can get.

Day 116 hiking with Tatu-Jo

CDT mile 1886.6, miles hiked 21.1

the trail boss tatu-jo is on his way to his double triple crown


The day started with any little sleeping in, then a shower, then heading to Jan’s Cafe for a hot breakfast.  When Tatu-Jo and I walked in we found zorro and Popeye already eating, we sat down with them and ordered up some food.  We all chatted about the trail the past few months and popeye’s new chapter. Popeye’s wife was arriving today from Belgium to come hike with him to the end.  He lamented how he would miss us but he is determined to finish the trail this season.

crossing the grassy hills of the montana and idaho line


TJ and I then headed to the po to mail some stuff, grabbed a few last snacks at the Exxon station and then at 9:30 mile from the motel drove us and charge back to the trail. TJ had already done the 2 mile frontage road walk so mike dropped him off and then charge and I walked together to catch him.  A few miles in and we found him sitting in sage bushes waiting for us.  We all walked together for about 6 miles and the we took a break but charge carried on (he doesn’t take breaks, crazy).  
Tatu Jo and I enjoyed some snacks then took the alternate up modoc creek which was longer but stayed low.  We ended the alternate with a bushwhack through sage brush up a dry creek bed to the top of a ridge which is the actual continental divide.  From there we stated what many south blunders describes as a terrible roller coaster.  We however thought it was very pleasent and we enjoyed walking in open ridges and going up and down all day.

the hills here are amazing but kicking our butts


The day went by quick we had so much to catch up on since we have last seem eachother a year ago.  We told stories, took our time and enjoyed some awesome views and breaks on the divide.  It’s a real treat to hike with Tatu Jo he is a very accomplished hiker, in his 50’s and had worked with me on the board of ALDHA west for 2 years.  It’s great to be out here with him.
As we came down off the ridge we saw a large herd of elk about 200 or so.  Their hoof steps sounded like horses and we watched them for bit as the crossed a meadow and ran up the hillside.  It must be getting close to fall because the babies are getting big and the Bulls are starting to bugle.
As the day was wondering down we heard a shout and saw easy strider and zorro on the ridge above, looks the 4 of us will be rolling together for the time being.  It’s funny how the trail provides and how things come full circle, I was alone but now in company and two of the guys I already know so from here out it will be a new experience with these guys and one I look forward to.

Day 115 Lima, MT

Miles hiked 0

sketchy hanging her shoes on tye show tree in lima


Lima is the kind of town that you can spend a week in in one day.  I started my day with a trip to the post office for my bounce box, and then I rolled to Jan’s cafe for some breakfast.  I had an awesome meal and the side of ham was an actual ham steak.
The day was spent relaxing and doing chores, at 10am Tatu Jo rolled up and he got right into his groove having food and catching up.  We sorted food and had a good lunch.  Zorro and Popeye showed up a few hours later and we all had lunch and had a good time catching up.

big moose of the bar


Zorro told me his tale of the grizzly attack.  He was walking down Leeds creek when a grizzly popped outbid the bushes 40 yards away, the bear saw him and immediately started to charge.  Not knowing how to use his bear spray or having time to react he did the only thing he could think of he dropped to the ground and acted dead.  The bear kept coming and ran right over him.  He punctured his pack and just kept going. Glad it was him and not me.
At 6pm mike from the motel came in and dropped off spirit, veg, skecthy, way strider and stop and go, my god it was a hiker party.  We all rolled down to the Peat where you cans grill your own steak, we all enjoyed it and the experience was aomething I will never forget.

grilling steaks in lima

Day 114, on the way to Lima, CA

CDT mile 1865.5, miles hiked 27

the view from camp, the big wide empty


I was awoken at 1:30 am by the smell of smoke, I got up to pee only to find the air thick with smoke and ash, dang it was there another fire? Oh well it was too late to think about it so I crawled back in my tent and passed out until my alarm went off.  I woke up and it still smelled like smoke but I couldn’t tell where it was from so I made breakfast, packed and set off for a 27 mile day.
About 45 minutes in I ran into dances with chickens who I met in Colorado back in March at the Rockies ruck.  We bs’ed for about 15 minutes and then each of us went out own way.  I stopped at a spring to fill up on water, put on sunblock and eat a snack.  The day was a giant PUD, pointless up and down, however it stuck to the divide and the ID/MT line.  It wove through some woods but mostly was on ridges and high desert.  

the divide here is a spine of high desert


I kept track of my mileage and tried to take short breaks.  One thing I now do is set a timer for 20 minutes and keep my breaks shorter, I knew if I hustled I could make town for dinner.  I stopped at one of my last water sources at 10:30, rock springs.  It was in the heart of the sheep research area and the water tasted like metal and sheep poop but is was water none the less so I filled my bottles and carried on.
At noon I saw two sobo’s sitting off trail having lunch, they said, “hey it’s lunch time join us,” so I did.  Steve and Cathy are from Jackson and the same age as me, we enjoyed a nice leisurely lunch and chatted for an hour.  It was so nice to have a meal with them and share our adventures and stories of our lives.  We parted ways and I continued on, I still had 14 miles to go.
I met dog on the way up my last climb, he was another sobo who was wearing American flag shorts and he was character.  I made the steep climb and went from thick woods back to high desert, I love the desert and high desert is the best with sage brush and scrubby little trees.  The trail lay ahead of me over some hills and then down to the valley.  

my future in the distance


I stopped and called the more to arrange a ride and a room for the evening. I took a look and only had 10 miles to go.  I rooms a break in the shade, fueled up and then threw on some tunes to crank out the last miles.  It felt like a Pink Floyd day so I listend to wish you were here, the division bell and ended with the wall.  As the music played I got lost in my thoughts and before I knew it I was at the highway.
I called Mike at the mountain view motel and then waited by I-15 for him to get me.  Tatu-Jo called me while I was there, him Popeye and zorro are 15 miles behind and will see me tomorrow we are going to hike out together so I guess my solo time is ending for now.

trail art work by the highway


I have really enjoyed being alone, more than I ever thought I would.  Those three guys are great though so spending some time on trail together will be a good time, and I really want to hear zorro’s bear story first hand.

thank god for signage

Day 113, Solitude

CDT mile 1838.5, miles hiked 25.2

walkingvthrough a sheep research area


I awoke at 5:15 hoping to get a jump on the day and do close to 30 miles so tomorrow would only be a low 20 into Lima.  When I went for my food bag I could see the sky was still dark and lightening in the distance, by the time I was back at my tent it was hailing and thunder was rumbling.  I jumped in and zipped it up right as the rain started to come down.  I made breakfast and took a look at the weather and the radar, I was screwed, a big front was coming over me so I hunkered down and took the one to eat and rest.  At 7:15 the sun finally broke through so I packed quickly and started hiking.

walking the border


I walked through open meadows and saw Taylor mountain in the distance it was fully exposed with storm clouds over it and I had to climb 1300′ up to its ridge and walk it for 3 miles.  As I descended to saddle to start my climb I met to sobo’s micheal and sue who had flipped from New Mexico to avoid the snow in Colorado.  We stopped and chatted before carrying on.  By the time I reached the saddle to start my climb the weather had cleared and the sun was out.
As I climbed I could see dark clouds off in the distance so I pushed hard to the ridge, when I got there I felt the first rain drops so I put on my rain jacket and rain skirt and started the long ridge walk, there was distant thunder but no lightening so I walked the ridge and then dropped down the trail to the next junction.  The sun came out so I yard saled my gear to dry and cooked up some lunch.  Not having a real dinner last night had left me pretty hunger and feeling weak.  
As I continued hiking I felt strong from the meal and was really enjoying being lost in my thoughts and hiking my own hike for the day.  I came to a long ridge that made up the Idaho/Montana border so for miles I walked the line that divides the states, let me tell you it’s just a bunch of grass and flowers and the occasional tree but it gave me great views of the surrounding landscape.  I met to sobo’s one from Russia and one from Germany we chatted for about 15 minutes and I think we all enjoyed the brief visit.  The rest of the day i didn’t see a soul and it was nice.

Angelina and Grande Burritto


The meadows gave way to a forest and eventually brought me to Aldous lake.  I kept waking to the next creek and cooled up my dinner, washed my socks, and my filthy feet and then stated up the climb.  I was hoping to maybe get in 5 more miles but the climb kicked my but and 3 miles up I found an open ridge top with a view to a valley on oneside and mountains to the other, so instead of descending into the woods I opted for a camp with a view.

a great sign and register


I was so worried about going this stretch alone but really I am enjoying it. The peace and quiet is good for me, I day dream about home and life after trail.  My day is filled with thoughts of Suzy and Karluk and what we might do in the next year.  It’s funny but after all this time hiking the CDT this is the first time I have truly found peace with myslef and I think being alone is benefiting me more than I ever thought it would.

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