CDT mile 1625.5, Miles hiked 15
When my alarm went off I rolled over and slept for an extra 20 minutes. The fear of the fire had me up most of the night and I needed a few more zzz’ before walking. Cheezy and I packed up and could see the smoke in the valley away from us. We loaded up water and started into the unknown. Would there be water, had the fire moved towards us, would the trails we needed exist, what had happened to the boys? So many questions we couldn’t answer so we did the only thing in our power, we walked towards Dubois on the path we had chosen.
The trail was a nice old dirt road, to our surprise, it was marked and well maintained, thanks, ATV riders. We walked up and down the gentle hills and through large meadows and some forest. We could smell the smoke and the air was thick making it feel like we were smoking while hiking. The trail eventually lead us to moon lake. It was a nice like tucked into the mountains. We had a snack, loaded up water and then set off again.
The trail climbed up a steep hill to Salt Barrel Park. As we climbed the mountains we could see earlier disappeared into the smokey haze. We reached the top and couldn’t believe how bad the fires were. Luckily I was able to get a cell signal and download the map we were missing for the last road to Dubois.
We got on the road and walked by a series of radio towers. We could see Dubois off in the distance the town was closer than we thought so we started down our steep descent. In the next few miles, we would drop from 10,000′ to 6,900′. With each minute we got closer the smoke got worse I swear that fire was moving towards us yet we couldn’t see it. Eventually about a mile or two before town we descended into Lime Kiln Gulch. A broken gate read no trespassing but seeing how this was the only way to town, we said “screw it” and walked on through. The road took us deep into the gulch that looked liked it belonged in New Mexico with red rock and all.
After going through a few more gates we saw the cars moving through town and one person walking our way, “is that my Johnny?” Cheezy asked. Soon we saw it was, I took her hiking poles and she ran towards him, they embraced and the joy of their reunion was very moving. Johnny said hello and produced an ice cold soda from his pack for me. The three of us headed to town and grabbed a bite at the cowboy cafe.
Due to the fires, every hotel in town I was booked solid and the prices were sky high. Johnny had been staying about a mile from town at the Chinook Winds I called and scored the last room available for a coupled of nights. The boys arrived and shared their story of the fire.
The three of them had walked the closed road and Soju had fallen behind. The police eventually picked him up and dove him to the evac camping area where Maverick and Buttercup were. They spent the night a half mile from the fire with the locals who had been evacuated. When they woke up the walked the road to the CDT at the pass. The fire was right there and they were quickly picked up and dropped off at the cafe.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing, and resting. All of us were a bit shot from the last two days of fire walking and all we wanted was some good food and rest. The town of Dubois is smokey but there are still lots of tourist and 600+ men and women here helping fight the fires.