I was up just before the sun, drinking coffee and writing. When day broke I was once again surrounded by incredible beauty. This trail so far has been world class in views and terrain. It’s not easy, but then again, most things worth doing aren’t easy.
I touched the Imnaha river again. Remember night one when I descended from Hawkins Pass to sleep near the headwaters? Well here I was again near the end of the Imnaha’s run to the Snake River. This river does have a road alongside it the whole way, but I would love to come back with boats and experience this landscape from moving water.
The problem with hiking down from the top of these ridges is that you have to go up the other side. I was looking at a climb of over 4,000′ in just a few miles. By the time I set off it was late morning, and for October, the temps were in the 70’s….all things leading to a sweat-fest of a climb.
The first marker I saw was for the Nee Me Poo Trail, which is what the Nez Perce call themselves…to really put this climb and moment in place, I was listening to Thunder in the Mountains, the heart-wrenching story of Chief Joseph’s attempt to keep his tribe’s homelands of the Wallowa Valley for his people when homesteaders started trespassing in the mid to late 1800s. Ultimately they were pushed out; this trail I was walking was part of their exodus. (BTW, remember that I finished the CDT at the Chief Joseph Mountain trailhead on the Canadian border? Yep, the Indians marched from right here, their homelands that are at this moment under my feet, to Canada via Montana). I have a lot of rage and anger for what “progress” and “manifest destiny” did to the people we thought were inferior. I have a lot more reading and thinking to do, and my understanding of the Nee Me Poo people is just beginning. This history is part of the Blue Mountains Trail. It’s almost too much to take in, but my hope for the development of this route is to give hikers a reading and resource list so we can be learning as we are moving through this landscape. It’s past time for us as hikers to engage in a deeper way with the places we are walking through.
So back to the climb. It was brutal, but actually there was a lot of shade, berry bushes, apples, and water. It was gorgeous.
When I was almost back on top I collapsed onto the ground in a puddle of my own sweat. I lay flat out for a good half an hour before I considered moving again.
Fortunately the next few miles were on a blissfully graded old road (I LOVE a road walk after a hard section of trail).
I was meeting Christina from the Greater Hells Canyon Council at Buckhorn Campground in a few hours. I had mailed her a resupply box, and she offered to come out and camp with me for the night. Company! Food! More bandaids!
I got to the campground and chatted with a few hunters who immediately offered me cold drinks and various other luxuries. I hobbled down to a spot by a deliciously cold spring, and proceeded to sit and air out my blisters until Christina drove up.
What a night! She made amazing food, brought fresh fruit and veggies, chips and salsa, wine…it was a wonderful evening and I know I connected with another kindred spirit trying to navigate this world with intention and grace. So far the people I have met on this hike give me hope, and its exactly what I need right now.