BMT Day 17 – 26.8 miles (312.6 total)

The antidote to great effort is great rest. The need for a great rest was becoming more and more apparent as my energy levels and motivation waivered. 

The route today was to follow a trail in the Bear Creek drainage for over five miles, then pop up at the Summit Guard Station and then drop steeply into the Five Points drainage on a trail that probably wasn’t there. That sounded like a whole heck of a lot of effort, and as I was reviewing the map and terrain last night saw there was another trail that climbed up out of Bear Creek after maybe a mile, and then I could connect back up to the route near the top of Mt Emily just north of La Grande. I decided that I’d let the Bear Creek trail make my decision for me. If the trail was in good shape, I’d take the trail. If not, I’d consider the hike out.

And the Bear Creek trail was the trail that time forgot. I found the tread, but there were trees growing over the trail….thats how long it has been let go, maybe 10 years? It was slow going. It was hard walking.

this is trail, or was trail

I decided to choose the river gauntlet as opposed to the trail gauntlet. The river had been scoured clean like many of the others in the area, but this smaller creek also contained a lot of log jams, so I had to carefully climb up and over them. Packrafting has given me a lot of great experience with climbing over log jams…and it is easier to do without a boat…but it was still not easy. 

This bushwhack stood between me and the way out. The only thing to do was put my head down and hope I didn’t get poked in the eye. Literally. 

By the time I got to the first side trail I had gone a mile and a half in an hour and a half. By this rate I’d get to La Grande in another week. No good. I saw a way out and I took it. Into the unknown again. 

free of the bushwhacking!

I climbed steeply up the trail that went up the spine of another ridge. Once I reached the two-track road on top, my efforts of hiking the first three miles of the day had taken three hours. So tired. I’m tired. And the road was not flat.

hard but stunning

I put on some David Bowie and powered up. My reserves were low and sputtering on empty. That road was a cruel joke. That road took what little effort I had left and ground it under its steep rocky boot. The only thing moving my legs at this point was the magnetic pull of La Grande. The Big. I’ll be there as soon as I can. I put on the Beastie Boys, and substituted “Brooklyn” for “La Grande”. No sleep till La Grande!!

So that was when the thought entered my head that I would just keep moving, whatever the speed and just get where I get (maybe town?) I didn’t look at the mileage between me and La Grande, I knew it was a lot. 

So I walked and walked. I transcended the effort and distracted myself with podcasts…and fortunately Mount Emily was a beautiful amazing distraction. The views up top were INCREDIBLE. No words to do it justice.

On the south side of the mountain I entered MERA, a system of trails for hikers, bikers, horses, and ATVs. What an awesome recreation infrastructure so close town! I was already getting a serious crush on La Grande.

And wow, what an entrance! Damn La Grande! I like! It was one of the most scenic and beautiful entrances to a town I’ve seen. I walked down out of the mountains near dusk with pinks and purples streaking the sky. 

I walked right to the first hotel I could find that had laundry available (very important) and checked in for three nights. The time for great rest had now begun.

View all photos here

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