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Jo - Continental Divide Trail Journal - 2017

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State: California
Country: USA
Begins: Apr 22, 2017
Direction: Southbound

Daily Summary
Date: Mon, Jul 20th, 2009
Start: Fifty Mountain
End: Granite Creek
Daily Distance: 12
Trip Distance: 31.8

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 1,014
Journal Visits: 95,133
Guestbook Views: 5,525
Guestbook Entrys: 18

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Leaving Fifty Mountain

Fifty Mountain to Granite Creek

In the morning, I awoke to the sound of hooves outside the tent. Sam and Kerry admonished me to keep Cody inside. This made me laugh—Mr. C. was out cold, he had no interest in the deer, he would much rather sleep as would I. We both rolled over and went back to sleep!

I finally got up at 7 a.m. We had camped in a field of Glacier Lilies—the setting was incredible. Kerry and Sam were already up and a nights rest had restored Sam to his normal self—his sickness was gone and his sense of humor had returned. He told me there were at least a half a dozen deer grazing around us earlier in the morning and as we packed up we discovered that one of Sam’s hiking poles was missing. At this point, I remembered the video and the salt loving animals so we hypothesized that the deer had taken the pole. We searched around and sure enough we found Sam’s pole about 30 feet from where we slept. The strap had been well-chewed and the handle was disgustingly wet with deer slobber! We told Sam he should feel honored that the deer liked his sweat and chose his pole. From that night on, the poles went in the trees with the food. We left nothing lying about.

We got on the trail at 8:30 a.m.—late for us, but we only had 12 miles to go so it would not be a long day. It turned out that the Fifty Mountain campsite was about 1/10th of a mile further on—we were very close. In retrospect, it was probably good that we didn’t find it in the night. We had stopped at 11 p.m. and it would have been impossible to locate our assigned campsite without disturbing the other campers. As it was, we used the pit toilet and got our bearings before starting yet another ascent on the mountainside.

Now in the light of day we could see the ancient rocks all around us. Glacier Park is made up of Belt Rocks—rock that is between 1.4 and 1.6 billion years old and is found only here in the Americas (It’s also found in Antarctica and Australia). The Belt Rocks formed west of here in a great inland sea and moved to this current location some 70 million years ago when continents collided and pushed these ancient rocks up and over newer rocks which now lie beneath. Where we were walking the Grinnell layer was prominent and easily recognizable by its redness. I had read about this before we left but I was excited to see and point out to Kerry and Sam the imprints of ripples and waters that had settled in the mud in that ancient sea. The sea-bottom impressions were now locked for all time in these mountains over 7,000 feet high—it was quite thrilling. Kerry and Sam became obsessed with finding new patterns in the rocks—we even found some that bore the circular shapes of stromatalytes—layers of calcium carbonate and sediment built up and trapped by colonies of algae. Just thinking about this makes my head spin—algae that lived a billion and half years ago must have been primitive indeed and these rocks are all that remain as evidence that they existed at all.

Walking along, the red scree became littered with green and then buff colored rocks of the upper rock layers—the Empire and Helena formations. I know nothing about geology but these rocks were easily identifiable. A disclaimer here—most of the information I refer to is from reading “Glacier” by David Rockwell—any misstatements are mine alone!

Eventually we came to Cattle Queen Creek and the fearsome Ahern Drift, which turned out to be not so fearsome at all. There was a group of rangers cutting a path across the Drift and creating deep holes into which they planned to drop explosives—for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why they would want to blow it up—there was so little snow there, it couldn’t possibly serve any real purpose to detonate it. This by the way, confirmed my assessment that we didn’t need the ice axes and my experience that unless the people (even if they are rangers and experts) have actually been to where you are going, you shouldn’t give too much weight to their advice—part of it, I’m sure, is motivated by fear of law suits.

We reached the junction to Granite Creek in the late afternoon and headed down the mountainside to the little campground by the creek. There we set up our tents, washed our clothes and ate our dinner. There were two other couples there and they both remarked that they were glad we had Mr. C. They too had been scared by stories of marauding bears. The way these campgrounds are set up is that each group has its own sleeping area but the kitchen and food hanging area is shared. None of us liked this arrangement, being used to camping where we want in the Sierra Nevada, away from people and their cares. This felt controlled, and to be honest, except for the absence of cars, we might as well have been car camping. It was disconcerting.

I finished writing my journal at 9:42 p.m. It was still daylight—darkness would not come for another hour but Kerry was already snoring quietly beside me.

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