Thursday, May 21, 1998
Friday, May 22, 1998
At the North Fork Cafe we met the other two groups of Hampers. Ron, Randy and Bailey came from Livingston. Frank, Al, Birch, Foster and Jaz came from Boise. Three Hampers missed the trip -- Marvo, Rando and Sing Sang.
The drive to get to the trailhead became more than we bargained for. In fact, it became our entire trip.
We left around 2:00 p.m. for Crags Campground, following the road along the North Fork of Salmon River and Panther Creek. It was a long drive, broken up by a nice stop in historic Shoup, another tourist trap, and a capsized kayaker in the North Fork.
Even with the light mist that surrounded us, it was a beautiful drive. High, craggy mountainsides and water tumbling rapidly over the river rock were our views of this 50 mile drive. It was certainly the longest dirt road I've ever been on.
Unfortunately the navigable part of the road was about 10 miles short of the actual length of the road. High (maybe 7,500 feet) into the mountains we got the vehicles stuck in snowdrifts. From there on, the road would be our trail.
We put our packs on our backs, our showshoes on our feet and hiked about two miles before it started getting dark. We made camp on a slight hillside, cokked some dinner and had a few drinks. At some point, the light rain turned into light snow that continued to fall until morning.
Saturday, May 23, 1998
Throughout the day, the clouds lifted slightly so that the rain and snow were almost non-existant, yet we could still not see the ridges and mountains that certainly surrounded us.
From the all the man-made structures we found at Big Deer Creek trail, such as fence rails, game poles and a shitter, we figured that horsepackers frequented the area for many years. Up on the hillside behind us, we saw some rather large tracks in the snow that were very likely a bear passing through just days before.
It was a fairly tough day of hiking and it reflected in our quiet reflection around the fire that night.
Sunday, May 24, 1998
Looking at our two days ahead we decided to head back toward the vehicles and try to drive to Panther Creek Hot Springs (a relatively short drive) after hiking the 8 miles out.
I was disappointed we didn't make it into the Crags area -- especially since we got good views of them on the way back. I was also hoping for some trail hiking, but we were simply too high up to avoid using the snowshoes almost all the time.
On the way out, we got lots of sun and some stunning views of Cathedral Rock along with mountain ranges to the northwwest and southwest.
Once again, daylight and our energy level determined that we would not make it to our intended destination. Instead we found a spot in the road with incredible scenery and then hiked straight up the hill a hundred feet or so for even better views and a somewhat sloped campsite. Because the hillside was so open, most of the snow had melted away. Even with the steepness, it was a great campsite.
Terbo and I, tentmates for the past two nights, slept outside along with Frank and Birch. We could see brilliant stars and the full Milky Way above our heads. The crisp mountain breeze both refreshed us and kept us slightly awake throughout the night. That was okay, though. It also allowed us to see the colors change in the night sky.
Monday, May 25, 1998
We spent a long time this morning lounging in the sun and taking photos before heading back to the vehicles.
The great weather followed us along our hike. It was very comfortable hiking weather -- we could ditch our warm coats and pants, and even our snowshoes for much of the hike. It gave me a lot of time to reflect, relax and think about my life and the future.
By the time we got to the cars, the hot springs weren't a likely destination. It was getting late and the boys from Boise had a long drive back. On top of that it had started to rain heavily.
We drove the long dirt road back to the North Fork Cafe and had a good dinner of ribs and Henry Weinhard's.
I said to myself and others that I would love to come back to this area to raft the river or hike to the lakes we missed. Of course, when the weather was a little better, and the snow was melted a little more.
For never having a trail, it was a great hamp.
We rolled into Missoula around 2:00 a.m. and flew to Grand Rapids the next day.