1. LLAMA RESUPPLY AT BAKER LAKE TRAILHEAD
Beau Baty from Windy Ridge Wilderness Trail Llamas from Idaho Falls met us at the Baker Lake Trailhead with 6 fresh llamas. Beau wanted to rest those that overheated and were sore and to ensure that Bob and I had the strongest ones for the 500 mile trail. Great service considering he was getting 18 llamas and a pack trip ready to go in 2 days!
Remember Johnny the "hot" llama, he stayed with us. What I love about Johnny is that he is an avid eater and drinks water at every stream. I think he has the right stuff to go the 500 miles. Sadly, Apple, the Apple of my eye, got stiff after day 5 so went home for a break.
Now we have Bono, Buddy, George, Granite, Jackson, Jasper, and Johnny. All wonderful.
SIXTH day on the trail and every bone in my body aches and every step is agony from a blister on my heal. Yesterday we climbed out of the Warm Springs creek and down to the Baker Lake trailhead...up 1,000 feet, down 1500 hundred. We had more miles to go today, but with Walt and AK Minnick joining us for the next five days, it helped.
Walt and AK have been in DC for the last 10 years so it has been a long time since we've done a trail with them. Walt is a Idaho businessman who served in Congress from 2008-2010, and has been a pragmatic environmental leader in the state for decades. AK is a political junkie like I am and has worked in party politics and on many campaigns. Both have been on many Jonas trips and it was nice to remember how much we enjoy their company.
After meeting the new llamas, sorting through gear, packing panniers, saddling the llamas, we finally left at 4:30 pm for a 3 mile climb and steep descent to Apollo Lake. It was hot, and with my painful blister, each step was agony. It was worth it, however.
Baker Lake is a popular hiking destination but we quickly leave this route to travel through a remote part of the Smokey Mountains that few reach. We know this by the number of fallen trees across the trail and the fallen trail signs.
I have a new appreciation for well used motorcycle trails. They are maintained by the riders who are courteous and and friendly. Even though we travel on Idaho's Centennial Trail for a while, the deadfall requires hours of detours and tough going for people and llamas.
I didn't even know that I had knee problems until a steep climb and a slight twist caused my knee to balloon and ache. Bob is the one with multiple knee braces, treatment with stem cell therapy for his gimpy knee. My thunder thighs have never failed me nor will they now. The first sign that I have to tread lightly was a slight weakening in my right knee after the tweak, an ache, though I can still easily walk without significant pain.
I put on a knee brace as a prophylactic measure but the swelling makes the brace unworkable.
My swollen knee is just the excuse I need to leave Bob, Walt, and Dennis and the 7 llamas at Vienna Mine to hike out the Smiley Creek Road to meet Karen Aquirre who is my hero for making the trip to pick me up. The Smiley Creek Rd is also washed out but after 3 miles I get my ride, then a milkshake at the Smiley Creek Lodge, before home, a bath and a home cooked meal with Pete Land, his wife Emily Copeland and children.
All of these things make my knee feel better plus no hiking for two days before going into the Sawtooths.
Our support team of one, Pete Land, for the Smokey Mts, has been on-call for the expected and unexpected. Expected was to deliver the Minnicks to the Baker Lake Trail and to transfer our trail notes and photos for our blog. Unexpected was bringing the frozen food we forgot to pack, to take out gear we didn't need, and to return my new iPhone that went on the blink after only 2 weeks. Unexpected was a return to Baker Lake TH to pick up AK who was feeling poorly from altitude sickness and then guiding Karen in trying to navigate backcountry roads around Smiley Creek to find Sarah when the road was closed. Pete is amazing and wonderful. He is only helping with one other resupply before he leaves, then what? I hope our upcoming mountain ranges won't be as eventful.
It is one thing to take an arduous wilderness trip with someone at age 50 when the relationship is fresh and you're still in love. Our 2 1/2 year in Alaska sojourn proved that. But now 20 years later, with all the wear and tear of routine and habit, I find that the relationship easily fragments into impatience, not listening, and into frustration, which is exaggerated by excessive fatigue from days of hiking that are too long, too hot, and too hard. The biggest challenge is knowing that the next day will be even harder as my aging body begins to break down.
Usually I have no problem with uncertainty but now that I hurt, I find myself being angry with Bob for choosing this long trail. He talks about how tired HE is, but he picked the route and our schedule. Like get a life....maybe add some more days to our schedule so we can go slower.
Unfortunately, and yet fortunately, we are not traveling on known trails. If we were, we'd be able to better gauge the length of time hiking each day. But Bob's ambitious route through Central Idaho's vast roadless and wilderness areas makes it impossible to know whether six miles will take 3 hours or 8 hours.
On our first rest day on Day 6, when I had time to catch my breath and lick my wounds, I realize that instead of being angry at Bob and the difficulty of our trip, that Bob and I need to take care of each other and help each other in order to get through each day, each week, each mile. It is going to be relentlessly hard despite the length of miles on any given day.
When I shared my epiphany with him this morning, Bob smiled and was visibly relieved and I am reminded even more why our relationship is so strong and why we will make it through each hard day on the trail.