Bears, mosquitos and heat – oh my. At least this section was more real trail and less walking on roads across private property.
So first the bear. To help you understand, we weren’t really in a big bear area. We had just left Helena a few hours earlier and were walking on a an old jeep road with grass tall enough to be baled. I was in front as we rounded a bend and looked up to see large mass of fur about fifty feet ahead. It took my mind several seconds to process what I saw. It had blonde fur almost the color of a yellow lab, was the height of a small pony and almost as wide and had a short stubby tail. By the time I realized I was staring at grizzly butt, the bear was already running away. In the 1.5 seconds it took to grab my bear spray, it was gone. Of course this didn’t stop me from hiking with spray in hand for a while after.
The other major wildlife we dealt with was mosquitos. I say major because while they may not be large, at times their numbers darkened the sun. No amount of deet would keep them at bay. And we don’t use the wimpy spray you get at Walgreens; no we use a 95% pure deet solution that will melt plastic. Combined with the heat wave we had, the section offered a catch-22 type choice: hike with long sleeves and full pants thus risking fainting from heat exhaustion, or risk fainting from blood loss. To be fair, the mosquito swarm was expected as they emerge in epic numbers after the snow melts. I expect them to return to more manageable levels in a couple of weeks.
This section completes four weeks on the trail and 450 miles. In the last few days my body has finally started to adjust to the rigors of a thru hike. Funny that I don’t remember it taking quite this long on my last trail. I’m taking three days off and going home for a visit and a wedding. I’ll be hiking out of Butte on Sunday with plans to start cranking out the miles.