The Great Salmon Run - Page 3
Despite running all day, even in the afternoon when it was very hot, we were severely off our planned pace. When darkness settled in we pressed on until river mile 61, where we stopped at a popular river camp to get some rest. A friendly rafting group was there, and they shared their fire and a few tube steaks. We slept well in the sand by the fire for a couple of hours.
Eager to finish before sunset on our second day, we left the river camp at 3:30 a.m., the soreness from the the previous days’ miles quickly fading away as we ran through the early morning darkness. A couple of hours later we were drawn into the bright lights of the Flying B Ranch, a remote hunting lodge with a buffet breakfast. It was quite the sight to have two scrawny, brightly clothed runners rubbing shoulders with 20 or so camoflauged elk hunters! Sticking out like sore thumbs, we focused on calorie loading for the miles to come. The overindulgence at breakfast forced a slow pace for a while but paid dividends later in the day. Just after 9 a.m., with 80 river miles behind us, we started ascending into the Bighorn Crags, and into unknown territory.
Not long after leaving the river we took a wrong turn and unknowingly traveled quite some time in the wrong direction until the trail vanished. We searched, brainstormed trying to match topography to the map, and fumbled onward. Over five hours later we were on the right track, just over a mile from where we had made the error. It was frustrating, but what can one do when in the heart of a roadless wilderness area? We pressed on, undeterred. The beauty of the Bighorn Crags took our minds off of the fact that we had planned on finishing before dark. The sun was low in the sky and we still had more than 20 miles to go.
A bull elk bugled as the sun set. The serenade boosted our spirits and we rallied, picking up the pace. Then the trail ended. We figured it was just overgrown so we pushed on, finding hints of where a trail had been every now and then. Once upon a time it was a good trail, our map said so, but now it was an overgrown and eroded mess, nearly impossible to follow. We slowly navigated downstream, constantly climbing over downed trees, wading back and forth across the thigh-deep stream, and forcing a path through thousands of wild-rose bushes.
Around midnight a thunderstorm forced us to seek shelter under our maps. A few hours later we could not find a route downstream in a narrow portion of the canyon and again, hunkered down for several hours. Exhausted, we sat shivering, anxiously awaiting the sun to illuminate our path. It was two of the longest hours of my life.