The sound of rain slowly pulled us out of sleep. As our eyes fluttered awake they were met by a surrounding darkness and as our faces appeared from their burrows they were touched by a trembling cold. The clock on our phone read 3:00am, so we let the rain carry us back into sleep. Our eyes reopened again. The sound of rain was now heavier than before. A very faint light had begun to flood the tent. The time chimed 7:00am. Big miles were waiting to be chiseled away. We knew we needed to get up. This trail does not wait for fair weathered days, but our minds immediately landed on the thought of our predicament. During the rain we received going into Yellowstone, our rain jackets began to soak through. No matter how quick we moved, our bodies became alarmingly chilled and wet. We were perfectly fine in the end when the sun came out and dried us out, but would we get this lucky again? The forecast called for rain all day for the next few days. If this was true, we were NOT prepared.
Quick Note: The Alpine Houdini that we had used for wind and higher alpine protection for the better part of the trip simply could not stand up to rain if even for a short period. This could have been a combination of us expecting too much from the jackets as well as a jacket that is marketed sightly out of its comfort zone. There are much better options out there such as Frog Toggs and even other jackets in Patagonia’s line.
Thick clouds surrounded our tent as its damp walls surrounded us. We began to pack up but hesitation altered every move. It was only a matter of time exposed to the rain before we would be wet and cold again. Without a layer in between us and the elements, we felt vulnerable and utterly unprepared. We stood under the slight protection of a tree as we began to weigh our options. We could hope for the best and continue on or we could find a way to get lower and out of the storm. Our answer did not come easily. We were met by our wanting to stay on the trail faced by the little voice in our heads warning us of what might could come of staying exposed. We swayed back and forth between pride and caution. Critter leaned towards caution while Garbelly leaned towards continuing on. Then the balance would exchange its weight to Critter wanting to continue on when Garbelly wanted to find a way to get lower. We could not settle easily into a decision.
We began to walk down trail and towards our first climb when we were jolted to a stop as if attached to an imaginary leash. We could not shake down the red flag that had gone up in our minds. Our trajectory switched leading us away from trail and towards a four wheeler road. Our last couple of steps on trail stirred up a family of grouse sending the mature grouse flying off and the small chicks to scatter deeper into the tall grass. Leaving trail left us uneasy but we slowly picked up our pace once more. Several miles down the road led us to a larger road, however it was still gravel. As we reached the road we watched as two people standing with a tandem bike watched us. We approached asking them about the nearest town and how to get to the highway. After receiving our bearings, they offered to give us a ride to the highway after they finished their bike ride. Afraid of making them go out of their way we decided to continue to walk. We eventually made it to the tiny town of Spencer, Idaho.
We hobbled into a small diner and grabbed some lunch and water. As we ate we watched people outside sorting through a giant mound of loose rocks. They kept bringing in pieces to show the employees and to verify their find. Once we were finished we headed to the on-ramp of the interstate and began to wait for an seemingly impossible ride into Lima. We waited and smiled as cars drove by some going in the wrong direction others turning onto the highway headed East. We watched as people pulled into a rock and gem shop right across the street from where we stood. A younger woman in jeans and a jean jacket frequently ran to let the visitors into the shop, locking up each time before running back towards a small home next door. We watched as cars left the parking lot and drove past us. Then we watched as the young woman in the jean jacket ran towards us. She asked if we needed a ride, when we said we would love a ride to Lima, she said she could drive us after her shift. She invited us over to a picnic bench by the shop and made us tea while we waited. We poked around looking at the rocks and gems they had sitting on a table outside. When it was time for her to close up, she let us hop in a car she borrowed from her boss. As we headed towards Lima, an intense rain began to fall restricting our view from the car and quickly covering the road in a thick layer of water.
We arrived in town and headed towards the Mountain View Motel. That night we ate dinner as we watched a storm rest on top of the surrounding mountains. During a break in the rain, we ran and jumped in our tent. What felt like centuries ago as the morning's hours began to invest in the day, we knew one thing: our gear had failed us leaving us unprotected and unprepared. We did not know what the weather had planned for the hours to come or how we would feel. As we laid dry and warm in our tent, we still felt uneasy by our decision but our guilt began to slowly melt away.
We woke up in our tent to sounds of semi trucks flying by us on interstate 15. We woke up in time to make it to the post office just in time for it to open. Arriving there we found out quickly that the packages we were expecting that had our rain jackets in them had not yet arrived. The postal worker told us that Mike may have already picked them up and to check in with him. When we went back to see him, again we were disappointed to find out he also did not have our box.
We decided the best move would be to head over to Jan's Diner and have a bite to eat. Food heals all problems. We returned to the post office and found out our box still was not there and began to worry that we would be trapped in this town for a few days. This was not just any box either, it carried over a thousand dollars worth of gear. According to the tracking number it had arrived in Lima, but no one knew where it was.
When we walked back to the Inn, we were greeted by Scavenger, Winter and T.I. Toe. We discussed the big storms from the days before and they mentioned Mike was going to drive them back to trail that night. As we were talking to them, the lady cleaning the motel rooms let us know that our room for the night was ready for us. We let the guys know they could crash in our room for the day and get out of the sun. We decided to head to the post office one more time.
Once we arrived, it was clear that we had become a friendly face to the post master. She welcomed us back and we all began brainstorming on the whereabouts of our package. We had looked everywhere when our if nowhere she said, “hold on, are you M.E. and Ethan?” It appears that our first names were on the box the whole time. We felt silly, but we all laughed it off and said a final goodbye to the post master. Today’s lesson: Zeros days can be exciting in their own way!
After Mike took everyone back to the pass around 6:00 PM, we once again found ourselves hungry and ready to try out the other restaurant in town, "Peat’s Steakhouse." We were told a few days earlier by Thor that you could grill your own steaks and vegetables. It only took a three, yes three, hours to complete the restaurant experience with ordering, eating, and paying the bill. Worn out and ready to get out we headed back towards the Mountain View Motel but not without swinging into Jan’s Diner for a piece of pie.
We sat down at the bar with a couple we had met in Peat’s. They were from Spain and were biking from Canada to Yellowstone. We bonded with them quickly sharing stories of the trail asking about their lives across the Atlantic. They invited us to Spain in the future and we invited them to good ole Nashville, a fair trade to say the least. We spent a good bit of time talking with them over pie and tea, before heading back to the motel and heading to bed.
Garbelly & Critter