The early going during the approach to Trout Creek was mild uphill with standing water that was easy to avoid. Further on, the willow and alder choked the entry to and exit from our only water crossing before Trout Creek. We waded through in our boots because we would soon have so many crossings that it wasn't worth the extra time involved. The boots also gave us a big traction advantage, which was essential for many of the crossings and useful even for the smaller ones.
We were formally introduced to Trout Creek where the Canol is obliterated from the side of the mountain and we had to shimmy down the steep embankment. The first half of our climb along the creek had some tough spots, but the roadbed was intact for the most part. The second half was another story with large boulders and almost no road. Near the end, we climbed up a hill covered in blueberries, hence Blueberry Hill. On the other side we met the dead ended Canol and had good road going up to Devil's Pass.
On the approach to Devil's Pass, Dave spotted a wolverine and flagged down Roberta and me at a washout where the road makes a ridiculous drop to the river. Roberta found it too, but it took off before I got a fix on it. Dave officially deemed the trip a success as none of us had seen a wolverine before. Immediately after the washout, we met Karl from California who was making trips out from Pump Station #4 and would be picked up there later in the week. Karl was the last person we would see for the rest of the trip.
The math told us that we'd get to the pump station at about 7:30 or so, but I had a feeling it would be a lot more "or so" than 7:30. The climb up to the pass was loooong and the smoke from the nearby fires was again rolling in along with the acrid smell. At the split where there is a road on both sides of a ravine, we took the right fork because it was the higher route, which we hoped was drier with better views. It was probably drier, but we were really beat and it hurt to see the road on the other side of the ravine shooting straight for its destination while we climbed in and out of draws. We saw some dall sheep and they were much bigger than the "mealy bugs" we saw earlier in the trip, but still not terribly close.
We finally dropped down to Bolstead Creek and dragged ourselves to Pump Station #4. The buildings cut quite a figure in the flat, barren valley floor and, we stayed in a recently tarpapered Quonset hut. We didn't know what to expect and were relieved to find our two five-gallon soy sauce cans tied above the floor. The long evening light gave us the opportunity to rest and casually repack our food and enjoy our night's stop marking the halfway point of the trip. It's been a tough, but great trip so far.
That night, I went out to water the rocks. I gazed up into the starry night and noticed a cloud obscuring the stars right above my head. Closer examination revealed that this "cloud" was long and thin, so I concluded that it was a jet trail. Then this "jet trail" began to move and waver. Only then did it hit me that I was looking at the aurora borealis. I had never seen the northern lights and hadn't planned on seeing them because of the time of year, so the drawn-out surprise made their discovery all the more breathtaking. I officially dubbed this trip a success.
As I was gazing up at the sky, growing quite cold in the stiff breeze, I heard rustling. Apparently Dave or Roberta heard me and was coming out to see what was up. Dave opened the door, froze in his tracks with eyes bugged out as big as boulders, then instantly slammed the door shut. A couple seconds later it dawned on him that I lacked the ferocious hump of our feared grizzly friends. I assured him that next time I would roar to see what happened.
The tent stays dry…