Day 10, August 18
Pump Station #3 (MP 75) to Limestone Plateau (MP 55)
20 Miles, 8:25a to 8:15p
The last few miles had been tough last night and we were prepared for more of the same, but even though there wasn't a whole lot of road to walk on, it wasn't quite as bad as we expected. The Canol again offered a choice of routes; we again opted for the high route. The high route offered great views of the highly braided Little Keele River and inspired me to write another totally original song for the occasion. Sing this to the tune of Spiderman:
Little Keele, Little Keele
Flows where ever, it damn well feels
The climb was tiring and the road was choked with willow and alder with an occasional washout, which made the going terribly, slow. It took us about two hours to hike two miles and we were wondering if choosing the right fork wasn't the wrong decision. As if to answer our question, the road curved around to the east side of Blue Mountain and almost all the overgrowth and washouts disappeared. The road offered a wonderful high altitude hiking environment and our spirits rose so that we quite forgot about how tired we were. Near the top of the climb we got some of the best water on the trip, but unfortunately that water came out of the sky as well as out of the mountain. We put on our raingear, crossed the high point and began descending. The condition of the road deteriorated and the rain soaked us.
A small herd of Caribou had been keeping pace with us at a lower elevation and we picked them up again on this side of the ridge. I noticed one near the road, but it seemed to vanish during a short period of time when I was watching the road in front of my feet. I forgot about it until I drew near that spot and it exploded out of a small thicket. Its presence surprised me, but the fact that it stopped to check me out surprised me even more. I was able to pull out my camera and get two great close-ups before it took off over the ridge.
Still reveling in this great encounter, we reached the bottom of our descent and encountered two moose grazing near the road. One was an absolute monster, but neither gave us a clear view. In fact we had some tense moments until we were sure that it wasn't a grizzly feeding on a moose. We waited in vain for them to give us a good pose, so we gave up and continued on.
The road was almost completely obliterated once again right about the spot where the Canol's two routes were supposed to reconnect. The trek across Blue Mountain had physically drained us and the difficult boulder walking felt like the kick while we were down. We finally dragged ourselves to the creek that fed Canol Lake. Although it was fewer miles than we were shooting for, we started looking for a campsite. The Canol truism held and despite a promising-looking area, there were simply no feasible campsites to be found. We tanked up with water and continued on.
The road began to climb to cross the face of a barren mountain giving us magnificent views of Canol Lake and the Little Keele River valley. After crossing the barren mountain, we dropped down to a limestone plateau, which afforded us our first view of the Norman Mountains, at the base of which was Norman Wells. Campsites were just not happening, but shortly after passing milepost 55, I just said, "we have to stop, now". I can't remember the last time that my body simply refused to go any further.
We scrambled to get the tents up and dinner made before the impending storm arrived. The rain started to hit the tent as soon as we crawled into our bags, but it didn't last long. I think the last time I was that tired was the third day out on the Continental Divide Trail. In addition to my feet being pounded into submission, my blisters were just getting worse by the day and the blisters I developed on the tops of both big toes looked like they would expose bone soon.
The tent gets only mildly wet from the light rain and dew…