Day 11, August 19
Limestone Plateau (MP 55) to Dodo Creek (MP 40)
15 Miles, 8:30a to 7:30p
Ohhh, the throbbing; I think a truck rolled over my legs last night! Luckily the rainstorm never materialized into what it could have during the night. We dropped down off the limestone plateau on a cold morning and followed really nice roadbed all the way to the Little Keele River. Much of it was through balsam parkland, which was wild with yellow. In spite of the favorable conditions, we still didn't make good time, which I think this was primarily due to the effect of our overworked bodies hiking so many hours day after day.
The Little Keele River wasn't the knee-deep little ford Chris and Jeanne described. This was a rushing butt-kicker, so we decided to link arms and cross like a sidestepping caterpillar. Dave was in the front and I was in was in the rear so that we could keep our hiking sticks in our dominant hand (Dave is left-handed and I'm right-handed). We practiced orchestrated walking in a small pool, but it never felt really comfortable and when we waded out for real, it was doubly so. After we quickly abandoned attempts at overt coordination, the caterpillar walked much more comfortably. The slow process was a little scary since none of us had done something like this before and we had to stop a couple times during the crossing to mentally regroup. It became clear too late that height was more important in choosing the head of the caterpillar than hand dominance. Not only was I the tallest, but Dave and Roberta broke the current, so much of the water missed me entirely. They emerged on the other side quite soaked, but the water had barely gotten above my crotch. In the future, I would head the caterpillar.
After a long break drying out at Camp 50 we said goodbye to tough crossing number two passing through a rainstorm that quickly approached, but just as quickly was gone. Typically on a long distance hike, my body learns to automatically adopt an optimal pace for whatever conditions I encounter. Since this hike was only two weeks long, I didn’t expect to get into that groove and up until now, my body had been fighting the trail rather than working with it even more than I had anticipated. But on the climb to the pass leading to Dodo Canyon, I fell into a perfect pace and was almost sorry to see the ascent stop when I got to the top.
The pass was a windswept beauty and we soaked in the view of the Little Keele River valley. Actually, the Canol drops down into a tributary of Dodo Creek, but that tributary delivers the muddiest water imaginable which takes Dodo Creek miles to dilute. As we approached the creek for the first time, we saw a cabin half-sunk in mud with wolf and grizzly tracks nearby. We took pictures of the tracks, which proved to be a study in figure-ground with the tracks' three-dimensional features of depth changing in orientation depending on how and when you look at it.
The roadbed in the valley quickly deteriorated into nothing. Dave read the terrain particularly well in this area so we were following a well-worn game trail for almost two miles. Thinking about the time and energy savings over following the rock strewn creek bed made the walk that much more enjoyable. We entered the broad flat spot in the valley where the tributary meets Dodo Creek and crossed over to camp near the clear water of Dodo Creek. Despite the early night, I was extremely tired and could barely move.
During the night, Dave rousted me out of bed so I could see the northern lights. They were much more vivid than at Pump Station #4. Unfortunately, I just couldn't stay awake to watch them for more than five minutes.
The tent is wet with dew…