Published: July 12th 2006July 8th 2006
Two Mathematicians and a 10 year old Dog Go For A Very Long Walk...
...or at least that's how it started. It sounded like an innocent and splendid plan. A plan to hike the entire length of the Bridger Ridge Run
hosted yearly in August by the local Bozeman Running Club, The Wind Drinkers
. This is a 19.65 (the short way) or 20.55 (the long way) race across the knifes edge of the Bridger Mountain Range
and traverses roughly 3 miles of ups and down along the ridge. This ridge is, as stated before, a barren knifes edge with hardly a tree in sight as high up as 9600 feet (Sacajawea Peak) to as low as, well, Bozeman (4800 feet). It runs along the top of 6 of the 8 peaks of the ridge, across steeply angled talus and shale ridden slippery slopes of doom and thru two beautiful alpine meadows. The views are amazing, the trials titillating, and the weather crazy and sometimes unpredictable (2005's August run was done in the snow
). What convinced The Beagle/German Shepherd Mix Gauss, Shane, and Myself to do this incredible journey in one day? Well the weather was fairly pleasant that day...or so
A Little Background on the Dog
Before anyone calls PETA
on me let me field some questions from the audience to help clarify things.
How old is this dog?
10 years old, yep that is roughly equivalent to a 70 year old man doing this hike.
ARE YOU INSANE?
Nope, his owner is an avid outdoors hiker and overall hiking monster and takes the old Gausser on long crazy hikes all the time. Gauss is in better shape than most human beings his age (not 10, but the 70 year olds) or my age (mid twenties).
Beagle/German Shepherd mix, Isn't that a weird looking dog?
Yeah a little, but we love him, any pet named after the "Prince of Mathematics
" is OK in my book. Plus he's fuzzy, good tempered and as low maintainence as a cat.
The start of the journey
The night before this journey I (and come to find out Shane as well) thought about going to bed around 8pm to get up early for our 5am meet time at my house and I (and Shane as it turns out) continued to think about going to bed at 8pm until
Shane and Gauss on their way to mount Hardscrabble.
we did go to bed around 11:30pm. Ahhh the fickles and indecisiveness of youth. So we meet up at 8am with a gallon of water, two lunches, and extra clothing each and a lot of ambition and pride (both of which were lost later that day). It wasn't until around 6:30am that we reached the trail head that headed up from Fairy Lake (a very beautiful mountain lake that is one of the BEST camping spots in the Gallatin Valley) and were on our way. Full of youthful energy we decided to take a short detour from our intended plan of just hiking the whole Ridge Run Trail, but to also grab Hardscrabble Peak while we were up there, "just an extra mile, nothing too drastic" we thought and sure enough, it wasn't too bad being that fresh and the view of the whole ridge was spectacular and gave us a good idea of what the rest of the hike was going to be like (long). At least the weather was nice and there wasn't a cloud in the sky, the weather was cool and not too hot, but yet it was still early in the morning. So we grab
Highest Peak on the Ridge at 9600 feet.
a souvenir rock (Shane's idea to grab a little something from each peak we climb) from Hardscrabble, and make our way over to Sacajawea Peak and start looking for more souvenirs What we found was a strange small unknown white substance/mineral thingy. We really aren't sure what it is, but I tasted it and it is not salt, and kind of squishy in the teeth...I hope I don't regret doing that later on in life or that it wasn't dehydrated mountain goat excrement.
Now this trail is not well marked and is sometimes not even existent (luckily it's on a ridge and that doesn't disappear often, well, at least when I'm looking at it, it doesn't move). Luckily Shane had read about the trail taking a right at certain Cairn's and looking for a certain turn off so as to stay on the ridge and not descend into the valley via another trail. With his guidance we made it over to Ross Pass took a little break to soak in the beauty of this breathtaking mountain pass, picked up a souvenir (six spent 9mm Luger bullet casings. Don't ask -we didn't, we just found them) and started up the
1000 foot ascent up Bridger Peak (1000 feet in a half a mile, it isn't much of a trail as much as it is a 55 degree scrabble). At the top exhausted and sweating we had our first lunch, grabbed a souvenir rock (not much else up there), slathered on some sunscreen, watered the dog and jaunted onwards towards Bridger Bowl (the local Ski Area).
God's Angry Eye is Burning a Hole in My Head
Or at least that is what it felt like by the time we made it to Bridger Bowl. We had been hiking for five hours and there was no shade and the noon day sun was beating down hard. I'm sweating like a Frenchman and drinking water furiously to fuel up, some how gauss and Shane seem impervious to the evil eye of Helios high above us. Bridger Bowl is very strange in the summer, there are strange man made boxes on stilts with shovels and other strange equipment that make sense in the winter, but not at all in mid July. The chair lifts come to the top and look almost desolate and weird in the summer sun by the lift cabin and
shed. There were many opportunities to pick up strange souvenirs from this mountain, but we ended up settling on a 18 inch piece of rebar lying on the side of the trail. As we made our way in the noon day sun over the exposed ridge, baking like insects under a magnifying glass, tired from hiking for six hours I realize that I'm running low on water in my camel back and Gauss is starting to tire out. Man oh Man what a pickle, we are past the half way point and there is no easy way off the ridge, but to continue the rest of the 10 miles or so to the car parked at the M on the other side of the mountain. Luckily, we ran into a huge pile of snow on our way to Saddle Peak (the third highest peak in the range) and started to dissect it and fill up our water containers with snow. There is a little known fact about camel backs and snow, they form a very nice symbiotic relationship in the summer. The hot sweaty back heats the camel back which melts the snow as it cools off ones hot sweaty
Perhaps the coolest looking flower around.
back, it's beautiful and what do you get? That's right, you get water and life is beautiful and world peace is obtained! After the quick raping and pillaging of the snow pile, we continued on like the mountain Nomads we dreamt we were and started the vicious and evil ascent up Saddle Peak. The reason I say it was vicious and evil is not that it was an exceedingly tough hike up, but it IS an exceedingly tough hike up when you've been hiking for 6.5 hours! At the top the sun continued to sizzle on our little heads no matter how much sun screen was applied it felt like it wasn't enough, the salt had been crystallizing on my forehead and every time I lathered on sunscreen it felt like rubbing cream on sandpaper, a very strange and weird situation. Though tired we didn't forget our need for souvenirs and tough it was tempting to take the Dead Animal Antlers on the top, I found out that it was attached to a Tibetan Prayer String and that the Karma of messing with that String would probably result in my Sunscreen acting like butter and roasting my flesh in preparation
This is as we are entering Ross Pass.
of a tasty treat for the two hawks that were gliding around the summit of Saddle Peak. So instead we took yet another rock not out of failure to search, but more out of the apathetic tradition following that happens sometimes when one gets set in their ways. Hiking can be like this as well sometimes, when you are tired and you have no other way to go but onward, you move out of tradition, it is what your feet have been doing for miles and even though you are tired and not caring at the moment you do it because it's what you do, you move one foot in front of the other. If I may dare abstract this to yet another deeper metaphor, sometimes life is like that, you get stuck in a rut that you have been doing and you may no longer like or think or have any feeling for what you are doing, but you do it because it is what you do, it's what you know, it's the way it's always been and the way it will always be, this is a dangerous mind set if not questioned, but sometimes a hard one to
What a sweet little piece of Alpine Meadow Pie!
even notice that it exists.
Stumbling off the Ridge and other pit falls
The Ascent to Saddle
The first peak of Saddle Peak.
do when one is tired and poor Gauss had to pretend to be a Mountain Goat for fifteen minutes) Once we got back on the trial exhausted from our climb over steep loose rocks, we took a break under the shade of a lone five foot spruce tree and gave Gauss more water and drank some ourselves. After the rest we got up and continued our trek towards our final peak, Mount Baldy, and Shane informed me that this wasn't the first time the unnamed mountain had given him troubles, that it happened the last time he hiked it. Half way thru his telling of the last time the nameless mountain led him astray, a look of realization came over his face and he asked if I had picked up Gauss's water dish. I hadn't and the Nameless mountain took Gauss's water bowl as a trophy and earned itself the name of Fuck Over Mountain.
The last six miles of the ridge were extremely difficult for a couple of reasons:
- We had been hiking for almost 11 hours at this point.
- Gauss had managed to tear one of his paws and was having a hard time walking up or down hills.
- We were running low on water again.
- The trail descends from Mount Baldy to the M roughly 3000 feet non-stop.
- Fuck Over Mountain had somehow also stolen our ambition and our pride.
By the time we reached Mount Baldy our time was already 12 hours of hiking and we ended up wrapping Gauss's injured paw in mole skin and bandages (always bring a first aid kit suckahs!) and we took our time going down to the M. Our souvenir from Mount Baldy was a lone flower, again the tradition was carried out as a rote action, not as a ambition filled quest that it had started as. By the time we made it down to the M (thanks to some nice hippie who let us drink some of his water) our legs were like to large jello molds quivering to the car to collapse in a catatonic state of immobility the ridge had kicked our ass, but we had made it, a whole total 21.55 miles of hiking thru some beautiful and rugged desolate country.
Gauss and I recouped all day Sunday, I gave Gauss massages for
The Grassy Gnoll!
his sore muscles and he has fully recuperated two days later, he's a trooper. I'm sore, but that's to be expected. I find it amazing and compelling that there are hundreds of people who "run" this ridge each August, it seems masochistic, but there is strange pleasure in pushing the body to it's emotional, mental, and physical limits and this ridge does just that. The runner's who run this find themselves finishing exhausted, almost always bloody, but strangely euphoric. Oh and in case you were running the best time that the 19.55 mile Ridge has ever been run is by Scott Creel with a time of 3 hours and 10 minutes a truly phenomenal feat.
The Morals of this Hike:
- If you ever plan on doing this hike it is imperative that you go with a lot of water, I personally probably needed two and a half gallons for this sunny hot and evil day.
- Don't bring a ten year old dog, no matter how tough he/she is.
- Always bring a first aid kit.
- Pee on FO Mountain if you ever get the chance.
- Rebar is not a very good souvenir from a Mountain.
There are more photos below