Day 1: July 9

The beginning of any expedition is almost always accompanied by chaos.

There are loose end tasks that must be wrapped up, and it seems like the number of those tasks grows exponentially as the expedition departure time gets closer.

Inevitably, I get little sleep the night before I leave. I’m usually packing and repacking my pack, checking and rechecking my gear, and working late to try to tie up all those loose ends. Plus, there’s always a mix of nervous excitement and trepidation about a big trip, which contribute to poor sleep quality. This may be why I’m always so tired on the first day. It doesn’t take long for the adrenaline to wear off and you realize that you have a steep mountain to climb, and your pack is heavy, and you’re going to suffer a bit.

This was my hardest Day 1 in awhile. A 51-pound pack combined with a few thousand feet of elevation gain in warm temperatures has a way of sapping the enthusiasm right out of you.

Nevertheless, we plodded along for eight or so miles up and over the Red Lodge Creek Plateau and are now camped on a forested bench above beautiful Crow Lake.

The mosquitoes here are moderate, and it’s a headnet night.

We are currently traveling along one of the routes for this years’ Wilderness Adventures treks (our Silver Run trek). It’s a pretty spectacular first day that includes travel on one of the iconic, barren, tundra plateaus capped with a dramatic descent while staring at the imposing 3,000 foot tall northwest face of Sylvan Peak. What an incredible sight!

I brewed a coffee and roasted sausages over a fire for dinner, then wrapped them in a tortilla slathered with ketchup and mustard from the little packets – these things boost my spirits.

Thunder is booming in the distance, but I can still see stars for now. I wonder if, and when, the forecasted cold front will hit.

Tomorrow we go off trail, up and over a remote high pass…


Follow this live expedition blog as Backpacking Light’s Ryan Jordan, Eric Vann, and five others weave their way through glacial cirques, tundra meadows, and talus fields in Montana’s Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness July 9-20. Dispatches will be posted to the Backpacking Light Facebook page, Instagram feed, and the home page.