I wake up to condensation along the head of the tent. The foot is also damp. With our fly completely closed and the temperature dipping to dew point, beads had formed along parts of the tent. I reach for the towel and mop up most of it. Our clothes on the line are dry though.
The calm lake this morning is a clear mirror that reflects all that is within the Otatso valley drainage. I ripple the mirror by getting water. First, there are hot drinks. Then, fried over melted butter, we make hashbrowns with vegetarian bacon bits and scrambled eggs topped with shredded cheese and wild green onions harvested yesterday.
Being our shortest full day, we have a lazy morning. By the time we break camp and head out, it is nearly 11:00. We climb back up toward the junction we passed yesterday, find another house-sized boulder, and have our first lunch. With expansive views of the Divide in front of us, we have blue cheese and walnuts on multigrain crackers drizzled with honey and served on shale slabs.
Then, the rains begin. The rest of the day is downhill drudgery through waist-high brush and slick muddy trails. My pants are oversized, and my rain pants barely stay on. Every time I pull up the rain pants, all the wetness runs down onto my socks and wicks inside my waterproof shoes. They no longer feel very waterproof. Soon, my toes are swimming in mud soup. Grant, in his Sierra Designs rain coat, is now completely soaked through. His and Brad’s shoes are also completely wet. Yan is doing well with her makeshift pack cover improvised from garbage bags. In fact, Mark and I have the same trash bag setup.
We pass through more brush and aspen fields. At the bottom of the downhill stretch, Yan and I catch up with the other guys who have reached the Belly River Ranger Station ten minutes ahead of us. The ranger had eyed them suspiciously until now.
“So, you’re the guy with the permit,” she says as she reaches to check the document hanging from my pack.
A man brings us a pot of hot water, and they allow us to snack on their porch. She tells us that the storm is supposed to clear out earlier than expected, and we are all happy to hear that. Looking toward Cosley Lake, it does seem that most of the clouds have lifted. There are three horses grazing outside the station, presumably one for each person inside. Toby, the white horse, is asleep next to the porch. The aggressive brown one tries to eat Mark’s pack, our snacks, and my garbage bag pack cover. Brad eventually manages to fend him off, and he resorts to grazing like what a normal horse should be doing.
We cross over the longest suspension bridge in the park. Just beyond, there is the very picturesque Gros Ventre Falls. Mark, Yan, and I spend some time here getting good pictures while Brad and Grant hike ahead. As soon as we hike out of the small spur trail to join the main path, the skies open to a downpour again. When we catch up with Brad, we find him disappointed that the Cosley Lake campsite is yet another 0.6 mile away. We rush there under steady rain.
The first thing we do is set up. Mark has the idea to spread out his rainfly so we can set up underneath the canopy. This works pretty well. Brad and Grant set up first while Mark and I hold up the fly to shelter them. Then, Yan and I set up next, doing so as quickly as possible. Then, Brad and I hold up the fly for Mark to set up, but while doing so, a puddle of water goes through the vent area and dumps a huge puddle onto Mark’s once-dry tent. He brushes off the accident.
Once we’re all set up, I jump into the lake. After all, I’m wet anyways, and my socks are muddy sponges that I wring out. Yan also cleans up. Bathing turns out to be a very cold experience, but soon, the sun pokes through the western clouds and warms us, at least temporarily. I put on a clean change of clothes, and my warm dry socks instantly soak up the dampness from the still-wet shoes.
Dinner tonight starts with egg drop soup. I call for an intermission to dinner, since the clearing clouds are making way for the sun to paint the distant peaks a golden hue, and we all need to take in the moment. We come back to find an unexpected visitor—a rabbit that is just standing there, waiting for a handout. Then, we finish dinner with spicy Korean-style noodles with mushroom, tofu, and sesame oil. Right after we slurp the last of the noodles, it starts to sprinkle again. Brad quickly makes tiramisu in the rain, and we each take spoonfuls along with hot chocolate. This too will keep us warm for the night.