Distance Traveled Today- 8.3 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 272.5 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 90s, HOT
Pain level- low
Wildlife encounters- rodents, coyote calls
Human Beings encountered- zero
Days without shower- 0
Days without laundry- 7
I fell asleep almost right away last night sometime around 11pm, but woke up inexplicably around 12:15am; then just laid there awake until about 1:30 before passing out for good again. The stars were gorgeous, and since I was sleeping on the saddle of a pass, I could see them shining through the small pine trees all the way down to the ground on both sides, giving me a sort of floating island sensation.
Despite the tribulations of yesterday, I awoke feeling fairly spry and was off the ground and moving at 7 am. I took my sweet time packing up, then took almost 20 minutes to force myself to eat some food. I still had no appetite, but there was no way I was going far with nothing in the tank.
Then I looked at my half liter of water I’d saved strategically for after breakfast. I didn’t feel as if I was dying of thirst, but I ed definitely thirsty. I downed it in a couple seconds and sat there for a moment. I thought about doing the side trail to get more, or just going over the climb to get to the on trail source. “F#%k it, I’m going over the climb.” I reasoned under my breath. I’ve been starting to think out loud more and more lately…strangely enough.
It was 7:45 when I began moving up the climb. I didn’t want to overdue it, so I thought giving myself an hour to go 2.3 miles to the water was an easy goal. I stopped three times on the climb up (once to wrap my shirt around my head again), then took a short break at the top before continuing more than another half mile to the water source. It ended up taking a little more than an hour, but I wasn’t beating myself up.
I drank a couple ice cold liters from the trickling spring and forced myself to eat a little more. The ice water totally revitalized me; or at least in spirit. I still had another 6 miles and two more climbs climbs adding up to more than another 1,000 feet. Taking two more liters with me, I pressed on.
Other than being incredibly hot and exposed over those last 6 miles, there really isn’t much to speak of. I’d take a break halfway up each climb, and also at the beginning of each climb, making sure not to over exert myself.
I reached the road at “Roger’s Pass” sometime around noonish to find that it was also incredibly hot and exposed; especially being at a lower elevation, as well as black asphalt. It felt like I was saved, but unfortunately my troubles had just taken another form…
There was no indication that there was a trail at this stretch of remote highway, 20 miles from the nearest small town (Lincoln). You couldn’t see the trail, and there was no sign that read “Continental Divide Trail.” However, there was a sign that read “Continental Divide.”
The road was not devoid of activity. In fact there was a great deal of traffic, with several cars or more going in each direction every few minutes. I was trying to go west into Lincoln, so I stood on the appropriate side of the road and began hitching…and hitching…and hitching. Over two and a half hours passed, and nobody so much as asked me where I was headed, asked if I was ok, or offered water. Passing by, you could deduce several things from my situation without needing to speak to me, or know anything about me or what I was doing. 1.) It was stifling hot. 2.) I was miles from nowhere on foot and obviously needed a ride. 3.) I was holding a sleeping pad over my head for shade (so I looked somewhat desperate). 4.) Did I mention it was really hot?
More than one hundred cars went by in that time and I never got more than sympathetic glances, “thumbs up,” or people putting their hands up as if to say “sorry!” or “what do you want me to do?” I’ve never understood the gesturing to hitchhikers. If you’re not going to stop, then just don’t look at us (like most people do), or just give us a blank stare (like the other majority of people do). There’s no need to make hand gestures, because it’s like you’re trying to make yourself feel better about not stopping. Like you want to help, but not really, so you’re going to offer some kind of perceived encouragement, or gestured explanation for why you can’t stop. I wished I had a sign saying where I was trying to go, that way people would realize it wasn’t out of their way; straight shot west. A low maintenance hitch with no turns. I understand there are extenuating circumstances where I’m sure people truly wanted to help, but couldn’t for whatever reason, and that’s perfectly fine. I don’t know their situation in their vehicle anymore than they know mine, standing on the side of the road. Being miserable with a sinking sense of hopelessness tends to bring out the critical side in me a bit
I even put my longer knee length shorts on over my running shorts! Finally, it was too hot to keep standing. If I was going to not get a ride, I was going to not get one while sitting down. I even contemplated sprawling out on the pavement to look unconscious, just to see if someone would stop to give me the time of day; call it a social experiment.
Finally, while I was laid back against my pack with my sleeping pad over my head, another big pickup came by heading west. I pulled the pad down so they could see my face while jutted out my thumb. The truck whooshed past, but then turned around further down the road and came back. The older gentleman behind the wheel did a slow roll past me and asked if everything was alright. I quickly explained my situation, what I was doing, and where I was trying to go. He was more than happy to give me a lift.
The gentleman’s name was Bruce, and he was from Great Falls. He was on his way to visit his grandkids and often came through this route. He confessed I was the first hitchhiker he’d picked up in 30 years. He also said that was a terrible spot to hitch; sighting that it looked very random, and that nobody in their right mind would be walking around out there on their own, unless they had been kicked out of a previous ride. “Yeah, I do feel a little crazy for walking around out here” I confessed, “but it’s by choice,” I added with a chuckle.
Bruce was incredibly kind, and gave me two bottles of water during the drive, as well as some info about Lincoln. The conversation flowed easily, and this became one of the most pleasant 20 mile hitches I’ve ever gotten. Bruce literally pulled me out of the proverbial fire. One more hour out there, and I probably would have started hiking again; I certainly have enough food to go another 60 miles.
So now I’m hydrating and treating myself to some small town cuisine, and I must say I’m impressed. Lincoln is small, but there’s more than enough for a lowly thru hiker here. I want to adjust my food situation, get hydrated, then get back on trail sometime around noon tomorrow. It’s nice to see and talk to people again.
Sorry, I barely took any pictures today 😦