Location- Tendoy Creek
Elevation- 8,012 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 29.1 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 661.9 miles
Weather/Temp- cloudy, rain, lightning, hail
Pain level- low
Wildlife encounters- herd of 30+ elk
Human Beings encountered on trail- 3
Thru hikers encountered on trail- 3 nobos
Days without shower- 1
Days without laundry- 5
What a hell of a day. Thanks to the contagious motivation of others, I was up and hiking at 6:45am, my earliest start to date. Had an interesting experience around 2am. I was having a dream, and in the dream I was having a conversation with some unknown person. I don’t remember the context of the conversation, but they asked me a question, and my reply fit in perfectly as the next two verses of the poem I’ve been working on. I realized this in my dream, and automatically woke up after saying them and having the realization within the dream. It was pretty cool. When I woke up, I immediately pulled out my phone and wrote them down. I’ve never had that happen to me before.
The climbs were once again steep and non stop. Several big climbs broken up between lots of smaller steeper ones. The biggest kicker was just how steep they were. I haven’t seen anything like this since the AT. No steps or scrambles; just stupidly steep smooth climbs with small jumbled rocks. The burn in the legs and calves was real, especially after days of walking on flat road.
I hiked by myself for most of the first part of the day, joining up with the group during breaks. We all sat under a large pine tree in the mid afternoon while waiting on some thunderstorms to pass. Since we were slated to be heading up onto another ridge, there was no point in exposing ourselves to extra danger.
When we finally crested the ridge, we found no trail. It was nothing but smooth hills covered in sage brush. Proper navigation required the GPS, or simple land navigation with the Topographical Map to know which geographical features you were supposed to be traversing over or around. Not an exact science, but if you already have a good idea of where you are, then navigating this way is not difficult and will get you where you need to go. This open, trail-less stretch was my favorite of the entire day. I love the feeling of being a small being in a massive world, and wide open spaces/plains/ridges give me that exact sensation.
While on a fairly large and tedious open climb, Stomper and I got caught up in a freezing rain/thunderstorm at 9,800 feet. We quickly finished it and skirted down along the side of the mountain into a gully peppered with tree groves. Here we found the others and hunkered down for another 20 minutes until it passed. A little cold, a little soaked, but no worse for the ware.
On the Appalachian Trail I was very seldom afraid of hiking in thunderstorms. I was always within the cover of trees, so it only got scary when the wind picked up really hard. Out here, when standing on a barren ridge, you’re the tallest/highest thing on the ridge for miles sometimes. You feel like a living lightning rod, and if there were ever perfect conditions to be struck by lightning…a barren ridge in the middle of a storm is it.
I tried to ration my food today, but it was tough. I didn’t get anywhere near as many calories as needed, and I surely felt it on the steep climbs. The mind and spirit were willing, but the muscles were straining on empty. I’m going to be cutting it close over the next couple days.
For the last ten miles or so I hiked with Funny Bone. He’s a tall, thin, 51 year old man with about 13,000 long distance hiking miles to his name. He was also on the 1988 U.S Olympic cycling team in Seoul, Korea and was a teammate of Lance Armstrong back in the days when he was making his “come up.” Funny Bone has some incredible stories from those days, and has competed/traveled all over the world. The guy is living the dream.
We caught up to the rest of the group around 8pm next to a stream. They were setting up camp, but the area was filled with cow patties and situated in a low gully where cold air would settle, creating lots of condensation during the night. Funny Bone and I decided to hike a couple more miles over another short climb to yet another stream. This turned out to be the best decision of the day. Not only did we end up in a rare and beautiful forested area, but we happened upon a herd of more than 30 elk grazing on the side of a sage brush covered hill. Bulls, cows, calves; they froze when they saw us at first, then all made off in different directions. Some headed for trees, others went over the hill, and some ran for lower ground. I guess they all have a plan for meeting back up, but it was the largest animal sighting of my thru hiking carrer. One of those sightings that will stand out against all others.
I ate my mash potatoes for dinner, but I’m still hungry. I’ve already finished the jerky and most of the pork skins and fritos. I’ll be cutting it close tomorrow, but I’m almost positive I won’t have any food for the last day of this stretch. There’s still about 60 miles to go, and I basically only have some chips to power me through it. I almost want to laugh at my stupidity. I will however say this…it would be much worse if I was hooked on sugar. I doubt I’d hardly be able to stand or even think straight if my body wasn’t relying mostly on itself for energy, instead of simple sugars. Phew!
Fell slightly short of thirty miles today, but if it hadn’t been for the hampering storms, I’m sure we would have gone further. All in all I’m very happy with my personal progress today, despite the calorie setbacks. It’ll be nice to get myself back on track and performing at my current best again…