Elevation- 6,263 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 32.3 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 720.9 miles
Weather/Temp- overcast, storms, windy
Injuries- sore feet, cut thigh
Pain level- moderate
Wildlife encounters- garter snake, cows
Human Beings encountered on trail- 4
Thru hikers encountered on trail- 4
Days without shower- 3
Days without laundry- 7
For as difficult as today was, I can’t believe how upbeat I stayed throughout it. There were certainly moments of despair, but I never lost control of my thoughts or spirits, and that’s what got me through this meat grinder in almost one piece today.
I got started at 6:30am and was still the last one hiking this morning. I was maybe ten minutes behind the person who started hiking second to last to me, but I never saw any of them on trail throughout today.
I struggled to finish the rest of the 1,300 ft climb we’d began last night, then ate the rest of my Pringles at the top. It was 8am and I was out of food with nearly 30 miles still to go. It wasn’t looking good.
Unfortunately, food was only one of my minor problems today. I managed to descend the mountain quickly and painlessly, but after that, the day became a struggle. Traversing a valley full of short but steep rollercoaster climbs for 5 miles was the next kicker. Then I got lost multiple times around a muddy, cow stampeded stream, crossing it several times needlessly while following trail signs that were incorrect. My GPS bailed me out of that cluster bomb of mud, water, and cow poo.
Checking recent water reports I saw that I had three nearby sources that were still somewhat reliable before a long 16 mile dry stretch over a saw tooth ridge and long walk to the road. I planned to camel up at the first reliable source of three I encountered. I reached the first one…dry. I got to the second one a half mile later…dry. Now it was 5 miles and thousands of feet of climbing before I reached the third source, and I had less than half a liter left. I was lucky it wasn’t hot and that the clouds were out. If that final source failed me, then that half liter would have to get me through more than twenty miles since my last source/refill.
I slogged up the initial 1000+ ft climb to the crest of the ridge. It took much longer than it should have, and I downed the rest of my water at the top. Now I had ten miles of non stop steep climbs ranging from 100 feet to 400 feet on a barren ridge at a constant average of 9,000 feet. It was still 4 miles to the water I hoped would be there too…
Three miles into the brutal ridge walk, I got caught in a huge thunderstorm. I had no where to go but down. I trail blazed about 500 feet straight down the ridge to the nearest trees I could see. I crawled underneath a large pine with low branches and put on my rain gear. I laid out my sleeping pads, opened my umbrella, set my pack up as a wind barrier, and curled up into a ball as the rain, sleet and lightning crashed down for the next hour. I fell asleep curled up in the fetal position, clutching the umbrella steady as a wind and water screen between my arms for more than an hour. I was actually very comfortable and warm; big pine trees are the best. I stayed almost completely dry, and when I awoke it was just barely sprinkling and the thunder was distant. Time to move again…
By the time I’d climbed back up to the trail, it was almost 4pm and I still had over 16 miles to go. Things were looking pretty helpless for finishing the day on time to actually get into town. I felt myself despair and sink really low for a moment. After a few minutes of pity party, I accepted my predicament. The worst that happens is I sleep next to the road hungry tonight and get in tomorrow morning; not the end of the world. “Things” only have as much value as we give them. I’d put A LOT of value in getting to town tonight and getting food. When I felt the despair taking hold, I subtracted the value of getting to town tonight, and instead put it into reaching the road tonight no matter what, and reaching town tomorrow morning; much easier and attainable tasks. I let myself off the hook for my previous expectations and set new ones that I KNEW were attainable in the new timeline that I was working with. As a result…I felt 100% better.
So I knocked out the mile to what I was hoping was going to be my water salvation…it was also dry. I had over 15 miles to go with no water, and I hadn’t taken a drink in over 4 miles already. It would be a 20 mile waterless stretch for me; a personal record. Thankfully the rain had cooled things way off, and the wind was gusting over 40mph at times. These were actually positive factors when it came to having no water. Being cold without a drink beats the hell out of burning up without a drink.
After the water let down, it didn’t even affect me, at least not in a negative way. Something “clicked” however, and I began tearing up and over the never ending climbs. Yeah, I had moments of pause on some of those brutally steep inclines, but no more breaks and no more sit downs for the rest of the day. I recalled the “40% Rule.” Whatever activity you happen to be doing, when fatigue or the feeling of “quitting/stopping” sets in…the average person has usually only given about 40% of what they are actually capable of. This means there’s still 60% of effort that you can still tap into and put forth. I try to remember this rule when the pain and fatigue sets in; “I’m still capable of more than twice what I’ve already given!” This realization can be very empowering if you take it fully to heart…and today I did.
The rain came down lightly as the wind whipped hard enough to knock me off balance. Funny enough, the rain was so light and the wind so strong, any moisture dried as soon as it touched my skin or clothing. I could feel the chill, but for the most part I was very comfortable due to my strenuous pace. My raised core temperature and the outside wind chill were cancelling each other out, allowing me to maintain my continuous effort.
After another incredibly steep descent off the ridge, I found myself on a flat gravel road at almost 7pm. I’d have to follow it for nearly 7 miles before reaching the interstate and scoring a potential ride. I had planned to call a shuttle from Lima, but had been in such a hurry that I forgot to make the call when I had service on the ridge. Now I was in a valley without a lick of reception. My only choice would be to hope I got reception by or before the interstate, or hope against hope that I could get a ride at night…on an interstate; two nearly impossible and dangerous things to do by themselves, let alone together. I was hoping for reception, but I wanted to get there before total darkness just so I could at least attempt to hitch before camping on the side of the road.
I knew I couldn’t hike there before dark…so i began to run. I pulled every strap on my pack as tight to my body as I could (to reduce rubbing) put my ear buds in, turned up some tunes and began to run. I’d run a song, then walk a song…run a song, walk a song…run a song walk a song; and that’s how it went. I had goosebumps for the majority of the time. I couldn’t believe what my body was still putting forth on an empty tank at the end of a 32 mile day of meat grinding terrain and no water. It was a testament to what the human body is capable of…always more than what you think, and certainly more than we give it credit for most of the time.
It was 8:30pm when I hit interstate-15 feeling like I could do much, much more. I still had no service, and light was fading fast; time to throw a “Hail Mary.” I ran across to the east bound side of traffic and staged my hitch, expecting, KNOWING it was pointless. I utilized one of my tried and true techniques. As soon as I realized a vehicle wasn’t going to slow down or stop, I’d give them an understanding wave with my hitching hand, as well as an equally understanding nod and smile.
Sure enough, after no more than 15 minutes, a huge pickup shot by, flipped a U turn onto westbound traffic, then flipped another U turn back into eastbound traffic and pulled to a stop in front of me on the shoulder. I couldn’t believe it. When I first realized they were coming back around I got nervous. You just never know who’s going to be on the interstate (lots of serial killers). When they rolled down the window, I was relieved to see a middle aged man and young woman who looked to be his daughter. “I’ve gotta know,” said the man, “what are YOU doing OUT here.” I quickly explained and was just as quickly in the back of the truck on my way to Lima. I was in utter disbelief at my good fortune.
Turns out it was a father daughter duo named Randy and Ryanne. I never got to talk much about them or their background, but they were very interested in the trail and the journey. They were immensely kind, as well as polite and dropped me off right at the motel I planned to meet the rest of the group at in Lima. It’s so ironic; give me the perfect conditions to get a hitch and I’ll be on the side of the road for hours. Give the the worst possible recipe for hitchhiking, and I get picked up inside of 15 minutes. I don’t get it. I’ll chalk it up to the power of optimism and positive thought this time.
So alls well it ends well, and I got my town food and drink at a local cafe. Since the motel was booked up, I’m now camped behind the motel with the rest of the group, and I couldn’t be more content. They only reached the road about an hour and a half before me, so after a painfully slow start to the first 9 hours of the day, I ended up gaining on them. I can’t wait to put on my new shoes tomorrow…