Location- side of trail
Elevation- 8,084 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 26.7 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 688.6 miles
Weather/Temp- clear/cloudy, rain, 70s
Injuries- ingrown hair that’s chaffing
Pain level- moderate
Wildlife sighted- 1 moose, 2 elk, deer, eagle
Human Beings encountered on trail- 4
Thru hikers encountered on trail- 4
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 6
Hunger/craving- steak w/ goat cheese
Did not get the early start this morning. Funny Bone was not feeling well, so I hung around and waited on him, even as the rest of the group passed by after stopping for a few minutes of conversation.
Within a couple miles we found ourselves amongst hundreds of free grazing cattle in thickets of brush and trees. The level of cow poo and cow smell was unlike anything I’ve seen up until now. It couldn’t be avoided; you had to just step in fresh cow shit. The poo was also coating the sage brush and other vegetation, and as a result I ended up with quite a bit on my legs from brushing against it. These are the sort of experiences you never see coming.
I had another good scare this morning that almost had me shitting as much as the cows. While still in free grazer territory, Funny Bone and I were paralleling a stream on our left. You couldn’t see the stream due to being completely obscured by small aspens and other large vegetation, but you could hear it. A bright green vein of overgrowth marked the stream’s path, along with the sound.
Cows had been stampeding and thudding away from us all morning, and the forest was filled with their cries. As a result of this, I didn’t think much of it when I heard the sound of thudding hooves on my left, coming from the stream. I causally looked in the direction of the sound, fully expecting to see yet another fleeing cow; instead I was greeted with a young female moose bursting through the thicket along the banks of the stream and running straight for us! Funny Bone and I both froze. It was happening so quick, there was no time to do anything but stare. By the time my brain processed that a moose was charging us, it turned sharply to its right, about ten to twelve feet away from us and continued over and down a small berm before trotting up an embankment into the trees. I barely managed to capture the last part of the encounter on film.
It was a funny thing. It was terrifying, yet it happened so fast, there almost wasn’t enough time to actually be terrified. I think the terrifying part had been the “what if” factor. It was scary to think what could have happened if she hadn’t changed course at the last second, because we certainly didn’t have time to defend ourselves with mace or anything else. Awesome experience nonetheless!
Not long after the moose scare, I had to take a real bathroom break and Funny Bone got ahead. I would then spend the rest of this day hiking alone and slowly tackling the nearly 7k feet of climbs that we had. Even if I had been at full energy and hiking capacity, I would still hike at the back of the group. I’m a bit of a mother hen when it comes to group or team activities. I felt like we were sort of an unofficial group at this point, since we were on our third day of hiking around each other. It’s in my nature that I like to take care of people and look out for their safety/well being; I can’t help it. I never leave a man, especially a friend, behind. No matter what. Taking care of others and looking out for their wellbeing is partly how I earned my trail name; I take care of my people. I like hiking at the back of the pack so that I’ll never be beyond reach if something happens. If someone falls out or needs help, I will eventually get to them automatically because I’ll be headed in their direction by default. If I’m out in front, then there’s no way for me to know what’s happening behind me, especially if there is no cell service. So by hiking in the back, I automatically make myself available to help out in any situation unfolding ahead of me, cell phone service or not. I naturally prefer it this way.
It wasn’t until close to 7 pm before we all began hiking as a group again in a neat single file line down the trail. The weather had held out all day, but while in the middle of another 1,300 ft climb, another thunderstorm began to roll in. We called it an early day; not knowing how many more storms could be behind it. It wasn’t worth risking being back out in the open. Stopping on a nice forested shelf, we made camp, and I was able to hang my hammock for the second night in a row.
We fell quite a ways short of 30 miles today, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted the harshness of the terrain. With the trail frequently non existent through the sage brush desolation, you’re stuck walking on severely slanted and uneven surfaces. The grass and sage brush grows in thick tufts that create a very unstable, as well as uncomfortable walking experience that hurts the feet.
Before we stopped, we were able to sight two bull elk on the trail, as well as an eagle flying off carrying a raven while two other ravens chased after it. I only caught the tail end of the sight, but I’ve never seen anything like it! The eagle dropped the raven after a few seconds as its companions continued to give chase.
My shoes are falling apart. They are getting splits on the sides and the pain they are causing the bottom of my feet is excruciating. I hate to complain, but I think I had my new shoes sent out too late; these ones were toast a while ago.
The food situation…I’m out. I’ve got nothing left but a quarter of a can of Pringles. We have to do 32 miles to reach the road into Lima tomorrow and I only have 12 Pringles to get me there. Part of me relishes the challenge, but the other part is dreading it. I know it’s not going to be easy. I’ve had less and less to eat each day, and I’ve had to struggle harder as a result each time. The others have offered me snacks (mostly sugar), but I’ve declined. I’m not a glutton for punishment, but I’m a full believer that if people don’t pay for their mistakes, then they’ll never learn from them; or at least not learn the full lesson that will keep them from repeating it. Tomorrow will be no picnic…