Location- Crooked Creek
Elevation- 7,959 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 24.1 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 881.2 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, breezy, 70s
Pain level- none
Wildlife encounters- rodents
Human Beings encountered on trail- 6
Thru hikers encountered on trail- 6 nobo
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 8
Hunger/craving- New York Pizza
We tried to get up and packed as early as possible, so as not to be discovered. For the most part, we were successful. The general store had a small restaurant, so we got to triple dip and also have breakfast. They also had a small gear shop inside, so I bought a new hat, a new pair of sunglass, and a new ultralight fleece base layer that I fell in love with.
It was after 9am when we began trying to hitch. We got one right away from a young Japanese couple who drove us out to the main road outside the village. They saved us over a mile of walking, but weren’t headed in the same direction as us once we hit the main road, so they left us at the intersection.
Not long after, a married couple thru hiking north joined us in our efforts to get back to the trail head. Arrow and Greenbay were in their late twenties and had met and fell in love while hiking the AT a couple years ago. The woman was American and the guy was German. The German guy had a fantastic sense of humor for being…well, a German guy.
The four of us stood there for almost half an hour without a shred of luck as vehicle after vehicle went by. This wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be. The German guy was non stop with the jokes about why each individual driver wasn’t stopping. I finally remarked to him jokingly, “Maybe you should try looking less German and we might get a ride.” He responded, “Do you know how many Germans it takes to screw in a light bulb?” “I give up,” I chuckled. “One, because we’re efficient and we don’t have a sense of humor.” His delivery of this joke paired with his perfect German accent almost had me on the ground from laughing so hard. This guy was a riot!
Finally, at almost 11am, a van pulled over and the older gentleman behind the wheel told us to “hop in.” He was an off duty Ranger who enjoyed helping hikers during his downtime. Officially, it’s illegal to hitchhike within National Parks, but when thru hikers are concerned, nearly all rangers turn a blind eye (as told to me by a Ranger). It’s what you might call a victimless crime.
So we parted ways with the couple at the trailhead, but not before Arrow (German guy) and I exchanged info. The Ranger had asked us what we all do for a living to be able to thru hike as much as we do. I told him the passive income from a book I wrote was a major contributing factor. Arrow later told me at the trailhead that he was working on a narrative of his hiking experiences and wanted to pick my brain on the subject later, after this most current thru hike. I hope I hear from him.
Although it was a late start, the terrain was laughably easy. Mostly flat, downhill, or very gentle uphill. We walked along the shore of the beautiful Heart Lake for half a mile before heading back into the woods. There were no animals to speak of.
The most unique and memorable aspect of the day was the “hot stream.” There was a moderately fast flowing stream of water snaking along the trail that looked indistinguishable from the thousands of other streams and creeks I’ve seen throughout my hiking career so far. However, when I went to fill my water bottle, the water was burning hot! I’ve never heard of or seen anything like it. To see that much hot water coursing through the landscape without giving off any clue as to its temperature was incredible, yet also unsettling. What a life saver that stream could be to someone stranded in the snow during the dead of winter.
Stomper and I hike together pretty much all day. As usual, I let whoever I’m hiking with hike in front; I almost never lead because I hate the feeling of someone hiking on my heels, or being behind me and needing help without me knowing (as I’ve elaborated on before).
Since he is French Canadian, english is Stomper’s second language. He has a very strong French accent, and sometimes struggles to find or pronounce the right words. Many times I have to help him find the right word to finish his sentence or make his point. This does not deter him from talking, quite the opposite. Stomper talks more than probably anyone I have ever hiked around, and he does not do small talk. He prefers to talk about philosophy, mankind, life’s purpose, history, and his favorite subject…carpentry/furniture design. That is what he does back in modern society, he builds fine furniture without screws, nails, or glue. So fine in fact, that selling one piece can pay for his entire thru hike. This is why he’s hiked the AT once, and the PCT three times, along with many other section hikes, and thru hikes of smaller trails. The man just loves hiking and everything about it; it’s what brings him peace. As a result of our non stop conversations, I’ve learned a lot about French and Canadian history, as well as wood working, different types of wood and what they’re best for, new perspectives, and new French words/expressions.
One thing that has slowed us down over the easy terrain is Stomper’s feet. He has terrible blisters, and has always gotten them. We have tons of river crossings every day, and he doesn’t want to get his shoes wet and mess up his feet even more by keeping them perpetually soggy. Wet feet don’t affect me, so I trudge straight through the crossings, shoes and all. Stomper takes his shoes off, crosses barefoot, then dries his feet, applies more medicine to each blister, then re-wraps them in medical tape. The process takes about 15 to 20 minutes at each crossing and cuts a decent chunk of time out of each day when added up. I leave no man behind, so I wait. If I just kept going, then I’d be miles ahead by the end of the day.
We finished the day up in the dark around the southern boundary of the park. It’s absolutely freezing, but nothing feels better than bundling up at the end of a long day. To top things off, I can hear a pack of wolves howling to each other somewhere down the gully. What I would give for an encounter with them. Tomorrow…the highly anticipated eclipse.