Day 80 on the Continental Divide Trail

Day- 80

Date- 9/9/17

Location- Bull Springs

Elevation- 6,785 ft

Distance Traveled Today- 24 miles

Distance Traveled Total- 1,194.3 miles

Weather/Temp- clear, 80s, 90s

Injuries- sore everything

Pain level- moderate to high

Spirits/Morale- humble

Wildlife encounters- Pronghorn, horses

Days without shower- 5

Days without laundry- 14

Hunger/craving- Thai!

I woke up to a blistering hot sun on my face. It was almost 9 am and already I could tell it was miserably hot. I was exhausted and my eyelids were sticking with every blink. Sitting up for a moment, I noticed a group of cows keeping their distance, watching us tentatively. Cows…

I opened my umbrella and positioned it so that it was shading my head and most of my torso. I laid on the ground for another hour and a half while Puma laid in his tent. We were both afraid to stand up and feel the aches and pains.

At some point close to 11 am, I finally stood to begin packing up. It was too hot to continue to just lay there. My feet felt surprisingly alright, my ankles were stiff, my knees creaked and were sore, but my lower back/kidneys hurt the worst for some reason. No idea why.

So after packing up and shaking off the rust, we moved a few hundred yards up the trail to another natural spring. Here we sat and drank while watching a huge bull preside over his harem. It was here we came up with the hair brained idea to try and push the rest of the way through the Basin in one go, another 52 miles. Why we thought this was a good idea is beyond me. I think we were still riding high on endorphins from yesterday; that’s my best guess.

So our next big push attempt began at noon. We were off, not quite hot out of the gates. It was warm enough that we stopped every 3 to 5 miles to rest, drink, and admire the landscape. Although it was apparent that we were slogging and in various states of pain, we remained confident and upbeat that we would get our second, second wind when the sun went down. It didn’t help that I went 17 hours between meals at one point. The heat killed my appetite.

The trail remained a jeep track of broken rocks and deep sand, running nearly perfectly straight for dozens and dozens of miles. I saw my first vehicles of the Basin today, Pronghorn hunters. It was a rather unconventional hunt in my eyes. These guys were driving around shooting Pronghorn right out of their vehicles. One SUV had 3 Pronghorn in the back, and was bagging 3 more before calling it a day. Sporting; but what do I know? I’m not from here and I don’t know the local rules, laws, customs, regulations, etc.

My feet felt alright, but I had a pounding, throbbing, aching feeling in my bones that began at the base of my shins and traveled up under my kneecaps. Every so often it would manifest as an electrically sharp pain that shot up the same pathway as the throbs. I worked through it.

After another sunset dinner of white cheddar popcorn, it was back to night hiking. We’d done 80 miles in about 36 hours at this point. No moon yet, so the headlamps were back out.

Lighting flashed in the far distance to the west across the plains, but we got no rain. I didn’t suspect we were going to have any rain either, as the cows were not laying down. Quite the opposite, they were crowding the trail and refusing to move. Stumbling upon a herd of midnight black cows on a midnight black night with your headlamp on is nothing short of surreal. The glowing eyes set into inbred faces staring stubbornly out of the dark is unsettling. Then you remember they’re just cows as you run at them to call their bluff and send them scattering.

At a little over 85 miles, it was after 10pm and we’d reached our final reliable water source in the Basin. My legs were screaming in pain, and I honestly did not have the heart to continue. I would have loved to have hiked 100 miles in 48 hours, but this wasn’t going to be the day. One challenge at a time, this one can have it’s chance again soon.

Puma was hurting as well, although not as bad as me, I don’t think. He runs marathons, so his body type is far more suited/adapted to this ultra long distance stuff. Either way, he seemed relieved and not the least bit disappointed to finally get a full night’s sleep. More stings of guilt at not having pushed the entire timeline…

Go to Day 81

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