Distance Traveled Today- 18.7 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 1,281.5 miles
Weather/Temp- freezing, wind, rain, sleet, snow
Pain level- none
Spirits/Morale- Bring it!
Wildlife encounters- Blue Grouse
Days without shower- 0
Days without laundry- 4
Never have I been so cold while hiking in my entire life. On another note, I slept beautifully beneath my tarp last. Despite the constant rain and wind, I didn’t catch any spray, and I slept halfway out of my bag I was so warm. Ten out of ten sleep, would sleep again.
I woke up before 6, then laid under my tarp and listened to the rain until almost 8. I was so comfortable, I almost wanted to wait for the rain to stop before packing up. Luckily I didn’t, because I would have been waiting all day. Literally.
OG was the first to start packing up his tent followed shortly by me. Hummingbird and Merlin were slower packing up, so OG and I hit the trail. We had just under 19 miles to reach the road, and it was looking like it was going to be a rough day.
It had been an easy night, but I can’t remember the last time I was so cold and uncomfortable while hiking. The rain and fog was constant yet varying, but it was the wind that put it over the top. The wind was sustaining and gusting well over 40mph, and we slated to be spending a good deal of time over 10k feet and close to 11k feet.
We could hardly escape the brutal chill of the wind when walking in tree cover. When we hit a bare hill or unprotected ridge…forget about it! The rain shell I was wearing helped to cut some of the chill, but what got through was more than enough to cut me to the bone. At times the wind was so powerful, the excess fabric on my jacket sounded like gunshots it was flapping so hard.
In the forest there were blow downs a’plenty. Out of the forest there was stronger winds. Everywhere rain. Everywhere cold. Everywhere rocks and mud. In almost 19 miles we only stopped once to eat a quick snack before a big climb. As far as animals, crazy happenings, near death experiences…there were none. It was simply a maniacal sprint at high elevation in desperate search of salvation.
I have excellent circulation in my legs and I managed the entire hike in my short shorts. My hands on the other… hand, have terrible circulation. They go numb in seconds during a cold wind. I had my possum down socks pulled over my hands and lower arms. Inside of those I activated some hand warmers I’ve been carrying for just such an occasion. On top of all that, I put on my rain shell mitts. I was more or less good to go.
OG and I stuck together for the entire 19 miles. When we nearef the 11k mark, it was sleeting, and there was fresh snow and ice on the ground. The wind stayed relentless. As per usual I wasn’t wearing socks, and everything from my toes to my eyebrows was numb…except my hands, they were warm thank heavens. I can suffer any part of me being cold except my fingers.
I’m not going to beat a dead horse trying to explain how cold I was today, but in all honesty, I kinda liked it. This was the worst weather I’ve dealt with so far on this entire hike. It broke up the monotony of the mostly nice weather I’ve experienced. It also showed me what I can handle. Sometimes I like to see just how miserable I can get before losing my sense of humor. I didn’t lose it today.
When we hit the road a little after 2 pm and stopped moving, that’s when the real cold set in. Half the battle was won, but now we had to get into town. The first vehicle to go by pulled over. I don’t know how a human being could drive by other human beings in this weather and not pull over to offer assistance, or at least do a welfare check. Thankfully today I didn’t have to wonder. Human kindness was alive and well.
Our savior’s name was Dave, not Jesus today. Dave was an early middle aged man on his way back from elk hunting. This was the most laid back, chilled out, relaxed, easy going human being to ever pick me up off the side of the road. He was from Wyoming, but he talked and sounded exactly like the turtle named “Crush” from the movie “Finding Nemo.” I kid you not.
Dave dropped us off at a local bar and grill since we hadn’t had anything to eat. Merlin and Hummingbird would arrive about 40 minutes later. While at the bar we had a somewhat interesting encounter with an older gentleman that ended up manifesting into an awkward experience that I wanted no part of. A story that I’ll save for a later date, most likely a future book. Speaking of which, there are a plethora of stories that don’t make it into my blog on account of I’m too tired to write them out in their entirety. So I outline them in detail and save them for a later date.
Long story short, I found Funny Bone, Puma, Stomper, and Red Bass still in town while waiting out the storm. A local hunting guide and awesome human being named “Par,” put us up in one of his empty houses that he uses for his clients. This place is incredible as far as thru hiker pads go. I normally try to avoid private residences, but when they put you up in your own building, it can’t be beat.
I’m not sure how long this weather is supposed to go on, but I’ll be damned if I hike out in it. Colorado is one big day away. It’s the most crucial piece to this thru hike’s puzzle. I think the weather through there will either be good, or abhorrent; no in between.
Sorry, I did not take many pictures today