Date- June 28, 2019
Location- Elbow Creek
Distance Traveled Today- 23.6 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 136.8 miles
Weather/Temp- 60s, overcast
Injuries- Sore talus
Pain level- low
Wildlife encounters- zero
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 2
Not too long after turning in last night it began raining again, and did so for most of the night it seemed. This morning was dry, although the sky was a pale white the entire day, almost never blue.
I began hiking at 8 am, about 45 mins after Dale and Jetpack had left out. I truly enjoy beginning each day alone with minimal human contact and being left with only my own thoughts to kick-start the day.
Right away there were several miles of blown down trees through a burnt out section. In 2017 this had been nearly 11 miles straight of blow-downs and had taken Schweppes and I around 8 hours to traverse. This year was nowhere near as bad, but it still took almost 3 hours to go 4.5 miles. My legs were scratched and gouged to hell while trying to get over or around all the dead fall. The blood flowed… and the sweat poured… and the CDT cared not. Looking at my own legs, I couldn’t help but wonder what Dale and Jetpack would look like when I finally caught up to them. No one escapes the punishments of CDT blow-downs, it’s just a matter of how bad.
Once clear of the blow-downs, the name of the game was mud, mud, and more… wildflowers. Wildflowers were today’s saving grace and arguably the prettiest thing to look at among the large sections of burnt out forest. There were no real views.
Around 1 pm I caught up to my compatriots taking lunch with 5 other northbound thru-hikers. Except they weren’t true northbound thru-hikers, they were flip-floppers.
“Flip-flopper” refers to them not doing the trail in one continuous direction or unbroken stream. They were just skipping around doing the sections they pleased first, while going in whichever direction suited them. Theses ones had hiked part of New Mexico, skipped up and done part of Wyoming, skipped up again and done about 200 miles further south to this point in the north. They were now going to do the rest of the way to Canada before flipping 300 miles to the south again, and continuing south until they have to skip over other sections they’ve already done.
I don’t know about you, but for me personally, that sort of hiking makes my OCD meter bounce off the charts. It seems like a wonderful way to butcher an otherwise very beautiful and pure way to hike a long trail.
While we’re on the subject, one of the flip-floppers said there were around 100 other thru-hikers all within 5 days to the south of us. My jaw nearly hit the dirt. I’d known there were a load of thru-hikers out here this year, but nowhere near that many. There had to be at least another 50 behind us that I know about, and that’s just the ones I know.
These sort of numbers are unheard of on the CDT. Back in 2017, I don’t think I saw more than a dozen other southbound thru-hikers in the span of 100 days. Schweppes and I didn’t see another thru-hiker on trail until over 200 miles into the hike. The times are changing indeed…
We capped off the day around 23 miles, and I built up a nice furnace of a fire ring and stoked a fire to life inside it. I don’t care to build your classic fire rings, especially in wildfire country. I prefer to build ovens that are protected from the wind and rain, and blast heat in a chosen direction. If I ever get to an old campsite with a classic fire ring, I usually convert it into an oven/furnace. They’re my little contribution to efficiency and better fire safety on trail – no embers will be getting easily blown or floated out of my furnaces.
No animals today. They’re probably all terrified of how many people have come stomping down the trail ahead of us and are still in hiding. In other news, a tendon stretching from the base of my big toe and up towards my ankle on my left foot is inflamed and tender. Probably tendonitis. It’s been getting worse the last two days. It’s nothing I can’t hike on, but I’m curious to see if it will fix itself, maintain, or get progressively worse. Time will tell…