Date- July 6, 2019
Location- Side of trail
Elevation- 6,939 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 31.2 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 315.4 miles
Weather/Temp- sunny, rainy, thunder, windy, 60s, 50s
Pain level- none
Wildlife encounters- cows
Days without shower- 1
Days without laundry- 1
Broke the 300-mile mark today… in four days shy of three weeks. It feels good to average over 100 miles per week this early in the game. It means those numbers are only going to go up as time goes on.
I woke up a lot earlier from cowboy camping and was on trail around 7:30 am. The terrain was mild, the weather gorgeous, and in just over 3 hours I managed to get more than 11 miles before taking an hour and a half lunch break to dry my stuff. I soaked up a lot of condensation sleeping on the grass last night and my sleeping bag was quite damp.
I pushed on another 9 miles before reaching the start of a climb up onto a long and fairly exposed ridge-line. At this point I thought Jetpack and Salty were ahead of me, and I knew Dale was ahead. I ran into two other hikers here named Morning Glory and Obama. I asked them if Jetpack and Salty had been through or passed them and they told me they had. It was only around 3:30 pm and I’d already gone 20 miles for the day. Originally, I thought Jetpack and Salty were going to camp here at the 20-mile mark. I guessed they thought it was too early to stop and just pushed on. I was glad, because that’s what I wanted to do and was probably already going to do, even if they had stayed there.
As I pushed up onto the ridge, thunder began to roll to the north. I briefly thought about going back down and playing it safe, but decided I’d be okay pressing on another 11 miles to the bottom of the ridge (on the far side of the long walk) at nearly 8,000 feet.
Flash forward 30 minutes… and I was huddled against the base of a tiny alpine conifer as 40 mph gusts (laced with stinging and freezing rain) swept across the ridge line – seriously regretting my decision to sally forth.
For the next 2.5 hours I moved from saddle to saddle, tree cluster to tree cluster, in-between storm cells. This method worked well enough, but I was caught out in the open a few times and had to bear the brunt of cold wind and rain beating against my body while trying to blow me off the mountain. It was a little scary and a lot uncomfortable! But it was never the current situation that was worrisome. Everything that happened was more than bearable, albeit “shitty.” What gets scary is the anticipation of it suddenly getting worse than you can handle. You just don’t know, so that possibility is always in the back of your mind. What if the winds kick up to 60 or 70 mph? What if it starts to hail marble sized chunks? What if the temperature or wind chill drops well below freezing? What if this current cell just holds steady and doesn’t stop for hours, never giving you a chance to recover or catch your breath or warmth back? You can only push through those conditions for so long before your body starts to shut down. If your hands become inoperable… you’re screwed (if conditions don’t break). Then you have to do things like diving off the ridge and trail blazing to sufficient cover. Not fun.
As pain is temporary, so too are most of the rainstorms in the mid-west mountains. The rain and wind subsided around 6 pm and left me to finish the ridge-line in relative peace, no worse for the wear.
I was incredibly surprised not to see anyone else along the ridge, not even miles ahead of me where the exposed trail was easily visible. No Dale, no Jetpack, no Salty, no anybody. I began to think maybe they’d made camp in a saddle and that I’d passed by them unknowingly. Either way, when I finished up the 31 miles to a seeping spring around 9 pm, I only found Dale and a few other hikers who’d begun the day miles ahead of us. Jetpack and Salty were nowhere to be found, so I figured I’d passed them on the ridge somewhere.
This was my first 30+ mile day of the trail, and I’m feeling great. If it wasn’t for the storms, I would have finished much earlier. My feet feel great. Everything feels great. I’m going to try to push 23 miles into Helena tomorrow and take a day or two off to work on the blog and let my body grow stronger, after all this nonstop punishment.
Go to CDT Day 1.
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