Date- July 23, 2019
Location- Side of trail
Elevation- 9,078 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 16.6 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 635 miles
Weather/Temp- Overcast, Rainy, 60s/70s
Injuries- sore toe
Pain level- low
Spirits/Morale- anxious for town
Wildlife encounters- rodents, insects
Days without shower- 5
Days without laundry- 5
Hunger/craving- greasy food
It rained and thundered intermittently throughout last night. The silver lining was that the cloud cover helped insulate the land and keep it from getting too terribly cold. I slept like a stone – comfortable and warm.
This morning, despite the heavy cloud cover and sprinkling of rain, the air maintained quite a bit of heat and maybe a hint of humidity as well. I was not cold in the slightest. And although it was not a cold morning, I didn’t hit the trail until around 9 am.
After 2.5 miles of flattish jeep track, the trail showed up with a vengeance. It would go straight up, 200, 400, 500 ft or so over loose rock or smooth dirt – then flatten out for a couple hundred yards or go straight down only to jump straight back up with a similar climb. I don’t mind long climbs or long descents, but when it’s constantly changing gears, it wears my legs out fast… especially when I’m down to my last M&M rations.
This erratic and steep ascending and descending wore my already worn out body to the core. I was moving in short bursts – knock out a climb, rest; knock out another, rest; repeat. I felt like I was losing a lot of time and falling behind, but then I ran into Jetpack shortly after noon, sitting on the side of the trail having lunch. She’d left almost an hour and a half earlier than me, so it was strange to see her so soon.
As it were, she was having a hell of a time too. It was just stubborn, tough trail – ungraded, steep, and loose. It began raining lightly as I also took lunch, and continued to do so intermittently for the rest of the afternoon.
Jetpack and I hiked together for the next few hours and decided to make it a short day. There was almost no point in going all the way to the road into Leadore. It’s a gravel highway that only sees a handful of vehicles on it per day. The average person waits 2 hours for a ride, unless you call a $20 shuttle when you have service anywhere but at the actual road.
Instead of going all the way and camping at the road (while ending up taking an unwanted zero), we decided to just do a short 10-mile day into town tomorrow and leave the next morning. Not sure if we’ll attempt to hitch or call in a ride ahead of time. I guess we’ll see.
As of right now, we’re camped above 9,000 feet just below a ridge in a flat wooded area. Despite the high elevation, the cloud cover as well as the topography of our location should provide some decent temperatures tonight. We should catch the warm air rising out of the valleys, while the clouds sandwich it back down on us instead of letting it escape into the atmosphere. I’m anxious to see if I’m right. It’s always nice to see your wilderness knowledge pay off.
Valleys, canyons, gulches, river basins, lake basins, anything next to water, and any low crease in the land are areas that get exceptionally cold at night- because cold air settles in them.They also reach the dew point much quicker, and that means more condensation build-up throughout the night. Of course, exposed ridges or open areas also have the potential to get very cold due to wind chill (if there is wind). But also as a rule, thick forests or areas with trees tend to be much warmer than open ground – wind or no wind. Trees are natural insulators, and they also help cut down on condensation; firstly, because they can potentially stay warm enough to avoid the dew point altogether, or at least slow the ambient temperature from reaching the dew point as quickly as an open area might reach it. Also, trees tend to suck moisture right out of the air, especially big conifers. After a cold night, the ground might be soaked with condensation in every place except beneath the canopy of a low hanging conifer. Those trees are life savers!
Anyways, that’s enough about the nuances of campsite selection. I look forward to reporting what sort of night we endure up here. If it clears up and the wind gets going, then we could be in for it. If not, I think it will be a comfortable night.
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