Date- July 27, 2019
Location- side of trail
Elevation- 7,628 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 34.5 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 724.5 miles
Weather/Temp- cloudy, sunny, rain, hale, 50s, 60s, 70s
Pain level- zero
Spirits/Morale- flying high
Wildlife encounters- cow moose, muskrat, mule deer, garter snake
Days without shower- 3
Days without laundry- 3
Hunger/craving- greasy burger
It was raining when I awoke around 6 am. I went back to sleep. It was raining when I awoke again around 7 am. I went back to sleep. It was raining when I awoke at almost 8 am. I sighed hard, peeled myself out of the hammock and packed everything up beneath my tarp, then packed the tarp away last. By the time I was packing up the tarp, the rain was done. I’ll take it.
It was slightly after 8:30 when I started beating feet down the trail. From the moment I took my first step, I decided I was going to shoot for at least the 33-mile mark today, no matter what. It was a super late start for such a big day, but I wasn’t going to let it dissuade me. I felt really, really… really good.
No sooner had I gone a hundred yards out of camp, there was a large cow moose ahead of me on the trail. Before I could get my camera out, she ran into a tall brush thicket lining Tendoy Creek. I climbed up on an adjacent hill and tried to see if I could spot her from a higher vantage point, but to no avail.
Ironic, because this spot was less than 4 miles from where I was charged by a young cow moose back in 2017. She had ambush charged me out of a brush thicket lining a stream, just like the one this female had disappeared into. Luckily, the one in 2017 had peeled off with just yards to spare. I can’t help but wonder if this was the same animal. Regardless, I wasn’t getting close to the stream to get ambushed again. Fool me once!
I started hiking at a blistering pace, close to 4 mph. The air had a slight mugginess and the sun was in and out, making for a fairly warm morning despite the rain. I liked it. Within the first 3 miles I had taken my shirt off and resorted to hiking topless. Man, did it feel good. The wind and the sun were just right for my body to regulate its own temperature with minimal clothes.
As it were, I’d slept in long enough for 3 other hikers (not including Jetpack) to pass me in my slumber – Quiet Man being one of them, and some other couple I didn’t really know.
By 9:15 am I’d passed Quiet Man on the first big climb. By 10:30 am, I’d caught and passed the couple at the base of the second big climb. A little further up that climb I caught Jetpack. I let her know my plans for bigger miles, and she asked me to save her a room for Monday night in Lima (I was planning to get in Sunday (tomorrow)). She was going to stick with a 25 mile day today. I told her I’d see her Monday, and then pushed ahead.
I saw a mule deer bedded down by the trail and then a large garter snake, before the top of that climb. Several miles earlier I’d seen a big muskrat swimming around in a stream below the trail. This was the most wildlife I’d seen since the bears and goats. I can’t help but be superstitious and think that it’s because I’ve finally decided to hike the miles I really want to hike, instead of the miles someone else wants to hike. Don’t get me wrong, I love hiking with other people, and really enjoy Jetpack’s easy going company. However, I also like to take days to just go as far as I can, whether it be as far as other hikers with me can go (or are willing to go) – or not.
I’d hiked over 17 miles by 1:45 pm when I stopped for my first break in the middle of a 15-mile dry stretch. The trail had been mostly sagebrush valleys, sagebrush prairies, and sagebrush covered ridge-lines. There hadn’t been much tree cover other than a pocket or grove here and there.
I took 15 minutes for lunch before hitting the trail again and beginning my third 1,000+ ft climb for the day. Shooting up the climb I found myself on terribly slanted trail as it wound its way through a sagebrush infested mountainside. I just pushed harder.
I filled up from a spring a little after 3:30 pm and began a fast descent into a forested valley that preceded my final and largest climb of the day.
As I was making my way through the valley floor, passing through intermittent pockets of forests and stretches of exposed meadow, I crossed the 25 mile mark around 4:30 pm. I was making excellent time and was just about to begin the last big climb. After that, it would be all downhill – literally.
There was blue sky ahead of me for as far as I could see when I heard a light rumble. I glanced over my shoulder quickly and had to do a double take. There was a wall of black clouds coming my way, stretching as far as I could see on both sides of the surrounding ridges. I let out an audible curse word and sped up. I needed to find some large conical pines, or the closest thing to them.
Within a few minutes of seeing the storm, I could feel tiny droplets of rain begin to hit me. There wasn’t much time. I crossed into another grove of evergreens, found the lowest point within it, spotted a thick cluster of conifers within that low point and planted myself in the middle of them. I even found part of a dead log that I dragged under them to sit upon.
Safe within my tree cave, I put my shirt back on. Next, I popped open my umbrella, sat down, tucked my pack between my legs and curled myself into a seated fetal position. My arms were folded on top of the pack with my head resting on them; the umbrella was wedged through my arms and situated to cover everything.
The rain began to fall hard and the wind gusted and bent the tops of the trees. Within about 10 minutes, a heavy hail began to come down, covering the ground in a thin layer of ice. The temperature dropped and I balled myself up even tighter. In fact, I fell asleep several times just sitting there with my head tucked down into my arms. I started breathing warm air into the insides of my elbows where the blood in the shallow veins there might carry some heat to the rest of my body. Truth be told, I was quite snug so long as the wind gusts didn’t touch me.
It was almost an hour before the worst of the storm was past and I was up and hiking with my umbrella in a light drizzle. And guess what? Throughout that entire hellish storm… I didn’t get a drop of water on me. I got a tiny bit of spray when a strong gust would make it down into my nook. That was it.
I got wetter trudging through the now soaked vegetation than when the storm was actually happening. As I began the climb, I went topless once more as the sunshine and blue skies reappeared.
Knocking out the climb by a little after 7 pm, I had a long descent to where I’d planned to camp. This was it, easy street. It was a little after 8 pm when I reached the bottom of yet another valley – more than 33 miles completed. Even after losing an hour of hiking to the storm, I still got to my goal point earlier than I thought I would, given such a late start. There was at least an hour of good daylight left, so I decided to keep going. My feet felt great, my legs felt strong, and the mind was alert and willing. I still felt really, really good.
I planned to go another 3 miles, but around half a mile from the bottom of the descent, I ran into a female north-bounder named “Dogma.” She’d come out of Lima late the day before, and we spent almost half an hour talking about the people ahead of each of us, as well as hiking with our dogs – which neither of us had at that time. It was a very nice and welcomed exchange at the end of what had been an utterly relentless and fast paced day.
After we parted ways, it was past 9 pm. I hiked about another mile in the fading light, aiming for the top of a couple hundred foot climb. Instead of doing the extra 3 miles I had my sights on, I decided I’d just get off the valley floor so I don’t freeze tonight.
As I made my way up the climb, I waited for the familiar feeling of someone breathing warm air over your entire body. A little over halfway up, I felt myself push into the warm pocket, probably close to 10 degrees warmer than what I’d just ascended from. I went a little further and found some trees and made camp.
I’m a little over 23 miles from I-15, the road into Lima. My goal is to make the road before 5 pm and either hitch or call a shuttle from the motel in town. The cutoff time for the shuttle is 5 pm, so if I don’t make it before then, I’ll be in the hands of fate. Interstate hitchhiking is a dangerous game – so many serial killers.
The terrain from here to the road is a real bastard (excuse my French), so it’s a toss up whether I make it on time. If I can recreate my strength and motivation from today, then it’ll be no problem. I think I can, but it’s heavily dependent on the weather. This next stretch is incredibly exposed. Speaking of which, when that storm hit today, Jetpack would have probably been in the middle of an exposed, 8-mile sagebrush prairie or ridge-walk. There hasn’t been any service to see how she fared, but I’m anxious to hear if she got through it without too much misery. If I hadn’t decided to hike my own miles today, I would have been right there with her. More superstitious timing…
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