Date- July 30, 2019
Location- Aldous Lake Trailhead
Elevation- 7,051 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 31.6 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 779.8 miles
Weather/Temp- cloudy, storms, rain, lightning, 70s
Pain level- zero
Wildlife encounters- sheep, mule deer, golden eagle
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 6
Phew, whatta day!
After an early breakfast at the diner, Jetpack, Quiet Man, myself, and a middle aged German man named Road Runner caught the 9 am motel shuttle back to the trailhead about 17 miles south on I-15. By 9:30 we were hiking.
For the first mile I walked leisurely with everyone else and looked at the map of the trail ahead. Jetpack doesn’t like doing big days out of town and only wanted to go 15 miles. We were back on trail way too early for only 15 miles and I wanted about double that. It was kind of a late start for a 30+ mile day, but if I didn’t take any breaks, I knew I could get it done well before dark – even with 6,000+ feet of elevation gain. That’s a tough day, but not a murderous one.
After I’d got it in my head that I was doing 30 miles today, I let the others know that I would be “speeding up now.” I actually have plans to take two or three days off to meet a friend in Yellowstone on the 2nd of August, so I want to get there in the next 3 days (a little over 100 miles) so that my average “miles per day” doesn’t take too big of a hit. Jetpack and all the other hikers behind me will more than likely get ahead during these 2 or 3 days and then it will be me playing catch up. They know this, so my hiking ahead isn’t taken personally.
So I took off around 10 am with over 29 miles still ahead of me. By noon I only had about 9 miles completed. At around the 12 mile mark I found myself at the bottom of a steep 1,300 ft climb. I took about 20 minutes to eat some almond M&Ms, Oreos, and Sour Brite Gummy Worms in preparation.
The climb passed quickly, but as I neared the top, that familiar rumbling sound filled my ears. I looked back to the north… dark clouds and rain were on the approach. I sped up some more.
The top of the climb wasn’t really the top of the climb. It was just where the terrain leveled out a bit, but still had several hundred feet to go. However, the trees drastically thinned out up there. Before heading out into the more open terrain, I glanced back at the fast approaching storm. It was deff coming, but it was still too far to start taking shelter now – it would be a waste of time. I decided to brave the open terrain and hope I could traverse the extra mile to where there were more trees.
Before the rain could catch me, I heard the unmistakable sound of sheep. Glancing back around, I noticed a herd of a few hundred tucked into the edge of a meadow and treeline, a couple hundred yards away.
I’m familiar with the presence of sheep up here from 2017. But what also accompanies them are giant Newfoundland dogs and Peruvian gauchos on horseback. I had a run-in with one of the dogs in 2017 and luckily a gaucho was nearby to call it off. I knew a female hiker from back then who was surrounded by nearly half a dozen of the dogs and wasn’t rescued by the gauchos for what “seemed like forever.” She was very upset by it. That is potentially a situation where one might think their life is about to end, especially if you have no idea as to the circumstances in which you have encountered these dogs.
From a distance, I spotted one of the gaucho’s horses standing on a small rise overlooking the flock. I didn’t see the gaucho, but I could see dogs dispersed through the flock and along the perimeter. With all the predators out here, they keep a small army of dogs at all times it seems.
The flock was just out of sight when the first of the rain hit and I hurried into a grove of evergreens. I sat tight for 20 minutes as lightning flashed overhead and the rain fell in small but densely clustered droplets.
It never rained very hard, but I suppose the lightning was a good enough excuse to lay low. A mile later I filled up some water from a trickling spring, and then didn’t stop for the rest of the day.
Up, down, up, down – I pushed along the ridges and through saddles. With 8 miles left to my destination, I could see and hear another storm approaching from behind. This one looked nasty and massive! If there was going to be a storm that could keep me from finishing where I wanted to finish… this was it.
I picked up the pace, moving through burned zones and knocking out little climbs. As luck would have it, the storm began to skirt past me as I also moved away from it. This didn’t last. With only around 2 miles left to go, both me and the storm veered towards each other and overlapped.
The wind was horrendous and the rain whipped so hard, it was just a misting spray. Overall, the minor overlapping encounter lasted 20 minutes. I continued to hike through all of it. It wasn’t bad, aside from the wind and anticipation of it possibly getting much, much worse. The stress from anticipation out here can get very serious at times. You just don’t know how bad things might escalate sometimes.
It was 9:20 pm when I rolled into my desired camping area, having completed a little under 32 miles. There was still a little light left in the air, but not much.
All in all it was a great day for such a late start. Tomorrow is looking a bit rough, but I’m hoping for another 30+ mile day. It feels good to stretch these old legs.
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