Date- July 31
Location- side of trail
Distance Traveled Today- 30.6 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 810.4 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, cloudy, storms, rain, 80s, 70s, 60s
Pain level- low
Wildlife encounters- none
Days without shower- 3
Days without laundry- 7
Got my typical 8:30 am start and began a more than 3,000 ft climb stretched out over 12 miles. It was an unusual climb, mostly exposed to the sun, that went up in stepped tiers. It would go up so many hundreds of feet, then plateau or go down a little ways before beginning a similar climb and repeating the pattern. It did this about 6 times before capping things off with a more than 1,000 ft climb which terminated in a flat 2-mile walk that skirted just below the top of the ridge. There was an epic view across a table flat valley blotched with various glistening lakes and reservoirs.
I hit this amalgamation of climbs hard and fast, finishing up at the top a little after noon. I took a break at the end of the flat walk around 1:30 pm and was hiking again about 2 pm with only 14ish miles completed. For some reason I was unbelievably tired despite eating plenty all day. It wasn’t a physical tired, but a sleepy tired. I wanted nothing more than to take a nap… for the rest of the day.
Beginning the 5 mile descent, I wasn’t going as fast as I wanted to, and didn’t really care. I ran into two north-bounders towards the bottom named “Ducky” and “Real Sorry” – guys I’d known on the PCT in 2016. We killed 20 minutes catching up and talking about what lie ahead of each of us. A minor inconvenience of lost time, but a welcomed one.
I took another half hour break at the very bottom of the climb to eat and mentally prepare myself for the last push I wanted to do. Initially I wanted to get close to 40 miles today and reach Island Park, Idaho. Now it was almost 5 pm and I only had half that distance. It was beginning to feel a little out of reach, but I knew I wanted to break 30 miles no matter what – then play the rest by ear.
After a thousand more feet of roller-coaster climbs I finally reached a stretch of trail that would be a 4 mile bushwhack a little after 5 pm. No sooner was I picking my way through it, I got caught in another light rain and thunderstorm. It wasn’t bad enough to hunker down or even take the time to pull out my umbrella, but I got a little damp.
This bushwhack area was known to cause hikers a lot of problems; I had known people in 2017 who’d been stuck/lost on it for the better part of 6 hours. I made it through fine back then, and I made it through even easier and faster this time.
The bushwhack and faint trail at the end of it continued into a gravel road that would stretch for a little less than ten miles into Island Park, Idaho. It was just after 9 pm when I emerged from the trail onto the gravel road at close to 9,000 ft in elevation. It would be a cake walk to just keep going down the road into town and get my 40 mile day – so I decided to press on (despite my extreme sleepiness).
I didn’t make it a mile and a half before I heard low rumbling and glanced back over my shoulder. Against an already black sky was an even blacker blotch of clouds that stretched as far as I could see in every direction behind me… and coming my way. Lightning flashed almost constantly within it, and was the only light that escaped it. I didn’t want my 40 miles that bad!
Checking my maps, I saw that I’d got my 30 miles; so I ran off the side of the road and quickly began setting up camp. I wasn’t even in my hammock when I heard the first raindrops hitting the tarp. The weather soon deteriorated into a full blown lightning rainstorm and is still going strong right now, at almost midnight.
I’m still over 30 miles from Wyoming and tomorrow is August 1st. I plan to get into town quickly tomorrow and enjoy myself before completing whatever miles I need to reach the border. One way or another, tomorrow shall be glorious!
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