Date- August 17
Location- Lander, Wyoming
Elevation- 5,377 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 30.7 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 1,027.1
Weather/Temp- partly cloudy, 70s, 80s
Injuries- scrapes, cuts
Pain level- low
Wildlife encounters- pronghorn, sandhill
Days without shower- 0
Days without laundry- 5
Slept like a stone last night and was hiking ten minutes before 8 am this morning. It was 31 miles to the road. I wanted to be there as close to 7 pm as I could in order to have the best chance at hitching. Even my earlier than usual start wasn’t early enough to make this easier on me. I’d have to average 3 mph over all the terrain for nearly 11 hours to make my window. I’m my own worst enemy.
I hiked a mile and a half before stopping to eat breakfast, which consisted of potato salad and Oreos. Almost immediately I felt sick. An hour later I had diarrhea that sent me running off the trail. I felt a little better after that, but my stomach was still queasy.
From this point on, I was a zombie: Unthinking – Unfeeling – Autopilot – Numb. I was just going steady, and not stopping unless I had to…
At 11:45 I had 11 miles. I stopped to eat the small amount of potato salad that was left, plus a handful of gummy worms. If anything, I felt a little better. I got it in my head that the Oreos had been poisoning me, so I decided to swear off chocolate for the rest of the hike.
When I left lunch at almost noon on the dot, I had nearly exactly 20 miles left to the road. I could get there before 7pm if I kept up a 3mph or better pace with absolute minimal breaks. It would suck, but I was totally out of food. If I didn’t get in tonight, I would go hungry-er.
The terrain was a mixture of Aspen stands, scrub plains, conifer groves, and sage meadows. The trail was constantly transitioning from sun exposed scrub to sheltered Aspen stands and scattered pines. There was always a strong wind. The continuous wind is what kept me going. I would have cooked otherwise, even though it wasn’t terribly hot. I was just in one of those more vulnerable physical states… susceptible to nature’s lesser quirks.
I had a little misfortune while trying to scoop some water on the go. There was a severely overgrown creek that had worn a deep crag in the ground. The flow was weak. You had to reach between 3 and 4 feet into the crag to get at the water. Looking for easier access I walked up the creek through dense overgrowth. When I spotted what I was looking for, I moved closer to the edge… only to have it collapse beneath me. That sudden movement sent my right foot and leg plunging down into the overgrown crag. As the rest of my body toppled over and into it, I was trying to grab at the banks to keep from falling in all the way. Everything I grabbed came loose or crumbled away, as I slid in deeper. It felt like slow motion. There had been a small tree blown down in that part of the crag. I was coming down right on top of and through it. The tree is what stopped my plunge into the trickling creek below. It scraped and cut the hell out of my right calf and thigh in the process. It even cut and drew blood across the “AT” tattoo on my calf. It was as if the CDT was saying, “F**k you, Appalachian Trail!” I recovered, rubbed some dirt in it, got my water, and pressed on.
I took another 15 minute break in some shade to filter two liters I’d procured earlier. I still had 15 miles to go; it was almost exactly 2pm.
I didn’t take another break for the rest of the day. I just trudged at what felt like a snail’s pace, but in reality was actually a pretty decent speed. My body is at the point where it has gotten good at hiking; even when I’m completely off my game, I’m still moving at a fitful pace – all things considered.
I reached the top of my final 1,200 ft climb just before 5 pm and had 7 miles left to the highway. Luckily, it was almost all gravel/dirt forest road. Now I could really zombie out without worrying about blow-downs and rocks. I sallied forth, so hungry it hurt! My stomach was contracting and gurgling loud enough to hear over my own shuffling footsteps.
After a fairly mundane 7 miles that saw me spook a family of pronghorn out of the scrub, it was 6:58 pm when I stepped onto the asphalt. I couldn’t have hoped for a more timely arrival, and don’t know how I pulled this day off. The long battle was over, but the war was still on. At worse, I’d be sleeping on the side of the highway if nobody stopped to pick me up.
I alternated between sitting and standing on the side of the road for 20 minutes. I popped up every time an eastbound vehicle sped by. It wasn’t very busy for a Saturday evening. Luckily, the sixth vehicle to drive by pulled over. The driver was a 33 year old rock climber named “Slim.” He was born and raised in Wyoming. For most of the weekend he had been climbing in the Winds. It was over a 30-mile hitch into Lander. Slim dropped me off at the Lander Bar; a familiar joint that has great pizza and wings.
The 20 minute wait for my food at the bar was excruciating. Smelling all the smells and watching others get their food was torture. When all was said and done, I’d eaten a large pizza and two pounds of wings. I could have eaten half that again, but I didn’t.
I got a room and plan to zero tomorrow. Lander is my final prep and resupply before I attempt the 24-hour challenge. The next 36 hours needs to be rest, re-hydration, carb-loading, and careful resupply planning. This year I’m treating the challenge as an elite event. I’m more determined than ever to set the bar higher than anything I could hope to set anywhere else.
I don’t feel 100% right now. Still queasy and sort of off. Hoping to shake all of this over the next day or two of rest.
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