Date- August 28, 2019
Location- Side of trail
Elevation- 9,656 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 22.4 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 1,333.6 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 70s
Injuries- Sore feet, dry/cracking thighs
Pain level- fairly uncomfortable
Wildlife encounters- rodents
Days without shower- 3
Days without laundry- 4
Hunger/craving- smoked wings
I slept warm and comfortably in my little outhouse cabin. The three of us hikers were all up and hitching before 7 am. When I say “hitching” (on this particular day) – I mean sitting on the side of the highway watching nothing go by.
Eventually, an old Volkswagen came sputtering up from town and pulled over at the trailhead. An elderly man was driving, and a middle aged French hiker named “Sa-heeb” stepped out. We talked to the hiker for a couple minutes and told him about our poor luck getting into town. As we spoke, the elderly man got back into his vehicle and continued in the opposite direction (that we needed to go). Then suddenly, he turned his car around and began heading back to town. We all threw our thumbs out, and all the man did was wave at us as he drove by. There was a collective, “WTF?” sentiment expressed between the three of us. We were really having some bad luck! I’m not sure what the disconnect with the old man had been. I thought it was very clear that we were trying to get into town (not to mention our blatant hitchhiking stance). I guess his one good deed for the day was done. Who knows.
Around 20 minutes later (sometime close to 7:30 am) – Jetpack rolled up to the trailhead with two other hikers I didn’t recognize. They were in an SUV driven by a guy named John, who was perhaps in his late 30s or early 40s. The first thing I did was joke that I’d trade her a sock for a cheeseburger. However, she didn’t have the cheeseburger. She hadn’t eaten it, but had instead thrown it away, before getting a ride up to the trailhead. I was disappointed, but didn’t blame her. There was no way for her to know if I’d still be up here by the time they arrived.
Anyway, John offered us a ride into town and we graciously accepted. My plan was to get in and out and keep hiking. There’s not a whole lot in Encampment or the smaller town of Riverside that borders it. John dropped us off at a place called “The Garage,” which was kind of like the town’s one stop shop. It had food, gas, lodging, DVD rentals, hardware, fishing, hunting supplies, etc.
I took care of my resupply. Next, I ate a sausage biscuit and breakfast burrito that I warmed up in the microwave. While I was eating and sitting out front, it dawned on me that this was probably where Jetpack stayed. If it was… then that burger was only freshly thrown away somewhere. I went back inside and chatted up the clerk to see if Jetpack had stayed there. She had! So I asked if I could check out the cabin where she stayed, and he agreed. Trotting around the building with the key, I found her cabin and went inside. To my immense satisfaction there was a to-go box wrapped in a plastic bag sitting in the trashcan. Pay-dirt! It felt like Christmas as I snatched it out of the receptacle.
I warmed the burger up in the microwave, and voila! It was as fatty, juicy, and tasty as the moment it came off the grill! I was so happy. After finishing it, I was ready to go back to trail.
Back to the Trail Head
My luck getting out of town was much better than getting in. I didn’t even have to hitch. I was simply walking to where I was going to hitch when an older retired gentleman pulled over and asked, “Would you rather walk back to the trailhead or drive?” “I’ll take the ride!” I declared happily.
The man’s name was “Stosh.” He was a lifelong resident of Encampment, but had worked and lived in California a lot over the years. He was in construction and used to have his own business before halfway retiring. Stosh was a very eclectic character… and if “Adult Attention Deficit Disorder” is a real thing, he had it – but in a good way.
I was back at the trailhead slightly after 10 am and hiking again. The Colorado border was only 20.5 miles away. It was a late start, but not too late to knock out 20 miles – even in my painful state.
So both my shoes are totally blown out, after 600 miles or so. The insides are coming apart and the integrity of their support is nonexistent. I haven’t developed any blisters; however, both feet are bruised. My left foot has a pressure point that’s so tender, I could barely walk on it this morning. While in town, I bought a thick pair of wool socks for extra cushion. It’s the only thing I could think of. Even though it’s helping with pain management, it hasn’t solved the problem. I can’t get to my new shoes fast enough in Steamboat Springs.
To make matters worse, the inside of my thighs have done the opposite of chafe. They have dried out to the point that they’ve become raw and cracked. The skin on the inside of my thighs looks like elephant leather. Even the slightest perspiration causes stinging. It’s very distracting and painful. I think it was using Gold-Bond instead of Baby Powder that did it. The Gold-Bond dries out my skin a lot more, while the baby powder works better as an anti-friction agent. At least that’s my experience.
Despite the low mileage, I felt like I was doing damage control on myself all day. I moved at a moderate pace, taking frequent breaks. To be honest, I didn’t care about bigger miles today. All I cared about was crossing into Colorado. I would be satisfied to meet my goal of reaching Colorado before the end of August.
The trail was actually very difficult to find and follow for a good chunk of the day. This always seems to be the case at state line crossings. It’s almost like the trail maintainers just give up… the closer they get to not being in their own territory.
After a fairly mundane and painful 20-mile push through the last of southern Wyoming, I finally came to the Colorado license plate nailed to a tree. It was a little after 7 pm. Alas! The land of Milk and Honey!
I was alone. There was nobody else there – camped or otherwise. I took a selfie with the border sign and contemplated camping by it. In the end, I decided to just keep walking. I walked another two miles or so until it was pitch black. Then I strung up my hammock between two trees (without putting up my rain fly) and enjoyed a can of Spaghettios in bed.
It feels good to be in the second to last state, but Colorado isn’t going down without a fight. The next 700 miles or so will be filled with more than 100k feet of elevation gain – most of it at high elevation. I’m going to push as hard as I can through this state. I have a bad feeling that it’s going to spit me out into New Mexico, in pretty rough shape. Only one way to find out…
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