Date- September 2, 2019
Location- side of trail
Elevation- 10,974 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 36.3 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 1430.1 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 70s, 80s
Pain level- low
Spirits/Morale- New shoes!
Wildlife encounters- beaver, mule deer, elk
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 2
I decided to put in some hard labor in honor of Labor Day today. I was up early and hiking before 7 am. Yay – cowboy camping! The 12 mile road walk along the highway began almost immediately. I completed it by a little after 10 am. The highlight came when I saw a beaver swim across a stream. Other than that, it was dull.
After the highway walk came the forest road walk for 17 more miles. This was nothing short of monotonous as it ascended painfully slow for 3,000 feet.
Love them Insects
This dirt road walk wasn’t completely boring, however. Around 5 miles in, some type of insect flew up my right nostril. I immediately plugged my left nostril and began snorting furiously. I could feel its legs and wings flailing away in there. By the 3rd or 4th snort, I felt fluid run down my upper lip. I didn’t feel the insect anymore, and reached up to wipe away the snot. Except it wasn’t snot – it was blood, and lots of it. For the next 3 minutes or so, I was leaking like a faucet. Blood was all over both my hands, my lips, and my chin at one point. I must have looked like I just devoured a chunk of bloody raw meat… It finally slowed down and then stopped. I used some of my precious water to clean myself up a bit.
I still don’t know what flew up my nose – or if the insect, the snorting, (or both) caused the bleeding. Whatever it was, it either got blown out or is burrowed into my brain as I write this – possibly controlling everything I write. I mean, after all… bugs are our friends and we should warmly welcome them into our homes and bodies freely. They mean us no harm. Be nice to bugs. Don’t kill bugs. Worship bugs.
Not far from the end of the forest road climb, two camo-clad hunters were walking with their bows in the opposite direction. They were coming downhill over a lot of loose rock, while I was going up. One was a young teenager and the other was around my age. When they were perhaps 50 feet away, the one closer to my age slipped on the loose rock. He fell hard on his compound bow. From experience, I knew this fall was going to be more painful to his pride than his body. Falling in front of strangers is never fun, and some people don’t know how to play it off.
“Are you okay?” I asked after he’d regained his feet. “Yeeeeah, I’m alright.” Then I said jokingly, “More importantly, is the bow alright!?” “Yeah, it’s good,” he affirmed. “I can’t tell you how many times that’s been me on this hike,” I declared in an attempt to relate to him (and hopefully ease some of the embarrassment I knew he felt). After that we talked for a minute about hunting and then parted ways.
By 5:30 pm I had 30 miles racked up and was back on a single track trail. After a long descent, I tackled a steep thousand foot climb. Next, I began traversing a steep roller-coaster ridge before darkness caught me around 8:15.
I pushed a couple more miles into the darkness, spooking an elk as much as it spooked me. It was on the edge of a steep forest line. At a little after the 36-mile mark, I found myself in a tight cluster of trees on the flat hump of a ridge-line at 11k feet. It was breezy, but the night was clear; there would be no cold air settling up here. In fact, even the breeze had a warm feel as it rose up from the valley far below. I would only be descending for another 4 to 5 miles. I didn’t want the 40 miles bad enough to freeze in the lowlands, which is where another 4 miles would deposit me. So, I called it a day.
I’m cowboy camped on this gorgeous ridge, facing east. I can’t imagine how beautiful the sunrise will be in the morning. I can hear coyotes fairly close by and above me. I’m always comforted by them. They’ve never given me a problem in more than 600 nights spent sleeping in the woods. They make me feel like a pack of shy dogs are near by, and I like that.
I didn’t see any other hikers today. Those two hunters were the only other human beings. I’m enjoying the solitude. Now that I’m out of grizzly country, there isn’t an ounce of anxiety that comes with camping alone – especially cowboy camping.
All of my paranoia stems from the possibility of the weather turning bad on me. So far it’s been gorgeous, if not a bit too hot for all these climbs. However, I’ve got my eye on the Aspen trees. They are my canary in the coal mine. Every one of them is still bright green right now. It’ll take a hard freeze or a freezing rain to turn them yellow, red, and orange – basically overnight. When they change, the race will truly be on. It could signal an Indian summer that could last for a week or two, or the temperatures and weather could just deteriorate. Either way, those Aspens aren’t going to change until there’s a serious freeze. The question will then be… will it stay freezing? Or… will an Indian summer grace and gift us extra time to crunch miles before freezing temps, snow, and bad weather set in for good?
In 2017 the Aspens were already changed by the time I entered Colorado. So I’m still ahead of the game – as well as hundreds of miles ahead of the location from my previous hike (during this same time period). I want to keep growing that distance. It will be interesting to see where I am on October 1st – the day I called off my hike and cut my losses in 2017. Come on Colorado! Keep cooperating!
You can read my current and past posts, and see my photos by clicking this link and going to Boundlessroamad.com