Date- September 28, 2019
Location- side of trail
Elevation- 11,404 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 23.4 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 1928.3 miles
Pain level- zero
Wildlife encounters- Elk
Days without shower- 5
Days without laundry- 9
Today was one of my roughest days on trail. It shouldn’t have been, but it was. The San Juans are one serious bitch of a mountain range!
Leap Frog and Sharkbait were gone by 6:45 am and I was hiking by 7:30 am. It ended up being a good two miles up through the valley to reconnect with the CDT. It was overgrown and everything was covered in frost. I was soon soaked in freezing cold water, despite my extra layers.
As soon as I finished the 500 feet up the valley to the CDT, I began a 1,200 ft climb to a pass. The wind today was unreal! There was no getting away from it… and no beating it. I’m not exaggerating when I say I almost lost it today. I was so cold all morning, I had to stay bundled against the wind. I even kept my sleeping socks on my hands, with hand warmers activated inside them.
The miles came so painfully slow, even though I felt like I was working as hard as I could. It wouldn’t have been so bad if not for the constant 20, 30, 40 mph+ winds that found you – no matter where you were on the topography.
At 12 pm I stopped to cook mashed potatoes for lunch. I was already exhausted from nonstop climbs, pushing through bushes, stumbling over rocks, and fighting the wind and freezing cold. Clouds were everywhere – but it wasn’t overcast. They were moving so fast that you were constantly cast in and out of shade. It was like someone was flipping a light switch on and off every few seconds (except they did it all damn day). Every time they turned it off, it felt like it got 20 degrees cooler.
I started hiking again around 12:30 pm, finding myself at the beginning of a 14 mile roller-coaster of nonstop climbs ranging from 100 ft to 350 ft (about 14 of them). The elevation profile looked like the teeth on a hand saw.
At 1 pm I dared to check my progress as I became frustrated on the first two steep climbs. I’d only done a little over 8 miles. My frustration shot through the roof as I shouted an obscenity into the sky. I was angry… angry at myself; angry at the wind and the cold; angry at the mountains. On top of that, I was out of food except for a pack of gummy worms, some Fritos, and a quarter can of Pringles. I had no more meals left.
In that moment I would have done anything to be out of these mountains and anywhere else. Yes, they are beautiful – but they are barren, exposed, and 90% of all the trees are dead from pine beetles. As mentioned previously, there are no fishing or good camping options here. The trail through this mountain range is literally just a place to get molested by the wind and elements.
While having my very near break down… I took a mental step back and detached myself from the situation. I was only making things worse with my attitude. After a few minutes of centering my mind and focus, I made the conscious decision to turn the frustration into constructive energy. I decided I was going to hike a 45 mile day to the highway, no matter how long it took.
I hit the trail with a fury I haven’t unleashed since the Basin… running down the declines and charging up the climbs. Everything hurt. Everything burned. I got stitches in my right side beneath my ribs. I didn’t care. All of it felt better than despair.
Around 5:30 pm, I caught up to everyone else. Surprisingly, they had stuck together throughout the day. I’d gone from 8 miles to over 22 miles in about 4 hours. I was somewhat relieved to hear that everyone else was having the same kind of day. No one was getting the miles they wanted; everyone was stopping in less than a mile to camp. Everyone except Smiles, who had already pushed on 6 more miles. That girl is a beast. If you ever saw her legs, you’d know she was built for speed and comfort. It’s ridiculous.
I told Jetpack I was hiking all the way to the highway tonight because I was out of food. She suggested I camp with them and not put myself through any further hardship. She also mentioned she had brought too much food and would have plenty to share with me. I insisted that I liked to pay for and rectify my own mistakes. She further insisted I would be doing her a favor by eating some of the extra food, so she didn’t have to carry the surplus. I ended up giving in, with much gratitude.
So Jetpack, Toast, Leapfrog, Sharkbait, Townie, Animal, and I are all camped at the base of a 1,400 ft climb. We’re 21.6 miles from the highway, and the weather is not looking good. I don’t like our location; I think it’s a terrible camp spot. But unfortunately, that’s every spot in this section. The wind is still crushing and isn’t letting up. I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight or tomorrow. I’m incredibly anxious…
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