Miles: 18
Camp: CDT mile 608.15

Knowing we had an easy day planned, we all slept in past 7 am. Going back to sleep after waking up at 5:30 was sinfully indulgent. I ended up drifting in and out of sleep until 7:15…at which point my belly was protesting the late breakfast. We all started doing our morning routines, and I was out of camp about 10 minutes after Tank at 8:20.

The morning was a pleasant climb up through an aspen forest, the morning air cool but not cold. It was super pleasant until I realized it was Memorial Day weekend…there seemed to be people all over the place. Some were riding ATVs on nearby roads, some were camping in RVs and campers, generators were buzzing…it was all a bit much for being 2 days out of Ghost Ranch…which isn’t even a town! Where do these people come from?

The worst part was getting charged by 2 different dogs. This isn’t the first time it has happened on this trail, and I’m quite frustrated by it. One time Rampaige and I were chased by a snarling 3 legged dog on an old dirt road, another time I barely made it over a cattle guard before an old hound dog got at me, today a little black dog nipped at my leg and there have been others that have been concerning. I am an animal lover and hate to think of harming one, but I had to start thinking about defense options. I have sharp ends on my trekking pole and I carry a good knife…and I hate to even have to think it, but I’m not going to let a dog attack me without a fight. In the end I’m going to look into obtaining some pepper spray…what a thing to have to deal with out here.

After the black dog nipped at me today I yelled at the owners (it was the second dog to charge me in one day) to control their animal. My blood was boiling over the whole thing so I got away from the campers and set myself down next to a tree. I had a quick snack and about started to cry when Handstand and Beaut rolled up on me. They said the dog owners gave them the stink eye but had somehow restrained the dog this time.

We all walked forward to a lake which was just half a mile away. Knowing there would be a lot of people around, we hoped to find a quiet nook somewhere to take a nice long break. As we arrived, a man began talking to us and asking questions. He was impressed by our journey and said he had some food we could have…he ended up giving us corned beef, hash browns, scrambled eggs, green chiles and hamburgers. We took it all over to a table and wrapped it up in tortillas. As cars drove by we joked that they were the beer truck coming to give us a beer…but that wasn’t likely so we just laughed about it a lot. Then a car pulled up and asked if we knew the hiker ABC. We said we did and that he was behind us and she actually gave us beer! And oranges! We had such a feast and probably sat there for 2 hours consuming our Memorial Day trail magic. It certainly took my mind off of the dog situation.

As we got ready to go we ran into Polar Bear, so she joined us as we left the busy lake. We walked about 5.5 more miles…passing mile 600 along the way! There we ran into Rampaige, Hiker Box and Speedstick having a break. Speedstick is a lady who is hiking the triple crown in one calendar year. She has already finished the Appalachian Trail and has caught up to us in half the time it took us to get here…then she will top it off on the PCT. I simply can’t imagine undertaking that endeavor. It is impressive, though I’m not really impressed by record breaking and titles in this sport. It isn’t a competitive sport to me, but if that’s what gets you going I’m happy for people doing what they want to do. Speedstick was particularly cool too, so at any rate I wish her the best of luck and hope she achieves her goal. That’s over 7000 miles in one year!

The rest of the afternoon consisted of the whole group hiking together to a cool aspen forest on a ridge. We are all considering different options for the coming days. There is apparently an alternate that takes out all of the snow between us and Colorado on old forest service roads. It is the old route, and this year marks the first of this new trail which is supposedly buried in snow. A few people are set on the alternate, but I’m on the fence. I think that when I look back on this experience I won’t want to say that I always picked the easy way. I’ll want to know that I pushed myself and met challenges instead of avoiding them…so I think I’ll walk the snow. There is a bailout point if it gets real bad, but I think I can do it. It will be good practice for Colorado and again…why hurry? The road will only be an easier way to get to town even faster…and it is a holiday weekend, so the post office won’t even be open when we get there. There just in any real reason to take the alternate besides taking the easy road…and that just isn’t why I’m here. I’ll keep hiking my own hike and letting others hike theirs. It seems to be working out best for me, and that’s all that matters.

Dinner: almond butter, raspberry jelly and fritos on a tortilla with chili dark chocolate for desert.

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Trail magic!

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I love the name of this place!

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View from the loo
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