Miles: 20

Camp: My CDT mile 1104.2

Elevation at camp: 11400 feet

It is already 9pm, and I’ve only just finished dinner. I’m exhausted from a long and frustrating day. The day certainly held some beauty and there were plenty of good moments, but frustration has been the front running emotion. I had initially been so thrilled to finally escape the crowds on the CT and I still am, though being back on the CDT comes with some unique territory.

The first thing you notice upon leaving the CT is lack of trail tread. I was following an old road for a while when, boom, just like that it ended. I saw GregInWild (yes, he is in that book) taking a break and we talked about how intense the bikes were yesterday and how happy we were to have our trail back. At that point in the day I thought I had all the time in the world to finish my 20 mile day, no hurry at all. Boy, was I wrong.

I immediately went the wrong way on the non existing trail, discovering my mistake after summiting Whale Peak. I wasn’t displeased yet, accepting that it comes with the territory out here. I hardly ever get too far off track. So, I backtracked to the trail which appeared out of nowhere before disappearing again. The whole day was one of the rare occasions we spend on the Divide itself all day, just going up and over peak after peak. It says on the map, “just follow the Divide.” So, I followed the divide, up over 13500, down to 11500, up over 13000, etc. I was making really slow progress and the divide was incredibly rocky.

At one point I figured I was going about 1.5 miles per hour. I usually do about 2-3, so you can see where it would be discouraging. Top it off with being one of those days that can’t decide whether it wants to be hot, cold or just plain windy. I was constantly stopping to add or subtract layers, never comfortable.

Then I was faced with a “shortcut.” I had already decided to take a valley instead of the divide for water and storm purposes at the end of the day. The map laid out a shortcut that goes cross country down a steep slope as opposed to following a road for an extra 3 miles. It says, “it is really steep, but there is grass so you should be able to get a foothold.” (Typical Ley) it turned out to be slopes of scree and snow. I found myself pigeon holed in a terrible situation, one where I should have climbed back to the road, but I didn’t. I was too tied to backtrack, which also meant too tired for navigating an unstable talus slope. I chose a route that looked doable and went painfully slow. Rocks constantly slid away from my feet as I leaned heavy into the slope,  grabbing large rocks with one hand for stability and using my other hand with my trekking pole as balance. It was the most frustrating part of the day…so far.

With some close calls of me sliding down a rock field (that were all completely manageable), a nice gash in my shin and a few bloody scrapes, I made it to the road below. It was the least worthwhile shortcut I’ve ever taken. I hated it, and I was mad at Ley for suggesting it. It was dangerous and it took all of my energy to get down safely. But, I still had 5 miles to go and 2 guys in a 4-runner were out using 4WD and hollering at me and asking questions. I spoke with them briefly and became slightly concerned when they asked if I was alone. Normally I’m proud to say I do this mostly alone, but something told me to lie. I told them I am hiking alone but meet up with others at night. They mentioned seeing Squirrel earlier, and I said I knew him, hoping they would just assume we were together. They seemed nice enough, but my instinct told me to be careful as I hiked away.

Unfortunately the trail followed the same road they were driving on, so I decided to take a break off trail and let them pass me. I found a creek in the trees and washed my cuts from the rock scramble, ate snacks and decided on a podcast for the remainder of the road walk. After I heard them drive by I began walking again…but soon they were stopped on the road. I walked by them and waved, expecting them to pass again any moment. It took them about 15 minutes to come back down the road, and then soon they were stopped again just ahead. I held back, waiting for them to continue, which they did slowly before stopping again, I was ultimately walking faster than they were driving. It went on like this for long enough that I finally snapped. I kept stopping back behind trees so they couldn’t see me, but they kept stopping in the road and I was already so frustrated with how slowly the day went. I was so frustrated that I began to cry. I sat on a rock, let it all out and waited to hear the truck slowly get farther away. It’s been a long while since I had a cry, and boy did today beg for it.

I felt better, but was incredibly annoyed at how much time I wasted trying to avoid those clowns. It was going to be a late camp as a result…which led to the next best part of my day…it started raining and thundering. I was pleased that I had chosen not to take the high route this evening, and had to laugh at the sheer irony that it had to rain on me too. Had I not had to hide from the weird rednecks for so long, I would have been in camp, tent set up before the rains started.

Instead I got to camp after 7:30 as hail pelted down on me, and then realized I had forgotten to dry my tent from condensation last night. I got to set up an already wet tent in the rain, just to add icing on the cake that was today. It was a rough one, but I’ve pored over maps for the next couple of days and I shouldn’t expect many more curveballs…but now that I’m back on the CDT I should really go ahead and expect anything.

Anyway, today was stunningly beautiful. Every day is different and I accept the bad with the good. I’m still happy to be here but oh so exhausted. Goodnight.

Dinner: mac and cheese with chicken and bacon (favorite right now)

I saw mountain goats today!

The “shortcut”
Old mining waste is everywhere out here