I made it to Salida, my halfway mark. My feet are always sore but my legs are getting stronger and my drive is always in gear. Journal entries from the last week:
Day Five: 15 August 2013
Start: 104 miles 12PM
End: 123.5 miles 7:45PM past Guller’s Creek (11000′)
Lowest elevation: 9199′
Highest elevation: 12482′
I loitered at a coffee shop using power and Internet until the post office opened. After picking up my resupply package I dumped out my whole pack in a corner and reorganized myself. The Post people didn’t seem to mind whatsoever. I decided to go cookless and sent home my stove and suppers, ditched my socks for toe socks, upgraded my plastic bag to a proper poncho, and wrapped a new role of duct tape around my trekking poles. All the running around have me a late start on the trail, but I still squeezed in just under 20 miles.
I camped that night with an older man and his unrelated nephew/grandson character from Tennessee. I cannot remember the man’s trail name (he is an ATer) and the kid’s name was John. They are also sobo CT but moving at half my pace. They were already settled by the time I arrived so we hardly had much conversation, yet I still enjoyed the company. As much as I dislike people, I still appreciate human contact. An interesting conclusion to realize that I crave the company of people but don’t necessarily want anyone around for a long time frame.
Anyways, I literally clbed over the Tenmile Range today and most of the way up the next mountain. Talk about a sense of accomplishment. That is 9199′ up to 12482′, down to 9750′ and back up to 11000′ all in a single afternoon. I even had another day fighting the Breck Epic mountain bikers flying down the mountain as I was trudging up it.
Day Six: 16 August 2013
Start: 123.5 miles 7:30AM 30 degrees
End: 146 miles 6:30PM W Fork Tennessee Creek (10363′)
Lowest elevation: 9300′
Highest elevation: 12200′
Wildlife notes: lizards, ants, bees, flies, butterflies in droves, pika, marmots (fondly renamed mountain beavers), termites, coyote and sunrise wake up choruses, deer, ducks, cicadas, squirrels, horses, dogs and people. Also enough mushrooms to be a mycologist wonderland.
This morning I realized how much of a dawdler I am. The older gentleman and I left camp at the same time this morning and I blew him away in pace, but then I stopped for breakfast then again to chat with a guy named Eric (I met him the day before in Breckenridge) further up the pass still in camp, and the man caught me. We set out again and I lost him quickly until I stopped for a glorious two hour lunch where he came striding in as I was heading out. I could definitely be moving further if I was more efficient with my time.
However, I had the loveliest lunch today. I came down from Searle and Kokomo Passes into a lush green meadow with the sun inviting a nap. I laid out my gear to dry from the thin coating of frost this morning, bathed in the river, soaked my feet, and ate lunch. It was wonderful. I see now that I need to have more meaningful breaks when pausing from hiking and more focused hiking when on trail.
I saw a six packhorse caravan with two cowboys and a dog today. Very picturesque scene with the old wooden crate chests and weathered appearance of the two men from a bygone age. I stopped early tonight and camped with a young guy my age named Zach from Lakewood below my own suburb. He is a sobo CT hiker but alas hiking slow. He is doing various segments with friends, though, so also limited to the scheduling of his outside parties. For the PCT I wouldn’t want to limit my pace based on someone else unless I really liked them enough for such a compromise. With the popularity of the PCT, though, I suspect I will have more opportunity to hike with a wide range of people.
Still not able to eat all the food in my daily allotted amounts. I will need to work on the food thing. Gear wise, I would equally appreciate a minimizing of things while possibly upping my sleep comforts.
Day Seven: 17 August 2013
Start: 146 miles 9:30AM 60 degrees
End: 171 miles 7:30PM Mill Creek (10357′)
Lowest elevation: 10039′
Highest elevation: 11700′
Today I slept in! Instead of my morning breaks I just relaxed and then set out strong. Worked far better than frequent, aimless breaks. I was ten miles in by lunch and caught up to a guy who passede that morning named Dirt Monger. Turns out we have less than six degrees of separation haha. We hiked the rest of the day together. He moves at a 33-35 mile per day pace. I was honored that he would slacken his routine to let me accompany him. It was so much easier to hike with a companion for conversation and forward motivation. We will see how long I can keep up. Dirt Monger has hiked the PCT and CDT, and he is coming into the CT after what he has coined the Vagabond Loop, a 3500 mile connection of the HT (Heyduke Trail), AZT (Arizona Trail), and GET (Grand Enchantment Trail). So clearly an avid thru hiker and rich source of information for me.
We met a nobo CDT section hiker at the end of his 1000 miles this afternoon. His name is Maverick. Also, today was the Leadville 100 trail running race. We camped just past the point where they turn off and head back onto the mountain access roads towards Twin Lakes.
Day Eight: 18 August 2013
Start: 171 miles 7AM 55 degrees
End: 203 miles 8PM Frenchman Creek (11041′)
Lowest elevation: 8900′
Highest elevation: 11900′
Dirt Monger and I started out together but split as he headed to Twin Lakes to resupply and I continued forward. We made plans to meet at the same campsite with the understanding the he would likely catch me before then. I felt like I had a slow start, the trail literally walks around 2/3rds of the two lakes before heading back into the mountains. But when I took my hour lunch break at 12:30PM, I was already 17 miles in. I soaked my feet and relaxed before setting out again. Today had two very steep climbs. I saw a cowboy with two horses who had been out collecting berries and three ladies on horses with two dogs out for a day ride. Dirt Monger caught me after 4PM between the two. The last climb was tough for me. Having someone to motivate me forward is really awesome. I am hoping I can keep up these hard days when I am by myself again.
Day Nine: 19 August 2013
Start: 203 miles 7AM 40 degrees
End: 230 miles 5:15PM Mt Princeton Hot Springs (8195′)
Lowest elevation: 8195′
Highest elevation: 11885′
My energy is tiring at Dirt Monger’s pace and distance, but I am feeling good about the miles we cover in so little time. By lunch we already had 17 miles and a big climb under our belts. The whole day has seemed like a long uphill actually. The last ten miles were a ceaseless in and out, up and down, as we winded along drainages into Mt Princeton Hot Springs. This was a resupply point for him. He takes advantage of the little towns directly on trail so he can have as few days’ worth of food as possible, almost slack packing. I am absorbing wise trail beta from the last few days that will help my PCT planning for next summer. We ate supper at the restaurant there. I had a big juicy burger with pepper jack cheese and bacon and sweet potato fries on the side. We split a fried veggie platter to start with too. My hiking hunger has still not really begun yet. In fact, I will arrive at Salida tomorrow with two-three days of extra food. I have not really lost weight so far, so I am not worried about not eating enough, but I do worry for my total energy levels. I will definitely be altering my food choices in the future to better reflect my healthy lifestyle. Good food in will ultimately equal better performance out, regardless of how fast my metabolism becomes and how hard I work at hiking. Plus when thinking about food, I would rather engorge on fatty, filling foods over lots of junky, processed snacks. Everyone hikes their own hike and has their own needs, I am clearly still figuring mine out.
While eating, an extremely genial man named Joe chatted us up. He is likewise hiking the CT sobo. He was taking a relaxing nero at the hot springs resort. It is possible that I will run into him in the future few days. He is capable of the same higher twenties as me. I am stopping in Salida and he in Lake City, but we both end up at Silverton so maybe our paces will overlap somewhere in there. Joe just finished section hiking the PCT last summer and has hiked a lot around his Pacific Northwest stomping grounds. We chatted with him until dark and then set out to find a camping spot. This is a funny twist, Dirt Monger and I were ghost camping on some very comfortable, level cement at the edge of the resort behind a building. We were also cowboy camping and had great views of the sky and mountains. Alas the security guard found us around midnight and we moved across the road to an empty field resulting in lots of morning dew.
Day Ten: 20 August 2013
Start: 230 miles 6:30AM 50 degrees
End: 252.5 miles 3:15PM Salida (7080′)
Lowest elevation: 8195′
Highest elevation: 10200′
I woke up this morning around 3AM to a brilliant star-filled and crystal clear sky. The moon was full a couple days ago and was still brightly shining. I could hear the howls of coyotes not far off.
Since in an exposed area, we headed out early, shoving dew-covered sleeping bags into our packs. With putting in longer miles I have been sleeping better the past few days.
I was in particularly good spirits today because I only had 23 miles to the Hwy 50 TH and my hitch to Salida, where a real bed, shower, new shoes and laundry were waiting for me! Dirt Monger and I hit the trailhead at 3:15PM, he continued forward and I waited by the road for someone to take pity and pick me up. Dirt Monger is heading to Lake City and may take a zero, but I will still likely never catch up to him again. My saviors of the day were three nice guys heading home after a long day working on putting up a garage. They were heading to Howard but still came all the way into Salida to drop my by the post office. Such sweet guys. I was waited about 15 minutes and numerous vehicles before they stopped for me. I am hoping for good hitching energy since I also plan to hitch in Silverton and again at the end from Durango back to Denver. After collectingy packages I went to the hostel Simple Lodge where the owner John quickly helped me settle in. I took a long, luxurious shower, cleaning the past ten days’ of filth from my skin. I didn’t realize I needed to include the skin out weight of dirt I have been carrying along with me hahaha. The hostel has old clothes people have left behind that I borrowed so I could wash my own clothes and let them dry on the line. I proudly sported old man shorts rolled several times and a large tshirt. I dumped out my pack and reorganized myself at the hostel table, removed a few more items from my pack that do not seem to be as essential as originally thought and slimmed my excessive food supply down to the items I favor more and the amounts I have actually been consuming. I am sending the excess items and food and my old shoes home. How wonderful new shoes feel! I am absolutely delighted I put them at the halfway point. I have been wearing the others for most of my other summer hiking and their padding and tread were becoming dangerously low. These new ones are the exact se pair but ready to boost me through the last half of the hike. There have been quite a few trail registers the past three days and it seems I am a solid two days behind anyone else, thus I will likely be alone again this next half.
I had a wonderful salad, veggie panini and local micro brew beer for supper. Not to mention my pre-supper cookies that I packed in my resupply. Nothing better than homemade cookies with chocolate chips, craisins, walnuts, pecans, almond meal and oats. Mmm! For dessert I ate a pint of my favorite Ben & Jerry’s half baked with crushed [non homemade] cookies from my unfinished trail food. Clean, stuffed, and out of the elements, I am ready for the indulgences of a real bed. Night.
Day Eleven: 21 August 2013
Start: 252.5 miles
End: 252.5 miles Salida (7080′)
After careful consideration this morning, I have decided that a zero day is in order. I contemplated a nero, get a few miles out tonight, but why log insignificant miles when I can have a second night of much desired (and in my opinion, deserved) r&r then make a strong push tomorrow. There wasn’t a question. I suppose this is a mindset I acquired during backpacking South America, but in life you take days off that are completely unproductive and it is ok. You should not push yourself every second of every day because then you are missing out on a whole different side to taking advantage of life. Living every moment to the fullest includes times when you take you time, maybe especially includes you time.
Regardless, my tired feet are enjoying the break. I still walked a couple miles today just wondering around Salida. I hope to make a strong push the last half of the trip and keep the bigger miles up, this making this rest essential. 🙂 Ten days and 252.5 miles down, ten days and 232.5 miles to go. Total happiness. I am excited for the PCT and all future endeavors.
Tentative mileage for rest of trip:
Day 12: Road #578, mile 280.4, 28 mi day
Day 13: Road #864, mile 311.4, 31 mi day
Day 14: E Mineral Creek Trail #593, mile 345, 33.5 mi day
Day 15: Tributary Stream, mile 377, 32 mi day
Day 16: Animas River, mile 406, 29 mile day
Day 17: Molas Pass/Silverton, mile 410.5, resupply, Engineer Mtn Trail #508, mile 421, 15 mi day
Day 18: Scenic Overlook, mile 455, 34 mi day
Day 19: Junction Creek TH, mile 485, 30 mi day