Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Day 45: Soggy meadows

June 4: There were a few sprinkles during the night, but not a big deal. My bigger worry about being invaded by worms never came to pass, for which I was very grateful. Splits, however, reported that a mouse got into his tortillas during the night which seemed to surprise and disappoint him--as if he expected better from the camp mice. =)


Immediately out of the starting gate, blowdowns got in the way and slowed us down. In one case, it hid a necessary turn which led Splits and I in the wrong direction for a few minutes. The blowdowns weren't PNT-style bad, but they were a definite annoyance.

But they also didn't last more than a half hour or so before we were through them all and climbing ever higher along the trail. Once we ascended above 10,000 feet, we started seeing patches of snow. None of it was particularly problematic, but it concerned me. After passing over the 11,000-foot Mount Taylor with virtually no snow at all on the trail, I had hoped there wouldn't be any snow below 11,000 feet--and here we were already seeing it barely above 10,000 feet. It didn't bode well for Colorado where the trail often stayed above 10,000 feet for days at a time.

But, like I said, the snow wasn't problematic at this point, so I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

What was more of a problem was that the meadows the trail passed through were absolutely flooded with standing water. Comments on Guthook often reported knee-deep snow through this area just a week or two earlier. That wasn't the case now, but it apparently all melted into standing water that was a couple of inches deep. It was impossible to walk through without getting one's feet wet in freezing cold water.

An inch or two of standing water on the trail was common in the meadows, and a huge annoyance!
 

Additionally, a crack started forming between the Shoo-goo I had applied to my shoes and the surface of the shoe. It wasn't coming apart--not yet, at least--but small cracks often turn into large cracks quite rapidly. I hoped it would hold at least long enough for me to reach Chama where I planned to replace them.

After the trail peaked, it descended a few thousand feet until it crossed a highway. I stopped for a lunch break next to a creek--the last water source of the day. I wound up stopping for 2.5 hours, even going so far as to cook a dinner for lunch so I wouldn't have to carry water to cook dinner later.

Eventually I continued onward, pushing myself beyond my original goal looking for a "great" campsite. I never did find a great campsite, however, and eventually settled for a decent one a short way past Highway 97. Despite my two-and-a-half hour lunch break, I still managed to complete 21.1 miles by 6:00pm and called it quits relatively early. I didn't immediately set up my tarp, hoping it wouldn't be necessary, but finally set it up an hour later when dark clouds and thunder rolled in. Evenstar showed up just before then, telling me that she was about to call it quits herself if she didn't find my camp soon. Splits continued on somewhere ahead of us and I kind of figured we'd never see him again. Evenstar and I tended to be the slowest people on the trail. Hikers constantly ask about each other's start dates and invariably, we're always the slowest.

Well, to be fair, I deliberately moderated my pace, not in any rush to reach the snow in Colorado. But we had only met about two people with start dates before us.

But all-in-all, it was a pleasant but relatively uneventful day.


Above 10,000 feet, we started seeing patches of snow, but Guthook comments suggested that it was considerably worse just a week or two earlier with reports of people postholing up to their knees.






There were some wonderful views from the higher elevations!





Monday, January 24, 2022

Day 44: Goodbye, Cuba!

June 3: I took my time leaving town. I had put Shoo-Goo on my shoes to plug some holes forming in the sides, and I figured waiting as long as possible before I had to check out of my hotel room so the glue could cure was a good thing. So I didn't leave the hotel until just before 11:00am. Hopefully the patch job would hold! At least until I reached Chama where I had a new pair of shoes waiting for me.

 

After checking out of the motel, I walked over to the post office to mail my laptop ahead to Chama then, being lunch time, I dropped by McDonalds for a quick meal before leaving town.

On my way out of town, I ran into Dos Equis being dropped off who, as it turned out, started the trail the same day that I did but hiked much faster and arrived into Cuba two weeks earlier. The snow, however, was so bad, he went home for two weeks while it melted and just returned to the trail today. I had taken 7 zero days so far, though, so not including those, he had still had gotten a whole week ahead of me.

Anyhow, I joked that if he planned to keep hiking so fast, I'd never see him again. And, as it turned out, except for the first several miles out of Cuba, I never did.

While Dos Equis and I were exchanging greetings, two other thru-hikers arrived: Cramps and Outlaw. We made cursory greetings, but they walked very slowly heading out of town and Dos Equis and I left them in the proverbial dust. For now, at least. I had no doubt that they'd catch up and pass me at some point.


Evenstar texted me that she had left town about an hour before I did, so I knew she was somewhere ahead. Pez, of course, hadn't stopped in Cuba and now would have been a full day and a half ahead of both of us. I wondered if we'd ever see him again.

The trail followed some paved roads out of town for several miles, and precisely where the trail veered off the paved road onto a gravel one, a trail angel had set up at the junction handing out cold drinks. Awesome! Dos Equis and I stopped to chat for a bit, and Cramps and Outlaw soon caught up who also stopped to chat for a bit. The trail angel, who introduced herself as Solo, said that she was expecting me because Evenstar told her that I'd be following behind at some point, but Evenstar didn't know about the other three so they were a pleasant surprise for her. Until the four of us arrived, Evenstar was the only other hiker she had seen all morning.

Outlaw, Dos Equis, Solo and my backpack. =)

The other three hikers eventually kept hiking, but I lingered a bit longer in no particular rush. Rumors of heavy snow in Colorado were still leaking back to us and I was in no rush to get into it. So I had another cold drink and chatted with Solo for another 10 or 15 minutes after everyone else already left.

But eventually I too had to leave and said goodbye and thanks for the trail magic, then made my way down the gravel road which soon connected with a real trail again. And the trail started heading into the mountains where the terrain was much more rugged. Definitely a lot of uphill!

It wasn't more than about an hour after leaving the trail angel that I caught up with Evenstar again, taking a break by a creek next to the trail. I stopped and we chatted for a few minutes, then when she got up to start hiking again, we continued onward. I moved considerably faster going uphill, but I knew she'd catch up again when I stopped for a break.

Evenstar climbs a steep slope!

A couple of hours later, a light sprinkle started along with thunder rolling through the mountains, but I was ready for a break anyhow so I set up my tarp in a very haphazard manner, over a log that I could sit on while taking a break. I hoped the storm would pass quickly. The weather forecast did call for a slight chance of rain, but it seemed possible that I might be able to wait it out.

When Evenstar arrived, she joined me under my tarp, where we sat around killing time for the better part of an hour waiting for the storm to pass. Then another hiker arrived: Splits. He too was a hiker new to the both of us, so we made introductions and invited him under my tarp as well. (I have a very large tarp and often joke that I could throw large parties under it during a storm.) He did stop, but chose to sit on a nearby log instead of under the haphazard setup I had with my tarp that was flapping in the breeze.

Within another 15 minutes or so, the sprinkle had finally stopped and the three of us continued onward hiking together the rest of the evening.

The meadows late in the day were just covered in these beautiful purple irises!

We finally stopped to set up camp late in the evening, just before sunset, near the San Gregorio Reservoir. Although the rain had stopped, it was poised to resume again at any time so I set up my tarp. Planning to camp under it all night this time, however, I did a decent job of setting it up unlike the haphazard job I had done before.

Shortly after setting up the tarp, it did start to sprinkle and I was happy to be dry and warm under it. I was a bit concerned when a strong wind started to pick up, but my tarp held steady and the wind didn't cause any trouble. What did cause trouble, however--somewhat indirectly--was the rain. I did a good job of setting up my tarp to keep the rain out, but worms started coming out of the ground in hoards as their homes became flooded from the rain and started invading my space! I flicked off about a dozen worms early in the night, but as darkness descended, it became harder and harder to see them. I had a headlamp which I occasionally turned on to check for more invading worms and flicked them off as necessary, but I worried what would happen when I actually fell asleep and was no longer monitoring for them. Would I wake up in the morning covered with worms? It was an unsettling thought as I drifted off to sleep....

Splits, Evenstar and I set up camp not far from the San Gregorio Reservoir.










The meadows full of irises were really the highlight of the day's hike!

Friday, January 21, 2022

Day 43: A Friendly Bank Robbery in Cuba

June 3: I woke up relatively early for a zero day. Although it was a zero day, that didn't mean I still didn't have some tasks to take care of. My first order of business was walking down to the laundromat and doing a load of laundry. I only washed my clothes, though, carrying the wet clothes back to my motel room and hanging them around the room to air dry. Less time at the laundromat meant more time for other things, and it was eco-friendly too! Win-win!

My laundry wasn't going to wash itself, so I headed to the local laundromat.
 

Then I headed over to the local hardware store where I picked up a tube of Shoo-goo. There was a good-sized hole forming in the upper part of the shoe, where the sole of the shoe wrapped up the edges and connected with the top. It hadn't been a problem as of yet since the hole wasn't at the bottom of the shoe and none of my foot was hanging out, but I worried it would continue to get worse. It was still a nuisance, though, since dirt and small rocks often wedged itself into the shoe. The dirt just made that foot absolutely filthy--even more than usual for a thru-hiker. Then I often had to stop to take the rocks out. I hoped a little glue might help with the dirt and rocks, and help the shoe make it to my next trail town where I expected a new pair of shoes to be waiting for me. But I needed the shoes to last me until I reached there.

I had washed the shoe as best I could in the sink the evening before, but the Shoo-goo's directions said the shoe should be both dry and clean before applying. I couldn't really say that the shoe was clean--I don't think anything could ever make the shoe genuinely clean--but I hoped my little rinse under the sink at least got rid of the worst of the dirt. Then it had all night to dry. Now I applied the Shoo-goo and set the shoe down for the glue to cure the rest of the day. I hoped it would be usable again by the next morning when I planned to hike out. *fingers crossed* In the meantime, I'd just walk around town using my Crocs, which is what I typically did in trail towns anyhow.

With those tasks out of the way, I finally sat down to eat breakfast and realized, somewhat surprised, that I didn't have any breakfast in the room. I had eaten the last of my cereal the morning before and hadn't yet resupplied. Instead of heading to the grocery store, I decided to splurge with a quick visit to McDonalds not far away where I ordered a meal.

And after that, I finally headed to the grocery store to do my grocery shopping. The grocery store, from the exterior, seemed to be very hiker friendly with three different signs welcoming CDT hikers to the store. Inside, well, inside was just like any other small grocery store. I can't say that the employees seemed particularly happy to see me, but they didn't seem annoyed by my presence either. Mostly indifferent, which is pretty typical and what I expect--but kind of a disappointment after the three signs welcoming CDT hikers. But I did like the welcome signs outside which was more than most businesses did. And three welcome signs was certainly over the top!

One of the three signs outside of the supermarket welcoming CDT hikers to town.

I was still trying to figure out how to get cash money since I owed Evenstar quite a bit for the two nights that she fronted for my room. I carried two credit cards, but I never use credit cards for cash out of ATMs--the fees are horrendous. I could have done that in a pinch, but I didn't know the PIN numbers since I had, quite literally, never used them. I had a Wells Fargo account, but I left that card with Amanda to deposit checks that arrived into AQ Central. So I didn't have that card. I did have a couple of debit cards which would have worked great, but I left those at home. Weight I didn't need. So I thought. But I had called Amanda to send me one of those cards to the next town on the trail. I didn't want to run out of cash again on the trail, but that wouldn't help me now. I was thinking I could maybe pay off Evenstar by buying everything she needed for herself. Go to the grocery store, and I'd buy all her groceries with my credit card. Go for a meal, and I'd cover it. Until I paid off my debt. It was a little inconvenient to do things that way, though. I could maybe send her money through PayPal, but I hate paying those PayPal fees.

Then I almost slapped myself when I realized I could probably just pull money from my Wells Fargo account. I couldn't do it at the ATM, but there was a branch in town. Why couldn't I just walk in and show some ID and just get cash? Why hadn't I thought of that earlier?! (Probably because I had never done that before.)

So I walked into the branch and a friendly teller helped me access a little cash. I had looked up and written down all of the pertinent information I thought they might want to see: my account number, PIN number, card number, etc. And about five minutes later, I walked out with $200 in my pocket. I just walked in and said, "Give me money!" and they did! I felt like I had just robbed a bank! "I'm armed with a driver's license and a bad odor. Give me money!"  =)

And then I headed to an auto parts store. I barely took two steps before the clerk at the counter turned to look at me and asked, "You looking for HEET?" I nodded and said yes, and he pointed me down the necessary aisle. While paying for it, I asked if they've sold much of it recently. "Yes, we always order extra whenever you guys come through town." Good business strategy. *nodding* =) (For those of you new to this blog and don't know why I'd buy HEET, it works great for cooking in alcohol stoves.)

Afterward, I met up with Evenstar and paid her back, which left me with about $100 in cash. As fast as I spend cash, though, I hoped it would last at least for another month or two.

Evenstar and I walked through town looking for somewhere to eat dinner. We passed a pizzeria, but it appeared to have permanently closed. We finally found ourselves at the far end of town at a busy Mexican restaurant where we feasted like kings, but the complementary chips for the table were really disappointing.

I was so excited to eat dinner that I forgot to take a photo of the food before I ate it!
 

We finished our meal and headed back to our hotel, splitting up to go back to our respective rooms for the night.

My tasks for the day were not yet done, however. Nope. I had also noticed that the shoulder straps of my pack appeared to be coming off. The stitching around the seam was unraveling. It was very small at the moment, but the longer I went without dealing with the problem, the worse the problem would become. It was definitely better to fix that sooner rather than later, so I pulled out my needle and thread and went to work.

When that was done, I could finally rest and relax for the rest of the evening. Tomorrow, I'd be back on the trail again.....

A second sign near the entrance of the supermarket that welcomed CDT hikers.

The third "sign" was really this lighted one that rotated with a couple of messages, but one of them welcomed CDT hikers, which I caught in this photo.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Day 42: The Cuban Doggie Crisis

June 1: The night turned out to be relatively calm and I slept without any trouble. In the morning, Evenstar got a head start on me, but I wasn't more than 20 minutes behind her and we figured I'd catch up quickly. We were both looking forward into getting into town and our next resupply point of Cuba, New Mexico. Not to be confused with--you know--Cuba, the country. The city of Cuba is much drier and has considerably fewer palm trees. Not to mention that no passport is required to visit it.

 


The trail followed near the edge of the plateau where we camped before it descended to some gravel roads, then arriving at the paved Highway 197. I hadn't taken more than 10 steps onto the road when two absolutely adorable puppies accosted me.

They jumped up on my legs and ran around me, seemingly excited to run into an actual thru-hiker. They seemed in good spirits, but what the heck were they doing out here in the middle of nowhere? There wasn't a house or structure visible as far as the eye could see, and they definitely shouldn't be playing on or around a highway. They seemed a little too young to be fending for themselves as well. A coyote or rattlesnake would make short work of them.

I was accosted by these two little creatures within 10 steps of reaching the highway.

I set down my pack and wondered what I should do. Leaving them out here in the middle of nowhere seemed cruel and inhumane, but I definitely wasn't prepared to take care of two small puppies either.

I pulled out my phone--which did get a signal now that I was only about four miles from town--and started searching for help. Maybe an hour later, I finally managed to connect with an animal rescue person, but before she would pick up the dogs, she wanted me to call animal control to make sure it's all legal in case the dogs actually have an owner. She told me that dogs were often allowed to run loose but that they actually had an owner (yeah, duh!), and usually it was best to leave them alone. There were no tags or anything obvious on the dogs suggesting if they had an owner or who it might be.

But seriously, WTF? These were puppies! They shouldn't be running around on a highway by themselves! And there wasn't even a structure as far as the eye could see. It's not like they escaped from a yard on the side of the road. "There could be a structure nearby that you just don't see," the woman insisted.

"No, there's not!" *rolling eyes* I got the impression that she just didn't want to deal with this. What kind of stupid animal rescue organization is this?

So I made the call to animal control, left a voice mail, eventually got a call back where I provided all the details they wanted, and got permission for the animal control person to pick up the puppies.

But when I contacted her, she asked me to take them into town. WHAT?! I don't want to take them into town. It's not like I had a car to drive them in. Did she not know what the hell was happening? I was hiking, on foot. How hard was it to drive a few miles out of town to pick them up? But I guess she was busy at the time and couldn't do it, so for at least the next hour or two, the dogs were mine. Crap.

The puppies seemed in good shape. They obviously hadn't been out here for very long, and with the rain the evening before, there were plenty of puddles for them to drink from. I pulled out some of my snacks and gave them a little bit of my flour tortillas which they seemed to enjoy eating. I didn't know if they were really hungry or not, but I only gave them a little. I didn't know what their normal diet was and didn't really want to give them something that turned out to be problematic. But just in case they were hungry, I did give them a little.

Then I tried herding the puppies down the road. They followed me for a bit. One of them didn't seem too excited about the idea of walking, though, so I picked it up. The other one followed me along the road. Every ten minutes or so, it would pass near a puddle and stop to drink from it, and I'd set the other puppy down to do the same before picking it up and continuing along the route. Whenever a vehicle approached, I'd step far off the side of the road and encourage the following puppy to join me to get it off the road and away from the traffic.

This lasted for about a mile, but then the puppy that had been following me stopped in the shade of a guard rail and decided that that was more comfortable than walking in the hot sun and wouldn't continue any further. Or maybe the distance was just too much for it. In any case, it wouldn't leave from the shade of the guardrail, and eventually I picked it up as well. This was very awkward and difficult for me--trying to carry two squirming puppies down the road.

I periodically had to set them down and rest. After maybe an hour of this, I had finally approached to within a mile of town and gave Evenstar a call.

"Hey, Evenstar," I opened. She had already arrived in town and checked into a motel, saying that she was surprised that I hadn't caught up with her on the trail. Typically, I walked a lot faster than her. "Yeah, well... there's a reason for that...." I replied and explained the situation.

"So..." I said, "think you have enough energy to backtrack a mile or so and help me out?"

And, of course, Evenstar loves innocent, adorable puppies even more than she likes resting her feet, so she agreed to backtrack and help.

I picked up the puppies and continued my journey into town, and about 15 minutes later, Evenstar arrived and took them off my hands. I offered to carry one of them--I knew full well how awkward it was to carry both at the same time, but she insisted on taking both for the time being to give me a break. 

That livened up the puppies. They had grown a bit mellow while I carried them, but this was a new person! It was time to squirm and smell and meet a new person! And thus we continued on into town, but I told Evenstar to give me one of the puppies if the two of them became too much to handle.

Evenstar has her hands full with the puppies.

When we got into town, I gave the animal rescue person a call to let her know I arrived (finally!), and she gave us the name of a restaurant at the edge of town to meet at, so we walked over and sat down on the curb outside to wait, and trying to make sure the puppies didn't dart off into the busy street in front of us.

We weren't there for more than about five minutes before the woman pulled up and threw both of the puppies into the back. Originally she closed them inside the hot car and started chewing us out for "rescuing" the dogs. What?! Eventually she opened the back of her car so the puppies could get some fresh air and not--you know--die, but I was astounded that she treated us like criminals and the puppies like groceries.

She explained that once there was a dog that was supposed to guard sheep or cattle or something, but then some "well-meaning" person "rescued" the dog and coyotes killed the herd.

"I'm pretty sure these puppies aren't guarding sheep," I pointed out, not even mentioning that there weren't any sheep or cattle anywhere to be seen in the area where I found the puppies.

She went on for all the other reasons we should have left well enough alone. Maybe there was a mama dog and I just separated them (again, I saw absolutely no sign of a mama dog taking interest in these pups).

And then she said that she got a call from the police that someone reported seeing someone stealing two puppies and he was walking down the side of the road, obviously hinting that it was me they were referring to. Annoyed, I pretended to be stupid and said, "Well, I hope they got the guy. That's just awful!"

She didn't seem to think it was very funny, though, and mostly just gave me a scowl.

She went on to explain that she already found the owner of the puppies--I guess a police report of stolen puppies gets people talking--and asked, "You really found them near mile marker 4?"

"Yes. You think I made that up?"

"That's a couple of miles from where they live." She seemed to suggest that they couldn't have possibly wandered that far away from home on their own.

Really? I had told the woman that there weren't any structures or houses anywhere near where I found the puppies. I assume the puppies lived somewhere on the road, probably around mile marker 2 if they were a couple of miles from where I found them. I probably walked right by their house without even knowing it. Of course, if the puppies had dog collars with a phone number or address, I might have known that. It certainly would have saved me a lot of effort carrying the things into town which I never wanted to do in the first place.

Both Evenstar and I were astounded at the heartlessness of this woman, and why wasn't she chewing out the owner of the dogs? The owner obviously hadn't been keeping a close watch on them, obviously hadn't put tags on them and apparently didn't even realize they were missing until someone reported that I was "stealing" them.

"That's just the way things are done out here," she told me.

Well, that's f***ed up. Would the owners have been so forthcoming if a car wrecked when it tried to avoid hitting puppies on the road and caused bodily injury to someone? I suspect not.

Anyhow, eventually the woman left, and I was just left angry. Evenstar tried to console me that I did the right thing, but that wasn't necessary. I knew I did the right thing. I was just angry at the woman's heartlessness. What's the point of even having an animal rescue if their advice is "you shouldn't rescue them under any circumstances"? It's just stupid. Cuba was not leaving a good impression on me.

On the way to the hotel, I dropped by the post office to pick up my laptop. That, I'm happy to report, went well and was uneventful. But my Cuban problems weren't over just yet....

Evenstar told me that the credit card machine at the hotel was broken so they were only accepting cash for the time being--which was problematic for me since I didn't typically carry around much in cash. Evenstar said she'd front the money for me until I could pay her back, but even that turned out to be problematic when the front office was found to be locked up and closed. Unable to find an employee to check me in, I dropped off my maildrop in Evenstar's room, then we went out for lunch at a restaurant nearly across the street from the motel.

Lunch was delicious!

While eating lunch, Pez texted us. He had finally got a SIM card that allowed him internet access, phone and texts without wi-fi when we were in Grants, and he texted that he had just arrived into town and gotten lunch at a taco truck at the far edge of town. It was a shame that he had just eaten and didn't join us, but oh well. At least he had made it. We could go out for dinner or something later! =)

Pez did stop by our table at the restaurant to catch up with us a bit where we told him about the puppy fiasco. He decided that he was spending too much money in trail towns, however, and decided to camp at the RV camp in town instead of the motel with us, so he headed off to do that. 

It wasn't more than an hour later, however, that he contacted us again to say that the place wasn't hiker-friendly at all and had kicked out another hiker who had recently arrived in town that afternoon, Diesel. We couldn't get any information about why they kicked out Diesel, however. (Some hikers have been known to cause problems. I don't know if Diesel is one of them, so I can't really say whether I think him being kicked out was justified or not without knowing the full story.)

In any case, Pez informed us, he decided just to resupply and push on without stopping in town for the night at all. Evenstar and I were a bit disappointed about this since we wanted to hang out with him later, but that wasn't going to happen now.

After finishing lunch, we returned to the motel where I was finally able to score a room for two nights--using cash provided by Evenstar. I definitely owed her big time!

The rest of the day, I just worked on my laptop, and ended my journal entry grumbling that I was going to stay only one zero day "in this godforsaken place". I had been thinking about taking another double zero to give the snow in Colorado more time to melt and get more work done, but my first impression of Cuba made me want to leave the town as quickly as possible. I'd have been happy to leave the next day except that I really did have work I needed to get done online, but I could get by with just one zero day and leave this place.

The morning's walk along the bluff of the plateau was really quite pleasant!





'Twas a long walk into town with two puppies to carry....

Monday, January 17, 2022

Day 41: Weather Worries

May 31: I woke up and hit the trail early, but I couldn't tell you precisely what time it was I started since I failed to note it in my journal. Just that I "hit the trail early." But I definitely wanted to beat the storm that was expected to hit the area later in the afternoon, so I had an incentive to start as early as possible.

The night before, it sprinkled a bit, but it turned out to be nothing more than a light sprinkle. Lightning flashed in the dark clouds in the distance which caused Evenstar to get out of bed to set up her tent in the dark and perhaps throw out a few cuss words while I laughed. Looking directly overhead, however, I could still see the twinkling lights of the stars and given the lack of overnight rain in the forecast, I decided to hope for the best and merely threw my tarp over me like a blanket.


By morning, the sky was filled with dark clouds, but the sun eventually came out to play and the rest of the morning turned out to be quite pleasant for hiking, along with the awesome views along the route.

I also spotted another rattlesnake on the trail--my second in two days! This one didn't scare the crap out of me, however, since it was located about 10 feet off the trail and didn't even rattle until after I had already passed it and was already heading away from it. As soon as I heard it, though, I turned around to get a better look. =) I couldn't get a decent photo of it, however, since it was mostly coiled around a log and some brush that obscured it.

Early in the afternoon, Evenstar and I filled up with water at a spring. We predicted that Pez would probably camp here this night given the fact that he was starting from a few miles behind us and certainly hadn't started hiking before us since he needed a ride back to the trail before he could start hiking. And it was basically the only water source between the water cache where he left the trail and the town of Cuba which we didn't expect to reach until tomorrow. It was the logical place that Pez would stop to camp for the night. So I wrote in the sand where people clearly camp regularly "Camp Pez" in the dirt. We weren't sure if he'd notice, but we hoped for the best! 

It's hard to see, but I wrote "Camp Pez" in the dirt at this campsite since Evenstar and I predicted that he'd probably spend the night here.

Evenstar and I pushed onward, however, planning to get a few more miles in before calling it quits for the day. The trail had a few ups and downs, climbing up a plateau, then crossing it before going down the other side. Nothing was particularly strenuous until the last plateau of the day when the trail become a positive rock scramble straight up the mountain in what both Evenstar and I cursed as an "AT-style trail." WTF?! The trail had been such a pleasure to walk on, then they throw this crap in the middle of it? But at the same time, the climb up was kind of exhilarating as well.

Once I reached the top of the plateau, I immediately started looking for a place to camp. It was still early in the afternoon, but dark clouds were blowing in quickly and I had already done about 17 miles for the day. It was a good time to call it quits! I preferred a site near the edge of the plateau where I could admire the views but also among the trees so they would help block the wind.

So I walked another 10 or 15 minutes before finding a location that seemed suitable and set up camp. I set up my tarp between two trees then staked down the corners and edges and made myself comfortable. Evenstar arrived perhaps a half hour later and set her tent nearby.

The calm before the storm

And it wasn't more than a half hour later that a horrendous thunderstorm struck. Lightning! Thunder! Crack! Boom! A terrible wind tore through camp, ripping stake after stake from my tarp out of the ground. Three times I had to hammer a stake back into the ground, and I popped out the trekking pole I had used to prop up one end of the tarp to lower its profile and provide less of a surface for the wind to hit. I also popped open my umbrella to plug the hole at the one end of the my tarp where the wind was blowing rain water under it. It didn't seem safe to be at the top of a plateau in a thunderstorm, but at this point, there was nowhere else we could hide. At least we were camped among trees and not a lone high point on the plateau.

It was a wild half hour or so. I didn't know how Evenstar was doing in her tent, but I imagined she was having issues as well. But after a half hour, the intensity died down relatively quickly. The wind settled down, the lightning moved on, and we were left with nothing more than a light sprinkle the rest of the evening.

I actually came out a lot drier than I expected given the intensity of the storm, and Evenstar seemed to survive with nothing more than a few minor leaks in her tent. I was glad I had set up my tarp between two trees. If I had set the ridge line of the tarp directly into the ground, my tarp probably would have blown away completely. We had known it was going to rain this afternoon, but we had no idea of the intensity of the storm that wound up striking. That came as a surprise!

I had stopped to set up camp at 3:00pm, the storm struck about an hour later at around 4:00pm, then stopped a half hour later at 4:30pm--or at least reduced to a light sprinkle. Trapped under my tarp because of the sprinkle, I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening watching Queens Gambit on Netflix. Good times! I also wondered if Pez managed to see the "Camp Pez" note we left for him before the storm certainly wiped it clean.

And thus ended my 41st day on the trail.....

 

I absolutely loved the scenery along the edges of the plateaus!

 


 


 


 


 


 

There's a rattlesnake in this photo. Can you spot it?

 

 

 



 

 

Evenstar fills up with water at our one water source for the day.
 

 

 

The climb up this plateau was more of a rock scramble than a true trail!