Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Day 2: The Desert Vortex

August 26: I woke up in the morning feel good and refreshed. I was on the trail again, on another adventure! Life was good!

View down into the South Platte Canyon. You can see the old burn area on the other side--which I'd be hiking through for most of this very hot, very dry, and very unshaded day.

The trail had a long, steady drop to South Platte Canyon where I stopped long enough to eat a snack by the river and fill up with 5 1/2 liters of water. It would be the last reliable water source on the trail for 15 miles which I didn't expect to reach until the end of the day. The water was excruciatingly heavy, but I saw no way around having to carry so much. One liter of water weighs 2.2 pounds--I knew this, so I calculated that I had just added 12 pounds to my pack. Assuming I had eaten maybe two or three pounds of food since I started my hike and started the trail with 1 liter of water (with my starting weight of 48 pounds), I calculated that my pack weight had now grown to a ridiculous 55 or 56 pounds. I looked like a first-time thru-hiker that had no idea what they were doing! I was also seriously wondering if bringing my new camera was a mistake.

But it turned out to be even worse than I imagined because nearly the entire distance had suffered from a severe wildfire years ago which left the landscape shade-less as temperatures soared. I drank my water at a steady pace, but I was sweating bullets, overheating and desperate to guzzle down all the water I carried. I knew I couldn't do that, but I certainly wanted to!

The South Platte River would be my last water source on the trail for the next 15 or so miles.

It was a long day. Despite altitudes ranging from a low of 6,140 feet to a high of 7,840 feet above sea level (1871 - 2390 meters)--which in most places of the country is considered high and usually cool as a result--I felt like I was walking through a desert. The ground was largely bare with occasional cactus growing in the difficult terrain and temperatures felt like they were hitting the 90s. It didn't take long before 5 1/2 liters of water didn't seem anywhere near enough to get through 15 miles.

I didn't actually want to do another 15 miles. That would be on top of the three or four miles I hiked to fill up with 5 1/2 liters of water and I didn't want to push myself too hard too early on the trail. But I certainly hadn't wanted to carry enough water to get me through the night and into the next day as well. I needed the water, though, so I'd push on the 15 miles. I could do it!

And I did do it, but I felt terrible by the end of the day. A slight headache plagued me, which I attributed more to dehydration than altitude sickness. In the grand scheme of things, I was still too low to be suffering from altitude sickness. Especially considering I had already been at high altitudes for the better part of a week now. No, I was just dehydrated.

Hot, dry and shadeless! This was what most of the day was like. Without the trees, however, I will admit, the views were expansive! =)

I set up camp by Morrison Creek and its endless supply of water which I guzzled in buckets upon my arrival.

I thought about picking up more water and going another mile or two down the trail--it would position me better for where I wanted to reach the next couple of days, but then decided that was a stupid idea. I was exhausted. I was hurting. My back and hips ached from carrying such a heavy pack, and I had already done a respectable 18.6 miles for the day, and I felt like crap. I was supposed to be taking it easy the first few days--not killing myself! So I decided it was best to stop for the night and see how I felt in the morning.

Near sunset, a man biking the trail stopped by the creek and asked if it would be okay for him to camp there as well. Sure! No problem! There's plenty of space for everyone!

He introduced himself as Spencer from Maine and said he had started the trail at Waterton Canyon that morning. He completed in one day what it took me two days to walk. I was a little envious. I could have gotten through that dry 15 miles a lot quicker on a bike. Actually, *I* probably couldn't have gotten through quicker. My muscles don't have a lot of practice on bikes and I'd probably wind up having to walk it up every tiny hill and go a lot slower than he would down hills. But I was envious that he was moving along at twice my speed overall.

Spencer also told me that there was a hiker behind him that he passed a few miles back who was attempting to set a new unsupported speed record of the Colorado Trail by hiking the whole thing in a mere eight days. He started that day as well and was planning to hike until about 2:00 in the morning before taking a short stop to sleep and rest and repeat.

About an hour later, a hiker walked by on the trail, and I assumed that must have been him, but Spencer didn't see him from in his tent and I didn't talk to him. But how many hikers would be walking by when it was already getting dark? So presumably that was him, but I can't actually say that with 100% certainty.

And I have absolutely no idea if he succeeded in completing the trail in eight days or not. Or if he maybe took longer than that but was still fast enough to set a new fastest known time (FKT). Or if he failed miserably. I have no idea!

But regardless of his success (or not), both Spencer and I agreed that he was undoubtedly crazy. =)

The trail over the South Platte River uses this bridge.

It was hot and unshaded, but surprisingly desert-like for such a high-altitude location!
There were even cactus to admire! I'm not sure how those survive the snow storms that must drop blankets of snow during the winter, though.

A previous thru-hiker, perhaps? =)

The last few miles of the day I had made it out of the burn area.

1 comment:

Lou Catozzi (PI Joe) said...

That burn area looks brutal with the load you were carrying. Now, if you only had a baby stroller...