Monday, October 23, 2017

Day 4: Looks like a beautiful day for hiking naked!

August 28: I woke up to clear and sunny skies. It was beautiful out! It was definitely my coldest night on the trail so far, but that was to be expected now that I was camped at over 10,000 feet above sea level. Temperatures were certainly cold, but not the finger-numbing cold that makes packing up camp difficult. With the colder temperatures, a thin layer of condensation that formed over everything during the night--my first morning where I had any sort of condensation at all. But it wasn't bad. Just a minor annoyance.

My bigger concern, however, were my pants. At some point during my hike, the seat of my pants ripped several inches wide in both cheeks. I couldn't hike these! I wouldn't be naked per se, but nobody wants to see me hiking around with my butt checks hanging out. I decided to wear the pants I had been using for in camp and sleeping. I could use my disintegrating pants for camp from here on out.

The morning's hike went quickly and efficiently. The trail followed the edge of a long meadow, slowly gaining elevation before peaking near 11,000 feet above sea level, then rolled along never becoming particularly steep or difficult. Weather forecasts had predicted clear skies all day--the first day so far on my hike that afternoon thunderstorms weren't expected. I was excited about having the whole day to hike without the threat of rain hanging over my head.

But the jerks lied because late in the day, dark and menacing clouds started forming and I heard thunder rolling over the hillsides. It was distant at first, but grew closer and closer as the afternoon wore on.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.... being in a wilderness area for most of the day, accessible only to people on foot (or horse), I could count on one hand the number of people (and horses) I met along the trail. The trail was practically empty of people now that bikes weren't allowed in this section, and I didn't pass any substantial roads that would have allowed many day hikers or traffic.

I liked the remoteness. =)

It was just me and cattle today!

The largest group of people I met was by Rock Creek--a bunch of biologists were there working on a "fish reclamation project" to reintroduce native greenback cutthroat trout to the creek and removing non-native trout from the creek. A posted sign suggested that filling water from the creek is "not recommended."

I'm not sure what they were doing to the water that would make the water unsafe to drink, but I took it at its word and pushed on a couple of more miles to Johnson Gulch which had been my goal for the day anyhow.

I made it to Johnson Gulch by 3:00--far earlier than I had expected!--and I was still feeling good and strong and looked ahead in my guidebook. Several miles ahead was Kenosha Pass, and looking at the time, I felt good that I could make it that distance. My guidebook showed a campsite and water there, which was really all I needed.

I filled up with water at Johnson Gulch to get me the distance and started hiking.

I soon caught up with a fellow hiking with his dog. The man reeked of pot. I didn't see him smoking any, but clearly he had just finished taking a hit from it. His dog was hurting, though, not used to the long distances they were covering, and his owner wanted to get to Kenosha Pass and have a friend pick up the dog to get him off the trail. As we talked, the dog just laid on the ground, too tired and hurting to show any interest in me. I felt sad for the little guy.

The guy also told me that the campsite at Kenosha Pass was a paid campground. Looking closer at my map, I notice the camping icon was a darker green color than the others I had passed along the trail. Son-of-a.... *grumbling* I hadn't noticed the slightly off-color green of this campsite nor noted its meaning. I didn't want to stay in a crowded campground that I had to pay for, no less!

But my topo map didn't show anywhere else to camp between here and Kenosha Pass, nor any water between the two locations since the trail largely followed ridge crests most of the way. I didn't really have enough water for dinner and breakfast if I decided to camp between locations. I wouldn't die or anything, but I might be a little thirsty by the time I reached water the next day. I was torn about what to do, but I continued walking for the time being.

Shortly thereafter, I heard the first rumblings of thunder and I cursed my luck. It seemed like everything was going wrong this afternoon!

Near the top of the ridge, a roar of thunder swept through. I wasn't too concerned about being at the top of the ridge since it was covered in trees and it wasn't even the highest ridges in the area, but the lightning was close now. No more than a few miles away based on the time between the flashes of light and the roar of thunder. Then it started to rain.

About two miles sort of Kenosha Pass, I found a flat area where I set up my tarp and ducked under out of the rain. At the time, I wasn't sure if I'd wait it out and continue on to Kenosha Pass or stop here for the night. That might depend on how long the rain lasted!

While waiting under the tarp, though, I figured I'd kill time by sewing up the holes in my pants. I spent a good half hour working on that project, and put on the pants to give them a try and they immediately tore again with holes large enough in both butt checks that you could fit a fist through. *sigh* These pants were toast. I couldn't even sew the holes closed. My next trail town was still two or three days away, but I hoped I'd be able to find a replacement in Breckenridge.

Eventually I decided that I'd camp right there for the night. If it started raining hard, maybe I could even harvest rain water off my tarp which would solve my main problem--not enough water! But instead of raining hard, the rain tapered off and I was still left with too little water. I had about 1 1/2 liters, though, which was no small amount. Maybe not enough for dinner and breakfast, but I was only a couple of miles from Kenosha Pass. I could hike for a couple of miles in the morning and eat breakfast at the pass where I could get water if push came to shove.

As the skies cleared up near sunset, I partially disassembled my tarp flipping half of it over on itself. I liked the extra headroom and the ability to see the sky, but if the clouds or rain came back, I could flip the other half back into place in seconds.

The clouds never came back, however, and that turned out not to be necessary. Life was good! I had covered 19.6 miles--my longest day so far--and was still feeling pretty good. =)

My campsite for the night, with the "half tarp" set up.
Morning fog blanketed the meadow when I woke up in the morning. Although my campsite was above the fog, it probably contributed to the condensation I woke up to!

A warning about the "fish reclamation project" that was happening in Rock Creek.
Campsite for the biologists working on the fish reclamation project.

1 comment:

Lou Catozzi (PI Joe) said...

I have heard that when they are trying to re-introduce a fish species to an area where all the native fish have died off that they will poison the stream to kill all the non-native fish before adding in the native fish they want to have there. I don't think the poison they use is strictly toxic to humans but it is probably not healthy to drink from there for a while.

PI Joe