Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Day 30: Bats and bears, oh my!

May 20: I woke up and hit the trail, which started with the continuation of the gravel road I had followed all day yesterday. I only followed the gravel road a few miles before reaching a trailhead from which I followed a real, actual trail the rest of the day. Trail! How I've missed you!

It's a real trail! Hello, wonderful trail! =)

At the trailhead was a parked car with a couple of people packing up. They had come out to meet a friends and family who were hiking the trail and apparently it sounded like there was quite the party the evening before. Well, not a party party, but lots of fun, laughs and enough alcohol to put everyone at ease. =) So they told me that there were a couple of other thru-hikers not too far ahead of me--but they weren't people I knew.

I was actually a little surprised to learn that there were other hikers ahead since most people I knew had veered off onto a shorter alternate route. It extended their road walk on a paved, busy highway, but it easily cut off a full day of hiking for them. I preferred the more scenic route rather than the shorter route, and as far as I had known, Wi-fi and I were the only two people to stick to the red line.

It was a few hours later when I caught up with Haiku and Prana, a husband and wife team that I took an immediate liking to. And it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they had family in San Luis Obispo, but that never hurts either. =)

We only chatted for a brief period when I caught up with them. They were taking a break in the shade of a tree, and I stopped since I was ready for a break anyhow--but their break was done and they continued onward a few minutes later without me.

Eventually, I continued onward myself, the trail passing along rocky, volcanic, rock-filled terrain. A few hours later, I stopped to take another break at a nice overlook, but had unwittingly sat down on an ant's nest or something because it wasn't long before they started crawling up me in mass. The ground was thick with pine needles here and presumably they were under the needles, hidden and unseen until they came out to check me out.

As soon as I realized there was a problem, I moved over to the other side of the trail and spent the better part of an hour flicking ants off of me and my gear. Stupid ants! At least they weren't biting me.

While flicking off ants, Haiku and Prana caught up with me again--which was odd since they were supposed to be ahead of me! But they explained that they had walked off trail to explore the top of a crater near the trail.

This was the view I admired when the ants attacked! There were lots of craters near the trail, like the one you can see not far ahead. The trail might even climb that one, although I'm not sure if it's that one or another one that the trail went through.

And I just loved that about them. For them, it was the journey that mattered. For so many hikers, they were so focused on the destination, they miss a lot of neat things along the way. They told me that they had even stayed on the red line instead of the Gila Alternate just to see more--the only people I'd met who hadn't done the Gila Alternate.

Anyhow, after chatting for a couple of minutes with me, they continued down the trail, and I went back to flicking ants off of myself.

When I finally finished flicking ants off, I continued onward. The trail climbed into one of the craters along the way, for which I was happy. I was a little jealous of Haiku and Prana climbing one of the chain of craters and looking inside the crater and admiring the views from the top, but it turned out that I got the same experience just by following the trail without any of the cross-country hassle they had to deal with. 

Late in the day, I veered off trail a short way to pick up water from a cow trough. I had originally wanted to camp near the water, but there were cattle nearby which put an end to that idea. Now I planned to head cross-country back to the trail and then stop at the first nice spot I found to camp.

Which is when I ran into Haiku and Prana again--just as I was reconnecting with the main CDT. They had skipped the water, carrying enough water to go 30 miles after mistakenly thinking that there was no water for that distance. So they didn't need to leave the trail like I did.

But for the first time all day, none of us were stopped for a break and all of us were hiking in the same direction, so we started hiking together.

We probably weren't together for more than a half hour or so, but it was absolutely awesome! During that time, Haiku seemed to notice everything. She stopped and exclaimed that she spotted bear tracks, pointing at the dirt of an intersecting cow trail, and there were bear prints! Clear as day! I'm not sure I'd have been observant enough to notice that and was glad she was around to point them out.

I may not have seen any bears on the trail yet, but these were definitely bear prints!

Then they noticed a bat doing an aerial displays for a surprisingly long period of time in the sky. I have seen bats flit by occasionally, but usually I only get brief glances of them. This one stuck around for several minutes doing aerobatics in the sky, and it was hypnotic to watch. They weren't in any rush either, prefer to stop and enjoy the show rather than continuing on with their hike.

It was around 8:00 in the evening when I finally stopped to set up camp. They were going to keep going a bit further, and I really wanted to keep hiking with them and see what else they discovered along the way, but it was starting to get dark and I couldn't get the photos I needed for Walking 4 Fun. So, I reluctantly stopped for the night.

The sunset turned out to be absolutely gorgeous, colorful reds and pinks coloring the clouds. All-in-all, a pretty nice day on the trail!

Sunset was gorgeous!

There are actually two craters in this photo, one right behind the other. Maybe even three craters if you also count that small hump on the right side of the photo.

Definitely volcanic rock!

There was a mostly empty water cache at the trailhead, but I had already filled up with plenty of water from the cow trough not knowing this was here.

This area had definitely burned not too long ago. Was it a wildfire or a controlled burn? I have absolutely no idea....

Here I'm actually in one of the craters, looking down to the bottom of it.

Nasty, scummy water--but beggars can't be choosers!

Haiku starts to climb over a barbed-wire fence while Prana watches. The pile of rocks under the fence makes it easier for hikers to swing their legs over it.

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