Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Day 58: The Unplanned Resupply

June 17: The four of us packed up camp and pretty much all hit the trail at 6:30 in the morning. Goose and Savage headed up to the CDT to continue on the main route, but Skunkbear and I decided we had enough of the snow and misery and headed in the opposite direction, descending toward the village of Platoro. Actually, calling it a village might be a bit generous, but I'm not sure what else to call it. A hamlet, maybe?

In the morning, we could see the scene of our misery from yesterday. That long, narrow snow chute near the right side of the photo is the one we followed alongside. (Not that snow field ON the right edge, but the snow chute just to the left of it.) At least until it merged with that other snow chute at which point we had to cross the snow directly.

In any case, we were heading away from the snow and water-logged meadows, and that's all that mattered to us.

The day's hike started off quite nice. The trail was in good shape, flat, dry and snow-free. There was the occasional blow down to get around, but they weren't particularly difficult or problematic. Then the trail dumped out at a gravel road which we could follow all the way to Elwood Pass where we would reconnect with the official CDT.

The gravel road was nice and easy to walk along, and except for the occasional vehicle that would drive by, it was a pleasant change from our horrible day yesterday.

Several more miles up the road, the road would split. We needed to turn left to head up to Elwood Pass, but there was that small hamlet known as Platoro a couple of miles to the right which had a small convenience store according to our information. Our Guthook app had information about the section between Platoro and Elwood Pass since it was part of the Great Divide Alternate popular with thru-hikers trying to avoid excessive snow on the main route. We were jumping onto the alternate halfway along it. Had we followed the alternate sooner, we could have avoided the horrors of yesterday completely. In hindsight, right?

The end of our trail and the beginning of our road walk,....

The annoying part for us, however, was that the resupply point was a couple of miles in the wrong direction. We weren't particularly excited about going off our route to do it, but with our severe lack of progress yesterday, we were low on food.

As we approached the junction, though, a man driving by with his truck pulled over and asked if we wanted a ride. Yes! Of course! But... "No..." I said. "We want to keep our steps from Mexico to Canada connected." If we got a ride before the junction, our steps would get broken.

Skunkbear stopped me from a big mistake, though, pointing out that we were actually closer to the junction than the junction was from town. We could get a ride into town, and then hike back to where we got picked up. We'd still have to do the section between our current location and the junction twice, but that was still shorter than walking all the way into town and repeating the section between the junction and the town twice. "And," she pointed out, "it's entirely possible we could even hitch a ride back here." Even without the ride back, it would definitely save ourselves a couple of miles of hiking and still keep our steps connected. Let's do it!

So after our quick 20-second conversation, we agreed to a ride and hopped into the back of the man's pickup. Skunkbear was a bit concerned that we wouldn't remember precisely where we got picked up and not backtrack far enough to connect our steps (or overshoot them), but I told her not to worry about that. I had a GPS and marked the point where we got picked up. We could now easily return to the precise point where our feet left the ground.

Our benefactor introduced himself as Allen, and we started the bumpy ride into town. The road became windy and descended sharply toward the flat ground around the town, and in the back of the pickup truck, Skunkbear and I told each other how glad we were not having to hike this section. It was a long way downhill! Of course, we still needed to come back up, but at least we didn't have to walk this as a round-trip adventure and her idea of accepting the ride into town seemed more brilliant than ever. We hadn't really looked very closely at our maps to notice just how much elevation we had to lose to get into town.

Allen dropped us off at the general store, and even suggested coming back to pick us up. First to take us to a cabin him and a friend were renting out. They were leaving that day and needed to use up the food they had--which we could help out with--then he would give us a ride back to where he picked us up. We were thrilled. Awesome! Sure! Not a problem! We wouldn't even have to hitch a ride back to the trail!

Unless, of course, he planned to kill us at his cabin and feed our bodies to the bears, but he seemed like a friendly guy. =)

At the general store, I was a little disappointed with the options. Even by convenience store standards, the options weren't good. Fortunately, I didn't need much food to supplement my supplies and with a ride into and out of town, we weren't going to lose too much time with this resupply. I picked up a Coke, Pringles, mashed potatoes and a Klondike bar, but since that didn't meet the $10 minimum for a credit card purchase, I also threw in a Twix bar.

The Coke and Klondike bar were for immediate consumption. I wasn't particularly excited about the Pringles--they weren't even among my top 10 favorites for snack foods but the pickings were slim. I never had to resort to eating Pringles on a hike before. The powdered mashed potatoes was the main thing I wanted to supplement my food--one extra dinner. And snacks or a meal here in town for one extra lunch.

Platoro was a couple of miles out of our way and down a big hill, so we were quite grateful for the ride!

While waiting outside for Allen to return to pick us up, I idly looked through the menu of the small, attached restaurant and was really tempted by the burger and fries. It sounded so good right then, but I was afraid that I couldn't get it and eat it before Allen arrived to pick us up again, and I really didn't want to miss a ride back to the trail.

The woman working there said she could have it cooked and ready in about five minutes, and eventually I decided to go for it. But I definitely emphasized that I needed the meal ASAP! 

It was a few minutes later when Allen pulled up again. Argh! Of course! Just my luck!

I found the woman making the order and asked her to prepare it as a to-go meal and paid for the purchase while the burger was still cooking. A couple of minutes later, it was ready and she packed it in a to-go container, then Skunkbear and I jumped into the back of the pickup truck for a ride to Allen's cabin.

There he introduced us to his friend John, and they set up a bunch of sandwich ingredients on a table on the patio: bread, ham, mustard, cheese and spicy pickles. Skunkbear made a sandwich right away for lunch as I dug into the burger and fries. They offered us some wine, but I passed on that taking a Coke instead. Skunkbear, however, was pretty excited about a glass of white wine,. =)

Allen and John

And we spent the better part of an hour chatting away and enjoying the afternoon. Allen said something about us hiking together and I suddenly realized that he thought we were a couple, and so I told him that we had actually only met for the first time a few days ago. We'd just been watching out for each other through the snow.

He turned to Skunkbear making a comment about how amazing it was that she was hiking the trail all by herself, and I butted in, "Hey! What about me? I've been hiking all by myself too!" For some reason, us men never get the credit for hiking "alone" that women do. It's a little disappointing sometimes. Later in the evening when we were chatting, Skunkbear thanked me for pointing out that double standard saying that she was sometimes annoyed by people who assumed she was less capable of these sorts of feats than men. 

Women are certainly just as capable of hiking these trails as men. And, in fact, I think Skunkbear had been kicking my ass yesterday. Figuratively, of course. She was moving a lot faster and stronger than I was and often had to stop and wait for me. There's nothing a man can do out here that a woman can't except, perhaps, pee while standing up--but they even have She-Wees and such for that now.

Anyway, after lunch, both Skunkbear and I made sandwiches to pack out and eat for dinner, and then Allen drove us back to the point where he first picked us up, precisely marked by my GPS.

Skunkbear shows off the double-decker sandwich she made that she would pack out for dinner.

At the junction where the road split, Allen stopped and asked if we wanted to jump out and stash our packs in the woods so we wouldn't have to carry them from where we would be dropped off back to this junction. Skunkbear and I looked at each other like we were idiots. Why hadn't we thought of that?! Absolutely! That was a brilliant idea!

My only concern was that perhaps a bear would get into our packs during the brief period it would take to return to this point, but we figured it probably wasn't more than about 10 or 15 minutes at worst and in the middle of the day near a surprisingly busy dirt road, it was worth the risk. So we hopped out of the pickup and stashed our packs behind some nearby trees, then jumped back into the pickup for the half-mile or so ride back to the point where we had been picked up.

Allen dropped us off, and we thanked him profusely for the help. A true trail angel when we needed it most! Allen drove off leaving dust in his wake, and Skunkbear and I began walking down the road again but this time without any weight on our backs at all.

"I can't believe I almost turned down that ride," I told Skunkbear. "I'm so glad you talked me into it! What a fool I was," I said, shaking my head.

Platoro Reservoir

About ten minutes later, we reached the junction where we had stashed our packs and retrieved them. "Ugh! These feel so heavy now!" I complained.

And we turned up the road, away from Platoro and toward Elwood Pass.

The rest of the day's hike was fast and efficient. The road was almost entirely flat and easy and we walked quickly covering surprisingly large chucks of ground quickly. According to my GPS, which was a bit imprecise since it included the mileage in Allen's truck that I had to subtract out and could only make a rough estimate of, we ended up hiking about 25 miles for the day--my longest day yet--helping make up for that lack of progress yesterday.

We stopped for the night at Elwood Pass, right where the alternate reconnected with the main CDT again. The roads gradually increased in elevation all day long so there were patches of snow near the pass, but we had completely bypassed the second "sketchy" area that Pez had reported and by all accounts, the rest of the way into Pagosa Springs was in a lot better shape that the area we had just bypassed. Hopefully--knock on wood--the worst was behind us.

In camp, I pulled out my ham, cheese, pickle and mustard sandwich for dinner and after one bite, I exclaimed to Skunkbear, "Wow! These pickles are really good!" Since I had eaten the burger and fries for lunch, I hadn't actually tasted the food that Allen and John had provided us. But this was old news to Skunkbear who had also eaten the same sandwich for lunch. "Delicious!" she agreed.

So I really enjoyed the sandwich. I had expected a pretty normal, average sandwich, but it was absolutely delicious! And definitely a nice change from my usual Hamburger Helper or mac 'n' cheese.

And thus ended my 58th day on the trail.....

Skunkbear enjoys the ride in the back of Allen's pickup truck. The beverage (I forgot what was in it) she picked up at the general store.

I swear! It wasn't me!

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