Monday, May 2, 2022

Day 87: The shortest day of the trail

July 16: I wasn't in any particular rush today. I only planned to hike about 10 miles, and even with an hour-long drive back to the trail, time wasn't an issue. So I took my time getting ready in the morning.

Before checking out of the hotel, I shaved my head bald. I kept the beard--it helped protect my face from biting mosquitoes and the harsh sun, but my head was covered with my hat most of the time which provided protection from both the sun and the bugs. The hair on the top of my head was just an unnecessary inconvenience, and it had to go. I had asked Amanda to bring clippers when she came to visit so I could shave my head, which I did over the sink in the bathroom. =) 

My new hairdo! Not that most of the other hikers would never see it since I almost always had a hat on on the trail.

After checking out from the hotel, I resupplied at Safeway where I ran into two other hikers, Cougar Bait and Just Jim--both of whom I'd never met before, but I was surprised by Cougar Bait. I had seen that trailname in registers early in New Mexico and thought the trail name sounded amusing, and for some reason, I imagined the person was a young woman. Fresh out of high school or something. Probably relatively small and short, the kind of person that others might joke would be an appetizer for a cougar. That's went through my head when I saw the trailname, so I was more than a little surprised when I found out it was attached to a 60-ish year old gentleman with a full, gray beard--pretty much the complete opposite of the image I had created in my head.

But in another sense, I wasn't far off the mark either. I imagined the "bait" being a result of youth and inexperience--an age related thing, and age was definitely a reason for the trailname. Older and slower. Cougars and other carnivores tend to go after the youngest and oldest members of a pack. Younger ones for their youth and inexperience, but older ones for their infirmities and slowness. Not that Cougar Bait was infirm, but he readily admitted to being slow. So I was right about the trailname being a description of "easy to pick off from the herd" kind of person--I was just wrong about which end of the spectrum that covered!

Anyhow, he felt pretty confident that they were near the back of the thru-hiker pack, but I assured him that wasn't the case. I'd met other hikers in town just a couple of days earlier, and I knew Evenstar had been way back in Breckenridge just a couple of days earlier, and I knew she wasn't alone out there. I was probably a week or so ahead of him on the trail so I didn't make a particularly good example.

On our way out of town, Amanda and I stopped for lunch before she dropped me off again at Willow Creek Pass. This time, I'd be carrying a full pack since Amanda would be heading off again. I took my time packing--still in no rush with only 10 miles planned for the day--then hit the trail.

View looking back toward Willow Creek Pass

Amanda drove off into the proverbial sunset, and I started hiking. Soon after she left, I realized that I had forgotten to take the tent with me! Argh! I had asked her to bring my relatively small, light tent so I could escape the mosquitoes that would undoubtedly continue growing worse each night, but then completely forgot about it while packing up and she drove off with it. *sigh* I hoped mosquitoes wouldn't be too big of a problem until the next town.

From the pass, the trail climbed steeply and I stopped for a short break about a half-hour into my walk, by a nice viewpoint overlooking the pass, and it wasn't long before Prana and Haiku caught up with me. I'd last seen them back in Breckenridge which wasn't all that long ago, but I was happy to see them again and spent the next hour or so hiking with them.

It was a bit of a shame that they hadn't reached the pass just a little bit sooner, though, since the rental car was still full of uneaten trail magic. I had no way of knowing that they were right around the corner, though. If I had, we'd have been perfectly happy to wait a bit for them and treat them to a feast!

Oh, well.

Prana on the trail!

The trail continued climbing, up and up, but I stopped for another break when I reached near tree line and a thunderstorm blew in. Continuing on along an exposed ridge for the next several miles seemed like a bad idea in a thunderstorm, so I took cover under a small group of trees and pulled out my umbrella to wait out the storm. I expected it would pass quickly! And it was maybe 40 minutes later when I put the umbrella away and continued hiking. Prana and Haiku continued hiking before I resumed, continuing as soon as the thunder passed before before the rain stopped. I waited until the rain stopped.

The trail continued climbing toward Parkview Mountain, the last 12,000-foot peak of the trail according to Guthook comments.

The climb seemed relentless and endless, but eventually I made it to the top where I discovered a small shelter. From a distance, I thought it was a fire lookout, but when I got closer, I realized that there wasn't really anything to see the views from inside the structure. It seemed more like a storage shed, but what a weird place for a storage shed! There were windows around the top of it, but they were too high to really look through or see out of. I think they were primarily just to let light in, not the views. Although when I first arrived, they were all boarded up.

Shelter at the top of Parkview Mountain

I assumed the door to it was locked, but was surprised to discover that it was not and I could enter it. It was a bit crowded inside, with a large piece of machinery--maybe some sort of weather equipment? A transmitter? It didn't seem to be hooked up or doing anything anymore, whatever it was. It took up a good deal of floor space, but there was still enough space for a couple of people to lay out and camp if they wanted to.

And looking out at the horizon, it appeared that a rainstorm was heading in my direction again. Maybe it would be a good place to wait out the storm instead of continuing along the exposed ridge....

So I propped open one of the windows. They were all boarded up when I arrived so the interior of the structure was quite dark, but once I propped open one of the windows, plenty of natural light could enter and allowed me to monitor the weather outside easier.

After about an hour or so, the storm had passed and I thought about continuing onward, but then decided not to. Up high on this exposed mountain, the bugs weren't a problem. I was well-protected from anymore rainstorms that might blow in, and the views were awesome! All-in-all, a pretty cozy place to stop. =)

Views from the top of Parkview Mountain near sunset were absolutely awesome! =)

I hadn't even done 5 miles for the day, though. It was a pathetic day of hiking, and as it turned out, it would be the the single shortest day of hiking for me on the entire trail (not including zero days, of course).

The sunset turned out to be gorgeous! Being at over 12,000 feet (3658 m) above sea level, I figured it might be particularly chilly tonight and put on an extra layer of clothes. Although I hadn't seen any, I also assumed that mice also liked to make this shelter a home, so I hung my food bags from the ceiling to keep them at bay.

And I spent the rest of the evening writing in my journal, cooking dinner and reading my Kindle.

My home for the night, and great protection from the rain, wind and bugs!

See the little bump at the top of Parkview Mountain? That's the shelter!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love it! Thanks for sharing! What an awesome surprise shelter to find in the middle of no where!