Monday, May 23, 2022

Day 96: Stampede!!!!

July 25: Most nights are usually quiet and uneventful, but at one point during this night, I was woken by the sound of a stampede! A large herd of animals went running by me, the ground rumbling from impact of hooves striking the dirt. In the darkness of night, I couldn't see anything, but it sounded like they were running by a mere 100 feet away.

I didn't know what the heck was going on. I figured they were probably cattle because what other animals would be out here in such large numbers, but why were they stampeding in the first place? One thing I know about stampedes... they typically are caused by something that the animals see as threatening. Was there a mountain lion chasing them or something?

My biggest fear wasn't that I'd be attacked by a mountain lion, however--it was that one of these animals would run over me in their terror, not seeing me until it was too late. I had no idea how well these animals could see in the dark to begin with. To improve my chances of surviving whatever it was stampeding, I stood up in my sleeping bag, trying to make myself more visible and less likely of being trampled and shouting out, "Stay away from me!" The fact that, theoretically, I could see out further when I stood up was a bonus, but ultimately useless in the darkness. Even the light from the moon was hidden by clouds. I was surrounded by darkness.

The beasts, I'm happy to report, did not run me over, and never seemed to approach closer than about a hundred feet. Which was still too close in my book, but still better than directly over me. Listening to the stampede running off into the distance allowed my thumping heart to slow down a bit.

After the stampede ran by during the night, I was happy to still be alive to see the sunrise this morning! =)

Now that the immediate threat had passed--and being run over by a stampede in the middle of the night was not a threat I had ever considered before--my mind started pondering more about what caused the stampede, and I settled on the idea of a mountain lion. I was sure they were out here, and I was sure they would love to catch a cow, and I was sure they could hunt in the dark. But I never saw anything. It could have been a herd of deer rather than cattle, for instance. Or maybe one cow got startled by a rattlesnake that created the whole stampede for no good reason at all. I had no way of knowing for certain.

But in my head, I latched onto the story that it was probably a mountain lion chasing one of the members of a herd of cattle, and they all ran right by me, a mere 100 feet away. And what if the mountain lion didn't catch anything? It was still hungry and then suddenly noticed me sleeping not far away: alone, fragile, slow, soft and squishy?

That was a bit unsettling to think about, but it didn't seem like there was much I could do about it. Eventually, I tried going back to sleep, but it was a little difficult while pondering if there was a mountain lion that might be stalking me now. I kept cursing my over-active imagination.

Eventually, however, I did manage to fall back asleep and was never attacked by any mountain lions.

I had planned to get another early-morning start to the day's hike. Temperatures were expected to get into the 90s today, so the more hiking I could do early in the morning, the less I had to do in the heat of the afternoon. I slept in surprisingly late, however, and I was shocked when I woke up and noticed that it was already after 5:30am. I had wanted to be up before 5:00! I must have been more tired than I thought. That stampede during the night certainly hadn't contributed to my rest!

A little annoyed at myself for sleeping in, I quickly ate breakfast and did my usual morning routines and was on the trail and hiking by 6:30. Early by most standards, but still much later than I had intended.

The day was basically a continuation of yesterday's hike through a treeless and largely flat terrain, following along little-used gravel roads.

The first several miles followed more-or-less parallel to Muddy Creek, which did grow increasing murky the further downstream I continued. The trail crossed the creek several times over bridges, and each time I crossed I got a good view of the water quality in it.

The last time I crossed it was around 9:30am. I stopped under the bridge for a short snack break and to get out of the hot sun, but I didn't linger very long. It was too early in the morning to stop for a long break. Temperatures were already warm, but it was going to be utterly miserable by the afternoon. If it was already early in the afternoon, I night have stopped for two or three hours under the protective shade provided by the bridge.

This bridge over Muddy Creek provided the last decent shade on the trail for the next several miles! If it wasn't so early in the morning, I would have stopped here to rest for a couple of hours.

So I only stopped long enough for a quick snack and to top off with water. This would be the last water for quite a few miles. It wasn't as clear and fresh as it had been closer to where I camped, but it was still serviceable. Definitely a good idea to treat this water, though.

There would be stagnant ponds along the route, but they were largely meant for cattle and some were definitely worse than others, but all of them (according to Guthook comments) would be awful. So I filled up with a lot of water.

Then I pushed onward. During the morning, the only people I saw were three people riding motorbikes together, who passed me like I was standing still, although they did wave to me as they went by.

In the afternoon, I saw two more people, driving two trucks, one right behind the other, who quickly passed me by. I wondered why they each needed separate vehicles and why they hadn't carpooled together. Maybe it was backup, so if one vehicle broke down, they wouldn't die out here? The thought was a little morbid, but I doubted that was the reason.

Around noon, I did find one small tree that was large enough to cast a descent amount of shade and I finally stopped for a lunch break. I'd have preferred to have done it in another hour or two, but these were the first trees I had seen all day and looking ahead, I knew they might very well be the last ones of the day. I had better make use of them while I could. It was clear from the beaten-down grass next to the tree that I wasn't the first person to make use of this shade.

So I checked around the tree making sure there weren't any rattlesnakes hidden around in the brush where I'd sit down, then relaxed in the shade. In the shade and not hiking, the temperatures actually felt quite pleasant.

At around noon, I found this lonely tree casting a decent amount of shade, so I wound up stopping for a lunch break for about 1.5 hours here. Luxury!

But I still had miles to do. After about an hour and a half, I started losing my shade. It was a good as time as any to get moving again.

The sun was brutal that day. There was nowhere to hide. It baked the desert, and I felt like an egg being cooked on the hood of a car in Death Valley. The water I carried turned horrible. It warmed to 'room temperature', which in this case was somewhere around 90 degrees, and even clean water tastes horrible at those kind of temperatures. So I found myself not really wanting to drink water but still forcing myself to take regular sips just to stay hydrated.

Late in the day, I noticed a two-mile shortcut that I could take. The red-line CDT followed a meandering route, finally leaving the gravel roads for a cross-country route along several miles, but there was a shortcut that could knock two miles off the hike if I stayed on a gravel road that veered off to the north.

The gravel road was relatively easy to walk, and I was tempted by the shortcut, but ultimately I needed more water and the shortcut had none. The official red-line CDT, however, did pass by a stagnant lake where I could fill up with water. (As it turned out, it would pass by two different stagnant lakes, but I only knew about one of them at the time.) So ultimately, I stayed on the red-line CDT for the water.

The water was horrible. Some of the worst that I had to collect since back in New Mexico, but it was either that or nothing. I filled up with the water, and definitely took the time to treat it. Then continued onward.

I skipped the 2-mile shortcut to fill up with water at this stagnant lake.

The last three miles of the day, I finally left the gravel roads and followed a cross-country route through the desert. The route was still fairly easy despite there being no trail to follow, and if it wasn't so hot out, it would have been positively delightful. Most of the waypoints to mark the trail had been broken or fallen, so it was often difficult to find the next waypoint by sight, but my GPS was invaluable and kept me from going too far off track. 

At the end of the cross-country route, the trail intersected with another gravel road. This one was clearly not used as often as the ones I used the rest of the day. It looked like it hadn't been maintained in years and except for two rutted tracks where the tires of vehicles ran down the road, it wasn't really much of a road at all.

It seemed like a good place to set up camp, however, so I finally stopped for the day and did just that. It was located at the top of a slight hill with expansive views in every direction. A tall mountain range in the west soon blocked the sun providing a little relief against the relentless sun well before official sunset. I had little doubt that I would sleep soundly tonight. I was completely exhausted! But I did cover about 27 miles for the day. Not bad....

For the first three hours of the day, the trial followed more-or-less parallel to Muddy Creek.


The waypoints marking the trail through this cross-country section weren't in good shape, and they were often difficult to see from a distance in this condition!


GG said...

I was surprised to see you didn't cover the back of your hand to prevent sunburn.
In the past, didn't you have a cloth or light, fingerless glove to protect your hand?

Ryan said...

I did have one fingerless glove! I lost the other one, though. =(

Anonymous said...

Ryan, Do you wade out a little way in gross bodies of water like that to try to get better water than what’s around the edges?

Anonymous said...

I too was surprised to see Ryan’s sunburned hand!

Ryan said...

Generally speaking, no, I don't wade out in gross bodies of water in the hopes of getting better water. Wading around tends to stir up sediment and can be worse than the water from the edges! Assuming I don't sink knee-deep into the mud to begin with, which is a real possibility!