Friday, June 17, 2022

Day 107: Llamas on the trail!

August 5: The morning was surprisingly warm. I had expected it to be quite cool given the relatively high altitude, but maybe the overhanging tree helped block in the heat around my campsite. In any case, it was surprisingly warm and I woke up completely free of condensation. It was a bit dark under the trees, but once I started hiking and got out from under it, it was fine.

The trail immediately headed steeply uphill toward Texas Pass, but it was the downhill side that I found troublesome. It seemed to shoot straight downhill without barely a switchback, and the trail was made of lots of loose gravel. I took baby steps down, slowly and carefully, and was glad when I finally reached the lake at the bottom.

There was a small bit of snow at the top of Texas Pass! Come on, man! It's August already! Why is there still snow on the ground?!

Also at the bottom, I spotted two llamas tied up in some grass. Llamas! Did Captain Jack and his friends rent some more?! No, they were behind me having gotten off the trail at South Pass City to resupply. I doubted thru-hiker rented these llamas at all. They probably were brought out by people who were out for a few days or a week or something. A large tent was set up nearby which I assumed probably held the llamas owners, but nobody was out and about to ask about the llamas so I just waved at them and continued onward. 

See the two llamas?

After that, the trail was mostly flat, over rolling hills. No steep climbs or drops. I had trouble following the trail a bit when I reached another lake. It was filled with social trails to all sorts of campsites and it was often challenging figuring out which path was the real trail. At one point, I walked up on a group of three campers and chatted with them for a couple of minutes asking if I was still headed in the correct direction, but even they weren't certain. They didn't seem too bothered with my intrusion, though, and were more fascinated about my hike. "You hiked in all the way from Mexico?!" Yep.

A few hours later, the Cirque of the Towers alternate route linked back with the red-line CDT and the hoards of people on the trail finally went away. The scenery was still gorgeous, but not nearly as dramatic as the sharp peaks along the alternate.

Coming in the opposite direction, however, the number of southbound thru-hikers continued to grow. Today I had 9 confirmed sightings when I stopped to chat and learned that they were definitely thru-hikers. In addition, there were 4 others that gave off that thru-hiker vibe, but we didn't stop to chat so those are just unconfirmed sightings. I had stopped to chat with every south-bounder I met, but I realized today that that was becoming unworkable. There were just too many of them passing by now!

They reported equally large numbers of north-bounders ahead of me as well. Actually, their reports were much higher than mine. Some of them said that they had counted over 50 north-bounders in the last couple of days. Which is oddly weird as I was one of them but hadn't seen any at all for two days now. From my point of view, north-bounders seemed like an extinct species and I was the last of its kind.

Early in the afternoon I had stopped for lunch and Little Red Riding Hood, or Red for short, caught up with me. She had camped somewhere near Lonesome Lake the night before so probably hadn't been far behind me all day. We wound up walking together for a couple of hours and chatting, during which I learned that she was interested in setting some FKTs (Fastest Known Times) for the PCT. Particularly, she had her eye on the Washington state section since she lived in Seattle.

"Wait! Really? Because the guy who has the FKT for Washington state is just a day or two behind me!"

Or at least he claimed to have the FKT for Washington. It's not like I tried verifying the information he told me anything, but I didn't have any reason to doubt his sincerity either. Then I started wondering if there was an "FKT club" for people to share suggestions and thoughts or compare notes. Or do they keep all their tricks for getting in huge miles each day secret so they might have more of an edge?

She just really likes traveling far and fast. On the PCT, she told me, she'd make bets with people and if she lost, she'd have to hike 20+ miles backwards on the trail, then catch up with her friends again. And each time she'd lose a bet, the distances would get longer and longer, although she said that she finally drew the line at over 50 miles.

I found this hilarious and crazy but oddly wonderful at the same time. She wasn't even trying to set any records--just doing long days because she liked it, I guess. She'd even done a couple of 60+ mile days along the way--which is nearly double the longest day I've ever done in my entire life. It was very interesting.

I also made sure to get her photo. If she starts setting FKT records all over the place and becomes one of those famous hikers, I wanted a photo to prove that I met her "before she was famous." I had actually met Anish during my first AT thru-hike, but she wasn't famous then. It wouldn't be until years later that she'd set new FKT records for the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail and the Arizona Trail and write a couple of books and give lots of speeches and featured in all sorts of hiking magazines. But I never thought to get a photo of her then and still don't have a photo of her on the trail. (Not that there aren't a billion of them already posted online, but none of them are my photos!) 

Anyhow, I said I wanted a photo of her in case she ever became as famous as Anish. I wanted proof that we had met, even if she doesn't remember. I did later see Anish at one of her talks, but she didn't actually remember meeting me. We had only chatted for about 5 minutes on the AT, though, passing me on the trail like I was standing still. I didn't really expect her to remember me. The only reason I remember her was because she was already hiking unusually long distances and it blew my mind when she told me her start date. We also crossed paths in the middle of the night on both of our second AT hikes, but in the darkness, I hadn't known it was her until long after she had passed by. But I digress....


Little Red Riding Hood

I also asked her about her trailname. When I first met her, I had assumed she was called Little Red Riding Hood because of her red hair, but then she also had bright red shoes and just a lot of red gear in general. The actual answer turned out to be a more involved story that had nothing to do with the color red, although the specific details have long slipped my mind and I failed to write them in my journal.

We took a break by Sandpoint Lake. Red decided to take a dip in the lake, but I passed saying that the water was too cold. It just proved my point when I heard a splash and then her blood-curdling scream as she entered the water. It didn't sound pleasant, but after getting back out, she assured me that it felt great.

We wound up not continuing and set up camp near the edge of the lake, along with a couple of hikers who were out for a couple of weeks from Minnesota. Later in the afternoon, a northbound hiker caught up with us, Foxy, whose name I remembered seeing in registers before but I'd never actually met until now. She also had red hair, which is how she wound up with the trail name Foxy. Red like a fox. She was also young and quite pretty, so I imagine "Foxy" could have a double-meaning as well, but the official story was that her hair was red like a fox.

Later I joked that that works well because when she's old and has grey hair, she can still call herself Foxy--she'd just be a grey fox instead of a red fox. =) 

The trail seemed surprisingly packed with red-headed women today.

I considered hiking on a bit further. Initially when I started the day, I planned to go further, but I enjoyed the company of other people and just didn't want to go on and camp alone. I'd been feeling a bit lonely out here and it was nice having a few other people around. Not the hoards of people at Lonesome Lake, though. That's a bit too much! So I decided to stop and camp with the other four hikers nearby.

And thus ended another day on the trail.....

Looking back in the direction of Jackass Pass



The late afternoon brought in some ugly clouds.

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