Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Day 109: Bear! It's a bear! RUN!!!!

August 7: It sprinkled during the night, but my tarp did a pretty decent job of keeping me dry. More annoyingly, however, temperatures dropped a lot during the night and by morning, it was so cold, the rain that had fallen on my tarp had frozen into sheets of ice. It was very difficult getting motivated to leave the warmth of my sleeping bag.

But we had a post office to reach before they closed at 11:00am, so Foxy and I were both up and started hiking by around 6:30. 

Foxy is ready to hit the trail in the morning!

As we neared the trailhead, the number of campers and hikers along the trail increased dramatically. And a few miles away from the trailhead, we stopped at one group of people to ask if we were headed in the correct direction for the Elkhart Park trailhead. For some inexplicable reason, our Guthook apps didn't include the side trail to the trailhead, and the off-trail route was so far off trail that it didn't include maps for the last several miles. We knew the general direction that we had to go, and we knew it was downhill, and we figured the trail would probably get larger and larger the closer we got to the trailhead, so we generally tried staying on the bigger of the trails at each junction.... but unless there was a sign explicitly pointing the correct direction, we weren't 100% certain that we were headed in the correct direction. So we stopped to ask other campers who had come up from there.

A few miles from the trailhead, I was hiking in front of Foxy when the trail rounded a corner and there it was: a bear! It was on the trail when I saw it and I stopped dead in my tracks and shouted back at Foxy, "Bear! Bear!"

Bear! Bear!

The bear seemed startled by my sudden appearance and jumped up onto a small boulder hanging over the trail, and Foxy slowly approached behind me. Later she'd tell me that since I hadn't freaked out or started running or anything, she felt it was safe to approach at least as close as I had when I spotted the bear.

I pulled out my camera to take a few photos, and Foxy pulled out her phone to take some videos. After a few moments, the bear dropped back down on the trail then slowly started approaching us. "Go away! Go away!" I shouted. Foxy joined in and also started banging her trekking poles against a rock. After a few seconds, the bear decided we must be crazy and finally ran off. It stopped briefly at the far end of a small meadow where we watched it poop. I joked about "Does a bear poop in the woods? A definite YES!" I could officially confirm that with a first-hand account. =)

It was pretty exciting, and definitely much nicer than my first bear encounter where I wasn't even able to get a blurry photo of a bear. This bear had been pretty close and I got some (relatively) good shots and a shaky video. This was the first bear that Foxy had seen on the trail. Very cool to see, although I was a little bothered by how close the bear had approached without seeming to be very concerned about our presence.

Anyhow, we continued onward, passing increasingly large numbers of people and even a few different horse trains. Lots of horses on this trail! We arrived at the trailhead by around 9:30am, and the trailhead was huge! A massive parking lot with seemingly a hundred or more cars in it. The drive into Pinedale was probably a half hour from here, so that gave us about an hour to hitch a ride and make it into town before the post office closed. No sweat!

But we quickly realized that there was a major flaw in this plan: everyone was coming to the trailhead to begin their hikes into the wilderness. Absolutely nobody was leaving and heading into town. Nobody at all was going in our direction.

We looked at my phone's Google Maps and saw a couple of intersecting roads a bit further up the road and thought maybe there would be more traffic if we walked down to those, so we started walking down the road. Car after car passed us in the opposite direction, but not a single car passed us in the direction we were walking. It wasn't looking good....

"I bet if we were here at 5:00 in the afternoon, we'd have a ride in 5 seconds flat," I told Foxy. That didn't do us any good now, however, and it wouldn't get us into town before the post office closed.

We wound up walking down the road about a mile, and the intersecting roads we saw on Google Maps turned out to be more of the gravel variety or closed to traffic and completely useless. Basically, we walked for a mile for no good reason at all.

The trailhead was packed with people, but unfortunately they were all headed onto the trail and not off of it. It turned out to be a surprisingly long wait for us to get a hitch into Pinedale.

We found a place on the side of the road to sit down and wait for traffic. We picked a location with good sight lines, where people could see us long before their vehicle would pass by and there was a good pullout if a car wanted to pick us up.

I did get a cell phone signal on my phone and looked into seeing if we could call someone to pick us up, but I couldn't find anything. Nope, we were on our own.

Eventually, a few cars did come by in the correct direction, and they continued on without even slowing down. *sigh*

By around 10:45am, I knew we weren't going to get to the post office in time. Not a chance, even in a speeding car. It wasn't going to happen. I had my mom send me a replacement pair of shoes there since my current ones were wearing thin, but I figured I could push my luck and keep hiking with them to the next town. I definitely needed the new shoes by the next town, however, so I called the post office. Or rather, I tried calling the post office in town so they could forward my package to the next trail town. I did not want to take a zero day here in town and wait until Monday to deal with the package. Except when I called, nobody answered the phone. It just rang and rang and rang.

I waited a couple of minutes, then tried again. And again. A bit after 11:00am, they still weren't answering the phone, but now I just got a busy signal. I tried calling the post office for over an hour but never got through to direct them to forward my packages. The busy signal never stopped. Did they just pick the phone off the hook and set it on its side so they didn't have to listen to me calling it and having it ring incessantly? It really felt to me like that's exactly what happened. The constant calling was annoying them, so they just took the phone off the hook. Damn these post offices!!!! I really couldn't leave town before forwarding my package, though. Argh! This was pissing me off! I'd never had so much trouble with post offices on my previous thru-hikes!

In the meantime, a van eventually pulled over and offered us a ride, but he was headed to a ski resort halfway down toward Pinedale. We'd have to hitch another ride, but we took him up on his offer. At the very least, it gave us a change of scenery and perhaps the road would be busier halfway down it.

And fortunately, it took us all of about 5 minutes before another vehicle pulled over and gave us a ride the rest of the way into Pinedale. Hurray! We had finally made it! Of course, the post office was long since closed, and I still hadn't been able to get my packages forwarded. Reluctantly, I realized I'd have to wait around until the post office opened again on Monday. *sigh*

Checking online for lodging, the options were discouraging. Everything either had no vacancies or was $200+ per night. I could camp for free in one of the city parks. Pinedale was one of the gateway communities for the CDT which required them to allow a free place for thru-hikers to camp. The problem, however, was that I did not want to camp! I had plenty of camping already. I wanted to go into town to take a break from camping. 

Foxy planned to do the free camping and wasn't even remotely interested in splitting the cost of a hotel room. Especially not at these prices. It sounded like she was working with a pretty small budget in any case and wanted to avoid going into debt for her hike, which I could certainly understand. Foxy headed into the supermarket to look for some food, but I was still more interested in lodging so we parted ways but exchanged phone numbers.

I tried calling a couple of hotels. Even one of the next two nights in a hotel would have been welcome, and I found a couple options online that didn't mention costs or availability, but neither of them turned out to have space available. I feared that I was going to be stuck camping in the city park for two nights waiting for the post office to open. Curse this town!

I liked the giant fish on the grocery store in Pinedale. =)

I noticed a hotel across the street about a block away. I had no idea if there was any space available or how much it cost, but since it was so close, I went ahead and figured I may as well check. I had nothing to lose, but I wasn't optimistic either.

I didn't want to waste my time walking that far for nothing, however, so I looked up their number online then called with my phone and much to my surprise and delight, they said that they had one room left which was going for the low-low price of $125/night (plus taxes). That was almost half the next cheapest price I had seen online, although admittedly about double what I would normally prefer to pay and perhaps the most expensive room I'd ever paid for, but I immediately said I'd take it!

I needed to provide a credit card to confirm it, and I started fumbling around in my pack looking for my wallet, but then asked if they could just hold it for five minutes--just 5. I was literally a block away looking at their hotel, and I'd have my credit card and everything ready to pay. I'd be there in mere moments.

The lady on the phone said that was fine, and a few minutes later I was in the lobby checking in.

Once I got my room, I immediately stripped off all my dirty clothes and took a good long shower, then I put on my less-smelly camp clothes and stepped back outside to Dave's burger stand located nearby for lunch. While eating lunch, Foxy texted me that there was bear spray in the hiker box behind the town's visitor center. I had told her my plan for saving $50 by grabbing the bear spray of a south-bound hiker who ditched it, so she kindly informed me of the can so I could grab it before anyone else could. =)

I quickly dashed over there, probably not more than about 15 minutes later, and found the bear spray. I was set! I looked through the rest of the hiker box while I was at it, but the bear spray was the main thing I wanted. Foxy wasn't around anymore, so I pulled out my phone and texted her a thanks for the bear spray tip. 

Then I returned to my room for the night. I didn't have my laptop so I couldn't do any real work, but I was able to get online with my phone to check emails and messages and watch YouTube videos and download more Netflix shows. Plenty to keep me busy for the rest of the night!

Where there were distant views, you could easily see all the smoke in the air. *nodding* Definitely some wildfires are burning out there somewhere.

1 comment:

Tina said...

Too bad you had the bad luck of needing the post office on a Saturday. I work at a tiny rural post office in Nebraska that is open only 2 hours EACH DAY. And Saturdays are short everywhere. I don't know why no one answered at 10:45, but I can guarantee there was no one there by about 11:05. The USPS has strict rules about overtime. We work hard to get all our work done by closing time.