Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Day 130: The Ennis Paradise

August 28: I woke up and was on the trail and moving by around 7:00am. I wasn't attacked by any bears once again, but I did notice a tree that had been torn up pretty badly nearby--which I assumed was from a bear clawing at the tree.

All I had to look forward to in the morning was backtracking 7 miles over some rough trail, including two river fords. Finally, I reached the junction where I made the horrible decision of turning left instead of right. I'd take the other path this time, the long way around Fan Mountain. It might be longer, but at least I'd be seeing some new terrain then.

But I was still angry about this otherwise completely unnecessary detour. I still hoped to reach Ennis by the end of the day today, but it would definitely be a very late arrival rather than the early morning like I had initially planned. It would be nearly 30 miles of walking to reach town with this new route. And the first 7 miles was along a badly overgrown trail littered with blowdowns.

Once I retraced my steps, I found myself back on a proper, well-maintained trail. It was clear, well-trodden and in great shape. Additionally, the trail sloped slightly downhill pretty much the entire rest of the day. Fast and easy!

And remarkably scenic. But I still spent the whole day thinking to myself, "I'd already be in town if it weren't for that asshat last night." I was still angry about the detour, angry that I was basically losing a whole day of hiking just to walk in a giant circle. I had Canada to reach, damn it! I didn't have time for this nonsense!

At one point, the new detour I followed led once again onto private property, but this time with signs that actually marked the boundary and asked hikers to "Please stay on the trail." Now that's a civilized property owner, I thought. If only they were all so accommodating and understanding. It just made me even angrier about the jerk from last night.

This private property was no problem for me to hike through!

The trail eventually ended at a trailhead at the end of a (public) gravel road that I could follow the rest of the way into Ennis. It was a long road walk of about a dozen miles, but the gravel road wasn't so bad to walk on. It had very little traffic and was much preferable the busy, paved highway that I would have had to follow into town from the other direction.

All things considered, this route was actually a far better experience than the route I had originally tried to take. The trail was nicer, the road walk into town was better and the scenery was better. It was really the superior experience all around. I just didn't know about it then. I hadn't stumbled onto the route until searching my downloaded maps thoroughly the night before, and even that couldn't tell me that the route was so much nicer. Even if both routes were open to the public, I'd still have preferred this one. But that fact didn't make me feel any better. I was still feeling angry and frustrated the whole day. "I'd already be in town eating a big fat burger with fries and a cold drink, right now," I said to myself while eating some snacks during a lunch break, sweltering in the heat.

The road walk into town was a bit grueling. There was little shade along the route, and the temperatures soared after descending to this lower elevation. Not to mention that it was a bit boring. Easy to walk, but pretty boring.

The last couple of miles, the traffic picked up a bit. It wasn't busy, but a car would drive by every few minutes which was still a lot more than once every half hour which was more the norm when I started the road walk.

Only the last five minutes or so of the road walk followed alongside the busy highway.

I finally reached town fairly late in the afternoon. I stopped to sit on a bench and pull out my phone to look for lodging, but I could find absolutely nothing with availability in town. Price didn't matter--as far as I could tell, there wasn't a single room available at any price anywhere near town. I'd just have to find somewhere to stealth camp, perhaps illegally. I knew from past hikes that it was perfectly legal to camp on the side of the highway, but it's an awful place to camp. No, I'd try to find some hidden location where nobody could see me and set up camp. Behind some hay bales or bushes or something. I was deep in farmland now, though. There were farms as far as the eye could see outside of town.

In the meantime, however, I was in town and wanted to take full advantage of the situation. Ennis wasn't a very big town, but it had an old western tourist kind of vibe to it. I didn't really have much time to linger and explore the town, however. It was already pretty late in the afternoon and I still needed to hike out far enough to find a place to stealth camp. I hoped I could find somewhere within a few miles of town, but even that wasn't certain. I was just winging it. The last useful Guthook comments were well over a hundred miles ago.

I did plan to get dinner in town, though. At the very least, it'll save me the effort of having to cook a dinner later tonight. So I stopped in at Ennis Sugar High Ice Cream and Burgers. Sounds good, don't you think?

Ennis definitely had a tourist vibe to the place.

And it was... oh, so good! I ordered the usual burger, fries and a Coke, but also splurged with a vanilla ice cream cone. As an added bonus, there was also an electrical outlet for my use, a wi-fi connection to get online and bathrooms. And I used them all. I wound up lingering there for a little over an hour until closing time. It seemed like they closed pretty early in the day--about 7:00pm.

On my way out of town, I stopped by the Madison Foods to do some grocery shopping. After shopping, I was outside packing my newly acquired food in my pack when a local guy approached me and asked if I was hiking the CDT and had all sorts of questions about it. He had been seeing lots of hikers going through town--much more than normal. Due to the fire closures on the main CDT, almost everyone was taking alternates that led through a number of these small towns, and apparently we were big news in these small towns. There were actually newspaper articles written about the unusually high numbers of hikers passing through these towns explaining that no, we weren't homeless. Just hikers!

After chatting for a few minutes, he asked if there was anything he could do to help, and so I asked if he had any suggestions about a place for me to camp. I was hoping he'd say something like, "Hey, I have a free bedroom available. You can crash at my place tonight!" Not that I really expected such an answer, but hope springs eternal. =)

He thought about it for a moment and mumbled something indistinct. It seemed to me more like he was talking to himself, going through possibilities. There wasn't room at his place, and he didn't know of anyone who might have room. Then he hit on an idea. "Maybe the ball field?" He explained that it had a dugout and was located maybe a block or two from the main highway so the noise shouldn't be too bad. Plus is was just a five minute walk away. He sounded almost a little jealous, like he'd like to spend the night in a dugout someday.

It sounded promising, so he pointed me in the correct direction and I headed off in that direction. I found the baseball field easily enough and it looked absolutely perfect. There weren't any houses immediately adjacent to it. There weren't even any electric lights around it so I didn't have to worry about any games happening during the night. It's hard to play a baseball game in the dark, after all.

My campsite in the dugout of the local ball field. Perfect! =)

It was all very secluded and private, and inside the dugout I was completely hidden from the outside world. It was perfect! It was a much better place for me to stealth camp than I had any expectation of finding.

So I set up camp in the dugout. I had forgotten to fill up with water before leaving the grocery store. I could walk back--it wasn't far, but it would require a little backtracking and Lord knows I already got enough of that for today. But there was a gas station along the highway not far ahead. I could probably stop there in the morning to fill up.

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

This new route was far superior to the last one I tried!

The last dozen miles or so followed this gravel road into town.

I thought I might have to sneak over had stealth camp behind one of these piles of hay bales, but the dug out was much more convenient!

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