Monday, September 5, 2022

Day 141: A Trail Reunion! Addie Returns!

September 8: I slept well during the night, woke up early, and hit the trail running by 6:50am. The only annoying part for me was that it was still before sunrise! Why is the sun rising so late?! Argh!

I passed the campsite where Jazz Hands stopped for the night about an hour later. He was awake, but didn't seem in any particular rush to get moving quite yet. =)

I started hiking before sunrise once again. Why?! Why won't the sun come up sooner anymore?!

At Fletcher Pass, I needed to pick up some water. There was a water cache at the pass by the trail, but it only had about a half-liter of water left and I didn't expect to find anymore water for the rest of the day. I definitely needed more than that, so I trudged off-trail, down a steep slope about 20 minutes to a small creek where I could fill up with water.

Being the last known water source on the trail for the day, I also decided to cook my dinner there. Use and abuse the water while I could! Otherwise, I'd have to carry water for cooking a meal later, and who needs the extra weight?

And that's when I realized... an absolutely vital piece of equipment was missing from my pack: my groundsheet! I use it to sleep on, but I'll often use it during the day while taking a break to give me something to sit or lay on rather than directly on the ground itself which is often dirty, has bugs, mud, thorns or other issues. I went to pull out my groundsheet which I planned to sit on while cooking dinner, but I couldn't find it!

The thought that I left it behind in camp seemed ludicrous. I'd notice if I left something that big behind. I did, however, stop for a short snack break by a log, and I suspected that the ground sheet was sitting next to that log, and the log hid it from me as I left so I didn't realize it was no longer in my pack. Normally I stuffed it near the top of my pack, but I had taken it out just to get it out of the way, and I feared it simply never made it back in.

But that had happened hours earlier. The idea of backtracking in the hopes of finding it.... no! I couldn't do it!

The water cache at Fletcher Pass just didn't have enough water for me, so I trekked a mile down a steep slope, off-trail, to get water at a creek. Ugh!

But I had a thought. Although still hiking the trail, I kept in touch with my trail family, occasionally dropping a line to Addie, Pez and Evenstar. Addie had gotten off the trail way back in New Mexico, but she lived in Montana so I'd send her a message whenever I reached or passed a trail town just to let her know where I was, and she had texted me back a few days ago that she had time off of work and could come out to meet me on the trail--today! Well, this evening!

So we were planning to meet up this evening. She had asked me if there was anything I needed, but at the time, I didn't. Now, suddenly, I was in desperate need of a new groundsheet. And, as it happened, at Fletcher Pass, I got a cell phone signal. I gave Addie a call.

I told her about my predicament and asked if she could pick up a new groundsheet for me. Basically, I just wanted some Tyvek. It was relatively cheap, lightweight and durable and could probably be found in just about any hardware store. She said no problem. Awesome!

I gave her an update about my progress and my current location at Fletcher Pass. I also said that the easiest way to find me would likely be to park at Rogers Pass and start hiking southbound on the CDT until we crossed paths. I couldn't be certain precisely where I would get a signal throughout the day, but I'd keep her updated as best I could. I did give her the URL where she could track me with my SPOT device, but I'd try to text when I could as well.

With all that settled, I went ahead with cooking a dinner--although I sat directly on the grass on the ground rather than on a groundsheet.

After finishing lunch, I hiked back up to the actual pass--a rather steep and exhausting climb which took another half-hour just to get back to where I left the trail. And finally, I was on my way again.

There was water, but it was located nearly a mile off-trail down this slope. *sigh*

The trail continued climbing quite steeply after the pass, high into the mountains.

To the west, a wall of smoke was quickly blowing in. I could see it marching toward me, and the winds on the exposed ridges practically blew me off the trail. Holy cow! I didn't know where the wildfire was burning, but there was definitely a lot of smoke blowing toward me. It was a little odd watching it approach closer with each passing minute.

Along the high-mountain ridges, I occasionally checked my phone and when I had a signal, texted Addie with my current position. I didn't hear back immediately, though, but it could very well have been that she was out of range on the drive to the trailhead.

Late in the day, about 2.5 miles before descending to Rogers Pass, I spotted a couple of hikers with dogs heading in my direction and I immediately recognized Addie.

"Addie!" I shouted over the punishing winds. She was with Sean, her significant other, and her dogs. I was expecting them as well, but it was the first time I met any of them.

It was late in the day and time to set up camp. Addie and Sean reported that there were no good campsites in the direction they had come from, and on this exposed ridge, the wind was a real problem. A few minutes earlier, however, I passed a small grove of trees that seemed to work well as a wind break and suggested backtracking a few minutes to that location which I pointed out in the distance.

Addie seemed a bit skeptical that such a small grouping of trees could really provide much wind cover, but I had literally just hiked right through it a few minutes earlier and could definitely tell it worked well. It didn't eliminate all of the wind, but at least it was tolerable, and there were some relatively flat spots for campsites. It could work. Frankly, it was the best place for camping I had seen in miles, and if there was nothing good ahead, it was really the only option we had.

Not a lot of good places to camp on these exposed ridges in such strong winds!

So we hoofed it over there and immediately upon getting into the trees, the wind died down dramatically. "Wow!" Addie seemed amazed at the difference.

We quickly set up our camps in the area. I decided to cowboy camp since the weather overnight was expected to be fine, so it didn't take me long. Addie pulled out a long sheet of Tyvek, which I laid out as my new groundsheet. Perfect! It was so perfect that we had planned to meet up just as I needed this essential piece of equipment replaced! Somewhat ironically, if I had lost it a day earlier, I could have also easily replaced it at Dave the outfitters--although I suspect he only sold "real" groundsheets rather than the cheap Tyvek I wanted. Still, in a pinch, I definitely would have bought one.

But Addie and Sean had also brought some additional trail magic: pizza (veggie), salad, Cokes, cookies and oranges. It was a feast! I pigged out and enjoyed every minute of it. What a treat!

We camped near a nice overlook and wound up chatting until midnight, laughing all night long. I filled Addie in on all my stories since I'd seen her last, and she filled me in on her stories after we last saw each other in Silver City. Silver City seemed like a lifetime ago at this point, but it felt like we'd only been apart for a couple of days rather than several months! Sean and the dogs were nice company too, although Sean might have felt a bit left out not knowing all of the other hikers we talked about. Well, he might have known about them since I'm sure he heard stories from Addie, but he didn't know them--not on a personal level like Addie did.

But it was so much fun catching up with Addie and sharing our stories. Even at midnight, I didn't really want to stop chatting, but we did have to wake up again in the morning sometime!

The trail had been a pretty rough day for me as well. My GPS once again recorded over 10,000 feet of elevation change, but all-in-all, I absolutely loved the day. The views were great, and the company at the end of the day really helped filled my loneliness. =)

I last saw Addie about 2000 miles back in Silver City, NM! She looked pretty much the same, but apparently my beard was a shock for her. Basically, I only had a week of stubble the last time she had seen me. =)

Shortly after meeting up with Addie, I texted a photo of us to Pez--who I knew was several days ahead of me on the trail--with the caption of "look who I bumped into on the trail!" Of course, it was pre-planned in advance, but I didn't tell Pez that. Seemed funnier to let him think that we just happened to cross paths by accident. (I didn't actually say this, however--I just let him assume it.)

But anyhow, it was an awesome evening and a very satisfying day on the trail.

The sunset was really quite nice! I thought the clouds looked like they came out of a painting!

That's Fletcher Pass far below. The trail climbed quite steeply to this viewpoint!

This small cluster of trees was the only decent place to get out of the strong winds for miles in either direction! It would became our campsite for the night.

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