I woke up far earlier than I wanted to. I tried to sleep in some even after the sun rose, even crawling out of my sleeping bag to try to get another hour’s nap on top of it, but the rising sun eventually made even that unbearably warm, so I gave up and started packing.
I noticed the outside of my tent had ants crawling on it, and so did my pack and everything. A lot of the packing up process was about brushing ants off of things. I had no idea I had set up so near an ant colony. It’s not one of those things you can tell in the dark.
I started hiking somewhere around 8:45. I encountered a big rattler a little after 11 climbing up to the edge of the rim. The road dropped steeply down the side of the rim into a lower valley, arriving at a very popular picnic pavilion. It was occupied by two fellow sobos, Side Quest and Safety Inspector, and a bikepacker I didn’t meet because I headed straight for the privy and spent an hour there and he was gone when I returned.
My sleepiness meant I wasn’t super motivated to hike, but neither were the other hikers. They intended to nap under the pavilion until late afternoon, then do big miles under cover of dark instead. Given how hot the days and cool the nights, it did seem likely big miles were far more likely at night, though they were hinting at doing something like 50 miles to finish out the basin all at one shot. I had much more modest goals, but I did sit under there with them chatting for a couple of hours over lunch. I hiked out again around 2.
After a bit more roadwalk, the trail joined a mostly unsigned cross-country section. I managed to stay the course for a mile or so, and then I dropped off the trail into a deep ravine for a break. The high wall of the ravine provided some afternoon shade. When I left the ravine, I found it hard to continue overland, so I dropped back into the ravine to cross the plain. I kept trying to set a course by comparing the landscape to the topo map, but I got confused between some landmarks and wound up near the highway instead. I gave up on staying in the easement and just walked down the highway a couple of miles until I reached the road that the trail joined after the cross-country section.
A few miles down this road, I came to a big pond full of wildlife. I needed the water, so I decided to have dinner there while it filtered. In addition to the cows, ducks, and beavers, I encountered a number of mosquitos. I stopped carrying DEET because I thought the season was over, but I got bit by a few of the late season stragglers while pulling water out of the pond.
It was just after sunset when I set off down the road again, intending to reach the next pond. The whole time I was walking into the setting sliver of moon until it set too, leaving me walking into the cold wind with the milky way shining on my left and the big dipper on my right. It was a few more hours, 6 miles, to the last good pond along the road, and I found a nice flat, dirt spot around 10, in bed by 11.
Trail miles: 19.1
Distance to Encampment: 58.6 miles