At 3:30am, I woke from a bizarre dream in which I found tiny bugs crawling under the skin of my hand and pinched them to kill them and squeeze them out. I suppose it could be called a nightmare except that I didn’t awake in a panic or anything.
That is, until a few moments later I became consciously aware of sounds such which must have been the reason I instinctively awoke–a bear was sniffing around my campsite.
Okay, it probably wasn’t a bear. It was walking softly but sniffing and whuffing loudly. It didn’t spook at all when I sat up and yelled “get out of here!” and turned my headlamp on. I grabbed and opened my knife, then held still listening to see what the beast would do. I was topless and unwilling to unzip the tent and peek out in case that provoked a response from a creature that was surely aware of me but didn’t act at all interested in me.
From the loud, heavy breathing, it was certainly a large mammal. Most likely it was a cow or elk or coyote, all of which I’ve seen roaming around that time of night in those areas. It sounded like it just went a little down the hill, lay down, breathed heavily, and occasionally licked itself. It didn’t sound like something interested in attacking me, so eventually I laid back down and dozed off. I closed the knife to protect the tent and mattress but kept it in my hand just in case.
The interruption to my sleep made me less energetic come morning. I ended up sleeping in until well past 7, and I didn’t start hiking until 8:30.
But then I knew I didn’t have much to look forward to in the day’s hike. It would be nothing but roadwalk all day long, and the mileage didn’t need to be extreme either.
Most of the morning was walking slightly downhill along the road into a canyon and then out into the open plain. There was a decent amount of traffic, a truck with hunting dogs, a truck with pet dogs that stopped so the occupants could inform me of some stray dogs ahead that I never saw. Some people had campers parked along the way, whole compounds of vehicles and trailers.
It was starting to get hot out in the direct sun when I left the road to cut across country to the solar well. The solar pump was running, so I set up a little spot for lunch in the shade of a solar panel. While I ate, I was approached by pronghorns who might have been headed to the trough for water. The water in the trough was ice cold, but I caught some of the slightly warmer water being pumped directly out of the ground so that I didn’t have to filter it.
At some point a little after noon, the steady wind got a bit cooler and brought in a cloudy haze. At one point, the whole valley was shady enough that I almost couldn’t make out the edges of the panels’ shadows. The pump briefly quit running due to lack of sun.
At some point in the afternoon, I knew I had to get moving again. There was more boring road walk to do before I slept.
And walking on a gravel road is not particularly good for feet. Although my left foot is consistently sore from insole issues, just a little way down this road, it started hurting something awful. Like something between a cramp and a pulled muscle. I had to limp for a mile, but eventually the pain subsided to its usual level.
The trail entered another canyon, Cox Canyon I believe, the top of which I had seen before–it’s where the official route rejoins the alternate. But that was a few miles away. Along the canyon road, the traffic and campers continued. I stopped along the dry streambed to make dinner before the real climb started.
I passed Dutchman Spring on the long slow climb up the canyon, but I didn’t look closely. Carry had promised a full cache, and I knew from last year that the cache was at the parking lot at the top of the hill. It was only 8, but I had enough miles, so I took a short spur to an underused campsite and set up in the twilight of the evening. Some elks came right past the campsite at the last light before I went to bed.
For once, I was tucked in and off to sleep by 9:30, and the elk weren’t going to come back and wake me in the middle of the night.
Trail miles: 16.8
Distance to Highway 12: 21.2 miles