I woke with first light again, the birds and all and some early riser quietly walking past my tent. But despite the rattling of the wind on my tent, I managed to get back to sleep until 6:30, thus earning myself a full eight hours.
From the moment I first sat up and all day long, I suffered from a dry cough. Not like my usual morning cough that subsides. In fact, late in the day, I actually coughed something up. I don’t feel sick in any other way, and I don’t know what I could be sick from after no real contact with other humans for three days…
It certainly didn’t slow me down. In fact, I was able to keep a better pace than I had in days thanks largely to trail conditions. No mile long climbs. Only one treacherous snow traversal. (I took my time and kicked steps into it all the way across rather than descend to go around it.)
When I started out at 7:30, the sky was covered with dark clouds and a light snow was falling. With no sun and that cold wind, I needed my coat on. But I hadn’t walked a thousand years before the clouds disappeared and I had to stop to pack up my coat.
I took only two more stops on the way down to Elwood Pass, once to eat and drink and get rid of a queasy feeling in my gut, and one to collect and filter some more water. I made it the 6 or so miles down to the pass and then down the road to Elwood Cabin by 11am.
Why visit a locked guest cabin? Because the adjacent privy was known to be unlocked, air freshened, and fully stocked with tp. And I desperately needed a privy. I don’t know if they intend for random hikers to use, but I did leave it better than I found it: at least ten of the flies trapped inside managed to escape while I was there with the door cracked.
A little way up the trail, which remained pretty easy even after the pass for a bit, I stopped under a shade tree for lunch. I discovered that lemon sesame ginger is a terrible flavor for a tuna roll-up. Over the next couple of miles, I kept spotting animals as I came over a rise, just in time for them to disappear down the hill before I could get a picture. First, a bull elk. Next, a coyote.
Soon the blowdowns started to get thicker. When I stopped at a stream to grab more water and have a snack, a group of horse hikers came leading their horses up from below to avoid a nest of blowdowns I had just come through. We chatted a bit and I didn’t see them again.
Next, two elk cows.
In a couple of places, the trail came out of the trees, just cut into the rock and dirt on the side of a steep hill with wind blasting up it. Sometimes the trail had crumbled. Some people are scared to hike with such exposure, where one slip on some loose pebbles could send you tumbling a hundred feet down the hill. I was just glad to know there would be a long blowdown-free stretch.
I stopped at a random log beside the trail and took nearly an hour to eat with no disturbances at all. Right after that stopping point, of course the blowdowns got the worst so far. I fell and cut my finger when a branch broke on me while I was trying to swing under a tree. Another CDT hiker came up behind me while I was working my way through and around the labyrinth of trees. Being an ultralight hiker, he soon passed me. I found him stopping for the night at a nice flat pass a mile later.
“What’s your name?”
“Waldo. Like Where’s Waldo.”
“And what accent is that?”
“English. I’m from London.”
“So why Waldo and not Wally?”
“You know you’re the first person to ask that. It’s actually what my mom originally wanted to call me, but thought it would be too unusual.”
Unusual names make good trail names I suppose. He seemed eager to get in and out of town as fast as possible and do big miles in order to hike more trail, including the entirety of the CT while he was here. I figured I might see him once more at most, but I got my headlamp on and left him there to keep hiking.
The blowdowns remained consistent, but not so bad I couldn’t keep a decent pace. I’ve obviously seen much worse on multiple occasions. Even with the sun gone, the going remained doable.
Next, a red fox I lit up with my high spot as it fled up the hill.
It was already 10 by time I came upon a flat clearing near the trail, and my headlamp chose that exact moment to flash to let me know it was now in low battery mode. I took it as a signal that I ought to stop there for the night and got set up.
Trail miles: 18.0
Distance to Wolf Creek Pass: 4.6 miles