I don’t know how to feel about this day. It certainly had its ups and downs.
The bustle of packing and cars moving had me up before six. I tried to roll over and go back to sleep, but it was clear it wasn’t going to work. I had less than six hours of sleep, but I was already wide awake. I started getting ready. While I was finishing packing up the inside of my tent, I could hear the amplified announcer up the pass counting down to the start of the 50k. I started hiking back to the trail at a quarter to 8, and when I climbed the hill to the pass, I saw all the cars and campers that had been parked all over the night before ringing the parking area and people all around like a party.
I started climbing the big hill out of the pass, and runners were passing me in both directions. The course of the race was the same direction as me, so the ones coming downhill were just trail running sightseers not participating in the race proper. The ones passing me from behind were runners in the 100k race, most of whom, it turned out, were still behind me. The first few to pass seemed like the really good runners, like that were ahead of most everyone. They passed every few minutes on the long climb in ones or groups. Some occasionally wanted to chat a bit.
After the long climb, the trail leveled out. It was a forested ridge walk along the state border, as it would be for almost the whole day. Only in the last few hours of the day did I get above the trees. I could move faster, but I was still being passed, and I tried to walk beside the trail and step aside when I was pausing or heard them coming up behind me.
It was a hot, clear, sunny morning, but that was no deterrent to the mosquitos. They were as bad as they’ve been since I got up here. Except at aid stations, I didn’t make a stop all day in which I didn’t kill at least five of them. And obviously, my headnet never came off for more than a minute the whole day.
Speaking of aid stations, I reached the first in maybe 2.5 hours. It was around 5 miles in. Leading up to it, the trail was lined with supporters and motivational posters. Some of them applauded me reflexively, including the two girls sitting on a blanket playing Catan (not the best game for lumpy ground). But the first guy who talked to me at the actual station could see I was a CDT hiker instantly. Nonetheless, he treated me like he treated any of the runners. He said they’d take my trash if I wanted to dump it, so I did. He offered some watermelon wedges and some Tailwind. He told me the section of trail was generally dry, and the next station 6.6 miles away (Farout said it was 7.3) would pack up at 2:30. I would be heading out a bit after 11 and wasn’t sure I could get there in that time given I would stop for lunch on the way. So I asked if I could fill my water bag. He took it, dumped out the spring water I had filtered the night before, and filled it completely with the cold stuff in his tank. I hiked out shortly thereafter.
The next section continued to be mostly flat and heavily forested. There was evidence of controlled firebrake burns. There was one steep descent and one steep ascent, and I stopped in the middle of the latter for lunch. I was right beside the trail, so lots of runners said hi while I ate. A few said more. One said “an actual hiker!” to which I pointed out what he was doing counted as hiking too, and he agreed.
By the time I started walking again, I noticed that I was moving just as fast as some of the participants. I even let one pass me only to pass her again on the climb. They were getting fewer and farther between. The guy at the aid station had told me only about half of the 100k runners were still behind me, and now it was surely less than 10%.
I arrived at the next aid station just before 3 and it was still in full swing. They had already passed the cutoff for people to still be in the race and sent the sweep to clean up behind them, but they knew there would be many more people coming in and were ready to take care of them and support them just as with the ones still in the race, including shuttling them to the finish line. As such, they were still applauding and ringing bells for every arrival, including me and those who came well after me.
I decided to treat this as full-on trail magic and have a little bit of everything on offer. Giant bowl of bacon? I’ll take a handful. Mini cups of Pepsi and ginger ale? Both please. Watermelon spears, bananas, apples? All of the above, yes. Even the tiny cup of gummy bears and the tiny cup of pickles. After all, there were starting to pack everything up, and I needed to do my part to reduce the amount of food that needed to be carried away. They even scooped some ice into my Nalgene to cool the drink I had mixed in there. And then a little zip-loc bag of the mini assorted flavor Swedish Fish (objectively the
The only things I skipped were the potato chips and any more water–I still had several liters.
When I left here, I was still on the course the race had followed but no longer on the race course. Most of the little pink flags had been removed (though they had missed a half dozen or so over the next 7 miles) and I no longer needed to worry about runners coming up behind me. Indeed, I never saw another soul the rest of the day. It was like a completely different trail.
The pain was different too. In the morning, I had been bothered by my pinched outer toes, but it was largely bearable. Now I had chafe spots on the backs of my legs where my buttocks folded. I hardly even noticed until I was leaving the second aid station, but once the pain came on, it could not be ignored. I could adjust my shorts so that nothing touched those spots, but it didn’t matter, just the act of walking normally aggravated them. I could walk like a saddle sore cowboy to lessen the pain, but that was tiring and inefficient.
I stopped in the middle of the section of forest that the Trail Creek Fire had actually burned to try putting some ointment on the spots, but I had not been able to find ointment with anesthetic, so relief was limited.
Also, the afternoon storms started in on me at that moment. I had to interrupt this activity to put on my Packa and sit huddled over my pack to keep it relatively dry until it passed.
Later, when I stopped for dinner, it lightly rained again, but I didn’t and couldn’t really set up a tent. I draped my Tyvek over my pack and pulled my Packa over my knees to make a tent over my stove so that only my trash bag and bear can were in the rain.
Soon, the forest got thinner, and snow banks crossed the trail or piled beside it. The edge of the ridge became a steep cliff and the trail climbed. At about 8, I passed a perfectly cleared tent site. I was tempted, but there was still so much daylight and I figured I could do better. But right after that, the trail started climbing to a high point on the ridge, treating rubbley scree pile like a staircase. There was nowhere to camp until after reaching the top of this pile.
There might have been some suitable tent sites in the short flat section at the top, but I kept thinking I could do better, and soon began the steep descent on the other side. At the bottom, it did level off again, but anywhere a tent could go had a bunch of rocks and lumps. And at that point, a little past 10, I was only a quarter mile from the Goldstone Pass Road, so I figured I’d keep going. The sun was gone but there was plenty of twilight to see by. You just get more time to hike in the summer in the higher latitudes.
Finally, around 10:30, I found a little nook in some trees between two roads at the pass. I could only imagine the bustle of the aid station that had been set up here until some six hours before. In two and a half days, I had just walked what the runners who had made it this far did in less than twelve hours.
The mosquitos were around but not swarming like they had a couple nights before even though I did have to use a headlamp for some of the process. The temperature was dropping steadily, so eventually I abandoned my blog writing until the morning and zipped up my bag all the way.
Trail miles: 19.2
Distance to Lost Trail Pass: 76.9 miles