Somehow I slept in until nearly 7. It was good it hadn’t rained overnight because the upper part of my mattress had slid the head of the tent out from under the fly. There was still plenty of condensation on the ceiling though.
When I emerged to put on my boots, I noticed the sky was almost completely clear for once. I wondered how long that would last. As I was taking down my tent, I noticed a rip on my glove was growing, so I stopped for another emergency repair. After all that, I didn’t get started walking until 9am.
Luckily, the trail was easy. A short climb to join a wide, flat road that continued for a mile or two. Along the way I found some big strawberries that actually tasted pretty good. There was also a large family of some kind of ground bird running ahead beside and across the road. I have no idea what they were, and I couldn’t get close enough to see one up close.
Eventually, I came to a gate where a forest service truck pulled up and two ladies got out to open the gate. Behind them, there were flexible “no motorized vehicles” signs stuck right in the treads, so I guess they were supposed to just drive over them? I was getting hungry again, even though it was barely more than an hour since breakfast, so I stopped there in the shade to finish my shake and have a couple of snacks.
Then I continued down the road until the trail left it, literally meandering down a meadow, the trail filled with water. Rather than waste my time with that, I cut the switchbacks and walked straight down a high ridge that traversed the meadow avoiding all the water. I have no idea what drunkard designed the trail in this section.
Soon, the trail came through the woods down (past an empty box of former trail magic) to the highway, through a couple of gates and across the field above Lake Hopewell. This was a very popular spot with people fishing from camp chairs all around the banks, as well as an EZ-UP erected. More than a dozen people on a Monday morning.
On the other hand, not only was this campground a good water source, there was also a privy and trash service, so I made sure to lighten my load to offset the weight of extra water before I left. (And I didn’t stay that long. Too many people.)
Not that weight was much of an issue when the next 10.5 miles would continue to be slightly downhill. As I left, there were some big clouds on the horizon but they didn’t look particularly threatening of rain. I asked a guy catching grasshoppers under his hat if he knew when it would rain, but he had no idea either.
I climbed up to the upper campground, followed a road into the woods, and climbed, finally to the top of the hill. As I started descending on a single-track again, it was time for lunch, so I stopped on a log beside the trail to do that. By the time I started there was thunder. I ate in the shade, and by the time I left, the thunder was loud and all around me. But still no rain. I put my Packa on when I left.
It didn’t rain. It kept not raining. I came through the fields of cattle, down the long wildflower covered hill, down to the road above Rock Creek, and no rain. I stopped for a snack and a drink on a roadside rock, and there was again thunder in the distance. The sky was covered with a thin, translucent cloud mass. Not even a single drop fell. I kept the Packa on my pack.
It started raining finally when I climbed the next hill, and it was just barely enough to pull the coat on and pocket my gloves, but I was in direct sunlight, so I was clearly under the edge of the cloud. Within a few minutes, I was at the top of the ridge, burning up inside the coat, and the rain was stopping.
I came down the final descent to the lowest point for the day, the Rio Vellecitos. It’s the only place on the CDT where a large tree that randomly fell across the river is the called a “bridge” and is part of the official route. As in, it has a trail marker pinned to one end and everything. But nothing has been done to make it any more bridge-like. It seems like it’s only been there a year or two.
On the other side was a copse of tall firs, and it was time to stop for a break. While I was stopped, it started raining again, steadily but lightly. I didn’t notice at first because the trees totally kept it from falling on me. A couple of drops landed, and I looked out in the open. I could only see rain where there was a dark background to contrast it. But it was enough consistent wetness to pull on the coat again when I left.
There was nothing left but to climb the rest of the day. It was eight straight miles of climbing ahead, and I didn’t expect to get it all done before nightfall. But it was also a pretty gentle elevation gain, not too taxing.
The rain intensified slightly before letting up and then drying up altogether. I was hardly even moist aside from my feet (which stay wet). I came to a road crossing at a cattle guard and gate. The gate had a “please close the gate” sign but it was lying on the ground. I found out why when I tried to close it: it would take Hafþor Bjornsson to pull enough tension in the gate to get the top wire loop around it. So I stopped to modify the loop, attach it in a different way so it could reach the gate without needing superhuman strength. While I was working on it, it started raining again, and this time it was finally solid, thick rain. So the coat went back on, and I finished closing the gate.
The rain kept up for another half-hour or so, though it kept getting lighter until, by the time I was climbing a muddy cow trail up a slightly steeper hill, it was the kind that required a contrasting background to see again. And then it stopped.
And just after 8, I reached another gate marking a flatter area just before a much steeper hill climb started. It also marked the time I was ready to make supper and camp. I found a flattish clear spot right next to the trail as far from any trees as possible, and since it wasn’t raining, I made both in that order. That is, I erected my tent and made my bed while dinner was cooking and ate outside before getting in. I was again tucked under ready for rain, but it was looking to be another dry night.
This day was kind of lucky in terms of having no long soakers and ending with mostly dry clothes, yet the section still contains…
Two more days of rain!
Trail miles: 19.9
Distance to Hwy 84 and Ghost Ranch: 38.4 miles