Categories
CDT NM 6th Section Off-trail

Days 161-163: Santa Fe, FS 151

Day 161: Santa Fe

So I said I had a plan to get out of the snow and cold. Consultation of weather reports showed that temperatures on trail in Colorado were bound to be in the teens every night for the foreseeable future. My equipment isn’t even suited to keep me comfortable at those temperatures as evidenced by recent experience on the trail.

Besides which, I’m tired of all the extra hassle engendered by the cold and snow, some of which I have not described and will be the subject of a future post most likely.

Anyway, I only have a couple more weeks of time I can spend hiking this year, so I might as well do it on a section of trail that isn’t quite so cold. Checking the weather for New Mexico showed that nightly temperatures there would be at least five degrees warmer at similar elevations, and more than that lower down, which, on average, I would be. In particular, I could do a section north of where I had left off in June that would still shave off a bit of trail left to do next year and also be under 12000 feet the whole way, not to mention be largely snow-free.

After Six made us eggs for breakfast, I got everything packed for air transport, and we took some final photos, Mama started driving us to the airport around 9:30 to get her rental car dropped off about 10:30. That all went just fine, even with the wrong turn and the refueling stop.

From there, we took the bus to the terminal, checked bags, went through security, and headed to the Delta Sky Club to await our flights. We both boarded in the 1pm hours, so we had several hours to enjoy the buffet and open bar.

The rest of the day included two short hop flights with limited service (with a short layover in SLC) and a long, expensive Lyft ride from Albuquerque to Santa Fe right to my hotel. I had originally planned to take the train, but the train I had thought would be running was no longer listed by Google Maps by the time I arrived. So I did arrive sooner than planned but spent a lot more money.

As soon as I dropped my stuff in my room, I walked over to the nearby Walmart and got food for dinner and breakfast for two nights and mornings. I spent the rest of the night just watching TV and eating until sleep.

Day 162: Santa Fe

I had plenty of food in the fridge from my Walmart visit to do breakfast, so I had no reason to leave my room until 10am when REI opened.

I was nowhere near REI, but it turned out there was a bus stop right in front of my hotel that would take me out to the area where the REI was for only a dollar and it left every half hour.

So I got to REI in the 12 o’clock hour and returned my backpack and boots. (I accidentally gave them my head net because I forgot to remove it from the pocket, but I also accidentally kept the day pack that comes with the backpack, so I guess I came out ahead.) I got a different pack, a Deuter, that had far fewer pockets and would be a little bit more difficult to pack in an organized way. Moreover, it didn’t even have a bottle holster, but I hoped that it would not break on me the same way the Baltoro always did. The boots I got were Merrell snow boots that should be able to not tear up when caked with snow. I also wanted to do a Darn Tough sock exchange, but neither the REI nor any other Darn Tough retailer in the city did that. I got a new can of stove fuel, some hand warmers, and some gear tape, then went to lunch.

The Second Street Brewery was right around the corner and had a great chile stew and an “alien burger” that also featured chiles. I caught the bus back to my hotel just before 3.

After dropping my purchases in my room, I left to walk to the day’s main event. I had a ticket for an interactive art exhibit just around the corner called Meow Wolf: House of Eternal Return.

I can’t really explain what an incredible experience this was, but I’ll give the encyclopedia definition that won’t capture the half of it: It’s an art exhibition in a repurposed bowling alley, but it’s not like a museum. Or rather, it is to art what interactive science museums for kids are to science/technology. It’s an intricate two-level maze of a space, all dark except for the light generated by the pieces themselves. Sometimes a wall or a nook is dedicated to a specific collection, sometimes an entire room is a single installation. Maybe a floor to ceiling mural, maybe a set of puzzles to be solved by guests, maybe a guest-controlled dance party. Maybe even just the architecture and furniture of the room itself is the art. And all of this is tied back to a central hub, the titular house, and the narrative and lore presented within it and throughout the other spaces. I spent at least two of the four hours there just reading or watching videos of the lore, and there is much more online I could go back to to dive in even further. But I did manage to visit every space and see almost every artwork and audiovisual presentation throughout. It will surely stick with me for a while.

Anyway, after hours in the dark squeezing past strangers, it was strange to see that it was still light out when I finished, though it was dusk and the sun was nearly gone. I walked back to the hotel, getting accosted by a homeless man trying to sell me Bluetooth headphones on the way. I just dropped in to check what I should buy for my resupply, and it turned out it was only a handful of things, as what I had brought with me from Colorado was almost all I needed to get me the few days from Ghost Ranch to Cuba.

Since I was there, I decided to just go ahead and eat supper. Hot Pockets again, only now I opened the beer I had taken from the Delta lounge. I didn’t have a bottle opener (the downside of no longer having the knife I lost in Steamboat), so I just broke the top of the bottle off trying to remove it on the edge of the granite counter around the bathroom sink.

I went back out to Walmart in the last hour before it closed. It took less than 15 minutes to get in and out with the five or so items I needed. I went back to my room, too tired to do the blog work I was behind on, and immediately got ready for bed. This time I slept without even bothering to close the blackout curtains.

Day 163: FS 151 near Rio Chama

The schedule for the 190 bus to Chama showed that it ran at 11:20am from Espanola Transit Center, but Google didn’t seem to think it ran until 5:50pm. (It turned out that midday service had been suspended until that very day.)

The matter was moot though. After a nice relaxing bath, breakfast, two cups of coffee, and other self-care, and then spending an hour figuring out how to pack all my stuff in the new pack, it was already past 10am, and there was no way I could get to Espanola in time.

I took the one dollar bus up to the government district of Santa Fe, a spartan sort of area south of the cool part of town. I found my way to the transit hub there and saw that I had three hours to waste until the next free bus to Espanola.

I spent that time at a very European style southwestern cafe called Cafecito. They were very inviting and told me I could sit there on the patio all day without ordering anything else (after I had finished my empanadas and salad) if I wanted. I ordered some banana bread anyway. With only thirty minutes until my bus, I walked back over to the transit center.

There were a couple of people there waiting for the same bus. One very talkative and opinionated Latino guy wanted to try on my pack and take pictures with it, which was fine. When we all got to Espanola an hour later, I ended up taking his recommendation for where to go for dinner.

I had another 3 hours until the free bus toward Chama left, you see, so I might as well spend it eating a good hearty supper too. Espanola seemed like kind of a sketchy wasteland, where all the businesses were surrounded by high fences topped by razor wire that they could close up at night. But La Cucina was actually an incredible Mexican restaurant. I got seated next to a power outlet so I could work on the blog and get my phone fully charged while I ate. The free chips and salsa were both some of the best I’ve ever gotten at a restaurant, and they served me a steak practically drowned in beans and chiles and cheese and corn. It was the pure New Mexican Cuisine experience. And then they also just threw in a sopaipilla for free. I can’t recommend going to that town unless you happen to be connecting busses there like me, but if you ever find yourself there, I do recommend that restaurant.

Anyway, the Chama bus came pretty late, like 6pm, but it made the trip faster than scheduled. I got the driver to save me thirty minutes of walking down the highway by dropping me across from FS 151 instead of the official stop at the Ghost Ranch turnoff. In the last half-hour of the ride, I went ahead and got out my headlamp because the sun would be set by the time I got started hiking, but my Steelstik repair job broke on me. So I had to spend that time getting out the putty and fashioning and new repair and then repacking everything before we got there.

Anyway, I stepped off the bus at 7pm, watched it drive away, crossed the highway, and set off down the forest service road. Right away, I saw a van parked in an area to the left and someone tending a small campfire and was slowly tempted to join him. But I had decided I would get in some reasonable amount of hiking and would not stop until 8pm.

When the road came near the Rio Chama and turned to follow it, winding up into Obama Canyon, I turned off into a little side road cul de sac that was flat and had two well-used fire pits right next to each other. Clearly a popular campsite. Even though the ground was so hard I had to pound my stakes in with a rock and bent one doing so.

I did a bit of blogging and then watched the first episode of Squid Game. I had downloaded it for one of the flights down and they had been so short I hadn’t gotten around to it. I got to sleep by 11 or so and slept very well. A long day of doing very little besides spending money, but at least it was on food and not a two hour Lyft ride.

Trail miles: 3.6, I guess.

Distance to Cuba: 49.3 miles

Categories
CDT CO Section 3 Off-trail

Days 140 and 141: Lakewood and Lake Granby

Sorry for the day off folks. I didn’t have enough posts queued up for this long stretch, but things will be back to normal (daily) now.

Day 140: Lakewood

I took a zero at Six and Dangerpants’ new condo. Six made bacon and eggs for breakfast. Amazing. I tried to do some blogging while a Die Hard series marathon ran on AMC. In the middle of Die Hard 2, Dangerpants took me to the grocery store to do my resupply shopping. I got enough for the next section and enough more to ship ahead. When we got back, there was still a lot of Die Hard 2 to go. They sure can stretch a movie with commercials.

We had decided to do and booked an escape room, so we left well before the end of Die Hard with a Vengeance to do that. Six’s car got rear-ended by a pickup truck starting a three car pileup as we turned into the venue. They decided to skip the police report and we ended up starting the escape room just shortly after our planned start time. As rooms go, I’d say it was below average compared to all the ones I’ve done, though it did have some interesting ideas I’ve not seen. We did solve it, but it took 3 hints and maybe a half minute overtime.

From there we went to Walmart to get boxes and because I had miscalculated the number of tortillas I needed during my earlier trip. Then we went to Edgewater Market for dinner and drinks. I had some Venezuelan pocket sandwiches and Crispy Boi and Old Fashioned Happy Meal from Roger’s (“the originator of the Happy Meal, often imitated, likely duplicated”). We sat in the rooftop bar until 9 because the weather was so nice (and it had an outdoor heating system). Then we went back to the apartment and watched a movie until midnight while I got a decent chunk more blogging done.

Day 141: Lake Granby

I slept in pretty late after that late night. Six made banana pancakes while I did the last of the blog uploads and edits. I got in one last shower and cleaned myself up before doing my final packing and preparations for the trip back to Grand Lake.

The traffic was a bit thicker in the outbound direction even though it was Sunday noon and people should have been returning to the city from their weekend trips. We stopped for a brief photo shoot on Berthoud Pass then arrived in Grand Lake around 1:30. After wandering through the town looking at lunch options, we settled on a return to Sagebrush. We shared some mozzarella sticks, then I went with a chili and a chicken cobb salad since I had already sampled the barbecue. Six and Dangerpants tried different types of barbecue. Six and I had some last beer to part by, then we drove down to the trailhead for pictures and hugs all around. I hiked out just before 4pm.

The trail ran south along the east shore of the lake, immediately entering the national park again, before turning up into the woods slightly. Not climbing away from the lake or creeks, really, but splitting into a trail for bikes and a trail for horses. The CDT followed the latter, and here there were many blowdowns.

After a couple of miles, the trails rejoined and the blowdowns stopped being an issue. I stopped at 6pm for a snack break. Prunes and apricots dipped in Biscoff spread, candy. Less than an hour later, I left the national park for good just as Arapaho Creek was starting to spread out into Granby Lake. I stopped an hour and a half later after struggling to find any suitable sites anywhere along the climb up to the ridge along the east side of the lake. There was a major wind event last year, so there was deadfall everywhere, and yet plenty of snags still standing anywhere there might have been a clear spot. I didn’t see anything at all until I reached the top and started to descend. I saw a slopey but relatively clear spot among some shorter pines.

Once I was in my tent, I discovered my toiletry bag was apparently gone, not in its proper place, most likely left behind in town. So I slept without brushing my teeth for the first time in years.

Trail miles: 8.4

Distance to Frisco: 132.7 miles

Categories
CDT WY Section 3 Off-trail

Day 114: Lander

I got out of camp at 7:30 and stopped only an hour in because I liked the creek I was at. I had about 16 miles to do, but none of it was particularly interesting. Just the connective tissue of the CDT getting from one nice place to another. I made the same sorts of stops on the same sort of schedule I had been making for days. I had lunch in an established campsite near a creek and some cows, and sent a message with my arrival time at the road. There were lots of blowdowns, then I came out into the open ranch on dirt roads with all the cows. It was uphill all morning and downhill for the last few miles.

I came to the road around 5:30, and mom and Gail arrived about 12 minutes later, having been driving around for an hour unsure of where the trail crossing was. No cell service interrupted their ability to Google Maps. But I didn’t have to wait long in the end so it didn’t matter.

We went to the Holiday Inn Express so I could shower and change, and an hour later we went out to the Gannett Grill for pizza, salad, and (for me) beer. The pizza was okay but the salad was pretty good.

Back at the hotel, mama and I took advantage of the hot tub and pool for the little while I had before I needed to return to the bathroom, where I spent another hour. The ongoing issue continued off the trail with even more frequency, but a solution would be found soon.

Anyway, on the whole, I was just tired all day and didn’t see much of interest.

Total miles: 15.7

Categories
CDT WY Section 2 Off-trail

Day 108: Pinedale

I started packing at 6am, and it was decently warm inside my tent, so I had no reason to stall except general sleepiness. I sent a message to my mom at 7:40 saying I was about to hike out and expect me between 11:10 and 12:10.

The first few miles were steep rolling hills along lakes and streams. Very beautiful. At one point, I stepped on a rolling rock crossing a creek and wiped out. Luckily, I was able to keep most of my body on top of a large rock, only getting my arms wet up to my elbows and whatever the splash hit when my arms plunged into the water. My feet stayed basically dry. I couldn’t quite see through my sunglasses for the next mile until they dried though. I was in too much of a hurry to stop and take them off to wipe them.

Since this side trail was not routed on Guthook and the map tiles were not downloaded, I asked almost everyone I passed how far the trailhead was. Some people had smartwatches tracking their distance hiked since they left and could give me reasonably precise distances. I used those answers to calculate my pace and get a better estimate of when I would arrive. Some just guessed, and one guy actually said “you’re about an hour away” as if he knew how fast I was hiking after seeing me for fifteen seconds. My first thought was “I asked how far not how long. How can I calculate my pace from that?” My second thought was “Well, this trail has gotten a lot flatter and gentler; there’s no way it’s going to be a whole hour until I get there.”

When I was a bit over a mile from the trailhead, I passed Ronnie (Rani?) from Israel, another long distance hiker heading into town. As I had decided to skip my morning snack break thanks to my fast pace, I made it to the trailhead at 10:50. Mom and Gail were already there with the car for some reason. After some pictures, Ronnie arrived and we offered him a ride into town. There was going to be a picnic lunch, but I wasn’t into it, and there didn’t seem to be any good spots. So we put Ronnie out next to the visitor’s center and went back to the cabin.

For me it was a shower, a change of clothes, and a sandwich on the back deck for lunch. Then, we were off to the laundromat on the other side of town. The large load washer in the laundromat wasn’t spinning properly and the whole laundromat was flooded. So not only was the attendant overworked trying to push water out the door because the builders had failed to put in a floor drain but also I couldn’t wash my sleeping bag. The other laundromat in town didn’t even have a large load washer. I did get all my clothes washed though.

Anyway, I decided to buy a new sleeping bag. At the town’s only store with backpacking gear. I decided on a very light Thermarest bag that even came with a compression sack. The down was treated with a hydrophobic coating to prevent it from clumping. It was very expensive. I also got new trekking poles.

Then to Ridley’s, the grocery store, for Nuun immunity, doggie bags (substituted by small trash bags since that’s the best they had), Gatorade (for breakfast), and wet wipes. Finally, the errands were done. I still had a lot of blog posts and pictures to upload (having only done three at the laundromat) but I could keep working on that over dinner at the Wind River Brewing Company.

The beer was fine, but the enormous Greek salad I got was incredible, the brisket street tacos hit the spot, and the avocado dip appetizer was perfect with crispy herb baguettes, carrots and celery. Hungry yet? I certainly wasn’t by the time we finished.

After a long three hour repose there, it was back to the cabin, where the party of Ridley’s managers and employees next door was going full swing. So much grilling and noise. Too noisy to work on the blog on the back deck. I switched to packing up my resupply while waiting on a long Google Drive upload to free up some storage on this site for more pictures. By around 9pm, it was time for bed, and I had pretty much gotten everything ready and in place that I needed to hike out, including washing my bottle and a long backflush of my filter.

The party next door didn’t seem to realize it was bed time however. Yes, when we turned off the porch light, they convinced the kids to stop screaming random noises into the karaoke machine, but we heard boisterous sounds, like a powerful adult male blowhard, coming straight through our shared wall for at least another couple of hours. When I had uploaded all the blog posts I had to, I pulled out my headphones and listened to a podcast so that I could fall asleep in spite of the noise. All in all, it was a great little cabin but not so great luck with the neighbors.

9 miles hiked, but none on trail.

Categories
Off-trail

Day 57: East Glacier Park

The next morning we slept in pretty late. It was cool, the windows were wide open, we had two fans blowing. And we were in no hurry.

We decided that instead of parting ways in Many Glacier, I would go with Mama to East Glacier Park and stay at the historic Glacier Park Lodge, and then she would bring me back to Many Glacier in the morning. Otherwise, I would just have been staying in the Many Glacier campground with nothing in particular to do.

We packed up and left at checkout time and not a moment before, lying around in the cool morning air and eating breakfast in the room. We took the route to East Glacier Park that would take us past Two Medicine Road so we could go up to see Two Medicine.

It was about an hour’s drive down with only brief stops to look at the scenery and let the rangers at the gate know we weren’t carrying fireworks into the park.

Just inside the park, we stopped at Running Eagle Falls and did a short 0.3 mile hike to the falls. It was a very clever waterfall with separate stacked falls, one behind and below the other. I wouldn’t have even thought it was possible. But it was not nearly as impressive as Apikuni. Also, the story of the warrior-woman Running Eagle, who had been buried in a tall tree overlooking that falls, was perhaps more interesting than the falls itself.

We proceeded into the Two Medicine Campground and found a nice spot in the group campsite for a picnic. (It had been set aside for day use for the Fourth of July weekend.) We had a bit of shade and a view of the creek right next to where the CDT passed, so I technically walked on part of the CDT at one point. I’m not going to count it as trail miles though. We could also see families of ducks floating by. And some bighorn sheep.

After lunch, we swung by the camp store and I got some huckleberry cider and huckleberry flavor Wiley Wallaby’s for a snack. We talked with some other tourists from Indiana on the deck beside the store.

It was already well into afternoon, so it was time to get on down to East Glacier Village to check in to the lodge. It was only a few minutes away. After checking in, we went across the street to the Glacier Park Trading Post to drop off my resupply package and grab some drinks for the evening. We made it back to the hotel in time to move all our stuff up to our room and then take the hotel historic tour with the bellman. He was clearly interested in the history but didn’t have quite all the details straight yet. Still it was fun to banter with him and ask him things he didn’t know.

Later on, a bit of research indicated there was an inn for backpackers behind the Mexican restaurant across the street, and since none of the places I tried calling about accommodations when I came back through were answering, we decided to go ask the Mexican restaurant in person. We walked across the street, asked the bartender, found out the cabins behind the restaurant had been converted to employee housing when the restaurant had changed owners, and got on the list to eat there.

We got a table on the back patio sooner than expected given how busy they were, and the food was actually amazing. Great portion sizes. I had the “Plato El Jefe” (Boss’s Favorites), including a chile relleno, an enchilada, and a rare asada steak. Mama had an enormous taco salad. We split a quesadilla as an appetizer. Mama actually had a house margarita on the rocks since we weren’t driving. I tasted it. It was perfect.

As we walked back to the hotel into the setting sun, trying and failing to get pictures of the lodge because of the backlight, we could here the distant pops of fireworks getting started. Later on, in our room, with the sun fully set, we retired to our private balcony to see what fireworks we could see. (I also had to finish my last Huckleberry Blonde Ale and the last of my huckleberry pie.) We ended up staying up until 11pm with all the light and noise out there.

But that wasn’t going to prevent me from getting back on the trail as early as possible the next morning.

Miles hiked: 0.6 (it totally counts!)

Categories
Off-trail

Days 53-54: Goin-to-the-Sun Road

Day 53: Lake Macdonald

We didn’t really have to hurry to get out of the West Glacier RV Park. We only had a few miles to go to our next destination and could fill the hours between as we liked. Since I stayed up late, I slept as late as my body would let me, then cooked one of our microwave breakfast sandwiches and had a bagel and yogurt and fruit and coffee for breakfast.

Finally, just about checkout time at 11, we were packed up and ready to go. The first stop was the Mercantile for some butter. Or rather vegetable oil spread because I wanted it to be easily spreadable.

Then we stopped at the Backcountry Permit Office to discuss the trail conditions and the finer points of acquiring a backcountry permit the following morning. We also watched the required 15 minute video while we were there. We decided that a very early start the following morning to get into the office first would be called for.

Then we decided to go west out of Apgar and see what was that way. We stopped and ate ate the turkey sandwiches I had made at Fish Creek Picnic Area. While we were there, we had plenty of cell service, so we watched a docuvertisement about the “famous” Polebridge Mercantile. We decided we might as well go see it.

It was 30 miles up a dirt road just outside the park’s west side, and there it was, a cleared flat dirt lot filled with cars. And even just outside the door of the merc it smelled like sweet and cinnamon baked goods. I bought a loaf of fruit fritter, Mama got an apple danish, and they threw in a day-old pizza rollie.

We asked about the gas they had. They said 6.50/gal, 3 gal max. We decided we had enough to get back to West Glacier.

On the way back, we stopped at a restaurant and bar that was not nearly as popular as the merc. We decided to pass on eating there. I certainly wasn’t hungry.

We stopped at the Glacier sign on the way back in for a picture, then at the gas station in West Glacier before heading out to check into Lake Macdonald Lodge. Because we checked in fairly early, we got one of the better rooms on the second floor. No lake view, but a big window and a fan to put in it.

After we had brought in what we were going to bring in, I spent a couple of hours in the lobby trying to get some pictures uploaded for you readers. I was interrupted because Mama was hungry so we went down to the lake to eat supper. Then I left to continue my blogging project and even get a nice tepid shower to cool off before we returned to the lakeside to try to watch sunset. But there were clouds completely obscuring the sun and there wasn’t much to see.

And, given that I was going to have to get up really early in the morning, I got to bed as soon as I could after that. It was still hot in the room but the temperature was starting to drop and the fans helped. I’m sure I was asleep before 11.

Day 54: Rising Sun

My alarm went off at 4am and I started getting up and getting dressed and was ready to leave by 4:30. Destination? Backcountry Permit Office in Apgar Village. Mama dropped me off there just before 5 and I was the first in line.

What followed was three hours of sitting on the ground hoping my itinerary would be possible. At first there was enough wireless data that I could watch TV shows, but then more people showed up making meaning I couldn’t make so much sound. (I had left my headphones in the room on accident.) Then the whole village started waking up and the data speeds just evaporated.

Finally, I got inside and there was a mad rush all over the park as 8 group leaders in four locations were all putting together permits at the same time. The rangers were pretty surly compared to how friendly they had been the day before. My itinerary was almost finished being plugged in when the last day didn’t work out. And then a ranger suggested putting me on a permit that was being made at another location. It got me to most of the places I wanted to be on the days I wanted to be there. The only downsides were a very long day later in the week and the fact I would have to pay for a night I had no intention of using. I took it because it seemed likely to free up sites for other people and they said there was no problem adding Jacob to it.

I was done by 8:20 but no one else there was going past the lodge so I walked over to the visitor’s center while calling Mama at the lodge to come get me. She picked me up there and brought me back to the lodge, at which point we had a leisurely rest of the morning, not leaving until checkout time at 11. I had what amounted to a McDonald’s breakfast meal with sausage egg McMuffin and some wifi time in the lobby. Finally, we set out to drive the whole Going-To-The-Sun Road.

We stopped a few times along the way so that we took all day to finish it. We walked the Trail of the Cedars (a mile of hiking!), climbed up to a waterfall near the Weeping Wall, wandered around the Logan Pass Visitor’s Center, checked out the CDT crossing, had lunch overlooking St. Mary Lake, hiked out to Sun Point (separately–I also literally ran over to Baring Falls while Mama was at Sun Point), and got the famous photo overlooking Wild Goose Island before we made it to the Rising Sun Motor Lodge.

We checked into our cabin, put all our food inside, then left again immediately to check out the restaurants in St. Mary town.

We stopped at Johnson’s and heard it had an hour wait. We went up the road and everything else seemed closed, so we came back and signed in on the wait list. We were one of the last few seated and one of the last to leave after it closed. I had a huge spinach salad with chicken and huckleberry cream fizz, and Mama got the special, which turned out to be beef sliced and drenched in gravy with sides of bread, decent mashed potatoes and undesirable cole slaw, most of which she gave me. She also ordered huckleberry ice cream and ate most of it because I couldn’t find anything special about it.

And with that we returned to the cabin, opened the window and stuck the fan in front of it, and went straight to bed. Another early morning awaited.

Miles hiked: probably like 2

Trail miles: 0.1 to be hiked again verbatim

Categories
Off-trail

Days 49-52: Four State Road Trip

Day 49: Weed to Boise

Mama and I didn’t leave the country club until 9am. It was already blisteringly hot and we were glad to be able to crank the air conditioning in the Jeep up to full blast. Especially me, since the sun was on my side all day.

We stopped for some amazing breakfast sandwiches an hour or so later in Klamath Falls, just over the Oregon border. There was a huge car show taking over the streets of that town, but we didn’t have to park too far away.

We played brain games to stay focused, snacked and drank, and soon came by Lake Abert, another salt lake with no outflow suffering the same fate as the Great Salt Lake: drying up and taking billions of brine shrimp to their muddy graves. But as of right now, Abert is basically gone. We saw cows grazing where it used to be.

We stopped for lunch at a Subway in Hines. Nothing special. It was an 8 hour trip and we didn’t want to waste a lot of time along the way. And we managed to get into Boise before it got dark. So no sooner had we checked in to our hotel than we were driving out to the local Noodles and More, a chain fast casual restaurant we don’t have in Georgia. Still nothing special but I was down for some Korean noodles.

And then it was time for some late night chores. First, Winco Foods to buy a month’s worth of food for the trail. There was some drama checking out due to not having enough cash, but we just scraped enough together to get everything and get out with the help of an ATM and the right credit card.

Then to Walmart to get boxes to pack the food into, even though I was practically a dead man walking at this point. Then I brought every bit of that food and all the boxes up to the room before I could go to bed. But Mama didn’t want to have any chores left to do in the morning.

Day 50: Boise to Butte

I got up and got breakfast first. I had just come from waking up at 6am with the sun, so sleeping past 7 was pretty difficult, even with the time change.

But I let Mama sleep and started packing boxes with all the food I had brought up to the room. I packed two boxes ready for their destinations and organized the rest of the food to pack later so we could get driving. We had another big day ahead.

First, I needed to visit REI for some bear spray, bug spray, and some new gloves in a better size. We wouldn’t be stopping in any REI towns ahead. Then we could head out of town.

We were only a couple of hours in when we stopped at an everything store for fishermen in Picabo. I got a sandwich there and a huckleberry soda for lunch. We also got gas.

Soon, we were driving past the Great Rift and the lava flows of Craters of the Moon National Monument. It was basically El Malpais again except bigger. There could not be two more similar national parks.

Another couple of hours across the prairie, we turned down a detour to Leadore (pronunced “lead ore”). It was an hour out of the way, but Sam at the Inn was super helpful, took my resupply box, and said he did shuttles from and to the trail. Seems like that’ll be an easy stop.

I thought we could cut across the mountains here to get to the highway we wanted to be on, but Waze said going back the way we came and cutting across below the mountain range was faster.

Which is why it was already late evening when we finally made it around to Lima. I dropped my resupply box at the motel no problem and suggested getting supper at the diner across the street. But some cyclists leaving said we ought to head down to Peat’s Saloon for steaks instead.

Boy, were they right. Steak cooked to perfection, salad, and baked potatoes. And some good local beers too. Mama thinks are the best she’s had anywhere but Ruth’s Chris. We also got some entertainment: a girl trying to pull off a aerial right next to our table and eventually succeeding to uproarious applause from the whole restaurant.

Finally, we had to get to Butte as the sun disappeared. We still had some lingering twilight as we pulled into the hotel. There were several different locations where fireworks were going off even though they were supposed to stop at 10. Butte is the only city in MT where fireworks can be bought and used for more than a week leading up to July 4.

Again, I carried all my food and boxes up to the room, but this time we had been given a family suite. I had a room with bunk beds and stuffed chair bags to myself. But sleep was the top priority. And also lots of internet videos to keep me awake in spite of myself. Dang akrasia!

Day 51: Butte to Darby

I got up first and went to breakfast first, despite not getting to sleep until the wee hours. This hotel had a hot bar for breakfast with an actual server to plate the food for you! How hard is it to start hiking again when you’re getting this spoiled?

I spent the rest of the morning packing up the rest of my boxes and my bear can. We didn’t have nearly as far to drive, so we opted for a late checkout. It was past 1pm by the time we were out of the room.

Our first stop was the post office a mile away. I needed a box of the right size to ship to Benchmark Guest Ranch. And I needed a stamped envelope in which to send them a money order, which I also needed, to pay for them to handle the box. While we were there, we called about getting me a new debit card to replace my expired one. And they explained that I could withdraw money directly from my PayPal account at a Walmart.

So our second stop was a nearby Walmart, which I left with a boatload of cash. Finally, we could leave the city.

The route sent us back down the highway to turn west into the canyon of the Big Hole River, which we followed west for many miles past ranch after ranch after tiny fishing village until we reached the Continental Divide. After we inadvertently crossed the CDT, we turned around at the next intersection and came back up to the hill to take pictures at the trailhead.

Back down at the intersection with highway 93, which would eventually carry us nearly to the outskirts of Glacier NP, we were also at the ID/MT border, where we needed pictures of the signs.

Then it was just a half hour to Sula Country Store, where I needed to drop another resupply. Unfortunately, it closed at 5 on Mondays and it was 5:30. The lady at the door with the key refused to take the box inside, even though the conversation in which she repeatedly refused took longer than running the box in would, but okay. It was fine, since our lodgings for the evening were only 20 minutes away. We could just come back in the morning.

Speaking of the lodging, what we had was a two-room apartment on the back of Hannon House, one of the oldest houses in Darby. The operator gave us a tour of the entire property before giving us a recommendation for dinner and me a huge bag of snacks. Thanks, Jason!

So, after dropping our things in the room, we were off again to Little Blue Joint. The place didn’t have the fastest or most attentive service, but it sure had good food. Mama had a salad and I had a “small” pizza that I could only finish half of. I also sampled a couple of beers. One was decent, though not as good as the ones at Peat’s or Mt. Shasta Brewing.

By the time we got back to the House (with a brief and possibly unmannerly stop at the ranch from the TV show “Yellowstone” for pictures since it involved blocking their driveway), I was too sleepy to go sit by the river or get in the hot tub. I just went to bed, watched some videos and stuff until I fell asleep.

Day 52: Darby to West Glacier

There was actually a little bit of hiking on this day, which is why I can get away with posting this account of a road trip on this hiking blog!

So despite my best effort to get going this morning, we didn’t make it out of the room until nearly checkout time at 11. There was leftover pizza breakfast and a shower to do. There was even a coffee maker and Mama ran it for me. Still, I did manage to sleep in a bit longer than usual, and I definitely needed the sleep.

The first goal of the day was to drop my box at Sula Country Store. No problem. Walked right in and left my box, and even got a giant peanut butter cookie to go.

The second task was to drive up into the hills to do some trail magic, though we did immediately turn back for gas upon seeing the time it would take. We didn’t end up needing it because it wasn’t that far, but you can never be too prepared when driving into the wilderness.

It took less than an hour to drive up the dirt road into the mountains to the seekrit location where I intended to hatch my dastardly plan. I loaded four boxes of soda into my pack and hiked them nearly a mile down the trail to a small creek, then poured all the cans into the creek. Some of them were trying to float into a different part of the stream so I built a small fence out of some rocks and a branch to restrain them. It may not hold them back if there’s a big rain, but they’ll just float down to a slightly deeper part of the stream and sink, so they should still be there when I hike to that point. I also taped a laminated sign to a tree hanging over the creek saying hikers needed to pack out the cans if they took one. Trail magic achieved.

The way out was all uphill but my pack was much lighter. Even so, it was nearly 1pm, so it was already brutally hot out. I was pouring sweat by the time I reached the Jeep again. Then it was another most of an hour back to the highway again and on our way north.

We went back through Darby and another little while on popcorn and snacks, but stopped in the next major town north of that for lunch. This time it was Mama’s choice, a little cafeteria that served comfort food. She had basically a Thanksgiving dinner. I had a plain roast beef sandwich on white with mashed potatoes, everything drenched in gravy. That’s just how they do sandwiches there. If it weren’t for the jalapeƱo poppers on the menu, I’d be convinced they were specifically catering to people who like bland food.

We stopped again coming out of Missoula at a truck stop to see about grabbing some food to eat in the park since the restaurants would be closed (and also to clean the corpses of millions of bugs off the windshield while we got gas), but they told us there would be grocery stores in every town going north, so we stopped at one in St. Ignatius and got things like yogurt, bagels, bread, and a microwaveable dinner since we would have a microwave in our cabin that night.

We didn’t really stop again after that, even as we were driving past the immense Flathead Lake (the largest natural lake in Montana and the 30th largest lake in the US by area). We came into West Glacier by 6 or 7pm. We checked in and moved into our cabin before driving into the national park to see the visitor’s center and the backcountry permit office.

After dinner (and a failed attempt to get butter for my toast at the camp store), I ended up staying up until past midnight working on content for this blog and then watching videos. I didn’t need to be up early since I couldn’t get my backcountry permit until the day before I hiked out anyway, so why not?

Miles hiked: 1.6 (0.8 each way, to be hiked again verbatim when I make it back to the Bitterroots)

Categories
CDT NM 2nd Section Off-trail

Day 13: Silver City

I had set an alarm for 5am, but I managed to turn it off and then sleep nearly until 6. Fair enough. I hadn’t gotten to sleep early.

The sun was well and truly risen by the time I got started hiking… and was soon hidden by an unexpected haze. I was an unaccustomed dim morning. Clearly it didn’t seem like morning to Banshee. He was still snoring when I walked out.

My water bag was nigh empty. I had used most of the last of my water on my breakfast smoothie. It couldn’t be helped. I had carried all the water I could and had not wasted it. But it looked like there was a spring just 4 miles ahead in the Saddle Rock Riparian Area.

It was cool, easy downhill hiking with plenty of views. Views of clouds. It was overcast as heck and the sun was barely shining through.

The tank in the river wash was indeed filled with sedimenty water, so I stopped for a snack and filtered some to carry away.

But then there was an even bigger water tank just 2.5 miles further down the wash. And then I was being passed by trucks going up the dirt road into the wash. One stopped to say hi and told me Highway 180 was not heavily trafficked. And then I was in a herd of cows. And then I was at the highway and there were tons of cars and big trucks. And moments later I was in one of those cars headed into Silver City.

To be clear, I was still on the trail. The last 13 miles of the CDT into Silver City is a walk along that busy paved highway. And if there is anything I did not come out here for, it’s walking well into the evening with cars and big rigs zooming past. Better to see the trail from inside one of those cars.

Riley dropped me at the Triple Crown Hostel. A voice on the doorbell speaker told me to go sit in the courtyard until he came. Rory was already in the courtyard exercising, trying to heal his wound knees. Blitz shooter up just in time for the owner to arrive and check us in and give us a tour together. He had walked on that highway for 13 miles because he is a crazy purist.

After showers and leaving some laundry to be done, we headed out to the Toad Creek Brewery for lunch. We ate a ton, including green chile cheese fries, Baja fish tacos, New Mexico Reuben, all of which we shared. I finished it all off with a root beer float of course.

Since we had borrowed bikes from the hostel to get around, we decided to explore the downtown area, visiting the two outfitters. While Blitz took time agonizing over which new shoes to buy, I visited the co-op grocery store, which was so small there was a line outside to get in so it didn’t exceed its 8 person capacity. I got a box of Virgil’s Root Beer and some Siggi’s Skyr for breakfast. Then I went back for my bike and told Blitz I was heading back alone.

But no sooner had I gotten back than I realized I hadn’t gotten any moleskin at the gear store. Rabbitfoot, still exercising on the patio, suggested leucotape instead, and it turned out that that’s what I could get at the gear store when I got back to it (after finding the wrong kind of moleskin at the other gear store). I found Blitz there finally leaving with a brand new pair of shoes. He went off to the post office and I returned to the hostel.

I got back with just enough time to go through my food to see what I needed to buy before Brendon left to go pick up Annika at the airport. He would drop me off at Walmart on the way out and pick me up on the way back. Banshee arrived and checked in just before we left. He had done “half” the road walk before getting a ride.

Once at Walmart, I bought what was on my list quickly (plus some A&W root beer to share at the hostel since the Virgil’s wasn’t very good) and spent most of the half hour I had there waiting in line at the register. I spent another fifteen minutes or so sitting in front of the building waiting for my ride back. It rained on me. All those clouds had been for something after all.

Once back at the hostel, Annika was being checked in and Rabbitfoot was finished with his doctor prescribed exercises, so I proceeded to cut up and distribute the amazingly sweet watermelon I had acquired. Soon, though, I realized I had neglected to acquire better headphones or a razor at Walmart. So I hopped on a bike and went back out. I made two stops. At a local grocery, I got cheap razors and a new toothbrush and toothpaste set. At the Family Dollar, I got some cheap headphones (2 for me 1 for Blitz), a Gatorade to hike out with, and a Hot Pocket for supper.

Back at the hostel, I mostly skipped out on the socializing and yoga sesh happening on the porch in favor of packing up my resupply, phoning home, and working on this blog until I gave up waiting for pictures to upload and fell asleep. Plans were in place for the next two weeks. Hiking would recommence in the morning.

Trail miles: 20.7 (13.1 by car)

Categories
Off-trail PCT CA Section A

Dec. 9-12: Southern Terminus/Return to Big Bear Lake

Dec. 9:

It was an interesting little section of trail down across and along the road into Campo as I could see the border wall for the first time. I kept imagining what it would be like to be a northbounder starting out here seeing all this in the other direction. It was only 4 miles to Campo, but I didn’t get out of camp as quickly as I wanted to.

I had planned to meet Mama at the Campo Green Store at 9:30, but I didn’t actually roll up until just before 10. She had brought a lot of different food and beer and the lack, and I ate a pancake right then and there. I also bought a root beer in the store and drank it. Why not?

I pulled out my day pack and packed it for the the two miles to the border and then sunscreened up. It was a hot morning and the wind wasn’t as bad as it had been. Mama did a lot of getting ready too, redressing for the trail conditions. It was probably 10:30 before we finally started walking.

The trail continued up the road, occasionally wandering a few feet away for a moment, then coming back to cross it. We passed a small hiker campground just a mile from the border, presumably for hikers who start their northbound hike really late in the evening for whatever reason. The trail crossed and tracked some dirt roads at this point, and we were constantly passed by trucks spraying water to keep down the dust. Other construction vehicles were constantly running up to the wall as it was under repair and improvement.

We reached the monument by 11:30, and I immediately signed the register. Then, I climbed all over the monument while pictures and videos were taken, frequently interrupted by the sounds of earthmoving machines next to the wall. We ate a lime, I drank a beer, and then our ride back to the store arrived to pick us up at noon.

It was one of the store operators, and she drove down to bring us back in her SUV, telling about the wall on the way. Turns out it predates the Trump Administration, and it had greatly improved the crime situation in the city since it was erected. Border jumpers used to knock on her house at night as the crossed right through her yard. Even with the CBP office right there in town, only the wall had put a stop to it all.

My opinion of it as a nonresident of Campo was that it didn’t look very good in photos. It kind of ruined the landscape, where hills had been arbitrarily cut away to make room for it. I don’t particularly begrudge it, but I sure wish there was a more attractive way to keep them safe.

Anyway, at my request, we drove back to the Oak Shores Malt Shop for lunch. I got to try one of their burgers this time. It was quite good, but I didn’t rate it above the Paradise Valley BMW burger. I also had another fancy small batch root beer.

Next was a four-hour drive to Joshua Tree National Park. It wasn’t on the trail, so I hadn’t seen it. We got into the park just after sunset, and didn’t even see any Joshua trees until well after dark by the light of our headlights. But we did get to see a fox on the side of the road. And we stopped to see a bunch of scary-looking cacti.

Just north of the park exit was 29 Palms, where we stopped at a grocery store to buy things to eat for the rest of the week. I made all the decisions here about what I wanted to cook, and it ended up as quite a lot of food in a very eclectic assortment.

Another two hour drive into the mountains followed. We came into Big Bear Lake along the same route I had walked in, and I pointed out many of the places I had visited on my long walk. On the other side of town, we found our cabin and unpacked. Dinner was instant mashed potatoes and gravy and pre-prepared fried chicken. And Julian’s famous apple pie for dessert. Thank goodness it was quick to prepare, as it was very late.

A monster furnace in the floor kept us warm, although we still built a fire in the fireplace. We had free access to Disney+ on the TV. I got a shower and a change of clothes (including underwear for the first time in months!) and didn’t get to bed in the little attic until after midnight. It wasn’t the most comfortable bed in the world, but it was quite cozy. I got a full night’s sleep.

Total distance: 6 miles

Dec. 10:

After a nice early morning fixing a breakfast filled with buttery toast, scrambled eggs, blueberry pancakes, and coffee, I happily wasted the morning doing nothing of consequence. Around midday, we went out for a drive through town to see what was happening. We continued around the lake, and then tried to take Delamar Mountain Road up to where it met the PCT. Stymied by ice on a steep hill, we had to turn around a beat a retreat just before the trail. We finished looping the lake, stopped in at the ski resort to see how popular it was, then returned to the cabin for a late lunch followed by sunset hot tubbing.

Dinner was steak, beans, and stuffing. I mixed my stuffing with leftover mashed potatoes. More beer and root beer was consumed. And of course more pie. We watched A Goofy Movie and Newsies at my request. We skipped the fire this time to save the rest of the wood for our last night. Went to bed well after midnight. My body was already adjusting to later nights, and…

Dec. 11:

…later mornings. I had zero interest to go anywhere at all this day. Cooking and grazing in a cozy cabin still felt like a treat compared to the constant motion of the trail. While Mama went to explore the town on her own, I spent a couple of hours just watching the first few episodes of Disney’s Gargoyles. (In case you don’t remember it, it was that high-budget action-adventure animated serial with more guns and gunfights than appeared in any other animation with Disney’s name on it.)

After lunch, we gathered some kindling for the night’s fire. I checked out the other houses below us near the lake. I got my things packed to go in advance of the next day’s departure. I skipped sunset this night for a shower, then went in for a several hour late night soak in the hot tub while writing more blog posts.

Dinner was late again and entirely leftovers, except for the canned beans and beets. (Speaking of cans, this cabin had every kitchen utensil you could want except a can opener. I severely dulled my knife blade just opening cans.) Also, we finished the pie!

I lit up the fire into a roaring blaze and kept it going while we watched Safety, the new Clemson University propaganda film about Ray McElrathbey. Then a preliminary bit of cleaning before getting to bed just after midnight. It couldn’t be too late because we needed to be…

Dec. 12

…up early in the morning. Relatively early anyway. There was still a minor amount of cleaning and packing to be done, especially regarding the leftover food items. We’d done a pretty good job eating through most of it, packed out some, and gave the rest away to the neighbors. Finally, around 10am or so, we got on the road.

It was a two-hour trip, descending most of the time. We went down the mountain on the opposite side we came up from, and the views were spectacular with the clouds wafting across the hills below us, though they never remained visible long enough to get a good picture. Once we were down from the mountain, we stopped going west, and instead went south to meet the I-8 freeway east to Desert Springs.

We passed right by the casino I took so many photos of as I climbed San Jacinto, and I noted the underpass the PCT went through when we went over it. I could see many of the places I had gone that day from the road. After a brief detour to fill up the gas tank, we were dropping off the car at the airport and heading inside to check my backpack. We had done such a good job getting to the airport, the baggage check desk wasn’t even open yet. Once it was, we went painlessly through security, then explored the tiny little Desert Springs Airport for a few minutes before going to chill at our gate.

The flight for the first leg wasn’t crowded despite being a small jet. I got a blog post written on the way. During a three-hour layover at Sea-Tac, we sampled every food offering in the Delta lounge. I learned that Delta has their own branded IPA served only (and freely) in their lounges, though I have no idea who brews it.

The second flight was a good bit longer, of course, as it had to cross the entire country. Mama had a first class upgrade, and I had a comfort+ row to myself. I got several more blog posts written over the course of the flight.

We didn’t land at ATL until 11pm, and we caught a Lyft back home. It was the first time I had seen my home turf in six months. Not too much had changed overall. Many things had changed in my hometown. Most hadn’t. Our driver was a newbie to Atlanta. He had a lot of interesting thoughts along the way. I followed him on Insta.

My dad did not hear the doorbell when we arrived, so I fetched a spare key. He didn’t hear us come in or call to him. As such, I scared him half out of his socks just by walking into the kitchen to offer to take out the trash for him. I’m lucky he wasn’t holding a knife he was so startled.

Anyway, I was home. I am home. I’m done hiking for a while. Since June I lost a solid 80 pounds walking some 2400 trail miles and many more besides. I haven’t bothered to add it up exactly because all that matters now is the sections I had to skip.

And I will go back to finish up. There’s nothing like home for the holidays, but once the trail becomes passable again, I’m going to be out there again. I can have it all wrapped up in just a few short weeks. And when I do, you’ll read about it here. Arigatougozaimashita for reading this far, omedetou for getting caught up, jaa matane, oyasuminasai.

Categories
Off-trail PCT CA Section C

Nov. 22: A Late Exit

Despite my late night, I still managed to at least get up at an early enough hour that I thought I could get to the trail by noon. I cut the oversize plastic covers off the aglets of my new laces, installed them on my boots, tied the excess lace around my ankles, and went out for some breakfast.