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[pct-l] Spiriteagle - thoughts from the trail (part 2)
This is the second part of my CDT trail notes - it's not everything I
wrote in Sept, but it's the only stuff that's dated. You'll get the rest
September 6, 1999 --- We're in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Over the
last couple weeks we've gone from the stark harshness and extreme beauty
of the Wind River Range and the Popo Agie Wilderness to the 90 degree
heat of the relatively waterless Great Basin (Red Desert) of Wyoming and
then to the thunderstorms and nine days of rain in southern Wyoming (the
Huston Park, Red Mountain and Mt Zirkel Wilderness areas). We went from
summer to dehydration to hypothermia weather - kinda like the PCT. Now
we're in high alpine country again - and we woke to a heavily frosted
tent and a frozen water filter this morning. Hopefully it'll warm up
again for at least a couple weeks.
A few stray thoughts ----
· Desert water sources - a few of them were piped springs - really good.
A couple of them were fenced BLM Recreation Areas - but one of those was
infested by amphibian livestock that required either a filter or boiling
(in which case it became some extra protein in the meal). Some of the
other water sources (few) were streams that hadn't been totally fouled by
cows, antelope, wild horses, etc. And some were open stock ponds - which
means that if you find the nastiest, muddiest pothole on your local dirt
road, add a quart of motor oil, 15 pounds of cow manure, 10 pounds of
fresh duck shit and stir vigorously with a canoe paddle for at least 10
minutes - you'll begin to get a vague notion of how appetizing stock
ponds are. One of the best sources was a brand-new solar well 38 miles
north of Rawlins, Wyoming - good work on the part of the BLM. And I
didn't even mention the dead cow in Bull Springs.
· Weather - we were spoiled by long stretches of clear skies and high
temperatures. Nine days of thunderstorms became really depressing.
Waiting out a couple thunderstorms each day also has a depressing effect
on mileage - between that and our re-entry to the mountains (and big
climbs) we only did 17 miles a couple days.
· Water - water is always a concern. When miles of the trail are on the
Divide, water sources are few to non-existent. So we're always looking
and planning ahead for water sources. That's not just a desert problem.
· Food -- is a different problem - we can't get enough. We left Rawlins,
Wyoming with 8+ days of food - and we got to Steamboat Springs, Colorado
with 2 dinners, 1 breakfast, no lunch and 1 Pop Tart. After 6 ½ days.
Ginny isn't as bad as I am, but we both amazed people at the restaurant
tonight. I've lost 35 -40 pounds and have the appetite of a starving
rat. We can't carry enough food to keep from starving.
· Relationship to Pennsylvania trails - I said this would become clear,
so I'll try to make it so. We've hiked and maintained trails in
Pennsylvania for the last 6 years. It's helped us to cope with the CDT.
Many of the Pennsylvania trails are what might be called a 'blow-down
rich environment". So are parts of the CDT. PA is famous for its
'pointed' rocks. The CDT has some of these, but generally it has millions
of little round rocks (especially on steep descents) that act like ball
bearings under your boots. PA has trails that have no treadway - just
blazes. The CDT treadway (when there is one) very often disappears in
high-alpine meadows or wet 'parks' - and doesn't always reappear in a
'logical' place. Just like Pennsylvania.
· Mileage --- depends on a lot of factors. Waiting out thunderstorms or
meeting another thruhiker (a VERY rare occurrence) tends to depress the
daily mileage. So does climbing 12,000 ft mountains (Parkview) in
whiteout conditions. Our normal daily mileage has been 18 - 20 miles per
day with a 14 and a couple 17's thrown in to keep us humble. In the snow
we were lucky to do 14. The problem in snow is partly the difficulty of
postholing hip-deep through soft snow or trying to walk across icy slopes
without slipping and falling a couple thousand feet (that's why we
carried ice axes). But mostly it was the navigational difficulties
encountered when the trail is buried under 5 to 10 feet of snow and the
blazes or other markers are below the snow level.
· Town visits/resupply --- are necessary. Our appetites require more
food than we can carry. Six days food now weighs more than 10 days food
did in Montana. And we still run short at the end of each section.
After 5-6 days on the trail our bodies start screaming for more fat - so
we go into town and eat big, juicy hamburgers, ice cream, steak and
double breakfasts. And then spend massive amounts of time in the
bathroom because our bodies are no longer (and probably never were)
accustomed to that much of that kind of food. But it refuels us for a
few more days on the trail.
The worst part of town visits, though, is that we just don't sleep. Too
much noise, too warm, too many people, too much activity --- and the air
is too thick. The towns we visit now are at 7,000+ ft elevation - and
we're used to sleeping at 10,000- 12,000 ft. The air is too thick. I'm
not sure how - or if - we'll ever be able to readjust to 'civilization'
September 17, 1999 --- As I predicted 4 years ago, my 60th birthday was
on the trail. We celebrated with a steak dinner when we got to Grand
Lake, Colorado two days later. And then Lynne Whelden caught up with us
that night and we talked trail for 3 or 4 hours. The next morning we had
breakfast and talked trail for a couple hours, then did the video
interview (another 3 hours). Then we went to lunch and talked trail for
another 3 hours. We walked out of Grand Lake at 3:30 PM and only walked
8 miles that day.
Now we're at a motel in Winter Park, Colorado - an unplanned stop - after
one of the most frustrating days we've had on the trail. Twelve miles in
9 hours is frustrating. So is one 1000 to 1500 ft per mile climb after
another. So is mile after mile of scree and talus that make Pennsylvania
look like a playground. So is walking through some of the wildest, most
beautiful country in the US on what's supposed to be a crystal-clear day,
but instead is overcast, windy, with occasional snow bursts. So is
having your body tell you that it WON'T go any further because it has no
reserves left - that you're running on empty. So we're in Winter Park -
an expensive little town. We'll go back tomorrow, but for tonight we're
in a feeding frenzy. And we still can't sleep even though we're both
exhausted. And I didn't even mention "The Notch".
I recently told Kahley that we're in a 'race for the border' - in this
case, the Colorado/New Mexico border - so we can beat the snow (and
hunting season) in the South San Juans. Then we immediately took a
longer route out of town - which was at least a day longer - because it
was more interesting. Conflicting requirements. We've done this several
times - and we've taken a lot of 'alternate routes'.
We may not win the 'race for the border', but we'll keep on trying as
long as possible. We came out here to walk the mountains - not the
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