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Posts Tagged ‘Trail Angel’

Since we had woken up at 4am and hiked all day, we planned to stop at sunset again to allow ourselves to catch up on sleep again. We had seen another spot around 11,000 feet on the map and were aiming for that before we soared up to another set of ridgelines. At that point, 11,000 feet had begun to seem low.

All four of us hiked slightly different paces toward the end of the day and had spread out a bit before camp. About a mile before the spot we wanted to check out for campsites, I saw a trail split. Remembering that we no longer had the Colorado Trail with it’s signs, wide trail, and easy grades, I stopped and checked Guthook to make sure. A well trod path extended slightly to the right and a spur broke off the to left and looked distinctly less traveled. I knew we were supposed to stay contouring for a bit and the well traveled path looked like it went straight down into the valley. Sure enough, Guthook noted a junction and that we needed to stay left on the less noticeable trail.

I plodded along and found Crosby sitting on his pack by a water source reading a book. I sat for a bit and we found ED, but no Memphis. Continuing to the spot we thought about camping, we found good spots and set up. Still no Memphis.

E.D.: Do you think he took the wrong turn back there?

Me: Maybe, that was not an easy one to catch.

Crosby: Memphis would like sitting down at a fire if he did take the wrong turn. Let’s get one going.

Campfire

We set about doing so, got it going and began eating when we saw his blaze orange hunting vest draped over his pack. We “cooed” to get his attention and he beelined for the fire. He plopped down.

Memphis: I went down that horse trail back there. I went…down. About 1,000 feet down.

The sky changed colors as the sun went down over the ridge and we eventually migrated to our tents and I convinced everyone to get up early again to make the miles we needed to get to the road at a decent time. We had contacted Karla, per Karma’s recommendation, and given her a day that we should get to Wolf Creek Pass, but we hadn’t had any cell service to give a more accurate ETA.

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The other side of the sunset from the campfire.

In the morning, we all got up a little slower, but started hiking upward immediately again. We hiked along a ridge and crept up to the highest point left in this section and sat to watch the sunrise. The whole sky and tree cover below had an orange glow. It seemed magical. It got more magical when we noticed we had several bars of cell service and LTE.

Good morning!

Right as I was wondering if 6:15 am was too early to message Karla, she messaged me. We gave her an ETA at the pass and she said either she or Mark would be there and to keep her updated.

We also got an email from Frodo who was organizing a finishing party for Scout in Chama the following evening. She said she’d be willing to come get us from Pagosa Springs and drop us back off. We responded back with a “yes, please!”

Last but not least, I found texts from The Darkness. It read:

The Darkness: I’m Creede Cut-Offing for you all. See you somewhere around Wolf Creek Pass or Chama at the latest.

We texted back our plan while we let the sunrise warm us. The trail meandered down and all around smaller ridges, a few lakes, and then went tantalizingly close to the road, but not down to Wolf Creek Pass for several miles.

At the bottom of the pass, we found a cooler with sodas. We had one while we waited for Mark to pick us up. We did not have to wait long and Mark didn’t even seem to mind our smell! He knew we would want food first and suggested the Mexican restaurant in town. Karla met us there and we all ate plenty of delicious food.

They took us home and let us shower and helped us with laundry. It was such a nice change to be in a house instead of our go to cheap motels. It was topped off by sleeping in the man-cave and some a-mazing pancakes in the morning! It’d be hard to beat the trail magic from Karla and Mark.

Karla brought us over to Riff Raff Brewery where we found Axel and Let It Be having a beer. We joined while we waited for Frodo. After a group picture and big hugs from Karla, we all jumped in Benny, the van Frodo was using up and down the CDT.

Photo Credit: Axel

She brought us to a motel in Chama where we found Scout, Whistle (who we hadn’t seen since Lincoln, MT around mile 300), Guy-on-a-buffalo, Apache, and Wonderer. So much of Scout and Frodo’s family joined and it was a fantastically supportive group of people. We were later joined by Ridgerunner and K2 as well who had finished their flip a few days prior.

There was dinner, cake, root beer floats, and some beer. Scout and Frodo were so gracious to come get us, too. A lot of us stayed up late talking and were a little slow to move in the morning. We did eventually figure out rides for who needed to get where and were unsuccessful at convincing Whistle to take several zeros and wait for us.

When we got dropped off back at Wolf Creek Pass, we realized The Darkness had skipped town there and had gotten about 5-7 miles ahead of us. After some quick texting back and forth with a horrible picture of a dead creature on the side of the trail, we had a plan.

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**From September 2015**

The wind howled that night even more than the people howled at the moon. As I attempted to sleepily chug some granola with coconut milk powder, I knew I’d have trouble getting out of the tent that morning. Gusts of wind hit my tent and all I just wanted was to pull my sleeping bag over my head. Eventually, my mind won and I put on almost all of my layers, packed up quickly, and started hiking. Impervious to the weather, Memphis headed off first as usual. E.D. poked her head out of her tent as I shivered stuffing my tent into my backpack.

9:30am – puffy still on.

New in the past few years, this stretch of trail stayed above treeline on a beautiful ridge for about 14 miles. I kept my puffy on as I hiked uphill, higher on the ridge. This ridge was by no means flat. They almost never are. This particular ridge had quite a few ups and downs. The trail shifted sides of the ridge a few times and did not duck far enough down to water for at least seven miles. I did not remove my puffy until 11am and never removed my trusty Melanzana.

The alternative to this ridgeline went over Tincup Pass on a dirt road and remained a route option for bad weather. With the amount of ATVs out and lack of thunderstorms in the foreseeable future, we had opted for the ridge.

CDT ridge walking.

Eventually, later in the day, we finally began descending in an epic plunge through trees and switchbacks. At the bottom, the dirt road from Tincup Pass linked back to the trail. Guthook showed some PUDs coming up which did not sound very exciting. However, Ley had mentioned a ghost town called St. Elmo down the dirt road the opposite way of Tincup Pass. About the same mileage without the PUDs, E.D. and I decided to explore.

Sometimes, walking down the dirt roads is a refreshing break because it requires less mental effort in navigation if the body or mind is tired. Plus, there’s a ghost town. That we’d hit at night. Perfect!

About four miles of wandering down the dirt road, we hit St. Elmo and it was, indeed, creepy. We had passed plenty of campsites on the way in with fires burning and cars pulled off to the side of the road, but no one in the “town” itself. The buildings had a stock, old feel to them and when we peered inside with headlamps, the wallpaper which was on only half on the walls moved in the breeze.

The town hosted several large signs dictating the illegality of camping within the “town” limits—not that anyone would sleep well there. We found an old sign that had lots of pictures of previous residents and a little information on who kept up the “town’s” current appearance.

It was too dark to take pictures of St. Elmo, but this was nearby at dawn.

We had to switch dirt roads in town and we had slight difficulties with this at night while simultaneously trying to not get freaked out. This road hosted some interesting cliffs and not nearly the camping opportunities that the previous road had. We ended up finding a side road toward a broken bridge to camp on. We went around the large stone blockades figuring that was for cars and not people on foot and camped. We did not notice the RV on the other side of the broken bridge until it’s generator came on mysteriously later.

We skedaddled just before dawn to try and catch Memphis, who would doubtless be confused. We jumped back on trail at the Hancock trailhead and went around a beautiful lake on the way to Chalk Creek Pass. We still hadn’t seen Memphis. We didn’t find him on the long descent down either where we’d usually catch him.

Right as we were about to head up to another ridge toward Monarch Pass, we thought we might pull a fast one on Memphis if we took a dirt road over to the main road and walked that up to Monarch Pass and beat him to town.

It worked. Right as we got to Monarch Pass, immediately after taking our headphones out a Subaru of two ultra runners playing Eddie Vedder pulled over and asked if we needed a ride into Salida. Why yes, yes please!

We found the hostel and a pizza place while we texted Memphis the plan. Halfway through a pizza, Inspector Gadget and Last on the Bus messaged us asking where we were and how long we’d be in town. They said they’d meet us tomorrow for breakfast. Memphis got to the hostel right as we had finished a pizza each and we began the laundry process.

Gadget and LB did find us in the morning as we found Axel, who we’d been following about a day or two behind for almost two thousand miles. In my resupply box, my Mom’s friend Kathy had included an amazing array of temporary tattoos. While we decided on a breakfast location, I convinced everyone in the immediate vicinity that they needed to put on a temporary tattoo. Then, we set a few aside with Gadget and LB to get Mellow Yellow one at their next stop. With thru-hikers, hostel guests, and hostel staff fully equipped with at least one temporary tattoo each, we created a breakfast plan.

Axel had contacted Karla, an amazing trail angel in South Fork, Colorado who was passing through the area. They had planned on breakfast at a specific restaurant, which I later learned was the only good breakfast place in town. While she drove in, LB, Gadget, E.D., Memphis, and I hopped in LB’s car and got on the table wait list, so they could roll right into a table, which turned into a fantastic time.

After breakfast, we went back to the hostel to pack up slowly. So slowly, in fact, we decided we needed lunch before heading to the trail. LB suggested we go to Midnight Pizza and Brewery, so we enjoyed two pizza locations in Salida. That was an awesome suggestion.

We did finally get back up to Monarch Pass that afternoon where we dallied more at the small store there because we searched the register to see how far ahead others had gotten from us in the meantime. Finally, we said goodbye to LB and Gadget and tried to get a few miles in before dark.

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We woke up in a cloud on top of a ridge.  This particular cloud seemed to create its own weather system that could not exactly be classified as rain nor mist; neither could it be written off as water falling off of trees from the breeze.  Definitely wet and cold enough, I kept my shell on and attempted not to sweat quite so much, but without much of a pack, I found it hard not to fly through miles.

Dead Animal could meet us at around 10 mile increments on various logging roads that he figured out.  Hop-a-long, Scout, and I set off for the first chunk, cold and slightly wet.  Hop took an early lead and her legs got soaked the worst from brushing up against the wet vegetation.  We bounced around the top of the ridge and noticed just how localized the weather situation was since we could see clearness in spurts to the east, while we could see nothing but white to the west.

I almost missed east coast rain for a few moments in that stretch, remembering how I sent my rain gear home somewhere in Pennsylvania on the AT because the rain was so warm it acted more like a free shower.  But then I remembered how frequently it rained and the general wetness and I appreciated the PCT a bit more.

We found Dead Animal just as planned and we all sat on mats eating lunch together and trying not to get cold from lack of movement.  Some fresh vegetables were most welcome from the cooler.  We took only an hour break trying not to lose what little motivation all of us possessed and set off on another 10ish mile chunk.  I threw some tunes on at that point to distract my mind from focusing on the crappy weather when eventually I ran into a sobo section hiker who exclaimed amazingly over the drone of my headphones,

“TRAIL MAGIC FIVE MILES AHEAD!” and scampered south.  Instantly excited and newly motivated I sped up and caught Hop-a-long who laughingly told me he came up on her taking a pee on the side of the trail.  They talked in the process.  Only. On. Trail.

We surged ahead completely missing a supposedly major landmark of a weather station just off trail with an outhouse.  Halfmile even made a GPS marking called “Out House.”

Hitting the road, we saw PCT trail bandanas strung up like Buddhist prayer flags across the trail and a large tarp over a circle of chairs filled with a barbecue, cooler, and entertaining beverages.  Stumbling Norwegian and Honey Bee welcomed us, gave us comfortable chairs, and placed hot food in our hands.  Heaven on a rainy day.  Dead Animal was there brewing up some delicious hot chocolate.

Before I knew it, Hop-a-long had found the best beverage there, something Stumbling Norwegian and Honey Bee only called “Tasty Goodness” and she dumped some in my hot chocolate.

We caught back up to Snow Turtle and Agassi who had a good bit of tasty goodness and spent a good deal of the afternoon enjoying it.  Blood Bank had the longest stay record that day doing a long 0.7 mile from the weather station down to the road and staying there.  Scout got there about fifteen minutes later and came up with the biggest grin on his face that matched every other thru-hiker’s.  Two section hikers also had holed up there who were local-ish Washington boys, one of which was having quite a bit of fun convincing Agassi to drink more.

I totally meant to get further to make a half day in town with my mom and aunts, but the trail magic was way too awesome and the weather was way too shitty.  From there, I would have to make 18 miles before 1pm, our agreed meeting time.  After several hot chocolates with Tasty Goodness and later some root beer vodka, I decided staying was a much better option.

Right before dinner, Knees showed up who Hop-a-long, Dead, and I had not seen since Wrightwood (mile 368).  It was great to catch up with him for a bit.  Tahoe rolled in late as well as Straw, Willie, and Magellan.

The trail magic came at such a perfect time and turned around my whole attitude after the rain.  I didn’t even care if I had to make miles the next morning.

I managed to wake myself up at 5am and leave by 6am with my new-found motivation from the trail magic and motivation of mom-made baked goods at the end.  I shot up hill, saw Snow Turtle and Agassi’s makeshift camp spot, just far enough up that they wouldn’t be tempted to wait and stay around for breakfast.

The miles were not as hard as they had been and I was able to cruise my way around the bumps through the mud.  I went hard for the first 10 miles and then stopped to stuff half of a large bag of chips down my throat thinking that should give me at least 600 calories or so to make it to delicious cookies and brownies.

The route down to Snoqualmie Pass was fine until I was about 4 miles out and all the day hikers were hiking up and I moved against traffic, having to give them the right of way.  A few stopped me and asked me the usual questions which I was really not in the mood to answer since food was so close.

I made it to the ski area and decided that running down the ski slope was much faster than taking the trail all the way to the road and I plunged down it.  I laughed as I walked down it thinking only that Vail’s bunny hill was steeper than that.

I found my mom and two aunts who had found Dead Animal, Pinky, Sticks, and Ahab.  Delicious beer made it into one hand and a large helping of vegan brownie in the other and I was happy.  We decided to hobo it up in the parking lot, all sitting right down over a few parking spots in the back, drinking and eating.  Eventually, the rest of the pack at the other trail magic made it to my mom’s trail magic and we had quite a posse drinking in a parking lot.  Classy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Since the heat still borderlined on obnoxious at 6 in the afternoon and happy hour was still going on, we went and had several beers to kill some time.  While we drank, Bolt, Navi, and Safari went to pick up beer to attempt the 24 challenge.  The challenge goes as follows: there are 24 trail miles between the Saufley’s and the Anderson’s where one has 24 hours to drink 24 beers.  They had thrown stuff in Moxie’s car so all they had was a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, a bit of food, and 24 beers.  They left about an hour before Hop-a-long, Dead Animal, Inspector Gadget, Shags and I left.

We made another stop at the liquor store because we were fresh out.  There we managed to pick up some Jim, Patron, and 5 hour energies.  We had a bit of a road walk right after that which was actually part of the trail; Agua Dulce was the first town we actually walk through.

Pretty pissed that we had to walk on the road, we plodded on, peed on someone’s yard, and eventually reached real trail after a while.  Breathing a sigh of relief, we drank a beer and began on the Jim.  From there, we got to climb a wonderful 2,000 feet only to drop right back down to a water cache.  Right before the top, Dead Animal and I caught up, “Caaaaaa Caaaaaaaaaaaw!”

“Caaa Caaaaaaaaaaaaw!” Safari yelled back and beer cans clanged together.  He had a plastic bag full of empties hanging off the back of his pack.  Basically, you would always know where he was because he made so much noise.  They couldn’t seem to figure out how we caught up; the only thing they were sure of was that they were on beer #9.

We got to the road, plopped down for food and then pushed on.  Natty caught up too and after we ate, Dead Animal and I pressed on to hike more.  Climbing yet again, we went up and over another ridge and eventually down to the second cache where we found Iron still awake and settling in for a nap.  At that time, none of us could call it sleep since it was 3:30 am.  Right before we slept, Beef Nugget came for a bit and napped, but was gone when we woke up.

I think I slept maybe half and hour and dozed for an hour.  Shags came in at 4:30 am for a soda, then continued hiking.  At 5:30 am, I got up, packed up, and started hiking an hour later.  It was already hot and I just about regretted the nap.

After two hours and 7 miles of obnoxious heat, I made it to the road and began hitching to the Anderson’s Casa de Luna aka the Lunatic Lounge.  I got a ride almost there quickly and walked in to breakfast where I found Orbit who I had met on the AT loitering at a gas station eating as much as possible.  Then another surprise: Mellow Yellow had gotten super sucked into the vortex.  Apparently, he had stayed there almost 3 days before and managed to leave after his pack, then his shoes, were hidden.  But then Terri had picked him up from Hikertown (40 trail miles away) and brought him back for a few more days.

Many others had gotten sucked in as well: Damsel with her dog Lucy, Cheesecake, Ornie, Waffles, Jesse, Extra Credit, Hot Wing, among others.  Shags had beat me there by a bit and we waited for the rest of team teamwork.  I ran into Major Upchuck who I could have sworn was behind us.  He was: he hitched from Wrightwood to the Anderson’s.

In the meantime, beer magically kept appearing in my hand while I painted a rock and hung out.  It was pretty much just a constant party the whole time.  Eventually, Dead Animal, Inspector Gadget, and Hop-a-long made it in, I took a nap, and we kept drinking more.  Taco salad made everyone’s night.

After a night in the manzanita trees in the backyard, people slowly trickled out to the smell of pancakes and coffee.  The next day we played rummy, drank beer, napped, lounged on the awesome couches on the front lawn.  We meant to leave that evening but then Peter, Maverick and others came in with whiskey and jager.  Needless to say, we stayed.

We did managed to leave the next morning after breakfast minus Shags who has decided to only night hike due to heat and minus Safari who seemed content chilling with his new mohawk on the couch with pancakes.

The first 8 miles didn’t seem like 8 miles, but way too quick.  The water cache was empty when I got there, but Inspector Gadget hitched into town for water and beer.

Kimbo came and refilled the water cache in the afternoon.  We all went up and helped carry the water down.

We left late that afternoon to begin a 1,500 foot climb or so to get to the top of a ridge.  So close to the Mojave, we all found ourselves thankful the trail pushed us up and over every damn ridge until there were none left.  After a food break at the top, we set off for a night hike 6 or 7 miles further to the next tolerable water.  Since leaving the Anderson’s, we have plunged into some of the worst water sources yet.  Pretty much to make us feel guilty for sneering at how bad we thought some others were.

The water source we ended up sleeping near had very large floaties and was a short bushwhack to get to.  We very classily slept on the dirt road next to it since all the flatish spots had grass on it and we didn’t want condensation.  The first thing that each of us commented on was how disappointed we were that trees suddenly showed up for the last six miles right when the sun went down.  First, they would have been helpful when the sun was still uncomfortably soaking us in sweat.  Second, the moon was just about full and would have been enough light without a headlamp if the trees hadn’t created such a thick canopy.

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Attempting to wake up early, we seemed to find every excuse possible to procrastinate.  It began a long day.  Only a few miles from the big 5-0-0, we set off at different times and waited at the 500 mile mark made with sticks and a pine cone.  Supposedly, there was a sign that said 500, but that didn’t show up for another 2 miles or so around mile 502.  The map and the GPS matched the one made of sticks.   There was also a nice clump of Poodle Dog Bush right before mile 500 that I totally was not expecting.

We hiked up and over a good-sized bump and found the next “decent” water source which normally, I would highly debate actually getting water there, but compared to the other crap we’ve seen, it looked delectable, algae, bugs, and all.  The directions on the water report were even better: behind the trail sign, crawl under the roof and open the plastic cover.

I tried to take a break there, but the black flies attacked again, trying to eat me alive.  I’ve recently started using my maps as a fly swatter/fan combo which works enough that every other word out of my mouth is not “fuck” or “ouch”.

The heat began setting in but I decided to go til noon, then find a shady tree to crash out under.  I found a great spot and cooked some lunch.  Then, I realized I had 3G, so I browsed the web until I fell asleep for an hour or so until Inspector Gadget walked by snickering that he was going to beat me to town.

The last ten miles of the day just increasingly irritated me.  First, it was hot and that was just not cool.  My eyeballs started to sweat.  Then the trail had to skirt butt-loads of private lands which forced us away from the nice flat wash walk to town and over every damn foothill.  On top of that, we had to skirt a hunt club which had a sign that directed us as follows: “private land, stay on trail, under video surveillance.”  Great.  I thought about finding the camera angle and peeing right under it, but I unfortunately did not have to pee.

Not long after that a gnat decided to fly up my nose and get caught in a bugger, so I had to snot rocket it out.  Pretty sure it died in the process.

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