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Posts Tagged ‘zero day’

**From September 2015**

Naturally, we stood on the side of the road sipping beers trying to hitch a ride at dark. When cars came by, we hid the beers behind our backs. In twenty minutes, two cars passed. Both had Texas plates. A work van passed. The work van turned around. We turn, chug the rest of the beer, and shove the cans in our pack side pockets.

Guys: No one else is going to pick you guys up. Can you squish?

Memphis: Yup!

We had a good ride down to Lake City where the guys dropped us off and we found Axel who had gotten about five miles ahead of us from Salida. We dropped our packs and immediately went for food and beer. Showers could wait. For us at least.

When we got back to the hostel, Alix was there to take money and show us the ropes. We met Lucky and chilled around an indoor picnic table somewhat thinking of the chore order for the next day. ED hadn’t been feeling well, so she was finally planning on going to a clinic.

The next day, while we were making a laundry plan, Crosby caught up and walked into the hostel. He looked like he wanted to stay the night, but we weren’t looking for a zero until ED came back with giardia meds looking miserable and curled up in a ball on her bunk. We zeroed. Axel left, planning to hike eight miles to a yurt.

The zero day became a lazy laundry, chatting, wandering around town day and catching up on phone calls to the other world. We asked Alix if she’d be willing to drive us up to the pass the next morning if we tossed her some gas money and she agreed. We got some San Juan’s updates from Jeff who had decided to slow to ten miles a day with a book to finish his flip in Chama. He was still laying in his bed giving us the beta for the next section at 10am.

The next morning, Alix drove us out of Lake City and we hit the trail anew, ready for the San Juan loop that we had anxiously been awaiting for pretty much the entire trail. Big thanks to Alix! She also has a really cool blog here.

Just past the yurt looking down into the valley.

We hiked over toward the yurt for a lunch break since it had a water source nearby and who doesn’t want to check out a yurt? Memphis beat us there and we eventually caught up and checked it out. It was the same one I’d stayed in on the Colorado Trail four years before.

The trail then climbs to the high point for the Colorado Trail at 13,000 and change. This also began the 40 mile or so section above 12,000ft entirely. Nothing but sweet, beautiful ridges with solidly built trail. We had the Colorado Trail for just a bit more before it split off toward Durango and we went toward Wolf Creek Pass.

The nicely signed Colorado Trail which we were about to leave.

We camped fairly high that night in a hidden spot that Memphis and Crosby found as the sun had just finished setting. At first with the low light, I thought instantly, “oh shit, a moose” until I heard the sound of someone blowing up a Thermarest. All of us had begun to notice the shorter daylight marked by decreases in mileage and colder temperatures. The weather report we saw gave us a six day window of awesomeness—exactly what we needed.

Good morning, Mr. Moose.

In the morning, we woke up to Memphis deflating his pad as usual and we had another glorious day. It was nice having Crosby along to mix up the conversations a bit during breaks. We wanted to stop frequently because each high point brought about a different view and usually none of us had tired of the previous view.

Continuing past the dirt road which would eventually lead to Silverton, Crosby reminded us that we could watch a lunar eclipse tonight. We knew we had to get higher for a better, unobstructed view. Part way up the climb my stomach forced me to sit and eat before dinner. I’d gotten to the point where I couldn’t ignore my stomach anymore. I impatiently ate a cliff bar and some chocolate to fuel me up the last climb of the night. ED, Crosby, and Memphis passed me while I ate.

The iPhone’s attempt at capturing the lunar eclipse.

They had found a good spot on a ridge around 12,600ft where we could see the moon and the stars. We set about cooking dinner and waiting for the eclipse. The temperature began dropping and we put on layers sequentially. Even with the full moon, we could see a brilliant amount of stars and no light pollution. We watched almost the full eclipse when a few clouds blocked the last bit.

At that point, we gave up on hiking more and laid down in a line to cowboy camp and watch the shooting stars on the other side. We listened to some tunes and tried to pick out the constellations we all knew. Memphis strategically placed himself out of punching range so he could snore uninterrupted.

That night was cold. So cold, in fact, that we woke up with the sunrise completely covered in thick frost.

Shaking off the frost and watching the sunrise.

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Getting to the I-10 overpass, we figured out the service road we had to hitch on and thought, “oh shit, this could take a while.”  But then a car pulls over almost immediately and out pops Beardo, who apparently had some nasty stomach virus and had to get three bags of saline pumped into him.  His friend who had dropped him off gave us a ride to the Cabazon Post Office.

Yogi’s guidebook description of the town was spot on: “kinda creepy.”  We grabbed our boxes and went to the corner market to grab a snack and try to hitch to the next town over, Banning, to grab a room for the night since our knees and feet hurt after the never-ending descent from the San Jacintos.  Supposedly, a bus existed between the two towns, but no one we talked to knew where it was or could give us a straight answer, some of which was because English was clearly not their first language.

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Eventually we got a ride over to the street with all the cheap motels after the van dropped a few people off at the casino and everyone seemed to call the driver “dad.”  Our “non-smoking” room definitely had a few burn holes in the carpet and one in the comforter, the toilet mostly flushed, and the TV was pretty fuzzy, but we did manage to get the Silence of the Lambs to come in clearly, so we watched that after getting amazing Thai food across the street.

The next day, we stayed until check out then wandered “downtown,” got our picture taken with a little kid who thought it was awesome to just hike all the time, then watched a $3.75 matinee of Dark Shadows…sweet movie.  Eventually, Pete met up with us (a friend from high school) who had driven over from LA.  We got more awesome Thai food and he gave us a ride over to Ziggy and the Bear’s house right off the trail and we hung out there with the other hiker trash.

They had an awesome shade set up there with chairs, an outside washing sink, clothesline, charging station, porta johns, i.e. awesomeness.  Dead Animal and Shags managed to catch up late that evening.  We spent the night there on scraps of carpet which surprisingly added a lot more comfort.  The morning scorched us from the start.  We started packing up and almost left but then Inspector Gadget and Safari (whose slave world name used to abe Ari) rolled in and we all decided it was too hot to hike out until evening.  That was our 8 a.m. decision and man was it the best decision in a while.

During the day, we snoozed, read, drank cold soda (beer was not allowed unfortunately), and played Rummy, best card game ever.  We did find a spray bottle with water which saved us from completely roasting, even sitting on our asses in the shade.  Quite literally, we sat doing nothing and we dripped with sweat, sucking down liter after liter of water.

Eventually, we did leave, although not until about 5:30 or so.  We had to go up 2,000 ft from the get-go.  Being the lazy ones we are, we found shade in a dug out by the wind farm two miles later and lightened our packs by drinking a few tall boys.

Before we knew it, we got up to the top of the first climb which took a steep turn all of a sudden right by the top.  We all, meaning: Hop-a-long, Dead Animal, Inspector Gadget, Shags, Safari and I, hung out at the top looking back down at the interstate below and the flashing lights of the towns.  I managed to wring out the back of my shirt which was drenched in sweat.  We got headlamps on then and meandered along the trail for another few miles.  We passed a huuuuge toad and managed to take pictures with our headlamps.

We ended up getting about 10 miles after a few shenanigans to the first water crossing where we crossed the large creek and found a flat spot in the wash on the other side and fit five of us in fairly close to each other where we passed around another few beers while we cooked dinner at 10:30 at night.  Shags declined our awesome spot to go a few more miles while the weather stayed cool at night.

4:30 a.m. came way sooner than we thought.  I knew the day would kill us when I could throw off my sleeping bag and not be cold at 4:40 a.m. in shorts and a tank top.  We left by 5:30 and hiked through more of the large wash which actually was confusing in pre-dawn light.  Of course, it climbed immediately out of the wash.  At the top of the climb, the oven turned on, i.e. the sun rose.  I rung the back of my tank top out of sweat by 6:30 a.m.

We took a break 6 miles into the a day under a super sweet tree at the second creek crossing.  Looking at the map, from there we had to climb 5,000 ft.  Fantastic. We drank the rest of the beer so we didn’t have to carry it up. It tasted awesome at 8 a.m.  Leaving there, we decided to find a shady tree by 10:30 a.m.

About an hour after the tree, I saw a fat 2 foot rattlesnake chilling right in the middle of the trail and I had to wait for about 5 minutes for it to move.  Eventually, after a half hour search for a decent tree, I found a tolerable one.  Hop-a-long and Safari made it there, but Inspector Gadget, Dead Animal, and Shags ended up at a previous tree.

We cooked lunch at 11 a.m. or so, then slept.  I woke up soaking in sweat and realized the shade had moved and I was partially in the sun.  Sluggish, I sat up.  Hop-a-long was more and more in the sun and Safari had woken up covered in ants.  The ants were shrugged off and I set up my tarp so we could go back to sleep and/or read.  So far, I’ve set the tarp up more for shade than to sleep under at night.

Eventually, when all shade had left that area and it still managed to cook us through the tarp, we packed up and moved over toward the creek.  Luckily, for once, as in the first time on the trail, we followed a creek for several miles uphill.  Good thing since I sucked down a little over 6 liters of water that day.

We did manage to leave the tree, but not until 5:45 p.m. making it about a 7 hour break.  The sun was still strong and amazingly hot.  Continuing up and up, we ran into the wilderness boundary sign.  Usually those signs don’t lie…it’s only the ones that have mileage markers on them.  This one lied.  The boundary, according to two different maps marked the boundary considerably two miles or so after where the sign was, causing us to think we had gone further than we thought.

Eventually, we did figure that out and gave out from tiredness around 9pm, making it a 17 mile day…not bad for having a 7 hour break.  On the last, steeper part of the climb, we ran into the first Poodle Dog Bush.  We had all been warned far more than probably necessary.  Main message: don’t touch it or you die, and especially don’t smoke it.  I made sure I had my headlamp on bright to see it all, some of which was right in the middle of the trail.  I felt like I was in a video game like Donkey Kong were I was walking and if I touched the Poodle Dog Bush, I died, but if I got around it, I got bananas.

The next morning, we lazily did not move until a little after 7 a.m., mostly because we had managed to gain 4000 of those 5000 feet and the air was cooler up high, mixed with these wonderful things called trees which provided more shade.  I still am having trouble conceptualizing trees up high and small, scrubby bushes below.

We took a long time at the first water source because none of us had much energy.  Not to mention, Inspector felt sick.  He claimed to have very bad tasting burps and a stomach ache.

“Have you filtered your water?”

“What have you eaten?”

“Have you puked?”

“What color was your shit this morning?”

Gut feeling’s comment from a few days ago popped into my head, “why do bodily fluids and bowel movements always somehow come into the conversation when you get three or more hikers together?”

We had to finish that climb, then we had two more smaller ones that contoured small peaks in the region.

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