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The Tetons

 

7/31 I can honestly say our time in the Tetons was meant to be. The next day we went to the post office to gather our packages, but we had gone to the wrong one so we needed to walk a mile down the road to the other post office to get our packages. As we began walking, and twinkle fumbled awkwardly down the street with all of us things in a trash bag because he was waiting for his new pack to be mailed to him, this lady Nancy pulled up and asked us for a ride. She was very friendly and helpful and dropped us off at the McDonald's near the post office and mentioned that her husband John knew a bit about the Teton Crest Trail and the grand Teton climb. She left us with his number, and we had no idea that our time in the Tetons was about to become a lot better. We trashed up the McDonalds, as they say, pretty well as we spread out on tables packing our resupplies into our packs and eating snacks. After a couple hours, John, Nancy's husband came by the McDonalds and introduced himself and how we could go about hiking the Teton crest trail and climbing the grand. He also offered us a ride to the trailhead in the morning. After a bit he had to go back to work and we went back to downtown to finish some chores. I had to call black diamond way too many times to figure out where my warranted poles were, and later in the day we got a text from John saying to come hungry to his house. Rafiki, Twinkle and I met him in at a park and then walked over to his house. We were very happy to hear he had been preparing a 3 meat dinner and Nancy mixed up and excellent salad. Before eating, Nancy and a friend that was also there, Chris, had many questions about gear so we dumped our packs out, set up our shelters, bragged about our ultra light quilts and explained our nutrition plans. Soon enough the food was brought out and I couldn't have asked for anything better than a table full of steaks, potatoes, salads, and other vegetables. It feels different and foreign to eat a real meal like that, real home cooking that nourishes so deeply. After talking about our worst, best, and funniest experiences while hiking, it was time to go to the pass to begin the hike. A heavy storm was moving in and snow was forecasted at the higher elevations. We would only be hiking as short as possible to the nearest flat spot, then camp to get up in the morning and really start the trail. John dropped us off at the Philips Canyon trailhead before 9 and we camped soon after just as it began to rain. 

After a few hours of miserable frozen and overgrown trail our toes thawed out and we were on the Teton Crest. The whole day was pretty chilly and we took our time to get the 24 miles done to where we stopped in Avalanche basin. Once we got to sunset lake, we had a couple hours to sit above the alpine lake and look over the trail we had just come up. We discussed how leaving our continuous footpath to come out to the Tetons was such a good idea. We talked about how cool it would be to climb that big mountain we had been walking towards all day; the Grand.

The next morning was much warmer and we headed up to hurricane pass where the Tetons opened up and we circled around the backside the rest of the day. We saw 2 Cubs and a mamma bear walking the trail feet in front of us and a couple moose. We passed day hiker after day hiker up to the paintbrush divide and finally got some service. John had texted me and had been to the climbers ranch to put a note up saying we were interested in climbing the Grand. As we neared the parking lot, he had found someone for us that wanted to climb, and the guy, Brian drove to the southern terminus of the Trail and met us down there. We met, then drove to the climbers ranch to secure our spots, then called john and agreed to meet at a nearby pizza place. There we made our game plan; meet at the Lupine Meadow trailhead at 3 AM, hike all morning, climb some, summit, and head back down to be back at the car before dark. It was all so perfectly smooth--we went straight to hiking the crest trail to meeting Brian to meeting up with John and straight to sleeping at the climbers ranch. 

3 am rolled up and we were hiking up the mellow trail to the lower summit. It was dark for a few hours, but the trail stayed non technical and we cruised up the first miles to the lower saddle. We got our first rays of sun there and our last place to fill up water. John said hi to some of the exum guides that he knew and we began scrambling up to the upper saddle. We strapped our helmets on and worked our way up. Finally we were there: the upper saddle. Time to climb. John and Brian discussed where the route was and soon enough we were all tied into one rope climbing the first pitch; the belly roll. Easy, exposed climbing and we made it to the first ledge. Brian led the second pitch into the double chimney and we inched our way closer. When we made it to the second pitch we realized it was going to take longer than we thought to finish the last couple pitches so we decided to simul-climb our way to the top. Brian led, with me second, then Twinkle, then John. This made things a lot quicker, but falling made the risk of injury a bit higher. Easy climbing was made a bit difficult due to the somewhat icy chimneys, but we all made it up the last pitch. From there it was a scramble to the top, we stayed roped up and we all summitted basically together. There were a good amount of people up there; a group of ten and some others we had seen on the way up. We got the pictures to prove the work we had just put forth. The summit reeked of marmot urine, but it didn't matter. The Tetons give some of the most interesting views because of their prominent nature. Surrounding the main peaks are some mountains, mostly hills, and then the skyline of the Tetons juts out like a set of misplaced teeth amongst the others. We were kings of the surrounding valleys, but it was time to go down. We scrambled our way off the top and rappelled down off a rock to get by the group of ten, then did the final rappel to the upper saddle. The scramble down to the lower saddle was a bit less fun on the way down as the scorching sun burned our tanned skin. Once at the upper saddle all we wanted was to get down to the nice trail and cruise down to the bottom where we would get dinner and reminisce on what we had just gone through. Down we went, and the trail gradually set us down at the parking lot. 14,000+ elevation gain and loss and we were done. We made a beeline to the local brewery and met some amazingly friendly and generous trail Angels that twinkle met on the AT (the East family) and wolfed down our burgers. We didn't mess with the more daring options on the menu; we needed familiarity and satisfied stomachs. After eating we said one last bye to John, literally the best trail angel we could have asked for and drove to the forest to camp. Before we crashed and rested our sore bodies I took that moment to remember and appreciate how beautifully and perfectly smoothly everything worked out. From getting to the Tetons, to hiking the crest, to climbing the Grand, to eating with Twinkle's good friends and now asleep on the ground again. Not one second wasted. A full, complete, no regrets, Teton experience. 

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The Winds to Jackson

 

7/21 day two in the winds. 15 miles. Yeah. 15 miles. 

It was a cold night and a little wet too, we continued hiking up little Sandy creek in the morning which was a massive canyon with a little stream running down the middle that somehow over the millions or whatever years carved the sheer 2000+ foot drops to our right and left. I kept thinking the whole area looked a lot like the sierra, but there was a different feel to it. It's a more rugged feel. The trails aren't established completely; you lose the trail every so often, and the peaks are much more prominent than the Sierra. I would have to say this mountain range is highly underrated and pretty unknown to most. We climbed east temple peak and got some great views. We also checked the weather and saw that even tho there were no clouds in sight, a thunderstorm was rolling our way quickly. Typical. Down we went and we passed many alpine lakes as we made our way to jackass pass. Here, we began seeing tons of people. Climbers, families, Boy Scout troops, backpackers. Jackass pass took longer than expected and we barely beat the rain as we created the top. All we wanted was to see the cirque of the towers, and we made it up there for a pretty prime time to see it. Instead of the typical blue skies contrasting the surrounding gray granite, deep gray clouds surrounded the almost same color granite peaks and made for a very vivid view of the surrounding cirque of the towers; the gem of the winds, jagged peak after jagged peak forming a large bowl that makes you want to stay the rest of the day. And we did just that. After waiting out the storm for a bit, we could have hiked on, but today we decided to be backpackers, not thru hikers, and we stayed to watch the sunset and sunrise in the morning. Later on, we also convinced Rafiki to stay here who we spent the rest of the evening with. It's nice to be back in places that make you want to stop and stay for a few hours or days. 

7/22 29 miles 

Leaving the cirque we were rewarded with many different views of the different towers. We even saw some climbers making their way up a crack. We went over Texas pass and were given even more views of jagged towers everywhere around us. We met up with Scatman and MIJ (made in Japan) and began hiking down a river. The afternoon was rather pleasant, we all spread apart and let the east miles roll as the sky threatened to rain but never really did. Towards the end of the day we climbed hat pass and went down to a stream to make a fire and cook the fish Rafiki had caught. 

7/23 15 miles 

Hiked into pinedale to eat Mexican food and stay for the night.

7/24 27 miles 

Easily one of the best days on trail. The northern winds really are where it's at. We got hiking around 11 AM after driving around town with the crew and Twinkles girlfriend who had picked us up from the trailhead the previous day and brought us back. We went back up the trail that we came down and made our way back to the CDT. The scenery just got progressively better each mile today. First we passed some large high alpine lakes to then make our way into a valley of cathedral esque peaks. We made our way back until there was a dead end of cathedrals all around us. Up we went to the Knapsack Col hopping along boulders and climbing loose rock. Soon we were at the top of the pass almost equal to the peaks around us. We then dropped down a large valley to some of the bluest lakes I had ever seen. Pure glacial lakes. I always thought people edited their photos to make them that blue, until I realized it was actually possible to have a lake that blue. We went around cube pass and a new valley opened up that was amazingly grand. Grand is kind of the only word that sums up the thousand of feet of granite on our left and right. There were pillars way above us that looked so impossible that they made the shapes of bunny ears and peace signs. Large rocks that impossibly formed into outrageous shapes. The day began to end and we found a place to camp before the descent to a river in the morning. It was a nice day. One that keeps you moving and stimulated all day because it's just that beautiful. 

7/29 So after leaving the winds we were in another transition phase of meandering forest hills. Some of it was pretty, but for the most part it was monotonous. Rafiki and I did a 40 mile day and we ended on a small mountain that gave us a view of the Tetons in the distance. The next day we made it closer to the road that would take us into Dubois. As we got closer, the hitch into Dubois seemed less and less appealing; it was a hot, plain desert down there and it was even illegal to hitch within the city limits. We made it to the road and Rafiki asked me "how hard would it be to convince you to go to Jackson." and I just said, "we're going to Jackson. So we crossed the road to the north end and began hitching to Jackson. The ride in was easily one of the best hitches we have experienced. Two men, John and Seth who knew a good deal about anything outdoors around Jackson and even had sewn their own equipment. We made it to Jackson, and I texted a friend that lives somewhat nearby to tell him I was here and he responded back "dude! I'm going to be in Jackson in a couple hours for a meeting!" Not only was he coming, but he was coming with my best friend Josh from freshman year in college who I hadn't seen for five years. So things were coming together and I was begin to feel time after time that coming to Jackson was a good idea; if not even meant to be. After eating a burger, they picked me up and I tagged along with them. While at the meeting I met my old counselor from the outdoor program I did at through BYU Idaho. I was reminded of times like camping in Teton canyon, getting my car stuck, and having him come yank it out with his car. Later that night we all went swimming in one of the fancy Teton village hotels. We were children, climbing up the fake rocks and trying to find the best routes, but we didn't care. They drove me back to Jackson and Josh played the same slightly stoopid songs that we listened to freshman year and josh and I reminisced about the dumb things we did that year; spraying bear spray in the cabin we lived in, him hiding in the back of my car when I took a girl out, etc...

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Steamboat, CO to Rawlins, WY to THE WINDS!!

 

7/12 34 miles. 

waking up and getting going by 5 is so great. You have the whole day to do 35 miles or more and you can take so many breaks along the way. As soon as we got going we began hearing thunder in the distance. It was pretty though, the enormous cloud group moving over us was lit up like orange sherbet and the thunder crackled over and over like popcorn. We were rained on for 20 minutes tops then the sun came out for the rest of the day. We spent the first half of the day in meandering forested soggy trail and finally got to an open spot where we dried out our things from the rainstorm the previous night. From here, Buffalo Pass, we started our long gradual climb to the top of the last big mountain in Colorado, Lost Ranger Peak. The whole rest of the day reminded me of places on the PCT, specifically in the Sierra. We followed a gradual, switchbacking trail that took us through fields of green with granite scatters throughout. We peaked down on alpine lakes and massive granite walls surrounding. The whole place looked like a more tan, rugged Sierra Nevada. Once at the top of the peak we took some selfies at the edge of the cliff that generated an unusually drafty wind that was ready to pick us up off the mountain. We did another 8ish miles and made it to a parking area at around 730. Slowly, we got our tents up and sat in a circle swatting Mosquitos, farting, listening to dumb songs, and at dusk we retreated to our cozy tents. Time to sleep, wake up, hike to Wyoming, and do it all again. 

7/13 32 miles 

this morning was spectacular. A trix yogurt  sunrise over the sawtooth ridge in the Zirkel national wilderness. After that we found many excuses to take our time in the morning which put us a little behind the mileage we should have been doing. Bathrooms, a faucet, a nice lady from Tennessee, some stray dogs, a drunk man trying to tell us where to go. We continue on a forest road and it gets really hot. The trail goes up and down and up and down. That same drunk man catches up to us on an ATV and tells us about how tuna packets are the best source of protein. The day goes on and it was a bit boring winding through the hot forested areas, and we made it to the Wyoming border that had a small white sign notifying us that we were now in Wyoming. The trail got harder to follow, and we decided to camp a bit early because a storm was right above us. The gray clouds sprinkled for two minutes and then let up and cleared out. Just as we were all setting up, a guy named Brett pulled up in his car on the forest road we are camping next to. Twinkle and I both met him on the PCT. We all ate our dinners and conversed for a long while before retiring to our tents at 830. Kind of boring terrain today, but a nice rest in the end and an awesome coincidence. 

 

7/21 it's been a week since I have written so here's the recap: the Huston park wilderness in southern Wyoming was just great. I've learned that anytime you hit a national wilderness area, the terrain gets prettier almost immediately. I could go back and section hike any wilderness area on this trail. That day went from green wilderness to rolling desert hills by the end of the day and we knew we were nearing the basin. We did 38 miles in to Rawlins the next day. It was flat the whole way along a road that passed two "scenic lakes" that looked so old and polluted that they were white. By then, Twinkle had hitched in to town because he got pretty sick so malarkey and I headed to Rawlins and got there 5 minutes before the post office closed and right as a sweeping storm rolled in. We made friends at the gas station and the people took us to the motel where twinkle already had a room. 2 pizzas and some survival shows later and we were asleep in the cheap motel. The next day we resupplied and saw some hikers we had met and hiked with previously. Then we were out. To the basin. The basin was great and not so great. The first 20 miles to where we camped out of Rawlins were ideal. It was nice weather followed by a sunset with burning clouds around us in every direction. The next day was a bit of a bummer, the wind was so relentless and we just kept walking and walking until it died down and we could pitch our tents. It then picked up again and rained on us here and there thru the night and morning. I figured since it had rained on us early In the morning we would get rainy conditions throughout the day, but it was quite the opposite. Day two in the basin was just what I wanted it to be. It was such a perfect temperature, mixed with a constant breeze, I never even broke a sweat. It was beautiful walking in that open desert that continues as far as you can see. Miles came and went and we did like 38 by the end of the day. The next day we headed towards our resupply in south pass city with a stop by Atlantic city, truly the smallest city I've ever been to, for a burger. It was a decent burger and the people were even more decent. 4.5 miles after that we were greeted by a very welcoming lady at the general store in south pass city that sent out our packages and let us spread out all over the picnic tables drying things out and reorganizing. We only went a few miles after that and camped in desert conditions for the last time before we would be in the Wind River Range. We awoke to a surprisingly cold morning and wandered thru what I like to call a transition section. Or an in between. Basically a section of trail that's in between two beautiful places, making the transition section a bit boring. By the end of the day we climbed a pass in the rain and just as we summitted the clouds cleared and we saw the winds for the first time. We were above the massive Little Sandy Lake and down to it we went. We decided to walk around the lake and meet the trail on the other side. Finally in high alpine terrain, clear blue lakes, towering granite pinnacles, trees with soft campsites. Home. 

 

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Northward bound with Twinkle (Grand Lake, CO to Steamboat, CO)

 

July 8 the rest in the cabin was so nice. I woke up and watched the chick flick "post grad" and twinkle got in at about 12. It was great to see him and his girlfriend grace and catch up for a bit. We got going on the trail at about 3 and instantly began seeing moose. A big bull that stood and chewed his grass right by us unbothered, another moose with her calf, and one more skittish one. Talking to someone and bouncing ideas off one another was enjoyable and the time flew by. We passed lush meadow after lush meadow and chose a campsite under a large bowl accented with black rock, green vegetation and snowy patches. Twinkle and I had the plan to hike the last half together so we will be hiking together from here on out. 

7/9 We awoke with the plan of doing 35 miles so we could be in a good spot to get into town early to get to the post office. We saw that there was a good amount of elevation gain, but worked toward the goal anyway. Coming up over Bowen Pass was beautiful, with two moose sightings and the sun rising over our first view of a spacious valley floor below us. Once again smitten by the greenness of our surroundings. Down we went to prepare for our next climb. We got to a road where we rested a bit and scoped Parkview Mountain and the routes we could take. We decided to  take the back ridge as it wouldn't be as steep. A steady pace up turned into a more stop and go pace the higher we went up until we got onto the ridge that we climbed to the top. There was a little hut that smelled like horses and we got some phone calls out. After going up the ridge, we went back down the other side and headed west toward a large mound called Haystack Mountain. The trail showed us traversing the side following a contour line, which translated to 40 up, 50 feet down, 30 up, 20 down, and so on. What looked to be an easy section beat us more. We made it to Troublesome pass where we would begin the final climb up to the continental divide and we spread apart and listened to our preferred music or podcasts to intrigue and motivate us up the hill. I listened to This American Life and decided to take a break after the one hour episode was over. After learning about green card lotteries, I sat down behind a tree to be protected by the wind and twinkle showed up after just a couple minutes. We cooled down, then made our way to the top of the ridge. Shorter breaks became more frequent and very enjoyable because of the surroundings; grassy ridge line for miles with a sun getting ready to set. To our west we saw a rock formation that looked like a dilapidated castle, in the far distance the flat top mountain range. We quickly discussed what we would do if we saw Santa Claus in real life, then we made our way down the nicest part of the trail of the day-- a gradually descending downhill to the valley. Where we intended to camp we ran into Malarkey and hung out for a few minutes before crashing. Laying down hurt, but the rest was welcomed and needed. 35 hard miles done.

7/11 We all rolled out at about 5 and hopped up on the divide where there was a forest road that we were to take all the way to the highway to hitch into Steamboat Springs. We made it to the road by 12 and just then it started pouring rain. After 5 minutes we were saved by Mike who likes to drink and drive. The hitch into town took forever as mike eased his way in. We were dropped off by an outfitter and then we made a beeline to the Taco Bell. After my cheesy gordita crunch and some tacos I went and met up with a high school friend Billy who was in town also, then got my resupply and went back to the Taco Bell. Twinkle guarded the packs and we restocked our food. A little girl sincerely asked if I was a cave man and then we got a hitch back to the trail from a Jamaican uber driver that was listening to a particularly good spotify playlist. It took us 4 miles to find a decent campsite where we stopped and hopped in our tents to escape the wrath of the Mosquitos. So we are 3 now, trying to do 35s daily. 

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Back at it

 RECAP: after hiking a lot of snow, I found low routes from lake city to breckenridge. I trespassed through ranches and walked an unreasonably long highway that was luckily closed, then went home to Utah for 2 weeks where I started the Wasatch High Route that I have been thinking about and decided it needs a little more preparation before I give it a go. I lost a few days of journal entries here and there, so I am starting at when I got back on trail from my break in Utah. 

7/5 alone again. this weekend I was "backpacking" not thru hiking with Maddy Brent and Camille. it's always nice to slow it down from the typical 30+ day to under 10 miles a day. There was time for relaxing and just enjoying each other's company. They dropped me off at breckenridge at 3. It was hard to say bye to Maddy after having been with her for a couple weeks and really enjoying my time. I am alone for a couple of days until twinkle joins me for the rest of  the hike. It will be nice to finally hike with someone consistently until the end. Tomorrow I summit Greys peak, which is about 14,000 feet high. It is the highest points on the whole continental divide. I am going to try and get out by 3 AM so I can summit around noon before storms roll in. I am currently about 32 miles away.

July 6 the whole day I was rushed. I needed to get to Greys peak before it stormed, and Greys was 32 miles away from where I camped. If I didnt get there before the storms, I would be caught far behind and would not make good time. The trail was nice and easy to follow from when I got started at 3 am right up until I got on the divide. The Colorado Trail split from the Continental Divide trail and it was like driving from San Diego into Mexico; I was immediately needing to pull out my maps and GPS; taking wrong turns, backtracking, and now not seeing any signs of a trail. It was cold. I was cold. My hands were numb. I had all my layers on and was mad and frustrated. It was dark and I was above 11,000 feet climbing up a peak and back down and I was getting blasted with strong winds and icy drizzles. Why am I doing this? The time went by, and it got lighter out and I warmed up a bit. Things were improving. Then the sun peaked out. It was then, after all the annoyance and cold and exhaustion that I thought to myself "this is the most beautiful thing I have ever done." I mean, I had seen the Rockies before when I was going through in the snow, but this was the first time I was up high on the divide and I got my first glimpse of the hype of the Colorado Rockies. So many colors. Green trees, red mountains, black mountains, blue lakes. It was like the impressionist style of painting; harsh, raw, colorful. Well, that didn't last forever and the clouds swallowed me again, so I decided to take the new CDT route down to a valley and then climb back up to Greys peak. My map set said there was a new trail going down to the valley, but I saw no trail so I skied down some soft dirt that was particularly steep, but it didn't matter because it was the perfect type of dirt for shoe skiing. I got to the the dirt road that would take me back up to the trail and I was relieved for the first time in a while. I put my headphones in and let the audiobook cruise me up to the trailhead. There were some really old, large mining operations that were neat to see, then I saw my trail up ahead, one long continuous switchback that gains a couple thousand feet in however many miles, leading me to the ridge that would then take me to Greys. I sat down for a bit, a luxury that only comes about 3 times a day when I hike alone. I dried out my tent, pooped, ate some food, and began the approach. I was tired, but I loved it. The sun was actually out now and I was racing my way to the peak. I made it to argentine pass and went up more 12 and 13 thousand foot peaks on my way up. Walking was slow, but it was rewarding. The ridge thinned out and I was finally using my hands to scramble things. Engaged. This is great. I reached the final ascent to the peak and slowed down significantly. Breathing is hard at 14,000 feet and especially when you are walking straight up. I saw some day hikers at the top and finally made it. It was sunny and I had just walked 32 miles by 2 to beat the storms as I had planned. I posted some victory snap chats, texted some people, and headed down. Some mountain goats made me circle around them and I said hi to lots of day hikers. It was all downhill from here, however many miles I wanted to go and I would camp early. Days like these are perfect days to me; they piss you off, make you question what you are doing, then let you know what you are doing is the most beautiful thing you have ever done, then beat you down, then the day is over and you can rest for a few hours to get up and do it all over again.

July 7 So, kind of the same thing again today. I had two 13,000 foot peaks I needed to get over by the time the storms rolled in. I was hiking by 4 and it was mellow, next to the I70 on pavement. I went up a canyon and hopped in the ridge, but this time there was an absolutely beautiful trail that took me over bumps and sometimes even around the larger, pointless bumps on the ridge. I was cruising, everything around me was green and beautiful and I even saw a CDT hiker. Main Guy, from Maine, we chatted then parted ways. I got up and over the first peak with slight rain and got to the bottom where it started raining a bit more. I heard thunder in the distance as I went up the next climb, but it sounded far enough away to hopefully make it up and over. I was racing the storm now. It was coming, and I was flying up the climb. I didn't stop and everything felt so good. Literally as I was cresting the summit, the sun peaked out and I sat down for a few minutes to enjoy my surroundings. Down I went and back up I went. I had knocked out another 36 or 37 by around 5 and I camped on a ridge just before James peak because I just couldn't go much further. 

July 8- 45 miles

I was camped in a crappy spot that was windy all night so it was easy to want to get up and get moving. I checked the weather and I had a window starting at 4 am. I got going a bit before then and took my time up James peak, really the last high summit in Colorado and tried to tell myself I would take today easy and get in to Grand Lake the next day, but I knew in my mind that I wouldn't be able to help myself from doing 45 miles for some good food and a cabin that had been offered to me by some family friends. Once I got over the peak I was decided that I was going to go for it. It was cloudy and drizzly all morning which was a shame because I was ridge walking in some beautiful country. I got off the ridge and met some other CDT hikers who said it would be a good day to do 45 if I wanted to. I dropped down and went along some big lakes where it was mostly flat. I only had one 500 foot climb left, then smooth sailing to grand lake. I met day hikers and car campers and the sun finally came out. I sat down for the second time to stretch out my sore Achilles and eat some, then pushed the final stretch to grand lake. A weekend backpacker told me the trail was "very rugged" and I had to "choose to either go over or around trees" that had been knocked down. So I did that. I went around some, and then even over some! Walking can be so hard core sometimes. It rained harder and I didn't worry about getting wet because I would be warm and toasty tonight. I got close to Grand Lake and then made a beeline to the quaint town central to have myself some barbecue. My hands were so cold that I had to awkwardly open the peanuts by crushing them between my palms and then I had the best brisket sandwich ever, and the Richmond family arranged for a neighbor to pick me up in town. Timothy picked me up in a big truck and took me to the cabin. This couldn't have come at a better time. I went first for the shower that blasted warm water on my back, then watched movies until I could no longer keep my eyes open. Perfection. 

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A little more snow

6/2 After the rest, John, Lily and I hitched out of Pagosa and got a half day of slow hiking in. The snow was still relatively friendly, not making us post hole too much and we ended up camping on the only dry spots we could find on an almost flat spot.

6/3 we got going at about 4 40; a little late but still better than 5 or 6. I wanted to get 12 miles in before we started post holing. The first pass we went up to get to the divide was incredible, we made it up there just as the sun was rising and it reminded me of the Himalaya with snow capped maintains and dry valleys below. I've never actually seen the Himalaya and I'm sure they are way more massive looking than these 12 to 13 thousand foot peaks. We were up on the divide most of the day meandering our way on it then next to it then back on it again. There was a fun glissade about 200 yards long that gave me a nice ice wedgy. I kind of felt ansy this whole day because I need to be making good miles. 20 should be doable every day. When we got to lunch we had done about 13; a good spot to be in, but then lunch time turned into nap time and we ended up getting out at 3 instead of around 2 for the last 7 miles. Leaving lunch we noticed that the tracks we had been following were gone, the group ahead of us had bailed. Following tracks turned into navigating and slushing through snow at barely 1 mile per hour. I kept wondering to myself if I am going to finish this hike. I really don't know if I will, but I know I need to finish this snowy section. I need to push through it because it's the most challenging, frustrating, and rewarding hiking I've done. Now we just need to get on a schedule that works so I don't have to feel mileage anxiety every day. We ended the day at 6 so we can wake up at 3 30 and be out by 4. It's weird lying here in the light about to go to bed. I will say this is one of the comfiest beds I've made. I found the only one person dry spot around that is complete with tree coverage, dry straw under me, and surrounded by snow. Hopefully we can all get going early tomorrow.

5/4 The full moon was so beautiful above the massive avalanche ridden bowls. We got going at 4 so it took a while for us to get out our snow shoes. For a while, we were directly on the divide where the snow was nice and hard so the miles went quickly. I got pretty far ahead of John and Lilly and by the time I sat down to wait I had decided that I was going to go on my own. I was crunching numbers and really if I want to finish this trail, I need to pick up the pace a bit in this snow. They both said bye and talked about how cool it will be to not see people for about two weeks. Some people are better with solitude than I am, but I am excited for this solo stretch. Once I got going, the footprints disappeared after a while and I was on my own to lead the path of footprints. I imagine some people are going to be annoyed because I prefer to go up and over things rather than traverse flat ground. After a while when the wind died down I reached down for my hat and it wasn't there. THE hat, MY hat, it was gone. I panicked, I retracked some steps and then just hoped john and lilly would see it on trail. They need to find it. I can't hike without that thing. Literally 10 minutes later Started singing "I'm walking on sunshine" and I step out of my snowshoe. The back strap had broken. Luckily there is this random strap that I don't know how to use that I could wrap around my ankle and manage to use the snowshoes still. It's awkward and clumsy, but it should do. I climbed up another hands on ridge to avoid a cornice that I did not want to get caught in, then went down down to a snowy meadow with a river running strong through it. After an hour I found my campsite at 5 45 at the best dry patch I could find that barely fits my tent. It was perfect. Today was a good day. And I'm just sitting in my tent enjoying that endorphiny feeling that one gets after a day of exhaustion. 

5/5 I got up and going at 2 30. I walked down to the snow and it crunched then immediately broke. Darn. I would have to wear my snowshoes from the start. I noticed that my ankle was pretty sore and my broken snowshoe was rather clumsy so I tied some string around the back to act as the strap that had broken. It worked alright. I followed the footsteps to a steep, icy traverse that I could barely make out in the moonlight that was being masked by clouds. Is there a storm rolling in? I thought. The trail switch backed up to the divide and it became really windy and I realized a storm really was moving in. I grabbed my snowshoes that almost flew off my pack and down the mountain and picked up the pace down the mountain and onto a plateau. The snow was crunchier here so I continued with no snow shoes. About then the sun began to rise and I watched the orange glow to the east and then the pink clouds to the west. Every sunrise I see here makes wonder if it's the prettiest I've ever  seen. The plateau led to what would be a meadow if there was no snow with rivers flowing through it, but instead it was a couple feet of hard snow that looked and felt promising to walk on until 'crunch' and I had fallen in the snow up to my waist. I step forward and 'crunch' again, both my feet in the snow up to my crotch. I crawl forward to some rocks trying to be as light at possible as to not fall througn again and put my snow shoes on. I hate those things. The trail then dropped lower than I had been for a while; 10,800 feet down a river to a meadow. There was no snow, but traversing the side of the canyon was painful on my ankle, but beat snow shoeing any day. The trail took my down to the meadow where it began snowing and raining a bit. I sat under a tree for a bit, then continued to the other side of the canyon. It kept raining and I was getting wet on my way up to 12,000 feet so I pitched my tent and climbed inside to wait it out. 10 in the morning turned into 12, still consistent rain. 12 turned into 4 and then I realized I would be staying the night right there. The rain died down at about 7 or 8 and I went to bed. 

5/6 decisions decisions. I awoke to more rain and harder this time. It was about 4 am when I would normally leave, so I slept some more. At about 7 or 8 it died down a bit and I kept thinking to myself 'I gotta make some moves.' So, after thinking over all of my reasons I decided to bail on the San Juan route and hike down to the valley to my next resupply. This would cut off about 60 miles of the San Juans. Here were my reasons: recent snow and rain really increases the risk of avalanches, I doubt I would be able to keep dry and warm if it rained on me for a day at 12,000 feet, and my ankle was acting up. I went down to the valley and began hiking out, but I couldn't stop thinking about where John and Lilly were. I let out a few recognizable yelps with no response. I then went back to the other side of the valley where they would definitely pass and wrote a note to them explaining how to get out and why I was bailing on the route. I figured it would be of help because they only have the paper maps which show strictly the trail, whereas I have the Gaia GPS app that gave me more info on the surrounding area. I used that to find my way out. The hike down was a nice change in scenery; a lush, wide open valley with a full river running down the middle and elk running right in front of me. It was muddy and slippery and I even fell once into some water. A couple miles later I met some people that were out backpacking that did not expect snow, so I told them about the conditions which surprised them and resulted in them changing their plans. I got down to the reservoir I was looking for and found a big awning with a few benches normally used to show presentations to campers I presumed. It was the perfect place to dry out while I let the rain pass and minutes later I had my tent, sleeping bag, ground sheet, rain clothes, and anything else that was remotely wet hung up by the rafters taking in air and drying out. Complete yard sale in the middle of RVs and other campers. I then called my parents and Maddy and told them about my decision. It's one of those decisions that in the beginning you don't know if you are using excuses or good judgement. After an hour or two I was finally satisfied with my decision of skipping that 60 mile stretch of snow. I had to keep telling myself; my ankle really DOES hurt, there actually IS high avalanche danger. I had my window of good weather, and it was now closed. Time to avoid the snow and move on. I waited at that awning for a few hours until everything was dry and the rain had dissipated a bit and literally minutes before leaving a camper brought me some hot chocolate to help me keep warm. Perfect. I packed my things and sipped on the cup out on the drizzly road. I found a garbage can and dumped my extra foam pads that the lady at the ice cream shop gave me in chama because I assumed I would no longer be snow camping. I walked about 2 hours to my campsite which is actually a real life campsite with real life people around me eating smores and getting cozy in their RVs. It's actually quite beautiful. I am along the Rio Grande at a small reservoir that has a thriving duck population. It's so green. I really haven't seen many places this green, besides the North Cascades. Rumor  had it that because of the intense recent snowfall, it has made for an especially green spring. Anyway, I am glad with my decision and I am going to avoid snow until I leave next week for Utah. This might mean a lot of road walking, but we'll see. To Lake City tomorrow. 


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Hello Snow-- the San Juans

 

5/28 I am lying in my new shelter sent from home-- a little warmer than the breezy one I used to have and I can't sleep. I can't sleep because I just had a small taste of what is to come-- snow and lots of it. This morning we all made it into Chama and had breakfast and waited for our packages to arrive. My parents took the initiative to send some snow shoes which I am very grateful for. Bigfoot, Farmer John and I took off up the pass via hitchhike by Navajo Wayne and we hiked about 5 miles into the almost dark. For the last hour, it was all snow. My snowshoes handled it well, but my toes were constantly cold so I kept a continuous path forward. It didn't help that the socks I was using were my thinnest pair with many holes in the bottom. Before we got up to a windy pass, I spotted a dry spot east of the trail and we headed towards it. The sun was setting and the trail felt like another world completely isolated from what I have been experiencing before. So here I am, in this upgraded tent that will keep me more protected and I'm nervous,  I really don't know what to expect, I wonder if I'll be able to handle it, and really the only way to know is to move forward. Tomorrow will be a new experience. 

5/29 I think I can confidently say that today was my favorite day on trail. We woke up and got going at around 5 45 and it was instantly apparent that we were in the most beautiful section of the CDT yet. The sun rose over the ice caked mountains leaving a pinkish glow on the dark gray mountains. The San Juans is this random set of mountains that juts up much more prominently than any other range we had seen. Days ago we saw our first glimpse of the mountains and we all were shocked to see what looked like winter in the alps. After summiting the first pass this morning we realized that this was much, much different than the Sierra. Instead of hiking in a warm, dry valley then cresting mountains passes, the CDT takes you on a high route; mainly above 11 thousand feet and many times above 12. We continued to traverse and walk ridges and the snow stayed hard until about 11 when Bigfoot and I put on our snow shoes, but John wasn't able to send any so he walked in our footsteps. It was slow going, we were happy to have done almost 3 miles in two hours when normally I do more than that in one hour. We dropped down into a valley and found water after trying to melt snow in our bottles in the morning. There was a log that we sat at as we talked about how this was the real deal; cold feet, searching for water, post holing for hours, could we really do this? We continued onward to our goal of 15 miles, at about 10 we were all beat and breaks came more regularly. Soon enough we reached a mountain that was our 15 mile mark, and it was only 4 pm. Score. The plan was now to head down to a valley 4 miles below making it almost a 20 mile day; 5 more than expected. As we rose to 12,500 feet a storm began to roll in. I figured it would just scare us until it began to get really windy and snow was falling quickly. My leg hairs were about to freeze with my little short shorts and I stopped to put some pants on. I rage hiked as fast as I could to keep warm and when the snow started to die down I realized how tired I really was. After another hour we were down in the valley and we all set up our shelters. We got here early and I was able to organize and get a good pitch on my tent. Thinking back on this day and I really think it had to have been the best day, it was challenging and overwhelmingly beautiful. If I make it out of these snowy mountains, I will be a different man. 

5/30 Day two in the snowy San Juans. The morning was quite the view once again with the same pink frozen snow that made walking quite easy. We came to an alternate at the beginning of the day to avoid a steep ridge that I figured would have bad avalanche danger. It took us lower and through two canyons with a meadow in the middle that gave us a break from snow and we dried out our tents and sleeping bags and socks. When we got back on the real trail I was glad we had taken the alternate because the other route really did look sketchy and in avalanche danger. Just after we got up and over a pass, we came to a steep descent where there were switchbacks. I immediately dropped my pack off my back, pulled out my ice axe, put my wind pants on and began glissading. I had never really done it before so it was good practice and also just really fun. We then came to a valley where we noticed that the trail would take us across a long traverse on the side of the mountain. Those are usually a pain so we made our own route up to the plateau that was 12000 feet high. Once we got to the plateau the day became my new best day on trail. The stormy clouds stayed away and we began walking by massive black peak after peak. Summit peak then Montezuma peak then Trek peak. By now we realized that we could probably make it to a ski in ski out cabin that was within grasp. We were exhausted, but the surroundings and the idea of a warm cabin moved us forward. The sun began to go down and we made it to the cabin at dusk, but a not so friendly man came out and said that the cabin was "res only." Then he went back inside. Bigfoot trudged in very disappointed, but John was obviously devastated because he spent the whole day post holing with no snow shoes only to get here and realize we needed to camp elsewhere. We walked about 200 yards away and found a nice dry spot to camp. Not so bad after all. But that cozy cabin would have been so great-- a chance to dry our shoes so they don't feel like rigid plastic due to the morning freeze. So, today was great and the San Juans are incredible.

5/31 We got going really late because we were so beat from the day before. We only had 15 miles ahead of us after all. We stumbled our way through the snow taking our time partly and not making good miles because we didn't get out in time for the hard snow. We got up to a ridge where it began snowing and we heard thunder so we picked up the pace a bit. By now we could see the pass we were going to so that was pretty motivating. The going got VERY slow ever since then because the snow turned into a soup and we were all tired. The trail tended to follow contours of mountains which made your snow shoes slip down the slope and twist your ankle every step, so I tried to stay along flat ridges that went up and down. Eventually we got to a junction where the trail split down to a clear dirt road to the pass or up another mountain which would takes us all night to follow. Bigfoot called a trail angel who offered us a ride instead of hitching 22 miles. It was too tempting, I said yes and we walked away from the mountain. John was disappointed. I was disappointed. Then, as I was walking down I couldn't help it any longer and I yelled down to Bigfoot and said we would meet him I town. He said he was happy we made that decision. Back we went and up the mountain we climbed, the snow was deep so we followed some bear tracks. We made it to a saddle and began walking toward Alberta Peak, which we had the goal of summiting that night. It was slow breaking trail and then we got to a place called the knifes edge which was an extremely narrow ridge line surrounded by snow that was ready to slide. The ski area had built a railing and bridge but it was snowed over so we hopped the rail, climbed the vertical ridge down about 8 feet, then began traversing the wall as if we were playing hot lava trying not to touch the snow. It was one of those things that makes you a bit nervous but keeps you on edge and focused. Now just the peak was ahead of us. It was 8 20 and we scrambled to the top where it was covered in icy snow. It was perfect timing, everywhere you looked there was a new vibrant color-- down the valley the bright spring greens were illuminated by the gold lighting, the peaks that surrounded us everywhere at a 360 degree view were like pink snow cones sitting on top of the brown rock piles. John admitted it was the best sunset he had ever witnessed. After photos we hurried down to a chair lift and camped on some gravel while the sun slipped away and night fell. Yeah we weren't in town eating burgers, but we were doing what we came out here for-- soaking up every last mile of the CDT. Before we went to bed john said he was happy to have met me (cute I know), and I agreed. Someone that can push your limits and call you out on what you truly are out here for.

5/1 When we got to the pinewood motel, it was easy to notice the hikers that had been through the snow versus the hikers that had just taken time off for their sunburnt noses and cheeks and dry, cracking lips. Seeing so many hikers was nice, and I got a room with John and Lilly where we could rest up. Its funny because I actually needed this zero, I needed to rest. Whereas on the PCT taking a rest day was not ever really needed. During the day I washed clothes, showered, ate a lot, and watched a couple Harry Potter movies. The highlight was definitely the Thai food in the end with a full table of 12 or so hikers. 

 

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Ghost Ranch to COLORADO

 

5/25 We rolled out with the crew I stayed in Ghost Ranch with. By now, I had gotten used to the northern Irish humor Malarkey entertained us with and the witty comments Dayman delivered all day. LaLa will hike next to you and sincerely ask about your life, wanting to get to know you better and toast had a constant optimism and laughter that maintained the positive  atmosphere. It was a great group to be with and I was glad we would be going their pace into Chama. John and I hiked on together and strategized a bit about the snow. Later in the day we all grouped up and hiked the final miles together. A sunny forecast quickly turned in to hail and high winds for a bit, but mostly threatened with dark clouds. Towards the end of the day two Latinos pulled up in a big truck that had come up to (Latino accent) "see the moisture" and were shocked that we were hiking all the way to Canada because they (Latino accent again) "like hiking, but not that much." they asked us how far we had hiked and we said 25, so Eloy turned and looked at his friend as he said, " that's pretty good," as his friend nodded with approval. They handed us too many cheap beers and I gave mine to the group who could barely get them down. We found a nice campsite just past that where we camped with the one and only Banana Pants, an Austrian with a squeaky voice that was always 20 minutes ahead. You leave at 6, he leaves at 545. You arrive where he is breaking, he packs his things and hikes on. Banana pants. Oh yeah, he wears bring yellow pants. 

5/26 I was the last one out and I trailed behind Malarkey.  After a while we began hiking together and he told me stories from his homeland, Northern Ireland, and the Appalachian Trail. You really will never catch him hiking in anything but his Hawaiian board shorts and a short sleeve T-shirt. We caught up the the group and hiked onward. At midday we crossed a tricky River and by then Bigfoot had caught up to us. I had briefly met him on the PCT as spencer and I were doing our 50 mile day in Oregon, but didn't remember. We had already kind of known each other through mutual friend from back home and in the hiking world. I walked with him for a while until the tricky River crossing. It has been nice to have real lunch breaks with this group. We continued to a road where there were camping areas and more and more hikers grouped up. Added to the group was now Periwinkle and G Funk, another Austrian with the most soothing voice and personality. There were now about 10 people. 10 real life human beings I was hiking with on the CDT. Our campsite came soon after and hail came down as we set up. After it died down, we ate dinner together and enjoyed the company. 

5/27 Everyone left at different times, but we all ended up meeting up before lunch. We were now walking through large, rolling meadows with aspen trees bordering the fresh green grasses. The meadows turned into canyons and we began a rim walk along the Rio San Antonio. Rim walks are so enjoyable because they put you right above it all, with cliffs extending for miles. The miles went by and we got to a snowy section where we all post holed (your foot breaks through the snow like a post making a hole) for miles. We all laughed at each other and helped each other along which made the section go by particularly quickly. Towards the end of the day we took a lower route that would take us to the Colorado border and avoid a lot of snow. Like a mob, the group continued on and I stayed back with LaLa, Dayman, and Malarkey because i knew I wouldn't be among their company for much longer. As we approached the Colorado border, giant meadows with a meandering road became the sight around each corner until we reached the border and took photos with the whole group. We ended up hiking a couple more miles and set up camp at the first flat spot we could find. We all sat around in a circle as we ate our dinners, some cold some hot. We were all laughing constantly usually from a comment that Banana Pants would make as he continued with his squeaky Austrian accent. It was a beautiful moment, 10 hikers on the CDT from very different backgrounds that had come together under one common ground: the love of the outdoors and a simple life. It's moments like these where you realize once again that these memories are among special memories that will actually be remembered forever. 

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Cuba to Ghost Ranch

 

5/23 I crested the canyon I had been working my way up and was greeted by the largest meadow I had yet seen. It was so vibrant with springtime and had water running literally everywhere. The meadows were soaked with ankle to shin high snow melt water that numbed my feet as I sludged through them. It continued like this, then back down to a lower elevation with a forest of blown down trees. I made my way back up a Mesa and took a break for a while. It was hot then cold then perfect then hot again. And that's the CDT, you never know if you should have your down jacket or rain jacket or long sleeve shirt or pants on. Coming down from the Mesa was another mini Grand Canyon that had arches and millions of obvious years of erosion against layers of rock along the cliffs. When I got to the rio chama I ran into people, yes, people, not person. it was a group of four--LaLa, Day Man, Malarkey and toast. They were quite the friendly bunch so I hiked with them and camped with them too. It was then that I realized that I tend to enjoy experiences more when I am with people. Chris McCandles said before he died "happiness is only real when shared." Being alone and pushing your limits all day can take a toll on the mind. Do I enjoy this? Why am I doing this? these questions are always reassured to me either by the allure of my surroundings, but more often than not, people. People have a way of lifting the spirits and enriching any experience. People are great. 

5/24 We camped about 9 miles from ghost ranch, and were awakened by a light sprinkling at about 5 am. We all put up our shelters and slept in a bit. It was a misty morning heading to Ghost Ranch. We all walked together and all trusted that someone knew where they were going so we got a little mixed up and added a mile or two. When we made it to ghost ranch we were greeted by about 15 other quiet hikers with bowed heads catching up on their social media accounts via a surprisingly fast wifi in the Internet cafe. My plan was to wait for John to get in because we wanted to hike the snow section together. La La immediately took the mother role and got us a room that we all pitched for. Within a couple hours we were all showered up and our clothes were hanging on the line outside freshly laundered. Next was lunch. We had heard bad things about the lunch, but how bad could it really be? Well. Cold beans, Fritos, mystery red sauce, and old lettuce. That was lunch. Literally all of us agreed that our trail food was better than that old lunch. The hours went by and John showed up while I was watching Hook in the lounge with all the other hikers. From there we talked about the snow situation and how it was recommended to bring snow shoes or skis and definitely an ice axe. After contemplating we settled on getting ice axes and giving the snow section in the San Juans a shot. The ice axes wouldn't arrive for a couple days so we would be doing 25s until Chama. A nice rest from the typical 35 mile day. 

5/25 We rolled out with the crew I stayed in Ghost Ranch with. By now, I had gotten used to the northern Irish humor Malarkey entertained us with and the witty comments Dayman delivered all day. LaLa will hike next to you and sincerely ask about your life, wanting to get to know you better and Toast had a constant optimism and laughter that maintained the positive  atmosphere. It was a great group to be with and I was glad we would be going their pace into Chama. John and I hiked on together and strategized a bit about the snow. Later in the day we all grouped up and hiked the final miles together. A sunny forecast quickly turned in to hail and high winds for a bit, but mostly threatened with dark clouds. Towards the end of the day two Latinos pulled up in a big truck that had come up to (Latino accent) "see the moisture" and were shocked that we were hiking all the way to Canada because they (Latino accent again) "like hiking, but not that much." they asked us how far we had hiked and we said 25, so Eloy turned and looked at his friend as he said, " that's pretty good," as his friend nodded with approval. They handed us too many cheap beers and I gave mine to the group who could barely get them down. We found a nice campsite just past that where we camped with the one and only Banana Pants, an Austrian with a squeaky voice that was always 20 minutes ahead. You leave at 6, he leaves at 545. You arrive where he is breaking, he packs his things and hikes on. Banana pants. Oh yeah, he wears bring yellow pants. 

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Grants to Cuba

 

5/20 I woke up at about 5 40 like normal, but this morning i had a mountain to look forward to. Something that I forget about when I hike in the desert is the enjoyment I have of climbing mountains. I have a few tricks that I use while walking on long, flat roads that tend to drift my mind and make me wonder if I really do like this out here. But this morning as I climbed 11,300 mt Taylor I savored every breathless step as I watched the desert floor grow larger and larger. About a quarter mile from the summit I ran into Bearclaw who I hiked in Canyonlands with a few weeks before the CDT. It was awesome seeing her and knowing that she Is doing so well having just been forced off trail due to injury. She was also with "guy on a buffalo" who pulled out an entire Walmart pie that we shared at the summit, "nom nom" who actually "nom nom-ed" multiple times while eating the pie, and Grim, who was especially excited about his titanium spoon with an anodized tip that made for easy cleaning. We descended down on small patches of ice and continued downward. We all stuck together as we approached the long, flat road walk that would lead us all to Cuba. After a couple miles we ran into Scalawag who actually just looks like Corey from boy meets world and Old Skool who I had eaten at Pizza Hut with the previous day. Old Skool is about 65, so he naturally tends to repeat himself about gear he is going to need or not need or mileage he can no longer do because of his age. It was about 3 when we left from this break and I decided to go ahead to be able to get into camp at a reasonable time. Some of them had the loose goal of doing 16 more, which was also about my goal. These final 16 miles were especially monotonous and the only thing that kept me going was hearing about George Mallory via audiobook and my recently downloaded podcast "serial." I will say, these nothing road walks can get to my head. It's a lot of walking without a whole lot of action. 

5/21 I awoke to the same road walk that I figured would haunt me the rest of the 50 miles into Cuba. A few hours went by and it continued the same. Shrubbery tree things and a flat dirt road. I took a glance at my maps and saw that I would be dropping down from a large Mesa so I hoped that something would change. I eased my way to the rim of the Mesa and finally saw what I pictured New Mexico would had to offer-- desert for miles with sandy canyons and eroded buttresses and pyramid peaks. It looked like a mini Grand Canyon. This couldn't have come at a better time. I ran the switchbacks down and got water from a spring that guzzled water out from the wet sandy ground. The wind really started to pick up as I crossed the desert floor and some clouds rolled in that began to sprinkle. I was pretty stressed for the next few miles when I began to realize that if the wind continued as it was going there would be no way to set up my tarp, and if I did set up my tarp I would just get splashed from every angle. Luckily, the rain only came and went in small waves. This made for some amazing views of the pyramid shaped mountains that lie in the distances as I wove my way through another thin Mesa. There were delicate eroded pinnacles around every corner that actually would have fallen over if I would have pushed on them. The day came close to and end and the best part of the whole section became my place to camp. It was called the "Cerros Colorados" (colored hills) and that's exactly what they were-- a bundle of red sandy peaks sitting atop a desert Mesa with greens and even purples mixed in. I climbed up to them and picked out the best spot on the side of the cliff. "I'm a rich man" I thought as the sun went down over my tarp and the remnants of a quickly moving storm moved through. That storm actually came back to haunt me at about 10 30 pm. The same fierce winds picked up, threatening to pull my tarp right out of the ground and the rain blew water up from my feet to my waist. I put a trash bag over my feet to cover up and luckily the storm subsided after about 45 min. 

5/22 The morning continued to open up more of the Cerros Colorados Mesa area. I couldn't believe that what I was walking on was BLM land and not a national park. It truly was some of the best hiking I had done. Up one Mesa, down the canyon and up the next. After a while it ended and the trail turned into clay before it hit the road that took me into Cuba. Cuba was a small town that had a few restaurants, unfortunately the pizza place didn't open til 4 so I went to the McDonalds that had a convenient outlet to charge my batteries. I only needed to hike out about 10 miles so I took my time. On the way out I ran into a couple that I had met on the PCT-- M80, his wife (don't remember her trail name) and their dog Willow. We caught up for a bit then walked down the trail together. They are pretty awesome, last year they did the AT and PCT and now were on the CDT. They were good company so I stayed with them. We chatted about alligators on the Florida trail and about how they are one of the very, very few that are sticking to the official CDT route which will end up being around 3000 miles. After a bit, I went ahead and hiked up a canyon and camped on some damp ground. 

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Doc Campbell's to Pie Town to Grants

 

Leaving Doc Campbell's and an amazing nights rest, I walked a road to the Gila Cliff dwellings where I was greeted by many friendly older volunteers. On the way over I found a place that had old cave paintings. I still had to wait 30 min for the cliff dwellings to open, but I had already walked a couple miles out of the way so I stayed. I was really glad I did. I ran up the trail to the dwellings and began exploring myself, when one of the volunteers got up to the area and asked if I wanted a tour. I accepted immediately and she provided me with fascinating info on the different people that had used them, geology, etc. Turns out the surrounding gray rock was rhyolitic tuff. After the detour I decided to take a trail down back to the Gila River that was "recommended by many" and "resembled Zion national park." I got going down the canyon and the farther down I went, the closer the walls became until I was in a lively slot canyon with water trickling down the sides and vines growing all around. It was that same gray rhyolite I had been seeing previously. When I got the bottom it junctions with the Gila River where the Gila opened up to its most impressive views yet. The canyon walls were now directly in the river, towering hundreds of feet high with sharp, high pinnacles everywhere. I stepped into the river and began enjoying my surroundings. And the day conditioned like that, around every corner I would see something new that I would have to run up to and not only look at, but feel, as I found myself backtracking many times because I hadn't touched the rock to feel it's texture and quality. 

the next day was another day in the Gila. I would be doing another 20ish miles to get out of the Gila, then past a large reservoir, then into the Gila National Forest . The day started early with chilly River crossings. Get to the end of an embankment, step in water, cross, look for trail, slosh through the soft sand of the trail with soaked running shoes, get to the end of an embankment, repeat. although the Gila was like nothing else I had seen, it got a little old after a bit trudging through water and sand all day. Luckily, after seeing many bear prints, I rounded a corner and I large  brown bear (in color, but obviously a black bear) shot across a large log as I fumbled for my go pro to get the video. He was a scared little one. The day was actually a little stressful because I got lost a couple times. Usually what I do is I follow my maps, but if I feel I'm off trail I will pull out my CDT app and check where I am via the GPS, but unfortunately it wasn't working so I found myself exaggerating distances and directions to get where I needed to go. It was harder navigation too because of the lack of topographical features on my maps. I found myself realizing I was a bit lost twice, then making a decisions to change my direction, then overcompensating and literally running down a road a bit to see if there were any signs. This was the first time in my life that I actually needed to read a map correctly, or I could have found myself lost in rolling tree covered hills hoping to be headed the right way. in the end, i found my way both times, and as stressful as it was, it was also a great learning experience. I made it to camp at about 8 30 and began to set up my tarp. I knew it would be a poor place to camp and I saw a storm rolling in, but I was done hiking so I stopped there and pitched my tarp. I spent the rest of the night curling to the end of my shelter to avoid the rain drops as the wind blew them straight on my face. Needless to say, it wasn't the best night's sleep. 

I awoke to a beautiful sunrise of the clouds clearing out. Although I hadn't slept much I was glad to be dry and I was happy the storm had rolled through mostly. I made my way up a forest road where I got service and saw that the rest of the day would be rainy and snowy. Once again I got confused with the map set and which roads to turn on so I followed my app through the trees on a ridge and down the mountain. I hadn't seen anyone for a while, but just before I started the road walk into Pie Town I saw Iceman and we chatted for a bit. The rest of the night to where I went to camp it was raining off and on as my feet felt like platform shoes with all of the dirt stuck to the bottom of my shoes. I got to a calm meadow and made a perfect tent pitch under a tree and thought to myself "I'm not going to let what happened last night happen again." 

5 30 AM and intermittent snow is drifting onto my face. Really? I thought I had pitched my tarp well, but such is the CDT. You can't expect the wind to blow in only one direction, but all directions. I didn't really mind it though, it was snow after all which I prefer to rain always. I got going around 6 and began the road walk climb up to mangas mountain. This area was such a treat. Snow continued to fall, I conitinued to climb and I reached an open meadow that was freshly blanketed with 3 inches of snow. The sun started to peak out and I just stopped to appreciate that moment. A moment I literally had all to myself. The higher up I made it, the colder I got until I began descending down to the flat section that would lead me to pie town. I got rather bored here and began to jog the downhills on the rolling hills. A rancher stopped to talk a couple times and I peeked into his car and saw three separate rifles at arms reach. I asked him if he was hunting and he said "no, this is just my regular arsenal." A few hours later and I was in Pie Town. 35 miles by 5. There were a few hikers at the free hiker hostel called the toaster house which was very nice to come to and be able to relax and reminisce. My plan was to sleep well, wake up, go to breakfast then hit the trail for a half day. 

I slept in til about 730 on the foam mattress on the floor. I got my things together for the next while and went to breakfast with ED and Threshold. Bacon, eggs, toast, hash browns. At about 11 30 I was hiking with the plan to go about 20 miles. It was mainly a road walk so I turned on my audiobook that I recently downloaded "paths of glory" and the miles flew by. I walked with JD and Porsche for a while. Porsche had a really sparky attitude and was very pleasant to be around. she reminded me of the ultra marathon type. Then I walked with Greywolf for a bit before arriving at the Thomas Ranch where the 83 year old couple offered us all water and a place to camp. We even went inside their metal warehouse converted into a house and chatted. Anzie was a real nice lady. Always laughing and had the most wrinkles I've ever seen. She pulled up her pant leg and put it next to my bronzed leg and said "now what's this?! I need to get out more!" Greywolf noticed I was itching to leave after a bit, so I cruised on and ended up hiking another 15 miles to make for 30 miles on a day I intended to be 20 or 25. For my final miles. the sun was setting over the most expansive plane I have ever seen and  the only words that came to my head were "life is good." 

In the morning I walked up armijo canyon, then to sand canyon. I came up to a lake and saw a bear eating something in the water. it took him a while to notice me, but when he did, he just stared at me then took of running. 10 minutes later I saw another bear shoot across the trail 100 yards in front of me. I never expected to see so many bears in the desert of New Mexico. later on I walked a road until a giant Mesa top that again looked like southern Utah. The trial went along the rim and popped out with a view of a natural 125 foot arch. Not going to lie, it was a bit anticlimactic having done a hike in Canyonlands just weeks before. I saw Sam and his friend who I don't remember his name and hung out with them for a while. Sam sewed his own quilt which was cool. they were good company. After the Mesa top, I crossed lava rock called the "malpais" (badlands) for 8 miles and caught up to Lily and John. This was the first couple I had seen that was totally ultralight. They had it all: no hip belts, running shorts, old hats, and even altras. I knew we would be friends from afar. We talked a lot and John admitted he knew about me already. It was funny to hear that from someone. A couple years ago John biked the west coast then hiked the entire pct after. The CDT is lily's first thru hike. We hiked the rest of the night together and nerded out on gear and things before choosing a campsite at dusk. We set up our tarps and went to bed. 

In the morning, Lily and John got ahead so I hiked one for an hour until I caught up. We then hiked the rest off the 15ish miles into Grants. They were such good company. John and I bounced ideas off each other about future hikes, Lily talked to me about map making, and it was so enjoyable. We went through Zuni Canyon and were amazed by sculpted sandstone the whole way. In Grants we ate at a Pizza Hut buffet where a very nice and funny South African man paid for our meal. We parted ways after that and I got picked up by trail angel Carole Mumm who took me to the post office and brought me my resupply. There is something constant I always notice in trail Angels. Yhey don't do this because they have to, but they do it because they actually want to. It is so evident in their attitude and general kindness. She dropped me back off at the Pizza Hut and I began walking. "30 miles will be fine for resupply days," I told myself and ended up going 33. Not too bad. Luckily I found a group of 4 other hikers at just about the time that I wanted to stop. Funny because yesterday I passed a sweet lava cave a few miles before when I intended on camping and though to myself "the good campsites never arrive when I need them." Well, tonight it did. 


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Lordsburg to Doc Campbells

Day 4, after leaving my parents coming out of Lordsburg was really nice. I have found so much joy in actually needing to read my maps to be able to get places. There was this big section of desert I had to cross in order to get to a mountain pass called Enigineers Peak that started out with some signs that were really well marked. As I got closer to the peak that I thought would be the area I would have to enter based on my map judgements, the signs disappeared. I decided to just stop looking for them and head on to where I was pretty sure I needed to be. By then I was running low on water so it was pretty important that I was right. As I got closer to the peak, then entered the canyon I noticed the windmill where I would be getting water from. I was right all along! In that moment I was so pleased with my orienteering skills that I basically learned all from Boy Scouts. I camped a few miles after that making it about 30 miles for the day.  

Day 5 I woke up and hiked a few miles and saw Kevin Beard Vest sitting on the side of the trail. He is an LA native also, so we got to talking about the latest in the cholo life. We ended up hiking the rest of the day together. We hiked over a mountain that looked a lot like Mt Wilson in the Angeles Forest. We finished the day by hiking 3 miles of the 12 mile road walk into Silver City. It ended up being about 34 miles for me. 

Day 6 Kevin and I hiked into Silver together where we met Carrott Quinn and her crew. It was good catching up with her over some Mexican food, and I wished I could have hiked with them for a day, but they were staying another day in Silver. I hiked out of Silver on a long road walk into the Gila National Forest. I saw 2 LDS Misionaries that were moutain biking on their day off. The day was pretty boring, as I was walking on roads mainly, but towards the end there were some really impressive geological formations that got me wandering like a wide eyed boy. I came around this bend called Horseshoe Bend where there were caves formed in large conglomerate rock towers. This is where I met Moss, an older lady that hikes in sandals. She is a survivalist and had some pretty funny stories. I finished the day by hiking into the night where I slept by the Devils Castle. This area was filled with 15 foot high rock pillars that redeemed the less exciting road walk. 

Day 7 I was to walk down into the Gila River and into Doc Campbells. It was normal getting down to the Gila-- smaller pine trees and decent looking canyons. As I eased my way down to the Gila I noticed all of the rock formations started to become more interesting. Once I got down to the Gila River I begun scaling the river walls to look for cave dwellings. I spent the rest of the day crossing the river about 50 times trying as best as I could to stay on "trail." Going was a lot slower because of this, and after getting a little lost looking for Docs, I finally made it with 5 minutes to spare. I was greeted by a very German, German man. (you know what I mean.) I couldn't tell the whole time if he was mad at me for buying his stuff or not. At the store I met a lady who is hiking the CDT but has been sick and she offered her extra bed in her rented apartment for me to stay in. Score. 

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The Bootheel -- Mexican Border to Lordsburg

Day one we drove down to the border in a raised suburban on 4wd jeep roads. We all stepped into Mexico just to say we did. It wasn't too hot to begin with, probably in the 80s. We were exposed to what the trail would be like during New Mexico very quickly as we followed what seemed to be "the trail," but they ended up just being cow trails that took us away from CDT signs. 

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CDT Gear List

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CDT Gear List

IS 7.5 pounds UL or SUL??

Last year on the PCT I was at a 10 pound base weight. This year on the CDT it will be 7.5. Ditching my stove, solar charger, and having a lighter pack really makes the difference. I am happy with what I have and am confident that I will be safe and comfortable with this gear. Being lightweight is something really important to me, because it makes my fast style of hiking more enjoyable. 

I am really excited to be testing out my new Enlightened Equipment quilt this year and the Altra Lone Peak 2.0. To charge my devices, I will have 5 Goal Zero flip 10 chargers shipped pre charged in every resupply so I can charge two while packing my resupply and hike on with three chargers between towns, and I will continue the cycle throughout the hike. This will save a ton of time and weight because I won't be carrying a solar charger. 

 

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Nutrition While Thru Hiking

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Nutrition While Thru Hiking

Calories, calories, calories, right? Well, sort of.

Many backpackers will tell you it's good to find the most calorie dense foods in order to save weight and pack space. Therefore, many  diets on trail include items such as peanut butter, coconut oil, olive oil, etc. Yes, fats are great for the weight to calorie ratio, however after a few days on trail, you will notice these foods become very hard to get down, especially, if you try to eat on the go. These types of things must be eaten in moderation, depending on how much you can handle. Over the years, I have noticed that a more balanced diet is optimal.

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White Rim Trail

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White Rim Trail

Rushing, finishing last minute things as usual, I got my stuff together and took off to Moab. I was going to meet up with Steven “Twinkle” Shattuck, Ryan “Dirt monger” Sylva, and his wife April “Bear claw” Sylva. Twinkle hiked about 5,000 miles last year alone on the Pacific Crest Trail ({PCT} where I met him) and the Appalachian Trail (AT). 

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John Muir Trail Fastest Known Time

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John Muir Trail Fastest Known Time

I first hiked the John Muir Trail (JMT) in 2009 with my dad, uncle and cousin. As a Boy Scout I started backpacking at the age of 11. The JMT was my first thru-hike and I loved every minute of it. I can even go as far as to say; it was life changing. I loved the raw feel of the Sierra and climbing through and up beautifully exposed granite bowls. It felt easy, as the allure of getting to another summit, and its views, propelled me onward. We finished that trip in 14 days, and I always dreamed of just filling my pack with food and heading out alone to see what kind of miles I could handle on my own.

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