Monday, April 30, 2018

Day 16- Why Is Water So Heavy

Monday April 30, 2018
Side of a mountain(365) to Pie Town Alternate(376) to Side of a Mountain On alternate(11.9) 22.9 miles Total miles 299.5 

Alternate had a ton of elevation change. I’m guessing an additional +3,000 ft/-3,500 ft

Before I tell you about my day I’d like to wish The General, a very happy birthday! 

My mom in her happy place, Lucca Italy 

It was cold last night. I put on every article of clothing I have with me and prepared for a rough night. Surprisingly, I stayed warm enough. I did a good job of finding a spot sheltered from the 29mph winds. Finding the motivation to get out of my sleeping bag was a different story. I knew that the faster I got moving the sooner I could get warm. I managed to pack up almost all of my belongings from inside my sleeping bag. It was an impressive feat. My next challenge was finding the trail again. I had hiked farther away from it than normal, looking for the perfect spot. Once I found the trail I started hiking as fast as I could, so that I could warm up. I would get a pretty good pace going and then lose the trail momentarily. The area I was in had a lot of blow downs and ground debris from a wildfire. I didn’t like having to stop and look around for the trail. I kept getting cold. I had an extended uphill climb that warmed me right up. By the time I hit the top I was shedding clothing, but then the trail went down for a long time and I was exposed to a lot of wind. I had gotten sweaty on the way up so going down I was chilled. I didn’t want to stop again to put more clothes back on so I just gritted my teeth and pressed on. 

View from the fire area

My main concern today was water. I had a guaranteed water source 13 miles away, but it was supposedly very gross. After that I was looking at an almost thirty mile dry stretch, which meant a dry camp and 21 miles the next day. Whew, I know how much water weighs and was not looking forward to the rest of the day. 1 liter of water weighs 2.2lbs. With that many miles and a dry camp I was looking at a minimum of 4 liters, for an extra 8.8lbs on my back. I’ve struggled to figure out why water feels heavier than food. Leaving Doc Campbell’s I had an extra 16lbs of food in my pack. I’ve eaten almost all of that, so 4 liters of water shouldn’t feel so heavy. My best guess is that I pack the food inside of my pack and can distribute the weight properly. The water goes into my hip belt and on the back of my pack. I can’t distribute the weight as well. The 13 miles to water went by very quickly. I hiked about 8 miles on proper trail. After that I hiked on jeep and 4x4 roads. Boring doesn’t quite cover it. 

Last little bit of trail for 40 miles

As I neared my destination of a gross cow pound I caught the glimmer of something in the bushes. I couldn’t believe it. It was a small water cache. Not only did it save me from having to walk off trail for water, but it was potable. I didn’t have to filter it. Score! Thanks mystery person for the awesome treat. 

Random water cache

I drank a liter right then and there. Then I filled up 4 very heavy liters. The rest of the day would be a struggle. I’m still not feeling great, but at least I’m not worse. I stopped and took mini breaks every few miles. The dirt road was taking a toll on my feet and sanity. Every time the road went uphill it turned super rocky. There is nothing worse than hiking uphill with a ton of water on your back, than doing it over rocky terrain. At least it wasn’t hot out today. The high was 71 degrees with a lot of wind. As long as I was moving I was almost hot. As soon as I stopped I was almost cold. I like hiking in this type of weather. It really helps with the water situation. About three miles after the surprise water cache I crossed highway 12. From here it is a long hitch into the town of Reserve, NM. When I first got sick, this was my emergency backup plan. Supposedly it is a difficult 40 mile hitch, but there was a number for a shuttle service at the trailhead. Since I’m not deathly ill, I didn’t consider going to town any longer. There was also another surprise water cache with 4 gallons of water. Dang, I could have saved myself 3 miles of carrying water. I had already drank about half a liter of what I was carrying, but I didn’t feel like I needed any more and some hikers behind me might need it.

Part of the Highway 12 cache, the rest was in the bushes

From this point forward I was on the Pie Town alternate route. This is a 40 mile alternate that takes me into Pie Town. I have to go there to resupply. The cdt official route includes a 30-40 mile dry stretch with a 14 mile road walk on highway 60. I guess I would rather walk 40 miles of dirt roads and have some water, than 40 miles of no water and a busy highway to walk on. 

Forest Rd 218

All afternoon long this was my view 

Towards the end of my day I passed a backcountry camping area. I really thought about stopping, but it was only 5:30. I really wanted to get a few more miles in. I decided to forgo the picnic tables and pit toilets, a real luxury in the backcountry. As I hiked past I saw another glimmer in the bushes. Yup, another secret water cache. I couldn’t believe it. I carried all that water all day for nothing. Oh, well. Even if I had known it was there I still would have carried the water. You can’t always rely on water caches. I would have been screwed if it was empty. Thanks to whoever has placed these caches. I’m sure you have really helped out more than a few hikers. 

Third cache

Passing by the backcountry camp site might not have been the brightest idea. I added a couple more miles to my day, but I gained 1,000 feet in elevation. I really struggled to find a spot out of the wind. It is going to be another cold and windy night. I’ll fill you in on how it turned out tomorrow. I’m hopeful that I found a spot that is sheltered enough. Tomorrow evening it is supposed to snow. I can’t fricking believe it. I didn’t think that was in the realm of possibilities for this area this time of year. I plan on stopping well before dark and finding a nice sheltered spot. 

“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven’t.”
- Thomas Edison

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Day 15- How Yoda Got Her Groove Back

Sunday, April 29, 2018
Forest Rd 94(96.4) to Side of a Mountain Official CDT Route(365) 20.7 miles Trip Total 276.6 miles 

Since I’m back on official cdt I have elevation profiles again. Yay! 

I feel a trillion times better than I did last night. I think I’ve been battling a cold since I left Doc Campbell’s and the strain in my body finally became too much yesterday. My energy levels were still pretty low today, but my cough is better. I don’t think I’ve ever sneezed so many times in one day. I also had to sacrifice a bandanna for a snot rag. I started the day off with a 8.6 mile walk on a gravel road. It wasn’t very exciting, but it was better than bushwhacking through thorny shrubs. After that I finally made it back to the official cdt. My animosity towards the Gila River alternate is already starting to fade. The beautiful scenery I encountered is much more appreciated now that I’m not tearing my legs to shreds with every step taken. 

Back in cow country 

After the gravel road I had real proper trail. I don’t think I have encountered trail this lovely and for so long this entire hike. Although I wasn’t feeling 100% my soul was soothed. I didn’t have to fight for every step or constantly check my route. Within half a mile I climbed above 9,000 feet. I had a wide open view and just knew that if I turned my phone on I’d have cell reception. I was correct, I even had full bars. Usually the first thing I do is post my blog, but I figured I should call my parents first. I didn’t want them to worry about my last few posts. I wanted to give them a heads up. It was so nice to talk to someone again. I haven’t had a real conversation since the cliff dwellings. The only downside to the cell reception was that I took another hour long break. I had just taken one half a mile before. Oh, well. Rejoining the civilized world was too much of a temptation to ignore. I checked my email, posted my blogs, did some banking, got a weather report, and half a dozen other things that people take for granted. How did we live before smart phones? I was hoping to hike 22 miles today, but I knew with my extended breaks early in the day and still not feeling great there was little chance of that happening. 

High elevation and line of sight= cell reception 

Now that I have left the river behind, water has once again become an issue. The next 50ish miles are going to be difficult. Once again I had to dry camp. On top of that most of my elevation gain came after I picked up 3.5L of water. I have about 14 miles to hike in the morning before I’ll have another good water source. After that I’m looking at about 26 dry miles. I’m definitely going to have to be smart about how I manage my water. 

Water source of the day

The water pictured above was not very appetizing. It looked like a place where a hippopotamus would love to live. I picked up 3 liters from there. I’m so glad to have a Sawyer Water filter. I’m always amazed how it can turn murky water into something drinkable. I don’t mind carrying the extra 3oz of weight to know that I can have good water. 

Before using the Sawyer Squeeze 


I’m going to cut the rest of this post short. I’m pretty wiped out after a rough night and a tiring day. Let’s just say I enjoyed proper trail and being back in the high mountains. 

View of the desert below 

Giant cairn. They should use a few of these rocks to better mark the rest of the trail 

Flesh shredding bushes couldn’t harm me today. I could hike in my pants again

Lovely trail 

Wide open views

Home for the night. I had to hike down off trail a good way to find a place semi sheltered from the wind. It is going to be in the thirties tonight, with wind gusting to 28mph. At least I don’t have a fever anymore. 

"We may stumble and fall but shall rise again; it should be enough if we did not run away from the battle." 
- Mahatma Gandhi

Day 14- So Long Gila and Thanks For The Memories

Saturday April 28, 2018
Middle Fork Gila River(72.4) to Forest Road 94(96.4) 24 miles Total miles: 255.9

No more River

I’ll have to finish this post later. I’m not sure what’s wrong, but I’m running a fever. I’ve been laying in my sleeping bag and shivering for the last 2 hours. Let’s hope that it is nothing and I’m back to normal in the morning. 

I’m feeling a little better this morning. I’m pretty sure I just have a cold. I’m not going to lie, last night was pretty rough. I didn’t sleep very well. I set my alarm for 8 am thinking that a couple extra hours of sleep would be beneficial. I was wide awake by 6:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep. At least my fever was gone. 

Let me tell you about my day yesterday. I woke up and it was cold. I forced myself out of my pants and puffy jacket and put on cold wet shoes. I only had 5 miles of the Gila River left, but I couldn’t risk hiking in my puffy. If I fell in the river and it got wet I’d be in trouble. I settled for hiking in my rain jacket to help keep warm. I managed to keep up a good pace and finished the last 5 miles of the Gila River in two hours. 

Met some turkey hunters s on horseback 

If only I had more trail like this to hike on

And just like that the river came to an end

The trail led me out of the canyon and into Snow Lake. It was a pretty lake. Better yet there were pit toilets, trash cans, and picnic tables. Unfortunately, the water pumps weren’t turned on yet and the lake water isn’t drinkable. I met a few more turkey hunters and they gave me a few bottles of ice cold water. I took the opportunity to throw away my trash and reorganize my pack. All said and done I was there for over an hour. 

Snow lake 

I really thought things would be better once I left the river, but it didn’t turn out that way. After leaving the lake I hiked through the same type of terrain that I’ve covered the last few days. The only difference was there was no river to cross, just a dry river bed. For the next 65 miles water will be an issue again. Thirty minutes after I left the lake a pretty good sized thunderstorm moved in. I got out my hiking umbrella just as it started to rain. Almost as soon as I attached the umbrella I had to scramble under a barbed wire fence. Ugh, nothing is ever easy out here. It would rain pretty heavily for a few minutes and stop. I would put away the umbrella, which involves me stopping to take off my pack and ten minutes later it would start to rain again. Hiking with the umbrella was nice because it kept me dry without having to put on my rain gear, which I quickly overheat in, but it is hard to hike through dense brush. I eventually hit open ground, but the wind picked up a lot. I gave up on the umbrella and dig out my rain jacket. With the wind I could hike and still stay cool in the jacket. I took a break at a pond, my last water source for the day, and gave the storm a chance to move past me. I was hiking about the same pace and direction as it. 

Pond as seen from above 

I had to make a big decision at the pond. I knew it was my last water source for the day, so I had to hike another 10 miles or so and dry camp with another 10 miles before water in the morning. How much water did I need? I decided I could make due with 3.tL if I drank a liter at the pond. As I added another 7.7 pounds to my back I made a steep 500 foot climb out of the canyon. I was rewarded with a pretty view and easy terrain for the remainder of the day. 

Stormy sky and open terrain

Nothing but keep rounds for the next 14 miles

I enjoyed being out of the canyons 

People describe the Gila River as a highlight of the trail. I’m not sure I feel the same. Maybe it is type 2 fun and I’ll look back on it fondly one day soon. I also have a sneaky suspicion that I’ve been fighting this cold for a few days and that it affected my energy levels and my mood. 
I was ready to set up camp at 4 o’clock, but that was way too early and I was surrounded by storms. I pressed on thinking just one more mile. I played that game for many miles. By this time I knew I was sick and kept stopping every 30-45 minutes. I knew I needed to find a place to camp that was out of the wind. I finally saw a good spot in the distance. I thought it was about .5 miles away. It turned out to be about 2 miles. Oh, well. I was sheltered from the wind and that was all that mattered. I got my tent set up just as it started to rain again. I didn’t have the energy to cook dinner, but I forced myself to. I had used up an incredible amount of energy and my body was obviously fighting something off. I way over cooked my Mac and cheese. One of the worst trail meals I’ve ever eaten. The noodles turned into one nasty mash of pasta. I had on every article of clothing available and still shivered. I knew it was going to be a long night. 

Final damage of the Gila River

I’m pretty proud of the fact that I finished this post while I was hiking. I got in 3 miles in the time it took to write this. 

“Do not pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”
- Bruce Lee

Day 13- 99 Problems

FridayApril 27, 2018
Middle Fork of Gila River(52.2) Middle Fork Gila River(72.4) 20.2  Miles 231.9 total miles 

Middle Fork of the Gila River

Today was more of the same, the only difference is that I’m totally over this section. I was supposed to cross the river 85 times today, I actually crossed it 116 times. I might have lost track, but I figure my number is pretty accurate. I made a game out it. Every time that I crossed I would come up with a normal everyday problem. Here is an example: crossing number 10, I have ten problems and no lunch money is one. As the day dragged on my problems were all related to today. I have 70 problems and flesh ripping bushes are one. I have 86 problems and logs with pointy knots are one. I have 115 problems and this damn river is one. In olden times people used to get whipped to help keep law and order. The first few lashes didn’t do much damage, but after 30 a persons back was just flayed flesh. That is what these flesh shredding shrubs are doing to my legs. Due to the excessive amount of river crossings I can’t practically hike in my pants, nor can I avoid the flesh shredding shrubs. All I can do is grin and bare it. 

Razor sharp flesh shredding shrub

Another problem I had today was all of the flood debris blocking my way. It was exhausting hiking around and over downed trees. Some of the trees have branches that sheared off, leaving pointy knots sticking out. I had to be extra cautious that both legs cleared the knots or I would get ripped open. I didn’t always succeed. 

Other than these problems today wasn’t horrible. Last night was much warmer than it has been in a while. Instead of waking up to put on more layers, I woke up taking clothing off. I was determined to hike some miles today and knowing how slow going it has been I resolved to start hiking earlier no matter how cold it was. I got my socks dried out last night before going to bed. That was a huge mental boost. There is nothing worse than having to start your day wearing cold wet socks. I forced myself out of bed and packed up as quickly as I could. I was hiking by 7:15. Within 35 yards I had to cross the river. In the first hour alone I would repeat this 16 times. It is a good thing that this area is beautiful or I would have lost my mind and patience a long time ago. 

Early morning view

I was hoping to get in at least 16 miles today. I set my expectations really low. Based on how the first part of the day progressed I really didn’t expect to even hike that many. Luckily, I got some long stretches of decent trail in the afternoon. I was able to really stretch my legs and get into a rhythm. I also took less breaks than I normally do and I kept those breaks short. The only problem I didn’t have today was long water carries. Whenever I got thirsty I just dipped my bottle into the river and then added some bleach. It was easy and fast. I walked past a lot of cool little swimming holes. I could see how this would be a great weekend backpacking trip. I just didn’t have the time or the inclination to stop for a swim. 

Little grotto swimming hole 

One of the highlights of my day was hiking up a small waterfall. I’m not sure why it amused me so much. Probably because I was already having a difficult day and then that was added into the mix. The rocks were slicker than an ice skating rink and there were extremely deep pools mixed in. It took all of my concentration not to fall. I had one Looney Tunes movement where my legs and arms flailed about, but I managed to keep my balance. Another high point of the day was getting to eat my first non-melted Snickers bar. It really is all about the little victories in life. 

Small waterfalls 

My mood improved every time I had decent trail to walk on. I would get half a mile or so at a time. Those half miles were just long enough to keep me sane. I didn’t mind the river crossings as much today. I’ve really gotten good at spotting where the trail is supposed to go. I didn’t even look for cairns to tell me where to go. I just instinctively looked for evidence of another human being and tried to follow that path. I’m getting pretty good at this route finding game. I’m sure this new skill will continue to serve me well on this trail. 

Nice trail 

Usually when I’m struggling during difficult sections I’ll listen to some music or an audiobook. I didn’t have that option today for two reason: I didn’t want to waste battery on my cell phone and I had my phone put away securely most of the day. I just got a new phone and I’m not sure how long my battery pack will keep it fully charged. I’m on a 7 day stretch and I think if I’m listening to books, music, and using my gps app, I’ll run out of juice before I can charge it again. Even though I have it in a Lifeproof case, I was worried about slipping and falling in the water and my phone washing away. Usually I keep it in a pouch on my shoulder strap, but today o had it in my hip belt pocket. I learned after slipping yesterday to better secure my expensive electronics. 

New iPhone X takes some good pics

Last canyon of the day

I had planned on hiking until 6:30, but as the clouds rolled in and the wind picked up I thought it was going to rain. I didn’t want to deal with setting up in the rain so I called it a day. My ankle felt pretty good all day too. It really didn’t start bothering me until the last few miles, I decided with the threat of rain there was no sense in pushing myself harder and taking the chance of making it worse. Plus, I had already hiked more miles than expected. I still have almost 33 miles left of the Gila River alternate, but I’m almost done with the river crossing portion. I’ll be done with that in 5 more miles. Then I’ll spend a lot of miles walking on forest service roads. I’m excited to see what new challenge the CDT will throw my way tomorrow. 

"Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have - life itself."
- Walter Anderson

Day 12- The One With The Cliff Dwellings

Thursday April 26, 2018
Gila River Hit Springs Campground(38.1) to Middle Fork Gila River(52.2) + Cave Dwellings Trail 16.1 Miles 

Little Bear Canyon

Oh boy, what a day! I’m not even sure where to begin. I feel as though I had three separate days. I woke up earlier than planned this morning. I guess I’m just no good at sleeping in. For those of you who know me in my nonhiking life, this statement will ring false. I usually don’t get up until after noon. Since I was up and it was freezing out I decided to start my day off by getting into the hot springs. I’m not usually a hot springs kind of gal, but hiking these trails is all about new experiences. I stayed in until the sun was fully up and the rest of the campground began to stir. It took forever to pack up because my food bag is so big. I learned how to pack a bear canister in my pack on the PCT and that experience came in handy this morning. The secret is to not put my sleeping bag into a stuff sack. I pack it loose around the food bag to fill in extra space. The weight didn’t feel as horrible as I expected it to. I thought I got a full charge on my battery pack yesterday by leaving it to charge in Jimmy’s RV, but it wasn’t fully charged. Dang it. I really can’t start if on a 7 day leg without it fully charged, so I stopped by Doc Campbell’s on my way out. I had to chill there for a few hours to get a full charge. After 2 hours it still wasn’t full, I think I’m at about 90%, but I couldn’t sit around any longer. I really wanted to see the Gila Cliff  Dwellings. I don’t know if I’ll ever be this close to them again and it seemed a shame to skip them because they were a few miles off of the trail. I was going to hitchhike, but guess who showed up at the best possible moment, my new friend Fawn. She is quickly getting this trail angel thing down pat. She drove me the 4 miles and we explored the area together. The visitors center was showing a small film detailing the history of the Mongollon people who built the cliffs. There were a few seats left, but being aware of my hiker stank, I stood in the back row. I live about 1.5 hours from Mesa Verde National Park so I can see cliff dwellings whenever I want, but you can’t walk inside those. The ancient people of the south west were so resourceful. I found the whole experience incredible. 

Cave 3 and 4 

Front door of cave 3

Entrance to cave 3

Not a bad view out of cave 4 or 5


So nice to have someone around to take my picture 

Yoda and Fawn. Thanks for being so awesome 

I had Fawn drop me back if at the Visitors Center so I could start back on the trail. It was almost 2 o’clock so I didn’t have high hopes for making very many miles. My experience from yesterday had me estimating that  I might make 8 or 9 miles before I had to stop for the day. Luckily, today was a new day. The trail was much more maintained and involved a lot less bushwacking. Almost as soon as I started hiking I was walking through some tall grass and almost stepped on a giant snake. I’ve never had a snake hiss at me before. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t poisonous. It didn’t have a rattle and it’s head was pointed like a poisonous snake. I still wasn’t taking any chances. I was glad I didn’t have to walk through a lot of that type of tall grass again. A rattlesnake would blend in perfectly and the rangers told us that the rattlers are really starting to become more active. 

Some type of hissing snake 

I really enjoyed today. It was my favorite day on this trail to date. The middle fork of the Gila is amazing. I really felt like I was walking through sections of Zion National Park. It wasn’t too hot out today and I must have crossed the river 50 times. I know I lost count around 35. 

I don’t have much more to say about my day. I wandered around and through the river all day. I got to see amazing canyons at a slow pace. A much better experience than kayaking or driving through a canyon. 
I’m just going to let my pictures tell the story of my day. 

Tons of single family cliff dwellings in the area

Crossing the Gila. It varied from ankle deep to just above my knees. The current wasn’t too bad either

Canyon and well marked trail 

Natural hot springs that have been turned into pools 

Flood debris

Not a bad days work 

Scrapes and cuts are unavoidable bushwhacking in shorts. Notice the wet and sandy shoes

Cave dwelling 

Narrow section of the river, pretty typical crossing

About as wide as it gets. I ran out of real estate on the left and crossed over to the right side for awhile 

Walls of the canyon

Part of Little Bear Canyon 

Definitely a great day

I think this is called Columbine

Part of Jordon Canyon 

More cliff dwellings

View from my campsite 

I only had one bad moment today. I guess with crossing the river so many times I became sloppy. It has just become so routine that I forgot how dangerous River crossings can be. About an hour before I stooped for the day I was crossing the river and wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. I broke the cardinal rule of any water crossing, keep three points of contact with the ground at all times. I always make sure I have one foot firmly planted and both of my hiking poles making contact. The one time I didn’t have my foot firmly planted and started to move I scared a duck and it took off. That in turn startled me and I fell. Fortunately this river isn’t moving fast and isn’t deep. I ended up falling on my pack and basically sitting down in the water. My only real concern is that is where I keep my inReach. It isn’t 100% water proof and I got lazy and didn’t have it in a ziplock bag. I was also frustrated because I was soaking wet and it was the end of the day. Things turned out ok. My inReach still works, my shirt and shorts dried before I got to camp, and I learned another valuable lesson; you shouldn’t ever underestimate water crossings. 

I found a great camp spot with a fire ring and a great sitting log. Someone even left behind some dry wood. I don’t think I’ve ever had a fire while I was on a thruhike. I’ve benefited from other people making a fire, but I never take the time to do it and I’m not sure what possessed me to do it tonight. I managed to get my socks almost completely dry. That will be a huge boost in the morning. There is nothing worse than putting on wet socks and shoes when it is 45 degrees. 

Super happy that my socks didn’t melt. I even managed to get my shoes to the not sopping wet

“On the path to greatness, life teaches you to walk with stones in your shoes.”
- Matshona Dhliwayo

I’m pretty sure I hit 200 miles today. This crazy mileage has me all confused. I’ll make a sign tomorrow and we can all pretend that it was made at 200 miles