Light arises noticeably later in the mornings. At 6 am, it is still dark out! Fall is coming. Even so, I got up just after 6, cooked some oatmeal, got ready, and hit the trail at 7:08. I walked out of the woods, back down to the trail where I had my dinner last night, through a meadow, and soon after came to two much nicer campsites. Oh, well. It turned out that I had gotten one of my best night’s sleep last night, actually. No animals bothered me (probably because I wasn’t sleeping in a place people normally sleep).
Luckily I had my strength back today! I made my way through the first part of the day quickly. A man headed up the hill towards me wanted to inform me where I could get water before the lake (around 15 miles away). I had 2 1/2 liters on me! Sometimes, I think I must have “helpless” written across my forehead, but actually, it seems these guys are the ones who haven’t planned where to get their water and have gotten themselves in bad situations because of it.
I reached the last possible place to camp before the tundra sometime after 11, where there was a side trail to a “great view.” I decided to check it out. It really wasn’t worth it… Maybe it was great if you weren’t going to climb any higher!
I continued on, committing myself to cross Indian Ridge in the afternoon. I took a snack break about a mile before entering the tundra and I could see the exposed terrain from this spot. It looked beautiful!
At 12:08, I reached the “tundra”. It was not as exposed as the guidebook made it seem! There were scattered evergreens and scrub brush throughout- many places to dive into if lightning struck! I couldn’t understand why there were such dire warnings about this section!
At one point, I heard a man’s voice, which surprised me, especially since I saw no one. Later, I saw two backpackers ahead of me, climbing the switchbacks. I scared two more grouse and saw a weasel on top of some rocks! It was so cute! It was too quick for me to get a picture, though. The sight of a new animal made me very happy.
A bit later on, I caught up to the couple who were now eating on the grass. They didn’t even hear me when I was right behind them while I took a picture of the view! When they did notice me, they were very friendly and asked if I was coming from Denver. The man asked how old I was. “You look 22,” he said. His wife thought I looked 23. (I’m not sure how people were getting these impressions…). They commented on how I was almost done and I said I was kind of sad about that. They said they felt the same way. I had been doing a good job of enjoying my time in the last segment, as well as thinking of things to look forward to when I got home, though. (It’s always a tough transition).
The couple was from VT and had started their hike in segment 18. The guy was a writer and wanted to take photos of the mountain bikers out here and interview them about their gear for an article. I had been standing on the trail with my backpack on the entire time we were talking, and finally decided I might as well have my lunch, too, if we were going to keep chatting. We talked about the AT and the problems I had with certain people on it. They were very sympathetic and wondered what could be done to prevent such problems in the future. We talked about the thru-hikers on the CT this year that we had both met (Andrew, who we agreed should be called Andre, and Chad and Jasmine, all of whom were really nice). We also talked about the PCT and the John Muir trail (which they had hiked). They finished eating first and took off, but it didn’t take me long to overtake them again.
The rest of the hike on the ridge was beautiful and the climbing wasn’t too difficult! I had asked the spirits for a clear day and they had delivered!
I started down a very steep and gravelly descent, which was very slow going for me, but the views were wonderful! I could see the lake we all planned to camp at (due to water scarcity and lack of camping spots in the next 8 or so miles).
I reached it at 3:22! I was surprised to see that another couple had set up tents there. The ground was not very conducive to tent stakes, so I set my tent up in tall grass (not sure how it was going to be lying down on it…). It did not set-up easily, however. I struggled a good bit with it and then collected water to filter. Tim and Delia came down and scoped out a spot to set up. As nice as the lake looked as we descended, the ground was very clumpy and unpleasant to sleep on. I had imagined that I would finally get to put my feet in water (for only the second time), but approaching the edge of the water, I saw giant dead amphibians with four limbs everywhere! Disgusting! Later, I noticed they were even in the creek where I had collected my water! They looked like catfish with 4 limbs! Delia wondered if what was killing them would be harmful to us, as well. I didn’t think so. (Tim thought it was from lack of oxygen. He said they were newts).
Delia asked me if I had a filter pump they could borrow because theirs had broken. I let them borrow my Sawyer (gravity) filter. I asked them if they would mind taking some pictures of me doing yoga poses (now was my chance!) and Tim said Delia would love to do that! They had asked me earlier in the day if I had seen a mother/daughter team. They were thinking that tonight would be their last chance to reunite (they had met them earlier in the hike, but had lost them when they had gone into town). I hadn’t seen them, but said I bet they would reunite tonight as the young couple I had seen yesterday mentioned them as well.
While Delia and Tim were setting up, the girl who was already set up came to the edge of the water to wash her clothes. She asked me if I had hiked the whole trail and was very excited to see another female doing it alone. She was just starting her hike in the opposite direction and was joined by her brother, who would be hiking with her for the first 2 weeks, and then her parents would hike with her for a week. She would finish the rest alone. She thought I should find a job with NOLS.
Delia filtered liters and liters and liters of water. Then, she said she was ready to take pictures. I hadn’t done any yoga (except for that one little class) since before my hike, so I didn’t know what my body was going to be able to do, but despite the loss of a lot of muscle, and no stretching or back bending, it seemed to still remember!
The mother and daughter team did make their way to the lake and Tim and Delia had a very excited, outgoing reunion with lots of hugs and exclaiming. They set their tents up on the other side of the lake and the couple returned my filter and said goodbye. They told me that the mother and daughter planned to camp tomorrow where I had planned to camp (about 5 miles before Durango). I felt a little sad about this, because I didn’t click with them, and wished to spend my last night on the trail and finish just as I had started- all on my own. I was left alone to eat my pot of bean soup, cold and lonely. (There was such great possibility of this being a social night, but the other parties wanted to stay among themselves…)
The temperature had rapidly dropped from the 80 degrees when I first set-up here and dark clouds had overtaken the sky. I could hear the talking and laughing between Delia and Tim and the mother and daughter until it got completely dark out as I lied in my sleeping bag. I saw why my tent was so difficult to set-up. My hiking pole (that is used as the main support and height of the tent) had slipped and was slanted, not allowing the back wall to be taut. I hoped that it wouldn’t rain. As soon as I tried to go to sleep, the wind started whipping…