CDT: A Day of Wow

Day 6: (15.9 miles)

The “morning after”

When we finished the evening before, we half ass erected our tent, we were so worn out. Never did we think hurricane like winds would make our already uncomfortable tent, even more uncomfortable. (Our tent is the equivalent of Paul wearing skinny jeans. It’s uncomfortable for both of us…we should have gotten the 3-man and not worried about the minimal “extra” weight).

We had staked down the corners of our Big Agnes TigerWall 2UL tent, but not deep. We didn’t face it structurally to withstand direct wind. Besides the clips on the fly to the tent body, and the stakes for the vestibule doors, we didn’t guy anything out. BIG Mistake!

No sooner did we close our eyes, but great wind gusts began to buffet our tent. Quickly we reached under the fly and fastened the velcro tabs to the tent poles, and pulled our gear more snuggly under the vestibules. We briefly considered getting out to pound in the stakes but then surely our tent would blow away if we were not in it. Therefore, we rode it out. It was like trying to sleep in the dryer section of an automatic car wash…but you’re NOT in your car.

We obviously were exhausted enough to eventually fall asleep, and awoke, thankfully, to no winds. Concerned the wind “switch” would be flipped again, we packed up as quickly as we could and were on our way.

The air was crisp enough to start out with our puffies on, but with clear skies, we knew the sun, and possibly wind, would become brutal…again.

Umbrellas up way before our breakfast stop. We were amazed at the “wealth” of available water there was in this section of The Great Basin.

Springs and rivelets filling  clear pools of crisp cool water made for swaths of greenery in a bland pallet of scenery.

They came within 25yds of us

Gangs of wild horses flourish here in The Basin. They found our umbrellas curious and would come closer to us than we expected. It was a little disconcerting, but amazing as well.

Entrance to Weasel Springs

If you don’t pay attention, you’ll pass this one even if your en route to it. If there is a sign that says “No Camping within this fence”…and a wooden chicane, investigate further.

If I didn’t have 20-15 vision I would have been hard pressed to see the short, squat, silver  cistern nestled within a tan rock outcropping. Up to this point the day had been a long hot, monotonous haul. We were blessed with relatively flat tread, a few ups and a gentle breeze that allowed us to use our umbrellas.

With already “enough” water to make it to Weasel Springs we passed more than a few clear spring fed ponds and gently flowing “creeks” to camel up and eat our lunch here. We walked down the narrow green meadow and dropped our packs on the large rocks. Opened the lid of the cistern and found a thin sheen of bugs floating on the surface nearly a foot below the top edge. No worries, we have a Katadyn Hiker Pro pump. We’ll get the water below the bugs. Paul lowered the nozzle into the drink and began to pump with great difficulty. Shit, our pump is clogged… probably with cow shit from the cow pond water. Normal attempts via the directions to unclog it failed…too much shit (literally).

To clean the filter required a sacrifice… Paul’s toothbrush. He was able to “clean” it off enough to collect several liters of the icy clear spring water. It’s a safe bet that we will be ordering another replacement filter as we continue on.

Yup. That’s Paul’s toothbrush

Here we spread our tyvex and enjoyed cold water, lunch and a bit of a siesta before pushing on.

Glorious Spring Water

Our next stop, would be Upper Mormon Spring, for water and the evening camp spot. Now that was truly and “Easter egg” hunt. Directions on Guthook were vague.

Mormon Spring…a pile of rocks in the middle of a meadow

But after “grass cup” walking, we located the spring and then set up camp. We still had a few miles in us, but we were in an oasis, surrounded by wild horses, docile cattle and super chickens (sage grouse). Who could ask for more? An amazing sunset? We’ll, we had that too.

Posted in Backpacking, Continental Divide Trail, thru-hiking, Uncategorized, Wyoming | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CDT: Water.Cows.Water

Day 5 (20.2 miles)

Like it or not today was going to be at least 19 miles. We got up with the sunrise, packed up and headed on our way. Breakfast would be “served” at the next water 3.4 miles away with a 800 ft elevation gain. We weren’t sure how we would feel having slogged through a torrential downpour and miles upon miles of “beach” sand the previous day. The air was crisp and the scenery was vast. This would be our first glimpse of actual trees!

Verizon LTE “Hot Spot”

At the apex of our climb we found that we had cell signal, strong enough to send an email, listen to voicemail and log into my InReach account to make some changes.

Today was all about water management. Camel up at each source. Carry enough to make it from each source. Take into account the fact that it was going to be a scorching clear day, seemingly void of any wind…a Wyoming first (for us). Water was a-plenty for the first 8 miles, and the tread, while mostly stair stepping up, was easy on the feet, legs and lungs (mostly). Having come from sea level, we still were not fully acclimated to the increasing elevation. In any event, we were feeling pretty good. The only thing we had to complain about was our new Sea to Summit pillows that just don’t take into account those “side sleepers” with broad shoulders. In the midst of our complaining, we neglected to negotiate an important turn just after a gate and continued straight down what we thought was the CDT for half a mile. By the grace of God, Paul happened to decide to recheck where the next water source was, only to discover that we were not only off trail, but going in the complete WRONG direction. Embarrassed, we turned around. It was then that we saw where we were supposed to be. For a brief moment, we considered bushwacking across the ravine that separated us from the actual trail. Remembering that “short cuts” aren’t always short, we about-faced and stomped back uphill to where we had gone wrong. We made our own little trail marker in hopes of saving other CDT hikers from making the same mistake.

Once on the right path we wandered over hill and dale, still amazed at the vastness of this country. Most people would say that there is “nothing” to see, but I beg to differ.

Wide open spaces. Rich blue skies, accented with brilliant white clouds that take on a life of their own. Hidden springs oozing from the folds of rolling hills creating narrow blankets of rich greenery where wildlife, cattle and pioneers of not too long ago refresh themselves. Fresh, clean air that carries the scent of sage. An ecosystem that is “built” for and thrives in these very conditions. This is not to say it isn’t brutally monotonous walking, but the wonder and beauty are still there.

The trail took us from sagebrush plains and through a narrow pine pocked forested hillside, where we spied mule deer feeding. Down the trail led to a fenced off spring area that was little more than a cowy mud pit. Bummer, as this was supposed to be where we refilled our water. A quick check on Guthook showed two “ponds” a little further down the trail. Only problem is that we had to get through the throng of cattle milling about, and blocking our way. Paul employed his best cowboy impression (based on Westerns we’ve watched) to get the cows moooving. And then there was the bull.

He stared us down big time, and lowered his head. Shit. This is NOT going to end well, we thought. It was like Paul and the bull were playing “chicken”. Luckily, Paul won and the bull reluctantly turned and walked away. Most likely because his herrum (the bull’s) was walking away as a result of Paul’s, “Ya! Get a move on! Ya! Let’s go!”, and waving of his arms.

After herding the cattle out of our way, we took a side trip down to one of the two large ponds. Here we rested for our hour and filtered ice tea colored water, that looked sort of “clear”…once filtered.

Based on Guthook, our next water was another cow pond, or the CDTC water cache…12 miles. The water was best served with highly concentrated Crystal light lemonade, or other flavor additive, but it would have to do.

We climbed for the remainder of the afternoon and into the early evening.

Miraculously we had little to no wind, and were able to use our umbrellas to reduce the temperature to a “comfortable” 95°.

We “lunched” atop one of the high points on the trail where we got cell reception and watched a YouTube video of a group of gals (The Wander Women) who were about a week ahead of us on the CDT.

With feet slightly recovered, we marched on taking breaks as necessary in addition to our 4 mile routine. As daylight was turning to dusk, we walked past the cow ponds located a mile before the cache. We had 1.5 liters of water left between us. Do we stop here and get water…just in case? Or do we press on, and go for the cache? When thru-hiking it is never a good idea to rely on caches, but we figured we take a gamble. Our fall back plan was that if we got to the cache and it was empty, we’d spend the night there, use our 1.5 liters for dinner, and in the morning slack pack back to the pond and collect water. At least we had a plan.

Even before we approached the cache, fervent prayers were being uttered.

As we weaved through the chacain into the fenced off cache, we paused before opening the box. “Please Lord, let there be water here”, was the final prayer.

Prayers answered and successful gamble. Fresh. Clear. Tasteless water!

Posted in Backpacking, Continental Divide Trail, thru-hiking, Uncategorized, Wyoming | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

CDT: Keep on Truck’n

Day 3 (14.7 miles)

The morning found us a little stiff, but nothing ibuprofen and a cup of coffee can’t fix. We decided that we would have to apply a different tactic to walking, as our unplanned 10 day “taper” from hiking before we started on the CDT did NOT help. The weight of our packs to start with, was another factor. And, coming from sea level to 7000 ft plus didn’t help either. Today we will employ a four mile, to one hour break method, in hopes of not feeling so “trashed” at the end of the day, after completing our intended mileage.

We stuck to our plan. Up until we started to break from our second 4 mile break, we hadn’t seen another soul. With that said, we mostly took our breaks smack dab in the middle of the trail. Never did we think that a truck would come barreling down the road. Likewise, never did the occupants of said truck ever think they would find people “lounging” in the middle of the road. This led to a pleasant conversation, as they were scouting the area for their pronghorn hunt in September. They asked if we had sufficient water, which we did, and we both headed in opposite directions.

Out of Bull Springs it is literally a straight shot all the way to A&M reservoir. This does not mean that it is flat or wind free. For 13 miles we gradually, and sometimes not so gradually gained in elevation.

These poor trail markers are no match for the wind.

Even though the wind was howling, we diligently followed our 4/1 walk/rest ratio. This found us “napping” at the highest point (7585 ft)…in the wind, and our second encounter with another human.

It was if this guy appeared out of nowhere. Granted we were napping. But once again, in the middle of nowhere, what do you think the chances are of running into a guy wearing a backpack, pushing a pet stroller, up a hill, on the CDT? Turns out he was a section hiker, out of Laramie. He used the stroller to “carry” some if his gear and his 2 gallons of water. I believe he said he started from South Pass. He told us of a water cache and that the trail north of A&M reservoir was “mostly downhill” and sandy. We wouldn’t realize until the next day, what he meant. Let’s just say that we found a whole new level of respect for this guy the following day.

When we arrived, and walked up the side road to the reservoir, we flushed a dozen or more of what initially appeared to be “super chickens”, or grouse on steroids. A family was fishing at its base, and said that the Fish and Game has stocked it with rainbow trout the day before.  As we were scouting for a place to set up our tent, the family packed up and left. Was it something we said? Or maybe the smell?…the wind WAS blowing in their direction.

Like clockwork, as soon as we began to set up our tent in what initially was the only “flat” spot we could find, the wind increased in it’s verocity. Paul, being ever the problem solver, got a brilliant idea and began to smooth out the “beach” area, that appeared to be somewhat more “protected” from the wind. We collected our gear and relocated our tent to our engineered “flat spot” for the evening. An hour later, after wrestling our tent and the wind, in what can only be described as a three stooges episode… the wind abated. Go figure.

Day 4 (15.6 miles)

The next morning we are blessed with a remarkable, windless sunrise. But there’s no time for lollygagging, we have miles to crush. My toe was still sore, but not un-walkable. The trail out of A&M reservoir is “easy” dirt road tread, and we travel the 4 miles to our first scheduled break in “record” time. As we break we notice menacing dark skies on the horizon in the direction of where we are headed. The air grows much cooler and the wind picks up. Yup, it is painfully certain we are walking directly into rain. As a prophylactic, we put on our rain jackets and pack covers, and pray that the dark skies dissipate. In no time, the trail  goes from packed dirt, to soft sand.

Extremely soft sand! Like going to ocean, beach sand. How ironic is it that we find ourselves in Wyoming walking for miles in soft sand. This is when we realized what “stroller guy” meant. And this is when we gained an even greater appreciation for his experience and grit.

Stroller Guy’s tracks

The tracks of his stroller being pushed UPHILL in soft sand remained as we trudged northbound, on a downward trajectory…in the increasing rain. By now we are thoroughly drenched, and beginning to get cold. It’s way past time to dig out our rain pants, but we do. And, of course they are on the very bottom of our packs. Rain pants on and umbrellas unfurled, we duck down into the sagebrush in an effort to ride out this storm cell. We found walking in soft sand, against the wind, in a torrential downpour, to be trifecta of misery. We sat for over an hour, and up until the point we began to shiver. Independently, we were trying to figure how (or if) we should set up our tent to stave off pending hypothermia, or if we should try and walk ourselves “warm”. Simultaneously we announced to each other, “I’m getting cold, we need to start moving”.

Moving was a good decision, as there was really no place to set up. Onward, we trudged in the soft sand that oscillated in depth. Eventually the rain slowed to a light “patter” upon our hoods. A rancher and his wife drove by us checking on their cattle. “Nice day for a walk”, they said stopping briefly to make sure we were okay. “Nice day for a drive”, Paul responded with a chuckle. “We’d give you a ride, but we’re going in the opposite direction”, the wife said with a smile. “We’re good thank you. It’s all part of the experience”, we replied with tentative smiles.

Liquid sunshine returned to full, raging, sunshine…with a touch of humidity. The heavy ranch truck that had passed us earlier laid down wonderful tracks in the soft sand. This made for “lighter” steps. In no time we were back to hard packed dirt and rock as our route climbed over small hills toward our day’s destination, Brenton Springs. In the near distance, pronghorn would stare at our silver bobbing umbrellas, and then dart away to “safety”.

We arrive at Brenton Springs and consider collecting some water and continuing another 3.4 miles to the next “reliable” water source. This would make it a 19 mile day, but we just can’t muster the energy. The soft sand, and shivering in the rain drained us more than we realized. The next 3.4 miles would have also been a 800 foot climb. 800 feet isn’t much, but when you’re tired, it isn’t inviting.

We wrestled with the idea as we collected water.  We had plenty of daylight. In the end, the mind was willing but our bodies said, “Hell No!”. I really hate getting older.

Dejected, we set up camp in the only “flat” place we could find…the middle of the trail. We are sensing that this is beginning to be a trend.

Not continuing on turned out to be fortuitous, as a SOBO section hiker, “Still Deciding” provided us with water “intel” that included confirmation that the CDTC water cache at mile 1676.9 was stocked and maintained. This would prove to validate a gamble.

Tomorrow would be an early start with breakfast after a 3.4 mile 800 ft climb. And we thought when we graduated from college, our morning workouts were over.

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On the CDT… Finally!

Our first 12 miles of the CDT out of Rawlins, into the Great Divide Basin was everything we read about. The Great Divide Basin is one of the only areas where the accumulated rainfall stays “local”, as there is no outlet that flows to either the Atlantic or the Pacific. The ground is so “thirsty” that it gets absorbed rather quickly.

Dirt road walking. Some single track. Over-land follow the carins. Over-land search for and prop back up the carins. Over-land navigation…NO carins. Of that, we were right at home.

Throughout the Basin, an upright trail marker like this is rare.

The terrain was reminiscent of our hunting adventures. Dry and dusty, covered in sage and bitter brush.

The Great Divide Basin is brutal for ALL living things.

Right off the bat we saw three young bucks and a doe. Not much further down the trail we were treated to four pronghorn, who ran like the wind when they saw us. Horny toads of all sizes, playing “Frogger” would scurry across our path at regular intervals.

That reminds me, did I happen to mention the wind? The wind in Wyoming is unrelenting, much like waves crashing on a beach. Sound wise, we were right at home. In fact the first night at our hotel we woke up to what we thought was big surf…it was only the wind. Before setting off, we spent two days in Rawlins running around mailing packages and getting ready to go. During that time the wind blew 25-30 miles an hour, non-stop.

But according to a local, “Winters are really harsh around here that’s when the wind starts to blow.” Note to self, don’t be here during winter.

Our descent toward Fish Pond Spring, and first water since Rawlins

As luck would have it, we actually had little to no wind our first day on the trail out of Rawlins.  Temperatures didn’t get much over 70. Our (my) pace was half strides as my pinky toe was still in the throws of repairing itself, so smaller steps were in order to keep it from screaming at me for pushing off too briskly.  Other than that, and with the exception of heavy packs laden with food and water, we found the trail much easier than our normal training hikes. Finding a flat place without sharp rocks and plants to set up camp, that’s a whole other story.

Day 2 (16 miles): This morning started out pretty good until we had to start bush whacking. Finding carins became nearly impossible, as just about every fiberglass CDT sign post had snapped at it’s base. We assume from the wind. 

Piles of rocks”tried” to keep the trail markers upright, but no match for the wind.

We had to look for “unusually piled” rocks to find our way. At one point, a herd of wild horses galloped past us within 25 yards. It was a spectacular sight to see. We watched them as they expertly made their way through the scrub brush, kicking up rust colored soil.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep the blue dot on the red line

We did our best to follow the “red line” that marks the trail on our Guthook app, but it was painfully slow. Not the app, but us. The topo mapping on the app didn’t necessarily “match” the terrain we were faced with.  At one point we decided instead to follow the horses. They had gone down a wash and continued away from us toward a road we had used to cache some water. We took this as a sign and we followed their path as they obviously knew where they were going. We found it infinitely “easier” than the required bushwacking through sage and bitter brush to follow “official” CDT route. Eventually it led us to Oil to Mine road, of which we were familiar. 

Oil to Mine road it essentially paralleled the CDT…at a distance of 1000 yards

As we walked the asphalt road, we lamented the fact that not only did we forget to bring a set of binoculars, we had also turned down a pair offered by our friend Mike, believing we already were carrying too much weight as it was. Idiots! Binoculars would have made ALL the difference finding the carins regardless of their “state of repair”, and would have made our progress all that more efficient.  As it was, it took us two hours to go three miles! Too late now.  Two and a half hours later, we finished our 5 mile road walk, reconnected with the CDT, and collected our cached water.

After an hour off of our aching feet (road walking takes a toll on ones feet), we started on our way. Our destination was Bull Springs, another 7 miles or so.  Had we not cached water, it would have been a 19 mile stretch from the last water at Fish Pond Spring to Bull Springs. At our pace, and over this terrain, that would have meant having to carry 5 liters each…an extra 10 pounds!

Dark skies building, as we take a break.

As a side note: while we rested and ate our lunch, we couldn’t help but notice the darkening skies in the near distance.  ‘Surely it won’t rain, will it’, we thought. No sooner than we were 2 miles into our next leg, but fat droplets of rain began to fall, followed by ground shaking thunder…and hail. Quickly we donned our pack covers, rain jackets, and unfurled our umbrellas. We watched the skies for any signs of lightning, wherein we would have to hastily abandon the umbrellas and figure out how to make ourselves “small”.

Not a “happy camper”

Drenched and cold, we found an outcropping of rocks to block the wind and sit out the rain a bit.  It eventually passed us nonchalantly, afterwhich we regrouped and continued on our way. At least the trail would not be dusty.

We kept our pack covers on…just in case

Once the rain passed it became searing hot once again as we traveled over dusty and rock strewn ATV/ranch roads and a few inadvertent game/cow trails.  On the CDT one needs to constantly check the Guthook app or you can find yourself walking into oblivion. I dare say that paper topo maps would even be helpful as ever feature looks so similar and there are so many tracks to choose from.

With 2 more miles to go, the terrain changed slightly and a swath of greenery began to appear. Hallelujah, we were just about to Bull Springs. We arrived with plenty of daylight to get water and continue, but we were gased. But then we knew that these first few days, if not weeks would be challenging as we build our trail legs and backs.

After a healing nap, we (Paul) collected water from the cistern within the spring. A red winged black bird continued to dive at and “yell” at Paul as he collected our water. It wasn’t until we saw the nest at the edge of the spring that we understood why.

Bull Springs is aptly named, and is cow central. The cows were quite curious and a little territorial with us having taken up a portion of their “lounge” area.

The bull on the other hand couldn’t be much bothered with his “attention” elsewhere. In fact we are sure that he is an old bull as he had his way with about every cow in the area. Our dinner’s “entertainment was “cow porn”…an unforgettable experience.

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Hitting the Road

Piecing things together

Nothing like making a difficult trail more difficult by breaking ones pinky toe two weeks before send off. Who would have thunk that helping my daughter clean her car would result in a broken toe. [For those who are curious, I exited the driver’s side back seat and my left pinky toe caught the edge of the tire and “stayed” as I went to walk around the back of her vehicle. The toe made a “hard left” resulting in an complete angulated fracture. Almost without thinking, amidst a dump of adrenaline, and a cascade of profanity, I reduced the fracture and put it back “in place”. 

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This is a photo of a Xerox copy enlarged, so break is harder to see. It’s still offset a bit, but a complete break, nun-the-less.

The doctor said I did a “remarkably good job”, which meant there was nothing for her to do but confirm the fracture through x-ray and buddy tape my pinky toe to it’s “neighbor”. The best part, was that it will take anywhere from 2-4 weeks to heal, but I can still hike on it…after at least 10 days “rest”.

But wait there’s more…

Paul, not wanting to be left out, and keeping with our penchant for adding an unnecessary degree of difficulty to this already complicated hike, severely burned the top of his hand. The irony is that he was also helping our daughter.  He was changing out the oil sensor in her car, and did not figure on how hot the manifold still was. The result was a severe 2nd degree burn the size of one of those LARGE heal blister band-aids to the top of his right hand.  When our son saw it, he thought it was bad enough to go to the hospital.  Did Paul? NOPE! “What would be the point?”, was his response. It wasn’t like he required a skin graft or something. Just keep it clean and let it scab over and heal…eventually. 

NOBO…ish, it Is!

So far, the “plan” is working nicely. Everything is in various, but positive, phases of healing and we are on track to start hiking as much as we can of the Continental Divide Trail, starting in Rawlins Wyoming and heading northbound.

Rawlins you ask. Yes Rawlins. As it works out, this is a perfect place to start from.  It’s nearly halfway from either border, Mexico or Canada.   For all practical purposes, it’s “Spring” in the desert of Wyoming. This means the springs and watering holes are still viable, which means “shorter” water carries and more “reliable” sources for water.  The first 100 miles (North bound) are relatively “flat”, and will allow us to “work” into building our daily mileage, especially with my broken toe. We also significantly reduce the probability of having to walk in/through snow as we travel northward.

Wyoming, for the most part is open, all the way to Yellowstone.  By the time we get to Yellowstone, we will know whether Montana has fully  opened up, to include Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet Nation.  If it isn’t, we’ll flip back to Rawlins and head South bound (SOBO) from there and knock out Colorado and the San Juan mountain range, before we head home to prep for our annual hunting trip (gotta fill the freezer).  By that time, most, if not all of the snow will have melted at the higher elevations.

We have our Wyoming resupply boxes prepared…with way too much food.  Or at least it seems that way.  We have weighed our packs, and absent food and water, they are heavier than what we had hoped for. Being prepared for ALL kinds of weather, especially at higher elevations, adds up. 

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My phone is the only thing not pictured here. Paul carries the Delorme.

Not to mention, my electronics have added just shy of 3, additional pounds. These however, are “necessary” pounds if I am to keep up this blog, make a few videos and ensure our phones (for mapping) and Delorme InReach Explorer+, are fully operational. 

No Illusions

We have no illusions, that the first week will be anything but pleasant.  Miles will come harder than we had hoped they would. Wyoming is known for its wind. We had our first experience with “Windy-oming” during a hunting trip a few years back.  Our lips and faces will become quickly chapped.  Dust and dirt will squeeze its way into every nook and cranny.  Keeping Paul’s wound clean will be a challenge. Cow pounds, lengthy water carries, and quickly drying springs and creeks will challenge our ability to stay appropriately hydrated.  Not having been able to train for going on 2 weeks will make the wind and the carrying of “extra” weight (both body and pack), that much harder.  If we are to do this, we have no choice but to push through the pain and discomfort. Our resolve and “cabin fever” will be the motivating factors that will push us through the initial “cruelty” that will be imposed upon our bodies.

But Is It Worth It?

No matter what, it will ALL be worth it. We have been on enough “adventures” and hiked enough miles to know that the greater the “sweat equity”, the greater the reward, be it visual or experiential.  The complications of being mindful of each state and county/town’s “guidance” in response to COVID-19 push the challenge of logistics to an art form.  But isn’t that how we grow and evolve?  Pushing the envelop of comfort and ingenuity?

We only have so many “laps” around the sun. No one knows the day/hour, let alone our condition or the circumstances, we will be called “home”.  Why wouldn’t one fill one’s life with “adventure”, no mater the effort. So if you ask, “Is it still worth it?”,  ‘HELL YES!’, is our only response.

Wish us luck. I’m pretty confident we’re going to need it.

Posted in Backpacking, Continental Divide Trail, thru-hiking, Uncategorized, Wyoming | 9 Comments

Keeping the Dream Alive*

*Portions previously posted on The Trek , June 9, 2020.

When faced with a dilemma or possible life-threatening situation, you can do one of three things.

  • Adapt (Change/Modify/Evolve)
  • Migrate (Move)
  • Die (also known as Give Up)

Regardless of the situation, you have to pick one. The severity or timeliness of a situation dictates how quickly that choice/decision is made. For us, there have always been only two choices. Adapt or Migrate. To Die or Give Up has never been a viable option, professionally or personally. With that said, our plan to hike the CDT, in these current times, requires some adaptations. What was supposed to be a straight NOBO mid-April thru-hike of the CDT, has morphed into a possible late-June (early July), mid-trail, flip-floppy hybrid.

It All Depends

The day, location, and direction we will start the CDT all depends on the evolution of the ever-changing guidelines and state specific orders regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. The openings of significant national parks (Yellowstone, Glacier), and snow conditions must also be considered. Wyoming is open in that it has rescinded its 14-day (out of state) quarantine order, and it looks like Montana is starting to open. This is not to say that our postponed thru-hike of the CDT has been fully “green lit.” It, however, is looking ever more promising with each passing day. I have to say the Continental Divide Trail Coalition(CDTC) is pretty good about providing current information, guidelines, and links for each of the five states that the CDT traverses. The Postholer Snow Conditions report also has great information on the snow situation for not only the CDT, but other long trails as well.

Train as if You’re Going

With a multitude of trails/routes near our home, we have been “Home Blazing.” And no, it does not involve the use of cannabis. We coined the term “Home Blazing” because all our training hikes started from, or ended at, home. This has allowed us to get our miles in and to better prepare our feet and backs, for the “brutality” of the CDT. It has also enabled us to stay within the parameters of our state’s stay-at-home orders.

For going on nearly two months we have loaded our packs with anywhere from 10-25+ pounds (in addition to the “pandemic pounds” we have put on), and mixed up routes between backcountry trails, fire road hills, and neighborhood streets. However, once the trails fully opened, we stopped walking the neighborhood streets. The cement was killing our feet.

In our abject boredom of Home Blazing we have created an ever-expanding circuit that now includes the circumnavigation of our town (can’t bring myself to call it a city even though there are nearly 65,000 people who live there). We hiked sections of this route, as they opened up, from either being overgrown, or closed, due to COVID-19 closures. Once all sections opened, we set about to hike it all in one day, not really knowing what the actual total mileage would be (20-26 miles), or the snake situation.

Turns out it registered at 23 miles. We did it in one day. If you’re interested in what it looked like, we made a video.

San Clemente Pier to Summit to Pier (PSP) Challenge

Our video debuted to a rousing response having posted it on my personal Facebook page and the San Clemente Life Facebook page. As I understand it, several people attempted it this past weekend. We are waiting for feedback on their times and how they found the route. One person even asked us to lengthen it to a marathon! We promised to do that when we get back from hiking the Continental Divide Trail, as we’ll be in awesome shape by then.

…and speaking of the Continental Divide Trail. It looks like the dream is going to become a reality very shortly.

Stay tuned.

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Pier to Summit to Pier Challenge

On my previous post Home Blazing, I had mentioned a local hike/route that we were devising. We have since completed the route and have dubbed it the San Clemente Pier to Summit to Pier Challenge, or for short, the San Clemente PSP Challenge.

Enjoy!

BTW…we are soon headed to the CDT. Details to follow.

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“Home” Blazing*

*Home Blazing – not to be confused with “green blazing“…at home. Read on for an explanation.

Every since our plans to hike the CDT have been put on hold, the desire to continue our training (frankly any form of training) has been a struggle. In my last post for The Trek (Post-(poned) Trail Depression), I like many other intended 2020 thru-hikers have been fairly dismayed, if not depressed. Luckily our (my) pity party was relatively short lived…once I figured out what I was actually experiencing.

Since our (my) “enlightenment” we’ve gotten a bit creative with our training, and I have added the Strava app to my phone as a way to track our “Home Blazing” exploits.

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During this whole COVID-19 thing, we never stopped hiking (except for that week it rained constantly). As I have stated before, we are blessed to have an expansive back country of hills within walking distance of our house. Normally we wander the designated trails and power company dirt roads. However, with the extensive (and unusual) rain we’ve had up until recently, traversing those trails were a no-go…unless of course you like walking in mud the consistency of moose snot. And if you can walk without skating, said mud will then cake up onto the bottoms of your soles till you feel like you are hiking in uneven platform shoes, and/or have made your own adobe brick. Not fun, and very annoying.

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But even as the trails dried out, we were subjected to a yellow tunnel of mustard plant overgrowth, and the encroachment of other green grow-ey stuff. While beautiful, this meant (especially in these areas) that as we have entered “snake season”, our ability to avoid them became even more precarious.

Enter our latest term, “Home Blazing”, where we have created routes around our neighborhood streets.

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This is not to be confused with the often distasteful term of “Yellow Blazing”, wherein in road walking is done to avoid hard trail miles, or even miles at all. We were trying to keep up with our mileage, if not increase it, to insure that our feet are going to be ready to thru-hike once this pandemic subsides sufficiently. We were not only prepping our feet, but our minds for the plethora of what is considered the “dreaded” road walking that makes up a good portion of the CDT. This road walking, mostly on cement sidewalks, is/was BRUTAL! In mapping out routes we turned to Google Earth. We found we could make loops and add hills without getting our feet muddy. But also on Google Earth we discovered that we may have discovered how to circumnavigate the perimeter of our city, and turn it into a unique challenge once the trails dried up, and the paths were “widened” of the encroached vegetation.

We broke the route into sections, to get a more accurate measure of the mileage and difficulty ( our trail “system” is devoid of switch-backs, and our city is anything but flat). A 6 mile section, even a 4 mile one will have you huffing and puffing. For those who are familiar with the first “dreaded climb” of the PCT out of Hauser Creek, it makes that look like a cake-walk, with a third of the elevation gain. To date we have completed and mapped all but two major sections of our intended “challenge”. One section, the beach route has finally opened, but we are waiting for the trails within San Onofre State Park to open up, to be able to complete this proposed “challenge”. Our goal is to complete it in one day, of which we expect it to be somewhere between 23-26 miles. We won’t truly know the actual mileage until we do it.

Some part of me hopes it is 26.2 miles, making it one “mean” marathon.

Posted in Backpacking, Calilfornia, Day Hikes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Girls Trip – Cancun baby!

**So I had planned to post this last year, but well, things got a bit hectic and I never got around to it. In some ways I am glad that I didn’t, especially with all the current uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the stay-at-home orders (worldwide). This trip wouldn’t even be remotely possible now.

This particular adventure, while it involves Cancun (and Vicky’s 60th birthday), is more so a celebration of friendship. Not everyone was able to stay for the week, but the fact they showed up…even if it was for a day or two, says a lot.

It’s amazing how friendships, forged in college, (we all swam and played water polo together at UCSD) can stand the test of time (and often politics).

Alumni game…old age and treachory triumphed over youth and vigor behind us

This year however, we (and everyone else for that matter) aren’t going anywhere, so like many, the only way we can get together is via ZOOM.

Photo “borrowed” from Lori

And with Vicky’s birthday on the horizon…again, I thought it fitting for us to revisit yesteryear.

Happy Birthday Vicky!

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From bright white snow to bright white beaches.

This week was a collegiate reunion and week long landmark birthday celebration for my swim and water polo teammate, Vicky. Seeing as she is the first of our teammates to “age up”, she gets to pick the celebratory destination. This specific decade called for a rally to Cancun Mexico. (the last decade involved a memorable trip to Las Vegas. BTW, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…mostly). This excursion, as with most, my friend Sandy (aka. Pole Dancer) and I were travel buddies. We tried something new, and frankly cheaper to get to our destination. We found that the cost of flights to Mexico are significantly reduced if you fly out of Tijuana (TJ). Seeing as the drive time to TJ verses LAX, is virtually the same for the both of us, we decided to be adventurous, and use the CBX land bridge from the US side that deposits you directly into the Tijuana airport…for a cost of $30/ea for a round trip when you purchase the tickets online. Once you get your ticket via email, it directs you to Mexico’s immigration site, where you essentially complete your Visa request, and pay your entry/stay fees for trips lasting over seven days. This makes going through customs a breeze, unless of course you forget to print out the Visa and only bring your receipt that you paid your Visa fees…and your Spanish is no bueno. I can read it, and if you talk slow enough I can understand, but my ability to to respond verbally (in Spanish) is hampered by the fact that it goes through a German language filter before I can pull up the Spanish response. When I get stuck, my “go-to” foreign language ist Deutsch. This makes for odd (pathetic Americano) looks, and awkward conversations. For this adventure, we chose Volaris Airlines. Each email update, to include flight changes was, of course en Espanol. Applying for the Visa, and paying my fees (to include the “agreement” to pay via my credit card) was all in Spanish as well. I’m sure there was something I could have clicked to have the page switch to English, but then that would have been entirely too easy. For a Thursday, I was amazed at how packed each leg of our flight was, and how uncomfortably compressed the padding of our seats were, considering how much “padding” I provide myself.

As we flew over Mexico, I was amazed at the ruggedness of the terrain, jagged hills, vast mesas and deep canyons cut by narrow twisting and turning rivers. After a two hour layover in Guadalajara, we were on our way to Cancun.

Arid mesas and sharp canyons melt into lush, “flat” terrain that is choked with dense “jungle” vegetation. Evidence of past parcels of property having been cleared for use via controlled burns can be seen from my window as linear “boxes” in various stages of reclamation by the voracious forest, having been left untended.

When we arrive in Cancun, the air is warm and thick with moisture. As we had already gone through customs in Tijuana, we breezed down the path of “domestic flights” and were on the curb and to our pre-arranged shuttle driver who would take us to the Westin Marriott where our friends Vicky and Eileen have timeshares.

Once we checked into our room, it was not difficult to find our friends who had arrived before us, as we had a perfect view of them at the poolside bar. Let the festivities begin!

With all of us having had an earlier than usual morning, festivities would have to be postponed to the morning, a sad sign that we ARE getting older (or is it wiser?), but not without sharing a drink, a bite and a quick game of “catch up”.

Morning brought coffee, a brief shower…of rain, swim suits and a poolside excursion. After a spirited rendition of musical lounge chairs (in search of dry cushioning) we settled into our day of “leisure”.

Noon, required participation in Westin’s water aerobics class with our ambassador of FUN, Alejandro. This was followed by an aborted effort to win a bottle of tequila for music trivia, of which we couldn’t even cheat our way (via Google) to a point.

I did however prevail at BINGO in the final round, aptly named, “blackout” (where the prize was a 700ml bottle of 1800 Reposado tequila), as it required no skill, and good ole fashion luck!

Birthday girl! Vicky IS 60!

In honor of Vicky’s “major” birthday (in which this trip/gathering was all about), the evening continued with dinner at a remarkable restaurant, La Destileria.

We enjoyed patio dining and sunset

It’s famous for its overwhelming selection of tequila and amazing food.

And as luck would have it, we were treated to unexpected (it’s actually their “off-season”) entertainment in the form of pounding bongos, the entire restaurant singing “Sweet Caroline” (because no one can resist), and fireworks from a barge off-shore, to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “New York”. And of course, Sandy singing “La Bomba” with the mariachis.

The following day, as we have an “extended stay” with complete kitchens, and an outdoor BBQ access, we decided to walk to the super Mercado for the week’s vittles, so we could save our pesos for touristy excursions and Cabana boy tips.

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*Note first item listed

Wanting to get our day going, and the fact that coffee filtered through a paper towel is just plain awful, we set off fairly early for the market, only to discover, after our cart was filled with libations, that one can not purchase alcohol (outside the resorts) before 11 am. This is not to say that we were out of adult beverages, it’s just that we were trying to be efficient…and planning ahead for the week. Slightly dejected we completed our purchase, sans alcohol, and walked back to the Westin.

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Considering ourselves smarter than the average bear, and not wanting to lug our supplies in the humidity, for a paltry $2, we had our groceries delivered to our suite…eventually. A supposed delivery time of 30 minutes turned into 2.5 hours. Apparently the conversion formula for delivery time is the inverse to that of pesos to the US dollar (divide by 10, multiply by 2). I did the math and it was spot on (divide by 2, multiply by 10). Once our groceries arrived, it was time to meet up with rest of our clan, who were beginning to wonder ‘what the hell happened’ to us, which (for Sandy and I) in itself is not unusual. The remainder of the afternoon was spent between a round-robin of chatter, beverage, swim (actually float) as warm and increasingly blustery (sub hurricane force) winds masked what developed into a distinctly stripped sunburn. The afternoon was capped with a ‘mint challenge’ to see how much (if any) mint we could finagle from the bar(s) for our in-room mojitos, as mint was not available at the Super Mercado. Success required us to “rescue swim” our precious cargo of devilishly acquired mint across the pool. Finally! A much “poo-pooed”, but required, skill from our WSI (Water Safety Instructor) pool lifeguard days of our youth, paid off. Who knew that mint would be the “pay-off”. The day’s vigorous imbibing required a change of dinner plans, to a more “local” setting that did not require negotiating moving vehicles and/or curbs. When our check arrived, Sandy discovered that if you order beers that are supposed to be “on-tap”, and said kegs are empty, its reluctant substitution(s) are “on the house”, which was a pleasant surprise to an already epic day.

The following morning found us poolside again, even though there’s a perfectly warm Gulf of Mexico and white sandy beaches , complete with equally comfortable lounge chairs upon which to recline.

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Westin’s beach amenities

While we have beaches at home, we don’t have recliners poolside with food and beverage service, so we skipped the beach and mainly parked poolside and chatted.

Toward the end of the afternoon, we did manage to explore a Mayan temple just off the hotel grounds.

Truth be told, for at least one day, in our abject and frankly blissful laziness, we did exit our supremely comfortable lounge chairs for a memorable excursion to the Isla de Mujeres.

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This required a scary cab ride to the ferry that takes one to the island just off our loungy location. Isla de Mujeres is similar to that of Catalina Island at home, in that no motorized vehicles are allowed. In order to circumnavigate the island we rented well worn golf carts reminiscent of our collective childhood visits to Disneyland’s “Auto-topia”, where we got to drive backfiring putt-putt cars with the pedal to the metal…in a circle.

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With the exception of us, the “car” and our “circle” being bigger, it WAS just like that.

We circumnavigated the island rather efficiently, with a stop at Punta Sur (a Mayan archeological site on the southern most portion of the island).

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Here, after paying an entrance fee (and for toilet paper) we wandered about, gazing at sculptures placed throughout the bluff top, numerous photogenic reptiles and the cyan blue sea in search of sea turtles.

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After a quick beverage (to “hydrate”), we continued our exploration. While we did not have time for any real touristy (and expensive) activities, we did happen upon a unique lunch spot run by expats.

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In addition to delicious food, they make amazing one-of-a-kind pieces of art that I would have loved to have purchased. Problem being, I am trying to downsize as it is, and while I appreciate their skill and artistry, I just couldn’t justify the purchase(s).

Once lunch as over, our two putt-putts parted ways. Seeing as Vicky is the oldest of our “crew”, she needed to head back toward the ferry, so she could take a nap on the beach. (At least that’s how I remember it…lol) Sandy, Eileen and I, decided we needed to snorkel and look for colorful fish and turtles.

We found a nice cove, near our lunch stop, to pull off the pot-hole riddled road and try our luck.

The sand was grainy and coarse beneath our feet, with pourus coral reefs that stretched from the high tide line into the infinite sea. Wearing our water shoes, we made our way into the tepid water, switched out to swim fins, and donned our masks to see what we could see…in the sea. We were treated to brightly colored tropical fish through crystal clear water. Cognizant of the obvious current than ran not far from shore, and the fact that we also had a ferry to catch (and our “go-carts” to return), we did not venture out too far, or too long. Refreshed, we clamored back into our adult sized putt-putt car, and crossed our fingers that it would start. I conveniently left my mask/snorkel and fins at the beach, and with no spare time to return to get them, there they stayed.

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After several “passes”, after missing proper turns down one-way streets, we returned our ride and met up with Vicky and Co just in time for the 5pm ferry.

Fairly exhausted and slightly burnt, after a quick bite to eat, it was an “early” evening.

The following day we completed our water aerobics with Alejandro and those of us that still remained, spent most of the rest of the day poolside and/or in the hotel spa…because we could…and well, they let us.

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With another epic decade complete, it was time to head home. Many thanks to our “elder”- Vicky for her rally cry, “It’s my 60th birthday. I’m going to spend it in Cancun. You are welcome to join me.” And so, just like her 50th (in Vegas), we did. I hope we are all around for her 70th. I hear France is nice in May…and, they make pretty good wine.

With any luck we’ll be off lock-down by then!

Posted in Cancun, fun with friends, Mexican Resorts, Mini Adventures, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

All dressed up…No place to go

So I started a draft of this post the begining of March, and got a little busy.  Today I returned to it and my how things have evolved!

Worried

We are a little less than a month out from what our scheduled CDT start date. We are ready, except for the preparation of resupply boxes. We are a bit concerned about what we initially thought was all this “hullaballoo” about COVID-19 and how it will affect our travel plans. (Remember this was several weeks ago, and the purpose of this post is to show how quickly things have evolved)

Our plans are to fly into El Paso where my father will pick us up. We have three concerns:

  1. Will there be travel restrictions by then? If there is an “outbreak” in the city or county we live in, and we are NOT sick, would we still be allowed to travel.

        So as of March 16, 2020 the CDC has issued a “15 Days to Slow the Spread”.  New                   Mexico followed suit by telling people who newly enter NM to self-isolate for 14 days             upon entry. California has issued a “Stay home” order that so far is set for “indefinitely”

2.  If flights were cancelled, could we drive to my father’s? Would Arizona and New                 Mexico let us “in”?

         New Mexico has for all practical purposes told people NOT to come, and if you do, you          need to self-isolate for 14 days.  And, BTW no resturants will be open and hotels will              only be allowed to be a 1/2 capacity. * A friend told me that she was passing through a          “corner” of NM to get gas, she felt like a “leper” while filling up.

3.  What if we travel via our original flight plans and we pick up “something” on the               flight? Seeing as my father is going through cancer treatments, I would hate to                    expose him to something that may further compromise his immune system.

        We have cancelled our flight for these exact concerns and have made preparations to           drive.

More than an In-COVID-19-yence

So most of the thru-hiking community is in a quandary, with most (if not ALL) cancelling or putting their 2020 thru-hikes on hold.  We are in the “on-hold” team, as we have the luxury of options.  There are still people currently on all of the triple crown trails (PCT, CDT, AT) following their “dreams”.

We are in a constant state of flux.  Our son, who works in the emergency services sector is living with us until June.  Because of his job he is in contact with people who may or may not be “sick”.  Most people are still NOT fully practicing proper and appropriate social distancing, especially our teens and 20-somethings. This requires us to be ever so diligent, especially since our daughter has a compromised immune system, suffering from Chronic Lyme disease.  Luckily she has her own apartment and is on home “quarentine” per doctor’s orders.  But then, for her, that doesn’t exactly pay the bills.

I have to admit that we initially thought this COVID-19 to be a bit over-hyped, and had planned on starting our thru-hike, no matter what.  Those plans are out the window…for now.

I am wondering how this post would/will look 30 days from now.

Stay tuned…

 

Posted in Backpacking, Calilfornia, Chronic Lyme Disease, Continental Divide Trail, Lyme Disease, thru-hiking, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments