CDT Day 20: somewhere south of Flescher Pass to Nevada Mountain – Beautiful Moon Dead Log Camp to Edge of the Divide Camp
Miles hiked: 21.1
Total miles: 323.2
My alarm gently directed me towards the waking world. Welcome Home, Son is the perfect song to start the day, in my opinion. It leaves me feeling like I awoke naturally because it is so subtle, and it never wakes up SpiceRack. It was 5am this time, early, but I needed some focused writing time to get caught up. Almost three weeks in, and I still have yet to find a sustainable routine. When the mileage increases, I wonder how I’ll cope, and find ways to be more efficient…
Looking left over through the mesh door, I saw a few high clouds catch fire with that pink flame that seems totally unique in the moment. Each sunrise or sunset feels like such a gift because those colors have never existed before and will never exist again, so other worldly when compared with the rest of the natural palette.
Feeling stiff and fatigued from the accumulated miles, the big elevation changes of the last few days, and my sprint last night, I took a little warming up after getting on trail again at 8am. Fortunately, the easy, Oregon-walking continued so I was able to move faster than I felt. The trees opened a few times to reveal that the mountains have disappeared, replaced by gently rolling hills in every direction. The Divide appears to have mellowed out for the time being. I lost SpiceRack somewhere along the way to her own struggle (they say one can’t call themselves a thru-hiker until they have pooped themselves… Congrats, Spice!), but we reconvened at the next break to share shade and figure out the next water source. Water, formally abundant and not something that needed worrying about, now requires being on top of your sh!*t to plan correctly. Fortunately, Spice is, and takes care of the hard work.
We shared a dirt road through logging scars and cross-country skiing trails, ugly cuts of human touch apparent everywhere. The CDT started in a national park, then dove through two large wilderness areas, all land that benefits from strong protection and conservation. Now I was being reminded how much of this country is not just a beautiful place to recreate, but an exploitable resource. Thru-hiking takes one through these places in between, and there are a lot of them. America is mostly “in between” places, though it is easy to forget with the National Park superstars in the same room. Spice and I scooped water from a muddy hillside behind a ski sign, then I practically ran the next two miles to Stemple Pass trailhead and the pit toilet rumored to be waiting there.
I found Masa already there and we chatted about Japan while waiting for Spice to get lost and found again. A hot and sunny walk up a dirt road followed from there. I was happy to have my umbrella, but still missed my sunglasses. Time went slow and fast, I drank Arnold Palmer from my umbrella, and thought about a good idea for a misting umbrella. An umbrella-themed walk. Swamp caught up to us, then we took a lunch break where the flies harmonized their buzzing.
The sun and Swamp were gone when we got moving again at 3:30pm. The dirt road persisted through more trees before finding its inner trail in a meadow. While I ran a little off this trail to gather water, a thunderstorm brewed overhead, grumbling and spitting. Perfect conditions for the upcoming ridge walking.
I put on my pack cover before climbing steeply to the ridge where I waited below the treeline for the thunder to dissipate. The cloud texture was view enough for me as I caught my breath. More steep climbing put me on top of some flat summit where I could see the next four miles of trail to camp clearly winding around the rim of a valley. Awesome. The weather still looked quite unsettled so I didn’t waste time on this stretch. I think I mentioned before that I’m terrified of lightning and terror is a pretty good motivator. A couple big swoops on the trailless ridge and I was back in the trees, safe. I anxiously looked back for Spice, but couldn’t find her in the vast scene. The weather seemed less threatening now anyway.
A little rain did fall on my way up the last climb of the day. It was steep, hilariously so. At some points it seemed like I was climbing higher than further, if that makes any sense. I laughed a little in between gasps at my frequent breaks. Up and over on the shoulder of Nevada Mountain. Less than a mile later I found a great campsite right on the edge of the ridge, just in the trees. A perfect spot. It was cold, so I was bundling up when Spice showed up, bubbling with gratitude for that section. She loved every second of it. It was pretty cool. I am pretty tired.
Beans, sugar, then bed in that order.