CDT Day 25: a little bit south of MacDonald Pass to Thunderbolt Mountain – Too Fresh to Hike Camp to Kismet Spring Camp
Miles hiked: 21
Total miles: 377.7
Up, packed, and hiking by 7:30am. The morning was cool and clear, so that I actually had to hike with some haste to stay warm. Somewhere in the 40s. There were some excellent views of the surrounding hills from the hilltop meadows before the trail plunged us into the trees.
Lodgepole was the predominant pine of the area. It’s not the most scenic in my opinion, but it gets the job done, what with all the sequestering of carbon dioxide and creating shade business. A dirt road was our guide through the dense forest, and the walking was easy on the legs and mind. However, when I checked the navigation on my phone, it showed us half a mile down the wrong road. How? When? Backtracking one hundred feet or so, SpiceRack came to an unambiguous CDT marker nailed to a tree. Very curious. So we were on the CDT in real life, but not on the GPS route. We soon figured out that the sign marked a new, more direct trail that wasn’t represented on the maps yet. Classic CDT. It shaved off a few miles too, so we weren’t complaining.
Though the route was new to the CDT, the logging road that we were now on had clearly had some use. It was clear cut 50 yards on either side, so the walking was sunny and hot. Bear grass was happy for all the sunshine, but the few hundred tadpoles wriggling in a rapidly evaporating mud puddle probably weren’t. Spice tried her best, scooping wayward blobs into the main puddle, but I stood by, doing nothing, uncomfortable with the power that helping would imply, yet admiring her unquestioning compassion. Several miles later, a brand new connecting trail joined up with the original CDT route on the maps. All was right again.
We went up and over a rocky bulge that looked like the back of a pink stegasaurus. We went back into the trees. Our water source and lunch spot turned out to be a cruddy puddle of a pond. We literally watched a deer pee in the shallow water. After an indulgent two hour break, I scooped a liter, but vowed not to drink it unless absolutely necessary. Our next known water was seven miles away. I could do it. It was 4:45pm when we left with the crazy idea to make it there by 7pm.
Sprinting in backpacking terms is not very fast when compared with almost anything else. But even though 3.5mph isn’t objectively impressive, sustaining it for two hours is a tough task. We gave it our best shot, welcoming the extra stimulation through the long green tunnel. Spice would call out 10 seconds of running periodically like a nutcase and I was sweating hard before long. At the end of the last sprint, I felt the familiar warm burst and sharp sting of a blister popping on my heel. There was bound to be pain, I told myself as the sharpness dulled to a low throb with each step.
The last climb knocked me down, hamstrings groaning in protest. 7pm at the top, one mile from water. Oh well. An easy cruise down the other side put me at the creek, dehydrated and feeling proud of the effort despite missing the target. I poured out the nasty deer piss water, and guzzled a liter of the good stuff.
Spice was in a bad mood when she arrived ten minutes later, making it clear that she wanted to be alone. I didn’t question it in the moment, instead taking the hint and getting out of there. I pondered it on the way over Thunderbolt Mountain, but ultimately decided to let it be. If I remained open and aware, the answer would come.
Initially, I couldn’t find the spring where I hoped to make camp. There was a side trail, but I gave up on it when no water appeared. But just a bit further down the trail, there it was, with a wide campsite nearby. I set up and got my couscous soaking. Spice showed up 30 minutes later in good spirits, and it filled my heart with love to settle back into easy conversation.
Moroccan couscous was a hearty meal, and Oreos were a worthy reward. Spice gave me a few spoonfuls of fancy ramen that she didn’t care for. Stuffed. To bed, bundled up because the night is cold despite the great weather. Clear and cold. That’s sleeping weather.