CDT Day 31 — July 26
Pintler Pass to Mussigbrod Saddle
First NOBO Camp to SpiceRack is My Hero Camp
Miles hiked: 16
Total miles: 496.2
Happy birthday SpiceRack!!!
I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to join Spice in the mountains for her last two birthdays. Last year we celebrated with crepes and ice cream in the Alps. This year it was cliff bars and almond butter on the CDT. It just so happens that this was one of my hardest days on trail ever, certainly on the CDT so far. I am grateful to know Spice for many reasons, but today in particular showed me that there can be no substitute for the best partner ever to pull me through the day in good spirits despite feeling like total dog shit. Spice is strong and got me through it, on her birthday. Spice is incredible. Spice is my hero.
I woke up in the morning, dehydrated for sure. I already had that familiar slight headache and dry mouth. I drank what I had, but it wasn’t much. Spice seemed to have no interest in getting an early start, and I was happy to take the hint and snooze a little myself. Lying in a sunbaked tent did little to improve my condition, but I was confident I’d be able to rehydrate at the next stream. We finally did start hiking at 9:30am after significant amendments to the number of miles we hoped to hike that day. Let’s take it easy today and see what happens. If we make 18, then we can do a 30 into town tomorrow. Solid plan.
I followed Spice from Pintler Pass down into the trees for some easy miles with plenty of water. I drank as much as I could through my clogged up Micro Squeeze. It wasn’t enough, though I felt a bit better. On the mend.
After the down came the up. We leapfrogged Swami for a couple leaps, then let him get away so we could share music while we hiked close, savoring each other’s company and reminiscing about the good ol’ days. Still only using one pole on the uphills, Spice said I looked like an explorer with my right had free to point at things in the classic pose unencumbered.
The sun was hot as we climbed to a dryer elevation with sparse pine on benches of grass and granite. There was one last view back at the awesome mountains we had just traveled through before we dipped over a lump into a burn area. It was hot in the direct sun and I degraded quickly even though the trail sloped gradually downhill. Spice kept asking me some interesting questions, but I struggled to find any interesting answers. My headache worsened. I had had my chance to get ahead of the dehydration, but blew it. This was going to be a grind all day.
We finally made it to a creek where we planned to lunch. It was in a pretty crappy place, full of mosquitos and lacking shade, but there was no alternative for me. I needed an extended break badly. We pitched the tent for shade and bug protection. I collapsed inside after drinking a quickly filtered liter.
Spice did everything she could for me and I was overwhelmed with gratitude to have her in my life. She worked some of her Thai massage magic on me as best she could in the limited space, but mostly gave generously her patience and unquestioning support.
I started to feel slightly better so I forced myself to construct my best trail rendition of a birthday cake. Two Clif bars rounded and stacked as the cake, vanilla almond butter as the frosting. It had looked better in my mind when I though it up a week ago, but the candles made the sticky lump unmistakable. I sang the song, then we ate it as best we could, which was messy work.
The two hour lunch left me improved, but still down. All I could do was focus on Spice leading the way up through the last of the burn. She kept me going. Clouds blew in, then we turned down a round ridge into the live trees again. My headache was worse, but the cool air helped my body feel strong as we cruised.
And I birddogged all afternoon to camp pretty much. My foggy mind drifted on distant legs not noticing much except for the lack of planes in the air. It finally hit me that I’ve only noticed about one jet per day out here, even with the sky so big. Big sky, no people, that’s Montana for you.
Sunset was turning the horizon orange and making the bear grass glow when we finally made it to camp. We pulled water from the coolest spring I’ve ever visited, a steady stream flowing from a small hollow in a grassy slope. While I filtered, Spice set up camp and unpacked my stuff, again overwhelming me with her compassion and kindness. I collapsed in the tent, ready to sleep off this pain after scarfing down my cold ramen. What a day.
Do I need to say it again? SpiceRack is amazing. I love her. Happy birthday. Can’t wait to see where you’re celebrating next year.