CDT Day 136: Wagontongue Mountain to Forest RD 94 – Sciatic Ouch Camp to Moonlight Road Camp
Miles hiked: 26.1
Total miles: 2448.6
Long miles, long days. With the right attitude, this is a good thing. 15 hours between camps inevitably drains a ton of energy, especially when the last three are hiked in the dark, but I prefer to look at it as a privilege. Even with all the hiking I’ve done recently, when I stop and think about it(while still hiking of course), it continues to feel like a gift to be able to walk all day if I want. Sometimes it can feel like I don’t have a choice, that the miles need to be made, that it’s my job, but almost always I am excited to hike. On a thru-hike, the great battles are fought in the mind. Mental resilience is a tremendous asset, and being able to cast the lamest of situations in positive light has kept me on trail through the worst. Having an incredible partner in SpiceRack is a huge boost as well. I don’t need to dig as deep to find the light in the dark with her around, she guides me there when I am blind. In the early days, she jokingly renamed me Hopelessly Optimistic, or Hopetimistic. I took it as a compliment and strive to live up to the title. Today was tough. With Spice moving a little slow, figuring out how to manage her injury, and our failure to properly fuel our hungry bodies, the day dragged well into the night, far beyond the capacity of my mind to remain totally lucid. Despite this, the beauty was undeniable and I found myself thinking that we nailed it. Some of the most interesting states of mind are found near the edge, or over it. Hiking by moonlight with friends after a looooong day, that edge can be pretty blurry.
An early alarm dragged me from a restful night much too soon. Please, more rest for the weary. We got moving earlier than usual, conscious of the 28 miles we were shooting for and unsure of how Spice’s sacrum pain translated through the night. 5:50am, no need for headlamps on the trail through more ponderosa. Heavy pine needle ground cover and detritus kicked down by the storm covered the track, making it feel like no humans had been here for a long while, which can be rare even on the CDT. Spice stepped without a limp, and from my perspective, seemed to be cruising. Still, it was just about impossible to move at all, let alone with haste with what we saw. A sea of cloud covered all but the high hills below us as the sun peaked above the horizon. White haze flowed as a slow river, framed by gold-tipped pine. Difficult to walk with this in your periphery.
We finally made it to the top of Wagontongue Mountain, then rode the ridge, view to view. After a sunscreen break in the warm sun, the trail rollercoastered us down, along, and up. Yep, Spice definitely looked like she was walking normally now. The conversation came smooth and always circled back to food, and when our hunger had built, we stopped for a tea and stretching break. This became more of a lunch based on how long we chilled out and how much I ate. We decided not to stop again until we made it to the next water, 10 miles ahead. Big mistake.
Some of my happiest moments of the trail came next. Nothing amazing. Just simple walking in the right place with the right person. Spirits were high, so when the opportunity came to mess with Rooster and Crunchberry we couldn’t resist, confusing the snot out of them by hiding off trail, letting them pass, then surprising them by coming from behind. If you think that sounds lame, you had to be there. Still intent on making it to the water, we left the dudes to eat lunch and pushed on.
Our energy ebbed without adequate snacking on the rollercoaster through oak and interesting rock stuff. A steep climb through a burn section full of mean, spikey plants wiped us out, forcing a 5-minute pack-on break at the top. I ate all the bars within reach, but it was too late. We dragged the last mile or so to an important junction, where we left the official CDT to take the Gila River alternate instead. Crunchberry then Rooster caught us there, taking the gravel road instead of the almost indistinguishable trail. Glad we’re not going that way. Water was a short way forward. Lunch at 4pm. Again, big mistake.
It took my bucket and bear hang line to scoop water from the well, but it was good after filtering out the bugs and dirt. I ate until I felt a little sick. By the time we all got back on the road, the sky glowed pink with the sunset. 10 miles to go, after sunset. Oof. Spice managed her freshly tweaked back, hanging back in a faraway world. The trees became painted silhouettes on the walls of an endless tunnel. The stars, then the moon became the lights on a high ceiling. This wide road could easily become boring in the daylight, but not tonight. Imagination finds a home in these shadows, for better or worse. Tonight, it was better.
By the time the trees fell away, leaving us walking through a calm sea of moonlight, I was far away indeed. Exhaustion had gotten the better of me. I struggle to imagine how Spice felt. I, at least, was walking pain free. We left the dudes to camp, then got just a bit further until deciding to camp under the last visible tree, hoping to keep the frost at bay. No complaints here about making it 26 miles instead of 28. We may pay for it later, but I’m just grateful to be here, Spice right here with me. These days are golden and to be treasured. Two miles can’t change that.