Monday, July 8, 2013

Day 22 - get me off this thing

What a wild and crazy day.

"STEIN! STEIN!" Gangles was yelling for me as I sauntered back from my morning privy. In the few minutes I was gone from camp, the skies had gone from clear blue to Mt. Doom ominous. We put on our packs and dashed south. We made it maybe a mile when we were socked with a thunderstorm. We had just secured our ponchos, when 10m later, the storm was over, and we were back to blue skies.

The weather here is wildly temperamental, sometimes home on the range quality blue skies, and then sometimes, these flash storms. Later in the afternoon, we saw storms behind us (North), and to the right (West), and both were closing fast. Paradoxically, we could hear thunder, see rain (grey smudges running from the clouds), and at the same time, we could see the blue skies behind both. Gangles and I hiked on, then the skies darkened in a trice, and we hurriedly threw on our ponchos. Hailstones the size of marbles mixed with pelting rain overran us for ~45s, and then it was blue skies again. Like nothing happened, like an "I love you, take me back, I'm yours, Montana" mash note. My genius plan to wait out the rain was to hide in the unattended CAT tractor on the side of the trail, but Gangles vetoed that for many sensible reasons. Mostly for the felony grand theft auto reason.

Oh, and the other excitement of the day. Gangles and I got "misplaced" again. We followed the trail up a grassy knoll, and the tracks disappeared. This time, the GPS was our undoing. The GPS marked us as off the trail, and noted the trail was due east a quarter mile. We bushwhacked though the meadow, and down the side of the hill, which descended steeply. Standing on the side of the hill, with my boots dug in sharply, the GPS indicated that I was standing on the trail. Gangles and I wove up and down the trail, crossing it at least 6 times by the GPS' reckoning, but there was clearly no trail. The GPS had the old CDT programmed in, which no longer exists. There were tears, but only 25-45s, since we are now old hands at being lost on the CDT.

We did chance upon the ruins of a cabin, which was eerie since the Unabomber's cabin is rumored to be in this area. We finally backtracked, an found ourselves in a different part of the meadow. We headed due south and ran into the other sobohobos. They had just gathered water down a side trail. They were just leaving lunch, and we were determined not to be left behind, so ran off with them, foolhardily starting a 14mi waterless sections with only 1.5 liters of water each.

As expected. we were terribly thirsty during the remaining 14mi, carefully rationing what we did have left. We had over 2000' of climbing, so it was an uncomfortable last stretch. We finally ran out with 5mi to go. Romeo and Juliet-style, we dramatically drank our last sips, climbed up the last 500' in switchbacks, and almost ran down the last 3mi of the trail to Dana Spring. Factoring in the 30m required to treat the water, we began counting down the last 90m without water.

With great relief, we made it down to the spring as the sun was setting. It is a pipe running from the ground to a large tub, surrounded by cowpies. Since it came straight from the ground, I argued we should drink without treating. Gangles with her ever-level head insisted we wait. Cowpies every where are a great reason.

Rehydrated and in bed, the day was our longest official (counting relevant on-trail miles) yet, with 25mi under our belts. Moderately traumatized by the thirst of the last few trail days, Gangles and I are much relieved to be here. Much love to Grinder, Bearbait, Bigfoot, Barrel Roll, Moosie and the Swiss Fits for keeping us safe.

Until tomorrow.

Mileage: 25mi from 5mi past Flesher Pass to Dana Spring

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