The Dago Diaries

One Italian American's Journey Along America's Great Divide

Day 26, A Hero’s Goodbye

Swept Away and Salty walking along Diablo Rim

Brice along the Colorado Trail at age 88

In life, you meet people who become personal hero’s and touch you in ways that make you not only change your life but change it for the better.  Brice Hammock was that man to me and many others…..

I woke up in bed next to Lucky who had a few times at night snuggled me, no biggie it happens, plus it’s lonely on the trail.  I made us all coffee and when the alarm woke the team we enjoyed a fresh pot of brew and sorted our food and packs before we left to hit the trail.  It was so nice to wear freshly washed clothes and be bathed, our morale was high and everyone was all smiles again.

We said our goodbyes to Lucky and he was off to dig thunder eggs and we were off for the next challenge Diablo Rim.

The first 5 miles out of town were on paved roads, I hate walking on pavement and it hurts my foot but we pushed the miles out pretty easily.  Then we got dirt roads, much better for sure and we made decent time up the canyon.

The dirt road was a pleasant respite from the pavement.

At the 15 mile mark, it was getting hot and we had to find the water cache that was there for us to get enough water to make the next leg of the hike.  We looked around for 15 minutes and no luck.  I texted She—ra and she sent me a screenshot of her GPS and a description after another 10 minutes I found the cache and we took our fill, ate lunch and carried on.

Tiny and Diablo Peak

Next came the final long stretch of cross country for this trip, Diablo Rim.  For the next 12 miles, we would be going across a rim covered in sagebrush and lava rocks steadily gaining elevation along the way.  It was tough as usual, the miles came slow and the heat of the day was wearing us down.  At 5 pm we could see Diablo Peak 4 miles away and decided we would push hard to make the far side of it for the night.  We pushed and we made it to a spot that was sort of campable right as the sun set behind the horizon and dusk fell.

I sat down on my pad and checked my phone to see if I had any messages…it was then that I learned my personal hero Brice had passed on the night before.  Brice and I first met in 2009 when I attended my very first ALDHA-West gathering.  I didn’t really know anyone there and it had been some time since my last long distance hike but I was introduced to Brice who was kind enough to spend the better part of the day with me during and between the presentations making me feel welcome and also making me laugh. 

That afternoon he ran the used gear sale and gave me a few bandanas to take home. That weekend I learned that Brice was the oldest person to ever get a triple crown of hiking.  He also told me he didn’t even start long-distance hiking until he retired from his forester career.  I was then he said to me, “when I was in my 60’s I could keep up with everyone hiking, in my 70’s I had to get up and start hiking before everyone so when they passed me later in the day I could camp with them, in my 80’s I said enough and just hiked and camped alone.”  What a great guy was all I could think.

Over the years I would see Brice at events and reconnect, but when I became the President of ALDHA-West that I really got to know Brice.  He was one of our founding members and as a result, he was also one of my wise advisors when I first took over.  He filled me in on some of the past history, good and bad, but he always supported the changes I wanted to make.  In fact when I first proposed being and 501c3 he was my loudest supporter.  He was also a lot of fun.

Brice even in his 90’s still enjoyed having a few cold beers with the lads, swapping some stories and being around young hikers.  In fact, in his 90’s he told me he followed numerous hikers blogs and enjoyed reading them daily.  But the greatest experience I had was an afternoon and evening spent with Brice and my old gazette editor when we interviewed him and took him to dinner.

It was that day I learned of his past, as a child growing up in the depression and the hardship that entailed, how he worked for the USFS as a kid, he and his buddy were given a donkey and tools to do trail work in Mt Shasta.  How then told me he went to college on a running scholarship but still had a full-time job to help his family at home.  He then told me of his time flying daylight bombing runs over Europe during WW2.  His life as a forester and how as he cruised timber he would see PCT signs and said, “when I retire I’m hiking that” and he did.  Brice would do his first hike after retiring and in short order, he hiked the big three trails and earned a triple crown before the award even existed.

His greatest gift to me was telling me life was too short to waste and that we should all hike while we can…the next year I would leave my career as a lumber broker to go hike the Continental Divide Trail.  I think Brice had a hand in me making that decision and I have no regrets about going that route.

I know my life is better because I knew Brice and as I sat on the edge of Diablo Rim watching the sunset, I allowed myself to shed some tears and saying goodbye to a great man, I can not think of a more fitting place or trail than the ODT to connect to his spirit.  We’re all gonna miss you Brice but don’t worry we’ll keep your spirit alive at ALDHA-West and we’ll all take the lessons you taught us and continue to always try to get the most out the lives we have been given.

Brice’s final hike and thoughts on the experience

Brices final message to us all

Day 25, We’ll do anything for shower, even walk 35 miles in a day

Green moss growing on the trees of the Fremont National Forest

Long before daylight we all woke and performed our daily rituals of brewing up some hot water for coffee, consuming calories as best we could, and packing up.  There was a collective sense of immediacy for breaking camp and getting on with our hike, we knew if we stayed disciplined and the trail didn’t throw us any curve balls we could end our day on Paisley and get a much-needed shower and warm bed for the night.  We set off by headlamp down the road for a 1/2 mile and then turned into the woods.

Getting in my greens along the ODT

It was cold this morning and we all walked in our layers hoping that hiking would warm us up.  We stopped by a small stream to fill our water up for the day, our data indicated this would one of the few reliable sources for most of the day so we loaded up what we thought we would need.  As we waited for our water to filter we all ate snacks and carried on.  The trail was lovely this morning, a single track of soft ground through a forest.  The Fremont National Recreation Trail has been a wonderful break from the previous cross-country travel through the desert, we joked that we were really enjoying our vacation from the ODT.

Mountains and trail were a lovely change of pace along this stretch of trail

The trail climbed until we reached a series of ridges to follow along through the mountains, off in the distance we could see the Avery Peak fire tower.  Before reaching that though we judged the time we were making and all agreed to push it as hard as we could to make it to Paisley and get. Shower and hopefully laundry.  I had a cell signal so I called the hotel, the room was still available and after explaining our situation the owner agreed to leave us some extra soda and shampoo for showers and even said she would put out some dark colored towels and washcloths for us, I’m sure this was as much for our benefit as it was for her’s so we wouldn’t destroy the typical white linens of a hotel.

After passing Avery Peak Salty and I were a little ways ahead of Swept Away, as we walked my phone buzzed and I got a call from my good friend Lucky, who I had started the CDT with back in 2016.  Lucky told me he was headed to Eastern Oregon on his way to California for a rockhounding trip, and he said, “I want to come trail magic you!”  Well not wanting to be rude I informed Lucky of our plan and he then asked us for request…”Fresh fruit and Veggies please, oh and some laundry detergent”

We ended the call with Lucky, sent him the map of our route and Salty and I decided to leave Swept Away in the dark and give her a big surprise of Lucky arriving.  We stopped a little way down the trail and enjoyed a nice lunch, the three of chatted about the hiking so far and our desires for taking a shower and laundry…If you have ever hiked for 500 miles and not done laundry than you know the stank of our clothes and the hard sandpaper like texture they have taken on.  After eating we gave a quick time check, there on our packs and pushed on.  The trail wind downhill as we descended towards the Chewocan River.  We walked through stands of pines and aspen aglow in fall colors, there were even patches of Oak Trees and I easily could have been hiking in CO or NM.   We finally reached the river and crossed the bridge at 5 pm.  We all stopped for a quick fill of water and one last snack before we set off on our 8-mile paved road walk into town.

Inspired by Swami I am doing my best to keep the cows of the ODT safe

We joked and talked as the miles of pavement quickly passed by under our feet.  We met a nice lady walking along the road and she asked, “Are you hiking the ODT?”  It turned out she owns the Saloon in town, we said we were heading there to eat and she informed us it was closed today, man we just can’t catch a break when it comes to eating in town.  Oh well, we all have plenty of food so we carried on.

the fall colors through here were a wonderful treat

The sun slipped behind the mountains and the sky began to put on its evening light show of colors right as we reached the far end of town.  We walked along the road and right as the day turned to night a slick looking Audio pulled up to us, I leaned in my head and gave Lucky a big old hug, Swept Away caught up and looked at me like I was crazy.  “Swept Away and Salty, meet my good friend Lucky from the CDT”. Swept Away was floored when we told her we had kept this secret to surprise her, and she was all smiles when Lucky informed us he had a cornucopia of food for us.  We all headed to the hotel.

We entered a large room, large is an understatement.  The room had 2 queen beds, a table and kitchenette, a large bathroom and a couch to relax on.  We all dropped our gear and Lucky brought out the treats.  Subway sandwiches, chips aplenty, fresh tomatoes from his garden and large salad form his garden too.  He even had homage yogurt sauce with cucumbers and ciders and beers for all of us.  It was the best trail magic we could ask for especially since the town was totally shut down when we arrived.

I drew the first shower, and I was thrilled to do so.  I quickly stripped down and entered the hot shower.  I stood there for a minute just savoring the warm water as it rushed over my body.  Shampoo, conditioner, rinse and repeat.  Then with all the scrubbing power, I could muster, I worked up a rich lather with the washcloth and started to remove the layers of grime that had accumulated on me over the past 3 1/2 weeks.  20 minutes later I exited the shower feeling like a new person.  I slipped into my rain jacket and wind pants and walked into the room aglow with the feeling of a freshly cleaned body.

Even Tiny got into the shower action to help get me clean

I gathered up all of our laundry and Lucky and I left for the laundry facility down the road, leaving the girls to shower and relax in peace and quiet.

Lucky and I hung out in the laundry facility with its ancient washers and dryers and started the labors process of laundry.  I had to spend about 15 minutes pre-rising our socks to remove as much grit and dirt as I could before putting them in the washer.  This little trick helps get hiking socks clean and soft if one skips this step the socks come out as hard as a board because the dirt becomes cement during the washing.

As the laundry spun around Lucky and I caught up on life post-CDT.  Lucky is a vet who served as an Army Ranger in Iraq and also graduated from West Point.  In 2016 I had the pleasure of hiking with him through NM when we all started the CDT.  Luck was part of a program called the Warrior Expeditions which helps vets returning from war a way to walk off the war and regain a sense of peace and self.  Lucky was one of the greatest guys I met that year and we have stayed friends ever since then.  It was great drinking beers and catching up on life as we waited for the clothes to finish.

Once the laundry was done we headed back to the room.  It was way past hiker midnight, but we all hung out a little while longer and enjoyed one more drink and dessert before turning in for the night, girls in one bed, boys in another.  As we drifted off to sleep I smiled with the joy of having such great friends to hike with and have support from along the adventures that I take.

My good friend Lucky who drove hours out of his way to give us trail magic

Day 24 A Quick Pit Stop in Lakeview

Day 24 Lakeview

Sun rising over the Fremont National Forest

It would be hours before the sun rose, yet as the disciplined hikers we are, we donned headlamps and started on our way in the dark.  It was hard to find the trail in the dark, but after a few minutes of scouting around, we were on our way. We climbed steadily uphill and commented how lucky we were to stop last night when we did, as we didn’t see any flat spots.

The trail was super cushy this morning, our continuation on the Fremont was a real treat, the trail is so well marked we barely had to check our way all morning.  We walked as fast as we could, every step we took got us that much closer to town.  As we strolled along making the best time so far this entire hike we each talked about our town dreams and desires.

I longed for food, massive amounts of Chinese food in particular since both Virgo and Dirt Monger had to told me the Chinese food was really good.  Salty just wanted some time to sit and chill for an hour in town, enjoy a meal and then be on our way, Swept all she wants is a shower….frankly we stink horribly.  Our last shower was on day 11 in McDermitt at mile 212, and we have yet to do real laundry this entire time, so as we close in on 540 miles of hiking you can imagine our smell could knock a buzzard for a shit house.

The trail wound wonderfully through a forest of pines and aspen trees, the fall colors were just amazing, with the Aspens going from golden yellow to auburn, each grove was more stunning than the last.  The Traill started to lose some elevation and the then followed a creek for a long way.  The air was super cold today and being in a gully by a creek had us smack dab in the middle of a cold air sink in the forest, so we pushed our pace faster to stay warm.  Eventually, the trail became an old dirt road and the three of us walked side by side chatting about life.

Even though we are pressed for time there is always time for a quick history lesson of the region, after all isn’t learning about where you are traveling all part of the experience?

Right as we were beginning to see the paved road off in the distance we came to a cattle guard on the road, and low and behold there stood 3 cows, a Mother, and 2 youngling calves.  I spoke calmly to the cows to try to settle them but as we got closer they panicked, the Mother and one Calf ran towards us barley missing Swept Away, the other Calf, ran straight up a hill and through a barbed wire fence breaking the wire.  It ran away so fast there was nothing we could really do for it, hopefully being so close to the ranch the cow will be found and is OK.

We trudged down the road and saw Ron waiting for us a mile away from where the dirt met the pavement.  It was early still os we asked Ron to meet us 4 miles up the road so we could get the pavement stretch over with before going to town.  An hour later and we were all in Ron’s van heading down the road to Lakeview OR for our resupply box and a town meal.

A quick sort of our resupply in the Van before heading back out. I think Swept Away’s smile says it best about how nice the new sponges are

Swept Away worked on her phone trying to find anywhere in town where we could shower, a truck stop, a laundry mat, hell even a fire hose behind the station but alas it was not to be.  We arrived in town and went to the post office waiting for us was an amazing box of food from Dylan “Pickle” Tonkin.  He had just finished up the PCT and had extra food so he sent us one hell of an epic resupply box to share. 

Everyone had told us to go eat at the Chinese restaurant in town so we parked out and front and headed to the door only to find it was closed for a few days, damn it!  Off to the only other choice in town besides subway, a dinner next door to the grocery store.  We walked into a somewhat crowded room, knowing that we smell we chose a table as far away from people we could, but a few minutes later we realized it was not far enough, because one table got top and moved away to the other end of the place.

We ordered food, chowed down and then walked to Safeway for a few items to top off our resupply.  This was the first real grocery store on the entire trip and all the choices were a little overwhelming, but we did our best to grab what was essential and get out.  In just about 2 1/2 hours since Ron picked us up, we were fed, resupplied and back at the trailhead on our way.

For the next few hours we walked along a nice maintained road, we were all slack packing so Swept Away decided to jog so she could nap while waiting for Salty and I, off she took down the road so Salty and I started looking at the next few towns stops to see if we could figure out a way to get a room and clean up in either Paisley or Christmas Valley.  It would be a stretch but once we met Swept Away up the road, we could go about 3 more miles making a big 32 mile day and then if we did 35 miles the next day we could end in Paisley, and get a hotel room to clean up.

This sign sums up the entire ODT…

I only had to mention the word shower and Swept Away was all in, “get up let’s go” she said, so with that, we walked well into the dark before crashing on a soft bed of pine needles for the night.  While we cooked dinner I called to make sure there was a room available for us, and indeed there was.  So we joined Ron in the van while we ate and said our goodbyes, as we wouldn’t see him again until we finished.

HELP! We stink

Day 23 Abert Rim, Trees and Trails, Oh My!

Day 23 Abert Rim, Trees and Trails, Oh My!

Sunrise in the hills

The wind blew pretty hard all night, I know because the damn foot pain woke me up a few too many times, as much as I need a good sleep to recover the pain is preventing it.  Each night I wake within a pain like a knife Beijing shoved into the side of my foot, its so bad that Vicodin’s, THC/CDB cookies, Tylenol PM or anything else I am trying is not working to relieve my pain.

We rolled out of camp and along some very nice dirt roads until the sun came and bathed the earth in its light.  The weather really changed with yesterdays front and it feels like fall is here to stay, it was well into the morning before I took off my extra layers of clothing.

We stopped at Colvin Lake to fill up our water, the map showed us going over Albert Rim and a mainly dry day for us.  As we were approaching the water we saw numerous pronghorn in a large herd we stopped and observed them,  like us they too needed that precious water to survive the day.  They moved slowly along the tree line and never saw us as we slowly made our way to the water source they had just left.

Juniper berries, perfect for some bathtub gin

The water source was less than ideal, it was basically an oversized cattle tank with slick and deep mud surrounding it.  The water was a putrid brown and the telltale sign of cows fouling it was all about.  We sat on the shore eating our snacks, drying the previous nights’ condensation from our quilts and reading about Abert Rim.  Swept Away volunteered to take off her shoes and wade into the muck to get water for all of us.  With CNOC bags in hand, she waded in, filling bag after bag with the water.  We all hoped we would find something better to avoid drinking this batch.  With a full load of water and many miles to go to make our goal for the day, we loaded up and headed out.

Aspens and ponderosa pines, a rare treat on this hike

After the water we started walking through some aspens and pine trees it was magical to be in a little bit of woods after so many miles in sagebrush. As we popped out to a clearing we saw there were many miles of cross-country to get us to Abert Rim.  The three of us were not feeling that so we looked at a map saw a road alternate to walk and debated what to do.  I sent Virgo a text to see if he had may insight with no response we went the road option.  About 2 miles down the road we came to a clear and wonderful spring.  We all decided to upgrade our water, so as we sat there filling bottles I heard form Virgo who said, “if it’s clear go see the rim it’s spectacular”…with that we walked the road to a point that got us as close to the rim as possible and then we set off cross country.

Salty making her way cross country on Abert Rim

For the next few miles, we walked across ankle busting lava rocks covered in grass.  The sagebrush came in patches and we pushed through.  As I approached the rim I looked back and the girls were a ways back, I figured I’d wait for them at the overlook I spotted.  As I walked up to the edge my jaw dropped.  As far as I could see to my right a huge expansive rim sat perched over the desert.  Abert Rim is the largest fault escarpments in North America.  Far below I could see ranches and across the expanse the other side of the escarpment. 

Salty soon caught up and a few minutes later Swept Away came and joined us.  Swept Away told me to hold out my hand and in it, she placed an obsidian spear point with the tip broken off.  I sat there staring at the ancient object imaging a young warrior who decided to enjoy the view like we were doing and work on his kit. 

Abert Rim

Abert Rim is the largest fault escarpment in North America

Me along Abert Rim

 

We enjoyed some lunch and a must needed break and decided to keep along the rim.  For the next couple of miles, this cross country kicked our ass.  Why I understand the trail designers wanting us to see the rim, I had to constantly look down to not trip or roll my ankle on the lava rocks we had to maneuver through, so instead of seeing amazing rim views, I saw my feet.  Eventually, the rim started to get too brushy to navigate so we picked a straight line back the road and headed that way…

Back on the road and life was grand, the road was wide and well maintained.  We walked along it through Ponderosa Pine and Aspens Trees, chatting away about life.  As we continued on the landscape just kept getting better and better, nothing but trees, and shade.  We eventually came to the start of the Fremont National Recreation Trail.  This well-maintained trail was a big change from the regularly scheduled hikes along this trail. 

A large ponderosa pine

As we started on the trail we noticed first how well maintained and soft the ground was, it was an actual trail.  After a few minutes, we also noted how well marked the trail was, every 30-50 yards there was a trail marker on a tree indicating we were still on course.  As the miles started to tick off we all got lost in our minds.  The trail took us through the forest and for the first time on this hike we were able to turn our brains off and just walk taking it all in, no need to navigate, no constant checking of a bearing, nothing but trees, and the afternoon light of a forest.  It was like being on a hiking vacation from my hiking vacation.

A forested canyon along the Fremont Trail

We came to a small stream in the woods about an hour before sunset, we all took the time to fill our bottles for the evening and as we started to walk away, the cold air quickly overtook the three of us.  We continued walking and hit a dirt road.  As the trail was leaving the road I took a look at the map, we were on a flat bench of terrain but the map showed we had to start climbing for a long way.  The sun was well below the horizon and it would be completely dark in few minutes so we decided to make camp.

Trail markers made for some very relaxed hiking

We walked off the road and into the woods, there was a giant pile of cut trees in the area we were camping in.  The forest here like so many in the western US are being infested with bark bottle which kills off young trees.  The Fremont National Forest is clearly getting ahead of this by cutting out sick trees and piling them up to be burned in the winter once the snow arrives. 

The fall colors are just stunning along this hike

We tucked ourselves under some trees for the night, each of us picking a few we thought would help keep the moon from shining in our faces and waking us during the night.  Our 23rd night in a row of cowboy camping under the stars!   We sat around doing the evening routine of washing and eating, it was downright cold though so I took few minutes to heat up water for Salty and me to each wash with, Swept Away did the same with her stove.

As we were getting ready to turn in for the night we talked about our game plan for Lakeview the next day…we had to go about 19 miles to the road to town, being tight on time we discussed how quickly we should try to get in and out of town for our resupply.  Swept Away was lobbying for a shower, our last one being nearly 2 weeks and over 300 miles ago, and we decided if there was a shower option we would take it, as long as it it didn’t cost us precious time.  So with dreams of town food, showers, and a resupply we all faded off to sleep.

Day 22 “Plush ain’t got shit”

A rare cloudy day in the ODT

I woke pretty groggy from the lack of sleep the night before from all the foot pain.  I decided to leave the KT tape off as my foot felt better without it and that is how I walked out of camp.  The road we had finally found last night was still pretty overgrown, in about half a mile there was a metal gate across the road so we climbed over it and then found ourselves ankle deep in a spring of sulfur smelling mud that seeped into our shoes and through our socks and between our toes.

Sunrise at Hart Lake

About an hour from camp as the sky was starting to change color we saw Ron’s van parked overlooking the lake.  We woke him up and chatted for a few minutes and arranged for him to pick us up where the trail turns away from town so we could a save ourselves 2 miles and 40 minutes of walking on the pavement while still keeping our continuous footpath.

As we walked along the trail we came across a series of boulders with petroglyphs.  It was awesome how many of them were all over the place.  We took some photos, speculated at what some of the drawings were and each interpreted our own meaning from the ancient messages.  The next leg of our hike took us around the lakeshore on a paved road.  Where the road meets the trail there were two privies so we pulled over for a break.  While sitting there eating a snack we met some folks from the BLM who were out spreading gravel on a nature path as part of the events for national public lands day.  We chatted for a bit about our hike, then knocked out the last 3 miles in no time, making 15 miles by 10:30am.

Petroglyphs

What do these say to you? Messages from the ancients gave us much to contemplate

Now before arriving in a Plush, we had been told by two of our friends that “Plush ain’t got shit”. So as we pulled up in front of the small store that comprises of the town of Plush we had low expectations.  We were also told the burgers were incredible, so I ordered a double bacon cheeseburger basket and a large coke and set about organizing my box.  After a few minutes, I did a little shopping for a few items I needed, chips, cookies, and a fresh Avacado.  I was shocked at how well stocked the store actually was.  Then my burger arrived, damn it was awesome a big old double patty grilled to perfection.  Since we have arrived in most of the trail towns after everything is closed and leave well before anything is open, this meal was a real treat for me.

After lunch, we were outside packing up when my good friend Renee “She-Ra” Patrick who is the trail coordinator for the ODT pulled up.  She had been out for a hike herself and was planning to meet up with us.  We hung out for an hour, enjoyed a beer and picked her brain on the upcoming terrain.  Then she and Ron dropped us back off at the trailhead and we were on our way.

She-ra who not only manages the ODT is also one of the most bad ass people I have the pleasure to call a friend

The trail was a series of dirt roads, all of them were in good shape.  We rolled along making good time.  Eventually, as we made our way up the draw we saw Ron stopped at the bottom of the next hill.  He was contemplating if he should give it a try so he could camp with us one more night.  He went for it and a mile up the road. at the top of the hill, he sat there and informed us the roads were too steep to risk it in his van.  We parted ways and agreed that he would grab us on the highway in a couple of days to get us into Lakeview so we could save time and avoid having to waste time hitchhiking in and out the town.

Thankfully I had enough water to avoid drinking this foul muck

Ron doing what he does, taking his van to new heights

We walked the hills in the soft light of sunset and as we turned a corner we saw an old dry pond bed full of short dry grass and decided to camp there for the night.  It was a little windy but we each snuggled down in our Katabatic quilts and got lost

Salty sung in her Katabatic Flex 15, even the praying mantis agrees that katabatic quilts are the warmest

Day 21 Autumnal Equinox

Hart mountain refuge with aspens aglow in fall colors

Waking in a warm building was such a treat and having a flush toilet to use instead of digging a hole was just pure luxury this morning.  We all packed up pretty quick it’s much easier to get going when the temp isn’t at freezing.

We hit the road and headed for the hot springs just as the sky lightened to day we arrived to a wonderful sight.  A natural hot spring with some stone walls around it to block the wind.  In we all went for a much needed bath, and for the next 30-40 minutes we soaked in the warm water until we were all pruned up and needed to move on.  The worst part was having to get out into the cold morning air all wet, but we all quickly threw on many layers could to trap the warmth from the soak and then set off hiking while snacking on our breakfast.

Hart Mountain Hot Spring

The morning was very pleasant we walked on nice dirt roads through the Hart Mountain refuge and saw tons of mule deer and prong horns.  As the we climbed deeper into the refuge we were treated to aspen groves in fall colors and some old homesteads along the way.  The weather stayed cool and we had a gentle breeze at our backs, an ideal fall day, the kind of weather that makes you want to pull on a hooded sweatshirt and head to a keg party with a bonfire on a Friday night.

Getting the water for the rest of the way to Plush

As lunch approached we reached an old homestead and like the previous owners we sat in the shade of the trees and enjoyed lunch and a much-needed rest.  The grass out in the horizon was like a scene from the song America the Beautiful and a more ideal spot of frontier life could not be imagined.  After lunch we set off again, however, the road had ended and for 3 miles we bushwhacked through tall grass sometimes well over my head.  It was a fun and new experience of cross-country terrain and we took it in stride.  We had to find our way up and over a large butte with steep rocky cliffs, but with some scouting, we found places to climb up the wall and then climbed down on the backside.

The old homestead a perfect lunch spot

We rejoined a road and that carried us up and over Fisher Canyon.  As we turned to descend down the canyon we saw in front of us a huge lake right here in the desert.  Hart Lake is a massive lake and as we arrived at it we soon found another bushwhack was in our future.  This one, however, was evil and required walking through numerous poky plants and scratchy bushes taller than the 3 of us.  As the sun was setting we stepped into a large grove of cottonwood trees and it felt creepy.  It reminded me of the Blair Witch Project, so we pushed through until we finally found the next primitive road that will take us to the town of Plush.

All smiles as we push through the tall grass

Salty picking her way down the rocky slopes of the butte

A poop with a view

We walked a few 100 yards and since it was dark we decided it was time to make camp and get ready to play the hiking game again in the morning.  My foot is killing me these days way more than the past week, in fact, it has woken me up the past few nights.  Just 10 more days is all I keep telling myself, gut it out pain is only temporary.

Sunset before the bushwhacking

Postscript, at 11:30 pm last night after two Tylenol pm and magnesium I still awoke in withering pain because of my foot.  I had to wrap it, then unwrap it, massage it, take a painkiller and then wait for it to kick in.

Day 19, Let The Endurance Games Begin

The Mesa

We sat down yesterday in Frenchglen and did some math, the kind of math that as a kid I hated, word problems …”How many days to get to the end and not run out of time?” 350 miles roughly left, 12 days to hike means we have to hike 30 miles a day each day to finish.  No problem right?

We all talked it over and agreed to give it our all to achieve this goal and finish together.  Salty and I are pretty much hell-bent on finishing even if it means long days of hiking in the dark for hours each morning and evening.  Swept Away seems slightly reluctant to have to suffer like that, but she knew what she was in for from the start so, like the stoic young woman she is, she gave us the head nod and said: “game on.”

I kind of felt like President Snow at the start of the Hunger Games, announcing the start of what is sure to be one of the hardest 12-day stretches of hiking any of us have ever experienced.  Instead of entering a gauntlet and grabbing a weapon of our choice to try to kill each other until we are the last person standing, we have rallied as a team to hold each other up to see our goal completed.  Instead of fighting over food, I am sure we will continue to share snacks and first aid items as we each take care to make sure the others are able to continue on.

We woke at 4:30 and did the morning routine at 5:15 we were off by headlamp.  The first few miles were pretty easy as we walked up the side of a paved highway for a few miles, then we turned off onto a dirt road.  We had worked up a good lather of sweat since we all started in all of our layers and quickly were stripping down.  However, as the sun came up the wind did too and my soaking wet shirt chilled me to the core.  I stoped and put my puffy on and we carried on, it would be hours before I was able to remove that layer.

Sunrise on the desert

We came to the first water source, marked as a reliable spring, only it was not so reliable and was dry…. we looked and had 18 more miles to the next reliable water, and I only had 1 1/2 liters.  We hoped for cool temps to get by with such a little amount of water and carried on down the trail.  In a mile we came to a cow tank with some gross cow pooh water, I needed water badly so I grabbed a liter and hoped I wouldn’t need it, spoiler alert I did and it was pretty earthy/pooh tasting even after filtering.

The day was then spent mostly walking on dirt roads and a few short cross country sections along the High Mesa.  It was probably the easiest walking we have had so far on this trip.  As we approached mid-day we finally reached the next water source a corral and windmill right out of a western movie with bulls, wild horses and cows.  We drank long and deep from the piped spring water, then realized this was our only water for 40 miles…..

The best windmill ever and the coolest water one could ask for

With heavy packs, we trudged down the road and found a place for lunch so the cows could enjoy the water without us disturbing them.  We had a full yard sale of gear to dry off the previous nights’ condensation and as I do, I drifted off for a nap.  I awoke to Salty reading me my horoscope and it was perfect.  It said Gemini you are a patron saint and should consider which of many specials you can perform to focus on, my specialty is helping people “find an epiphany while hiking in nature”.

Allgood the patron saint

With that, we hiked on and in 8 miles we had wrapped up 31 miles and who should meet us in this remote Mesa in the middle of nowhere, but of course Ron and his van.  He fed us cole slaw, potato salad, and ribs he had gotten in Burns…we enjoyed the warmth inside the van for a bit and chatted before retiring for the night. 

Tomorrow we are shooting for 31 miles to the Hart Mountain HQ from there we want to push a 35+day so we can get into Plush and out of Plush on Saturday and still make a 30….it’s gonna be a long 12 days but rewarding as hell!

Stop the sage brush!

Facebook

Unable to display Facebook posts.
Show error

Error: (#4) Application request limit reached
Type: OAuthException
Code: 4
Please refer to our Error Message Reference.
Subscribe to The Dago Diaries!

Subscribe to The Dago Diaries!

Subscribe to receive the latest updates from the trail in your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!