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.
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…..
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”.
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!