The pine forest we had slept in was so warm when we woke up it was easy to get out of my bag and get going for the day. I had slept in our prototype tent per Ron’s request and I must say I was very impressed with the amount of space it had how easy it went up last night and down this morning. I think they will be an easy sell this coming year and I look forward to helping design some additional shelters for 2020.
We walked through pine trees in the dark, it was wonderful and we all quickly heated up and had to shed layers. As we climbed up to the plateau above us and started walking through Watkins Flat the temp plummeted, Salty and I had to drop our packs to layer back up, Swept Away still was in her long sleeve and pants so she was fine. As the sun was getting the sky bright enough to see we came to our water cache put out by She-ra. In a few short minutes, we found the cache the air was still freezing cold so we decided to have a long break and I made some hot water while we snacked and waited for the sun to crest the horizon.
Once we had finally drunk our warm brew, got the blood going back in our hands so they would move, and felt ready to push on we started back on the road. Now that it was light we were shocked to see so many trucks coming down the back road, one after another truck came passing by us. Finally, we were about to turn off the main road onto a small side road and we came upon a man unloading from his truck with 3 young boys. I inquired why all the traffic and was informed it was the opening day of rifle season for mule deer. Great our last full day on the trail and now we have to worry about not only making miles but also to make sure we are not mistaken for deer while pushing through the brush on a bushwhack.
The roads were pretty flat and easy walking, we rolled along through the forest enjoying the warmer air of the day. We knew we had one big climb today up to the Pine Mountain Observatory where we would get another water cache and if lucky drop off some of the empty bottle we had in the trash.
We walked across a flat valley we emerged from the trees and off in the distance we could see pine mountain and way, far away the Observatory on the summit. The way up was a long dirt road, we started our climb and each of us fell into our own pace as we steadily climbed up higher and higher towards the summit. About halfway up I stopped and marveled at the valley and forest below that we had just crossed, after catching my breath I kept pushing on ever higher and higher, the road wrapped around a series of switchbacks and after what seemed like an eternity I finally made to the observatory. I stopped at the house next to the observatory and dropped my pack, and went around to the back porch to grab our water. While we filled up our bottles we discovered a trash can and as fast as we could we crunched down our water jugs and threw them into the trash.
Once again we headed down the road and onto our final leg of the ODT…the trail soon left the road and took us down a small OHV trail that was one of the steepest grades we had encountered since or early days in the Owyhee Canyon Lands. We could see the ranches below and each step that jarred our knees brought us closer to the big valley below. The sky was getting darker and darker with storm clouds, and the wind was picking up.
We finally reached the valley floor, regrouped, dumped sand from our shoes and pressed on into the waning daylight. The trail followed a series of OHV trails and was crisscrossed with numbers farm roads. We crossed a paved road and climbed up into some cool hills and sagebrush. The wind was really kicking up now and off in the distance we saw flashes of lightning and could hear the familiar sound of thunder. As the night sky began we figured it was time to hunker down for the night.
Salty being without a shelter cowboy camped next to Swept Away and me, we set up our shelters and agreed if the weather turned for the worse Salty could crawl in with one of us to ride out the storm, luckily Swept Away has a two-person tent so there should be plenty of space if needed. We cooked dinner, and right as we got ready to nod off the sky cleared and we caught one ore view of the Milky Way. We all drifted off to sleep deep in the reflection of where we had come from and that tomorrow would be our final push to the end and close to another thru-hike exploring this great land of ours at human speed.
Post Script-I awake at 11 pm in terrible pain, each night for the past two weeks the foot pain I have been experiencing has gotten worse each night. This night though took the prize for the worse yet, the miles across the sand seemed to inflame it worse than before and felt like a large knife was shoved into the side of my foot. Every other hour I was awake squirming in pain trying not to make any noise and wake up my hiking partners.