Remember how I mentioned last time that it seems every time you have a plan that you're more than confident with, something goes astray? That's essentially what happened last week, only this time, it was actually impactful. Planning, making and obtaining goals, and being as disciplined as you need to be is more difficult than it seems, and if you're lucky, things might just go your way. Most of the time, however; we aren't so lucky.
For the last six days, since Darby essentially, I've been hiking with a couple of new hikers I've met. Funny Bone and Stomper are two dudes who have both hiked 12,000+ miles along the U.S's national scenic trails, and have been friends since the PCT in '06. Funny Bone is a former Olympian and teammate of Lance Armstrong's, and Stomper is a master carpenter, seamstress, and accomplished ex addict. (More on his story over on my Instagram: @nathanabauman.)
When we left Darby after a mead filled night at Curtis's house, I and another 6 or 7 hikers were expecting a 125 mile carry to Leadore via the CDT obviously. Really quick just to fill you in, we stayed with a Trail Angel and Warm Showers host in Darby who not only cooked both dinner and breakfast for us, but also gave us an extensive tasting of about 15 different types and flavors of mead. Thanks, Curtis! Unfortunately, due to the Morgan fire that was just outside of Big Hole Pass, there was a closure on the CDT that demanded a reroute around the fire. Instead of hitching to the next town, or chancing it and embracing the fire, we chose to road walk 26 miles to Wisdom, MT, then another 30 or so miles to the trail along jeep and ATV roads.
When you're at the mercy of Mother Nature, a lot can go wrong though. As mentioned, sometimes we aren't so lucky both in society and out here on trail. When you're pushing your physical and mental limits, a lot can go wrong. Really, on this trail and any other long distance hike or in any other time consuming endeavor, a lot can and will go wrong. The important thing to remember is to keep your goal, whatever that may be, in sight and at the top of your priority list. Keep it at the front of your mind and always have a grasp on what you're trying to accomplish. The reason I'm even talking about this is because things did go astray a bit.
This last stretch that we road walked ended up adding an extra 25 miles to our carry. Instead of 125 miles on 5 days of food, we had to do 155 or so miles on 5 days of food. To some of you reading, that extra 30 miles may not seem like a lot, but consuming 1,000 less calories than needed each day tends to put a bit of a lag in the reserve tanks.
As we began the road walk, it seemed as if it would never end. The feeling of endless road ahead was immediate and didn't end until we hit trail a day and a half later. Seven of us set out to Wisdom, MT along State Highway 43. As we neared the first campground around 10 miles in, three of the seven decided to hitch to Wisdom to get additional info on the fire. That night myself, Red Bass, and Funny Bone cowboy camped along the highway after the sun set on what started out to be a terrible road walked, but ended with a fire ball falling through the sky, followed by the night sky lighting up in a way that was as grand as I've ever seen. On par with the sunset at Goat Flats, surprisingly enough.
We broke camp early, road walked 10 more miles into town, destroyed an entirely too small breakfast, and road walked another 16 miles and finally set camp up on the first bit of public land we passed. Road walking is extremely damaging on the knees, and hamstrings, at least in my experience. The same repetitive motion seems to break down the body much quicker. Finally laying down after a long day of hiking, or road walking in our case, is quite possibly the most rewarding activity. Within minutes, my eyelids closed and I slipped into an 8 hour, dream filled sleep. Listening to nothing but the creek rushing in the background, the wind whipping through the sage brush, and the occasional wolf howling in the distance is how I prefer to sleep. It's pretty wild to know that since March 13th of last year, I've slept in my tent just as much as I have in a bed, on a couch, or on a floor. Trust me, that was the last 8 months of my life in Casa De Dirtbag. Wouldn't have it any other way.
Once we finally got back to trail, everything has been the norm, minus Funny Bone getting attacked by a boxer. The dog immediately ran towards him as we approached our only water source of the last 20 miles. Funny Bone, sunglasses on, hat with bandana on, all black leggings and long sleeved, definitely didn't seem the most friendly off the bat. We actually got some trail magic out of that. The owners gave us a couple of oranges which after 20 miles of no water, was an absolute treat. We've kicked the miles up significantly. We've done four, 27+ mile days in a row over some of the most beautiful country side. Huge mountains, wide open valleys, and long, looming ridges drape this landscape. Sunrises and sunsets begin and end my days, while the vast majority includes eating, climbing, staring in awe, and most certainly embracing everything the CDT has to offer, even if that means 20+ mile water carries.
Im now in Leadore, writing this on my one month anniversary of being on the CDT. I've hiked 757 miles. This trail is interesting because from my experience on the AT last year, everything is different. My mileage, my zeros, my hiking style, my passion, my creativeness, everything. I am different. These trails have a tendency to not only impact you in a positive way, but they allow you to take the unexpected, and the unplanned for, and turn it into something you never would have thought possible. We've already decided that nothing ever goes as planned, but damnit, sometimes the unexpected is better than we could have ever imagined.