Endless P Summer

First of all the Hayduke is more of a route than a trail so I’ll do my best to refrain from calling it a trail. It basically goes across southern Utah from Arches to Zion traveling through all of Utah’s national parks and dips down into Arizona and through the Grand Canyon. We’ll be mainly following the route west from Arches and planning to take plenty of alternates. There’s no signed trail. Instead it consists of a blend of cross country travel, jeep roads, trail, canyons, mountains and a 60+ mile section of the Colorado River that we’re planning to raft. In total it will be roughly 800 miles and we expect to take about 2 months(with a couple of pre planned hiatuses). This will be much different than established trails I’ve done in the past as there will be longer water carries, longer food carries, slower foot travel, extreme temperatures, and difficult route finding. Wish us luck!

Sept. 10,11,12 from SLC to Moab

After hiking the Uinta Highline Trail, QB and I spent a night in Park City then made our way to Salt Lake where we spent the day exploring the city. In Salt Lake we stayed with our friends Johnny and Karla aka the Eggs from the PCT in ‘15. The next morning Karla drove us to the train station in Lehi where we took public transit to Spanish Fork before we started hitching. We got 3 rides that brought us all the way to Moab from Alex, Amanda, and Rob with a stop in Helper, Utah to check out the town.

As soon as we got into Moab we ran into Quiet Earp at the grocery store who we first met on the Arizona Trail in ’18. Quiet Earp is working as a rafting guide for an outfit in town and had all kinds of info for us about the section of the Colorado River that we’re planning on rafting. Plus he’s playing music tonight at a local open mic so of course we went to check that out after getting all settled into the Lazy Lizard Hostel.

The following day we got out to the La Sal mountains just south of town and did a little bit of fishing(struck out again)and a fair amount of walking. There’s an alternate start to the Hayduke that starts out here in the La Sals, which we won’t be doing, but we did want to explore this place a little bit as they’ll provide a distant backdrop for lots of views from Arches and Canyonlands.

9/13/19…..Hayduke Day 1…..3 miles

I never planned it this way, it just happened. QB and I woke up this morning camping in the Manti-La Sal National Forest outside of Moab, Utah. From our campsite we walked about 6 miles, mostly on road, until a truck finally came by and we put our thumbs out. Dean lives nearby and was going into town to pick up firewood. He drove us through Castle Valley, along the Colorado River and into Moab. On the way we heard from our buddy Mac who was supposed to start the Hayduke and hiking a section with us. Unfortunately he couldn’t make it and although this is a bummer it did give us an opportunity to rearrange our plans a little bit.

Originally our plan was to start hiking 9/17, walk 2 days through Arches into Moab, then pick up our rafts at the PO and float the Colorado for 3 days into Canyonlands before resuming hiking. For this we got permits for the river from 9/19-21. We also needed to rent a car to cache food and water at a couple of spots for later on during the route(this is a strategic move for sections that have wicked long stretches between water sources and resupply locations). The problem we came across today was that being a Friday, there were no cars available until Monday. We figured no big deal. We’ll start the hike tonight in Arches, which is about 26 trail miles to Moab, walk tomorrow and Sunday morning then take a 2 day road trip to cache food and water and most likely have a little bonus adventure before returning to Moab to start paddling on the 19th.

In town today we ran a couple of errands, spent sometime at the library figuring stuff out and of course ate a bunch of food before making our way to Arches. We got rides from Roy to the park then from Don and Lissa to the Visitor Center. At the VC Ranger Keely took care of us and set us up with a couple of primo backcountry sites. I couldn’t believe they had completely open availability for a Friday and Saturday night(Friday the 13th for that matter, and a full moon!). From the Visitor Center we got picked up by Chris and Anne, a German couple vacationing in the states, who took us all the way to Devil’s Garden. We had about a 3 mile walk to our site through amazing red rock fins and slick rock while checking out a bunch of arches along the way. Around sunset we got to the designated backcountry site and set up on some flat slick rock that was still warm from the day’s sun. As we ate supper the sky changed colors and the stars started to twinkle on.

9/14/19…..Hayduke Day 2…..22 miles

It was a hot one today and we knew it would be. We got up a little bit before sunrise but not too much because we’d have some off trail travel and that would be near impossible in the dark. It was awesome walking early this morning as the full moon was still out competing with the light from the rising sun.

From our campsite we walked along the maintained trail for awhile until we got to the edge of Devil’s Garden. We then descended a series of rock ledges and ramps before doing some cross country travel through Salt Valley to a jeep road. Walking cross country is difficult in the park because it’s imperative to avoid stepping on cryptobiotic soil (This is a particular kind of desert soil that takes years to build up and reverts back to nothing if stepped on, often times it’s already all smushed by cows but since there’s no cows in the national parks it’s greatest enemy is humans. Check out the picture below). The jeep roads were a breeze though and we walked along them for a few miles while the temperatures started to rise. We then left the road and picked up a fence line for awhile before dropping into a wash that we walked through until Willow Spring. Good thing we didn’t count on there being any water here because there wasn’t. Nice enough spot to take a lunch break though.

After lunch we continued down this drainage until it was joined by Courthouse Wash. Until this point in the wash it had been just slickrock and sand with a few narrow slot canyons to navigate through. When it became Courthouse Wash water began to appear and then suddenly some of the most vile and disgusting bushwhacking of my life ensued. It was just really dense reeds that we had to maneuver through, I sure could have used a machete but of course neither of us are carrying one. We had to keep crossing over the water also and at one point a beaver had dammed it and we were crossing through waste deep beaver water. At times it opened up and we could walk through sandy washes for awhile but inevitably we’d be right back in the middle of thick vegetation. It was pretty though, as we got lower the tall red canyon walls got higher and provided a nice backdrop to this bushwhacking nightmare.

When we reached the crossing with the main road in the park Tom and Michelle pulled over and set us up with some ice cold water, what a treat! We continued from there down into Lower Courthouse Wash. This had a bit more walkable trail and a little less of the nonsense. After a couple miles we got to a beautiful spot that we had reserved next to a large red rock wall radiating heat that was all stored up from the day.

9/15/19…..Hayduke Day 3…..3 miles

We only had a short distance to get to the road and back into town today but it still wasn’t simple. From our campsite we followed Courthouse Wash for 3 miles until it fed into the Colorado River. For a while there was trail or at least a dry sandy wash to follow then suddenly the canyon would become more narrow, the beavers would have a dam built, the water would back up and thick reeds would be everywhere. So even for a short stretch of hiking today there was still a fair amount of bushwhacking to do. Besides the bushwhacking though, it was awesome, much like yesterday where we walked through a canyon with massive red rock walls.

At the same place the wash reaches the Colorado it also reaches rt 191 which is just a few miles outside of Moab. We got a hitch into town from Josh and Nat then demolished breakfast followed by a couple donuts(we’ve been hiking for over a month now so even though this is the very beginning of a trail our hiker hunger is in full effect.) After breakfast we made our way out to Mill Creek Canyon, a local swimming hole on BLM land. This isn’t your average swimming hole, after about a mile walk into a gigantic red rock canyon there’s a waterfall into a large pool. It’s quite a place. If you’re ever in Moab and looking for a place to cool off I recommend it.

Our next section of the Hayduke involves a little red tape. We’ll be paddling 60 something miles of the Colorado River into Canyonlands NP and we’ll need permits for all but the first 15 of those miles. Our permits start on the 19th so we’ll be getting back on trail(river) on the 18th and camping somewhere before we cross into the park. Starting tomorrow we’re renting a car for a couple days and going out to cache food. @endlesspsummer

@sarahikes

The Uinta Highline Trail is a 104 mile trail that goes east to west in Northeast Utah from McKee Draw trailhead to Hayden Pass trailhead(or vice versa). One of the few mountain ranges in the lower 48 that run horizontal. QB and I will be attempting to do it in 5 days, but first we have to get there. From Pinedale, WY it took us a full day of hitching as we hopscotched from Pinedale to Boulder, WY to Rock Springs, WY to Green River, WY then finally to Manila, UT where we spent the night.

9/5/19…..UHT Day 1…..23 miles

From the hotel in Manila I walked across the street and got a coffee at the Sinclair then QB and I started walking south on Utah Rt 44 with our thumbs out. There wasn’t too much traffic and it took us a couple miles before Kevin and his son Liam stopped to pick us up. These guys drove us about 45 minutes around the Flaming Gorge to the McKee Draw trailhead, the Eastern Terminus of the Uinta Highline Trail.

I knew this coming into it but the easternmost 20 miles of trail are supposed to be a bit bland. And they were. A fair amount of people either begin or end their hikes 20 miles west of McKee Draw at Leidy Peak Trailhead, but not us. We walked the relatively boring terrain all day and it wasn’t unenjoyable. It was mostly pine forest with some rocky trail criss crossing with a few service roads here and there. It was desolate as we didn’t see another person out here all day and we were under the constant threat of thunderstorms. Luckily we barely got any rain just walked into some super dark clouds.

If you’re planning to do this hike note that there is a significant dry stretch from around mile 4 near the East Park Reservoir to mile 21 where we found a small creek in Summit Park.

11/6/19…..UHT Day 2…..19 miles

Overnight we got a fair amount of rain. At one point QB and I both woke up to the flash of lightning and tenths of a second later heard the crack of thunder. That was scary, but we were in a secure spot so didn’t expect to get struck.

The skies were clear in the morning though, at least for a little while. We walked gradually uphill through forest for about 3 miles to the Leidy Peak Trailhead and then had an option of going left or right around the peak. From the trailhead we were now right at treeline closing in on 11,000 feet. The trail to the left of the peak became a bit difficult to follow. If you’re doing this trail note that the trail itself takes a sharp left turn downhill but the GPS track sticks closer to the treeline. QB and I stayed high and followed some elk trails until we got to a steady stream of cairns. For the next 5-6 miles there really wasn’t much trail but there were lots of highly visible cairns since we were above treeline and easy enough to follow.

We made it up and over Gabbro Pass and then walked another mile or so to Deadman’s Lake. The skies were starting to look very ominous now and thunder was rumbling so instead of bolting right up the pass by the lake we decided to take an early lunch and see if we could wait for clearer skies. Our first attempt ended when we heard a loud crack of thunder and retreated back down to the lake. After waiting 15 minutes the skies cleared up and we had no problem getting up and over the pass.

This afternoon we more or less cruising through the forest without getting rained on. We’re not trying to beat the bag out of this trail and strategically camped early next to Lower Reeder Lake after 19 miles. I tied a fly to a stick and tried fishing the lake but there must not be any fish in there, hopefully better luck tomorrow.

9/7/19…..UHT Day 3…..25 miles

From our spot by the lake we got up and going by sunrise and steadily climbed for a few miles to the top of North Pole Pass at 12,200 feet. This was a nice beefy pass with comfortable graded rocky trail switchbacking nicely to the top. Once we crested the pass we crossed into High Uintas Wilderness (not sure what wilderness we had been in before this). We could now see some beefier peaks in the distance.

From North Pole Pass we dropped into a pretty forested valley that we were able to cruise through for most of the day. After lunch we noticed the air was starting to get hazy and I got a whiff of smoke. Dang wildfires! It would have been a beautiful day had it not been for the smoke, and now it was hard to tell if we had blue skies or clouds rolling in. We got to the base of Anderson Pass and the air quality hadn’t improved but we climbed up anyway. This was about a 3 mile climb that gained roughly 1500 feet bringing us to the highest point of the trail, 12,700 feet. At the top of the pass we had the option of climbing up steep talus to our left for another 500 vertical feet to the summit of King’s Peak, the highest point in the state of Utah. This would have been nice but the smoke really hampered visibility and it looked as if the summit was about to be socked in with clouds. Plus it was around 4:30 and bad form to summit so late in the day, right? We’ll have to come back and climb this one, the state high points aren’t all that important to me.

Instead we descended down some steep switchbacks and ended up in another valley. We walked a few more miles to get water and found a place to camp among some pines and pink boulders.

9/8/19…..UHT Day 4…..16 miles

It was cold this morning and had rained overnight. I noticed some water had even got into the tent. So I basically woke up cold, wet, and without a goodnight’s sleep. Not a good start.

At first it was dry out but there were clouds threatening in every direction and as we started up Tungsten Pass(a poor excuse for a pass) it started to rain. A cold driving rain that fortunately didn’t last all that long. We were quickly up and down Tungsten and as we made our way across a valley and started up Porcupine Pass some hints of halfway decent weather started to show up. On the way up we saw a dead horse down in a gully, awfully sad and strange because this isn’t a steep pass. Ironically, tomorrow we’re due to go over Dead Horse Pass.

From on top of Porcupine Pass at 12,200 feet we could see far into a spectacular valley with treeline about 3 miles ahead and 1000 feet down. Beyond that were some formidable looking clouds. This was a situation where the only thing we could do was walk directly into the weather and hope we reached the treeline before the storm clouds reached us. As we got closer to the trees the weather really turned on us and soon we had a combination of freezing rain and sleet driving into us while getting whipped with a relentless cold wind. QB and I rushed towards the safety of some pines and we quickly realized this storm front wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. We set the tent up as fast as possible and did what we had to do to get warm and dry.

While in the tent we eventually warmed up as the rain outside turned to snow. After a couple hours it seemed to let up and of all things the sun came out. We changed back into our wet clothes, packed up, and got on with our day. Not before admiring the landscape with a brand new paint job though: a fresh layer of snow was on Porcupine Pass, the mountains, the valley walls, and part of the valley that we had just walked through. Oh yeah, and if you’re wondering not a hint of smoke from those phantom wildfires yesterday.

Round 2: the sun was now in and out of the clouds and the wind and precipitation had stopped but we still weren’t completely in the clear. Our objective was to make it 8 more miles to the bottom of Red Knob Pass to set ourselves up for a 22 mile 3 pass final day tomorrow. Ideally we’d have liked to get over Red Knob this afternoon and give ourselves a better chance of getting to a hotel room tomorrow night. Odds weren’t in our favor though. We got almost 2 hours of hiking in when the clouds started to close in on us and we began looking for a spot to set up again. As soon as we took off our packs we suddenly were getting pelted with pea sized hail, better than rain I guess or at least dryer. Soon we were back in the safety of the tent reading Harry Potter and listening to the hail ping off the little poles that are keeping our shelter in place.

After an hour of hail, rain, and b-hole puckering thunder and lightning, the sun came out again. We packed up as quickly as possible and were soon back on trail. There was only about 4 miles the bottom of Red Knob Pass and we made it here without incident. From the base of the pass the clouds were moving very quickly and were too difficult to read. We decided to camp and leave the climb for the morning. Shortly after we set up for the night the rain started again, so I guess we made the right call. What a day!

9/9/19…..UHT Day 5…..22 miles

Brrrr!!! It was a gd cold one this morning! I wore almost all my clothes I’ve been carrying as we packed up the tent and started up towards Red Knob Pass, our first climb of the day. It didn’t take long before we crested this pass and were looking down at an amazing valley and across to our next obstacle, Dead Horse Pass.

As we dropped down into the valley full of domestic sheep, the sun finally started to warm us up. We crossed this forested valley and started up Dead Horse which was said to be the crux of the whole trail. It was definitely steep and at times maybe a little sketchy but it really wasn’t all that bad just wicked steep switchbacks up the side of a mountain. It was all walkable, actually at no point during this whole Uinta Highline Trail has anything been more than class 1 walking.

From the top of Dead Horse we looked down into another incredible valley and spotted a pair of mountain goats. Finally some wildlife! I heard this place was loaded with animals but besides these 2 goats we’ve only seen a handful of deer out here. We must be scaring them.

For the next few hours we cruised through forest until we came to Rocky Sea Pass, our final challenge. This was another steep pass with nice switchbacks all the way up. From there we made quick work of the 8 miles of forest to Hayden Pass, the Western Terminus of the trail. With a few miles to go we met Chris and his dog Frankie, one of the very few hikers we came across our here. Chris’ girlfriend Ally was picking him up at Hayden Pass and the two of them gave us a ride to Kimball Junction(part of Park City I think?) where we will spend the night.

The Uinta Highline Trail was pretty rad. I didn’t know too much about it going in but I would say in some cases it didn’t live up to expectations and in others it exceeded them. If I was to do it over again I think I would do either an out and back of the westernmost 50-60 miles or some kind of loop involving the western half. I thought the western half of the train was amazing while the first half was a bit underwhelming. Especially the easternmost 20 miles, if you’re planning to do this trail just start or end at Leidy Peak Trailhead, the first 20 miles are definitely skippable.

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The Wind River High Route is exactly what it sounds like, a high route through Wyoming’s Wind River Range. There are basically 2 well known routes: the arguably more popular route by Alan Dixon or the more aggressive version by Andrew Skurka. The two routes often overlap but have different starting and ending points. We started on Skurka’s route at the Bruce Bridge trailhead outside of Lander hiking south to north with the intention of staying on his route. As we moved along we took different alternates depending on what we thought would be more enjoyable and ended up finishing on Dixon’s route at the Green River Lakes trailhead outside of Pinedale.

8/26/19…..WRHR Day 1…..3 miles

We slept at the Holiday Lodge in Lander, WY last night and slept in just a little because we were in no major hurry today. Our only objective was to get on trail at some point and get a few miles in.

Walking downtown to take care of a few errands we ran into 4 southbound CDTer’s; Whiz, Dad Jokes, Golden, and Sultry Bear. It really felt like the Seinfeld episode when they meet their doppelgängers. While resupplying at the supermarket, a couple of Garbelly and Critter’s friends; Heath and Julie came to pick us up and drive us out to the trailhead. These 2 have been traveling in their van and climbing all over the Winds putting up first ascents. We still had a little hiccup with Budget rent-a-car, so while Critter dealt with that whole situation we hung out in the parking lot.

Heath and Julie dropped us off 10 miles outside of Lander at Bruce Bridge around 4:30. After a couple miles we caught up to this family that was headed to a rock you could slide off into a swimming hole. We took the side trail with them and we all opted to skip the sliding rock and I just went for a swim to see how deep it was (not very). We got back on trail and found a place to camp a mile or so later. Tomorrow we should be getting into the good stuff, today we walked along Po Po Agie River among scrub brush and pinyon pines. Soon we’ll be getting into the alpine areas of the Winds.

8/27/19…..WRHR Day 2…..17 miles

Today could easily be split up into 3 distinct sections. The first dozen miles or so were really cruiser. We gently gained a few thousand feet while while walking through pine trees along the PoPo Agie(pronounced popo zsa) river. Around noon time we reached Deep Creek Lakes, just in time for lunch. We stopped basically right on trail facing the lake and not 100 yards away there was a couple bathing in the buff. They had to have noticed us but that didn’t stop them, they just kept doing what they’re doing. I’m cool with it, and apparently they are too.

Today part 2: After lunch we left the trail and very steeply climbed up to Wind River Peak. I was all about this climb. It was a steady climb and there were big rocks to climb up and over but they were solid with very little sliding around. The climb from Deep Creek Lakes to Wind River Peak gained something like 2600 feet over 2.5 miles topping out at 13,192. It’s tough to move faster than a mph on that stuff. At the top we had absolutely incredible views of the Winds. We could see the Cirque of the Towers, Gannett Peak, the City of Lander and Frozen Lake which I swam in while on the CDT in ‘17.

Part 3: The Descent. This was by far my least favorite part of the day. We started off by walking down a steep boulder field with stable medium sized talus. This lasted for a half an hour until we got to the West Gully, supposedly one of the most difficult parts of Skurka’s route. It sucked. It was super steep with scree and medium to large loose talus. Surfing on gigantic rocks downhill is no fun. For some reason QB loves this shit, I on the other hand wouldn’t mind if I never walked on loose talus again(I have a feeling I will be though). Garbelly and Critter weren’t fans of it either, Critter said it was the dumbest trail she ever walked down.

There was a section that was a class 3 scramble down some bedrock that wasn’t too bad, and another part that was covered in snow and I was able to shoe ski down it. Other than that the talus seemed to go on forever. Eventually we got to an unnamed lake that we walked around and then the route dropped again for awhile. Finally we got low enough and found a couple spots to put our tents. It’s an incredible campsite, in the shadow of East Temple Peak in a valley with no trails that I bet not too many people make it back here.

8/28/19…..WRHR Day 3…..17 miles

When I got up in the middle of the night to take a leak(per usual) the Milky Way was visible and the stars were absolutely spectacular. This morning the stars were gone of course but the day was still beautiful. We rock hopped down a few hundred feet and walked along a couple of lakes. Critter tied a fly to her trekking pole, threw it in the water and almost caught herself a sizable cutthroat trout. We dropped down again and walked by Big Sandy Lake before starting to climb towards Jackass Pass.

From Jackass Pass we could see down into the Cirque of the Towers. The Cirque Route is a popular alternate off of the CDT. In ‘17 QB and I attempted to get over to it but there was still too much snow on the passes to get there comfortably. We figured we’d just come back in a couple years and do a high route through here. Today we walked right down into the Cirque to Lonesome Lake and it was everything I’d ever dreamed of and more. We ate at the lake and I went for an invigorating swim before the afternoon climb up Texas Pass. The Skurka Route goes over New York Pass that leads to the same valley but that one looked super sketchy, Texas Pass was steep on the way up and steep on the way down but nothing too difficult or scary.

On the other side of the pass we walked by 4 lakes then walked on smooth trail for half a dozen miles along a river. It was pleasant and easy going especially compared to the rock hopping that makes up a lot of this route. We found a campsite next to Maes Lake, there seems to be a fair amount of people over this way but none within earshot which is nice.

8/29/19…..WRHR Day 4…..13 miles

Don’t get hung up on mileage totals, it really doesn’t mean much with this off trail stuff.

This morning we walked along Maes Lake and Pyramid Lake then followed an animal path to the base of Raid Peak Pass where we left the trail and started climbing large talus. It was a nice climb to get the blood going and there were exceptional views from the top. We dropped down a moderately dicey descent to Bonneville Lake and then immediately started climbing up to Sentry Peak Pass. This was a fun climb up with a lot of hand over hand scrambling. At the top we came across an adult Nols Class coming from the other direction that were on a trip that would last 23 days. They were cool but there was 11 of them in a place I didn’t expect to see anybody. It’s a bit overwhelming to see that large of a group out here.

We walked down from Sentry Peak Pass picking our way over large talus and then navigating around thick willows at the bottom by Lee Lake. At the lake we ate and of course swam. From Lee Lake we followed very faint animal trails on some flat tundra until we got to Middle Fork Lake and the bottom of a stiff climb. This was just a very steep traverse up a dirt elk path that didn’t last all that long just enough to work up a post lunch sweat. When it flattened out into a hanging valley there was another lake, Bewmark Lake, and QB and I jumped in real quick. From here we gradually climbed until we topped out for the day on Photo Pass (if you’re planning on doing this route, from Photo Pass until Europe Peak we’ll be within Wind River Reservation and need special Tribal Permits). The descent down this one sucked, it was a super slidy gravel path. It didn’t last forever and we soon found ourselves camping in a really nice forest next to a river.

When we were in Lander I picked up some minimal fishing equipment. While waking I found a good stick and Critter, who’s a fly fishing guide by trade, tied my fly on and we went down to the river. She showed me what to do and where to throw it and within a few minutes I had a decent sized cutthroat trout in my hands. The first fish I ever caught on a dry fly.

8/30/19…..WRHR Day 5…..15 miles

From our campsite this morning we crossed a river and then started climbing uphill searching for some kind of a trail. There were elk trails here and there that got us above treeline where we rockhopped on large talus and scrambled up short sections of bedrock until we got to Europe Col(similar to a pass). I even wore my microspikes for the first time out here to walk up through a small snowfield.

From Europe Col we got a good look at the main feature of the day, Europe Peak. There was a good amount of buildup about this mountain and the route we’re taking up it. Besides the West Gully this was supposedly the other crux of the route. The tricky part of the climb was described in Skurka’s guide as a 15-20 foot slab that had a class 3 scramble up to a Knife’s Edge. This produced a fair amount of anxiety for me. Getting to the slab was no big deal, there were lots of short ramps and ledges with a good amount of vegetation and the rocks were stable. Critter then Garbelly went up the scramble first and were able to identify where the good hand and foot holds were. It really wasn’t that bad but it felt a little too exposed for my liking. After walking across a narrow knife’s edge with long steep drops on either side we walked up over a boulder field to the summit of Europe Peak.

From the summit we walked down along a ridge with rocks and tundra for most of the afternoon until we got to Golden Lakes. We walked along a couple beautiful lakes and then climbed up to a valley where we could see Skurka’s next obstacle, Douglas Peak Pass. The climb up this pass looked obnoxiously difficult and the description in the guide going up and over it sounded ridiculous. The 4 of us decided to skip it. There was a lower route to the east of the pass that adds a couple miles but I’m sure saves time overall. The alternate was very pretty and took us by Camp Lake where we are appropriately camping for the night.

8/31…..WRHR Day 6…..14 miles

What a day! Right away we started climbing from Camp lake, where we slept, to the Alpine Lakes Basin. We climbed uphill across boulders for about an hour until we had to do this gnarly down climb on the side of a cliff next to a lake. It’s supposedly a class 3 or 4 climb (depending on what guide book you look at) but we climbed down the cliff too early and made it harder on ourselves. Garbelly went first and we used an assembly line of passing all the packs down so we could climb without them.

Safely at the bottom of this cliff we slowly started traveling through the alpine lakes. It was all large talus that we had to navigate and a few times where we had to climb up some short cliffs to get around bluffs by the lake. We had to have been traveling at less than a mph. Eventually we got to the bottom Alpine Lakes Pass where we had a nice stiff climb to the top.

Once over Alpine Lakes Pass we had a decision to make; we could either continue on the Skurka Route or take the Dixon Route. We had a team meeting at the top of the pass and made the decision based on what would be the most fun. The Skurka Route is the one we started and seems to be the higher, more aggressive and remote route. I’m sure it’s beautiful but the description made it sound tedious and would probably take longer. The Dixon Route seemed pretty awesome, besides going through some beautiful valleys it would be lower and also included a couple features that I missed while hiking through here on the CDT, we’d also be able to move a little quicker since there was a fair amount of trail.

We chose the Dixon Route and headed left over Knife Point Glacier to Indian Pass. Walking across the glacier was pretty rad, we used micro spikes and contoured along the side of the mountain kicking in steps where we had to. Once up and over the pass we dropped into Indian Basin. This was my favorite part of the WRHR so far, huge sharp mountains everywhere, lots of lakes, wildflowers and there was even trail, something we hadn’t had for awhile. Plus I got to swim in some ice water for the first time in a couple days.

We walked a few miles through Indian Basin and into the incredible Titcomb Basin and found an awesome place to camp on a hill among the rocks.

9/1/19…..WRHR Day 7…..20 miles

This morning we walked along the Titcomb Lakes towards Knapsack Col. The route through Titcomb Basin and over Knapsack Col is a popular alternate for the CDT. In ‘17 QB and I skipped it and elected to stay on the regular route since we had already sent our snow gear home. Glad we were able to get back here for this highlight.

On the way up to the col we were joined by L-Fox, a CDT hiker who recently retired from a career in the Czech special forces and still works part time testing parachutes(sounds like a dangerous job). This dude was a badass, he bombed through a dicey boulder then took the riskiest line possible to the top. The rest of us took our time navigating the boulder field then ascended up a loose scree field until we climbed through a snow cornice at the top while L-Fox waited for us. It was a difficult pass but the way down wasn’t too bad and the views were magnificent. We passed a glacier that forms the headwaters of the Green River, a major tributary of the Colorado, then followed these waters for the rest of the day.

We ate lunch by Peak Lake, where QB and I swam in some icy cold aquamarine glacier water. After lunch we had one more small pass, Cube Rock, then started the descent out of the Winds. We walked through a narrow rocky valley until that gave way to a pine forest. We dropped a few thousand feet and were back to the CDT walking along the Green River(it actually is green). There were a handful of former thruhikers we came across who were beginning the WRHR, some who were on the PCT in ‘15 just ahead of me.

At our campsite we met a couple, Lewis and Laura(Little Shark), who were friends with our buddy Smiley. They joined us for supper at our spot beside the Green River in the shadow of Squaretop Mountain.

9/2/19…..WRHR Day 8…..6 miles

Essentially we finished the route yesterday but we still had to hike out and catch a ride to town.

This morning as we walked the trail along the Green River we spotted a beefy bull moose and his girlfriend eating breakfast. In ‘17 we had camped nearby and had seen a bull moose in almost the exact same spot. I know what you’re thinking but there’s really no way of knowing if it was the same moose.

After walking by the Green River Lakes we got to parking lot for the campground and the first car that came by picked us up. Dennis and Marilyn had been camping out here in their trailer for the past two weeks. They had a canoe on top of their pickup, were pulling their camper, and had the truck full of supplies. We were able to move some stuff around and the 4 of us stuffed ourselves in the back. The road from the trailhead to the parking lot is 18 miles of washboard dirt road that gets grated once a year and it hadn’t been recently. That took about an hour and then we went another half hour to Dennis and Marilyn’s house in Pinedale where they offered up their showers to us. We showered and hung out with them on their patio eating popcorn and drinking ginger ales. It turns out they knew John who gave us a ride last week and had actually got a ride from him once when they were in a jam. Small world, but I already knew that.

Two thumbs all the way up for the Wind River High Route. If you’re looking for an off trail backpacking route that will test your abilities and also has intense scenery I highly recommend it. As for us We’ll most likely stay in Pinedale tonight then start making our way down to Northeast Utah tomorrow to start the Uinta Highline Trail in the next few days.

If you like what you read feel free to follow this blog or find us on insta: @endlesspsummer @sarahikes and Garbelly and Critter’s blog trailingthought.com and their insta @ourtrailingthought

8/21/19…..Rock Springs, WY

After we finished up hiking in Colorado’s San Juan mountains we had a few days before we were planning to start the Wind River High Route. We decided to get up to Wyoming sooner than later and check out the Grand Tetons, a place I’ve never been.

This morning Garbelly, Critter, QB and I rented a car in Gunnison, CO and began the 650 mile drive North to Jackson, WY. Basically we followed the Continental Divide and made it as far in a day what would take a month to walk. Our first stop was Monarch Pass where we picked up a few snacks and a hitchhiker, Jersey Mike, who was hiking the CDT. Mike was trying to get down to Salida so we got him off the Pass and most of the way to town.

Our next stop was the iconic trail town, Leadville, for lunch. We got chimichangas and burgers and the rest of this crew picked up a Melanzana fleece, but I couldn’t be peer pressured. I’d rather buy property here. We drove north for awhile by Copper mountain, through Frisco then Silverthorne, and picked up a couple hitchhikers near Steamboat. Gravy and Mouse are hiking the CDT and they were waiting at an intersection that I’d been at before with my thumb out. We all had mutual friends and a similar scent so we stuffed them in the rental and got them where they were going.

Another hour or so and we crossed into Wyoming and shortly after that stopped in Saratoga at the Hobo Hot Springs. We were planning to camp somewhere in the Basin beyond Rawlins but after watching an incredible sunset the thunder, lightning, and winds picked up big time so we turned in our dirt bag cards and opted for a room in Rock Springs.

8/22/19….Jenny Lake CG, Grand Teton NP

There was still 3 more hours to drive this morning from Rock Springs to Jackson where we were scheduled to return the car. So we got up early, made quick work of the Days Inn Continental breakfast (took some to go), then Garbelly got us safely to J-Hole.

In town we had a few errands to run before getting up to the Tetons; post office stuff, supermarket to resupply, I got a new shirt at the thrift store, and a gear shop to pick up a few essentials. Critter figured out there was a little snafu with how Budget Rent-a-Car charged us, not a great situation, hopefully it will get ironed out soon. Of course we also had to check out the town a bit and get pizzas. Jackson Hole isn’t my favorite place. It seems like a super manicured ski town with a cowboy theme. A little rich for my blood.

To start the Teton Crest Trail we had to get up to the Jenny Lake Ranger Station for permits and info. Jenny Lake is 20 miles north of town so we took a city bus to the edge of town then got 2 quick hitches, 1st from Kent and then from David. Since we’re completely winging this thing we had zero reservations but Ross the Ranger was very helpful. Tonight we’re able to camp at the hiker/biker walk in site at Jenny Lake(I think most NP campgrounds have these so you almost always have a place to stay as long as you don’t have a car.) Tomorrow there were no backcountry sites along the TCT but fortunately Alaska Basin is 20 miles away and not technically in the park. It’s just over the park boundary in Jedediah Smith Wilderness so we don’t need a permit to camp. The following night we did get a permit at Marion Lake and that’s really all we need since the trail is only about 40 miles. One of the drawbacks of this hike is that we have to carry bear canisters but luckily they’re free to borrow from the ranger station.

After Ross got us all squared away we walked over to the campground, set up, and checked out Jenny Lake. There was a couple down there having a borderline risqué photo shoot but that didn’t stop me from jumping in the water nearby.

8/23/19…..Sunset Lake, Jedediah Smith National Forest…..23.2 miles

Leaving the campground this morning we walked along Jenny Lake for a couple miles and had some sweet views of the mountains reflecting in the water. When we got to the edge of the lake we got to Paintbrush Canyon and began steadily climbing.

It was crowded, as National Parks tend to be, and we came up on a group of about 5 or 6 people with their bear sprays drawn. Apparently there was a cinnamon colored black bear in the bushes just below the trail, no big deal. We walked past and not until a few minutes later looking back did Critter notice there was also 2 cubs up in a tree. Still no need to be alarmed, I’m really glad nobody fired off their bear spray.

We walked uphill for miles and eventually topped out at 10,700 feet on Paintbrush Divide Pass. There was a couple snow patches to walk through but other than that really nice well built trail and good hiking. Up the top the views were spectacular. The Tetons are really quite a site, I mean if you’re into looking at sharp jagged peaks like I am.

We walked down from the pass for a few miles until we got to Solitude Lake for lunch. I wanted to swim so bad but the cloud cover was making it a bit too cold for an alpine lake. When the sun finally came out and looked like it would stay out for a minute, QB said, “Endless this is your chance!” I ran barefoot over to a jumping rock and cracked my foot on the granite. I looked down and had a little trickle of blood but jumped in anyway. When I swam to the edge and climbed out I noticed I lost a toenail on the middle toe of my right foot. It hurt a little but worse than that it was bleeding like a sieve. Luckily some kids at the lake had some gauze and tape and I fixed myself up. I walked a few miles after lunch and there still wasn’t too much pain but I had to re dress my foot because of the blood(I’ll be monitoring this situation).

With 9 toenails I started climbing into the beautiful Cascade Canyon and was surrounded by the Grand Tetons incredible scenery. Eventually we got to the top of Hurricane Pass and then crossed the boundary of the park into Jedediah Smith National Forest. Since there were no permits within the park we’re camping here tonight in the Alaska Basin by Sunset Lake.

8/24/19…..Marion Lake, Grand Teton NP…..17.5 miles

What we’re doing out here isn’t exactly the Teton Crest Trail but more of our own variation of it. If you’re using this blog as a how-to manual for the TCT, don’t. We’re mostly staying on the trail but also doing what we want.

This morning leaving sunset lake we walked up and over Buck Mountain Pass, contoured along the beefy Buck Mountain to Static Peak Divide Pass. The trail was narrow but well built up to the pass with steep drop offs to the side. From there we followed not so much a trail but more of an animal path steeply to the top of Static Peak. The views from up here were simply stunning. From the summit we backtracked down until we were on the other side of Buck Mountain Pass and back in Alaska Basin. We passed a bunch of lakes before stopping at one to eat lunch and swim. My toe is bruised and it was still bleeding so after I swam I cleaned it and redressed it. Other than that it doesn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would.

After lunch we climbed up to Meek Mountain Pass until we got to Death Canyon Shelf. The shelf was really cool, it was flat but on the left was a steep cliff to the canyon floor and on the right were tall cliffs. We walked along this for awhile until we got to the turn off for Marion Lake.

This was an aquamarine alpine lake with a 500 foot granite wall behind it. We all went for a dip and we have permits for sites near here so we camped nearby.

8/25/19…..Lander, WY…..14 miles

It was rather windy overnight, with gusts waking me up every so often. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t great either.

From Marion Lake we climbed up for a couple miles and rejoined the official Teton Crest Trail then dropped steeply into Death Canyon. Once we got down low we rounded a corner and saw 3 bull moose, 2 of which were some of our bigger boys. Come to think of it one of these moose was the largest moose I’ve ever seen up close and personal. We followed the canyon along a creek as the walls grew higher beside us. Further on we saw a mama moose lying down with her calf.

The canyon became narrower and more crowded as we got closer to Phelps lake and by midday we reached the trailhead. Another mile of walking on the road and we got picked up by a hiker, Peter, who drove us to the Moose Visitor Center and Ranger Station so we could drop off our bear canisters. 2 thumbs all the way up for the Teton Crest Trail even though we didn’t exactly do the official TCT. (Instead of hiking down Death Canyon we could have hiked over to Rendezvous Mountain and taken a $40 gondola down but that was never going to happen). We ended up doing 50+ miles north to south through the Tetons. There was spectacular scenery, a fair amount of wildlife, and some awesome alpine lakes for swimming plus the logistics were relatively easy. I would recommend.

From the ranger station we got a ride from James 20 minutes into Jackson where we pigged out at the supermarket then got on our way hitching. Our plan is to hitch to Lander, WY 4 hours away to start hiking the Wind River High Route tomorrow. Our fist ride was from Elisa who got us to the Hoback Junction, then we got picked up quickly by Sabrina who brought us 20 miles closer. John a contractor from Bondurant drove us well out of his way bringing us down to Pinedale. From Pinedale, John and Cesar were headed back to their jobs in Green River, Utah and they drove us about an hour down 191 to Farson then got ice creams with us.

After our ice creams we had a little over an hour to go to Lander and not much more daylight than that. A cowboy called us over to his horse trailer and said we could ride in that to Lander. “Just don’t mess with my dogs” he said. Ok, why would we do that I thought to myself. The novelty of riding in the back of a horse trailer on a Wyoming Highway with a farting horse and 4 cattle dogs on a horseshit covered floor wore off in just a couple minutes. It was a ride though and it beat trying to stealth camp in the wind outside of Farson, and at least there were coolers to sit on(wasn’t going to check what was in the coolers). follow us on insta: @endlesspsummer, @sarahikes and @ourtrailingthought

8/14/19…..Zero miles in Pagosa

We took the day off from hiking today and spent it in Pagosa. It was great! Took care of a few errands; doing laundry, buying food for the next section and eating a bunch of food of course. This town is really cool but it isn’t ideal for hikers. The only laundromat is 2 miles away from the downtown where we stayed and the Wal-Mart another mile from there. Instead of walking all over the place on our day off we just hitched around town which made life easier.

This afternoon our friends Garbelly and Critter hitched into town and our joining us for the next few weeks or so. These 2 are currently 850 miles into an Appalachian Trail southbound thru hike. I went out and camped with them a couple weeks ago in NY and told them our upcoming plan. I swear I wasn’t trying to persuade them to join us, but not long after that they took an ‘alternate’ in New Jersey. They rented a car, drove to Buffalo, then to Nashville, then flew to Denver. From Denver they spent a day and a half taking buses and hitchhiking before crawling into Pagosa this afternoon. I know I’ve introduced these 2 in this blog before but in case you forgot; Garbelly and Critter are from Nashville where he works as an arborist and Critter is a fly fishing guide. I first met Garbelly on the PCT in ’15 and then we hiked with both of them in ’17 on the CDT. They are very fun, and very rad. If you don’t believe me check out their blog: trailingthought.com

The 4 of us had a nice soak in the local hippy dip, this is basically a free hot spring along the San Juan River formed from the runoff of the hot water coming from the resort hot springs. We got pizzas then met up with our friend Smiley for ice creams. Smiley has been thru hiking for years and lately has been living in and enjoying Pagosa Springs. He adopted and takes care of a section of trail that we’ve got coming up. We’ll definitely be going over that section with a fine tooth comb and promptly reporting to the CDTC.

8/15…..CDT Mile 882.3…..20.5 miles

First thing this morning we did a decent job on the San Juan Motel continental breakfast. All you can eat Toaster Strudel and I haven’t had one of those since the 90’s and then I was always fighting over them with my siblings.

Since a foursome hitching back up to Wolf Creek Pass would never work, we split up. QB and I got picked up by Jeff, a builder, who moved his family out here 20 years ago for the skiing. We stopped at his house in a neighborhood 6 miles out of town closer to the Pass. He built the house himself out of refurbished antique timber. Critter and Garbelly got picked up by some hikers and met us at the trailhead.

The hiking today was so much fun. Much easier and more relaxing than the last time we came through here. We did get delayed a little bit when a hail storm rolled through so instead of following the trail up and over a ridge the 4 of us quickly set up the fly to our tent and waited out the weather. After that it was smooth sailing the rest of the day. We passed the Creede Cutoff route that we had all taken back in ‘17. For our friends the trail was all new after the cutoff. (The Creede Cutoff is a lower route through the San Juan’s that is often taken in during lousy weather conditions). Unfortunately for me and QB, in ‘17 we carried on past the cutoff before coming to an impasse and having to backtrack costing us multiple days. More on that later.

Because of our late start and the delay waiting out the weather we hiked until sunset to get to where we were going. We found a really pretty campsite on somewhat uneven terrain. Hope it will do.

8/16/19…..CDT Mile 904.8…..22.5 miles

I made over the dastardly Knife’s Edge today. In ‘17 QB and I decided against crossing the narrow trail in the snow and decided the safer thing to do would be to find another way through the San Juan’s. We made a couple of mistakes before cutting our losses and heading south to the Creede Cutoff. I wrote more about it then and you can go back in my blog and check it out. Since then the Knife’s Edge has been the asterisk on my CDT thru hike.

Today we got across it. Granted there was barely any snow and it was much simpler, I’m still glad I wasn’t snowshoeing across it. From here until the Colorado Trail intersection the trail is all new to me and QB.

Besides the pinnacle of the day the rest of the hiking was really good. We seemed to have some big climbs or maybe they felt that way since we’re up over 12,000 feet and we somehow dodged significant rain and thunderstorms all day. In the evening we saw in the distance the biggest herd of elk I’ve ever seen. A conservative guess would be 120 elk but probably more like 150(the number grows every time we talk about them). We’re camping at Squaw Pass tonight which feels more like a valley and we all had nice fat bags of Mac n’ Cheese.

8/17/19…..CDT Mile 919.9…..15.1 miles

We strategically had a shorter day today in order to camp below 11,000 feet, and to prevent us from camping well over 12,000 the next 2 nights. It was very relaxing and enjoyable.

Squaw Pass was cold last night and there was frost on both tents when we woke up. There was a long climb out of camp and all morning we had incredible views. We saw more elk and for the first time of this trip we saw about a dozen big horn sheep.Critter and Garbelly

This afternoon we walked across a marshy area with a couple of river crossings/jumps and then we were back climbing into the woods. We found a spot to camp in some trees next to a creek in the shadow of a beefy mountain. I was able to sit in the creek and cool off a little but it wasn’t ideal for getting myself fully submerged.

8/18/19…..CDT Mile 938.3…..18.4 miles

First thing this morning we started climbing up a pass to the right of which was the Rio Grande Pyramid, a 13,900 foot peak shaped like a Mayan Pyramid. There’s a long wall on the left shoulder of the mountain and in one spot a massive chunk of the wall is missing creating a big window. We went off trail and climbed up to that, it was awesome.Garbelly inside the Window

After getting back down to the trail we had 5 more passes to climb over 18 miles. It was a lot of climbing for a relatively short mileage day. And it was awesome, packed with some massive mountain views and lots of wildlife. QB and I saw what we really think was a golden eagle (unconfirmed golden eagle sighting), and I definitely saw a hummingbird right after that. We met multiple parties with pack llamas that had actually just met each other. Garbelly said it was a llama meetup group. Then at lunch we stopped at West Ute Lake and the place had cutthroat trout jumping out of it like crazy. We ate and swam at the lake and met a family with 4 kids and 4 dogs out in the mountains for 8 nights. That’s impressive.

From West Ute Lake we climbed up a steep pass that had another lake with a rocky island just a short ways down from the top. Garbelly and I raced down to swim out to the island before the girls got over the pass. Icy cold water never felt so good.

A little further down from the pass we came across the first moose of the trip about 20 feet from trail. An adolescent bull moose with velvet antlers was just chilling out eating bushes and barely paid us any mind at all. We descended a little further before turning and immediately started climbing again. This was Hunchback Pass, the last and beefiest pass of the day. We took our time getting up and over it then found some campsites near Beartown trailhead.

8/19/19…..CDT Mile 961.9…..23.6 miles

Immediately after breaking camp this morning, before we even made it from the campsite to the trail, we saw 3 bull moose eating breakfast. It was quite an impressive sight, to see these massive wild animals up close and personal. Minutes later I saw a couple elk up on a ridge, all before sunrise.

We climbed for about a mile and half and the CDT joined the Colorado Trail. The Colorado Trail(CT) stretches roughly 500 miles from Waterton Canyon near Denver to Durango, CO. The CT and the CDT coincide for about 300 miles. In 2016, QB and I, as well as a few other friends hiked the Colorado Trail. In the opposite direction though so everything seems new.

All day we were up high above tree line and over 12,000 feet. We saw about 15 southbound CT hikers as well as 7 bike packers as the CT is one of the few long distance trails that allows bikes. It was a good day for animals too. Besides the moose and elk we saw this morning, I saw a weasel(a week ago I saw one of these and mistakenly referred to it as a pine marten), a peregrine falcon, 2 more bull moose and 2 coyotes separately, plus a herd of hundreds of domestic sheep in the distance.

We’re camped up high at 12,300 feet at Carson trailhead. Most likely it will be a cold night and since this is the sight of an old mining camp, with remains and everything, it is undoubtedly haunted.

8/20…..CDT Mile 978.9…..17 miles

Town Day! We cruised all day, barely stopping because for the first time in almost a week we’d have a chance for some burgers, sodas, and a little civilization. The sooner the better.

The trail was mostly up above treeline all morning and we passed the Colorado Trail High Point at 13,271 feet. We saw half a dozen CT hikers traveling south including my friend Lexy who I hiked some of Virginia with on the AT in ‘16. When we got to the road we all had every intention of hitching but a CT hiker, Quincy, had called for a shuttle and when split 5 ways it was pretty cheap. Worth it not to wait around for a car.

In Lake City we picked up packages ate burgers and sodas then came up with a new plan. Originally we thought we’d be getting back on the CDT and traveling north another hundred miles but decided against it. Garbelly and Critter had already done that section and QB and I had hiked it twice in the last 3 years. It’s ok and everything but as far as Colorado goes it’s not the most exciting section of trail between Lake City and Salida. Instead we’re going to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. We’ll be meeting a friend in Jackson Hole on the 25th anyway to start the Wind River High Route so why not go a few days early and check out the Tetons. To do this we need to get to Gunnison, CO, spend the night, rent a car in the morning and drive all day.

After lunch we split up to make the hitching easier. QB and I got 2 rides; first from Caleb up 149 to Blue Mesa and another from Hunter the rest of the way on Rt 50 into Gunnison. Our friends arrived shortly afterwards and then we found out that it was college move in week for Western Colorado University and there was barely any vacancy in town.

Finally Critter found us a room at the Island Acres Motel on the edge of Gunnison with a kitchenette and everything. We walked to the market, got some groceries to cook for dinner, then walked the mile or so to our room and took some long overdue showers.

To see more pictures follow us on insta: @endlesspsummer, @sarahikes and our friends insta @ourtrailingthought

For the next month or so Sara(QB) and I are planning to hike a few short trails or sections of trails. Starting with the San Juan mountains, a section of the Continental Divide Trail in Colorado. In 2017 we hiked the CDT from Mexico to Canada but due to excessive snow we rerouted through the town of Creede instead of hiking out and around the San Juan’s. From Cumbres Pass outside of Chama, NM we’re planning to hike a few hundred miles. Once we get our fill of Colorado we’re headed to either the Unitas in Northeast Utah and then the Wind River Range in Wyoming.

8/10/19…..CDT Mile 793.3…..1 Mile

So we started traveling yesterday but really didn’t get out west until just about midnight mountain time. We drove from Lynn to Long Island, visited with Sara’s family then flew from JFK to Albuquerque. It was an all day event. Waking up in a Rodeway Inn this morning we still had a long way to go to get on trail.

From downtown Albuquerque we took a train for an hour and a half to Santa Fe($9 each) and landed right next to an REI and a farmer’s market. Perfect! We got a fuel canister, perused the market and got lunch at Tia Sofia’s(both thumbs all the way up). So good! New Mexico is famous for green chilies and sopapillas and this place did not disappoint. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; If I’m ever to be executed and given a last meal request I’ll take a never ending parade of sopapilla baskets with honey please. After lunch we went to the supermarket and got our food supply for the first section of trail then started walking towards Rt 84. It’s over a hundred miles but a straight shot from here to Chama so we put our thumbs out.

Within 5 minutes, Leona and Jonathan picked us up and drove us about 40 minutes up past Santa Clara Pueblo and the town of Espanola. Leona is from Yakama Nation and Jonathan Navajo Nation. They gave us a great ride and filled us in on the native lands and Pueblos we passed by.

Outside of Espanola we walked for just a few minutes before getting picked up by Neil, Elizabeth, Lucy and Vador(smallest Pekingese dog in the world). They were coming from buying a house in Taos and headed to Ghost Ranch to go horseback riding. It was a fun ride and they were excited to learn about our hiking trips.

From the Ghost Ranch turnoff we quickly got picked up by Audrina who drove us about a half hour to TA or Tierra Amarilla. She told us about Northern New Mexico, her travels, and warned us about the crazies while listening to Mexican music fading in and out on the radio.

In TA we stopped for a coke and a bathroom break, then waited on the side of the road about 5 minutes before Prentiss turned around and picked us up. Always a good sign when a driver turns around to come back for you. Prentiss is a Seattle transplant who works as an ER nurse in Espanola on his way to Colorado for the weekend. He brought us the rest of the way to Chama and dropped us off outside the Boxcar Cafe, home of the best breakfast burrito I ever had. This time I had a regular burrito smothered with cheese and green chilies and that was good too.

We walked a little bit out of town and got picked up by Luke and Amanda, who also turned around to get us, and they drove us the 10 miles or so up to Cumbres Pass in Colorado. They’re currently on a road trip back to KC, MO where they’re working and saving to finish building their cabin in Wrangell-St Elias National Park in Alaska. Currently they’ve got an 8 by 8 foot cabin and looking to expand. Now that sounds awesome.

We got on trail at Cumbres Pass, walked about a mile and set the tent up in a bed of soft pine needles for the night. Ahh, Home Sweet Home!

On a little side note, 24 hours ago we were at sea level and tonight we’re camping over 10,000 feet. I’ll let you know how it affects me.

8/11/19…..CDT Mile 808.7…..15.4 miles

Welp I took an Imodium today. Last night was a bit rough, I tossed and turned, my head was aching a bit, I started getting a sore throat and in the morning my stomach was in knots. Possibly due to altitude but probably due to the multiple smothered New Mexican meals I ate. All day I felt like my energy was a bit sapped and after digging multiple cat holes it was time for some medicine.

The weather didn’t help today either. We woke up to rain on the tent and thunder in the distance so we waited it out for awhile and didn’t get moving until about an hour later than we’d have liked. A few other times the rain came on strong enough to force us under a tree to wait it out. Combining these with a couple emergency bathroom stops added up to a very slow day.

Around 3pm the thunder and lightning came on pretty strong as well as a solid downpour. We were forced to set up the tent in some trees instead of carrying on over a ridge. A few times it felt like the rain would let up long enough to get a few more hours in but eventually we resigned to the fact that this would be an early night. Not very often have I done this. Hoping for nicer weather tomorrow and a stronger gut. Unfortunately though we’re camping even higher tonight at 11,700 feet.

Today wasn’t all bad though. We saw a bunch of deer, a couple elk in the distance and even the elusive porcupine as well as some fresh bear prints. It was also fun to walk this trail and compare it to June of ‘17 when it was covered with snow and we were hampered with snowshoes.

8/12/19…..CDT Mile 833.9…..25.2 miles

Today was a vast improvement over yesterday. I still have a bit of a sore throat and my head is a little foggy but I think my digestive system is on the other side of whatever I had been dealing with.

We woke up to clear skies and started walking around 6:15, just as the sun was rising. Within 5 minutes of walking we spotted a massive elk with a full rack staring back at us. This was the first of dozens of elk we saw today. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think it’s rutting season because all the males were hanging out together and all the females were hanging out together. Pretty sure mating season is the end of August and I sure hope it’s not hunting season(wearing my hi vis orange hat just in case). We also had a rare pine marten sighting, he or she was hanging out inside a rock cairn and kept popping out of different holes to check us out.

Unlike yesterday we saw other people out here. About halfway through the day we saw a couple of hikers contouring around the same valley coming our way. I said to QB, “I wonder if we know them” and we did. Spontaneous and Sky are hiking south on the Continental Divide and QB met Spontaneous on the PCT in ‘15. They’re currently on a 3rd year of their honeymoon, sounds rad!

In ‘17 we bailed off this section due to snow and followed a river valley into the tiny town of Platoro, CO before walking into South Fork, CO. About 20 miles into today we passed the spot where we bailed and from then on everything was new. I don’t regret that decision in ‘17. We were going significantly slower than anticipated and we were running out of food. Plus I really enjoyed our adventure into Platoro. The trail beyond that spot was easy today but had it been covered in snow it would have been dicey at best and definitely slow going.

Five miles later we found a flat spot to camp above the Canejos River. Carrying on a little further would have been nice but we’d be camping higher up. The altitude is definitely affecting both of us more than we expected. Tonight we’re at 11,300 feet.

8/13/19…..CDT Mile 861.8…..27.9 miles

We were on a bit of a mission today. Originally this section would have consisted of a nice and relaxed pace for 3 days into town but because of the storm on Sunday it threw everything out of whack. We got up and moving by 6 am and had all day to do the miles.

Camping beside a river has its drawbacks, like the fly of the tent was soaked with condensation this morning, but enjoying the sunrise in this valley was incredible as we began walking. It was a tough climb up and out of the valley and at the top I quickly went the wrong way and got my feet wet. The elk had an easier time, they were running along ridges and bugling and all hanging out together(forget what I said about rutting season). We saw a herd of about 50 of them. From the ridge above the valley we contoured around a few beefy peaks and had a couple of snow crossings, one of which was pretty scary and another one where we had to do a controlled glissade.

As we got closer to Elwood Pass, we saw a little more life than usual. There were a couple other day hikers out there and two guys from the forest service looking for and counting big horn sheep(tough job, counting sheep will put you to sleep. I so wish I thought of that joke when I saw them). They saw as many as we did; zero.

From Elwood Pass it felt like we were getting away from the big mountains for a bit and the trail became a little faster. We walked through Wolf Creek Ski Area in the evening and then down to Wolf Creek Pass where we put our thumbs out.

Holly was driving the second car to pass us and she pulled over and pushed all her kayak stuff around to make room. She spent the last 5 days kayaking in Buena Vista, CO and told us about her plan to retire young, live mobile, and paddle and ski all over the place. Sounds fun! Holly brought us down to Pagosa Springs where we got a motel room for the night. We’ve got friends, Garbelly and Critter, joining us here tomorrow and we’ll most likely get back on trail with them the following morning.

Since late 2015 I’ve been section hiking Vermont’s Long Trail. This is the original long distance hiking trail in the US and the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail. It stretches 270 miles from the Massachusetts border to Canada. This week, QB and I have a few days off so we’re hiking a 50 mile section from Sherburne Pass to Lincoln Gap.

6/23/19 LT Mile 120.8

Last night we went to my buddy Brett and his wife Erin’s wedding in St. Johnsbury, VT. Afterwards, instead of staying in a hotel nearby like normal people, we drove an hour and a half west and slept in the back of my Subaru at a trailhead parking lot at Lincoln Gap.

This morning we rolled out of bed/car a little later than normal, got packed up, and put our thumbs out. Immediately we got picked up by a nice couple in a pickup truck who were headed down to Killington to mountain bike for the day. We hopped in the back with the bikes and enjoyed a nice sunny ride through Vermont for the next hour. We picked up some last minute necessities(candy bars and chips) at a gas station then quickly got a ride up the hill to Sherburne Pass where we ate lunch at the Inn at the Long Trail (QB says get the Nachos!).

The AT and the LT run concurrently for the southern hundred or so miles of Vermont and this is where they split. We followed the trail north all afternoon and I have to say, it was really nothing special. I mean I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it either. It was a green tunnel all day, with a fair amount of mud, but I guess that’s why they call it Vermud (that joke never ever gets old). Besides today being a bit boring it was definitely an enjoyable day and it certainly felt good to be back on trail.

We walked into the evening and found a place to camp in a little gap on a snowmobile trail. All day I noticed the bugs but they weren’t anything more than a minor nuisance until we stopped here. All of a sudden they swarmed. We had to put everything else on hold and set up the tent immediately. Hopefully they’re all gone by morning.

6/24/19 LT Mile 141.9

Some of the bugs must have slept in because they weren’t as bad by the time we got up and moving this morning. The trail was a little nicer too. For awhile we followed a nicely graded and wide uphill ski trail that accesses a bunch of backcountry skiing. I’ll have to keep this area in mind come winter.

After we got to Brandon Gap the trail rose steeply up to Horrid Mountain(it wasn’t that horrid). The rest of the day we seemed to be going up and down along the tops of mountains, even though they were all wooded summits and there were hardly any open views. Opposed to yesterday where we were lower in a forest and just contouring all day. Still though, it was muddy and buggy and muggy. Not complaining or anything but these aren’t my favorite hiking conditions.

This afternoon we walked through Middlebury Snow Bowl and within the ski area was Pleiad Lake, an excellent stop for a mid day swim!

We crossed Middlebury Gap, RT 125, and continued hiking up and down on rocky and muddy trail. At one point we walked through a remarkable amount of moose poop. I mean I wouldn’t write it here if it wasn’t worth mentioning, it was just that extraordinary of an amount of moose poop. A couple miles after the communal moose toilet we set up our tent near the Emily Proctor Shelter and called it a day. It might be a bit less buggy here than last night, still buggy though.

6/25 LT Mile 152.6

Today started off nice enough. It was cool and cloudy with a breeze that kept the bugs away. Then, like gangbusters, it started raining cats and dogs. It was absolutely pouring. The trail went from its regular makeup of mud, rocks, and roots to a muddy river with rocks for islands. Luckily we only had to walk through 11 miles of this nonsense and we’d be in a nice warm car. It would have totally sucked to spend all day walking in the rain and then try to camp in it. I felt bad for the other hikers out there today. The trail itself rolled up and down along a ridge and on a clear day I’m sure would have provided some sweet views.

Here and there the rain would let up but by the time we got to Lincoln Gap it reached something of crescendo and was absolutely pissing on us. When we reached the car we stripped out of our muddy soaked clothes on the side of the road, threw all our filthy crap in the rooftop cargo carrier then hopped in, cranked the heat and did our best to dry off. It’s a 3+ hour drive home but warm and dry. Plus we stopped at Cockadoodle Pizza in Bethel, VT and stuffed our faces. I’m not sure I’d recommend this section of the Long Trail but I definitely recommend Cockadoodle Pizza if you’re in the area.

If you just want to read about the race itself feel free to scroll through all this other stuff, I won’t be offended.

I’ve been wanting to take a shot at a hundred miler for awhile now. I guess ever since I started running and heard that hundreds were a thing that people do. It seemed so far out of reach, but like everything it’s all relative. When I started running, even 10 miles seemed unattainable. Now, after years of running, I knew that if I could wrap my head around it, a hundred miles was a possibility. It would only be like running from Lynn to Ossippee.

Also the time was now. For the last few years I spent most of my summers thru hiking and although I guess I was building up endurance, I felt that hiking took precedence over training to run a long race. This year was different. I was running well through the fall and had no immediate thru hikes coming up so I had enough time to put in some decent mileage over the winter.

Leading up to the race I ran a 50 miler in October and another one in November. I registered to run Zion in early December. From then until March I was doing 50-60 miles a week, regrettably mostly on the treadmill with some on pavement and not as many as I’d have liked on trail. In early March I developed a shin splint in my left leg and convinced myself it was a stress fracture. So I rested. I rode a bike and got on the stair master to keep my legs busy but I stopped running. Besides a 6 hour race in mid March that I took very easily, I didn’t run at all for the last 5-6 weeks going into Zion. I also had a head cold that whipped my ass for about 3 weeks during that same spell.

Race day I was ready though. My cold was gone, my shin felt good(I wore a compression sleeve on it just in case), and I had been sleeping well the week leading up to the race. No excuses. I had confidence in my crew and pacers and all that was left was to do the damn thing.

Sara and my parents came out to Utah with me and for the couple days beforehand and we did some nice easy hiking around Zion NP and tented at night. I usually sleep better in a tent than a bed anyway so I got some decent rest. We spent the night before the race camping at Zion River Resort(campground) a mile from the start so at 5:30 am it was a short drive for them to drop me off.

At 6am, after a quick talking to, we were off. All the 100 milers and 100K runners starting at once through the dark. Something like 500 runners with headlamps through a neighborhood where one of the houses was blasting Queen’s ‘We are the Champions’(I requested ‘Radio Gaga’ but they either didn’t have that or didn’t hear me). The course took us out onto rt 9 for a mile, where we ran by my crew who were watching from the campground. Across the street in a field next to the road, there was about 40 horses running alongside the runners. They probably wait all year for this. From Rt 9 we took a right onto a dirt road and followed that for a relatively flat 3 miles until we got to the bottom of a massive 1 mile 1500 foot climb to the top of Gooseberry Mesa. This was to be the biggest climb of the course and the timing was perfect, everybody was still jacked up, the sun was coming up and although we were all right on top of each other there was still enough room to pass or get out of the way if necessary. I loved it. At the top was the first aid station, Goosebump Aid(5.2). I shoveled some food in quickly and packed a few Oreos to go.Let’s Party! From Goosebump it was about 6 miles of dirt roads to Grafton Mesa Aid(11.4). This was the first crew access aid station and it was jam packed with spectators and fans and stuff, including my own which was nice. I ate good here, reloaded my fluids then carried on a couple miles downhill on dirt roads to Wire Mesa(13.3). There was an aid station here that we would hit twice so even though it came up quick I did my best to eat something and also pack my pockets with snacks. My plan was to eat as much as I could throughout the race(that’s actually my plan for regular life too) and so far I was executing. From our first stop at Wire Mesa Aid, the course went out on a really nice 7+ mile single track loop along the edge of Wire Mesa. It was very runnable and there were some spectacular views of Zion along this section.

When I got back to Wire Mesa Aid(20.8) I ate a handful of bacon and had a memorable avacodo and mayo wrap. The course went back on the dirt roads to our second stop at Grafton Aid(22.8), uphill this time. For the beginning of this race I kept myself entertained talking with and meeting people from all over the place. It was fun seeing runners I met throughout the day and into the night at different points of the race. At Grafton Aid my crew was waiting for me and this was the first point that pacers were allowed out on the course. My mom, even though she thought she retired from running 5 years ago, joined me for a 6 mile loop out and around Grafton Mesa. This loop was a nice combination of slick rock and single track, it had some killer views, was very runnable, and having my mom with me was a pleasant distraction to the accumulating miles. When we got back to Grafton Aid(28.2) I ate a bunch of food and said goodbye to my crew as it was the last time I’d see my them for about 25 miles/6 hours. The next section was fairly boring. It was on dirt roads with what seemed like a lot of uphill(which I was mostly walking) and the field of runners had really thinned out.

Once I got back to Goosebump Aid(34.4) I loaded up and started out onto an 11 mile loop on Gooseberry Mesa. Now this was tough. There was a lot of slick rock which was difficult to navigate and slow for running. It was awesome though and included what I thought was the highlight of the course; a huge slab of rock around mile 39 that went out and back like a peninsula high up over the desert. It was rad. I let out a good scream on what seemed like the edge of the world. A few miles later we got to Gooseberry Aid(42) and I had the most delicious orange slices I’ve ever had in my life. So refreshing, especially since it was starting to get warm up on the mesa. From Gooseberry Aid back to our third stop at Goosebump(45.7) it was mostly slick rock and single track, difficult but relatively enjoyable.

I loaded up at Goosebump Aid and began the 1500 foot descent off of the mesa. This was the downhill version of a climb that I enjoyed so much 40 miles ago. This time it kind of sucked. I knew it would though, and I also knew it wouldn’t last long. Plus I lost a water bottle at some point, or it fell out while I was on the hopper at the last aid station. Don’t worry, I had 3 other ones and judging by my relatively clear pee I was doing a good job staying hydrated. Back on the desert floor the course followed a bunch of rolling jeep roads and was decent for moving along. Although I took the descent nice and slow I was feeling good and moving well back down low and the miles seemed to be clicking away.

At Virgin Desert Aid(53.8) my family was waiting for me and my dad would be joining me for the next 13 miles. We ran the next section single file through the desert with him just behind me. Running in front of him was strategic since I just unloaded my sunglasses and I didn’t want his fish belly calves to burn my retinas. We ran through the golden hour and then the sunset alongside a canyon on some absolutely beautiful trail. I had to make a movement during this section but my quads were screaming and I really didn’t want to squat in the desert. We made it to Virgin Dam Aid(62.5), I took care of business and my dad BS’ed with some friends he made earlier in the day. I think I was starting to lose my appetite at this point and only drank some broth and ate a couple cookies.

From Virgin Dam we had about 4 miles of runnable but rocky trail alongside a canyon in the dark. We were wearing headlamps and even though I gave him explicit instructions not to fall, he still ate shit hard with about a mile to go. Miraculously, he bounced right off his fake hip, got up and we booted downhill for another mile. Besides him falling, and me losing my appetite, we had an an awesome section. Making good time and enjoying some good trail. Sara and my mom met up with us at a prearranged meeting spot around mile 66.3. My dad was relieved of his pacing duties and Sara would be joining me the rest of the way. We crossed Rt 9 and started a long slog uphill for about 4 miles on dirt road to the top of Smith Mesa(70.7). I liked the climb, as I like climbing, and it gave me good reason not to run, but I was definitely starting to feel more nauseous. At the aid station it seemed a little barren, a runner there was really cold and as they were looking around for an emergency blanket for him it reminded me I should probably add a layer. I drank some broth and some ginger ale, was able to stomach a gel and got moving. There were fire pits and chairs at all the aid stations from here on out but as inviting as they looked Sara had a pretty firm rule about staying away from them. Good move, they sure looked tough to walk away from.

Up on Smith Mesa the trail got really tough. We went out onto this big loop that was super difficult to navigate. Less than a mile in we crossed paths with two runners coming back towards us, convinced that they weren’t going the right way. After consulting our phones we decided we were going the right way and continued on. If the trail wasn’t all rocky it was beat down by cows and and the footing was terrible. Even on the flat sections. Toward the end of the loop we we took a wrong turn up a wash were we immediate bumped into 10+ other runners who had made that same wrong turn. We got back on track and just had a long downhill to the next aid station. This proved to be the most difficult mile or so of the whole course. It was super steep, rocky and slow going. At one point there was even a rope to assist runners going downhill. I felt like crying(but I didn’t). Finally we got to BMX Aid(79.9) where my parents were waiting for us around 2:30 am. As glad as I was to be there, this was a relatively low point for me. I was struggling and still had 20 miles left, or ‘only’ had 20 miles left. I knew I’d get through the race but it wasn’t going to be easy. On our way out from the aid station my parents wished me happy birthday as I turned 37 overnight. Oh yeah.

We’d be back at BMX Aid right before the end of the race but for now we had a 5 mile uphill to Guacamole Mesa. After crossing a river and doing a short single track section we had a long uphill climb on dirt road. At this point I was hallucinating. Not in a scary way, things were good and I knew what was going on, but I was definitely seeing stuff. We also saw a ton of shooting stars, and what’s better than that? It was tough, but we had positive attitudes and were making relentless forward progress. The guys at Guacamole Aid(85.7) were great and one of the volunteers was from Malden so of course he recognized my accent right away. We had a 7 mile loop out on Guacamole Aid that we didn’t set any records on. Sara as usual was the chief navigator and did an excellent job getting us around the course. The footing was tricky with a lot of slick rock so we took our time and just kept moving forward.

By the time we were back at Guacamole Aid(92.5) the sun was starting to come up and finally we were able to get rid of our headlamps. The long downhill road was unrunnable for me as my quads were screaming with every step, but we were moving along. Sara kept the spirits up playing music and singing, and pointing out faces she was seeing in the rocks. This was a really fun section and I knew we were about to get through this thing. It was almost over, the sun was out, and I was getting birthday and good luck messages that kept me going. We got off the road, crushed a short uphill section, crossed the river again then were back at BMX Aid(98.3). I only stopped here briefly to drop some clothes and my vest with my parents as it was only a short ways to the finish.

The last mile and a half or so was on dirt roads until we crossed back over rt 9 then ran it into the finish. There was a half marathon and 50k going on at the same time so there was a big crowd gathered at the finish line. Crossing the line was glorious. I picked out a belt buckle, sat down, drank a soda, took my shoes off and just chilled in the sunshine for awhile. Done. Onto the next thing.

I took a nap that afternoon and an ice bath that worked wonders. The next morning I was up walking around and checking out the sunrise at Bryce Canyon NP. We spent the day exploring at Bryce and walking around the best I could.

From Bryce we made our way to Escalante and got another hotel for the night. I took an ice bath again that night and when I woke up the following morning, 2 days out from finishing the race. I was feeling really good. The four of us backpacked down into Coyote Gulch and spent a night tenting by the spectacular Jacob Hamblin Arch. We hiked out the following day, and made the long drive back to Nevada where we camped near Lake Mead. In Nevada we spent the day hiking all over Valley of Fire State Park. This place is very cool! Well worth checking out. From Vegas we took a budget airline red eye back to Boston and of course didn’t sleep. Seriously though onto the next thing. Happy Easter!

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