1,326.5 miles hiked
It’s too warm when I wake up in the morning. Why do I feel so hot? I wriggle out of my sleeping bag, releasing all the farts. I claw off my puffy jacket. As soon as I sit up- wham. The fatigue hits me like a truck.
Waking up exhausted. Oh, it’s back. The thing, whatever it is. It’s back. It’s still here.
This isn’t regular tiredness. It’s not the tiredness that comes from physical exertion, or the tiredness that comes from poor sleep. This is the sort of fatigue I’ve felt when I had the flu- like a giant, leaden hand pressing me into the earth. Like I’m stuck to the ground by some sort of electrical force. Like my backpack is full of bricks. And now it feels too hot inside my brain, as well- do I have a fever? Going on two weeks of this. What the fuck is even happening here?
It is extremely difficult to hike today. Uphills are like torture sessions. And this section of the CDT, which follows the ridgeline along the Idaho/Montana border, consists of lots and lots of rather pointless ups and downs. They are steep and they come at me, one after another. I try to remember what hiking felt like before I started to feel this way. Will I always feel this way? What the fuck is even going on with me?
Spark, in an incredible show of hiker generosity made even more remarkable by the fact that I know he hates carrying extra shit more than anything, offers to carry my shelter for me, all 6 oz of it. But I know this won’t really make a difference- the problem is that I have use my body at all, when really all I want to do is lay on the ground and sleep for a hundred years. It starts to rain a bit up on the ridge and Spark and I stop under a tree to properly secure all non-waterproof items. I’m still sitting there when he swings his pack on to go.
“See ya down the trail,” I say. It’s what I always say.
I look at the elevation profile- up, down, up, down. Eighty miles to the highway where we’ll hitch to Lima. I’ve only hiked five miles so far this morning, and those miles have been remarkably difficult. What do I do?
I decide to bail. There are no alternates on the map, no roads that clearly lead off of this ridge and out of the wilderness. There is, however, a massive valley below me, stretching away on the Atlantic side of the Bitterroots. On the other side of this valley another mountain range rises up. All of this is out of the range of the Ley maps, but I can get some data from Guthook if I fiddle with the zoom just so. It looks like there MIGHT be a road leading through the mountains on the other side of the valley, towards Lima. Maybe. This would cut considerable mileage off of this section, and get me to town faster. I start my way down, hiking cross-country along the open ridges with their waving brown grasses. These ridges will eventually deposit me gently onto the valley floor. It’s nice when the landscape is so open like this, and you can see everything.
I wish I’d had a chance to tell my buddies I’m bailing- but they’re miles ahead of me, and there’s no reception out here. Ah, the limitations of communication on the trail! We are out here together, but at the end of the day we are each out here alone. A metaphor for life I guess.
Jeep tracks across the valley. Climbing over barbed wire fences. Am I on private property? Probably. Oh well. Weather up above me, cloud shadow racing across the land. Lightning on the divide. The spatter of rain. Dizziness. Eating chocolate covered ginger. No people out here, no nothing. Just the antelope, grouse, hawks, the tinny John Denver playing on my phone. These have got to be some of the loneliest ranches ever. In the afternoon I reach the headwaters of a gravel road- a real gravel road! A road like this has got to go somewhere- or else why would they make such a thing?
A jittery man in a sun-faded RV headed the opposite direction confirms my suspicions. This gravel road winds for thirty more miles through the mountains towards Lima, and interstate 15. Hallelujah! I feel motivated now. I’m woozy and strange-feeling but walking on a flat gravel road for hours and hours- I can do that.
It’s evening, and raining, when a white pickup comes spitting up the road in my direction. I stick out my thumb. It’s two dudes who work for the BLM, headed to Dillon. They move their coolers from the jumpseat to make room for me.
“What’s Dillon like?” I say. “Is there a clinic there?” I know that Lima is nothing but a convenience store.
“Yeah there is,” say the BLM dudes. “We’ll give you a ride there.”
This is so awesome. One minute I’m up on the divide feeling bad- and then I’m on my way to Dillon, where I’ve never been, to try and figure this shit out.
I have reception, and I learn that all my test results from Missoula came back negative- it’s not anemia. It’s not water-borne illness. I figure that in Dillon I’ll get tested for Lyme- it’s rare in Montana but there have been a lot of ticks, so why not.
In Dillon I get a wee cabin at the KOA- they give me the CDT biker discount, which is cool. I plug in all my shit and eat cold instant refried beans for dinner. Then I curl up in a ball in my sleeping bag on the vinyl mattress, trying not to feel like my life is basically over.
Updatish: I got a bunch of tests done, now I have to wait a week for the results. I have no idea what happens next. I’m going to stop posting daily entries for now, since I’m not on the trail, but I’ll post an update in a weekish. Thanks for reading, and for your kind emails.