CDT day 128: a felt cowboy hat and some whisky

September 9
Mileage: 24
2,487 miles hiked

Ah, sleeping on a slant, curled on my side so I don’t roll down the hill. I’m awake more than I’m asleep, or was I just dreaming?

First thing in the morning the CDT cuts cross-country over a broad, icy meadow and there are four stream crossings in a row. No trail, just posts. It’s good to be back, CDT. Bring on the nonsense and confusion! At least the views are good- the San Juans do not disappoint. So much climbing today- three thousand feet, then 1,200 feet, then seven hundred feet, and then more. Up and down and up again. Bronzed ridges and fields of talus and beetle kill. The signs of horses everywhere. I take an hour lunch, almost falling asleep in the warm sun and then back at it. The trail is a deep rut, impossible to walk in. The trail is full of water. The trail is so overgrown with bushes that I have to go around it. Branches, braids, unmarked junctions. Etc. I wonder what it would be like to know these mountains so well I didn’t even need a trail to follow. I’d wear a felt cowboy hat and ride a horse and I’d talk really slow and say things like Over in that bowl over there, not the first one but the second one, at the lake, the small lake not the large one mind you… And I’d know all the pika alarm signals- I’d hear a pika MEEEEEEP in the dusky hours while I was cooking over my campfire and I’d know if it was a coyote, or a mountain lion, or an owl… and I’d never be cold because I’d wear wool and waxed canvas and thick socks and have a good double-wall tent and insulated mugs and a cast-iron skillet to fry eggs. And I’d have to start drinking whiskey.

There will be no camp in the forest tonight. The trail will stay along the literal divide from now until it drops down to the highway at Wolf Creek Pass. It’s getting dark and I’m cruising in all my layers along the narrow eroded trail that hugs a very steep slope (which kind of scares me a little bit), thinking about where to camp. On my topo map there’s what looks like a shelf above the trail in a half mile so when I reach a spring running over the trail I get water there and then I climb, hand over hand, in the dark night up towards the stars. At 11,800 feet the shelf is a barren alien place with a cold wind woo-woo-woo-ing but it is flat, it is flat thank god! I pitch my tarp and wonder what animals, if any, come up here, and I try and light my alcohol stove for dinner but it’s too damn windy so we have a bit of a struggle, human vs. alcohol stove, and at last my dinner is sort of warm. Woo woo woo! Goes the wind, and I think of the elk bugling and the coyotes yipping and I wish I had a felt cowboy hat and some whiskey.

Photos on instagram