Day 76: Safe in the Valley

Miles Hiked: 19.7

Total Milage: 1216.2

Location: Mineral Basin

This morning I woke up around 5am. I didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag because everything was soaking wet and cold but I knew the faster I got it over with the better. I set my alarm again for 5:45 am and told myself that’s when I had to start getting ready. At 6:15 I left camp. Dily Daly and Smiles were right behind me. It turns out they camped pretty close to me! The day started with a small ascent which was nice and helped me warm up some. I didn’t want to put on my wet clothes so I only wore my underwear, rain pants, and rain jacket. At the top of the small ascent, I could see that the clouds were all undercast and the mountains were poking above the clouds in some sunshine. I quickly dipped below the clouds as I made a long descent down to the timberline trail junction. Here I had a choice of taking a lower route but I heard it wasn’t as great as the high route and there were some sucky blow down tree sections. I decided to take the high route even though I was a little worried about it. I did know that there is a road I will cross with an opportunity to get to town but it starts before I have to go over the passes. I also knew that my friend Money camped on the high route last night as well so I would get to see him if I took it.

I started a long ascent of almost 3k feet to Cottonwood pass. I was in the clouds most of the time until I got close to 12k feet. There were a couple of small creeks to ford but I found some longs over most of them. When I did have to walk straight through one it wasn’t so bad because my feet were already soaking wet. I was so happy once I was in the sunshine. It made me feel like the high route was a good idea! When I got close to Cottonwood pass I saw a massive amount of hikers coming down from the top. I thought it must be some day hikers just because there were so many of them but it turns out that they were all CDT thru hikers including Money! It was good to see him. We were both in a rush trying to get over our passes before the storms hit. He told me they are supposed to start around 4pm. When I got to the road I was very surprised to find it was a busy highway. There was a trailhead with so many cars parked at it and people hiking up to a view point. I was definitely expecting a dirt road with maybe one car at the trailhead.

When I started climbing the mountain right after the road, the sky wasn’t looking great and it honestly freaked me out. I still climbed to the top because it wasn’t very far and there were lots of other people still hiking around. At the top I sat down in the rock bivy to hide from the wind. I saw Daly and Smiles at the base so I decided to wait for them to see if they were going to bail or not. After they didn’t show up in a reasonable time, I peaked out of the rock bivy and saw them hiking the opposite way. They must be bailing! I descended the mountain almost back to the parking lot trying to catch up to them. If they were bailing I figured it was probably a smart idea to do the same. Once I descended most of the mountain, I saw them hike off in a really weird direction off the side of the mountain. I peaked over the edge and it looked like they were just getting water. They were too far away to say anything to. For some reason I felt really dumb about not doing my own thing so I hiked back to the top of the mountain. The weather looks awful for the next couple of days, especially tomorrow. I don’t have time to go to town and wait it out like I wish I did. I decided to keep hiking south alone even though the sky was looking bad.

As I was walking along the ridge I got really bad anxiety again! I started crying and breathing really hard and wishing I was at home in bed. I ended up calling Luke and I was so happy he answered and I had service. Getting to talk to him made me feel better. I had to go over two high points/ passes before I knew there would be a safe place for me to camp in the event of bad weather. The sky didn’t look great at all and I could see rain in the distance. It ended up hailing on me for about 10 minutes. I passed a couple of NOBO CDT hikers sitting on the side of the trail under the cover of a tree waiting to see if the sky would clear a little bit before hiking on. Since I was so close to the top of the second high point I kept going. The sky definitely didn’t look great but it wasn’t actively precipitating. When I got to the top of the pass it looked like sunny weather on the other side. At least for a little bit. I was relived that I could now hike downhill for a while and watch to sky to see if I would need to set up my tent in the valley.

Around 3pm I needed to make to decision to risk getting caught in the storm by going up the other two passes, or just set up my tent and be safe for the day. I already hiked 19.5 miles, the sky wasn’t looking great, and my friend Free Fall sent me an inreach message letting me know that he bailed because his tent was leaking and that 12 pack was trying to catch me. I decided to set my tent up when I found a good spot at 3:30 pm. I let free fall know exactly where I stopped so he could try and let 12 pack know while he still had service. After I set up my tent, I made biscuits and gravy with a chai tea latte for dinner. This was a special meal my mom sent me and it was a perfect day to eat it! I was so happy to have my favorite meal when it started hailing outside. I ended up raining all the way until 8pm. When 12 pack still didn’t show up by 7:30 I knew that he got caught in the bad storm on the ridge. I thought he would have at least made it down in to the same valley I was in. I ended up camping completely alone for the second time on this trail. Free Fall told me that tomorrow is supposed to be the worst day of storms this week and they will start around 11am. I set my alarm for very early in the morning tomorrow because I know I want to make it over as many passes as I can before the weather gets bad and scary.

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

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