Daily Miles: 21
Total Miles: 720
Holy Moly… what a day. Who would have thought that one of the hardest days on the trail would be this close to the end. It took us 14 hours of hiking to get in the 21 miles today and it was not easy.
The day actually started out great. Our campsite had kept us protected from the wind and we slept pretty good. When we got up, the sky was blue, it was cold and the wind was completely gone. The light was really cool as we walked along the meadow-y ridge. In some spots there bunches of aspen which had great light shining through their leaves.
We got to our first water source in the morning, which happened to be about .3 miles off trail. We did our laundry there and the water was so cold, our hands hurt by the time we were done. Purple Haze came up as we were finishing our break and we chatted with him for a few minutes.
Once we got back on the trail, we came into another area which had suffered a fire in the past and now had a lot of trees down across the trail. It was pretty bad, with hundreds of trees to climb over. It really slowed us down for the several miles it lasted. The miles this morning just seemed to come so slowly.
It got better again for a few miles in the middle of the day. Purple Haze caught up with us and we walked with him for awhile. We got too busy chatting, that we ended up passing our second water source of the day. Beardoh realized it within a quarter mile, so he jogged back and got water, which involved bushwhacking through a thicket in a drainage down a steep hill. Ugh.
We continued on, thinking that the trail was going to be good and easy rolling until a campground we were aiming to sleep at. Unfortunately, the trail got a lot worse…completely overgrown (with thorny and non-thorny bushes) and almost unfollowable. We felt like we were swimming through the bushes, with our arms trying to part the branches, not really able to see where our feet were landing. And to add insult to injury, the trail kept going uphill.
Once we got through that and came to a clearing where we caught up with Purple Haze again, we figured the trail was going to be good. But, alas, the worst was yet to come. The map showed a “new trail”, which seems to be a trail only in someone’s imagination. In fact, we were walking through a sea of thorny bushes with rarely anything trail-like in sight. Beardoh had the GPS on the whole time in this section, and it was still hard to keep on track. It easily took us over an hour to do just one mile. It just made no sense seeing how it was marked as “new trail”, but eventually we got through it.
Once that nonsense was done the trail gradually got better and we started to head downhill. We were able to start picking up our pace as the walking got easier. By the end of the day, the trail was awesome.
We picked up water from a spring about a half mile from the National Forest campground where we wanted to camp. There was one camper here when we arrived, and it turned out to be a guy from Alaska who just finished a 7 day backpacking trip along the Gila River…we were just hiking there a few weeks ago! We chatted with him for a bit as we set up camp.
We didn’t arrive in camp until a bit after 8pm. Definitely our longest day on the trail. We are thoroughly exhausted and ready for a good night of sleep. We would have been happy to stop after 15 or so miles today, but we wanted to reach this campground in order to better position ourselves for the long “no-camping” stretch we will go through tomorrow.