CDT Day 16

20.6 miles hiked, camping at 7346ft
GROOOF. OOF. AOOOOO. Poor elk hasn’t found her friends! She’s still calling out, for which I am grateful as I didn’t hear my alarm. Or I did and I ignored it. I can’t remember.
So I’m up late which wasn’t my plan as I really don’t like camping in places visible from the road.
I left myself a little climb this morning to the official end of the Gila alternate. It rejoins the official CDT which went on a tour of the Black Ranges to the East, generally a less popular route.
I’m immersed in my podcast world and am on the official route for no more than a mile when I realise I’ve already missed my turn. BOOOO. Backtrack up a hill and see easily where it left the road and entered bushwhacking land.
The trail is up and down and up and down today. Water is scarce so I have to pay attention to make sure I get my water sources.
I arrive at what is described as a “small mucky pond” (doesn’t that just get you salivating) and dump my pack for lunch. I’m resting under a tree, filtering my water when I see something strange… A hiker. Not just a hiker, what looks like a Thru-Hiker!
I call out “helllloooooo?”.  He wanders over. “Are you a real life thru-hiker?” I know already he is by his brand of pack. “Yes!” he says. “When did you start? Where did you come from?”.  He is Slip. He started before me and has been in the mysterious Black Ranges to the East.
I finish filtering and collect my things. We hike and chat together for the rest of the hot afternoon, and manage to make our way through a difficult navigation of cross country following blazed trees and cairns. We get to trade stories of how hard the hike is.  Hooray for the ears of someone who understands. We see an elk! And a baby elk! Yay elk!
At the bottom of a large hill we find some flat ground and call it a night. We chat while eating things, although my eating is minimal as I have almost run out of food. My drinking is minimal as I have almost run out of water. This seems to happen more often than not – I always seem to run out of water before bed which is making my legs all crampy and sleepy not awesome. It is 2 days ’til pie town, which can either be a miserable hungry 2 days, or I can hitch into the town of Reserve tomorrow morning and get some extra things. I’m a bit stressed as I have to send some emails and haven’t had service for a while and I can sort that out in Reserve too. So decision made – I’ll get up early, hike to the hwy and get there for breakfast.
We chat about the trail, and how in many ways it hasn’t been what we expected. It’s a tough trail, made tougher by water scarcity, made even tougher by no sympathetic ears on our journeys, no awesome souls to share our excitement.  How interesting that one of my biggest concerns for the PCT was that I wouldn’t make any friends, that I wouldn’t find my people on the trail. The PCT ended up introducing me to some of my favourite people on this planet. And here I am on the CDT where I didn’t give that a second thought, I’ve been hiking solo for all except 1.5 days and it has ended up being one of the toughest parts about the trail.
Time for some good reflection and figuring out how to make the trail awesome.  Sleep fixes everything, right?

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