CDT Day 51 – Beary big climbs

25 miles hiked, 276.2 @ 7510ft
I slept with the tent door open to try and reduce condensation, but instead wake up to a face full of frost against the bug net and a world of ice around me. Today is a big day with the beginning of our climbs that we are going to be seeing from now until…well forever.
I’m out before the guys just before 7am so I can enjoy my solo morning without feeling rushed, and they will catch up to me (easily. Long legged speed machines). It’s coooold and I take my shoes off to cross the river instead of going across the log as the log is covered in ice.
The morning warms up and soon I have to take off the extra layers. I stop too many times as my stomach is not happy today. I hope it’s just a passing thing and I haven’t picked up something nasty. I’m hiking along the side of a hill with the river rushing below to my right, winding through trees. A meadow appears in front of me and is the perfect place for brekkie. I find a lovely spot in the grass with wildflowers around me, sit thinking far off thoughts, munch on my granola and watch as a deer trots right near me,  unaware of my presence until the last minute. She stares at me for the longest time.
Granola finished I’m on trail again and enjoying the downhill that will continue for 12 miles today. Another shoes off crossing and I stop at a junction on the other side. I dart off again to take care of business and when I get back my pack is gone. Whaaaat??? Then I hear some terrible ‘animal noises’ from the bushes. Bloody  Grizzly and Crunchmaster have finally caught up and stole my stuff. Rude Buggers.
I leave before them as they take a break, and a couple more miles down the road they catch up as I stop for water. They zoom off and  I switch on my podcasts as I meander through the trees. We’ve agreed on a catchup point just before the big climb starts to eat dinner so we can hike late.
I put a message on facebook before I started the hike for suggestions from my friends in their favourite motivational songs. My playlist is a big mish mash, and it makes me smile to think of my friends as their chosen songs come on ☺
I turn a corner and the guys are unexpectedly sitting at a stream. Turns out this is our last water for 20 miles, so we have to drink up, eat early dinner here, and carry way too much water up the big climb. They’ve just seen a grizzly on the opposite hill, which adds an unexpected nervousness about this section- south of Benchmark ranch we weren’t really expecting to see too much bear activity. Naughty bears.
Dinner is done, music is on and the climb begins. It’s very exposed straight up a hill on a very narrow pathway. Thank goodness the weather is nice – just a little chilly which is good for climbing! Grizzly very quickly turns into a dot far up on the mountain and I turn my speaker up loud – I’m acting under the assumption that bears have very poor taste in music and will be scared of my playlist 😉
Blergh it’s a breath stealing climb. The hills rolls away in waves below – it’s nice to have high up views again!
Finally at the top, we are camping at a lake I can see far below; the trail takes a big wide turn around it. My footsteps going right in front of each other like a sobriety test on the too skinny, too steep gravelly path.
Switchbacking down down down I stop momentarily to put on my R1 hoody as the wind has picked up, and change the playlist to my thru-hike karaoke – I’m in a singing mood! I tone down my singing along to Johnny Cash as I get to the bottom- there are a few tents about that may not be as excited about going to Jackson as Johnny, June and I.
It’s nearly 9pm by the time I get down to the lake, legs shaky from the descent. Tents up, we hang our food bags and all the smelly things from a high branch, and dive into tents to get warm. A looong day. I need to get used to this and instruct my legs to build lots of muscle while I sleep please!

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