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Day 49: 9/11/17 -- Back on the Trail!

Miles: 16 Steps: 33,098 Vertical gain: Strava Knows Liquid consumed: 64 oz (crazy so little!) Wildlife: Pine Martin! I got an ok photo too! Squirrel, Chipmunk Faith in Humanity: A very nice woman Heather picked me up when I was hitchhiking, thank you! Also, the bus driver was very nice about suggesting a place to hitch and letting me know where the closest bathrooms were. Thanks! I had this plan to wake up all early and get out on the trail super early. Nope! I did wake up around 7 though and packed up. I made sure I cleaned up the condo and then figured out the bus schedule. Figured rather than hitchhike the whole way I might as well take the bus as far as I can to start. Free bus systems are sweet! Thanks! I ride the bus to the closest stop to Berthoud Pass (still 14 miles away or so) and the bus driver was a really nice guy showing me where a bathroom and campground was just in case I didn't get picked up. It took about 40 minutes with my thumb out but eventually a really cool woman named Heather picked me up. She had done some extensive traveling and hitchhiking in the Middle East (!) when she was younger so she decided to give me a ride. Thank you!!!! I was thinking as I was hitching: I wish there was a better way for the people to know that I'm a good person. I think the stereotype is strong that most hitchhikers are ne'er do wells. But although I may smell a little funky at times, I'm certainly a safe person to pick up. I also thought making a sign is a good idea, as I only needed to go 15 miles or whatever so if I had a sign they'd know they weren't stuck with me long if I was a weirdo. Anyway, hitchhiking is a bit weird. Not my favorite thing in the world but gotta do what you gotta do... So I hit the trail at 10:30am. A bit late given the 80% chance of thunderstorms and rain today! And of course, the starting point for the hike was 11,300 feet and I immediately climbed then remained above treeline for several miles. There were some dark clouds in the air for sure, but no thunder or rain so things were going well. I still pushed a bit to get ahead of the inevitable storms. About 6 miles into my hike I arrived at a junction. Basically go left to go lower and a thunderstorm avoidance route or go right to go above 13,000 feet on a beautiful exposed ridge. Nearly the second I arrived a clap of thunder was in the air. Talk about easy decision making! The trail went down and then connected to a dirt road. The rain increased considerably so I took a seat under a tree next to the Riad to wait out the storm. Now, I know so many people say "oh you shouldn't be under a tree when there's thunder." But what's the real solution to people who say that? Crouch down in lightning position in an open area while getting frozen by the rain? I do try to look for trees that aren't the tallest around, but I think that's a fairly safe option. I ate so much food and drank so much liquid the past few days that today my body is just like: nope, none of that fit me! I've barely drank any water or eaten any food today as I sit here in my tent ready for bed. I skipped breakfast and dinner and only had a little bit for lunch. I feel great though. So after some sitting I started hiking in the rain. It was too early to stop for the night and I was in the trees and the lightning was fading on the distance so figured I should go for it. Lots of traffic for a dirt road and soooo many campsites with fire rings. Easily 50 along a fairly short road, only a few miles. I wondered what the attraction to Jones Pass road? CO backcountry site can be crowded in certain areas. I thought I saw a squirrel but it was a Martin! Very cool. He didn't seem one bit scared of me, more curious that anything. He posed really well for photos but I still struggled a bit to get a good shot since my phone case wasn't dealing well with the rain. It's a waterproof case but it just didn't want to take touch inputs. I got an ok shot though so that's cool! Ok so next up was finishing the climb to Jones Pass. I hadn't heard lightning in 45 minutes. Skies were still dark but many areas appeared to be getting lighter. I decided to go for it and if I heard a clap of thunder to retreat to the trees and set up my tent and call it a night. I don't like playing these "I wonder if that cloud will cause lightning and thunder" game one bit, but sometimes you kind of have to, like today! I made it over fine but once I got to the top of the pass the skies on the other side were really dark. Thankfully the trail steeply followed a Road downward. I jogged for probably a mile after hearing some thunder. Not ideal, but not horrible either. The rain picked up again as I went down. Finally the road ended at a stream and I was back on trail. It started raining more and a bit more thunder and lightning, but at least I was quite low,relatively (still camped at 10,700 feet!). I looked at my map and of course from this point I'd be climbing back above treeline. With that I looked for a campsite pretty early and set up my tent. It's very dark now at 7:50pm. About ready for bed, haha. Oh the life of a Thur hiker! I feel pretty good though, changed into some dry clothes, etc. hopefully not quite as many clouds and storms tomorrow! Wow that was long!

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