I woke up around 2:30am as has become habit…usually for the call of nature or something, and it was taking me awhile to get back to sleep so I started messing around on my phone. Later as I was trying to get back to sleep i picked it back up again to survey my last three days of hiking when I realized with a start there were too many miles. Too many miles to hike in 3 days!
I had arranged to be at the Flat Iron Rock trailhead in the Badlands on my final morning to meet a reporter interested in the trail. He was going to hike the last section with me, but almost 80 miles lay between me and the 2 days I had to get there. ^!&$^#& How had that happened?? A small miss calculation in miles when I was planning back in the office…everything was set so I hadn’t even looked ahead.
Ok, time to figure it out. I started to see a couple of options: 1) hike 2 35-40 mile days to be there in time (no matter I’ve only hiked 37 miles once before…3 months into my CDT hike last year when I was in great shape). 2) have Kirk pick me up wherever I ended and take me to the trailhead the night before (he was already planning to come out and bring dinner the night before my meeting anyway). 3) hike as much as I could over the 2 days, and get up really early the day of my meeting and try and finish the rest before the final 9 mile hike.
Ok, I had options, but either way I needed to start hiking NOW. I packed up..my room had been a yard sale of stuff, my resupply still in the shopping bags. I made some coffee and went to work. By 4:30am I was ready.
I put on my down jacket, hat, mittens, headlamp, and headed out. I was on roads, paved then dirt. The stars were amazing, I saw the Milky Way and a shooting star before the road got uneven and I had to turn on my headlamp.
Just under 2 hours later the sun came out. Not a terrible way to start the day I suppose… I took a breakfast break, switched shoes and started heading cross country towards Crack in the Ground. So cool! A 2-mile crack you could walk through. I think this will be a popular alternate.
Then I walked, and walked, and walked. By noon my legs needed a break. I was by the East Lava Flow, a wilderness study area, and I had already made 20 miles! I treated myself to an hour break, popped some Ibprophen, and lay down for a while. Times up. More walking walking walking. I played some podcasts to keep my mind off the miles ahead. More cross country, more old roads.
Walking, and more walking. By evening my legs ached and feet felt the pounding of the long miles. Keep going! My goal was to get to one of my water caches where I had also left myself a beer. A beer! That became my carrot. And the water of course. I had left Christmas Valley with 7 liters of water. 7! That’s 15 extra pounds on my back for this task!! Turns out 2 water sources had water…but I didn’t know that before and couldn’t have counted on them, cause if they didn’t that would have been a long dry stretch…and it was bloody hot.
Walking, walking, walking. The sun set. I was still walking, although I was getting close!
Finally at about 7:30 and 15 hours later, I got to my cache. The beer tasted like success. My first 40 miler!!!! I don’t think I’ll do that again any time soon.