Every day my feet feel better and my body stronger. Today it might be the intoxicating cocktail of a cup of french press coffee, turmeric cashews, and a few vitamin I, but I’ll take it! (turmeric is anti-inflammatory…I put a little in my oatmeal every morning too).
I love my body the most when I’m thru-hiking.
The morning brought a quiet walk along the edge of the world before I turned left to continue on the ridge; the Snake River below also began a left turn on its journey to the sea.
I walked through meadows and forests, a number of springs flowed into troughs and I spied more hunting camps in the thick woods. As I was approaching Lord Flat I remembered a note that Whitney had passed on after he hiked through…to stay on the runway because the trail/road disappeared there. Just about that time I look up to see a plane circling….an active runway I see!
As I rounded the corner I saw a group of hunters eagerly awaiting the plane. The runway was little more than a two-track in the grasses, but sure enough there was a windsock. As the plane landed I put on my best smile and asked the group if I could lighten the load by taking some cold drinks or snacks off their hands. One guy went to a tote and brought back four cliff bars. Ahhhhh, thanks guys…(but not exactly what i had in mind…did you drink all the beer?)
As they loaded the plane I quickly walked down the runway to another faint two-track headed in the direction I wanted to go, and soon after the plane took off. I could see two people on horseback heading towards me and when they got within shouting distance I joked that it was the first traffic jam I had seen on the trip.
Jim and Paul were frequent visitors to this spot and I had just passed their hunting camp, although they weren’t really hunting on this trip, just enjoying the warm fall. We chatted for a bit and they invited me to their camp for elk steaks for dinner, and as much as I would have taken them up on their offer had it been the end of the day, there were miles to make.
Jim said that I was the first backpacker he had seen in that spot in the years he had been coming up here, but, mentioned that sometimes when he is riding on other trails hikers are openly pissed off when they see horses. That’s not cool. Reason #1??? It’s mostly the horse packers that use these trails, and CLEAR these trails. Almost every packer has a saw on their saddle, and since our agencies haven’t had the resources to prioritize trail maintenance, it is left to us as users to clear the trails, and equestrians do. (I could go on and on about the state of trail maintenance in this country…I know a lot of people who would love a good paying job in the woods all summer to clear trails, but the agencies can’t maintain everything in their purview, and as such primarily rely on volunteers and nonprofit groups to do the work. What that means is people either do it for free, or it doesn’t get done. Lets fund our agencies so they can hire people and pay them good money to maintain trails instead of relying on the public to do it).
Jim tossed me an apple as we said our goodbyes….now THAT’S some trail magic! Fresh fruit! He also said I could help myself to some water in his truck that I would pass on my walk down the next drainage. A true trail angel.
Thru-hiking has taught me the valuable lesson over the years that what you put out into the world you get back…it works with people and the natural world. It all feels reciprocal. Maybe that’s the secret…life is all about your relationship with the world around you….every part of your world…including yourself. (Hiking gets my brain ruminating like nothing else).
I traversed some skinny trail that dropped off steeply and couldn’t imagine Jim and Paul had just rode this on their horses. I don’t think I could trust the animal to walk it better than I could…but then again, I don’t ride horses.
I started a steep switch-backing descent next; right now the word I have to define the climbs and descents in this section: grueling. It’s no wonder really, I’ve been walking above the deepest canyon in the country. Getting to the bottom is going to be difficult on foot no matter how you slice it.
But! The end of the switchbacks that had me slipping and falling on my butt several times was water. A creek. A creek with water. I sat down in a cloud of fatigue and willed there to be a nice cobble beach where I could access the water and shed the last four days of dirt and sweat. I walked more, and thank you world! I found my watery bath.
Refreshed and the least stinky I had been in days, I ambled a few more miles before setting up another cowboy camp on a bluff overlooking the stunning canyon. There is lots of bear poop now that I’m in a canyon, so that’s something else to keep in mind.