Connections – The Shakedown Hike, Day 1: 10 miles

I’ve got to shake it off.

Shake off the time between my last solo backpacking trip and now. Those months have been filled with one unsettling event after another; my sweat is toxic with them the first day.

I am headed into the desert with modest but exciting goals: hike 10 miles a day, find water, and piece together some dirt roads stitched with cross country sections. Why? To groundtruth ideas I’ve had about linking together the Oregon Desert Trail in the Owyhees to the Blue Mountains Trail in the Strawberry Mountains, a personal plight…you might say for curiosity’s sake.

June provided a rare mild week right before summer solstice. Add in some well-deserved time-off after a week of work in the backcountry, and I had the time and good weather for a solo adventure.

This was also to be an experiment: can my rehabilitated planter fasciitis foot hold up to 10 miles a day for 5 days? I was optimistic, but am hedging my bets by going slow and stretching constantly. Oh, that, and the stick roller in my pack.

It was a shakedown hike!

I leave for the Appalachian Trail in a few weeks, so am testing my gear setup for the first time. Bits and pieces of gear always change between long trails. Each trail has it’s own gear needs, and I was preparing for hot and humid and maybe rainy weather.

I couldn’t possibly replicate those conditions in the dusty and scrubbed desert northwest of Lake Owyhee State Park, but enough pieces were in place for me to realize I was packing way too many clothes. It will take a while to dial in my AT pack…but with many options to ship things home or have Kirk send them ahead to me on the trail, I was giddy with excitement at how different a hike on the AT will be. I’ll find actual trail, people, (lots and lots of people), towns, different ecosystems and geology, trail angels all over the place, shelters, lots of water, lots of shade, lots of memories.

20 years ago from March 20 to August 22 I called the Appalachian Trail home, and I will be going home again for 2 months.

But back to the sagebrush sea.

I wandered 10 miles on rocky dirt roads that hadn’t seen any traffic in weeks if not longer. These roads are my favorite. They are everywhere in the desert and take you to water, cool things, and they are usually too rough to drive, so walk them!

Many many miles are like this on the Oregon Desert Trail. Sometimes they are whispers of a former road and you have to read the contours of the ground in front of you, and look for the ghosts of missing sagebrush. Last weekend when I was backpacking with my volunteers up into the Trout Creek Mountains, we turned onto one of those roads and the spaces where the road had been was filled with flowers. There are so many flowers in the desert right now!!! Our very rainy and snowy spring is soaking the ground frequently, so I’m hiking with great optimistim that the water marked on the map will be there…I also viewed the potential water sources on Google Maps…the detail in the satellite imagry is downright astonishing.

Even when I take my time it doesn’t take me long to hike 10 miles, so I need to purposefully slow down, take epic long breaks, linger over coffee, and read one of the 4 books I brought with me (3 digital of course!).

It’s a vacation hike! A belated birthday hike? I turned 45 on that volunteer trip last week, I ate cake with 20 people in the desert, which was amazing, but now I was treating myself to a little hike.

I intensly enjoy walking through the folds of the earth and knowing with 96% certainy that I won’t see any other humans. I am of this place and sometimes I feel this most intensily when I am alone.

Bring me back to the present, here and now. That’s what backpacking is good for. And I was brutally reminded of this when I stepped shin-deep in a mud-cow pie wetland at a desert spring. The rare desert nectar was stomped to death by their large, thirsty bodies. They wallowed in this spring, so I’m definitely filtering and treating it. 100% fecal contaminated.

Fence all the springs please!

Back to it: the walking was hot, I deployed my sun umbrella much of the afternoon, and my pale and pasty legs turned red in my new purple rain adventure skirt.

Breaks were taken in the old roadbed where my footprints joined those of deer, pronghorn, and cows, i was all spread out on new and crinkly tyvek.

It will take me at least a day to sweat town away, maybe longer. I have 5 days. Happy birthday to me!

9 thoughts on “Connections – The Shakedown Hike, Day 1: 10 miles

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