Buzz cut

To maintain my social distancing Justin cut my hair. Or shall I say he “buzzed it off” to 1/4″. It feel so much cooler now and very manageable. It feels like I have some hair when I rub it with my hand, but looking at this picture it looks as if I don’t have any at all. Ha! And I love the look on his face. It’s the “OMG What Have I Done to my Dad” look.

Supported hiking

This is a first. My son offered to keep me safe and isolated during to the COVID-19 Pandemic while I hike so he’s going to support me. I will stay on the trail (not go into towns to keep them and me safe) whereas he’ll precede me to the next meeting point. He’ll carry all the resupplies along with a roof top tent and SHOWER – yup a 4.5 gallon pressurized water with a nozzle shower. He drove from California to Austin to pick me up. Also he got a COVID-19 test before he left, which was negative. Together we’ll drive to South Pass City WY where I’ll start hiking and he’ll drive to our next meet-up (see Plan). Hike, meet, repeat…

Just arrived in Austin with Columbus Autohone (white clamshell attached to roof rack)
A test drive with his sweetheart a few days before with the roof tent popped up. They said the view is great from up there!
The shower is the black pipe (black to help with solar heating). It holds about 4.5 gallons of water with a spigot and nozzle at the end. The “T” in the middle is where you fill it with water and there is an air valve so you can pump it up for a pressured shower experience. Slick!
My son, Justin, standing under the shower nozzle shortly after assembling it and mounting it to the roof car rack. I think by now you should have gotten the idea that a supported hike is quite different than normal.

Equipment and supplies preparation

Each hike requires a certain amount of equipment. I already have most of the stuff, but things wear out and I’ve got to replace them. For example, shoes. On the AT I started with lightweight trail runners and later switched to a hiking boot. So online I purchased one pair of Brooks Cascadia 14 Trail-Running Shoes and two pair of Oboz Sawtooth II Low Hiking Shoes. Along with them I got a new Petzl rechargeable head lamp and Inova microlight for use in my tent.

Just a small sample of the equipment I recently bought for the section hike.

Then there is consumables, such as food. For example, dehydrated dinners and other items, for example, cherry Tootsie Roll Pops – yup only cherry – sixty of them – Yum!

About 50 dehydrated dinners and 60 cherry Tootsie Roll Pops for dessert

I can’t say I have everything, but I have enough to get started. Then it’ll be up to me and Justin to fill in anything missing when we’re on the trail.

Physical preparation

Since I committed to this section hike I’ve been physically preparing. This includes wearing a 25 lbs. weight vest and hiking up and down hills. Although Austin TX is relatively flat my first choice is Mount Bonnell.

Heading up Mount Bonnell

Along with the vest, I wear a cap for the sun and earphones to listen to books and podcasts. It also includes me wearing my COVID-19 face mask when encountering people, but if no one is around I remove it so I can breathe.

Suited up and ready to rumble

By the time I’m a big ball of sweat. Thanks Austin for the humidity!

5/26 mile 513.6 The journey ends

Although it looked threatening and I put up my tent, no rain fell. I got up at 5 AM

It was 21 miles to Cuba NM. I had been doing 21 miles for the past few days to insure on my last day I’d get to Cuba today. My water stop was in 6.6 miles – piece of cake. I was on trail hiking at 6 AM. That’s a little late, but today I sat and ate my Clif Bar and Granola Bar while enjoying my MIO Energy (with caffeine). I thought that should give me a little energy boost and brighten my spirit.

As I typically do I calculate the time it takes to complete some mileage using 25 minutes/mile. My water stop should be in 2 hours and 45 minutes or 8:45 AM. So off I went. I can do this.

The trail goes from mesa to mesa. Between them you typically hike down to a saddle and back up to the next. I thought I was making good progress, but I wasn’t. My thoughts kept drifting to quitting. I was pushing to get to the water yet it wasn’t necessary. I had already decided to end my hike so why was I pushing. Then I kept thinking about all the miles after the water stop that would take me hours and hours. I realized I was done, kaput. It was the end. I just couldn’t push any more. Maybe I could get to a road and hitch into Cuba. I had hit my wall.

At 9:15 AM I finally got to the spring. I filtered one bottle, added Crystal Light Lemonade flavoring, shook it and chugged it down. Bliss. Then two guys wander into the spring. I say hi, but they don’t look like hikers. They have small backpacks and are carrying shovels and other tools. I come to learn they are the trail maintenance crew for this section and they have come to work on the heavily-silted spring’s trough. Hmmm, that means they’ve driven here and their truck is nearby. I ask if I can catch a ride to Cuba and they say sure after they do their work here and some more trail work somewhere else.

Then I realize that this is how my adventure will end. Today will be my last hiking day. Right here I can relax. I am done. It is officially over.

Over the next two hours I try to help them shovel muck, silt, sand, and make the spring’s trough good for hikers for another 10 years. Their names are Charlie and David. Around lunch time we are done so we pack up and leave. At the truck Charlie says he’ll drive me to Cuba while David stays behind to eat his lunch. The truck is small and the cab fits only two people. So off we go and Charlie drive me into Cuba, drops me at a motel, and heads off.

I am sad, but the pressure is off to make those daily big miles. I contact my friends and family to tell them where I am. As I do it hits me. I miss those special people who have helped me in this journey. I need them so much. My voice breaks and a tear forms. It really is over. All the months to prepare. All the gear I bought. All the energy expended to get to the start. And most of all my long distance hiking is over. The end of a part of my life.

5/25 mile 507.0 Up high

Most of the day I was on trails which were up high and on the edge of a mesa. I had great views.

This morning when I hoisted my pack my back screamed. It was all the deep chest coughing I did at night that aggravated it. It almost brought tears to my eyes. All I could do was ignore it and hike. This is not fun.

The only good water was 13 miles later. It would take me until after lunch to get there. Although I had enough water to get me there I was dreaming about chugging one of my 0.7L SmartWater bottles with lemonade. Then with a mile to go someone put 15 gallon jugs of fresh pure water under a bush for us CDT hikers. No need to filter. I guzzled down two bottles of lemonade and one of MIO. Then I filled everything up and hiked on. That was amazing, the best! It couldn’t come at a better time.

Finally a sad note… The trail has beaten me. I will be ending my hike when I get to Ghost Ranch and meet up with Cornell and Mary. My sickness and pains has made hiking too difficult. I’m making my miles, but I not having any fun. I did this as a physical challenge and as of now the brutality of this trail has beaten me. I just don’t feel like going on. So once I get to Ghost Ranch and then to Cornell’s I’ll buy a plane ticket and return home.

P.S. Met Shortcut who chatted with me while I lay in my tent. I told him to stay away because of the pestilence that I have. I never saw his face. He told me Masshole, Stummy, and Halfmile were behind me. I haven’t seen anyone for the last four days.

5/24 mile 486.0 State of the body

On the second day of this journey the glands in the back of my throat became swollen. Over the next two weeks I felt them whenever I swallowed. However they really didn’t affect my hiking. Then about a week ago my lungs started to get congested and the my glands got better. Now this has affected my hiking. I just can’t get in enough oxygen especially during climbs. All night long I cough and hack trying to clear my lungs. For example today when I stopped for lunch all I did is cough for the first few minutes.

The morning I left PieTown I swung my pack up to my shoulders and pulled a lower back muscle. I’ve tried to ignore it, but it continues. It is further aggravated when I have those deep lung-clearing coughs. It’s just there most of the time, a dull ache.

My feet and blisters have healed enough that I don’t notice them. My hands are better after I put liquid bandage on all the splits.

5/23 mile 465.3 Hills, trails and cowboy camping

I started the day on trails. They wandered through pine forests. Sometimes the trail went through stands of birch. There were several climbs this morning and I was breathing hard to get over them. My congestion isn’t helping. At 3.3 miles I stopped for much needed water, but the area was in shade and my hands were freezing. So I got the minimum amount I needed and moved on. The next water was over 10 miles away.

By lunch the trail had turned into a road walk. Sigh! And by late afternoon I got to the next water source in a canyon which I had to climb down into. I got enough for tomorrow and went a short distance to my cowboy campsite.

5/22 mile 443.9 Trail hiking

I got up at 4:30 AM and prepared to leave the Motel 6. I headed out just after 5. I needed to cut through town to get back on trail and the road walk to the trail head. I had two major climbs. I like being up high and seeing the views. At one point I could see Grants NM far below. The rest of the day I was on trail which suited me just fine. That is, I wasn’t bored. Another hiker, Slapshot, passed me and said that Kenobe was behind him, but I never saw Kenobe. I think it will be cold tonight at 9172 feet. I am trying to make Cuba NM at the end of my fifth day. Each day I do one or two extra miles to do that.