Today’s miles: 4.6
Miles to date: 164.8
Around 10pm there is a light rain and distant thunder and lightning. Whiz and I both wake up to close our tent doors. “Are we safe up here?” she asks. I’m not sure, but I count the seconds between the next lightning/thunder pair. Seventeen. Pretty far away. I count for the next few pairs and the numbers increase, so I gratefully fall into sleep again.
I wake again at 5:20am and Whiz is just heading out. Soon I’m off as well, just a few flattish miles between me and the trailhead. My feet ache and my blisters hurt, but I try to make good time on this gently rolling trail covered with horse poop. I think about town food, a shower, clean clothes. The trail gets muddier and more rutted out as I go, forcing me to walk on the slanted edges lest I lose my shoes in the bog of mud and horse poo in the middle. It’s pretty gross, and tough on the feet.
I reach the sign marking the boundary of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, cross the bridge, and navigate a bit more poop-mud to the trailhead parking lot, where I find Whiz cramming packs into the car. Our old pal Dos Tacos, whom several of us met on the PCT in 2017, is also hiking near here, and the timing magically worked out so that we can take her car to Augusta, have our zero day, and then drive ourselves back to the trailhead and leave it for her. Her generosity is incredible, especially because this is a notoriously hard hitch. Foxy has hiked on to pick up a resupply box a few miles off trail, so the remaining five of us squish in with our gear and are off on a winding country road through the mountains, 30 miles to town. We’re cold when the windows are rolled down, but too stinked out by ourselves when they’re up. We see some pronghorns grazing on the way.
In tiny Augusta our first stop is the diner where I eat sausage, eggs, hashbrowns, and toast, and enjoy a bottle of apple juice. Dad Jokes is here and feeling healed up enough to hike again. We meet Snotfish and Redbeard, who might hike out with us too. I cross the street and book one night in the inn — I’ll join the others for free camping tomorrow night. In the shower I discover that what I thought was caked-on mud on my legs is actually scabs from the blowdown section. I finally get rid of two toenails, with relief, and do my laundry at the coin-op. The trail fam congregates in the park and then we get some decent pizza before I head off to bed. I’m always too exhausted to hang out late in town.
In the morning I lounge in the hotel room, trying to soak it up before check-out time. I pick up my resupply box from the pizzeria — we all sort our resupplies on picnic tables in the park, trading snacks and trying to pack enough but not too much food for the next 6+ days. After a burger lunch in a bar filled to the brim with antlers and taxidermy, we return to the park and find a storm coming. I dive into my tent while the others take shelter under the bleachers nearby. The storm is big: rain dumping down on us, lightning, big thunder. I get freaked out and am texting Cyn for distraction and reassurance. Huge gusts of wind come through and one blows a tent door open. I refasten it and wait. When the storm passes, I’m relieved to know for sure that my tent is dry — I found only one tiny leak at a seam, which I hastily patch. We have pizza again and discuss rides for tomorrow: with Dad Jokes, Snotfish, and Redbeard joining (plus a solo hiker named Compass who just wants a ride), Cowboy will have to drive us in two trips. I’m in bed by 9pm, rested and ready to hike.