After another evening of not being crushed by widowmakers, we’re up early, out before 8, a welcome change to the last leg of my journey. Time to be productive. With the exception of one particular down, it’s supposed to be a day of gentle ups, but I’ve been burned on that before.
Still, the day is shaping up to be a pretty one.
We climb from the Silver Creek Trail into a meadow-y area, full of nice views and near-blinding sunlight.
Then it’s our down, and up again, into what Crank not-so-affectionately calls a “green tunnel”, forest blocking our views everywhere. We have our first minor disagreement on the top of a ridge; Crank wants to get a move-on, haul on, but my body’s not so good at cooperating. Crank hikes a bit ahead, but waits for me at intervals – it’s a pattern I grew used to hiking with Spesh, and while it suits here, it adds to my ambivalence about the day.
I think I’d be fine if it was just my body being a jerk, but my mind is being uncooperative as well. I’m having ALL OF THE FEELS today, missing Spesh and M and A and the Irish Lawyer and the Programmer and NoDay, everyone, life. For the first time, I ask myself, really ask myself, why I’m doing this, and I know I’m being honest when I can’t come up with a response. So while the ups are gentle, my heart is heavy, which makes my feet heavy, and I feel like I’m trying to walk in a motorcycle rut up some ups that are much harder1 than the nice, flat-ish prairie trail I’ve been walking for a while. The near-whole skeleton of a horse, when I pass it, both spooks me and suits my mood.
And then, suddenly, mesa! Sargent’s Mesa, to be precise. Feels always go better with a view.
We run into four Northbound CT thruhikers on our crossing, two of whom mistake us for CDT hikers2 and two of whom are my Buff buddies – we’re all wearing the same Buff. Crank, having slowed down to share the moment with me, chuckles at all of us, and at the number of shoes one of the NoBos is carrying3. They say there’s a yurt ahead that’s not to be missed – running water and a woodburning stove and such, just past Lake City. That’s still a ways off, so I put it from mind, take some more pictures as we leave the mesa.
Just off the jeep road close to the Long Bend Trail, I start to get cranky, and Crankster introduces me to Honey Stingers, those delicious, delicious sugary restoratives. A couple of motorcycles approach, and while I’m content to gripe to Crankster, Crankster takes the gripe to them. They tell us that motorcycles are permitted from Marshall Pass Trailhead to Monarch Pass, seemingly ignorant of the fact that we’re a little further along. While I’m not sure they’re not allowed here, I’m not sure they are, either; they turn off quickly and are gone, not wanting to bear a more extended conversation. Probably fair, but then the rutting in the trail seems like more than enough reason to get a little sassy.
We plan on camping at Baldy Lake, but when we arrive it seems prudent not to go a half mile and 500 feet down to camp, certainly not now that my foot is acting up – it’s the last up, and it’s angry, growly, insisting I do something; the turnoff provides a nice campspot. I go on my evening tent-spot hunt and Crank offers to go get water – she’s not particularly tired, and while I want to pull my weight, I’m happy to accept the help. She cuddles up in a particularly interesting but very ultralight gear configuration before setting off down the hill.
I cook and eat while she gets water, and when she gets back she’s glad I didn’t have to walk it. Also, she saw an animal that was a mix between a ferret and a kitten. I blink, realizing she’s seen a pine marten, and almost wish I had walked down that hill with her. Almost. And then it’s off to bed to write and sleep to the rustle of wind in the pines.
Start: 270.9 • End: 288.9 • Day: 18
Notable Accomplishments: Was okay with having no explicit reason for hiking • 18 miles, even though bummed out • Did get (vicariously) sassy with motorcyclists
 Granted, those were actually a thing just a couple miles back. Annoying.
 That’s adorable. Me all huffing and puffing and feelsing, a CDT hiker. Maybe another time.
 Six. Six pairs of shoes. One of my Buff buddies tattled on the other.