Total Miles: 94.2
It started slowly. First a few drops, then a pause. It’s also the way yesterday had ended, as a localized storm system brushed past the trail and its edges caught up with us like the wake from a distant boat. The tarps hanging over each of our heads were mostly a precaution, but one that was quickly proving a wise one with every passing drop.
Small clusters of drops gave way to more steady ones, replaced finally by a steady rain and a gusty, swirling wind. As each passing hour of the night and early morning brought worse conditions, it was clear what kind of day this might be when it was time to cast aside the cocoon of down warmth and step onto the trail.
Two days earlier, in the arctic freezer that it was, we debated whether it would be worse if the temperature was perhaps 10 degrees warmer but raining as well. We all agreed that it would be, not knowing of course that we’d only have to wait 48 hours to prove the theory true.
It wasn’t until we’d broken free of the confines of the forest and up onto a broad expanse of tabletop sagebrush that it became clear how foolish the weather had chosen to be. Walking on an almost due west heading, the south wind that pelted us relentlessly from the left was as if someone had turned a cold shower on side ways. The only mental relief was in knowing that our first resupply stop in town was a mere 13 miles away, but even that comes as cold comfort when grinding your teeth through two and a half hours of driving cold rain will soon be followed by another two and a half hours. Sometimes all you can do is suffer.
No one would say that hiking in these conditions is fun, or even necessarily safe for more than a certain length of time. And that was our challenge today—to decrease the time spent as much as possible in conditions that all but beckoned for hypothermia while also keeping a level head about how to best manage the misery. Forcing yourself to eat, or stop to add a layer for warmth, even as the damp cold starts to effect the movement of your joints can be a hard thing to do when every instinct you have is to abandon all thought and run for home. Experience doesn’t make this easier to do—it only makes it clear what’s important to do.
Miles after the dirt road we were on had turned into a veritable mudslide, we rounded a bend to get a first glimpse of Interstate 15 below and our destination for the day where Beardoh’s mom would be waiting to bring us into town. The end of the insanity in sight, we could release the focus we’d held for hours ever so slightly and start to give in to the reality that would soon be ours: a hot shower, and a warm bed.