100 miles into the Bob Marshall Wildnerness, a ranch will bring boxes mailed to the owners at their house 50 miles away. I mailed them a box. They charge $30 to bring the box to their ranch. It’s worth it.
So, on the morning of the fifth day in “the Bob” I walked the 3 miles down a dirt road to get my box. I planned this well enough and also included a precooked bag of rice and Madras Curry lentils. I ate it and paid $10 for a cup of coffee and a shower at the ranch.
Legs dirt-free, me, Wayward, and Ninja hiked back to the CDT. As we came up the hill off the dirt road the sky started looking hazy. It was early July in the West and the temperatures had been hovering around 100 degrees.
Fire season has begun.
Hiking through a burn area, no shade, 100 degrees, and hazy. Alright, well I better keep hiking. Maybe it’s clearer south of here.
I found Nav after a couple of hours. He was sitting under a tiny bush. I sat down for a break in a sliver of shadow cast by a dead tree.
Soon we were joined by a talkative woman who was out for her first-ever solo backpacking trip. At 60 years old, she has backpacked with others a lot, but never alone. This was her 60th birthday present to herself.
And then she mentions she has brought a collapsible PVC didgeridoo. We convinced her to play it for us. Good times!
Hiking on, the sun was still hot. And, the sky was getting hazier. I saw some horseback riders coming up the trail toward me.
“Hello!” I say as I step off the trail.
“Hi, thanks for letting us pass.” The rider in front says.
“No problem, do you know if there’s a fire up there?” I ask.
“Yeah, there’s a fire over on the west side,” they respond.
So there is a fire already. And it’s on the “west side,” whatever that means.
The horses and riders gone, I hike on. I catch up with Ninja, Wayward, and Nav. We hike over a pass as evening sets in. There is a creek in a few more miles. That’s where we’ll camp tonight.
I set up my tent and cook instant mashed potatoes for dinner. I eat some small sausages along with the hot mashed potatoes. The potatoes are too hot. Everything is a little too hot when it’s 100 degrees out.
I eat some melted peanut M&Ms to fill in the remaining empty space in my stomach. I dream of cutting the sleeves off my long sleeve shirt as I climb into my tent and go to sleep.
The next morning I get up early, around 6, and pack up my tent. I make coffee and eat some trail mix. Then, I munch down a granola bar. It’s time to hike.
I hike all morning along a river. The trail follows the edge of a valley and eventually crosses the river. Well, I missed the turn. A couple of miles later, I realized it was time to turn around when I finally checked my map. Oh well, I guess it’s time to backtrack.
I’m back on track now. I’ve crossed the river and am climbing up to a ridge. Wow, these are some views. But that smoke. Wow.
I hike down from the ridge to a lake. This looks like the perfect place for an afternoon dip.
I pull my dirty clothes back on over my wet skin. There’s a 15-mile dry stretch coming up so I’ll be dry camping tonight.
I’m hiking up the hill, back to the ridge. There’s a single downed tree ahead. Oh well, I’ve climbed over 100s of these by now. I hop up, and I slip…
Okay, that could have been worse.
I start collecting the bottles that fell out of my backpack pockets. Then I notice some blood on my leg.
Oh Shit. I almost passed out when I saw the slice.
I sat down to collect myself and inspect the wound. It’s more of a puncture, I conclude.
I have a hole in my leg.
Well, at least I have a first aid kit. And, the wound looks pretty clean.
I rinse it with filtered water and cover it in triple antibiotic ointment. It isn’t bleeding much at all. That’s good. I put a piece of gauze over it and tape it in place with leukotape. Then, I wrap my entire thigh with my buff.
There’s a highway into the town of Lincoln in 20 miles. I can make it there.
Leg as bandaged as it can be, I hike up to the ridge. It’s beautiful up there. I hike for 10 more miles that evening. When I find a flat spot to camp, I set up my tent. I eat a lot of food, thinking the more fuel my body has, the better off I’ll be. I also put on my tights and sleep in my puffy jacket, thinking that staying as warm as possible is a good idea too.
I wake up in the morning.
Alright, this hasn’t bled too much overnight. I’ll make it to town.
By noon, I’m catching a ride into Lincoln with a guy and his old dog who are road tripping across the country. He drops me off at the grocery store, where I buy hydrogen peroxide, gauze bandages, and an elastic ace bandage to hold it all in place.
After a good breakfast at a restaurant. Wayward, Ninja, and I go to a motel in town. I shower and clean the wound, which still looks surprisingly good.
Two days later, I hike out of Lincoln armed with lots of gauze, saline solution, and antibiotic ointment.
No swimming for a while for me.
It’s getting real out here.