I love hiking, but some days are just tough. Today was one of those days.
A Cool Evening
I Don’t know what the temperature was last night but it got pretty chilly. This morning was still brisk, but didn’t seem quite as cold.
I have 24 miles to the campsite I have reserved for tonight, so I need to get up fairly early. I managed to get packed and leaving at 7:15 which is a little later than I wanted.
The ground is dewey and the grass is well cut, but my shoes still get a little bit damp. I am wearing my dry shoes now, but I know I have some roadwalks ahead so I keep the dry shoes on. I think tomorrow I need to start out with the water shoes.
The road walk doesn’t last very long before the trail dips into the woods again. After just a few miles it pops out to the same road again. luckily, this road has very little traffic.
I am getting a little tired in my feet or so I stop at the exit of the trail onto the road walk. My blister is a bit sore and when I look at it I can see it’s swollen pretty well. I decide it’s best to lance it and let it drain, so that it doesn’t spread any further. The sewing kit comes in handy once again. I also have a smaller blister on the top of the big toe and put a band-aid on that one.
When I begin walking on the road again I can feel the pressure on the blister forcing out more fluid. After about a half a mile it actually feels pretty good. I think all the pressure has been relieved. But it also probably means I have a gooey sock. The Achilles tendon is pretty sore, but I will manage.
When I get to the end of this road, it intersects with a very busy and high-speed road. There is a wide shoulder and the grassy area is well mowed and easy to walk on.
There is a church across the street that supposedly has water, but I got one liter from the water cache a few miles back.
About a mile down this road walk and on coming car stops to talk to me. It turns out it’s local trail maintainers. They offered me an apple and a Gatorade. The apple I eagerly accept, because fresh fruit is so hard to get. Eventually, I accept the Gatorade as well, because I know I’m going to have a long hot walk today.
I talked with them about the trail conditions ahead. From the maps it looks like it’s going to be pretty wet. There is an alternate high water route for a portion of the next two sections.
The maintainer says the first high water route should be taken to avoid some wading. But the rest of the first section is just a few little mud puddles. The second section she said is dry enough you don’t need to take the alternate high water route.
Wading and Mud
The high water round on the first section basically just hugs the fence line of the property. But even then there are some moody spots that get my shoes a little wet.
But just as soon as the two trails meet again, I can see within a hundred feet that the mud is several inches deep. There’s no way I can walk through this with my dry shoes.
So I stopped and put on my wet shoes, which are actually bone dry right now. They actually feel comfortable since they are well worn to my feet.
After taking the first few steps into the mud, I am surprised to see it is actually cool water and not hot. With black mud and only a few inches of water, I expected it to be very hot. The coolness of the water is actually refreshing.
The mud wading only lasts about 100 yards, maybe less. But then a few tenths of a mile further, there is more mud.
After about a half of mile with no more mud, I decided it’s time to put the dry shoes back on. But in less than a 10th of a mile it turns to mud again. This would be a repeating theme for the rest of the afternoon.
After the 4th or 5th time of putting the water shoes on, I stopped bothering you to even put shoes on at all and walked through the mud barefoot. It saved a lot of time.
The trail on the second section hugged the fence line most of the time, but I went ahead and took the high water route. Oddly, it went through the middle of the park on a road instead of the fence line. I don’t think it made a difference either way.
Not Going to Make it
This was supposed to be a very long 24 mile day. But on the road walk, I could not do my normal 3 plus miles per hour. Because of my achilles tendon, it was more like two and a half. Going fast just put too much pressure on it.
On the trails, I was even slower. I could barely do two miles an hour. And every time I stopped to change shoes, I would lose another 15 minutes.
By the afternoon, it was obvious that 7:30 was about the most optimistic arrival time at the campsite. I was running low on water, so my first priority was finding a decent water source.
Just outside the park boundary is cattle country. Any water source shared on both sides is disgusting. And many of the water sources on the prairie side are not great either.
But I see a post in the comments of the hiking app about an unmarked site where a bridge goes over a creek. The commenter says the water is pretty good. I decided that would be my destination to refill on water. Then I will stop at the next decent campsite.
Once I get to the bridge, there is a good amount of water and it’s easy to get to because of the bridge. One side is covered with surface scum and looks disgusting. The other side looks pretty decent. So I stopped and filtered two liters of water. I collect some extra unfiltered water for cleaning my feet at camp.
Only 2/10 of a mile past where I filtered water, the trail goes through mud that requires taking shoes off again. Rather than deal with that tonight I decided I will turn around and go back to an area that looked like it would have decent camping.
I don’t want to have to deal with wet and muddy feet tonight. Because the area is very grassy I will be starting out in my water shoes in the morning. I may as well make that mud crossing the first part of my day.
Cold Soaked Dinner
When you have a long day or a lot of road walks, sometimes it’s easier to eat things that don’t require cooking. So at my stop in the morning, I put ramen noodles in my cold soak jar and then ate them for lunch several hours later. Ramen noodles taste pretty good this way if you only use half of the seasoning packet.
So at lunch I decided I would try it with the cheddar and broccoli rice that I intended to eat tonight. Many people on other long trails cold soak those dinners and say they taste fine. I am here to tell you that they’re disgusting.
I am not against cold soaking. I think it’s a wonderful idea to rehydrate something without having to boil it. But this evening’s rice and noodle dinner is intended to be cooked to thicken. When they are not cooked, you feel like you just eating flavored dirt. Think of trying to make gravy without heat. Yuck
I only have one more of those rice dinners and might eat it tomorrow. But you can bet your ass I’m going to cook it.
Emotion of the day
Disappointment is the first word that comes to mind.
Disappointed that my Achilles tendon is slowing me down as much as it is. Disappointment that the trail today slowed me down because all of the mud. Disappointment at the inaccuracy of the report from the locals.
But that is what hiking is all about. It’s not all fun and games. Most days are actually quite hard. This just happened to be one of those.