Day 15: Mile 337.1-6.9 (pie town alternate)
Total trip miles: 287.6
I love cowboy camping (just sleeping bag, no tent). Awake, packed and walking within 15 minutes. My perfect kind of morning. The first 20ish miles of today were a mix of pine forest and an old burn. Burns aren't too exciting, it just usually means the trail disappears even more than usually and it's a bit more of an obstacle course climbing all around the debris.
I knew there was a supposedly not so great cow pond as a water source about 4 miles from camp and a nicer tank a mile past that. Then it would be a long 15-16 miles to the next option. I cruised past the first pond, it looked awfully green and not super appealing. I tend to carry too much water and still had 3 liters anyhow. The mile passed and I saw no sign of this tank, the trail started climbing and there was simply no sign of the tank. Not good, I had enough water technically for 16 miles but I had been planning on drinking a liter or 2 at the source because I was thirsty and I just assume I have to add extra mileage because I will undoubtedly spend extra miles misplaced from the trail. Well shoot at least I was feeling good. Perfect motivation and I took off. I didn't care what happened total mileage wise for the day but I was planning on getting to Aragon Well ASAP.
I followed the trail as it climbed, losing the trail and following barbed wire or just the spine of the ridge always worked. There was some really nice new looking trail for a few minutes but it just ended and I followed a small deer trail and occasional pink flags back to the ridge line. A plus to all the downed trees, no need to climb under barb wire if a tree has already knocked it down. Pretty uneventful for awhile. There was a fun section of a whole mess of downed trees where you just followed old burnt CDT signs but then the signs disappeared and I managed to walk in a bit of a circle over a lot of lava rock. Losing all hope at finding the trail I found a dirt road for less than a mile and then it was a nice steep climb marked by cairns (yay for any trail symbols at all!).
The top was pretty neat, it looks like a whole different ecosystem where I'm headed. And I can assure you it was one long steep trek down that mountain. Past some very cool dried of lake beds.
More downhill, and yet another trail that ended in the middle of a field and just a little further and I made it to my windmill.
Full and with lovely clear water, Aragon Well is a winner this year. I collapsed and inhaled 2 liters of water. Of course I had arrived with a liter left but that was my emergency water. My feet were pretty tired and as I inhaled my food I got pummeled by wind. But I was so pleased it just didn't matter.
Awhile later Moist showed up looking thrashed. I had been surprised no one had passed me all day but it sounds like the guys had a pretty rough morning. Turns out we all skipped the first water and didn't find the second. Moist had been low on sleep and had only a liter of water all morning that Bigfoot gave him.
A mile from the well the trail crossed Highway 12 and you could hitch 28 miles to the town of reserve rather than heading out for the 40 more miles left until Pie Town. This has been a bail out option all of us had been pretty seriously considering. Leaving Doc Campbell's I had thought I had plenty of food but by the end of day 1 realized I was on the tight side. I usually eat a lot of town food but it had been so hot and with the lack of cold water at the store I actually had t even eaten 3 meals. So I was starting a long hard 6 day stretch calorie light. Basically my plan was just to see how I felt feet/body/mind and take it from there.
Moist was beat, he called it and headed towards Reserve. Bigfoot showed up, somehow he had found a road and cruised a lot of the day, even filtering a seep/puddle in the road. Rafiki arrived also looking wrecked and sat at the water for almost 45 minutes staring into space. He'd had a super tough morning like Moist, and no one had seen Thatch all day so no idea how his day went.
After over 3 hours at the well I headed out. My feet felt good and I had enough food for a day and a half. The other 2 ended up following and we walked the road for a bit.
I chose to take an alternate into town because the map warns the official trail lands you in the middle of nowhere and then you walk 12 miles on Highway 60, no thanks. Everyone I've talked to chose the alternate.
Road walking is fun with a group because you can walk side by side. We met G, Funk and Trooper and passed a few further miles. Ready to call it quits we found a nice soft pine needle filled clearing and called it a night. The other 3 continued on but it's a a all trail, no doubt we'll see each other tomorrow.