A short day (by mileage) returned me to the CDT, as I head towards my next major destination: out of the Winds, and towards Yellowstone National Park.
I slept in a bit this morning, returned to Heart & Soul Café for breakfast, and then went back to the Jackalope to finish packing.
Around 9:45, I left the Jackalope, walking to the road that went up to the Elkhart trailhead. In not even two minutes, I got a ride up to the trailhead, arriving there about half an hour later. The parking lot was even more full than it was a few days ago when I first arrived.
I started heading back up the Pole Creek Trail, back towards the CDT. On my way up, I passed by many dozens of hikers returning to the trailhead, nearly finished with whatever hikes they had been on.
I had to adjust the load lifters on my pack twice. Once, one of them became unfastened; the other time, they needed adjusting because the shoulder straps were putting too much weight on my shoulders. With my pack reloaded with food, it’s going to be a rough few days until I can get my replacement pack.
The hike up the Pole Creek Trail felt slow. Even though the trail was not especially difficult, my thighs burned, and I felt I needed to take frequent short standing breaks. (And a snack break after only four miles.) Probably due to the not-properly-working load lifters, my right shoulder hurt, as did my lower back and right leg. A couple of miles into the Seneca Creek Trail, I stopped for a second break and spent some time trying to stretch my leg and back; that seemed to help somewhat. Clouds were out in force this morning, providing a nice backdrop to the scenery.
Compared to a few days ago, the Seneca Lake Trail was very much drier, which made it easier to hike. There were still a few places that had puddles of water, but there was none of the running water from three days ago.
Shortly after 4, I made my way back to the CDT, much later in the day than I expected. I passed the side trail to Knapsack Col. Even if I hadn’t already all-but-decided to skip the alternate, today’s very slow hike over what terrain that shouldn’t have been that difficult made it clear to me that I didn’t have the capacity to deal with trail more difficult than necessary.
I trudged on, my legs feeling like lead weights. Barely more than a mile past returning to the CDT, I stopped, initially for a break near a lake, but then quit for the day. The gear malfunctions continued: my shirt, which looked to have been thinning on the shoulders, now had a giant rip. I blamed my damaged pack for applying too much stress to my shoulders.
I got my tent set up. A passing pair of hikers complemented me on my campsite. A few raindrops fell, and they and the mosquitoes chased me into my tent. I took a nap.
I cooked dinner later, towards sunset. The clouds and the setting sun conspired to cap the nearby mountains with a brilliant red light.