Thursday, April 25, 2013

Day 6 - Beyond 3rd Gate

By Hedgehog

As planned we got an early start to try and beat the heat climbing up out of Scissors Crossing.  I finally remembered to ask Magic Man to get a picture of the four of us, just before we started hiking. Thanks Magic Man for the photography.
The climb was a few miles of switchbacks on an exposed slope.  BooBoo and I made good time and pulled away from Decaf and Gumby.  Gumby was trying out some new insoles and that played a roll in slowing them down. 
The trail through today's section was narrow and at times had to be shored up with retaining walls.  Needless to say I was extra cautious about foot placement while hiking. The description that came to mind most often today was "blasted lands".  Partly from the natural austerity of the section, which had no water for about 32 miles (except at the 3rd Gate Cache) but the area had also recently burned.  Cacti, yucca, aloe plants all were scorched black, bark peeling and withered looking adding to the sense of desolation.
A lot of the sections of trail that we've been hiking are through public lands that allow grazing, consequently there are often gates set in barb wire that we have to go through to continue on.  Out West they prefer these to the stiles that are familiar from the AT hike.  The 3rd Gate (Northbound) in this section is home to a large, constantly stocked cache of water brought out by volunteers. It is the only source of replenishment of water for hikers, who gladly hike 4/10ths of a mile off trail to access it.
Magic Man volunteered two different times to help with restocking this cache.  There is a picture of BooBoo standing in front of the 100 or so gallons of fresh bottled water, liquid gold in the hot weather we've been having lately.
Due to the heat we found some shade beneath an enormous juniper bush at the cache and stretched out on our Tyvek groundcloth for a break. We ran into about 8 other hikers here, including Reimer, Decaf, and Gumby.  Everyone had the same idea about getting out of the heat.
After eating lunch and then taking a nap, the sun had driven our shade away so we packed up and moved on.  If we're going to be hot, we might as well be hot and moving.  
Shortly after clearing the burnt area it became noticeably cooler, it's amazing what a little vegetation will do to the temperature.
BooBoo and I ended up hiking about 19 miles of the 32 when we decided it was time to set up camp for the night.  We went a little ways off trail into the saddle between two peaks and found a perfect spot to cowboy camp.  Cowboy camping is when you sleep under the stars sans tent. 
This is only recommended in good weather and in low bug areas.  The wind kept the bugs down and it turned out to be a cloudless night.  The nearly full moon blocked out a lot of the stars but it was still beautiful.

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