Another northbounder named Greg was at the hostel with me for the past couple of days. This morning we left and stood out by the road hoping to get a ride for a bit. Finally we got one, from a guy who was driving from Christchurch to Greymouth for a meeting! Eek!
We knew our first task on the trail today was going to be to cross the Otira River. We also knew that it was probably still going to be fairly high due to the rain from the past few days. And boy, was it. We crossed, and where we crossed didn’t look so bad, but very clear water has a tendency to be deceptively deep, and this was. About half way across it was over my waist and while I was able to get secure footing, it was tough going, and there were a couple of times I had to stop and rest, waist deep in fast flowing water. Greg got some pictures of me but I don’t have them yet. Hopefully he’ll send them to me later, as I’d be very curious to see what I looked like.
Knowing we had the worst crossing of the day over with, we ambled along. At one point a group of southbounders came up and we traded info about the river crossings. We still had 2 major ones ahead of us, and potentially quite a few more minor ones, so we wanted to get an idea of conditions. When I said the water was waist deep one joked that that wasn’t very deep. I dunno. Felt pretty damn deep to me! One other thing they mentioned was that they’d crossed below the confluence of the Taramakau and Otehake rivers, which were our next major crossings. The notes mention that in high water it might be safer to cross one, then the other, but these folks did it in one go.
So did we. But it too was fairly sketchy. Another place where the river forks and there’s a huge bar, but it wasn’t too terrible so we tried crossing all in one go. Greg made it. I was further upstream from him and hit some really deep water, nearly lost my footing and decided to go back to the bar. Since the bar was behind me I walked backward downstream for a while and ended up crossing the rest of the way in knee deep water. Much better.
Not much farther up the trail we got to the turnoff for Kiwi hut. It was a bit off of the track so we didn’t go up there, but there was a nice sitting log under some trees we stopped and took a break at. I ended up staying a bit longer and told Greg not to wait up for me. He was thinking about going up to Harper Pass bivvy so I knew he needed more time than I did. I was definitely feeling the extra weight of the food in my pack and the trail after being off for 5 of the last 8 days.
A while later I passed another group and they passed a message that Greg wasn’t stopping, bummer! Oh well.
More time later I arrive at the hut. It’s pretty nice. 18 bunks, all triple decker in 2 big bedrooms separate from the kitchen. Apparently has quite the rat problem. I can attest to that, I hear them running around. Eek.
So far though I have the place to myself. I’m starting to wonder if I might actually be past the bulk of the southbounders. Especially now that I’ve skipped ahead about 5 days of trail. That could be nice, better chances of having a bed in huts. It also means that right now I think the closest person to me is something like 10km. Pretty sure this is the farthest I’ve ever been from another person!
Didn’t get a lot of pictures today because they don’t do the difficulty of river crossings justice and there really wasn’t that much to see anyways.
Pretty sure that’s Harper pass in the distance. It seems so close, but it actually like 400m higher than where I am, so it’s actually pretty far. Probably another 3 or 4 hours tomorrow!
For now, just hanging out with my new rat friends!
Sigh. More delays due to rain. This time not because the storm was all that huge, though it did cause some problems. What it did for me was raise the levels of rivers I’d need to interact with to leave here to levels unsafe to cross. So, aside from leaving by road or train, I’m pretty much stuck here for a bit.
My original plan was 5 days from Methven. The first 3 days would get me to within range of Arthur’s Pass, and the next 2 days would take me up and over Goat Pass and down the Deception River, past Arthur’s Pass, and back to the highway on the other side. Arthur’s Pass is basically at the end of day 3 of a 10 day stretch, but you can get back to the road on the other side making it 2 5 day stretches. This would make it easier to resupply as my food box would have time to arrive, and would only have to have 5 days worth of food in it.
But rain came in really hard yesterday and put a stop to that. I had one option yesterday which would have been to skip the Goat Pass section and proceed up the river, hopefully getting to Locke Stream Hut before the river came up too much, after which I’d be fine. But it was starting to get later in the day when I had to make my decision and I still needed to unpack my food drop and get it into my pack. The forecast didn’t look promising to be able to deal with the rivers very soon, so I was kinda stuck. I dropped into the YHA and got a bed for the night, where I met another northbounder who was having the same dilemma.
This morning, I went to DOC and talked about river levels and weather, and it’s looking like by this afternoon I should be able to cross the rivers and get up to Goat Pass, but I’d prefer to wait a little longer for the river to drop more, especially since it rained a bit more this morning.
It’s supposed to rain a bit on Thursday and rain really hard on Friday, so if I leave tomorrow (Tuesday) I can get up to Goat Pass, down the Deception River Wednesday, (or, if that turns out to be a bad idea, back down the way I came up), and up the Taramakau river to Locke Stream Hut Thursday before the big rain hits on Friday. I’ll have some extra food with me in case I need to camp out at Locke Stream for a day or 2, but the river past there is much more manageable so even with heavy rain I should be able to get up and over Harper Pass without too much difficulty. That’s the plan anyways. Right now the rain has stopped and the sun is out but of course the rivers are still up or I’d hit the trail today.
One downside is there is very little to do in Arthur’s Pass village. There’s a cafe. And another one across the street. And that’s about it. But the WiFi at the hostel is fantastic, so rainy movie day it is!
One cool thing is the surrounding area is really beautiful. There’s a big waterfall about 5 minutes walk from the center of town. There are numerous waterfalls up on the mountains around, you can hear them, it’s cool. And there are Kea, which are an endangered species of Parrot and are rather large birds. They’re cheeky birds in wilder areas, here they mostly just beg for food from people who don’t heed the signs everywhere saying not to feed them. They have a distinctive call and are quite pretty and relatively approachable, so I’ll spend a little time trying to get some good photos of them.
Meanwhile here’s some of the area.
Ok, got a good one of some hanging out at the cafe.
Lots of people around taking photos. You can tell they know exactly what they’re doing.
Update: talked to DOC again and it looks like the weather won’t work out to do both, so sadly I’m skipping the Goat Pass section and heading straight to the Taramakau river tomorrow. If I can safely get across, it should be fine the rest of the way up, and past Locke Stream hut and up over the pass and beyond isn’t vulnerable to weather issues. Sad, but at least I’ll be leaving here tomorrow!
For now while the weather is nice I’m going to head up to Punchbowl Falls which is another waterfall real close to town here!
And here it is!
Now back to the hostel to read, watch some movies, and take a shower.
If you’ve been following along, you’ve probably noticed that there haven’t been any posts for a while. And then suddenly today there’s a bunch. Well, the bug I reported to WordPress seems to have been fixed and I can now copy paste with photos into the app and it seems to work as expected! So exciting!
This means more timely updates as I get into areas with WiFi and am able to publish things. On the flip side, my next 3 sections are 7, 7, and 10 days on the trail, so there will be delays anyways! But due to some weather right now I’m not even sure when I’ll be able to hit the trail again. Oh well.
Since I’m stuck in Arthur’s Pass today, I’ll probably write up a quick post about how I do offline composition of posts despite the fact that the WordPress app doesn’t actually do that, at least not if you add media. Meanwhile, enjoy all the new backlog posts!
Also, sorry for that last 3 days in one post. Due to the time off and then WordPress weirdness my urge to write at all was pretty minimal, but now I have more desire to!
And obligatory picture attached to post, here’s a cat I met in Methven.
Finally back on the trail! And lovely weather! Keaton and I hopped on a shuttle from town to the start of the trail where we were greeted with amazing views of Lake Coleridge.
We missed our turn onto the trail and kept following the road, a very recurring theme in my travels. Oddly, the road ended at a trailhead which we walked down until we bumped into a couple of private huts right on the lake. Oops! The occupants were wondering where we were headed and let us know we’d missed our turn. Fortunately they were kind enough to let us pass through and pointed us at a trail that would get us back to where we were supposed to be. In my opinion, this was a better route in terms of view, but I imagine we weren’t really supposed to be there so having a bunch of people go through all the time wouldn’t be overly welcome.
Afterward we forded some more sheep, and reached the gravel road we’d be walking on for the remainder of the day.
Fortunately there were some decent spots along the road for breaks, complete with very insistent no camping signs, which are probably quite necessary given how lovely the spots were. We stopped for a nice break and both busted out books to read next to Lake Selfe. Of course, I can’t help but read that as Lake Selfie, so I did the obligatory Lake Selfe selfie.
On down the road I went. Keaton felt like staying longer, I felt like getting into camp, so I moved on. The campsite was pretty crappy, but it was flat, dry, had a toilet and a water spigot (untreated) and most importantly free, so it worked.
The next day was supposed to be a short day, so I didn’t hurry to get up in the morning. After a leisurely breakfast I left around 9am to start walking up the river.
Further up the river I reached the fence, which was clearly brand new and not yet finished. Polite but stern signs said that TA walkers had to keep to one side of the fence. Markers had been placed accordingly. However, zombie walking brain had me keep following the fence and markers, not paying much attention to my surroundings. When the fence ran out, I fell back on “keep the river to my right” and kept going. Eventually I arrived at a fence I had to go under, after some fairly crappy and not well formed trail. Eventually my brain decided to inform me that something wasn’t right so I checked my map. And realized I was actually meant to cross the river that was on my right now, as I’d come to a confluence. Oops. Of course, where I was there was no real way to cross, so I had to backtrack. Because of this mistake I lost an hour or 2. Oops. Crossing the river was quite challenging. Due to the course of the river through rocky land, the water was very cloudy. Also, due to the heavy rains of the previous days, it was still running a little high, or so it seemed. So finding safe places to cross was difficult. My first attempt had me in waist deep water flowing very hard and I aborted and got back out. However the actual crossings were still often crotch deep and flowing fast, so it was pretty sketchy.
At one point I found a place where 2 sections of the river came together briefly and then split again, but the larger part seemed to cross over, which left a nice big bar between the two that I could cross by first crossing the small portion, walking down the bar, and then crossing the other side which was now smaller. I leveled up a bit in river crossings right there. Hooray!
Eventually I made it fully across. I knew I had because the water I was crossing was now clear, which indicated a different stream was what I was crossing. Where these joined was pretty cool.
Further up the river I had to make a bunch more crossings, some of which were just as sketchy as the other. There was in fact one place I crossed with waist deep water and high current. Scary. Cloudy rivers look about the same if they’re knee deep or neck deep and the current was high everywhere so it was really hard to find places.
I stayed on one side of the river for a while but was getting swarmed, absolutely swarmed by flying ants. I thought they were sand flies at first so if I just kept moving they would leave me alone, but they kept piling on. I’d look at my legs and they’d be covered in little black spots. Ugh. They’d swarm around my head and I’d wave my hands through the air trying to get them to go away, which seemed to work briefly and then they’d be back. On this went for what seemed like forever but was probably more like 30 minutes. Eventually they left me alone.
More river crossings and finally, the sign I wanted to see, Hamilton Hut 15 minutes. I’d been hearing a lot about this hut. “The Hamilton Hilton”. And it lived up to its name. 20 person hut. Huge stone fireplace in the center. Triple level bunks. Lots of table space. Huge porch, though sandflies made that mostly unusable. And best of all, only 4 people.
Keaton had passed through earlier and started on the puzzle that was there. When I arrived 2 people were working on it. By the end of the night I’d spent a lot of time on it, made some good progress, and only quit because I literally couldn’t see anymore. In the morning I woke up and spent some more time on it over breakfast, and half contemplated staying another night just to work on the puzzle!
I left and made my way up the hill to Lagoon Saddle. Along the way there were some neat waterfalls and a strange … thing.
And of course the view was just incredible.
After another episode of “you’re not done until you’re in the doorway of the hut”, which was about 3 hours long, I made it to the bottom of the hill and out to the road. Before I left I made friends with some sheep. Seriously, they walked up to me and one let me give it scritches. I don’t know why I didn’t get a picture of it. But I did get a picture of the view.
I made my way to the Arthur’s Pass Eco Lodge, which the trail notes led me to believe was a backpacker but ended up being actually a pretty schmancy bed and breakfast. So, I kinda blew some cash to stay there, but the proprietor was super super amazing, the house was super super amazing, and overall it was really nice.
Let me just geek out for a minute. This place is totally off grid. Solar power. Everything in the house runs off 12 volt, which is super cool. There’s propane for hot water and cooking. A big fireplace for heat. And huge rain collection system for water supply. The rain barrel thing (they just call them “tanks” here) is actually super common away from towns. Which makes sense. Sparsely populated country, very rocky ground, makes it really hard to lay water or sewage pipes. Plus it rains enough that collecting water from your roof means you can usually easily satisfy your water needs. Most of the huts in the backcountry have them, but even residential properties have them. Hers tasted a bit like wood smoke because her chimney had deposited some flavor on the roof that made it into the tank, but didn’t affect the safety of the water. Also, she had a composting toilet. I’ve never used one of these before but it has 2 strategically placed receptacles, one for liquids and one for solids. I didn’t ask what happens afterward, but it was pretty neat. And of course the view was just unbelievable. This is from the deck which was directly outside my huge picture window.
In the morning was breakfast and then the owner took me into Arthur’s Pass to pick up my food box which she’d called ahead to check on to see if it was there yet. The weather for today is rain. Rain is high rivers. And from here it’s pretty much all rivers to get back on the trail. Sadness. I had an option of striking out and trying to get up river, skipping another section in the Arthur’s Pass area, but even that wasn’t a sure thing, and it would be a fairly long day in pretty steady rain. And who knows if the hut will be full or what. After much hemming and hawing, I’ve decided to stay in Arthur’s Pass at least for tonight, and figure out what I want to do tomorrow. What I even can do tomorrow. I might be here for a few more days even. I might bus down to Greymouth tomorrow and take a day there. I don’t know. For now, I’m warm, dry, and have WiFi 😉
The last day and a half or so I’ve been in Methven. The best part of this was meeting up again with Keaton, Gian-Marco, and Christian! I swear half of the town was TA hikers. At the cafe yesterday there were at least 2 other tables with TA hikers. Most of the people at my hostel are TA. Most of the people at Gian-Marco’s hostel are TA. Neat.
I went to see The Post at the local cinema. New Zealand’s movie theater popcorn is so sad. I didn’t even bother trying the one here it just didn’t look edible. But the theater was small and cute and comfy and the movie was really really good.
Fired off a couple of postcards. Mailed off my food box to Arthur’s Pass.
Oh! And I got my new shoes. Honestly, comparing the old with the new I thought a lot about just sending the new pair on to Hanmer Springs where I’ll be in about 2 weeks. They were beat up but seemed to not be getting much worse. I ended up leaving the old pair in the free box at the hostel, though I’m still a bit sad about this. I kinda wanted to “retire” them but I really don’t want to carry them nor box them up and ship them. So hopefully they’ll end up in a nice new home, or be a home for a rat at the landfill or something. 🙁
I made a new friend too.
So much floof.
Back to the trail tomorrow. Looking forward to it but also a bit anxious about some upcoming weather and if that might delay me doing the Deception River section or not. It’s looking like it might. I’d be very sad about that. But we’ll see in a few days when I get to that area. Ideally I’ll be in Arthur’s Pass in 5 days, then a week on the trail to Hanmer Springs for a day or 2. Nothing but big stretches from here on out. This is what I’ve basically spent the last month training for!
Due to Cyclone Gita descending on the South Island this week I’m going to take a couple of days off the trail and also skip a short section that is both very vulnerable to bad weather and also logistically quite complex. It’s a short section, so it’s just not worth the effort to stick around and wait just to be able to do it. That being said, here are some of my plans for my days off.
Currently I’m in Geraldine. I need to eventually get up to Methven where my box of spare stuff should be waiting, and then from there it should be straightforward to get to Lake Coleridge to get started on the next leg of the trail, 5 days up to Arthur’s Pass. There’s no direct bus service from Geraldine to Methven. But there is an Intercity bus to Ashburton, about 40 minutes away from here. It’s a larger town than both Geraldine an Methven and more suitable for taking a couple of days off. There’s also a place there I can buy a kindle to replace my dead one which will make me extremely happy you have no idea. Not gonna lie, this is a big factor in this planning.
From there I’ll probably hitch up to Methven on Wednesday, spend the night there and get myself up to the trail Thursday morning. Since the first day is moderately long I’m probably going to try to hire a service rather than hitch because I need to get there reasonably early to get walking. I don’t know what that’ll look like just yet but I’ve got plenty of time to do that over the next few days, between drinking lots of delicious coffee and reading my shiny new kindle!
I’m looking to stay at a backpacker in Ashburton, so hopefully I’ll be able to find some folks to hang out with there!
This morning, woke up, lovely weather, myself and a French guy doing a section of the TA were set to catch our 6-7pm shuttle from the carpark down the trail to Geraldine. Since the carpark was said to be 4 hours away, no rush! Sleep in, hang out at the hut, read. Probably nothing to do at the carpark anyways so may as well stay in the shade at the hut.
About noon a couple of folks headed southbound arrive at the hut just as we’re packing up to leave. We chat with them and tell them about our shuttle and they asked if it was the Alps2Ocean shuttle. They’d come in on one last night, late. Hmmmmmmm.
So I finish packing up and head out and on the way I quickly “type” up a message to the shuttle service to confirm our booking. No worries. I keep rolling down the trail. It’s a really pretty trail today, but lots of river crossings and this river is feeling pretty frisky today, probably as a result of the rain the other night. Water mid hip at times and running pretty fast.
Eventually I check the garmin to see if I have a reply. “Nope, that was last night. Best I can do is 9am Monday”. Ugh. So we no longer have a ride. And this carpark is in the middle of freaking nowhere on a road that nobody drives down, so hitching is probably not going to happen and no cel service so finding an alternative hard.
What’s worse is last night at the hut there was a hunter up for the night who was parked at said carpark. We’d seen him off hours prior. Had we not been expecting the shuttle we could have left earlier and almost certainly gotten a ride with him.
So we get to the carpark. There’s one car. I’m 80% certain it’s our hunter. But always one to hedge a bet I pop off an email to the Geraldine info center asking if they have any ideas, and Alps2Ocean had told us about Mesopotamia Station having accomodations, so since that’s directly on the way out from the carpark we start walking to see what we can find at the station.
Well. Not a whole lot. There are a good number of buildings but nothing that even looks like a house. I know the station is just a farm so I’m not exactly looking for the lobby but even a car in a driveway would be something. I don’t have a contact for them so I can’t message them, so it’s hopefully walk up service. We don’t want to venture far from the road either in case our hunter comes past or really anyone else at all.
We give up on the station and hang out by the entrance to the car park. There’s a big v shaped snow plow blade that offers us shade and shelter from the extreme winds. After a bit a couple of farm vehicles go by, but we decide not to flag them down as they probably wouldn’t take us to town. Eventually, a car rolls up! Not our hunter, but we’ll try anyways. Boom, thumbs work. The guy is also a hunter coming back from a different place. His vehicle only has the 2 seats so the French guy, being skinny, hops on the center console and I squish in next to him. Not the most comfortable seating arrangement for either of us, plus I can’t get a seatbelt on like this so every time we round a corner on the gravel or crest a blind hill I’m gripping for dear life. Not that the guy drives bad or anything, I just know how squirrelly a car can get in gravel. I used to be a teenager in Iowa, remember!
Hour and a half later and we arrive in Geraldine. We even get rock star service right up to the holiday park in the center of town. Sweet as. And the holiday park is nice! Nicest one yet I’d say!
As we walk into town to get burgers at the local diner I’m reminded that I’ve been through this town before. I drove through last year on my trip from Greymouth back to Christchurch by car. I distinctly remember the little hotel downtown I wanted to stay in but they were full up. This is a great little town.
Now, sadly, it’s only been 4 days since my last zero day. Geraldine wasn’t even a planned overnight, but the shuttle idea was too good (and only failed because of a miscommunication, I hear Alps2Ocean is solid, usually), so it became one. On the forecast though we have a Tropical Cyclone Gita bearing down on us.
And the next section has 2 flavors: “water is scarce during dry season” and “The track follows beside and through this river and therefore should be attempted only when conditions allow safe passage”, which means it’ll be days before I’m able to traverse this section. A section that’s only 2.5 days long and actually quite the logistical nightmare to get into and out of, being nearly as remote as the section I just completed. So….. I’ve been contemplating skipping it for the past several days anyways, now I have an excuse.
Tomorrow I’ll wander down to the i-Site and see if I can figure out a way to get to Methven where my spare shoes socks and underwear are. And then I’ll try to go there. Once I’m there I’ll probably take a day off or 2 to wait out the storm, send off a resupply box to Arthur’s Pass, resupply to get me there and head out from there.
10% chance of rain. That’s what the garmin said about today. Early early this morning (or maybe late last night? Dunno) there was a sudden very large gust of wind that sounded like it was going to blow the roof off of the hut, and then the rain started. A couple of people had stuff outside, including a camouflage colored Trash Bag tent which had blown away but they found it, so there was a bit of mad dash to get everything inside. The rain kept up all through the morning, and so did the wind. It was hard at times to know if what I was hearing was wind or thunder, and I was a bit worried about being in a tin shed in the middle of an empty tussock field in a lightning storm. Fortunately it either wasn’t thunder or at least we didn’t have any nearby strikes.
Someone’s alarm went off early. They shut it off and went back to sleep. Nobody wanted to go out into the rain. Eventually we all started trickling out the door, I left around 9am and it was lightly sprinkling.
After almost exactly 2 hours (the same as the trail notes suggested) I arrived at Stone Hut. A guy was in there waiting for the rain, he wanted to cross the saddle on a clear day so he wasn’t in any hurry. He said he’d probably take off and head up to Royal Hut if the weather cleared up more but was otherwise content to just hang out in the hut all day. I told him I was envious as I walked back out into the rain.
At some point the rain stopped and the sun came out, which was a pleasant change.
After a bunch of river crossings and some meandering along, I finally got near the top of the day’s climb, up to “an unnamed saddle”. There was a pretty amazing view of what seemed like an entire valley of scree. Super glad that wasn’t my destination.
It was cool to look at, but I wouldn’t want to climb it. Instead I climbed a different scree slope.
It wasn’t too bad. Scree is annoying to walk up because like walking in sand you lose a lot of your distance with every step, and then of course the wind was getting pretty serious the farther up I went.
I made it to the top snapped a photo and headed down. After rounding a corner I was greeted with a view of the Rangitata River. The first of the 2 big rivers that cross the trail that aren’t officially part of it due to how dangerous they can be.
It looks really close! I had to tell myself that it’s something like 5-7km wide though. It looks close because it’s just huge. A while later I arrived at the hut and got settled for the evening, which has turned out pretty nice!
Most folks I’d talked to said the Rangitata was fordable and had done it. Most had said that the next one, the Rakaia, was not, that they had heard of someone who did it but was basically swimming across at points. I won’t be fording either. One of the southbounders I talked to at the hut last night said to contact Alps2Ocean, that they had reasonable prices and excellent service. I dropped them an email and they’ll be picking me and a French guy who was walking this section about 6pm, so since tomorrow is a pretty short day time wise we’ll get to sleep in a bit before heading down to our ride. I’ll be spending tomorrow night in Geraldine. An unplanned town stop but I hope to make it back to the trail early the next day to get started on the next section. This section is already a full day longer than I originally planned, and I’d rather not have to spend the next day just getting back out to the trail. We’ll see though!
Today is the day. The day I hit the highest point on the trail, Stag Saddle. Several southbounders have told me about “the ridge” and to take it. So I did. It was pretty great. The climb was long and occasionally a little steep, but the trail was nice and easy to follow. And the views just kept getting better and better.
Finally I reached the saddle and took the obligatory selfie.
And a shot of what I’d just climbed up.
The wind on the climb was fierce. It was mostly a crosswind but was continually pushing me to the side so the going was slow and rather irritating. I didn’t stop much other than to catch my breath.
The descent took a lot longer than I was expecting. So many times I lost the trail, which is definitely my MO in tussock sections but also frustrating when compounded by sparse trail markers. I did finally make it, and rather than push on to Stone Hut as was my original plan, I decided to call it a day. It wasn’t an early day though. I got into camp at about 3pm, when I was expecting not much later than 1. Oh well. The hut is nice and a shorter day is always welcome.
I think I have figured out what I want to do for getting around the upcoming river. There’s a shuttle that runs from the trailhead to Geraldine and some folks at the hut spoke very highly of it. I’m going to try to get an email to them in the morning to see about a reservation. If all else fails I’ll try to hitch out from the carpark at the trailhead but I’m not super optimistic about that. The trail notes say there’s a toilet but no camping allowed. I wonder who would complain though and maybe they’d be willing to give me a ride somewhere? We’ll see.
When I woke up this morning my tent was full of condensation. Annoying. Not unusual for a single wall tent but it meant that I was going to sleep in a bit and wait for the sun to come out and dry the tent before packing it up. I gave up waiting. This meant I got a fairly late start as I didn’t get up at first light but much later. No big though. The trail notes for today say 11 hours and no way am I walking for that long at any rate so I’ll just camp earlier or something.
A mobile espresso rig has set up in the campground and I go partake. Yum. I still need breakfast though. After I finish packing I roll into town and stop at four square to grab a soda and a fruity yogurt. I hang out and eat it while reading the local paper and putting a bit more juice into my phone and battery. Oh, I didn’t finish yesterday’s entry, but, my kindle. It’s dead. I tossed it in the bin. Super sad. Which is why I’m reading the paper.
Walking through town I watch the guy selling nuts and used books getting set up so I take another look through his collection. A few things catch my eye but I settle on Genghis Khan by John Man. I have fond memories of the Hardcore History piece on Khan, and it seems like a fairly dense (from a words per gram perspective) book, so $2 poorer and a book richer.
I figure if nothing else it’ll be cheap toilet paper. Badum-ching.
Anywho I keep walking. Past some tourist stuff, I drop the rest of my small change into a donation jar (gotta save grams) and keep walking. And walking.
I’m on a long gravel road to where the trail leaves the road. Eventually I come across some workers who are using a big plow to grade the road. Awesome! They leave a nice smooth spot for me and my feet thank them.
Eventually I get to the point of no return, or at least the point of “no water past here”. I walk down to the lake to fill up for the section ahead and there are a couple of folks kayaking in the lake. I chat with them a bit while filtering my water, feeling slightly bad that I crashed their party, but really, water. I need it.
The next section is super super super boring. The only interesting part was that it was EXTREMELY windy. Like far windier than the strong headwind bike day. It’s coming across me and so my backpack is like a sail and I keep getting shoved out of the track. To give you an idea of how windy, here’s my hat.
After what feels like forever I make the turn to go north along the mountains. Directly into the wind. Slow going but I wasn’t in a hurry. I wasn’t planning to make it to Camp Stream Hut anyways.
There were some really neat effects because of this. Dust was being kicked up and hazing the sky. Localized rain over the lake being blasted by the wind. Pretty.
My destination was the Coal River. I knew I would have water there and if I could camp there, let’s do it. Well, I got there. Then realized the hut was probably an hour farther. So I went for it. The difference this time is I went expecting to not have a bed. I arrived. Surprisingly, there’s a bed, despite the tents outside. Some people just don’t want to pay the $10 to sleep in a bed I guess. My gain.
Chatted with some French southbounders and a section hiker heading north, ate some dinner, and now heading to bed with Khan, just like old days.
Tomorrow is probably going to be a sleep in, short day. But I haven’t looked. I honestly don’t really care. In my trail notes this is day 31, so I’m 5 days ahead of trail time with only 2 unplanned zero days so far. I have plenty of food and will likely be hitching out to get around the coming river (it’s supposed to rain) so there will be an opportunity for at least a snack fill to add some extra food if I need. Feeling pretty good. Tired, especially after 3 days off my feet followed by a long day, but feeling pretty accomplished and content.