October 17th, 2019
Near Pine Grove Campground mm 241.4 to mm 275.6
Distance in miles: 34.2
There is some highway noise overnight but the duff is so luxurious, it’s worth it. It’s so soft, I could almost get away without using my sleeping pad. We also hear elk bugling overnight. As soon as we set out in the morning, we see a huge herd of deer. After this, I’m keeping a sharp lookout and finally spot some elk. A prized bull is with about 5 cows…that we can see. They quickly disappear into the trees. As usual, these sightings are achieved before 7 am. Anything after is generally too late in the day.
The forest is beautiful on this morning. The sunrise creates a fiery backdrop for awhile. Then the fall colors of the interspersed oak keep it lively all day long. We follow along an old logging railroad, so the trail is straight and mellow. It’s one of the nicest mornings ever.
We reach an actual flowing spring and collect some lovely water. I take a break to drink a few liters and eat some early snacks. Shortly after resuming our walk, we pass a section hiker. Later, we pass another SOBO thru. We sign a registry and are surprised to see that there are about 10 thru-hikers ahead of us within just a few days…an AZT SOBO bubble! This isn’t the greatest scenario for us since we worry that all the upcoming water caches may be cached-out. Well, we’ll just have to catch and pass all of them.
We meet some dayhikers at a road intersection and they give us each a chocolate zucchini muffin…yum! We also find a cache of water at the road. I fill up both my bottles since the next source is a tank and so far all of these have been gross brown cow poop water.
The rest of the day is through more nice forest, on a mix of jeep trails and singletrack. I manage to get off trail a few times, bringing back good memories of the CDT. So far the AZT has been marked very well but there are the occasional unmarked junctions…or maybe I’m just zoning out in the late afternoon. Probably the latter.
I’m excited to get to our destination for the day: Wild Horse Tank. But when we arrive, we find a disgusting cow pond, similar to all the others we’ve been passing on. Thank goodness my 2 water bottles are still full from the last cache.
I grab a little bit of greenish-brown cow poop water, just to wash my legs and feet. I’m not even sure if it’s safe to use for washing. We walk another mile or so, looking at the map ahead to tomorrow. Our normal mileage would get us to a river at the end of the day! What would that even be like? We settle down under some more ponderosa and greet the long night.