Friday, Sep 15th, 2023, 0630-1840
South of the Nipple to just NE of Disaster Peak
31.5 miles, Gain 6330′, Loss 5730′, elevation 9110′
Oddly, I was hearing tree frogs creaking a few times overnight. At least I think that’s what they were. What a strange place for them to be. Speaking of strange, when I camped in this section in 2018, I was next to the Lost Lakes only a few miles north of where I woke this morning. That night, I woke abruptly to something sniffing around my tent. I yelled at whatever it was to “GET!” Another hiker was cowboy camping nearby and he calmly explained “It’s ok, they’re just huskies.” They had been sniffing him too and he woke seeing their wolf-like profiles in the moonlight. He reasoned that since we were near a road and the lakes, they must belong to some people camping nearby…but we never confirmed this. I went back to sleep and didn’t think much more about it.
Fast forward 5 years, I met another hiker that had just been through the section I walked this day, and she got some pretty clear video of what looked like 3 gray wolves running past in the middle of the day. Her location was only about 8 miles south of where we had the ‘husky’ encounter. There are not supposed to be wolves in this area but now I really wondered. Were they feral dogs or some sort of half-wolf half-dog mix? Chupacabras? Bigfoot? Something weird was definitely going on.
I didn’t see or hear any evidence of canines on this day. It was just a pretty diverse, quiet, and big milage day. I wound down through a valley and then along some interesting traverses of craggy volcanic hills. The trail stretched along the base, clearly visible for miles ahead. I love when I can see it tracking forward and back so far. I passed lots of snow fields and even walked across a few. There was evidence of avalanche debris in many of the drainages and so much water everywhere. It was a big difference from the somewhat dry stretch I recalled in this area.
I crossed the road over Ebbetts pass just before I took a lunch break at a creek. Beyond the road, I saw even fewer backpackers and no more day hikers. Earlier I’d seen about 10 to 15 people going north, but never did catch up to any southbounders. I figured I must have passed the Czech guy from the day before while he was still sleeping. It got pretty cloudy in the afternoon and I wondered if it might rain. I had resorted to merely stuffing my quilt into the bottom of my pack, which wasn’t really waterproof. Luckily it didn’t rain and I got all my miles in as planned. I did a big day hoping to be able to have extra time for a Sonora Peak summit the next day.
I made it to a decent campsite that I was aiming for at the beginning of the day. Go figure, after not seeing a single person for many hours and passing heaps of empty campsites, there was another tent in this one place. I was tired and there was plenty of room, so I stopped to set up anyway. I hate to be that person that arrives late and sets up right next door, so I found a spot as far away from the other tent as possible. I didn’t mean to appear antisocial but also didn’t want to encroach on personal space. There’s a weird set socially acceptable actions when it comes to plopping down next to strangers in the woods. Yet in a commercial campground with reserved spaces, people seem totally fine with camping nearly right on top of the strangers next to them….you don’t have a choice there. My neighbor appeared to be a woman but I of course refrained from approaching and asking that beloved question: “are you out here by yourself?” We settled into our respective corners and the next morning she was gone with the dawn. I guess she was going north but I never heard a peep from her. Maybe she was a figment of my imagination…like the wolves or huskies.