Twig Adventures

SOBO Day 44: Pack Goats!

August 7th, 2019

Mm 1180.5 to mm 1209

Distance in miles: 28.5


Today is a hard day. All day I struggle to get my miles done, coming up short in the end. The total elevation gain is only 6000′ but there are so many 200′-600′ short and steep passes. Plus the tread is rough, with rocks and roots everywhere. It’s technical hiking, always having to adjust each step to avoid a rock or to clear the height of one. My eyes are glued to the trail all day. I have to stop to be able to look around, otherwise I might trip and fall. Still, it is a beautiful day of hiking!

By 10 am, I’ve only gone 9 miles and by lunch only 14 miles are in the bag. I basically take only one lunch break all day but there are a few other short distractions. I run into a lady, Dirtybowl, whose blog I followed when she hiked the Florida Trail. Here CDT blog is here. It’s great to finally meet her and we chat for a bit. She is finishing her Triple Crown and I always like getting to know other dedicated female thru-hikers. There are a few other NOBOs and tons of section backpackers. We probably passed around 100 people the day before and maybe 30 people today.

Many ask where I am going and I just mutter “Mexico”. I tell another guy that I’m just following the red line on my app when he asks about which lake I’m going to. It sounds bad but I just don’t know all the names of the lakes and trails. I couldn’t possibly memorize all the minute details of a trail that is so many thousands of miles long. I take it day by day, studying my maps as much as I can the night before. Sometimes I just don’t have time or am too tired.

The highlight of the day comes when we round a corner and see strange game animals. On second glance, they are domestic animals and I immediately identify them as pack goats. I have always wanted to see pack goats ever since I first heard of them, and here they are. I had pygmy goats one summer as a youth and they were such a joy. Goats are one of my favorite animals.

I approach one of the goats, all of which are tethered to the ground. Despite the large horns, he’s very friendly and likes his head scratched… the picture makes it look like he’s trying to butt me. I’m surprised by how big they are… they need to be to carry packs. A guy comes down from the nearby camp and tells me that they can carry 25% of their bodyweight, so between 50 and 60 lbs! Wow, the things I could pack if I had a goat. But my goat would probably be pampered with an ultralight load…maybe around only 20 lbs. Yes, my goat would love me, that is until I tried to make it walk 30 miles in a day. It would not like that. Today, I do not like it either.I am spent by 5 pm but have only gone 24.5 miles. Thirty miles seems out of the question so I settle on doing at least the same distance that I did yesterday…when hungover and having left an hour later than today. Today was just hard and that’s ok. I hope I will get my energy back tomorrow and be able to do the Cirque of the Towers alternate. It involves some huge, steep climbs and after today, I’m not sure I’m up for it.

Camp is in an open boulder plain that stretches for miles down to Cross Lake…there, I got one name. The field has a breeze, so I am hoping for fewer mossies. I am at least able to do some camp chores outside my tent but they are still buzzing my head pretty bad. Still, it’s a fair bit better than some previous nights.

Earlier, a NOBO made the comment that there was “a 100% chance of bugs ahead” (it was raining lightly at the time). It was a clever and cute thing to say and I didn’t have the heart to reply that it’s been a high chance of bugs for the past 1000 miles. It’s hard to tell sometimes what sort of wisdom a SOBO, or NOBO, hasn’t yet been enlightened by. It’s goodnatured to try to inform others of details but sometimes it comes across as pedantic. Because of all the snow in CO this year, many SOBOs, and certainly all the flippers, are further along the trail than NOBOs, hence with a bit more experience.

After we’ve set up camp, Boo Boo catches us and tells us about his adventures on Knapsack Coll. It’s another high pass alternate that involves some elevation, rock scrambling and route finding…all of which I was not up for the day after the wedding. He is doing the Cirque of the Towers tomorrow and wants to push on another 5 miles to be in better position for it. I envy his stamina.

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