The morning after the San Pedro thunder storms was quiet. I crawled out of my shelter and began hobbling around, pulling the tent stakes out of the ground. Stiffness was something you would expect to diminish as you moved further up the trail, but as my muscles continued to develop, no amount of stretching would loosen them up. Only hiking eased the tension, and within five minutes of finding my stride I was moving easily.
Most of my morning routine occurred inside the tarptent – breakfast, clothes, first-aid, etc. There is not much that can’t be done inside a sleeping bag, when it is cold enough. I did not emerge from the tarp until I was ready to throw the last items into my backpack and go.
As I walked around behind the tarptent, I stopped to stare at the ground in front of me. The storm the night before had chased me into the trees, and shelter, so I had not paid much attention to where I set up. Scattered across the ground were numerous animal skeletons. Not scattered bones, but whole skeletons. Did animals come here to die? The woods around me were suddenly very quiet. It was time to hike.
I moved quickly while I munched on my Big Sur Bar, and spent the morning hiking down out of the San Pedro Peaks. I was heading down to Ojitos Canyon where I had decided to stop for lunch. Meal planning was the event around which most other activities took place.
Side note – recently, another thru-hiker asked me if I was eating “second breakfast.” “Huh?” I said. “No, it is a snack.” Granted, it was a large snack, but still a snack. When did we change the name of snacks?
I have changed what I eat in the mornings. Pop tarts, bagels, peanut butter – these used to be the breakfasts of choice – sugar and carbs. Over the last few years though, I’ve migrated to healthier grains, nuts, and rolled oats, etc. I’ve found the healthier breakfast takes longer to digest and regulates my sugar better, so less energy swings. I’m also cooking again, so I boil the water, and let the porridge set while I’m packing up.
I came around the corner and the perfect log lay right beside the trail. It was just high enough to sit on like a chair, but not too wide that I couldn’t comfortably straddle it. I could lean my pack right next to me, and spread out my meal across the log. This was almost as good as finding a picnic table or privy. Small things become small joys out here.
The log was right before the trail dropped down a fairly steep downhill, so I could not see anything heading towards me. There was a sudden clopping noise and I looked up to see a HUGE elk head appear. He looked up at about the same time I looked up. We both froze!
This fella was massive, and who knew Elk had beards. His antlers appeared to be just starting to come in for the season, and he looked like he could crush me with one hoof! I slowly slid my hand towards my camera, and as he lowered his gigantic head I froze again. Then, in a flash, he turned and disappeared back down the way he had come. How could something that big possibly move that fast! I loved the wildlife encounters out here, and sat grinning for a moment before going back to my priority (food).
I’ve decided to head into Ghost Ranch tomorrow, even though I’ve only been out for two days. There are really two reasons 1) It is where Georgia O’Keefe did a lot of her painting, and I’ve always liked her work. 2) The trail grapevine says there are AYCE (All You Can Eat) meals. Maybe #2 should be #1, but either way I’ve decided to head in for a visit.