I had an unexpected call from Colin a few hours ago. He’s still sticking easily to his schedule, and at some stage this morning arrived on the outskirts of Vail and decided to nip in for a bite of lunch and a bit of a break from the trail.
Things have been quite exciting on the Wee Creatures front since he last rang. A couple of days ago he found himself some 50′ from a black bear. Gulp… He didn’t see it, but he heard it crashing through undergrowth and then turning over rocks in the river/stream/whatevah just down the bank from where he was sitting with the map, at a place called Bear Spring. Um… Turning Over Rocks??? This is just one of many reasons I’ve never attempted to walk in these bear-infested North American places… Anyway… A few minutes later he heard it leaving the water and scrambling up the bank in his direction, so he grabbed his things and made off prettily speedily. Later on the same day he spotted a beautiful wee snake with a striking red ring around its neck: a little Googling at this end quickly revealed it as the (only faintly venomous) Regal Ringneck snake, and later still he encountered mountain lion pawprints! There have been lots of sprinty little lizards, but not yet any more gila monsters.
I was sorry to hear that the scorpions haven’t yet made an appearance, but apparently it’s not yet hot enough for them, or for the rattlesnakes. Colin says that temperatures have been a perfect 24 degrees (about 80 in real money, by my quick reckoning), rising to about 28 for a few hours in the middle of the day. Last night the temperature dropped no lower than 10 degrees, so there have been no unpleasant sorties, yet, into either end of the temperature spectrum.
Colin’s backpack is doing fine, so far: comfortable and efficient, as well as small and beautifully marked. The tarp was fine too until last night, when unfortunately it was the subject of an attack by some small creature: probably a wee rodent of some kind. Apparently the creature chewed a half inch rip into one corner of the tarp, and nibbled its way almost all the way through a guy line. I’d have suspected Piglet had I not found her lying next to me under the duvet this morning. Anyway, repairs are apparently on the agenda for this evening.
Rob Hausam has been sending food to Colin in parcels via Post Offices, and the first batch was collected some days ago in Patagonia. Colin hadn’t tried the Alpineaire food before he set off, but he’s absolutely delighted with it. He said the pasta was so good that he’d have been happy to eat it in a restaurant, and he had a sensational tomato salad for breakfast this morning. Dehydrated tomato salad? For breakfast?? (
Sounds disgusting to me…) Colin is the bloke, though, who carried ‘food’ so utterly repellent on the Challenge last year that even he found himself unable to eat it, so I’ll be interested to see how the Alpineaire holds up in the taste stakes as the weeks go by.
Colin plans to press on to Colossal Cave Mountain Park later this afternoon, to camp there and to make his way to Hope Camp tomorrow. Tomorrow’s walk will be only 10 miles, but he has to stay at Hope Camp for a night because the following day will take him into the Rincon Mountains Wilderness, and since he’s not allowed to camp there without a permit he’ll have to get through it (about 20 miles) in one day. I wondered how likely he was to be spotted camping illegally in such a remote place, but Colin explained that the Americans take illegal camping very seriously indeed, and that people found to have indulged in it are fined, have their kit confiscated and are made to wear an orange overall. (That last bit wasn’t true. Heh.) Clearly it isn’t worth that sort of risk. Another good reason to stick to Scotland, methinks!
The next town on the schedule is Oracle, and hopefully there’ll be another update when Colin gets there. In the meantime, though, it’s goodbye from Colin and goodnight from me!