The new sleep system worked well.

I’m up relatively early, packed up, and some section hikers walk by. They’re coming off a 4 day trip, and one of them only cowboy camps.

She doesn’t care about snakes. She knows they don’t care about her.

5 miles up the trail, I meet another couple on overnight trip. Her pack is easily twice the size of mine.

She’s done all the AZT passages, but separately. One day, she hopes to do it all together.

They warn me about the impending climb.

Indeed. A climb it is.

As I climb higher, the wind picks up. It’s a biting cold wind, along with clouds to match. It’s too windy for a brimmed hat, so I switch to a wool cap.

I stop frequently for snacks, always looking for respite from the wind.

Once I get to the top, the sun comes out and the wind dies down. I’m also out of water, and unfortunately it’s 9 miles until the next water source. 9 miles is too far to go until sunset, so I’m going to be thirsty for while.

As the trail turns the corner, I see a large white truck parked. And a massive tent, massive enough to fit 10 people standing.

I walk over, and it’s an Elk hunter getting ready for the weekend, setting up before the snow. He has 20 gallons of water.

Jackpot.

He’s heading out to visit his wife before her hip replacement. She said not to come, but he’s going.

I think he’s making the right decision.

He offers to drive me down the mountain if I want to cheat. The weather for tonight looks awful.

I flinch.

No, I’m good. But thanks.

I continue walking; the sky is perfectly blue. Eventually, I turn to see Roosevelt Lake in the distance.

It’s stunning.

I actually use the word, “gosh”, several times.

I find a campsite that seems ideal, complete with a fire ring and view of the lake.

So much time left. So responsible. It’s going to be a great night.