Day 23 – Where Chocolate Milk Comes From

May 14, 18.7 miles / 280.0 total hiked

Today started at 4:30 AM for me as I suddenly woke up and sat bolt upright. What woke me up? Nothing exciting like a bear licking the remnants of dinner off my face. Nope, what woke me were some subconscious thoughts gelling into an “Oh Crap” realization.

Rewind to last evening… We camped next to a cow pond that would be our water for 17 miles. We knew it would be typical murky, muddy, nasty cow water. At least there were no cows present and rolling around (among other things) in it.

We collected some and prefiltered through a bandana. There was so much crud in it, both living and particulate matter, that every half liter we had to use a clean section of bandana. We opted to not save the various worms we collected as extra protein for dinner.

We finally prefiltered 4 liters and it was better but still very murky and I hated to run it through our filters. We had enough clean water for the night so I hung the bags and filters on a tree all ready to filter in hopes that by morning some of the sediment would settle out to the bottom of the bags.

This worked (note the .5 inch of sediment) but led to that Oh Crap moment over night.

Fast forward to 4:30 AM… The thoughts that jelled were 1) both of our filters were outside the tent, 2) it was a bit chilly last evening, 3) you can’t allow these filters to freeze.

So I’m sitting there wondering just how cold is it? I take my Suunto Core watch off and set it outside the tent for a few minutes to find out. I retrieve the watch and check the temp. Too blurry to read. Fumble for reading glasses. 52 degrees… Whew. I lay down again. Hmmm, just how long was that out there (it takes a while to get an accurate reading after taking it off my wrist).

Put watch back outside again. Wait 10 minutes. 39 degrees. Ugh… And that is on the ground near the tent, i.e. warmer than the tree. Another 10 minute check and it has at least stabilized at 37 to 39.

I sit it on a piece of wood, 35 degrees. I move the wood as far away as I can reach from in the tent. 33 degrees. Argh.

By now it is 5:15 and I’m totally awake so I put my shoes on and go over to the tree. I can see the sediment has settled nicely so I really hate to jostle the bags and bring them in the tent.

I hang the watch next to the bags. 35 degrees. By now the sun is just starting to come up and I figure it is too late anyway if it did get down to freezing. I don’t see any signs of ice crystals in the condensation inside the bags so I filter our chocolate water which still takes forever due to the crud in it.

While standing there in the cold waiting to filter 2 liters drip by drip I ponder if cows that drink this produce chocolate milk 🤔😁

The rest of the day went well with a nice mix of dirt road and trail walking, a steep climb, and a 2500 foot descent to a valley floor. I even got Gina to navigate today strictly from paper maps and she did pretty good.

As a final capper we find a small water cache about 1 mile before the solar well source we were targeting. We were somewhat dehydrated as we did not want to filter or drink more of the chocolate water than we had to so we each gulped about a half liter from the cache.

Only afterwards do I see”well water for cdt hikers” written on a jug. Argh, this was water straight out of the upcoming solar well rather than treated tap water. In general we filter well water here just in case… Now if we wind up getting sick we won’t know if it is from this water or (possibly) freeze damaged filters.

We get to the solar well and find a large tank with a healthy goldfish population in it but no incoming water (too late in the day for the solar pump). So now I wonder if the jugs were just dipped from the tank or filled when the pump was running. Too many water worries today. We will know in a week if we ingested something we should not have.

Because we have been going slower than planned, this 125 mile stretch to Pie Town was going to take 7 days instead of the 6 we expected. We had enough food to get there but when I slipped and mentioned some people make an unplanned pitstop in Reserve (a 40 minute hitch), she latched onto the idea and really wanted / needed to take a break, partially due to some back issues and resulting lack of sleep. So the plan is to get to Reserve tomorrow.

Little did we know how that decision would play out.

Peak of the day: Gina navigating by paper maps and actually keeping track of exactly where we were

Valley of the day: I had really been focused on getting to Pie Town and eating an apple pie after 7 days on trail