Back in the Saddle
I felt almost completely recovered today, so I set out on my delayed overnight packing section, leaving Hopewell Lake and riding north. The nice thing about reversing our ride direction was also that it gave me a shorter first day, with most of the miles coming tomorrow instead, and so I was able to make a fairly easy and relaxed day of it. Still, taking that unexpected day off means that I am now a day behind my planned schedule, but I should have some double zero days coming up when I can get back on track by reducing them to single zeroes instead. I carefully plan each riding day in advance, picking my camp spots carefully to be sure that I will have water for the horses if I am alone, or road access if my mother is meeting me, and I also schedule in regular shoeing breaks and calculate how much feed I will need and plan my camping meals, etc. It is an extraordinary feat to preview the entire length of the trail, to decide how many miles I will do each day, where I will stay, when I will need more supplies—every single detail. It also means that I have to build in a little flexibility, because unforeseen things can happen at any time, but I try very hard to stay on schedule once I have created one. I study the snowpack and the historical melt patterns (using websites designed for that purpose) so that I can know with some certainty when each section of trail will be clear enough to me to travel on and whether I have to plan to flip-flop or not in order to keep making the progress that I need to make in order to be done before the season ends with the coming of winter. A trip like this does not just happen by accident; I have to think about every detail and to be prepared as much as possible for each eventuality if I am going to do it successfully. The previous trips have all taught me a lot about how to plan and prepare and what I need to know to keep my horses and myself safe and healthy as we cover the miles toward our goal.
It turned out to be a better day than I might have expected, as I was still weak and not really eating well, but we made good miles and got even a little further than I had expected to go before making camp. I also met the first other horseback riders I have ever seen on the trail, a family Nebraska who have been riding sections for a week or two each summer on the CDT. It was good to talk to them about their experiences and to try to get some information about what lies ahead for me as well.