Slept in. Only had a 4 mile hike into Mt. Princeton Hot Springs for a resupply. So with a light pack and an easy walk mostly on paved and dirt roads, I practically floated into town. Just as I got to the lodge, Mike and Austin caught up with me. They were planning to get breakfast at the restaurant. RESTAURANT??? I invited myself to join them for breakfast. Filled French toast with blueberries and cream cheese. Yum!!!

I headed over to the country store to get my mail drop. Clearly too much stuff for just one day so I picked out what I needed and gave the rest to Austin and Mike and put a few things in the hiker box for whoever wanted them. Till I got back to the lodge, Mike and Austin were talking with another thru-hiker they just ran into – Tyler, from Illinois….who was hiking 20+ miles per day. Ouch!

I took my leave and headed down the road onto Mosquito Alley. OMG. About a mile in, I was swarmed by mosquitoes ALL OVER ME!!! I wriggled out of my pack as fast as I possibly could, got the bug spray out and lathered deet all over every inch of exposed skin. Cancer be damned.

From the mosquito patch to the furnace…

The rest of the day was spent hiking through the foothills of the high desert. Hot, dry, not much shade. I jammed the earphones in and put it on autopilot, planning to hike to Sands Creek – the halfway point of the trail. Shortly after, I met some dayhikers who mentioned that two other thru-hikers were aiming for the same campsite. So much for that plan. I scaled back one water source, 3.5 miles before the halfway poitn and by the time I got there it was thundering and starting to rain. I started pitching my tent when Tyler showed up. he pitched his tarp. Shortly after, Mike and Austin showed up and pitched their tent in the last remaining level spot. It turned out to be quite the party – comparing gear, then suppers, then sharing stories of others we’d met on the trail so far – around a campfire. Mike and Austin told of their “Shroom girls”, I of my “weed man” and “UFO guy” and Tyler’s “gear guru with the bear canister, 4lb sleeping mat, and 5-person tent”. Then the halfway point celebration started with Mike and Austin’s 24oz Pepsi and Tyler with a 24oz beer they’d been carrying all day for the occasion. I’d be celebrating in Salida with a pizza, pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and a haircut.

We talked and joked until well past trail midnight (7pm) when the fire was dying out and there was no more wood to throw on the fire and too dark to go searching for more. We retreated to our tents by the glow of the coals.