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It was mid-afternoon. We were on the last leg of our hike out of the backcountry, and only about a mile from our car. It had been a great hike, and we were now looking forward to taking off our packs, a nice drive home, hot showers, and a dinner that didn't involved freeze-dried anything.
The weather was perfect for late September, sunny but not warm. The first couple was young and sportif, wearing only shorts and t-shirts, and they moved briskly up the trail towards us.
"Hi there," I greeted them. "Where are you headed?"
"We are going to the lakes!" the young man replied, with enthusiasm and a French accent.
"Ah!" I gave this some thought. The nearest lake was at least five miles further along the trail. "You realize that they are about five miles--eight kilometers--from here?"
The young man nodded. "About forty minutes?" he asked.
I considered this. "No, closer to two or three hours" I explained.
"OK. Thanks!" he continued up the trail.
His girlfriend looked at me. They were not carrying even a daypack, and I didn't see any bottles.
"Do you have any water?" I asked. There was no real source of water for a few miles. We had very little in our packs.
"No, it's OK" he called back over his shoulder. I
looked at the girlfriend. She looked at me. "Maybe we stop before the lakes." she said.
I nodded and watched them hurry up the trail.
A hundred yards later we met an older couple, almost as old as us. Now I was really curious, and I asked them the same question. "Where are you headed?"
"Up the traill," the husband replied as he panted uphill past me.
His wife looked at me and asked me how far the lakes were.
I told her.
"Well, we'll just see how far we get," she said.
They each had a daypack, and I asked them if they had water.
"Oh yeah, we have lots of water," she replied.
"Good," I thought. "You might want to share some of it with the nice young couple ahead of you."
A half-mile from the trailhead we met the last couple: two young men sitting on a couple of rocks and resting.
When then heard me coming down the trail, the first young man turned around quickly and said,. "Oh, good. You're not a bear."
"Nope," I assured him, I was not a bear.
"How much further is it to the lakes?" he asked. He and his partner had a full complement of cameras, tripods and other paraphernalia.
"About five or six miles," I said.
He looked at his watch. I looked at mine. "We left our camp there about three hours ago," I explained. "So that would be about six hours, round trip."
He nodded. He looked at his watch again.
"That means you would get back here about 7 o'clock," I explained. It would be close to dark by then.
"I guess we better get moving," his partner chimed in. He didn't get up off the rock that he occupied.
"Well, maybe you hike faster than we do," I offered. They both nodded. "
Then again," I thought,"We didn't stop in the first half mile from the trailhead when we did this hike, and we were carrying full packs.
I wonder how far each group hiked...