After having hiked through severe blowdown for three hours the previous evening, I was not enjoying being on my hands and knees at 5:30am,* crawling through dirt, trying to pass under a large tree. Something on my pack keeps getting caught, holding me back. I keep going lower, until I’m almost on my belly. I lose it.
FRACK it! FRACK IT!! I’ve had enough of this stuff!!” (Actual words substituted to protect the more sensitive reader).
When I say severe blowdown, imagine someone ripping out a forest of trees by the roots and throwing them like Pick Up Sticks on the ground. Trees stacked three or more high, one on top of another. Your job is to either go over, around, or under.
The prior evening, we had both found the blowdown an interesting and fun challenge. Something like a jungle gym adventure. But after moving only 1.8 miles in three hours, I was done with it. Yet the only direction is forward. So after apologizing to the very patient John, we continued through another mile of this stuff.
And on the other side of the blowdown, we entered The Wind River Mountain Range, which includes a CDT alternate route known as the Cirque of the Towers. We had heard it was challenging and beautiful. After experiencing it, we wonder why we had never heard of this stunning mountain range before. We hiked through valleys surrounded by granite spires, with lakes and creeks running through the middle. We climbed four passes in two days, with 3,000 to 4,000 feet of elevation gain a day, spending a good deal of time above tree line. I experienced a touch of vertigo for the first time due to the heights.
When we made it to Pinedale for a nearo and zero rest day, we were exhausted. But also proud of ourselves (physically and mentally) and grateful for having each other, good health, and this amazing opportunity to thruhike the CDT. We’re healing through the powers of good coffee, town food, a bed, and a bathtub.
Tomorrow we head to Yellowstone! 185 miles of hiking with only one brief stop to pick up a resupply box.
To quote Bubbles, “I’m hardcore now!!!”
*A new thing we started that morning, drinking coffee and eating breakfast after we’ve hiked away from camp. No coffee=very grumpy Beth.
Writing an update about our walk through the Great Divide Basin, our third trip through the Basin. We did it in 2018 on the TransAmerica route, in 2019 on the GDMBR, and now this year. There were a few sections that we're common to all three, but it was primarily walking on two-track roads on BLM land.
We put in our biggest mileage on the trip so far, 102 miles in four days, 27.5 miles being our longest day. Primarily this was due to good walking roads (generally few big climbs and smooth surfaces), and us being stronger. We were able to finish 13 to 14 miles by noon, and finish the day around 4:00. A couple of days were pretty uncomfortable, too hot with little breeze, but overall the weather was good, especially the mornings.
Saw lots of other hikers. I've often told people that 'nobody is out there in the basin,' but we saw more hikers this year than we ever saw cyclists on our 2018 and 2019 trips.
We are now in Lander, WY, a favorite town on our 2018 trip, resting and resupplying. Due to fires in Idaho that have closed over 120 miles of the CDT along the ID, WY border, we are having to plan a new route when we leave Yellowstone. This will shorten our route, but after walking over 1200 miles so far we are happy to walk fewer miles.
We finished the Great Divide Basin!! Five days of hiking through flat, hot, and repetitive landscape. We made fast miles, hiking an average of 26 miles a day. Others hiked between 35-40 miles a day. Young whippersnappers.
Many of the water supplies were poopy cow ponds (I may never get the smell of cow poop out of my nose), others were cold springs. We timed our campsites with small oases—a river or large pond. And know what? We had a lot of fun and enjoyed ourselves. Heat be damned. One morning we woke up at 2:30 am to beat the heat. Sunrise is the best time of day, for sure.
We finished this section more exhausted than usual due to the high miles and long days. Landed in one of our favorite trail towns, Lander, Wyoming. And as promised, I’ll describe our most excellent nearo, followed by a zero day.
NEARO FOLLOWED BY A ZERO IN LANDER!
Monday, July 19.
2:30 am. Wake up, excited to be hiking into Lander! Feeling tired due to lack of sleep, heat, and long miles.
9:30. Nice surprise, we hike into South Pass City, a restored ghost town. Since the CDT goes right through the town, it’s free for CDT hikers. Plus they sell ice cream and root beer! We call for a shuttle to pick us up and enjoy being tourists.
Noon. Have our shuttle driver and trail angel, Pulp Fiction, drop us off at The Lander Bake Shop where we drink lots of good coffee and eat baked goods. Yum.
Marvel at how my bowels seem to know when we’re in town.
1:30. Walk to NOLS to buy dehydrated food. Hang out with fellow thruhiker, Costanza, while doing laundry.
3:00. Go to grocery store to buy some late lunch: fried chicken, potato salad, Hawaiian rolls, and mango smoothie.
4:00. Go to the Aquatic Center to shower.
5:00. Set up our tent in the city park. Live music. Pulp Fiction and Costanza supply dinner for the hungry hiker masses. Spend the evening talking and eating with others.
8:00. Go to tent and sleep like babies.
Tuesday, July 20.
6 am. Sleep late, until 6 am!! Go eat breakfast at the Ox Bow. Marvel at the low cost of dining in Wyoming compared with Colorado.
8:00 Go to nearby coffee shop. Drink lots of good coffee. Stare at phones, make lists of things to do. Talk about an alternate route to avoid Idaho/Montana forest fires.
9:50 Go back to Lander Bake Shop to buy scones for tomorrow’s breakfast.
10:00 Go to the public library!! Charge batteries (literal and metaphorical), write letters and blog entry.
1:30 Go back to Lander Bake Shop a third time to buy a lemon bar and a chocolate/peanut butter bar. Eat these for lunch, along with salad-in-a-bag purchased yesterday.
2:00 Head to grocery store to buy resupply. I love to grocery shop!! I spend hours creating resupply lists, looking for that right combination of low weight, high calorie, and good tasting food.
3:00 Arrive back at tent, now soaked by the park sprinklers. Assess damage.
5:00 Eat dinner at the Chinese restaurant. Lots of veggies.
6:30 Repackage food and pack our backpacks. Read a book or watch something downloaded on my phone.
8:00 Set our alarm for early morning and sleep... onward through the Wind River Range!!
Well, we made it to Rawlins, Wyoming. A forest fire behind us (Morgan Creek) and forest fires ahead of us in Idaho and Montana. For some reason Wyoming has been spared at the moment but is a bit smoky, making for some magnificent sunrises and sunsets.
I really enjoyed the hiking the past eight days. Even the 36 miles of paved roadwalk. We saw a moose, a bunch of elk, and some antelope. Got in a dust/wind storm. Beautiful sunrises. We hike between 11-13 hours a day but we’re slow, so around 17-19 miles a day. The climbs are easier, and I’ll tell you a secret, steep climbs are really hard on me. A combination of trouble breathing (asthma) and not building muscle like I used to. One reason I’m looking forward to next week...
Tomorrow morning we head into the Great Divide Basin, a relatively flat and hot section, about 120 miles. Little shade and long water hauls—but I’m looking forward to making good time. Hopefully 25 mile days. And we‘ll be carrying some great food: small cereal packets (think Cinnamon Crisp, Frosted Cheerios, etc.), jalapeño kettle chips, dehydrated chili with an avocado, peanut butter-filled pretzels, dill pickles... we’ve gotten sick of the same old, same old, so we’re forging new territory in meal planning.
TYPICAL DAY ON TRAIL
4:00 am Wake up. Eat breakfast, drink coffee, break down camp.
8:00 Snack break
10:30 Lunch break
12:30 Snack break
3:00 Snack break
4:30-6:30 Make camp, have tea and a sweet treat, eat dinner.
7:30 Watch something or read a book downloaded on my phone.
YES! I know, exciting, right? In my next blog entry I’ll describe a typical day in town.
I’m happy to say we’re still are enjoying ourselves and have the appetite to continue. Many have quit and gone home, due to fatigue, injury, or personal matters. Lucky to have each other and this opportunity. Onward to Landers, Wyoming. One of our favorite trail towns.
While vacationing in Estes, the weather forecast predicted rain for days, including thunderstorms. Not wanting to walk the ridges in snow, rain, and lightening, we started out on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, only to be diverted to forest road 100 due to forest fire. We actually had to slow down in order to not arrive in Steamboat before the Fourth.
Along the way, we saw a beautiful white horse in a distant valley. Surprised when she ran to greet us. Even more surprised when she walked along beside us for miles. And what an auspicious omen, as this was my first day of retirement, free from routine and the expectations of employment.
“White horses are seen as a good omen—they represent purity, peace, and good fortune. Dreams of white horses can indicate happy connections with others, a healthy relationship with sex and ambitions, spiritual awareness, and being at peace and going with the flow of life.”
Tomorrow we continue our hike on the red line to Encampment, Wyoming. We’ll reach the Great Basin in about a week, a flat and dry section, very different than the mountains of Colorado.