July 12:Miles hiked – 22.2
Total CDT miles hiked – 776.4
I headed out of town later than expected but got a hitch quickly from a guy who knew all about the trail, as most of the locals in Encampment seemed to. The trail wasted no time shooting back up to the divide where I tried to take a break to enjoy the view but found myself engulfed in vicious mosquitos. From here I would be headed generally downhill into the great divide basin, a desert area in Wyoming which I’ll walk through for over a hundred miles. I pass a group of horseback riders on the way down.
“Nice day, isn’t it?” I say
“For now it is!”
I hike on for not ten minutes before being hailed on. I find a thick tree to stand under and wait it out. After another ten minutes it’s over and I pack up, but then another ten minutes go by and the hail picks back up with a vengeance for about half an hour. I walk through it thinking it will end at any second, by the time it does I’m soaked.
I reach a grassy ridge which reminds me of the balds in the southern appalachians and am thankful to not have made it here an hour earlier. The day is beautiful now so I walk on cross country through areas like this in total bliss for miles until my feet start to hurt and I get cranky. I make it off the ridge and enter the basin, nothing but sagebrush as far as the eye can see. I spot a pronghorn in the distance as I find a nice albeit exposed campsite to stop for the day. The sunset is incredible here, all around me I hear wildlife enjoying it as well.
I get in my tent to read and that’s when the rain starts unexpectedly. Then cracking booms.. lightning! I’m in the worst possible spot I could be in to weather a lightning storm but don’t know what I can do at this point so I sit in my tent and test my luck. The more I listen to it the more insane it sounds, like blasts from a canon. Then I realize there’s no thunder, and it’s not the kind of rain that goes with lightning either. Is it gunshots? The rain ends so I poke my head outside to check it out.. fireworks! I laugh at myself and the ridiculousness of the whole situation while watching them go off, then head back into my tent with the familiar yelping of coyotes ringing through the desert. Into the Great Divide Basin.
High of the day – epic ridgewalking
Low of the day – thinking I was seconds away from death by lightning
Miles hiked – 33.5
Total CDT miles hiked – 809.9
I wake up much later than I had planned when the sun is already hitting nearly everywhere with its scorching rays. I have a few more steps of trail before turning onto a dirt road which will last the entire basin. Wildlife is everywhere, mainly pronghorn and elk who prance away from me through the open grasslands, it feels like I’m walking through the Serengeti. I eat breakfast at a creek with short stubby trees for shade, an oasis in the desert. Birds flock through the air here chirping away in the morning sun.
I climb up higher and walk a series of plateau type areas. The sky was completely clear and blue this morning, a sign of thunderstorms. There’s no where to hide here if lightning comes into play today. The clouds thicken behind me, becoming darker the closer they get. We’re both heading in the same direction but I have a definite edge on them, so I hike hard until realizing how high up I still was. The road descends deeper into the basin as rain comes in as heavy drops. It feels good and there’s no thunder or lightning so I’m good to go.
I end up at the base of many foothills which remind me of the southernmost sections of the PCT, though with their own special twist of course. It is exactly what you picture Wyoming to look like if you’ve never been. The sky is dramatic which makes for even more epic walking but I’m starting to get tired, it’s only two and I’ve hiked twenty miles today. I take a break but upon leaving find myself now infested with sweat bees who are just as fast as me. They bug me for miles as I swat at them with my trekking pole. Walking hurts after another few miles I was so close to the water source… that ended up being dry. Completely out of water and in the middle of the desert I know I’ll have to night hike eight more miles to reach a pond but luckily a car comes by and I flag them down to fill my bottles. I still end up hiking quite a few more miles to find some trees to set up in, which I finally do but they’re behind a gate with a no trespassing sign. I figure I got in late and I’ll be out early, 24 miles to Rawlins..will it make it in time for the Thai Buffet?
High of the day – walking through new scenery
Low of the day – being harassed by sweat bees!
Miles hiked – 25.1
Total CDT miles hiked – 835
Again I wake up much later than I had planned to, the sun is out in full by the time I start walking through the still safe brush covered hills. As I begin the day, I see my first person since Encampment, a southbound section Hiker headed to Grants. We exchange water info which is much better for him than it is for me. I have breakfast at the first source of the day, a decent albeit algae covered cow pond. I’ve been craving oatmeal the past few days for some strange reason so I make three packets and crush up a granola bar in it.
I hurt today, after over 30 miles yesterday. The sun is hot with not many clouds forming to block it. I walk on knowing I’ll be in town today but still having 20 miles to get there. The next water source is trifling, but it’s the last one until Rawlins and I have no water. Thick shoe-stealing mud surrounds the pond which is covered in heavy algae. The water is black before I put it through my filter, and still extremely cloudy after. I’m hesitant to take a sip, when I do it tastes strange, very acidic or salty? I’m not really sure how to explain it. I boil it and hike on with half a liter from the earlier source and two liters of death water, which I let myself become dehydrated before drinking any more of. The trail leaves the road and enters a cross country section which is difficult in the thick brush even though everything is only calf high. I think about Powerade while I walk.
When I finally reach the road again I’m walking right at the base of the divide, paralleling it. The prominence is impressive while walking through such a flat area below. About six miles before town, I find another lake and a pavilion with shade. The water is unreachable due to the mud surrounding it and the pavilion is infested with flies. The trail turns and climbs straight up the mountain, at the top I’m in another flat plateau area, just higher in elevation. I’m down to four miles from town now which fly by and before I know it I’m walking the highway into town. I’ll spend tomorrow here and hike out in the afternoon once it’s cooled down a bit.
High of the day – getting a Powerade in town after drinking sludge for 20 miles
Low of the day – bad water sources