I let the 4am alarm and its backup ring out, but I was awake, uncomfortable, sleepy, but knew I needed to get started. So I eventually got myself going, first packing purely by moonlight through the tent and eventually getting my headlamp out. I was able to turn it off as soon as I started hiking just after 6.
Just down the hill, on the approach to Rambaud Lake, I scared up another early morning porcupine but it vamoosed before I could get a picture. The rest of the day, I caught no rare sightings. Just fish, cows, chipmunks, grouse, Gray jays, and other smaller birds.
I saw some lights of people packing on the other side of the lake. I started to go over there wondering if it might be Cliff and Lost, but it was three tents and people I didn’t recognize. I backed off before accosting them and stopped to put up my coat and headlamp.
Later, I passed that same guy who I had seen the night before climbing Knapsack and who apparently had hiked out to Pinedale just minutes ahead of me judging by his experiences stopped to take his coat off. We crossed the next creek together, me picking my way across the shallows taking advantage of the waterproofing of my new boots and him just wading straight in and saying it wasn’t that cold.
An hour or so later, I stopped at the shore of Lower Pipestone Lake to start filtering some water and take a morning break. A single tent stood by the trail a hundred yards ahead. A loud lady got out of the tent and looked toward me. I waved, but I don’t think she saw because she proceeded to take her shorts down and squat in clear view of me, then wander around noisily taking sunrise pictures of the tent before going back inside.
The old guy caught up to me there and stopped to wring out his socks. I was already leaving when he arrived. I left him there but I’m sure he passed me at my next stop. He’s a much faster hiker than me on average. I doubt the people in the tent ever knew we were there.
I started feeling really miserable in my gut a few miles later, an uncomfortable sensation that eventually turned into genuine GI distress and an emergency stop. This helped, but left me still feeling quite bad as I walked on toward a lunch stop. I hardly wanted to move during lunch I felt so bad, and I just kept hoping that eating would make me feel better. I still felt a little off as I forced myself to pack up and leave because there were still miles to do.
But I still felt a little bit weaker than normal for the next couple of hours. When I stopped for another break and ate and drank some more, I finally started feeling a little closer to normal. Cliff Richards and Lost Keys caught up to me at this point, but I passed them on the next hill. I got ahead of them on the long high plateau I crossed all afternoon, but they passed me again without seeing me while I stopped to eat dinner.
After dinner, I finally felt back up to my usual strength and powered after them, nearly catching them when they took a break on the other side of a creek crossing. I took a long way around the valley to cross a lot of smaller streams by rock hopping and got to where they had been just after they left. I saw them again just ahead of me at the turnoff for the Cirque of the Towers alternate, but they were outhiking me and I lost sight of them. I expected to get ahead of them again in the morning but getting up earlier.
For an hour, I hiked up the valley toward Texas Pass, but at 7:30, I climbed a tall hill overlooking the valley and made camp on the levelest place I could find that wasn’t covered with elk pellets or cow manure. It was right on the edge and had a great view of the valley, the creek flowing through it, and the spires above it. Best of all, it wasn’t crowded with other tents and hikers like I expected the area just below Texas Pass must have been. I was in the tent just after 8, ready for another early bedtime, looking forward to another early morning and beautiful weather for my tour of the Cirque.
Trail miles: 20.9
Distance to Lander: 46.3 miles