In spite of some early morning traffic, I woke up pretty well rested with the 5am alarm. It was cold, so it took some serious will power to start packing, and the process was frequently interrupted by my blowing on my fingers or tucking them between my legs until feeling returned to my fingertips. Despite the cold and the lack of wind all night, there was very little condensation in my tent. I hiked out around dawn, a bit after 6:30.
About a mile down the road, I turned onto the trail. Or, I thought I did, but there was another road that went off at a similar but divergent angle just a little further down, so I went cross country through the sage until I was on it. A couple of miles later, I came onto a road where Cliff and Lost’s tent was tucked next to some kind of metal equipment, possibly a spring enclosure. There was no sign they were awake or packing and I never saw them all day. A mile past that, I merged onto the road I would follow on a nearly straight course for the rest of the day.
It was a very interesting road. Sometimes it was rocky. Sometimes packed sand. Sometimes soft sand. Sometimes soft for long enough stretches that I walked a cow track parallel to it. Once it crossed water. Once it was a bowl of dry mud. Once it was a bowl of damp mud.
Sometimes it would angle slightly left before angling slightly right to return to its former course. Sometimes it angle right and then left. Sometimes it would zig then zag then zig again, as it did right before I stopped for lunch. But it would always go back to its original course as if that had never happened and continue nearly due southeast in a straight line.
Sometimes it would go up a gentle incline for a little while. Sometimes it would slowly descend. Mostly it was close enough to flat as to make no difference. It was a very Hat Rim kind of difficulty level.
It was never shady. It never provided any shelter from the wind. It passed by calf-high sagebrush by the hundred thousands. Sometimes it passed inch-high cactus plants. It occasionally passed near rocks big or tall enough to sit on.
All breaks were taken in direct sunlight with the wind blowing on by, usually on aforementioned rocks, once on the edge of an empty tire trough. It was a clear, cloudless day, hotter than the previous, though the wind helped. The unobstructed sun melted the fudge on my fudge-dipped coconut granola bars, which actually made them tastier. (Meanwhile, around the corner, fudge production had been suspended for what I can only assume was a multi-batch production run of itching powder.)
I did see animals. Visibility was quite high. There were elk, deer, and pronghorns on every distant ridgeline, along with the usual cadre of black cows dotting the landscape like moles slowly migrating across sickly green-brown skin. I saw one jackrabbit early in the morning and one seagull late in the afternoon flying parallel to the wind via an interesting sequence of stalls and banking swoops. The most exciting moment in the day came when a pair of walking birds noisily took flight from within the bushes right next me, making jump and exclaim involuntarily. Maybe prairie chickens?
Obviously I was lying when I called this an interesting road. What could be interesting about walking straight down a road for hours on end with no shade? It was like leaving Pie Town, but without the fruit magic. Maybe it was like Day 6 of this trip, but without the novelty or the occasional word with other humans. This kind of terrain isn’t necessarily ugly, but it is definitely monotonous. The best thing I could say about the Basin after this day was that it would only last another 90 miles.
One way to pass the time when the scenery never changes is to listen to podcasts. It’s worked fine for the new the last few days. Unfortunately, at lunch, my third and final set of headphones I brought for this section bit the dust. Three pairs broken in as many days. You’d think double redundancy would be enough for less than a week even with cheap Chinese gas station headphones. The first pair lasted all the way from West Yellowstone! Bad luck, I suppose.
So the rest of the day, I only had my thoughts to entertain me. And they often turned to my discomfort. Walking on flat ground is not good for the feet, and they got sore enough to call for an Aleve by day’s end. The heel I bruised in that fall coming down to Elkhart Park on Day 108 still aches sometimes when I walk and compensating for it makes the calf ache too. Some angry bumps have formed on my inner thigh that are very sensitive to abrasion, leading me to walk a little funny and constantly adjust my shorts in different ways. The usual pains on my hips and shoulders from my pack were less than usual as I was down to less than two days of food and my water dwindled throughout the day.
There was no water on trail for the last ten miles at least. I left in the morning with a full water bladder, and poured a liter at every break without ever leaving the trail to seek refills. There was only a half liter remaining for the last stop, and this had to carry me the last 4.5 miles. No problem. The trail was just as easy at the end of the day as at the beginning, and I kept up a solid 3mph walking pace right to the end, arriving at my final destination of Bull Springs.
I was never so happy to see a place. It was just a spring with a toppled and non-functioning solar pump and dirt built up around two culverts turned on end. Although enclosed by a fence, the cows knew how to get inside. And the herd did not bolt as I approached. They just calmly moved aside. I had to chase the one in the enclosure around until she jumped back over the fence. I set the broken fence rail back up in its place, though I’m sure they’ll knock it back down tomorrow.
I pulled some clear water out of one of the culverts (both had lids on to keep the cows out) and filtered it directly into my cook pot for dinner. I cooked right where I planned to pitch my tent, which I did while the rice was cooking.
A couple of hours and another filtered bag of water later, I was in my tent and ready for sleep, but the cows were right there with me, all around me. They didn’t care. They were fine sharing their space and their water with me if I wasn’t bothering them. And so we passed the night there together.
Trail miles: 27.6
Distance to Rawlins: 27.4 miles (one day away)