CDT WY Section 5

Day 125: Northernmost Fork Hatch Creek

I did not sleep in, as promised. I woke with the 6am alarm and was on the trail by 7:30.

Around 9, I had to take a break, but luckily there was a row of nice tall bushes just off the road. I took a break of an hour or so there in the shade with a very comfortable cool breeze. It was hard to motivate myself to get back in the sun and keep walking.

After a brief (0.2mi) detour missing an unmarked turn after going through a gate, I was off and on my way down some overgrown 2-tracks. I was starving and struggling for energy when it finally brought me to the bridge over North Fork Savery Creek. I plunked myself down in the shade of a bush and pulled some beautifully clear water out of the creek to start filtering.

I sat there in the shade with a nice breeze for an hour just eating and drinking and watching the chipmunks run back and forth across the bridge in a neverending game of tag. I made another drink and started another water bag filtering and laid down in the grass for a few minutes. I could totally have gone for a nap. I could totally have taken a dip in the deep pool just below the bridge.

Except that I had set a goal for myself to get out of the desert by day’s end. So when the podcast I was listening to ended, I stopped the second bag midfilter and started packing.

Just as I was about ready to go, Jennifer arrived and Deluxe right after, very excited about the water. As excited as I had been and still was. While they went down to the creek to dip bottles and bags, I went to dip my Buff and get water all over my shirt and head. Not as much water as taking a dip would have achieved, but I needed to get going to achieve my goal.

What followed was a steep climb straight out of the river canyon, walks along some barbed wire fences, passing through many gates, including two more than the trail went through, and eventual arrival at the very same highway I had left Rawlins on. The trail went down the side of this paved road for two miles or so, but it wasn’t so bad. Only five trucks went by in the hour or so it took to get to the next dirt road.

A couple of miles up that dirt road and the edge of the desert was in sight. Large patches of trees in the distance! Entering public lands again, the trail immediately left the road and climbed straight up a ridge. I could see tons of trees growing at the top of the hill. Trees that could give me shade to cook supper.

It was a brutal mile straight up the hill to the ridgeline and along it to where the trees were. I was feeling that it’s-been-too-long-since-lunch dragging sensation. But I dragged myself up there and found a nice rock in the shade of a patch of tall trees. And I spent a very nice hour cooking and eating supper with a nice breeze swirling. Ominous clouds came rolling through, but dissipated as I got packed up to hike out, putting the setting sun behind me as I continued up to the climax of the day.

Literal and figurative climax. It was a peak with 360 degree views letting me look back all the way over the basin, the rolling desert hills I had just hiked out of.

I walked along the ridge until it ended at what must have been one of those twisted bristlecone pines that’s been looking over that same landscape for thousands of years. Down I went to cross the road into the forest. Trees growing thickly around me for the first time in a week and a half. There was a clear trail through it climbing steeply up into the forested hills.

Then it opened up onto a hilltop, and I passed a bow hunter leaving the forest. The first elk hunter I’ve seen this year. The season has begun!

The forest got thicker and I had to turn on my headlamp to continue. It was nearly 8 when I spotted another headlamp attached to Jennifer’s voice. They had just set up camp up the hill from the creek. So I stopped and set up with them. They hadn’t passed me because they had taken the roadwalk alternate skipping the 360 degree peak.

The next day, we would all arrive in Encampment together.

Trail miles: 19.7

Distance to Encampment: 18.8 miles, mostly uphill

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