CDT WY Section 5

Day 126: Riverside

At 2am, I was lying awake and it started to rain. I pulled everything further under the vestibule, but it was a light rain and hardly even wet the ground.

I intentionally slept through the 4am alarm and started getting up and packing up with the 5am. I noticed right off that the top of my pack was wet and that I had left it on top of the water hose with the valve open. Since I had already put into my Nalgene a lot of the water from the creek I had carried up and filtered the previous night while blog writing, I decided to go ahead and make my breakfast shake before getting out of the tent, but when I went to top off the water, I noticed my water bag was a lot less full. So yeah, I had filtered all that water before bed and then just let most of it leak onto the ground overnight. So part of packing up included finding my way down to the creek in the dark and collecting some more water, this much more full of sediment than what I’d had the night before.

I got on the trail by 6:30, and there was a lot of hill climbing. The morning breeze felt really nice as the sun rose, but I felt my energy rapidly wane. I was struggling to pull myself up hill after hill for the last 30 minutes to my first snack break. I filtered another liter of the dirty water to drink immediately and tossed the rest of the dirty water on the ground on purpose. The next few miles felt a lot better without that extra water weight.

After coming over another hill, I spotted Jennifer and Deluxe coming onto the trail a half mile ahead of me. They had shortcutted around me, taking a road as they were oft wont to do. So I picked up the pace to try to catch them, and they must have really been moving out, because what followed was mostly uphill, beginning the steep climb up to Sierra Madre from the Deep Jack trailhead. I didn’t even see them again until I came to the next water source. I wanted an easy, clear collection from the next major source, so I passed them by. To keep up the momentum I’d had while chasing those two, I tossed the water in my bag and kept hiking another half hour up the hill.

Later, I took my second break to snack and filter water on a log beside the road the trail had joined. The duo passed me there a half hour later. I started climbing after them ten minutes after that, but it was a very steep bit of trail again, and I didn’t see them again until I caught them having lunch at the top of a big climb.

I passed them again and kept walking until my lunchtime, going up an alternate road to the top of a hill and finding a rock with some trees around to provide some protection from the intense wind coming over the hill. Halfway through my meal break, I saw Jennifer pass by on the same alternate. I didn’t catch either of them on the trail again that day.

A mile from that point, I came up to the summit of Bridger Peak, a windy pile of rocks with a radio tower that just barely exceeds 11000 feet in elevation, marking the first time in more than two weeks I had reached such heights.

From there it was mostly downhill and mostly uninteresting to the highway, which I reached about 4pm. By 4:45, the fifth or so vehicle gave me a ride in, driven by Dave with passenger Deryl. Deryl wasn’t shy, but Dave wanted to do most of the talking, and he had plenty to say about the area we drove through. They dropped me off in Riverside at the Lazy Acres RV Park.

I got myself a 12 dollar tent site, but left my pack on the porch of the office because it was about to rain and I didn’t want to set up in the rain. I went to the grocery store to get a few things. It was pouring rain the whole time I was in there. I dashed across the street, running between the raindrops to stay dry, and eventually found myself in the Bear Trap Cafe. Jennifer and Deluxe were there too so I joined them and ordered some pizza and beer. Very spicy pizza.

Those two hadn’t decided their lodging arrangements but they had zero interest in tenting while in town. So when we left, they were headed into Encampment leaving me alone in Riverside. I went back to the RV Park to set up my tent and start my laundry. My pack was completely soaked from the storm and some of the things inside were wet. I guess I should have taken it inside instead of trusting the porch roof.

Anyway, I set up my tent, ran back to the cafe for quarters, and started doing laundry. There was no 4G cell service in Riverside and the campground wifi was not strong enough to upload photos, so once I had my second load in the dryer, I went back to the cafe, which was still barely open for the last few straggling drinkers at the bar. I had started suffering from hiccups while laying out my bedding in my tent earlier and was very sleepy, so I ordered a root beer. And then another. And then they just brought me a pitcher. When I finished the whole thing, the last straggler was gone, making me the last, so I cashed out and left too. But I did get two posts uploaded.

When I got back, my second load was done drying, and it was the warm clothes, so I changed into it and went to bed. I kept working on blog until videos had finished uploading over slow campground wifi, basically midnight, then went to sleep.

Trail miles: 18.8

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

CDT WY Section 5

Day 124: Piped Spring

I slept in again after waking up because of how late I had gotten to bed. I was packing up in the 9 o’clock hour this time. I found the pond I had camped near and pulled a bag of water out of it. It wasn’t much and there was nowhere to hang it to filter, so I hiked out after 10 with an empty water bladder, a 3/4 full dirty reservoir, and a Nalgene full of breakfast smoothie.

It was all road walking for the first couple of hours, and mostly uphill to cross the divide at Bridger Pass. This was the strangest “pass” I’ve ever gone over, as it was more like the top of a hill in the middle of a wide valley than a low point in a ridgeline. I took a midday break just after this when I passed a row of tall bushes just off the road. I had a nice little break in the shade and could filter the water I had carried out of camp hanging it from a bush.

More roadwalking ensued. I reached the first bridge over Muddy Creek around 3, which was a good time for lunch given my late start. I kicked the cows out from under the bridge and took over. Firstly, I had already drank all the water from the morning, so I needed that creek water. In spite of the name, the creek was more silty than muddy, and it filtered clear without clogging my filter. An hour later, I was procrastinating getting started again when a couple of hikers came over the bridge above me yelling about how the water looked good. I decided to catch them up and find out if I knew them.

I packed up and chased them for nearly 2 miles, catching them when they stopped for a break at the next bridge over the creek. They were Jennifer and Deluxe. I had not met them before as they had been hiking behind me. I told them about my immediate shortcut plans and passed them by.

In another couple of miles, I crossed the last Muddy Creek bridge, then took a hard left off the trail and onto a well-worn cow track. This was straight-up trespass, but it was an opportunity to cut 3 miles off of the trail while also getting out of a boring roadwalk with lots of hill climbs.

The first little bit was tricky. Once I got around the hill the road had opted to climb, I had to jump across the river in its ravine, step over a cow fence at the one spot (in the river ravine) where it wasn’t barbed, jump back over the river to be able to easily follow it upstream to where I needed to leave it, jump back over it (the hardest trick because its ravine was some 7 feet deep here, so I needed to find a spot where I could climb down, jump over, and climb back out again all without getting my feet wet), then finally set out overland toward the draw I wanted to climb and the stream that flowed out of it.

The stream was easily spotted by a dense patch of tall bushes it ran beside. I saw them and decided it was supper time. I didn’t think it likely I’d find as shady a spot for some time. I was only half right about that. I took an hour on the ground hidden in the bushes to get through dinner, then hiked up the draw filtering the stream.

This was an easy cross-country jaunt. I could walk right next to the stream when the sagebrush got too thick, or I could take a direct route straight over the flatter, clearer sections. Sometimes, I could just follow cow tracks and not think. One place, the stream got shallow and wide enough to dunk my sleeves in. It was nearly 7, but it was still pretty warm out.

Eventually, I reached a bridge and another fence. This one had a metal gate. It was chained and locked shut, but I could pull it open enough to squeeze through and step over the chain.

And now I was on a nice, clear two-track road and would be until I had climbed out of the draw and crossed to the road the CDT followed again. It was easy, smooth sailing. Without it, I still would have saved some time over taking the official road, but with it, I could save a lot of time. And this road went through some of the best looking areas I’d seen in the basin. There were a couple of actual trees and a number of excellent camp sites if I had the gall to camp overnight on private land.

I should mention that every little bit of this detour involved cows. Constant cow encounters. But this last little bit was the only part with cows that actually came up behind me and got closer as I passed. Not stalking close, but maybe standing guard close? Every earlier and later encounter, they just scattered at my approach.

Anyway, it was pretty dark by the time I reached the main road and the CDT, about 8:20, so I stopped to put on my headlamp. I had another half mile to go to the piped spring, which I reached about 8:40. But not before meeting a late night porcupine up close.

I dropped my pack in a nice sheltered campsite and took my water bag into the spring enclosure to collect some of the best water anywhere in the basin. It could filter while I set up camp and while I slept. It wasn’t a cold night, so I left it hanging from the bush all night. I was in bed by 9:30 and off to sleep an hour later. No excuse for sleeping in until 8 the next morning.

Trail miles: 20.1 (only about 17 walked)

Distance to Encampment: 38.5 miles

CDT WY Section 5

Day 123: Emigrant Creek

I woke up far earlier than I wanted to. I tried to sleep in some even after the sun rose, even crawling out of my sleeping bag to try to get another hour’s nap on top of it, but the rising sun eventually made even that unbearably warm, so I gave up and started packing.

I noticed the outside of my tent had ants crawling on it, and so did my pack and everything. A lot of the packing up process was about brushing ants off of things. I had no idea I had set up so near an ant colony. It’s not one of those things you can tell in the dark.

I started hiking somewhere around 8:45. I encountered a big rattler a little after 11 climbing up to the edge of the rim. The road dropped steeply down the side of the rim into a lower valley, arriving at a very popular picnic pavilion. It was occupied by two fellow sobos, Side Quest and Safety Inspector, and a bikepacker I didn’t meet because I headed straight for the privy and spent an hour there and he was gone when I returned.

My sleepiness meant I wasn’t super motivated to hike, but neither were the other hikers. They intended to nap under the pavilion until late afternoon, then do big miles under cover of dark instead. Given how hot the days and cool the nights, it did seem likely big miles were far more likely at night, though they were hinting at doing something like 50 miles to finish out the basin all at one shot. I had much more modest goals, but I did sit under there with them chatting for a couple of hours over lunch. I hiked out again around 2.

After a bit more roadwalk, the trail joined a mostly unsigned cross-country section. I managed to stay the course for a mile or so, and then I dropped off the trail into a deep ravine for a break. The high wall of the ravine provided some afternoon shade. When I left the ravine, I found it hard to continue overland, so I dropped back into the ravine to cross the plain. I kept trying to set a course by comparing the landscape to the topo map, but I got confused between some landmarks and wound up near the highway instead. I gave up on staying in the easement and just walked down the highway a couple of miles until I reached the road that the trail joined after the cross-country section.

A few miles down this road, I came to a big pond full of wildlife. I needed the water, so I decided to have dinner there while it filtered. In addition to the cows, ducks, and beavers, I encountered a number of mosquitos. I stopped carrying DEET because I thought the season was over, but I got bit by a few of the late season stragglers while pulling water out of the pond.

It was just after sunset when I set off down the road again, intending to reach the next pond. The whole time I was walking into the setting sliver of moon until it set too, leaving me walking into the cold wind with the milky way shining on my left and the big dipper on my right. It was a few more hours, 6 miles, to the last good pond along the road, and I found a nice flat, dirt spot around 10, in bed by 11.

Trail miles: 19.1

Distance to Encampment: 58.6 miles

CDT WY Section 5

Day 122: Coal Mine Draw

I was up until the wee hours of the morning the night before just soaking in the tub, so I slept in as late as I could. I didn’t bother picking up the grab n go hotel breakfast. I just stayed in my room and finished the cake and the chips and whatnot I had left over from my Walmart shopping spree.

Maids came banging on my door at 11 and 12. Turns out the night clerk lady hadn’t recorded or told anyone about my request to checkout at 1pm even though she said she would. (She also had a habit of chilling in the lobby recliners instead of waiting behind the desk. Probably not the way you’re supposed to man a hotel desk.)

Anyway, I left my room finally a little after noon to run over to the grocery store next door and get some razors. I came back and shaved and packed and left my room by 1 as promised. But I didn’t have time to wax my mustache.

I didn’t leave the hotel right away. I spent a few minutes doing something blog related on the business center computer, then called the town bus service for a pickup to take me to the post office. The old man said fifteen minutes, but he was there in five. I was the only one besides him on the bus and didn’t even need a mask.

The post office was on the other end of town, a mile and a half away from the hotel. So I told the bus driver I intended to stay at this end for the rest of the day, and I did. I got my box from the post office and there was way too much food in it. I took nearly an hour on the bench in front to pack up as much of it as I could. Then I carried the trash up the street and stuffed it bit by bit into the tiny aperture of one of the city’s downtown area trash cans. (Note: Rawlins hardly feels like a Wyoming town. It’s as big as place like Yreka, a full service interstate town. But it does have a very cute pedestrian-friendly downtown district, with little covered picnic areas on the street corners and all kinds of shops and restaurants.)

I walked on past the Thai restaurant I had been looking forward to having lunch at because it was closed until the next day and carried the food I couldn’t pack up to the motel on the main drag where I knew there was a hiker box in the lobby. Then I came back down the next street over looking for a place to have a good meal and settled on a sports bar restaurant called Buck’s because I liked the eclectic music it was broadcasting into the sidewalk.

I sat at the bar, ordered a beer and a wild hamburger with egg sandwiches for buns and onion rings, and set about working on the blog. But that didn’t end up happening, as the pair sitting next to me at the bar were extremely chatty, so I gave up on working and decided to be social. Conrad and Aerin were trapped in Rawlins following a car breakdown during a cross-country road trip. It was a hoot chatting with them through dinner and I hope they see this post.

It was 5 in the afternoon by the time I finished lunch and I still had laundry and blogging to do. I walked to the nearest laundromat and did both of those things at once over the next couple of hours. I was also getting sleepy, so I bought a bunch of caffeine drinks across the street.

It was dark out when I finished, so I packed up and walked back towards the trail with my headlamp on. As much as I wanted to get some sushi at the Japanese restaurant next door, I needed to get out of town or I’d end up zeroing there. So I bought some drinks and a gas station sandwich, and started walking.

There were only two roads going to the other side of the railroad tracks. I tried to go over the closest one, but it was a long bridge that specifically banned pedestrian access, so I had to go all the way back through downtown to the road where the CDT officially crossed the tracks. It ended up being worth it though because there was a fun community art gallery in the pedestrian tunnel under the tracks.

From here, the trail just went down some neighborhood streets (where at one point a local in a truck asked if I needed water–I guess they’re used to hikers leaving at night) and onto a highway that passed under the interstate and ran off into the desert. The trail left this highway after a mile, taking a dirt road that seemed increasingly washed out that ran parallel to and above the highway. It was nearly midnight by the time I reached a spot I deemed far enough from the city to camp, but even there I could hear the trains going by over the hill. But the important thing is that, even though I just pitched my tent right next to the road, there wasn’t any traffic, and I slept well for what little remained of the night.

Trail miles: 4.2

Distance to Encampment: 77.7 miles