* I’ve made it to Rawlins
* I’m gonna take a zero here to give my body some recovery time
* OMG! This trail!!!
Last Sunday I got into Riverton airport, and then grabbed a shuttle into Lander with a bunch of high school kids about to embark on 30-90 day wilderness excursions through NOLS (which is apparently headquartered in Lander).
Lander is an AWESOME trail town, and I’m glad I’ll be ending my hike back there if everything goes as planned. Among the many neat things about Lander, they happen to have free, encouraged camping in their city center park! I ended up bivying there for Sunday night. On Monday, I walked into town, bought some supplies to get me through 6 days of hiking, grabbed breakfast, and hitched down to the trail.
I have to say the quality of the hitch may have influenced my opinion of Lander. The only place I’ve hitched from in less time has been New Zealand. From the road leading out of Lander, it took about 10 minutes of waiting before an F350 hauling a 13,500 lb camper picked me up. An hour of driving later, and I was left on the side of the road, heading south through the Great Divide Basin.
There are very few places I’ve been to that are capable of giving you this sense of scale. When walking on the dirt or sand roads of the basin, you can look in any direction and see quite far until the haze of the wind-swept dirt destroys visibility. You can walk for what seems like forever without reaching anything new on the horizon. The only real passage of time is the intensity of the Sun, and the oscillation in wind speed.
I started during a full moon, so it never got truly dark this past week. Which makes hiking possible from 4 AM through 9:30 PM (if one so chooses). The real indicator of night is when the coyote howls fill the air and the cows commence their noisy, melodious ruminations.
The first several days of hiking were COLD. I was in all my layers until about 3 PM, wishing for warmer, less windy weather. Shortly, the trail’s gods granted my wish throwing 90 degree heat my way with long-ass water carries.
It’s not lonely out here; there are dozens of mule deer for companionship, and even more cows. Oh are there cows. And ticks. Tick checks have become a kind of dance that is performed while traipsing across the Crudely Developed Trail, after diving through the sage brush and grass.
From 50 mile per hour winds, threatening to steal my tarp for use as a kite, to sweltering heat with no trees for 80 miles — it’s been an amazing week! All in all, the CDT is a pretty Cool Darn Trail, even though this section is more accurately described as Constantly Dodging Ticks or gaining a high Cow-Dung Tolerance.
While the cows have been the most frequent fauna I’ve encountered, I’ve run into a surprising number of NOBO thru-hikers (two, in fact). The first one was an older, retired Austrian that had done 3000 miles of hiking this year before jumping on the CDT. He loves road walks around snow, and just walks into and out of towns, letting his feet guide him wherever is interesting. Once he finishes this trail he’s off to hike around the Annapurna Circuit. Good luck!
The other NOBO was dismayed to learn that he was not in fact the first NOBO of the season. A young 20(?) year old with a desire for adventure and no trail name to call on. He seemed disheartened to learn that the Wind River Range he was rapidly heading toward likely held more snow than the Colorado sections of the trail he had bypassed with some highway walking.
But Why roaming? Because It feels good to be back on trail, and to find the old grooves of excitement, frustration, and awe to slide back in to. I am rapidly gaining a new appreciation for this trail due to how different it is for every single person hiking it. There are likely no two hikers in a given year that will see all the same sections of trail. From snow, to floods, to wildfires, the CDT suggests a path that might exist, but like one of many broken trail markers, it is ephemeral and changing and probably takes you somewhere else.
I’m zeroing in Rawlins to give my body some time to recover. Between long water carries and needing to seek shelter from the wind to pitch a tarp, I certainly did not ease into this hike. I have already done two days with close to 30 miles of hiking. I’m next headed to Encampment for a resupply, and I have constructed a new, non-road walk route into Colorado where I’ll resupply at Steamboat Springs.
With love and excitement,
(I’m with full cell and Internet June 18th during my zero 🙂 ).