Friday, August 30, 2013

August 29, 2013

August 29, 2013
6 miles North of Georgia pass to Breckenridge
26 miles

It was an early morning today. With my limited remaining food I wanted to get an early start and get to Breckenridge as soon as possible so I could binge on food!

The miles to Georgia Pass were a little dark and a little up/down along the divide, but once there it was smooth sailing along the Colorado Trail (CT) to Breckenridge. At the beginning of the shared trail section I ran into a CT hiker from Pagosa Springs, CO and gained some valuable intel about the bus from the pass into Breckenridge, most importantly that it was free! I love me some free public transportation, especially when it eliminates my need to hitch a ride.

My meager rations for the day included granola for breakfast (~500 calories), one CLIF Builder Bar (270 calories), one CLIF Bar (250 calories), two Nature Valley granola bars(2x 190 calories), and one packet of powdered Gatorade mix (~200 calories). Needless to say, it was not an ideal situation, especially when you need to hike 26 miles to get to more food. The last few miles I definitely felt sluggish. What's life without a little bit of a challenge?

Once in town I ate all but one slice if a large deluxe veggie pizza, complete with avocado. It was amazing and felt so good to feel completely full. After the food binge I made my way to the Fireside Inn where I procured a room for the night. Also staying at the inn were a couple of CT hikers, one going each direction. The older gentleman, Shamrock, was only doing a section of the trail, but was close to completing the entire thing. After finishing the section to Cooper Mtn tomorrow he was driving back to his home in Cheyenne, WY. The other hiker, Venture, was from Arizona and I'd guess he was about my age. He had about 100 miles left to get the the NE terminus on the outskirts of Denver. The three if us talked trail for a while before going a out our own business.

After taking care of my town chores, I reconnected with Venture and we walked down to the Breckenridge Brewery for a beer. Turns out, like most long distance hikers, he is an interesting guy. We talked about the high cost of housing and how much more economically one coil live out of a trailer or a van, the latter of which Venture was planning to do after finishing his hike. Apparently there is a subculture of folks who just park their trailers on National Forest land and live there rather than deal with house payments or rent. The idea is somewhat appealing to me in the freedom it allows. Similar to a hiker, it is easy to pick up and move from one locale to another without having to deal with selling a house or having a moving truck full of all your stuff. It would certainly provide a finite limit for possessions, perhaps not a bad thing, as long as my skis fit inside :)


Thursday, August 29, 2013

August 28, 2013

August 28, 2013
Grays Peak TH to just off the divide 6 miles North of Georgia Pass
22 miles

Today started off awesome. Beautiful blue sky, a fourteener waiting to be climbed, and fresh legs after a good nights sleep. The climb certainly wasn't easy but man was it worth it. I met another guy at the top from Portland East (Maine). He was out seeing some sights and showing his buddies around, but apparently they all bailed on the climb the night before, afraid of the altitude. 

I thought Grays Peak was going to be the hard part of the day. Boy was I wrong. The ridge/saddle between Grays Peak and Mt Edwards turned out to be harder than climbing Grays. Then there was a nice ridge walk before dropping down from Argentine Pass to a valley, where I was able to get more water, then a short downhill before heading back up to the divide for another 14+ miles along the divide until hitting Georgia Pass and descending to a valley once again. My legs were definitely feeling the mornings climb(s) as the uphill to the divide was trying. Once back on the divide, I wasn't. Turned out I took a wrong turn and ended up about 1/2 mile from where I should have been. After getting back on track it was more up to over 13,000 again and rolling ups and downs along the divide. It was exhausting. 

After a few more miles, and really wanting to get to Georgia Pass and off the divide, it turns out the weather had other plans for me. Around 4:30 there was thunder overhead and a bit of rain starting so I decided it was time to find a relatively low spot (not directly on the divide) and wait out the storm. Boy am I glad I set up my tent. There was lightning as close as 3 seconds away (.6 miles) and it has been hovering about 1 mile from me since. It is now 5:45 and still raining so I think I'm going to just call it a day and get an early start tomorrow. Colorado weather be crazy. It leaves me with 26 miles to get to the road where there is a bus I can catch into Breckenridge. It's going to be a bit right on fuel (food) but I should make it just fine. I see a large pizza, giant salad, and tub of ice cream in my future. At least for my first town meal :)

Haiku for Colorado:
So you have a plan?
Lightning flash, thunder crashes.
Better luck next time!

August 27, 2013

August 27, 2013
Bill Moore Lake to Grays Peak TH
33 miles

Today started out just as I had hoped with clear blue skies and plentiful sunshine. It also turned out to be a day of ups and downs, literally. The first miles of the day took me from the basin where the lake was located up along side Breckenridge Peak and then directly over Mt Flora at 13,132'. Then after a short stint on the ridge, the trail descended to Berthoud Pass (11,300'). Of course the trail then went back up to Stanley Mtn, then dropped 1000', before climbing as it wound its way around up and down along the divide to an unnamed peak at 13,215', then dropped to around 10,300' at the Herman Gulch Trailhead. After a 6 mile jaunt along a road, I finally made it to camp at the Grays Peak Trailhead just before it started raining at 7:30. 

Fortunately I was able to take advantage of the sun this morning and dried out all my gear. Hopefully it will stay that way tonight, but there is some pretty serious rain accompanied by thunder and lightning once again. As long as it clears up by morning I will be A-OK with the evening rain. 

Also of interest (to me at least) I have been thinking a lot about food, but not in the usual thru-hiker manner. I finished listening to  "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan yesterday and it has become more clear to me that the calories I consume while on trail can really not be classified as food, at least not in the way that Pollan defines food. Instead, I am merely providing fuel for my engine to continue hiking a little further south each day, one mile at a time. Slightly depressing, but the circumstance just makes me appreciate 'real food' even more when I have the opportunity (usually in town) to enjoy it. I also seem to be a little shy of calories this section (oops) so that isn't making all this high elevation business any easier. Tomorrow, in fact, I will be hitting the highest point on the trail, Grays Peak, at an elevation of 14, 270'.

August 26, 2013

August 26, 2013
Near Lonesome Peak to Bill Moore Lake
29 miles

The weather in Colorado sure has been fickle. She's a beauty, but she must know she's beautiful because she has some craziness (weather-wise) to go along with the beauty. And we put up with the crazy to be in the presence of her magnificence. 

The day started off about the same as any other, some mellow hiking. A little up a little down and some walking along the divide. Just before descending from the divide there was one more big up and over to accomplish. Of course this was also when the clouds started to darken and crowd James Peak where the trail was headed. It looked like there was a slight break in the clouds so I decided to go for it. It seems that usually sooner is better than later when it comes to threatening weather. About 200 vertical feet shy of the top I heard the first humble of thunder. By that point after already climbing over 1000' I was committed and wasn't going to turn around for anything short of lightning, which I hadn't seen. I pushed myself at the fastest pace I could maintain in the thin 13,000' air. I made it up and over as the thunder sounded like it was getting closer. Not long into the descent came the rain. This wasn't a Pacific Northwest drizzle either, it was torrential rain sometimes becoming a stinging hail. As the thunder crashed all around me (I never saw lightning) and the trail turned to a brown river I continued to descend through a fog bank with only the faint appearance of the next cairn and the trail immediately under my feet to guide me. After dropping about 1500' the storm seemed to have passed by and the rain lightened up a bit. A mile or two further down another storm rolled through drenching me once again. Just before this second drenching I saw something that was perhaps more terrifying than the storm. Around a small bend in the trail I saw the back end of a cougar running down the trail ahead of me. Far enough not to be terrifying, but closer than I ever really like to be to that large of a cat. 

After a couple hours without rain it has once again returned and I can see flashes of lightning and hear the rumble of thunder from the relatively safe confines of my tent. From what I remember of the forecast today was supposed to be the worst for T-storms and I'm hoping that's the case. Amazing how a thunderstorm can make me appreciate the sun. Here's hoping for sunny skies in the morning!

August 25, 2013

August 25, 2013
Grand Lake, CO to Near Lonesome Peak
20 miles

Per usual I had a hard time getting myself to leave town. The 10am checkout was my deadline so I started hiking then. The first miles of the day were nice and flat following the East side of Grand Lake, then Shadow Lake Reservoir, Columbine Bay, and then Grand Bay. It was kind f fun to see people in boats in the various lakes waterskiing, wake boarding, or just enjoying the nice day. Reminded me a little of going out on Oswego Lake with the Trumbulls. 

The part just after Grand Bay, up and over Knight Ridge, was a total nightmare. Downed trees everywhere along and across the "trail", although I would have been hard pressed to find the trail for a good portion of that mess. 

After getting through the worst of it, the hiking was pleasant once again as I dropped down toward the South end of Arapaho Bay. After a short road walk the trail found it's way along Monarch Lake before ascending the ridge to where I am camped tonight. 

How fitting that I am camped by Lonesome Peak tonight all by my self. Not that I am feeling lonely, but I certainly am alone. Nothing wrong with a little solitude.

August 24, 2013

August 24, 2013
Somewhere on the divide to Grand Lake, CO
~31 miles

With the early bedtime last night due to the storm, I awoke at 5am, a half hour before my alarm. I decided I might as well get things going and went through my usual routine getting on trail at 6:15. 

The hiking today was pretty straightforward nothing particularly exciting to speak of, but it did give me the opportunity to finish listening to The Icarus Deception. The basis of the book is that our Westernized industrial culture has indoctrinated us to be careful not to fly too close to the sun, lest the wax holding our wings to our backs fall off. The result being we as a society have gone to the opposite extreme and are flying far too low, so low that we may crash into the ocean. What this means in terms of today's world is that we have been taught to fit in, try not to stand out, and don't draw attention to yourself. Just do your job, produce more widgets, and receive that steady paycheck. In contrast, the author Seth Godin, wants us to shun this culture of complacency and dare to be different. Stand out and be heard, even if you don't change the world on your first attempt. The key is to keep at "it" (it being variable depending on your field of interest) and make a difference to your audience, but don't try to please everyone because it's not possible without sacrificing your particular art/gift/talent that only you can bring to the world. Don't be afraid to fail! Just make sure you try again and again until it works. 

It certainly has me thinking about my own past and future and how I can apply the knowledge to my life. There are plenty of things that I have in my mind that I want to do at some point in my life, for example write and publish a book. I don't know what the topic will be yet, but just putting something of myself out into the world, exposing a portion of me to total strangers not knowing whether people will respond to it. Don't know if you don't try!

Grand lake is a cool little resort type town with one main avenue (Grand Ave) with restaurants, shops, and motels. It was a busy place this evening as I got into town being Saturday and all. I was a me to find a room and take care of all my town chores so I can get back to hiking tomorrow morning.

August 23, 2013

August 23, 2013
Before Arapaho Creek to somewhere on the divide 
24 miles (+bonus)

Today was a hell of a day. It started off innocently enough with clear skies and mild temperatures, but things would not remain that way. 

The fits miles of the day were nice enough, up a little and then down to the creek before once again ascending to the divide. The trail then meandered along the divide for a while and I caught up to Bert, who had left town a little before me yesterday.  Just after passing Bert, I apparently made a wrong turn and ended up going the wrong direction. By the time I check the GPS I was already 2.5 miles from the trail and therefore not in a good mood. I made my way back to the trail (2.5 hour detour total) and proceeded to hike in the correct direction this time. After another few miles and a decent climb to get back on the divide after dropping down to get water, ominous looking clouds started to take over the sky. By this time I was already on an exposed ridge and so did my best to pick up the pace in order to make it over the high point of the ridge and back down to lower ground with trees before the excitement began. It was a tough climb to the lookout on top of the peak at 12,300' but I made it before the weather hit. Not too long into the descent off the ridge it started to thunder and rain. The rain increased in intensity off and on and I was drenched in no time. After hiking another couple miles and dropping more elevation the weather was not improving and I was getting cold so I decided to set up camp at 5:45. Way early under normal conditions, but the way things were it was the smart thing to do. As I lay in my tent the lightning-thunder gap got as close as 3 seconds away (about 0.6 miles).  The rain is still falling as of 6:50 so I don't think I'll be going anywhere the rest of the night. There is still an occasional rumble of thunder but the lightning seems to have moved past. This is the most rain I have seen since the first week up in Glacier NP. I suppose it was only a matter of time.

August 22, 2013

August 22, 2013
Rabbit Ears Pass to 2 miles before Arapaho Creek
29 miles

After another subpar, but free, continental breakfast at the motel I packed up my things and made my way to the the highway. I took the free bus to the edge of town and proceeded to try to hitch a ride. Within about 5 minutes I had success! The guys name was James and he was in town to watch the race yesterday. He was on his way to Beavercreek to catch the next stage as well but was kind enough to take a different route to get there in order to take me up to Rabbit Ears Pass. He said he had some hitch hiking karma to repay for the hitching he has done in his world travels. I think James was about 30 and is taking a year away from teaching high school to travel and figure out what he wants to do for work because apparently teaching isn't it. 

As for the hiking, it was a subpar first half of the day. About 3 miles along the busy CO Hwy 40, followed by another 9 miles along the less busy Hwy 14, and then a dirt road for the remainder of the day. The dirt road was actually pretty nice and I am once again in the mountains and on the divide at 11,350'. Along the way I met a couple of section hikers. Their names are Rockstar and Medicare Pastor. Rockstar is probably in her mid-30's, and has previously hiked the PCT. she also works at VVR in the summer and gets to see and meet lots of the PCTers as they come through. Medicare Pastor is 72 years young and has section hiked both the AT and PCT. She is working on the CDT now and hopes to finish in a couple of years, since she only (ha!) hikes about 400-600 miles per year. 

I also started listening to a book called "The Icarus Deception" by Seth Godin. It is pretty interesting so far, the topic being the change in what is valued in the workforce in post-industrial society. More on that as I listen further. 

Toward the end of the day as I climbed higher on a ridge, a thunderstorm was approaching so I ended up setting up camp at 6:45, about an hour earlier than I was planning, so I could be safe and dry as the rain, thunder, and small amount of lightning rolled through. 

August 21, 2013

August 21, 2013
Zero day in Steamboat Springs, CO

I had the luxury of sleeping in this morning until 8am before waking up naturally and heading to the lobby for the complimentary continental breakfast. It wasn't anything special but it did save me a trip to a restaurant as well as money. As I was heading back to my room I bumped into Bert in the lobby! He arrived after me last night and decided that he was going to take a zero. With this new information I asked if he would mind splitting the cost of a room. He didn't have a problem with it so we secured lodging for the night and went to our respective rooms to gather our things and go to the new room. 

During the day I was able to get my laundry done, buy food for the next section, and even pick up a new pair of shoes. My old ones have been giving me problems, but maybe that's what I get for buying shoes that were 80% off. 

With the USA Pro Challenge coming through today the town of Steamboat was a little bit crazier than normal. I wandered through the downtown area (where the race finished) to check things out and also got to do some great people watching. The race finally came into town around 4:30 and it was amazing to see the lead group fly by just before the sprint to the finish. 

The rest of the day was spent watching some TV and catching up on some current events. Man, what is wrong with the world?! Poison gas in Syria, another gun related incident at a school, republican still in denial about climate change... I'm sure glad to be sheltered from the news for the most part. 

Tomorrow it's back to the trail and on towards Grand Lake. Rocky Mountain National Park is only a few days away!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

August 20, 2013

August 20, 2013
Three Mile Lake Trail to Rabbit Ears Pass
38 miles
I can't remember the last time that I willingly woke up at 4am, but that is exactly what I did this morning.  After my usual morning breakfast routine and packing up I was on trail at 4:50am and on my way.  After a short downhill and roadwalk to a trailhead I entered the Mt Zirkel Wilderness.  As soon as the wilderness began, so did the climbing.  It was 3400' elevation gain over about 8 or 9 miles to 11,900'.  I was glad to have started early because the morning was a comfortable temperature for the climb.  I reached the top of the climb at 8:30, hiked past a few llamas and their owners, and took a break around 9am after about 4 hours and 12 miles of hiking. 
Most of the rest of the day was spent hiking along a ridge on the divide and I must say that so far Colorado has been pretty great.  I ran into a fair amount of people out and about either for a hiking or backpacking with smiles on their faces as  big as the blue sky above and shining like the sun.  Around 10am I bumped into a NOBO thru-hiker who was headed to the Mt Zirkel TH for the night to meet his wife and pick up a resupply.  I mentioned that I was headed to Rabbit Ears Pass for the night to get into Steamboat Springs in time for dinner and hopefully get some town chores taken care of.  He looked up as he did the mental math of how much further it was to the pass and remarked that it was another 23-24 miles (which I was well aware) and also had the gall to say, "I don't think you'll make it."  I must admit that I was a bit taken aback by his comment.  It was the first time I had come across anyone on the trail who was pessimistic about my ability to do what I aimed to do, let alone another thru-hiker! There wasn't much left to say so we wished each other luck and then headed on in our respective directions.  Secretly inside I was fired up.  How dare the negative-Nancy naysay my abilities.  I mean, what a Debbie-downer.  All it really did was stele my resolve to make it to the pass to prove him wrong (not that he will ever know) and to prove to myself that I could in fact do it. 
Along the way, around lunc I also ran into a couple of older ladies from Steamboat out for a day hike with beaming smiles and who were incredulous of my journey along the CDT.   There was also a mother and daughter with their dog out for a day hike who informed me that there is the USA Pro Cycling Challenge race even taking place in Colorado and one of the stages is even finishing in Steamboat tomorrow!  Could be a little bit crazy in town, but it's generally fun to be around big athletic events so it should be interesting.  They were also kind enought to give me a couple homemade brownies after hearing about my planned mileage for the day and the trek in general.  I thanked them and headed on my way.  Once getting to Buffalo Pass another few miles down the trail, the hiking was pretty mellow and easy and I was able to make it to Rabbit Ears Pass by 6:30pm.  So HA! I did it!
It took about 20-30 minutes to get a hitch into Steamboat with a couple of guys who rode the stage yesterday, but were driving to Steamboat to watch the finish of the stage tomorrow.  I am staying at the Rabbit Ears Motel and even made a stop at the local brewery to try some local brew and food.  Delish.  Not sure what my plan is for tomorrow, only time will tell!   

August 19, 2013

August 19, 2013
Ridge to Three Mile Lake Trail
33 miles
Today was another great day of hiking. Pretty easy hiking most of the day, with a few moderate climbs and descents, but it was easy to get 33 by 7:15. 
The big story of the day today was crossing the Wyoming/Colorado border! I am super stoked to have one more state under my belt and am looking forward to the big mountains and big climbs that this state has in store. 
I don't know the exact mileage right now, but I believe I also crossed the 1,500 mile mark today which puts me past the halfway point! Crazy! I can remember how melancholy I felt as I crossed the halfway point on the PCT knowing that it was already half over and the countdown to the finish was then to begin. For the CDT I have a rather different feeling. I am very excited to be halfway through the hike and somehow this feels like more of an accomplishment than halfway along the PCT. I think it has something to do with how much more of a challenge the CDT has been for me mentally. I've already had a pretty low point when in Montana, much lower than any point on the PCT, and have overcome that hurdle, however, there is still a long way to go. I'm looking forward to whatever comes next!
Oh man, just took a look at the maps for the rest of the section and realized I only have 37 miles to get to the pass! I thought there was another 52 miles, which would have been two days easy. Now that I know, I am hatching a plan to get to Rabbit Ears Pass before it gets dark so I can hitch into town tomorrow instead of the following day. Looks like it will be an early start for me tomorrow, but I do like a good challenge :)

August 18, 2013

August 18, 2013
Creeklet to ridge
30.5 miles
Today was a good day. Shade was provided by both trees and clouds for most of the day, which kept the heat down, and the trail once again crossed above 10,000' a couple times today. Much of the hiking was along the divide itself and it appears that Colorado is but a hop, skip, and a jump away. It blows me away that it can be so warm here at 10,000' and there is no snow in sight. It is a stark contrast to the Cascade Range, many of which have glaciers that remain on their flanks or peaks year round. 
I decided not to push hard today since there is no real reason to get anywhere by a certain time. I set up camp at 7pm and am enjoying a longer time in camp than usual. It's quite nice to relax while on trail and have a little extra time in camp before it gets dark. 
I just remembered that this weekend is the spectacular Asai campout at Lost Lake! Oh how nice it would have been to make it this year. Between the wine tasting, potluck, as well as kayaking on the lake, swimming, fishing, picking huckleberries, and maybe a little day hike, there is a good time to be had by all. Perhaps next year I'll get to enjoy it once again. 
But I digress... On to Colorado!

August 17, 2013

August 17, 2013
4 miles north of Muddy Creek to small creeklet
34 miles
I had a hard time getting to sleep last night, I think as a result of staying up late and sleeping in while in Rawlins. Either way, my alarm went off at 5:30am and I started getting ready for the day. A bit of a slow start as I got on trail at 6:30 and made my way to the most important thing on my mind: water. I was able to stretch the 4.5 liters I carried from Rawlins to last me through breakfast this morning, but it was nice to make it to a proper water source to drink as much as I wanted. 
After taking care of my hydration needs it was back to the business of hiking. The terrain was again flat, open, and treeless so the hiking was easy, but the temperatures quickly rose as the sun made its way out from behind the clouds at 9am until clouds once again moved in around 4pm. The last mile or so I also made my way back into some trees! It looks like there is some forested hiking in the near future which I will greatly enjoy for the brief period it will likely last. 
There are about 40 miles until I hit the Colorado border so I'll probably make it there in a couple days. Hard to believe I'm almost through another state! Wyoming has seemingly flown by in comparison to Montana/Idaho. Can't wait to see all that Colorado has in store! I'm looking forward to getting back into the mountains and out of the desert. 

Moonrise ere sunset
Waxing gibbous in blue sky
Stars will join it soon

August 16, 2013

August 16, 2013
Rawlins, WY to 4 miles north of Muddy Creek
30 miles
It's always hard for me to leave the comforts of town, such as a soft warm bed, an air conditioned room, water available straight from the tap with no treatment necessary. To take full advantage of my time in town I slept in until 8am, ate the complimentary breakfast at Penny's Diner next door, and even took another shower before sitting down in front of the TV for an hour or two. 
Checkout was at 11am so I finally left my room about 10:45 and started walking back toward the "trail." My pack was loaded down with 6 days of food to get me through the next 179 miles, as well as 4.5 liters of water to get me through the next 30-34 miles until the next good water source. Needless to say, my pack was heavy this morning. I estimate it to be around 40 lbs, which is the heaviest it has been yet. Not exactly fun to hike with, but luckily the hiking today was very mellow and basically flat. It also got lighter as I consumed the water and snacks along the way. Also of note, I didn't see any people at all today as soon as my feet were once again on dirt road (trail) south of Rawlins. It's kind of strange in a way, but after hiking solo for as long as I have, it's something that I have kind of gotten used to. That being said, I'm always happy to cross paths with people and have a conversation. 
Below are a couple of haikus that sum up the day:
Red road winds along
Puffy white clouds streak the sky 
Sagebrush paints the hills

Thursday, August 15, 2013

August 15, 2013

August 15, 2013
Zero Day in Rawlins, WY

Ahh, how nice not to wake up to an alarm this morning!  After complimentary breakfast at the diner next door I made my way to the PO to pick up my package and also pick up an SD card reader to upload pictures.  After that trip (my major goal for the day) I came back to the hotel to repackage my food and get things mostly packed up to head out early tomorrow morning.  

According to information from other hikers it is 30-35 miles to the next water source that isn't alkaline/saline (gives you the runs) so that will be my goal for the day.  After that I hope to do 30/day to get to Steamboat Springs.  I can't wait to get out of this desert landscape and back to some nice forested hiking, at least for a little while.  I suppose that has something to do with being born and raised in the Northwest.  

One more night in a nice soft bed before heading out and I am going to enjoy every minute of it.  

August 14, 2013

August 14, 2013
3 miles past Bull Spring to Rawlins
~26 miles

Another nice and early morning as I was on trail at 6am.  My goal was just to get to Rawlins in the afternoon early enough to to take care of some town chores so that I would sit back and relax in the evening.  The hiking itself was fairly flat and easy, but it was the first day in the basin where I saw zero clouds in the morning. As soon as the sun rose, it was with me all day without any shade until getting to Rawlins.  It didn't seem to be terribly hot, but just being in the sun for 9 hours is tiring.

I made it to Rawlins around 3pm with plenty of time to get order a pizza, pick up some beer and snacks at the local market, and get a hotel room, in that order.  after satisfying my hiker hunger I took a shower and got started on laundry.  After such a meal I was feeling pretty sleepy but managed to get myself up once more to go to the market to do some resupply shopping.  Then it was back to the room to lounge and stay up later than I should have rotting my brain by watching TV.  

After a fairly long stretch without a zero day I decided that tomorrow I will take a day to hang out and just let my legs rest.  Also helping me make that decision was the fact that I am waiting on a package at the PO that is supposed to arrive tomorrow.  Then back to the trail on Friday and on to Stemaboat Springs, CO! Hard to believe that Colorado is less than a week's hiking away.  Life is good.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

August 13, 2013

August 13, 2013
Hillside near oil field to 3 miles past Bull Spring
~38 miles

I had great ambitions of getting in another 40 mile day and even made it on trail at 5:45am. It was light enough to hike without using a headlamp, but just barely. I usually have a tough time getting myself going in the morning but being up and hiking as the sun rises is one of my favorite parts of thru-hiking, and the weather tends to be cooler as well, which is a boon for a place such as the Great Divide Basin.

It was easy going to Benton spring where I ran into fellow SOBO Bert from Belgium. I've crossed paths with him a few times now over the course of the hike and I must say its nice to see a familiar person every once in a while, even if it's someone I really don't know very well. Bert and I passed each other a few times throughout the day.

So, about that 40 mile goal... Turns out that about 10 miles into the day the trail decided to turn into a sandbox off and on for about 10 miles. That was some frustrating hiking, slipping back a little every step. To add to the difficulty underfoot there was also a lovely thunderstorm that rolled through just as the sandpit was ending. It rained/hailed for a good 30-45 minutes with the occasional thunder, but only one lightning bolt that I saw. It definitely made me hike faster for a while just to stay warm as I was being drenched. Normally I would take cover under some trees, however, the closest thing to a tree was 6" high sagebrush for miles. Long story short, by the time I made 35 miles for the day at Bull Spring I was already feeling spent and really didn't feel up to hiking another five miles, so I didn't. After eating dinner at the spring I hiked for another hour and then set up camp. It leaves me with 25 miles instead of 23 tomorrow so no big deal really. I should still make it in time for dinner and may even get some food resupply shopping done as well. Oh, and I am REALLY looking forward to a shower and laundry. It's been far too long (11 days? & almost 300 miles) since my last shower. Yikes.


August 12, 2013

August 12, 2013
Sweetwater River to Hillside near oil field
~40 miles

Planning on doing 40 miles in a day requires a bit of forethought, at least it does for me. As such I set an alarm to wake up at 5am sou could start hiking before 6am. As soon as I was awake I needed to get up to pee, so I got out of my warm sleeping bag and tent to do so. When I emerged and looked up into the still starry sky I even saw a shooting star! What a great start to the day.

The weather was very cooperative today and provided cloud cover for the majority of the day. There was also a nice breeze that helped keep me cool as well. The first 15 miles to Weasel Spring went quickly and I was there by 10:15. Since this was the only water for the next 30 miles I set up my stove and cooked up a meal that I would otherwise wait until the end of the day to eat. Soon after I arrived a NOBO also showed up by the name of Shea. He apparently had forgotten his water treatment drops at camp a couple day ago and was hoping to run into someone at the spring to borrow treatment from. It was his lucky day because I had just gotten there and Let him borrow my filter. He still had quite a few miles to go to get to South Pass City so I also gave him some of my treatment tablets (MSR Aquatabs) to get him through.

After eating and filtering my own water I set off again around 11:30. For the rest of hiking for the day I got to listen to more of Angels and Demons (audiobook) and a variety of music. It was nice to have some distraction from the very open and expansive great divide basin.

Just after 5pm as I was hiking along I snuck a peak behind me to see if any vehicles were coming down the dirt road that is the trail since I had earbuds in and couldn't necessarily hear one coming. Usually it reveals nothing unexpected, just the road I have just trod, but his time there was a jeep. I did my usual routine and started walking alongside the road instead of in the middle of it to allow the jeep to pass and continue on its way. To my surprise the jeep pulled up along side and the folks inside asked if I needed anything. That of course depended on what they had, so I asked and was rewarded with baby carrots, blueberries, a diet coke, a hard boiled egg, string cheese, Cheetos, pita chips, and potato chips! What a delightful surprise and my first trail magic from trail angels in the state of Wyoming. Tom and Laura Paul are from New York State and have been coming out to Wyoming for the past 40 years. They have grown tired of the overcrowded national park attractions, preferring instead to spend their time in "wide open spaces" as the put it. Much to the benefit of CDT hikers because they also like to drive part of the great divide basin and offer treats to whoever they come across. Lucky me! They also mentioned that it is currently the Perseid meteor shower as well as debris from some comet so there should be lots of meteors tonight, assuming it clears off. Too late for me to stay up, but maybe I'll catch some in the morning.

After that wonderful surprise and a nice chat with the couple, they had to be moving on and I still had about 7-8 miles to hike to make 40
for the day. I got my tent setup at 8:30 and am now enjoying a lemon drop courtesy of 12 Oz. cheers!


August 11, 2013

August 11, 2013
9 miles outside South Pass City to Sweetwater River
~24 miles

The morning miles were fairly easy and passed relatively quickly. I ran into an older gentleman out for a walk and talked with him for a while, answering some questions about the hike, before going on my way. I wanted to be rude and tell him I urgently wanted to get to town, but really there was no hurry so I stayed as long as he wanted to talk.

Once in South Pass City (barely even a town) I proceeded to the general store/post office to pickup my packages. This maildrop was particularly exciting because I received a care package from my friend who I hiked with for 2200 miles of the PCT! There were some I interesting items in the box which made for a nice surprise. In fact I enjoyed a trail cocktail tonight courtesy of 12 Oz. Prost: to happy hour no matter where you are! Also arriving today was an iPod. Mine has sadly seen better days and can now only charge halfway and be activated via voice control. I look forward to a variety I music and audiobooks now that I have some new tunes!

While in South Pass City, while charging my devices at the store I ended up taking a tour of the Carissa Mine, which is the reason the town was established in the first place. It was Fun to learn about the history of the place and see how the mine used to run. The mine itself was 45 stories deep, although the majority of that is under water at the current time.

After a good 5.5 hours in "town" I finally made my way back out to the trail. This stretch is going to be a dry one so I wanted to make it to the next reliable water by nightfall to cook dinner. It was pretty easy hiking along a road for the most part, and with the new tunes and stories to listen to I was a happy hiker. I got ti my destination and set up my tent around 8:45 just as light was starting to fade from the sky. it was the first night on the trail that I had to eat my dinner by headlamp light. Such is life on trail, I'm sure there will be many more in my future as the daylight hours continue to wane.

Looks like some hot and dry hiking the next couple days so I may be getting an early start in the morning. Buenos noches!


August 10, 2013

August 10, 2013
Corral Creek to 9 miles outside South Pass City
~29 miles

Today I hiked. That's about how I feel about it. Nothing particularly interesting about the day. The only real thing of note that I can think of is that the views I've had to the south today look FLAT. That shouldn't really be a surprise based on everything I've heard about the upcoming great divide basin, but it is in stark contrast o the jagged peaks of the previous few days.

Also, I saw four people and two dogs today. One of the dogs was freaking out when it saw me and ran back down the trail the other way. It took a good five minutes for the owner to wrangle the beast so I could get by without the dog running around and getting in my way again. Weird.

Tomorrow it's on to South pass City to pick up my resupply and then it's back out on the trail. No motel, no restaurant, no nothin'. I'm debating whether or not I want to try to do big miles through the basin or just take it easy. Based on how flat it sounds like it will be and the monotony of the scenery I may just go for it and try to push through it and take a zero day in Rawlins.


August 9, 2013

August 9, 2013
Sheep Creek to Corral Creek
~27 miles

Today marked the second day of the past three that I purposely veered from the "official" CDT and hiked an alternate route. It was awesome. Although I can't compare directly to the actual CDT part that I missed, I'm pretty sure the alternate was far superior.

The alternate cut off from the official route at Washakie Creek and followed the Shadow Lake trail to Shadow Lake before turning uphill en route to Texas Pass which led into the Cirque of the Towers basin. I was expecting a climb akin to Knapsack Col, but today was much easier. This may be due to the three fewer days of food I was carrying, but I think it was lower elevation and easier in general. Once through the pass the magic began. Jagged peaks everywhere! There were also a fair number if people around, but it really didn't matter because everything around me was awesome. As it was just about noon, I decided to sit down for a while and cook up a little lunch while enjoying the view.

After the break I made my way down the steep trail to the bottom of the basin, passed by Lonesome Lake, and then ascended the pass out of the basin. Just on the other side of the pass I ran into a group of hikers from Indianapolis who were on their way to Big Sandy Lake for one last night before heading home. I talked with them for a little while and was offered some wasabi almonds, which I gladly accepted and also mentioned that I would be happy to take any extra food they offered. I ended up with some bonus trail mix, peanut m&ms, and jelly beans. Yum! It was perfect timing too because just yesterday my hiker hunger was hitting hard and I was already fantasizing about town food.

Hiking the remainder of the day was relatively easy for which I am thankful because my legs are feeling tired from all the steep ups and downs the past few days.

I've already decided that I need to come back to Badger Wilderness to spend more time leisurely enjoying the beauty of this place. Maybe bag a few peaks too, I don't know, I don't know if there'll be time.


August 8, 2013

August 8, 2013
Island Lake to Sheep Creek
~29 miles

Walking along alpine lakes and ascending rocky passes which give rise to views of more peaks on the other side, this was my morning. And it was glorious. My legs were definitely a little slower and more tired than they have felt in a while, but I did my best to not let them slow me down, at least not by much. Also, I may have gone a little light on food for this section by accident. This is why the last 10-12 miles today were a bit of a struggle despite the fact that they were relatively flat in comparison to the mornings miles, where at one point the trail hit 11,500' at the top of Lester Pass. I suppose I did spend most of the past two days at 10,000'+ so that may have something to do with the sluggishness as well. Either way, tomorrow is the Cirque of the Towers and I am stoked! Sluggishness be gone, I say! (Hopefully the weather is cooperative as well. It's rather cloudy tonight and even sprinkled a bit this evening.)

Aside from a few groups of people that I saw scattered throughout the day, it was relatively quiet today, as wilderness ought to be. I forgot to charge my iPod in town last time so I have been sans-music for this section. As such I find myself singing out loud as I hike to add some sound to my day, as well as alert any bears in the area to my presence. Of course it can be a little awkward if I do happen upon other hikers, but so far that has only happened once.

Also, I saw another NOBO today named Beef Stew. We exchanged notes on respective upcoming trail sections before each going our own ways.


August 7, 2013

August 7, 2013
Green River Lake to Island Lake
~27 miles

What an amazing day! The morning began with some nice mellow hiking along Green River Lakes and then the Green River with views of Squaretop Mountain most of the way. After about 10 miles of nice easy hiking and running into lots of weekend hikers on their way out, the climbing began.

Over the course of a couple thousand feet of elevation gain and seeing CDTers Pacer, Burrito, and Free Radical I finally made it up to Peak Lake, and what a lake it was. Glacial blue in color and surrounds by jagged peaks. I took a nice break there before deciding to go for an alternate route up and over Knapsack Col. Peak Lake, at an elevation of 10,515', is a respectable height above sea level, however this was nothing compared to the col, at 12,200', which paled in comparison to the peaks on either side of the col itself. The hike up to Knapsack started off easy enough but that changed toward the end of the climb as the "trail" basically went straight up the rocky slope. As usual, the tough climb up to the top was rewarded with amazing views to either side, as well as an equally challenging descent over car size boulders on the other side. I had one close call on the way down that left me with a few scrapes and a quick flash through my mind of Aaron Ralston of "127 Hours" fame. Luckily no major damage done and I took things a little slower the rest of the way to where the trail started again.

The hike down the trail approaching Titcomb Lakes was equally stunning. I kept glancing back occasionally to get another look at the glaciated peaks fading behind me. After a break for dinner at the first lake I continued on along the Titcomb lakes and a few others before arriving at Island Lake and finding a place to set up my tent.

Although it wasn't my biggest mileage day, the elevation change and off trail travel over boulders really tired me out. Tomorrow looks to be more straightforward hiking-wise and hopefully just as filled with mountain views! And now.. Sleep.


August 6, 2013

August 6, 2013
Leaks Creek to Green River Lake
~28 miles (+bonus)

After staying up later than usual while at Togwotee Lodge the night before, I ended up sleeping in until 6:30. For the first time this trip I awoke with frost on the outside of my tent! Needless to say it was a cold start and I wasn't disappointed that I was still in my sleeping bag as the sun rose over the hill and started to warm things up and defrost my tent.

The morning's miles went by fairly quickly and were nothing much to speak of. I did get a glimpse of some mountains off in the hazy distance that may have been the Grand Tetons, but I can't be sure. A little later I came across two NOBOs, Birdman and Horton. They said the same thing as everyone else, the Winds are amazing, but they didn't get to do the cool alternates due to threatening stormy weather.

Not too long after as I was making my way towards Gunsight Pass I noticed some smoke on the other side of the ridge in the general direction I was heading. I didn't think too much of it, but it did cause me some slight concern. As I made it over the pass I got a better look at the source of the smoke and sure enough it was a forest fire. As I descended the pass I kept getting closer to the smoke on the opposing ridge and eventually found that the fire/smoke was directly in my planned path of travel. I could see orange and red flames stretching into the air from the tops of the green trees on the small ridge separating me from the Green River and my planned camp for the night. In order to stay safely out of the path of the flames I headed northeast down a little valley upwind and away from the fire. After some distance down I bushwacked my way through the trees over the ridge. The other side of the ridge was mostly cross country travel through grass and sagebrush with the occasional game/cow trail I make things a little easier. I made it back to the actual trail just after 7pm after hours of off trail travel and probably an additional 5 miles distance. Definitely worth it to avoid the fire and I am supremely happy that the fire did not cause me to miss the Winds. I would have been furious and extremely disappointed, and it may have completely killed my will to keep hiking the remainder of the trail. Close one.

Tomorrow it's on to the Winds! From my camp on the edge of one of the Green River Lakes I can see some sweet rocky cliffs and mountains that mark the beginning of the wonderment!


August 5, 2013

August 5, 2013
Togwotee Pass to somewhere along Leaks Creek
25 miles

It took a while to get a hitch back to the trail this morning but I eventually got a ride with a Ukraninan guy and his son who were driving back to Chicago after some mountain climbing and hiking they were doing in Colorado and Wyoming. It turned out it was also his birthday, so I wished him a happy birthday and safe drive as he dropped me off.

The hiking today was unspectacular today for the most part. Not much for views, but it was relatively easy terrain. That is except for some navigational challenges. The CDT was a bit elusive through a few sections today which definitely added some difficulty and time to the miles I covered.

I think it's still a little over a day if hiking before I get into the Wind River Range. The anticipation is killing me! As much as I am looking forward to the lakes and peaks of the Winds I'm also looking forward to getting through the Winds because I heard that is the end of grizzly country!


August 4, 2013

August 4, 2013
Bear Cub Pass to Togwotee Pass
7 miles

It was a brisk morning as I started on my way at 6:15 this morning. It must have been just below freezing because all the grass and brush was lightly frosted and my fingers were quite cold as well.

Just as I was passing Brooks Lakes Lodge, a man in a truck stopped and asked if I was hiking the CDT, to which I said yes, and then he informed me that the trail was behind me past Lower Brooks Lake, to which I agreed but also added that I was headed south, not north, and on my way to pick up a resupply box at Togwotee Lodge. He offered me a ride there, but I had to decline because I was still walking on the "trail" even though it happened to be road at the time.

It took about 45 minutes to get a hitch to the lodge, and I ended up getting a hitch in the back of a truck of an older couple from Arkansas of all places. Once at the lodge I proceeded to thoroughly enjoy the breakfast buffet, then got my boxes, took a shower, and did laundry. I also discovered that there was a computer available for use so I even got to upload some pictures! The staff were all very friendly and helpful even though I wasn't paying $239 a night for one of their cabins.

I ate lunch in the Red Fox Saloon and ended up hanging out there talking with the bartender and some other staff that were in there (both on and off duty), then Dumb and Dumber came on, so I stayed and had another beer and watched it, then I heard there was going to be some live music in the evening soooo... I ended up staying until 11, hanging out and listening to music. Just as I was about to take my leave to go set up my tent and crash on nearby National Forest land, one of the staff guys I met at the convenience store earlier in the day asked if I would like to sleep in his van instead of setting up my tent. (The staff all stay in a dorm building so he wasn't using it.) I quickly said yes and he showed me to the van. The icing on the cake I the day! Wish I could have stayed and hung out longer!


Sunday, August 4, 2013

August 3, 2013
Ridge at 10k to Cub Creek Pass
~33 miles

Last night I went to sleep with the intention to get up early and get in some pretty big miles so I would only have a few to do in the morning to get to Togwotee Pass and then a 10 mile hitch to get to Togwotee Lodge where my food resupply box (and new shoes!) are being held. Things were generally on track as I made it to the trail by 6:30 and was making decent time the first couple hours. Then I ran into multiple NOBO hikers, who I stopped and talked to for a while. Let's just say it was good to get an early start this morning. First I ran into Pat Burglar, followed by Annie Mac, Green Flash, and Breeze. I hiked with Annie for about 500 miles of the PCT so it was good to sit and chat for a while with her and the other two guys. Not more than an hour later I then ran into Mama Moab, her husband (his trail name was some James Joyce character?), and their dog Utah. I had previously met Mama Moab and her son Jayhawk on the PCT when they had taken a break from hiking to do trail magic at Walker Pass. Overall it was great to see everyone and talk with so many people today, it just made getting miles in today a little more of a challenge. 

The scenery today has been pretty cool at times. There have been more jagged-y looking mountain peaks seeming to get closer and it is whetting my appetite for the upcoming section in the Winds. The only thing about the next section I am not looking forward to is carrying 7 days of food. 

Tomorrow I plan to take nice and easy. Only 7 miles to the road, hopefully make the all you can eat (AYCE) breakfast at the lodge, then take a shower and sit in the hot tub while also doing some laundry. After all that glorious town-ish stuff, I hope to make it back up to the pass to do 3-5 more miles and get into to Winds the following day!
August 2, 2013
Heart Lake to Ridge at 10k
30 miles

Ahh, I slept much better last night, although there was still a thunderstorm that passed over at some point. I decided today that I was going to hike for 2 hours at a time and then take a break. The break would be however long my body said it should be and then I would repeat the process. Without pushing too hard, and again with easy terrain today, I was able to get in five, two-hour hikes today and make 30 miles, and all by 7pm! I think this may be my new method, at least as a general rule. I also thought about the reasons I am out here to begin with. First and foremost I am out here to have fun and enjoy the experience! Nobody is forcing me to be out here and I could simply go home any time I want. Sometimes all it takes is to take a step back and gain a little perspective, although it can be difficult to not get caught up in the minutia of mileage and elevation and other numbers on a piece of paper that really don't mean much at the end of the day.  

I followed the Snake River for about 10 miles before leaving Yellowstone NP and crossing into the Teton Wilderness. It's nice to be back in National Forest again, not having to worry about getting to a specific campsite for the night. 

Towards the end of the day I also caught back up with Bert. I was even able to take a couple pictures of some of his maps for the upcoming Wind River Range section so I can do a couple of the cool alternate routes that aren't part of the official CDT. 

Tonight I am camped at about 10,000' and have a wonderful view of some mountains to the south. Yellowstone is a cool place, u our with all its thermal features, but I'd gladly take mountains over geysers any day of the week. Seeing them or being amongst them is my happy place. 

August 1, 2013
Old Faithful Village to Heart Lake
~32 miles

Crazy weather last night. Lightning, thunder, rain/hail, and me trying to sleep through it all, none too successfully. I definitely did not get enough sleep, but miles needed to be hiked because my campsite for the night was quite a distance away. 

As I was waking over to get my food bag, which I hung in a tree, I got an early morning surprise. My food was still there, but just underneath where it was hung were two bison! I patiently waited for them to amble along so I could get my food down. 

With the relatively flat terrain and running into a bunch of NOBOs today it was a pretty good day. The hiking on the other hand did not seem to pass quickly today at all. I'm hoping a good nights sleep will run things around for tomorrow's hiking. 

The hikers I ran into today were Fly By, Gail, Soft Walker, Bo, Lovenote, Rockin' Robin, Silly Chili, Strider?, Drop-n-Roll, Ninja, and Sweetfish. I stopped to talk to them all for varying amounts of time, and each time the interaction recharged my spirits for a time before they dropped back again and I was left staring at my feet. 

I came to the rather obvious conclusion today that I need to change something to get back to how I felt at the beginning, 1000 miles ago. Not sure exactly what that will be, but I need to figure it out soon. It may be as simple as slowing down a bit, or finding a group to hike with for a while. 

Camped tonight at Heart Lake I am once again reminded of why I am out here. Unfortunately, I can't linger any one place too long because my food is limited and I have many miles to hike. It makes me imagine someday in the future when I will go car camping or have a more leisurely backpacking trip, hiking no more than 10-15 miles per day. Spending more time camping each day then hiking. 

July 31, 2013
Just outside Yellowstone to Old Faithful Village
~20 miles

Oh man, was it cold this morning! Probably not down to freezing, but it felt pretty frigid nonetheless. I donned my mittens for the first time in a while and began hiking. I slowly stripped off layers as the sun rose higher and warmed things up, but that took quite some time since I started hiking at 6:15. At 6:30 I was at the park boundary, and less than an hour later I was officially in Wyoming! Montana and Idaho are a thing of the past now, and its onward to new mountains, lakes, and vistas. 

Just as all the hikers I met in the days leading up to the park told me, the hike into Old Faithful was flat and easy. The miles passed quickly to Summit Lake, where I drank a liter of water and grabbed another for the trail, before continuing on. Upon arrival I first went to pick up my maildrop, then tried to get a backcountry permit but they were out to lunch, so I decided lunch was a good idea myself. I grabbed some grub at the cafeteria, charged up my devices, and then headed back to the office. Once there I met another CDT SOBO hiker Bert who I previously saw in Lima, MT. He had just gotten a permit and I was going to jump on his permit, but after hanging around the office for a time while I got rid of garbage and replaced my food, I also had a chance to chat with the backcountry permit ranger, Beth. After lamenting how I wanted to take a shower and do laundry, and therefore camp someplace close to the village, she offered a place I could camp over in the employee housing area by the horse stables. Beth also got me a campsite near Heart Lake for tomorrow night, which will be just right (~30 miles). I quickly took her up on her offer of the campsite so she drew up a map of where to camp and she even watched over my things while I went to shower and do laundry. Very cool lady! While talking to her I found out she is a retired homicide detective from Houston, TX, where her area of expertise involved, among other things, analyzing blood spatter patterns at crime scenes. Crazy cool. Now that she is retired (she retired at 44) she has been a backcountry ranger in Yellowstone for 7 summers and is also trying to work on her golf game so she can make it on the Senior LPGA! 

After getting all cleaned up, I went back to to pick up my backpack from the office, but when I got there it was closed! After some eavesdropping and talking to other bystanders it turns out there were three medical emergencies that came up at nearly the same time, two of which were going to be life flights via helicopter, and the third a trip to the hospital via ambulance. National Parks, man. Lots of people and lots of crazy. Eventually I got my stuff from the office and then proceeded to go eat more food. I got some ice cream first, then went and had dinner at the cafeteria where I was treated to a show out the window by none other than Old Faithful herself. Not too shabby. 

I'm camped by the horses tonight (and apparently the road too) so I'm hoping it won't be too loud tonight. Oh well, too late to do anything about it now!