Day 121: Goodbye Yellowstone, Hello Idaho

We pushed to wake up early but the best we could do was seven o'clock. We hopped back on trail and headed to Summit Lake to tank up on water for the day. We had a good distance to our next water so we made sure to grab four liters, just in case. The lake looked like a fairly nice place to swim, but as we leaned down to scoop up the water, a three inch long leech waved through the water. So we did what any normal human would do... Critter egged Garbelly to stick his hand in, which he did, followed by her own hand. Nothing. The leech just kept wiggling around through the water. 

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The trail was pretty flat as it took us out of Yellowstone National Park and out of the state of Wyoming. We made it to the state of great potatoes! Maybe we could find a great deal on some packs of Idahoan mashed potatoes. We were planning on taking the Mack's Inn alternative so we left the official trail onto an old dirt road and began out long road walk into town. The road was grown up with plants and small trees and giant berms that had been built along the way to close the trail to vehicular traffic. 

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We found a really nice spring off of trail and took a filter break that was quickly interrupted by the loud clap and rumble of an approaching storm. Not too long after we started back down trail did it start raining on us. We figured it would pass quickly based on the way the thunder sounded so we curled up on the tyvek with our packs to stay dry. When the rain passed we got up and headed on. We met a group of sisters in a large Suburban who were out looking for wildflowers. We chatted with them for a bit before continuing on down the road to look for a good stealth camping spot. Even though we were still within National Forest land, it is always important to hide away a bit from anyone out during the weekend. We found a nice spot to eat dinner and then found a campsite tucked back into the trees. The zipping of cordage on a limb while hanging a bear bag and the hawing sound of a few sandhill cranes signified the end of our first day in Idaho.

Cheers! 

Garbelly & Critter

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Day 120: Old Faithful Village

When we woke up, it was not only wet, but everything was freezing cold and slightly frosted. Garbelly sighed and began getting ready. This began with the deflating of his thermarest, and followed with him getting the food bags down from a tree. After shaking as much water as he could from the tent, he realized there was no hope.

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Our packs were now packed and we were shaking from the cold even with our down jackets and rain coats covering our upper bodies. We kept our feet dry for as long as we could. Five minutes later we were shin deep in water wading through a swampy trail. We continued to do this before crossing a creek. Fortunately this creek was fed by numerous hot springs and it felt amazing. Garbelly stood in it for quite awhile before reluctantly continuing to hike through the marshy grass.

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Before we knew it, we were winding through the Shoshone geyser basin. Steaming vents and small geysers completely surrounded us. Our trail snaked through these pools and a few times we could even feel the heat through the ground underneath our feet. It warmed us up quickly and we finally took off our jackets. As we stood there, Winter and Scavenger hiked ahead and we continued to stare at the sulphuric wonders.

We eventually caught up to them a few miles later and reached the junction to Lone Star Geyser. Since it was only 0.3 miles away we decided it would be silly to miss. We knew it erupted every three hours but were not sure when the last eruption had occurred. Unfortunately we had just missed the eruption, but since all of our gear was soaking wet, we decided to set it out to dry. With the sun high in the sky, everything dried out in about fifteen minutes. This was enough to convince Winter and Scavenger to head to the lunch buffet. We decided to wait for the twenty minute eruption of the strange alien mound protruding from the earth. 

As we waited, we were able to talk to the few day hikers that wondered in to watch the geyser. Lone Star gets its name due to its distance from the other geyser basins. Since its nearest geyser is still around three miles away, Lone Star is a bit of a loner. We passed the time by eating and looking for shade. A few rumbles were emitted from the smooth mineral deposit hill. After a few minor eruptions of spewing and gurgling, the geyser erupted into full force shooting water forty feet into the blue sky. We watched for ten minutes or so and then decided to hike onward towards Old Faithful Village. 

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We got to the village and immediately ran into Liam and Kate. They had just watched Old Faithful erupt and we had been able to catch the tail end of it as we were walking down the trail. We went to the post office to get our resupply boxes and then headed to the lodge to see about the buffet. Unfortunately we had missed lunch by ten minutes, and the dinner buffet was a whopping thirty dollars per person. We decided to save our money for the next town. 

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The history is so rich in our National Parks. You can just feel the buzz of life that dates back generations to visitors who have come before us. It is a wonderful feeling to carry on the tradition and to fill the same space while admiring the same natural world.

We heard from a couple hikers a few days ahead that a magical place existed in the Old Faithful Lodge. It was named the "Tub Room." This location was shared to them by a few staff members of the lodge. Basically we were given a treasure map and after arriving at the lodge, we set out to find it. From the downstairs common area, we wondered up the stairway to the second floor. From here we turned into a hallway and followed it until it intersected another hallway. Towards the end of the hall, a small sign read "Tub Room." We walked through a swinging door and found two private rooms with claw foot tubs, soap, shampoo, and even conditioner. The room was a haven set away from the zoo of people right outside.  Before we took a much needed bath, one of the maids asked us if we would like a towel. It was all coming together. Today we felt spoiled from the beauty of the National Park and also from the "Tub Room." 

We walked back down the hallway with wet hair and climbed up another stairway to the third floor balcony. Here we found a place away from anyone to pack our food for the next stretch. We had not planned on doing the "Mack's Inn" cutoff when we planned for the hike. However, we heard from hikers ahead of us that it was full of good food and cheap camping. This sounded like a good place to take a zero day and catch up on writing and rest. This meant that we had an extra day of food in our boxes. Combined with the couple days of leftover food from Yellowstone, our packs were heavy.

Just as we were finishing up packing our things, a couple beside us asked us where we were backpacking. As always, we tried to tell them that we had hiked there from Mexico without sounding too eager to brag. We talked for a couple minutes before continuing to pack and then leave to finish our mileage for the night. Soon, the woman showed up with their two children, and they proceeded to snack on cheese and crackers and drink wine. (The children of course did not drink any wine). Garbelly slung his pack over his shoulder ready to head out and say goodbye. Before he could speak they asked us if we would want to join them for a glass of wine and a little food. Hiking can always wait another hour.

We sat down with them and began to share stories about everything we had been through so far. The kids were interested in the animals we had seen so far, especially the two bears in Yellowstone. Before they headed to dinner downstairs, they brought us tangerines and cookies for later. The young boy even peeled a few tangerines for Critter while she told stories. After they left, we each looked at each other and said that we had to be the two luckiest hikers on trail. We could not be more grateful.

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Finally, we left and walked the trails surrounding the Old Faithful geyser basin. On our walk out of the park, we saw the sun set over all of the pools and geysers along our walk. Surprisingly, the park was still buzzing with visitors too awestruck to head to bed with all of the beauty the park had to offer. As soon as our concrete path turned to dirt and then disappeared into the woods, we saw no more people for the rest of the night. We stumbled down the trail for a couple hours and then set up in the darkness of ten o'clock. It had been a long day, but had been incredibly rewarding. 

Cheers!  

Garbelly & Critter

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Day 118-119 Welcome to Yellowstone + Basin Beach

 Today started early. The sun was no where close to hitting our tent, nor was it even out yet when we started packing up camp. The morning was cloudy in a dreary kind of way. Our goal for the day included but was not limited to big miles. We had our minds set on Grant Village in Yellowstone National Park.

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We started hiking with no plans on stopping. A light rain began misting over us as we hiked. We did not think much of it at first but soon the drops became more frequent and larger. Throwing on our rain jackets we did not let it discourage us. We passed by a handful of Southbound hikers and exchanged the usual tips of the trail ahead. We had a ford across the Snake River which we would end up following along for the first part of the day. Our feet were already wet from the rain so we just pranced on through shoes, socks, and all.  The rainy mist had settled into the river valley and we had to accept our day's cold and wet reality. The trail grew muddier as we rollercoastered along the river.

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At the top of a roller, we could see Scavenger and Winter in front of us. As we grew closer to their hill that they were climbing when we saw them, we saw a black bear moseying down the trail. He would reach up with his front paws to pull a tree branch closer and then continue on. At one point he turned around to look at us, he flipped his whole body around and started moseying towards us. We started hollering "Hey Bear, Hey Bear!" (Our noise of choice when in bear country). He stopped in the trail, sat back on his rear end with his front paws in the air. His mouth began to stretch open but a vicious rawr did not proceed. Instead, a yawn stretched over his face, and then he wiggled and wobbled off of trail down towards the river. Out of pure excitement for our newest interaction, we began singing The Bear Necessities which led us to write and perform songs for our album debut. You can find classics such as

"You Fuzzy Thang" by Hot Chocolate

I bear-lieve in miracles

Where you from

You Fuzzy Thang.

 

"Bear's Way to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin

There's a Black Bear who's sure  

all those berries are sold  

and he's buying a bear's way to heaven  

 

"Black Bear" by The Beartles

Black Bear snacking in the dead of night

Take these broken chips and Caprison lite

all your life  

you were only waiting for this moment to arise  

 

Bear-lieve by Cher

"Do you Bear-lieve in life after cubs. (After cubs, after cubs)"

 

"Bear-y Supersticious" by Stevie Wonderbread

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Our singing began to fade as the cold set in. Drenched rainjackets led to wet layers underneath. The severity of our situation began to weigh on us. We hoped that the rain would slow soon and that the sun would warm us up again. We walked fast trying to keep our body temperatures up, but our hands still went numb and stiff. The trail continued to rollercoaster along before finally opening up to a meadow. The rain had stopped by this point and a small beam of sunlight broke through the clouds.

When we met back up with Winter and Scavenger, the sun was out and we all had a chance to dry out and warm up. We stopped for a quick break, not even taking time to sit down, before we continued on. We arrived at Heart Lake following one of her edges around towards our first sulfuric vents and pools of the park. We passed a ranger station and stopped to chat for a few minutes. We have so much respect for our park rangers and constantly give them a big THANK YOU for all that they do. We continued on through Heart Lake geyser basin. Mesmerized by the thermal pools and excited about the hot tub temperature creeks, we stopped every couple of yards to stare into the beautifully colored holes in the earth. It was like nothing we had every seen.

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We hit a trail winding through trees and started to move quickly. As night approached, we wanted to make it into Grants Village before everything shut down. Just before the trailhead, Scavenger pointed out a large porcupine hiding in a tree. We stood in awe and fascinated by how he managed to fit between the pine needles and his own needles. Once we hit the trailhead, we stuck our thumbs out. No luck. Fortunately, a man we passed on the trail offered us a ride even though he was headed in the opposite direction. We made it just in time to grab dinner before the restaurant closed and even grab a campsite before the host closed up for the night. 

Waking up in a packed campground is pretty unusual for us out here. Noises of children laughing and smells of eggs and bacon are not the normal sensations during our morning routine, (We wouldn't mind waking up to eggs and bacon though). It was only seven o'clock and we heard the voices of Scavenger and two others we assumed were coming from the occupants in the tents adjacent to us.

As Garbelly climbed out of the tent, he met a guy named Erick who was riding his bike across the country (http://bikewitheg.com). He also met a woman who was walking across the country pulling a wagon and walking roads as a part of a Buddhist path she was following. After the woman walked away, Erick ended up deciding to join us for the breakfast buffet we had walked so far to eat at.

Traveling by bike was definitely faster, but we still enjoy our slow intimate connection with the ground we walk over. We love glancing down to see small mushrooms pushing through the earth and the thick mat of pine needles. We love seeing birds fly to a branch closer to us to get a closer look at our strange upright shapes. We love the reward of coming to the top of a mountain pass and seeing the view on the other side. These things all continue to remind us why we are walking.

After breakfast, we walked to the permit office and talked to the very nice Ranger couple that worked there. They helped us get the exact spots we had asked for by radioing the backcountry Ranger. He told them that the only people we would be with were other CDT hikers. We were very ok with that. We thanked the two Rangers and started back to trail. Of course there was a restaurant on the way so we grabbed a snack.

Surprisingly with hundreds of cars, it was not easy hitching around Yellowstone. After waiting for thirty minutes with our thumbs out, a girl originally from North Carolina pulled over and gave us a ride four miles down the road. After being away from the southeast for four months, it is always easy to pick up on a slight drawl when we hear it.

As soon as we got dropped off, we started getting dumped on with dime sized hail. Critter was smart and made it under a tree. Scavenger and Garbelly made a dash for the concrete pit toilet, with Critter shortly following behind. Most people define a thru hike as a long distance hike from point to point. Garbelly said it is hard to consider that a thru hike unless you have waited out a storm in a pit toilet. Most hikers have been there, or desired to have one when rough weather moves in to the area.

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After we left here, we had fourteen miles to camp and it was already nearing two in the afternoon. We weaved in and out of thunderstorms, with some lightning strikes coming within a couple hundred yards of us. It began to get cold again, and we desperately longed for Gore Tex rain jackets. As the rain picked up we began nearing a water crossing that we were told was chest deep. We despised the thought of the cold water chilling our body temperatures even more than they already have. To our surprise the outlet from the deep lake was much warmer than the surrounding air and we even found a crossing that was only knee deep.

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From this crossing, the trail weaved up and down over a few hills. Besides losing the trail for thirty minutes and having soaked feet, our walk to camp was pretty uneventful. Just as we were walking our last stretch to camp, we popped out of the trees onto the shoreline of Shoshone Lake and walked along the sandy shores. As each wave gently slid into the sand, we watched them slowly approach our feet and retreat back into the dark. In the distant, geothermal vents blew steam high into the air and reminded us where we were.

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We cooked dinner on the beach, hung our bear bags and fell quickly asleep.

Cheers!  

Garbelly & Critter  

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Day 117: Two Ocean Creek

The morning got off to an early start. During the night, we had heard a very large animal stomp through camp, but we could all agree that hooves were behind the ruckus, not paws. The trail took us through a meadow damp from the morning's dew. Scavenger and Garbelly were ahead when Critter realized they had missed a turn. Instead of continuing on trail, she followed their footprints as to not break up the group. Upon catching back up to them, they had already realized that we were off trail but decided to continue ahead and eventually meet back up with trail.

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This somewhat easy feat ended up being more challenging. We came up to a river which we knew we had to cross at some point but our detour ended up having us cross it more than once. We finally found trail and even though we lost about forty-five minutes we kept our spirits high and continued to water for a small break.

We sat out our tent to let it dry off from the night before and watched a twenty-five mule pack train walk by.  As we were packing up, Garbelly noticed a small black Bear wondering silently behind Scavenger and then down towards the water. He was not even phased by us as we stood in awe as it passed by. This was our first trail bear! 

Can you spot the bear?  

Can you spot the bear?  

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Continuing on, we passed by many more horses. The maps were not kidding when they said this bit of trail was the "Horse Super Highway." Horses have the right away so each time we stepped off of trail and waited for them to pass. Two riders came up to us and asked if we had seen two of their lost mules but we had not, at least not we knew. Secretly we hoped to find them and ride them to Canada.

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We stopped for lunch in a little section of shade.  

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Further up trail we ran into two Southbounders, T-Rex and The Graduate. We exchanged trail beta, and they shared information about trail angels up ahead that could give us rides into towns. Then we headed up towards our big climb for the day. The climb began with really nice switchbacks crossing over Two Ocean Creek which starts as one single creek and and splits into Pacific Creek and Atlantic Creek. This National Natural Landmark would be easy to miss without maps. Looking at our maps, the Pacific Creek pours into the Colombia River and into the Pacific Ocean, and Atlantic Creek pours into the Mississippi River and further into the Gulf of Mexico. We stopped for a bit and watched this small stream and tried to fathom each drop of water's long journey. These thoughts continued passing through our heads as we began our climb.

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The climb began steadily and within twenty minutes we had climbed over 800 feet. With 1,200 feet left, we each took our own pace to the top. The descent went quick as we searched for a good place to eat dinner. We ran into Liam and Kate cleaning up from their own dinner. We caught up and when they set off down trail we set up to begin cooking. Rain started to fall and we could hear thunder in the distance. We ate quickly and then packed up. We hiked a little bit into the night. Loudly talking to each other to scare away any large furry critters that might have been around. We found a perfect camp spot tucked into between the trees, and immediately fell asleep. 

Cheers!  

Garbelly & Critter  

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Day 115-116: Look Out Jackson Town + Back to Trail

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Our hitch into Jackson was from a NOLS instructor who just finished up guiding climbing trips in the Winds. What a perfect hitch for two adventure folk like ourselves! We had plenty to talk about during the hour drive, and next thing we knew we were pulling off the road right next to the town square's arch made of elk and moose antlers. The streets were packed with people. Quickly becoming overwhelmed, we ran across the street and ducked into a restaurant called Local to get away from the madness. Here we were immediately greeted by a hostess who offered us a place at the bar to sit. We felt very out of place. The veggie burger and a large order of French fries caught our eye, and after ordering we sat there with blinders on avoiding all the watchful eyes surrounding us.

That's one interesting part of thru-hiking: the looks you get in town. We absolutely are delighted when people break out of their assumptive state and instead approach us and start a conversation. We welcome that and love answering questions! We could do without the looks and whispers. We are friendly people! We probably do smell bad, but just talk to us!

The veggie burger was probably the best we have had on trail. After cleaning our plates and paying our bill, we grabbed our packs and headed out in search of ice cream. We found some ice cream at a small corner shop and it was delicious. With ice cream in hand, we sought out a bus stop, (we love these small towns that have free public transportation) and we headed towards the grocery store to resupply. Resupplying in a store is a pretty chaotic experience. It can leave you exhausted and scatterbrained. There are just so MANY choices.

Somehow we survived, but we made it out of the store about two hours later with way too much food in hand. We sat at a table outside of the store and began to sort and organize all of our choices. Dreading the now heaviness of our packs and concerned about not finding a place to stay that night, we did not say much and our eyes kind of glazed over. Coming to Jackson on a whim seemed like such a good idea at first but now we were starting to doubt our decision and wonder if we would be more comfortable closer to trail. We could not afford a $300 hotel room in this bustling National Park town.

There we sat in between our ridiculously heavy packs and a hard place, when all of a sudden two strangers stepped into view. They mentioned they had been watching us pack from inside the shop and asked what we were doing. Before we could answer, they asked us if we wanted a place to shower. Unsure if we were dreaming or not, we babbled out a bumbling "yes, sure, that would be amazing!" They grabbed their car, and we let us load up our packs and hop in.

Tony and Lynn drove us to their home in Wilson, which was a beautiful western mountain home with views of the Teton range from the backyard and gorgeous fly fishing memorabilia decorated around the house. A shower turned into laundry which turned into an invite to stay for dinner which blossomed into an invite to stay the night. We met their friends, Sandy and Norma, who were simply outstanding women with a raw love and energy for life. We even fell in love with Ridley and Rascal, Lynn and Tony's two Labrador Retrievers. Lynn made an amazing meal of salmon patties, salad, and corn on the cob, and we enjoyed their company over the delicious food, glasses of wine, and the incredible stories that danced around the table that evening. Before we knew it, the clock struck ten o'clock. If rest was not a concern, we knew we could have stayed up all night with them. We helped clean up, and then we were kindly shooed off to bed.

We felt so fortunate. Not only had we been taken in and treated like family, but we were fortunate to meet people who had lived and do live an adventurous life as well. We love telling stories about our hike, but even more so, we love to sit back and listen. Simply put: they inspired us to never lose sight of adventure and never forget how fun life can be. 

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Sleeping in felt amazing. Around 8:00am, we finally left the comfort of the bed and covers, packed up our packs, and headed downstairs. Lynn shared some delicious fruit smoothie with us and we tried to eat through some of the massive amounts of food we were planning to pack out. Tony joined us in the kitchen and he, too, enjoyed a delicious breakfast. Ridley and Rascal were sprawled out on the floor beneath our feet. Tony offered to give us a ride back up to trail and he even offered to take the road through Teton National Park.

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Along the road, we caught an amazing view of the Tetons even though thick haze was settling into the valley from the many forest fires in Montana. Once back to trail, we said our goodbyes to Tony and Ridley and waved to them as they drove away. We cannot get over how special it was getting to meet Tony and Lynn and how much we appreciated them treating us to a warm shower, dinner, and place to stay. It was an absolute honor. They are fascinating people and we really truly hope we can spend some time on the water fishing with them in the future.

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Passing by the Brooks Lake Lodge, we could not help but to wander into the main building, and after refilling out water bottles, we headed down to trail. The trail took us through open fields along Brooks Lake before ascending into the forest. Beautiful spires and rock faces framed the river valley we were in, and we as climbed around the mountain even more majestic mountains came into view. The heavy haze we saw in the Tetons has very present here and so the mountains became more like shadows with varying degrees of boldness dissolving into the farthest peaks on the horizon. We met Scavenger and began hiking with him. Then, we ran back into TI Toe and then there was four of us wandering down the trail. We ascended once again before a large descent lead us down to the Buffalo River. Again, we forged through without taking off our shoes. Wet feet has been our immediate reality during these last sections of trail.

Our day ended with a final ascent, briefly stopping to filter water and eat dinner. In the saddle of our climb, we found a perfect campsite big enough for both of our tents. An owl hooted as we fell asleep, and a big orange moon began to rise up through the trees.

Cheers!

Garbelly & Critter

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Day 114: The Day Thru-Hiking Broke Our Hearts

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Square Top Mountain and the Green River snaking through the valley were even more beautiful at sunrise than they were at sunset. Waking up did not happen quickly, but instead we took our time embracing how breathtaking the view out of our tent was. Reluctant to leave the Winds, we hiked towards the Green River trailhead, every so often looking behind us at Square Top. We ran into some weekend hikers and were excited to give them some pointers on where to go and a little envious that we could not spend more time here. We joked about spending the rest of the summer exploring the Winds but a small bit of truth rested within.

Today, thru-hiking broke our hearts, not for reason of the adventure, the exploration of beautiful places, untouched places, or even in lieu of the wild lifestyle. No, our hearts broke because we had fallen in love with the Wind River Range, but we had to keep heading North. That is the tough part about thru-hiking; you have to keep going. You get more of a sampling of different places than really getting to know the curve of the river or the sharpness of the mountains. To get to Canada, you have to keep going. There are times when we are convinced thru-hiking is not for us. In those moments, we want to spend more time in one place straying from the infamous red line leading us North. We ask ourselves: are we really free or does this red line on a map bind us to the earth? Thru-hiking is not for everyone, and today it was not for us, but we kept going. 

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Once at the trailhead, we entered back into the world of sagebrush and no shade. How quickly the landscape changed, and how bummed we were. We began our climb up and over Gunsight Pass which climbed steadily into a steeper climb. Once over the top, we descended down into islands of trees in meadows of sagebrush.

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A small red fox ran onto trail as curious of us as we were of him. He ran up onto a hill where he proceeded to stalk and pounce on a prairie dog. He would be eating well tonight.

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We crossed over large meadows before heading into a more wooded area. There we saw large bear tracks and piles of scat. We began talking to each other so that we would not startle anything by walking silently. As we stepped off trail to go around a downed log, we saw large claw marks six feet up on a tree. This sight was a little unnerving and led us to hike faster and talk louder. Back down in a meadow we could see three large sandhill cranes. As we approached they lifted off from the ground and flew away honking their almost robotic honk.

Once we got to the road, we did not expect anyone to be driving by at this hour, but sure enough as soon as we sat down to begin making dinner, a truck drove up. The driver and his son were scouting out places to watch the eclipse. We checked our maps to see if we could offer any options, and at the end of the conversation, he offered to give us a ride into Pinedale. This seemed to be a great chance to make it up to Jackson the following day! Rob and Mason were such a pleasure to get to know. Garbelly and Rob shared hunting stories and came to the same conclusions when it came to hunting ethics. The sun had set by the time we arrived back on the Main Street of Pinedale. We exchanged contact information and some pictures from the trail. Rob handed Garbelly a folded up bill and said that he wanted to get our dinner. We were in awe and overcome with gratitude. It is just amazing to share a moment or two of our passing lives with others. Thank you so much, Rob and Mason. You guys reminded us why we are out here and helped us find the beauty once more in the art of thru-hiking. 

Cheers!  

Garbelly & Critter  

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A Haiku on Deet:

The day the Deet leaked,

Burning a hole through the week.

That was a bad day.  

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Day 113: Following the Green River

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The morning sun began to seep into the basin. The mountains surrounding us gained back their snowy definition and the blue of the water met the green of the trees once more. As we packed up camp, we could see fishy ripples appearing on the lake growing larger as they faded out. We began making our way back to the official trail via a rocky path behind the lake. Before we knew it, we could again see the CDT, but were cliffed out with only a steep scramble in between us and the trail. Slowly, we climbed down the rock. Garbelly shrugged his shoulders and exclaimed, "well we definitely took the more memorable route."

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The trail climbed up to Upper Jean Lake. Snow fields began more frequent and everything that wasn't covered in snow was drenched in snow melt. As we crossed a small stream, we noticed the shadows of trout moving about with their heads facing up stream. Once on the other side, we popped out the Tenkara, and Garbelly began casting to the shadows. After a couple casts, he had a taker, a beautifully colored cutthroat. Critter made a couple cast bringing to the bank her own catch. After the release, we packed up and headed onward up trail.

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Right before Elbow Lake, we started climbing up a trail that would take us over Shannon Pass joining back up with the Knapsack Col alternate. From the pass we began a small descent down towards Peak Lake. We crossed over snow fields and were completely surrounded by pillars of rock sticking out of the earth like stalagmites.

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We stopped shy of the lake to warm up in the sun and eat lunch. Then we headed down talis switchbacks before climbing up over Cube Rock Pass to descend down to Dale Lake. Dale Lake was tucked into a cove carved out into a wall of rock. Frozen patches of ice still rested on the water's surface. The rocks laying by the side of the trail glowed with veins of crystal quartz and serpentine green. This trail has only made us more intrigued by geology and interested in learning more about it when we get home.

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Just beyond the lake we saw a hiker taking a break after climbing up and over Knapsack Col. We found out that he was from Israel and had just served his time in the Israeli military. As we headed down the trail, he began strumming a ukulele. We began crossing over a snow traverse, but the snow was much softer and let us cross relatively with ease. We scrambled across large boulders as we made it safely back to the ground.

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Then the trail carried us through a canyon with walls extending high into the blue of the sky on either side. We entered back into a forested area and began our descent down to the Green River. Switchback after switchback took us lower and lower out of the Winds, out of the place we had fallen in love with so quickly. We kept looking back, but when we reached the widening river we were amazed.

The water was the most beautiful green color and cut through the earth making large serpentine strokes. The trail took us along the river until we reached a grassy area with a front row view of Squaretop Mountain. We could not turn down this campsite. We set up camp as the mosquitoes began to rally, filtered some water, and found a place to eat dinner.

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The mosquitoes were the worst they had been yet. After using our Jetboil, it sat on the ground quickly collecting hundreds of mosquitoes around its warmth. It was a nightmare. As we returned to our tent and climbed in, looking out at the river and mountains as the moon moved into view from behind their grandeur, we suddenly forgot about our little buzzing friends.

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Cheers!

Garbelly & Critter

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Day 112: Island Lake and The Titcomb Basin

We were able to get a ride back up to Elkhart with J, a triple crown hiker. She was going up to run the trails and let us tag along for the ride. After we split up from the trailhead, we began our march along the same path we had walked a few days prior. We worked our way towards Photographer's Point, and then split off on another trail towards Seneca Lake. A ton of people were out hiking, fishing, and camping. It is always so good to see so many people get outside, being active, and using the trails.

Surprisingly, we caught up with Liam and Kate who explained to us that now it was Kate's turn to be sick. We even met a new thru-hiker, TI Toe, who does have a titanium toe. We finished lunch while talking to TI Toe and then walked with him towards the CDT. We joined back up with trail but shortly after took the trail headed up to Island Lake and the Titcomb Basin.

We had originally planned on heading up and over the Knapsack Col, but as time passed, we realized that the snow had become very soft and did not feel safe heading over. Garbelly was too curious about the Basin he had heard so much about. There was no way he could pass up seeing it while being so close to it. Critter sat and enjoyed Island Lake as Garbelly ran three miles up to the Titcomb Basin to experience the amazing views. After he returned, we decided to camp not too far staying near the lake. It was too beautiful to leave just yet.

 Cheers!

Garbelly & Critter

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Day 110-111: Into Pinedale + Zero Day

  A Haiku about Mosquitoes:

Little buzzing bugs

Are flying around our tent

Driving us crazy

 

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The day started off with a river ford. Cold, wet feet made for stiff, achy feet this early in the morning. We slowly got moving again once on the other side trying not to dwell on how we were starting the morning. Around mid-morning, we came across a lake which the trail took us right long the bank. Consistently, the still water was disrupted by the explosions of fish as they fed on bugs landing on the top of the water. As we walked by, we could not help but look into the water at all the beautiful trout and all their fading ripples. We looked at each other silently connecting on the same page: how could we not stop and throw a fly into the action?!

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We sat our packs down allowing ourselves  thirty minutes to fish. After tying on a Parachute Adams, the first cast was made. We watched as a fish began to move towards the fly, exploding out of the water taking our fly with him. The Tenkara went flying backwards and the hook set into the lip of the trout. He jumped in and out of the water as we brought him to the bank, and after a quick release, he was swimming back into the depths. Each cast came with a fish. We could easily sight fish, and we found excitement in going after the fish that seemed more resilient to being caught. After awhile, most likely longer than our original allotted time, the mosquitoes had found us and began terrorizing us. Reluctantly, we packed up and headed to make more miles.

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We stopped one more time for a quick lunch by a picture perfect creek. This time we did not jump for our rod but instead we enjoyed watching the hungry, colorful brook trout feed and move throughout the water.

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We climbed the pleasant climb up and over Hat Pass. Snow and stone awaited us on the other side as we began to make our way down back towards the lakes. Much of the day, the trail circumnavigated lake after lake taking us into different worlds that came with each lake and it's surrounding ecosystem. We had a storm to outrun so we kept moving with Elkhart trailhead in our minds.

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We left the official CDT to join up with the Pole Creek trail which would take us to the trailhead. In order to go into Pinedale for a resupply, we would have to hike ten extra miles to get near the road and then eleven miles back to trail. After going across Pole Creek, we came upon a place called Photographer's Point. As if it were the most perfectly placed window, we could see the entire Wind River Range crowning the horizon and the rocky valley spanning the distance between the mountains and our overlook.

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It was nearing dusk so we continued on towards the trailhead at lightning speed. Practically running at times, we did not want to get to the parking area too late and miss our chance of rides. Once we had made it, we began waiting, no cars went by and no people were to be seen. Soon a man who we had passed on the trail came down the trail and towards his car. We were waiting in anticipation, when we heard him yell out "Do you guys need a ride?!" Relieved, we headed towards him and hopped into his truck.

We ended up sharing stories with him during the drive and even finding out a lot about him. The natural gas industry had brought him to the area for a couple of days to check on the sustainability and safety of a particular operation. Once in town, we swung by the Wind River Brewing Co. with him to grab a quick bit to eat. Their sweet potato fries were to die for. Then, we headed towards St. Anthony's Church for the night. In the basement of this small church, they allow travelers, hikers, and bikers to spend the night. We quietly walked in and set up our sleeping area on the floor. Today was a long day, but now all we had to do was sleep. 

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Day 111: Zero Day in Pinedale

Having arrived into Pinedale so late, we decided to take a day to get our "errands" done. As everyone in the church basement started to wake up, the uncertainty of where we had fallen asleep the night before began to melt away taking our discomfort with it. Fellow hikers shared the room with us as well as a biker, a SOBO hiker, a section hiker, and a gentleman seeking shelter between living situations. Kate and Critter ran down to grab some coffee at the Mountain Hut, and when they arrived back at the church, Liam had started making blueberry pancakes. Atlantis, a SOBO hiker from Germany, and Scout, a super badass section hiker from California, were awake and had joined the pancake excitement. We stood around making pancakes, cinnamon rolls, and other breakfast foods.

It is amazing how quickly friends are made on the trail. It does not take much and you can usually skip all of the small talk. After breakfast, Atlantis gave us some pointers about the trail North of us, and then we headed to the American Laundromat to do laundry with Scout. Once our clothes were clean enough to be acceptable, we headed to meet up with Liam, Kate, and Atlantis at the Patio Grill for Taco Tuesday.

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Everyone, except Scout and us, headed back to trail. Instead, it was shower time which meant it was time to visit the Aquatic Center that we had heard so much about since arriving in Pinedale. Seven dollars won us access to the pools, climbing wall, showers, and anything else that tickled our fancy. First, we rinsed off. Then, we walked into the swimming area that read "Leisure" over the doorway. Equipped with a lazy river, hot tub, submarine, and water slide, the pool quickly overwhelmed us but we were thrilled. After we each went down the giant water slide shooting us out into a smaller pool, we hopped over to the hot tub to relax.

Back at the Church, another hiker, by the name of Big John, had shown up. We left the church for an hour, during which the same space was used for an AA meeting in that time frame. Once the small group left, Garbelly made brownies which would make for a delicious breakfast. We all found our spots on the floor tucked in between tables and chairs. The lights went out and the room became still once again.

 

Cheers!

Garbelly & Critter

Day 109: The Cirque de Towers- Texas Pass

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We did not wake up early this morning by any means. Garbelly watched the sun rise over Lonesome Lake, quickly illuminating Pingora and the rest of the Cirque. Rolling back over to wait until 7:00 to wake up Critter, his sleeping pad ended up acting as an alarm clock. Since the camp spot was directly next to Liam and Kate's tent, everyone awoke from the plastic rustling.

We were ready around 7:30, but all took time to drink coffee and admire the view. Secretly, we were all stalling our climb up and over Texas Pass. It was not until forty minutes later that we got started hiking. Walking around Lonesome Lake, we heard climbers hundreds of feet above us on the side of Pingora. We would have killed to have climbing gear with us. However, thru hiking is not the best thing for a climber's body. Critter's climbering feet have certainly been going through an identity crisis with all this walking. 

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The climb up to Texas Pass was very steep. Not steep in a "fall off of a cliff" type of way, but more so in a "make your calves burn" type of way. We slowly trudged our way to the top. It had been surprisingly easier than we had made it out to be. As we climbed, the Cirque rose high behind us and seemed to be just an arm's length away. We were at the same elevation that the climbers we saw earlier were at. As we climbed towards the pass, a feeling of excitement took over us thinking about our view on the other side of the pass. Another feeling of sadness crossed our minds. We were leaving the most beautiful thing we had seen in almost two thousand miles.

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Then we entered the corridor of Texas Pass. It was a narrow pass that felt like a hundred foot tall doorway to the next part of our hike. As we reached the middle, everything became completely quiet. None of us said a word. We just stood in the pass and listened to the lack of wind blowing through the trees or the sound of water rushing down the mountain. Even though we were over 12,000 feet, we felt comforted by the security of this pass. After taking it all in, we ate a quick snack and headed down the mountain.

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On the other side, we basically had a controlled free fall down a slide of scree. We got our first views of a partially frozen Texas Lake and the valley below. A single iceberg wondered through the lake, appearing like a small sailboat to us from high above. As we got closer, we began a mile traverse across a snowfield that fed into the lake. There was not necessarily a steep slope on the snow, but one slip would have sent us sliding into a frigid lake with our packs still on our backs. We stepped quickly and carefully and made it across with only a few slips that raised our heart rates.

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From here we walked down to Billy's Lake to eat lunch. Getting over the pass and down had taken the better part of our day, but this lake was too pretty to pass up a relaxing place to fish. The lake overlooked the opposite side of the Cirque and we were able to see large towers we had not previously seen. Here Liam admitted he was feeling very ill and did not know if he could do the big miles to the trailhead into Pinedale that we had planned on doing. We hated to break off from hiking with them, but it is definitely smart to listen to your body out here. Yes, anything is possible if you push hard enough. However, sometimes pushing too hard leads to more days off trail recovering than just dealing with it right away.

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From leaving the lake, we spent the rest of our day fording creeks and dropping elevation. Dodging in and out of thunderstorms, we struggled to stay dry and safe from mosquitoes. The further we hiked, the more pools of stagnate water we passed, the worse the mosquitoes got. As it began to get darker, we could not take it anymore and decided to set up our tent. We were a mile short of our mileage goal for the day, but the mosquitoes were terrorizing us. Without stopping, we took out the tent and tyvek and walked in fast circles while setting up and slapping our legs. As soon as the mesh was up, Critter got in and quickly zipped the door shut. Garbelly continued running circles and staked down the tent before quickly getting inside. In the three seconds the door was unzipped, ten to twenty mosquitoes followed us inside. After killing them all we looked out at our packs to see them covered.

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We still had to cook dinner and an oncoming storm meant we had to put up the rain fly on the tent... After a few dozen more mosquito bites, we fell asleep to the sound of buzzing and the sound of thunder overhead. We are not sure which was louder.

Cheers! 

Garbelly & Critter  

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Day 108: The Cirque de Towers- Temple Lake & Lonesome Lake

We woke up to the sound of wind on our improvised camp spots. As Garbelly woke up to take down the bear bag, he was greeted by Driver and Pitstop. They were a couple from Mississippi that we had recently met in Atlantic City. We seemed to all have a similar pace, they just woke up much earlier than we did. Sometimes that is how the trail culture works. You meet someone you hit it off with and know you would enjoy hiking with, but if you go two miles more or less than they do every day, it is almost impossible to see each other anywhere except towns. After they passed, we finished packing up and followed behind.

Our hike started with a climb next to Little Sandy Lake, even though we were never blessed with a view of the water from trail. The trail then wound its way through the trees and a few large rock outcroppings. Our day looked the exact same as the day before with the tunnel of trees leading the way until we rounded a corner and hanging high over a small lake, a massive monolith of granite was there to greet us.

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After climbing away from the lake, we rounded the hill into a glacial basin. We spent the next few miles walking through meadow with 2,000 foot granite cliffs on either side. Snow appeared in the distance and we knew that had to be where we were headed. As we walked next to a frozen lake, thoughts went through our heads of the dangers of this alternate. Seeing this much packed snow on a pass that was not even named on our maps made us more worried about the larger passes we had ahead of us. As soon as Garbelly placed his first foot on snow, we both knew it might be a sketchy climb up the pass.

Garbelly lead the way cross the first traverse. After getting halfway across he told Critter to scramble up and around the snow. Even though it was still before noon, the snow was icy and covered in a thick layer of slush. Halfway across, a large crack ran underneath his path and the snow below belled out too far to see the ground. Carefully he stepped across the snow, picking up his pace as he got closer to the rock on the other side.

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Seeing this traverse, Critter decided to take a more direct and safer approach. As she kicked her steps in to the snow, she slowly made her way to a pinnacle of rock and climbed around it and upwards towards Garbelly. Finally the hardest part was over and the rest was simply a scramble up the pass. At the top, Liam and Kate were laying down on a large flat boulder. It was definitely snack time and we readily joined them. Our bags of chips never last long.

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Heading down this pass, we were transported to a different world. As far as we could see existed thousand foot walls of granite and deep blue alpine seas. It truly was paradise and we could not hike fast enough to get there. As we shoe skied down the pass, we laughed and never stopped smiling at the unimaginable views. The nearest lake to us was Temple Lake and the closer we got, the more we all agreed that we could not pass up a lunch break and an icy dip here.

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During lunch Critter ended up catching a couple fish and Garbelly decided to take a couple polar plunges into the icy waters, (No one else joined him). The sun passed through dark scattered clouds overhead painting the gray rock with patches of light and warmth. Even though we heard a few rumbles of thunder, we all agreed to take it all in a bit longer. We did not think it could get any better, but the day was far from over.

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Leaving our beautiful lakeside lunch spot, we hiked onwards towards Big Sandy Lake. This areas was a popular entrance point for climbers heading to the Cirque. As soon as we descended to the sizable lake, we started getting poured on and hearing large booms of thunder. With our heads down we continued to hike while trying to stay warm in the storm. Here we saw multiple tents strewn over the wild flower covered grass.

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We decided not to go all the way over Jackass Pass to the Cirque, but after running into Driver and Pitstop around the pass, we decided we had plenty of daylight to make a push to the top. It was a relatively easy pass to climb, but we were all worn out from a long day of having to much fun and taking a lot of breaks. Nearing the top, we began to see the top of the Cirque. We were all silent as we stared onward towards the granite spires.

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It was the most beautiful place we had ever been.

We slowly climbed down. Liam found an awesome campspot high atop a rock overlooking the towers. As we ate dinner, the sun set and we saw the headlamps from climbers descending the mountains. We fell asleep as millions of stars.

Cheers!  

Garbelly & Critter  

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Day 107: In Between the Basin and the Winds

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We all packed up camp and began our day. The trail took us through forests of pine with small meadows scattered throughout along the way. We have now officially entered Grizzly territory so we made sure we took extra precautions such as hiking together and talking to make noise. We stopped for a quick break by a creek to filter water and eat a snack.

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For lunch, we stopped by an even bigger creek with a rather perfect swimming hole and a nice spot on the sandy beach to enjoy shade.

Garbelly jumped in to cool off and then joined Critter on the bank for lunch. Morales were not specifically high today, and neither of us were feeling great but we kept on hiking. To finish off the day, we climbed up through a gully and descended the other side offering us our first views of the mighty Wind River Range.

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We could see Little Sandy Lake and decided to finish the climb down to have dinner and then find a good spot to camp. 

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Cheers!  

Garbelly & Critter  

Critter did not have her best day of climbing over blowdowns which resulted in her getting stuck.  

Critter did not have her best day of climbing over blowdowns which resulted in her getting stuck.  

Day 106: Nero + Back to Atlantic City

Waking up in the City Park was rather comfortable. The excited kids that were running around the playground and the teens that were doing donuts in the gravel parking lot had long gone and quietness laid out over the green grass of the park. This morning we woke up to green walls surrounding us instead of the orange of our previous tent. We will definitely miss our orange tent and all the miles and memories but we have to say our new tent quickly became home. We love all the slight changes and the different layout, plus Garbelly has more head room. The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 grew leaps and bounds from last year's model to this year's. Immediately, we could tell that the rainfly material improved as well as the pole configuration. We had high hopes it would solve our condensation problems of the previous one. It was also such a pleasure to work with Kathleen at Big Agnes' customer service she was so helpful and friendly, being a thru-hiker herself. Essentially, we were to buy a new tent, send back our old one, and receive a credit for the tent we sent back.

We packed up and without much of a plan for the day, we all headed towards the Lander Bake Shop to help us get oriented. There with the help of coffee and breakfast, which consisted of an egg and cheese bagel sandwich and a giant cinnamon roll, we decided there was not a real rush to get out of town. After breakfast, we very slowly worked our way up to the highway to hitch back to trail. One last stop to pick up more bug spray at Wind River Outdoors, and we were on the road.

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It took two hitches to get back to South Pass City. The first man had given a ride to Thor and crew a few days prior. The second ride was an Atlantic City resident, one of the twenty that live there year round. He took us into the historic town of South Pass City, home of the first vote by a woman, and where our resupply boxes were being held. We picked up our boxes and then hopped back into the car and headed to Atlantic City.

He dropped us off at the Grubstake and gave us a heads up about their pies. Once inside, we found two seats at the bar and settled in. Laurel, the owner, was working behind the bar. She took our orders for drinks and food. From the beginning of our interaction with her we already could gather how much she cared about hikers and how much pride she took in taking care of them as they came through town. For such a small town, this was so amazing to see. 

At the bar, we met an incredibly friendly woman who was writing a story on Atlantic City, the Grubstake, and hikers. As we were talking with her, locals started to take their place at the bar. Among these locals where a handful of cowboys, a man we met in Encampment (who drove three hours to have dinner), and a man with a loaded and cocked gun on his belt and a face which could have only been weathered by a tough life lived. Laurel gave us a slight warning about the weathered man before going back to her story of how she ended up here in Atlantic City from California. It seems that all the locals we spoke to did just that, they "ended up here". In way, we kind of just "ended up here" too, and by the simple fact that all of us, cowboys, bikers, hikers, outlaws, and a writer, were alike in that way.

Kate, the writer, turned to the weathered man and in her professional, yet kind voice, asked him, "So how to do feel about the hikers?" His eyes fell shy of making eye contact when he muttered back grunts and shrugs. As we spoke to the man from Encampment, he caught him up on the trail since the last time we had seen him.

Fishing was brought up, at which point, the weathered man muttered, "I only fly fish." We shot back with "oh, so do we," and for the first time, his eyes laid on ours before quickly looking back at the ember at the end of his cigarette and his double shot of whiskey. We continued on with talking about fly fishing, the flies we have been using, where we have fished, and what we had caught. Not too long after, the weathered man got up and left the Grubstake. He stepped back through the doorway as the light from outside flooded into the dark bar, and he came right up to us holding in front of him a small red fly box. Inside there was a handful of flies. He pointed out three in particular: a bee pattern, an ant pattern, and a teeny, tiny adult fly pattern. The tiny fly, tied on probably a 20 hook size, was his proudest one. He wanted to see how small he could tie a fly, a delicate, patient task to say the least. He grabbed the bee and the ant patterns out of the box gifting them to us. He walked away before we could say much of a thank you and sat back down at the bar. We dug into our packs grabbing our small Altoids tin full of flies, picked out one of Marty's flies that he had presented to us as a going away gift, and walked up behind the man staring into the wall holding a new cigarette between his fingers. Critter put a hand gently on his back, as to not startle him, and handed him the fly from Nashville. "Can we give you this as a thank you?" He did not make eye with her but immediately fixated his eyes on the fly, mesmerized. He flipped it back and forth in his ruggedly wrinkled hands, admiring the bright orange of the tail, the lightness of the hackle, and the fluidity of the silhouette. "Thank you," he whispered.

Not just were we strangers, but the worlds we live in might as well be strangers too. Currently sitting in the Grubstake in Atlantic City seemed at first to be the only similarity between us and him, a brief passing of worlds barely touching each other as they go by, but in reality, there was a much deeper vein running between us, fly fishing. It just took the right cast and perfect presentation to catch his attention and then to reel his world in closer to ours and our world to his, meeting somewhere in between.

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After we finished up packing up our food bags from our resupply, Kate offered to give us a ride back to trail. We had a couple of miles to do to catch up with Liam and Kate. At this point, we were hiking through a weird limbo between desert and mountains. We were getting so close to the Wind River Range, by far our most anticipated stretch of the trail. We walked up on their campsite and they let us set up our tent near them for the night.

 

Cheers!

Garbelly & Critter

Day 104-105: Into Lander + Zero Day

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Hanging above our tent was a mosaic of wispy clouds and blue bird sky. The morning was cold, which was expected from camping right next to a river. We got moving eager to get to town when all of a sudden our past three days in constant heat and sunshine seemed like distant memories. The clouds had taken over and a cold drizzle of rain began falling. On one of the blistering hot days this cool down would have been warranted, but today we went from complaining about the heat to complaining about being cold. Now we really wanted to get to town.

We had camped right by the Sweetwater River, which the water ended up making Garbelly and D=rt briefly sick even after filtering and treating. We were pleasantly surprised when we were preparing to forge and were greeted by a bridge. No wet feet this morning, at least not from a river crossing. We continued on the trail which went back and forth between narrow trail to two-track. When we reached the highway we stuck our thumbs out and waited for a willing car to pull over. Because of the rain, we did not stop in South Pass City, we would have to come back on our way back to trail. We did not pass Go so we did not collect $200.

As we waited at the highway, the rain began falling harder and the air grew colder. A black Subaru pulled over and the friendliest face and cutest pup appeared at the window. With the biggest smile on her face, she yelled, "what are you crazy kids doing?!" We hopped in and out of the cold rain. After introducing ourselves and finding out she was a teacher from Colorado, we were off to Lander! She was easily one of the friendliest people we have ever come across. She dropped us off right outside of the Chinese buffet. We wobbled inside and immediately were presented with a stack of plates and an invite to enjoy the buffet. 

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After lunch, the four of us headed towards the Frontier Motel where we split a room. The room was recently renovated, and we were rather surprised at how clean and comfortable the room was! Our internet investigation did not do the actual room justice.  

For dinner, we walked down to Lander Bar for pizza that we had been craving since we met up with Wild Bill and he gave us his leftovers from this exact restaurant.  

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We ran into Winter and met the family that had taken him in, his Lander trail angel. She was a beautiful blond with a flower tiara in her hair and glitter painted over her eyelids like eyeshadow. A long sequin cape wrapped around her giving her the appearance of floating as she moved around the restaurant. She loved picking up hikers even though her husband was not on the same page. However, he was out of town for the week so as she explained when she saw Winter on the side of the highway her brakes screeched to a stop and she ordered him to jump in. She was amazing and her energy lit up the patio. Winter sat quietly next to her, but with the sweetest little smile on his face. We could tell how grateful he was. 

After dinner, we headed to grab ice cream, a Liam and Kate favorite, and then headed back to the hotel to get some well deserved sleep. We had made it through the basin. Sleep, take it easy on me. 

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The next day was without hesitation a zero. The morning started out with breakfast at the Middle Fork then a visit to the Wild Iris Gear shop. Next came a long sit session at the Crux coffee shop with a lunch break to see the new Spider-Man movie with D=rt at the local theater. Then back to the coffeeshop to continue sitting. Garbelly ran over to the NOLS office to pick up our new tent that had arrived from Big Agnes.  Tent in hand we headed to the grocery store to grab dinner to make once we got to the city park.

Liam, is that how tents work? 

Liam, is that how tents work? 

Among the many awesome things about Lander, their city park is open to free camping. There is always a bit of a concern about city camping, not to mention, free, city camping but so far we have only been pleasantly surprised. We walked away from Downtown eventually arriving at the front of the park. A group of kids were playing on the playground. Tents were already being set up throughout the grassy area of the park. We met back up with Liam and Kate and found a flat area to set up our tents. We took our brand new tent out of its bag and began setting it up. It was as easy to set up as our previous tent but the new features were evident. We started playing around and exploring all the changes, being the gear nerds that we are. Finally, starving, we sat down with the group to eat a dinner of tortellinis, crackers and cheese, and fruit. Zero day complete. 

Cheers! 

Garbelly & Critter  

Day 101-103: The Great Basin

Day 101: 28 miles 

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This morning was not the typical morning. When Garbelly woke up, he heard the sounds of Liam and Kate packing up and the sun had yet to peak over the horizon. Damn.. it would be an early morning if we did not want to hike alone. After Critter reluctantly woke up, we quickly packed up our house and had everything together before they finished drinking their morning coffee. As we strolled out of camp, our faces felt the warmth of the sun showing itself for the first time.

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With twelve miles to water and no shade, we did not mess around. We quickly hiked towards a spring we really hoped was there. As we got closer, we noticed a hiker that was neith Liam nor Kate. Just as we approached the spring we noticed it was our good old friend D=rt strolling right along. He came up to the spring just as we were lifting the metal lid off of a galvanized piece of culvert pipe. This had been buried in the ground to collect the spring water. Besides a few water bugs, the water was pristine. As we filtered, another hiker appeared over the horizon in a cowboy hat made out of an old Bud Light box. Sure enough, it was Tennesteve!! It had been since Grants at an all you can eat Chinese Buffet since we had seen him last! It was so nice to catch up with a familiar face.  We briefly caught up with him on trail about the time we had not seen him and then we would not see each other for weeks, or in this case a couple months.

We definitely liked this aspect of the CDT. Everyone out here becomes friends with each other as soon as we meet each other. Seeing another thru hiker is always exciting and somewhat of a relief. Even though we both love being around each other everyday, sometimes it is nice to listen to a strangers' stories and become great friends by the end of a day of hiking.

After leaving the spring, D=rt and Garbelly lead the way to a good lunch spot with Critter close behind. While talking with D=rt, we pried a little and found out this was his second time doing the CDT. In addition to that, he had done the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail three times each. And that is just scratching the surface of the trails he has hiked. If we had not pried, he definitely would not have flaunted it around. In the trail culture, there is a lot of bragging about miles hiked. It was really nice to be hiking with another hiker like Lil Buddha that did not brag about hiking almost 30,000 miles. Being around individuals that truly just loved being outside is so nice to experience.

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As we continued to walk through miles and miles of flat desert, a large mountain blocked our view to the North. After a few miles we came to a fence and rounded the mountain. Without much surprise, as we came around the mountain we saw nothing but flat desert and large piles of horse dung. We decided this would be a good spot to eat lunch, so D=rt joined us and we set down in the middle of a field since there was no shade anywhere.

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We sweated and roasted as we ate our lunch and quickly got back to hiking. Ahead we had heard about a reservoir that was cold and deep enough to swim. We hiked the next twelve miles as fast as we could without stopping and found our feet submerged in the ice cold water and the silty mud squishing up between our toes.  As we stood here small fish began eating what we assume were dead skin cells off of our feet. A free spa in the desert! On top of this, as the clouds covered the sky, mayflies began popping off the top of the water only to be eaten by trout! This was too much for Critter to take. As Liam and Kate cooked dinner, we began fishing.  Now, we can honestly say that we caught trout in the middle of the desert. Around nine o'clock we finally hiked another mile to camp. The skies were clear as far as we could see, so we left the rain fly off for the night.

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Day 102: 27.5 miles 

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As Garbelly awoke, he spotted not only a milky white sky full of stars, but also something moving. Something he had not remembered seeing as he went to sleep. As he turned his head slightly, he saw distinct silhouettes of two pronghorn eating by our tent. Just as Garbelly slowly grabbed the camera to get a picture, Critter rolled over on her noisy sleeping pad quickly scaring them away. As he looked up through the mesh, the sky was alive with light. So many stars visible with the naked eye. It was almost tough to return to sleep with that much beauty overhead. The day of hiking had not even began and it was already an incredible day.

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As the sun arose, we packed up and headed to crooks creek spring. Here we filtered ice cold water as a herd of wild horses came to the local watering hole to tank up for a bit. One after the other showed up. Then we saw antelope and herds of cattle show up to have a cool drink and graze for a bit. This was a fun spot to take a break even though the sun was blazing overhead. In the steel tank near the spring, there was a bocce ball set for hikers to pass the time. Due to the lack of shade, we decided it would be best to keep walking and try and make some miles.

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As we wondered over two-track four wheeler roads, we began to feel more like slow roasted turkeys rather than hikers. We looked for any possible shade to get out of the heat if only for a moment. We spotted a tree, but as we neared it, we realized that it was the favorite spot of many animals and the surrounding ground was covered in a few inches of animal scat. We continued to hike to find a spot.

A mile later, we found a grove of trees right next to a spring. The perfect place for a siesta. We laid down our tyvek in the shade and got our food out for lunch. After eating we decided to lay down and take a short nap. Unfortunately, we were found by an army of ants. Every time we drifted off to sleep, one would start crawling around places they should not have been. We had enough and packed our things up around 4:00 PM and headed up the rest of our scorching hot climb. From here we saw herd after herd of wild horses and even had a few get closer than we had wished for. After reaching the top of our climb, we began climbing a ridge. We followed the sandy path for a few more miles before coming to our last water source for twenty miles. It was a duck inhabited, leech infested, murky cow pond. Naturally we stopped to have dinner here. The water in our bottles looked like we were drinking green tea and tasted a bit like cow. 

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After dinner we realized we had only hiked around 22 miles, no where near our morning's goal for the day. As soon as we realized this we both decided to night hike until we felt like we had completed a good amount of miles to make for an easy day into Lander in two days time. We got out our headlamps, said goodnight to Liam and Kate and set off into the night.

Since this was Critter's first night hike, she was not aware of how alive everything becomes at night. Within the first mile we were flocked by a few bats, spooked a few dear and were even spoiled by a snake. In the next mile we heard coyotes howling and lightning shot across the sky in the distance. We decided it was time to find a low spot and set up for the night. We had made it to our goal for the day even if it was nearing 11:00 PM.

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 Day 103: 33 miles

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We woke up on the ridge with nothing but slight breeze in an early morning sun peeking in. After waking up and packing up our things we started up the mountain only to find another heard of pronghorn waiting at the top for us. Descending the mountain, we ran into D=rt who had cowboy camped just below this climb. From here we wound through the desert quickly coming up to another stinky pond that a man named Hawkeye had left a water cache near. We grabbed a liter here and were very thankful for the water.

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After a quick break we headed down the road yelling at some bulls to move out of the way. About a quarter-mile down the trail we found another water cash left by Hawkeye. This cache was tucked within a really nice kiosk. Reading through the logbook we had realized that we had just missed getting Gatorade, but again were thankful for the water. From here we begin our long march through the flat desert crossing back-and-forth over a semi dry creek and seeing lots of wildlife.

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Shortly after, we met our first Southbounder, a man named Josh from England. He warned us about how treacherous the snow in the Wind River range was and that he lost over $700 worth of gear in the water crossings. He also mentioned that the people in Atlantic City helped take care of him, and put some weight back on him since he had lost weight in such a long stretch. We all sat down and briefly talk to him before setting back off onto trail for a big day.

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We quickly climbed up a hill and found nice cool springs at the top that we filtered and had lunch. Here at the top D=rt met up with us and joined us for lunch. However, we were all so hot from sitting in the sun that we didn't stay for very long. Soon we begin walking again and met up with Oregon Trail and the California Trail. After growing up and playing Oregon Trail so many times on the computer as a kid, it was honestly very exciting to be walking trail that so many others before us have travelled. In the vast plains, dark jagged rocks shot up all around us and snowy granite mountains could be seen in the distance.

At this point it was about 5 o'clock or so we still had 10 miles to go to reach 33 miles on the day. We filtered water from a clear pool of Mormon spring and continued the rest of the way mostly on a gravel road.

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Just as the sun was setting below the horizon we made it down to the Sweetwater River where Liam and Kate were setting up their tent. This river marked the end of the wild basin we had called home for the past few days. We found a flat spot near by, but began being attacked by thick swarms of mosquitoes. We put on every article of clothing we had, but they still bit us. We ended up drowning ourselves in bug spray before we made dinner. We had a feeling this would be our buggy conditions for the rest of Wyoming, but hoped we were wrong.

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Cheers!  

Garbelly & Critter  

 

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Liam showing off his strength.  

Day 99-100: Into Rawlins + Jason and Derek Visit and Back to Trail

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The road continued, eventually changing from gravel to pavement. Parts of town began to come into view and our wide open road became a residential road framed by houses and cars. We arrived in downtown Rawlins just as the heat of the day kicked into full gear. We ate at Anoog's for their Thai buffet, where we ran into the most hikers we have see in one place. The food was delicious and the price was right.

Afterwards we headed towards the Econo Lodge where we had our fingers crossed for an early check-in. They allowed us to check in around noon! Once we got to our room, we dropped our things and quickly began trying to throw away all of our trash and collect all of our dirty clothes to wash. Our great friends Jason and Derek from Nashville (and coworkers at Cumberland Transit) were going to swing by Rawlins for the night on their way to climb the Grand Teton in Jackson. There is nothing worst then confining a hiker and his/her pack to a hotel room and not being used to the thru-hiking stink. We scrambled to get everything that smelled out and even let our gear air out a little bit.

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Meeting up with Jason and Derek in Middle of Nowhere, Wyoming was an absolute treat. We felt guilty for dragging them into the Great Basin, but with a couple of days in the Tetons ahead of them we figured they needed a little desert time. We grabbed pizza in town before heading back to the Econo Lodge, where we stayed for the night. As excited as we were to share stories of our adventure so far, we enjoyed even more hearing about life back in Nashville, Cumberland Transit, and all the adventures they had been getting involved with and planning. The CT family is something else. We won't get into too much mushy talk because we might tear up, so we will just leave it at simple that: "The CT family is something else." We love y'all so much. We miss y'all, and we are sending y'all the most rad adventure vibes! 

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The next day we spent the first part of the morning with Jason and Derek before they headed towards Teton National Park to climb the Grand. We started the morning with a continental (divide) breakfast and then Derek treated us to an awesome cup of coffee at the local coffee shop. After this, we parted ways at the local grocery store where Garbelly tried to stall them so they would have to stay another night.

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The rest of our afternoon involved sitting in the Econo Lodge lobby with Liam and Kate. We were all heading back to trail today but we were searching for the motivation at the bottom of pints of Talenti Ice Cream. For the record, there is no motivation down there just instant tummy ache and regret. Finally, we mustered up the energy to head to trail. The sunset that evening quickly reminded us of the absolute beauty of the Basin. Our hundredth day on trail ended in a beautiful way. We fell asleep looking up at the stars surrounding us.

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Cheers!

Garbelly & Critter

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Day 98: The Basin Begins: Roads and Rattlesnakes

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We were able to get out of camp just as the sun was coming up over the rolling hills. We left camp quietly to let D=rt continue sleeping, and we made our way up to a grassy bald. The trail took us up and over several of these balds before sneaking us into the trees where we were met by a war field of blow downs. We had to step over, jump over, and even climb over fallen trees almost every couple of yards. Stopping at a small creek, we filtered some water before heading on towards the road.

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Once we reached the road, we were immediately greeted by a herd of pronghorns. We had a big day ahead of us so we each got into our zone and hiked. We started seeing cows again and even saw some snow tucked in between two hills. The sun was hot shining down on us. We stopped to filter water at Savory Creek where swallows zipped back and forth feeding on mosquitoes and flies. When our sweating did not cease, we figured to just keep hiking.

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Throughout the day we experienced waves of shade as a storm moved in. We ate lunch by the side of the road, and unfortunately the sun was very present during our break. We continued down the road drowning ourselves in music and podcasts to pass the time. A car came flying by and Garbelly stepped off of the road on to the shoulder. Once his attention broke from the careless car and the dust settled, he was greeted by a large, green Praire Rattlesnakes coiled up at his feet. Only a couple of seconds into their interaction and the snake seemed already upset and ready to strike, not a great way to make friends. Garbelly kicked up the sole of his shoe catching the blow of the snake's strike buying him time to get back on the road.

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The day continued with less excitement until the wind picked up and thus the rain started. We kept hiking a little bit until we found a flat spot away from the road, quickly set up camp, and just laid there listening to the rain pouring down soaking the rainfly of our tent. In the middle of the night, Critter woke up to pee, now that the rain had finally slowed. She jumped out of the tent, headlamp on head, and started to do her business. She looked out into the field stopping on two set of eyes staring back at her. The two locked eyes for the entirety of her time out there before scurrying back to the warmth of the tent.

Cheers to the wide open road. 

Garbelly & Critter  

PS. Today was also our official one year anniversary together. While we feel like we have know each other our entire lives, today marks the day a year ago that we admitted it to each other. Adventure pals! 

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Day 97: Resupply In Encampment (1361 to 1383)

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After all the rain we received last night, the world around us was soaking wet. We packed up camp and set out to finish up the four miles to Highway 70. Not far from where we camped, we met up with Quicksilver and together we hiked to Battle's Pass. Through the boggiest trail, we kept up a decent pace reaching the road not too long after 8:30am. The pass was quiet. No cars went past us. No one was around. Quicksilver decided to push through to Rawlins, but with only one meal left, we decided it best for us to make sure we got to Encampment to get our resupply box. Each time a car passed by we held up our thumbs and put a big friendly smile on, but each time the car just flew by. A couple of times, the car would pull over to let us know that there was no room for us or that they were only going a little ways. At least they were considerate. We considered the option of just pushing through to Rawlins and bouncing our boxes up. With only one meal and a couple of days worth of snacks, it would definitely be a push.

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D=rt hiked down the trail and joined us on the shoulder of the road. We complained about how hard the hitch was going to be, but sure enough, the next car that drove up pulled over and picked us up. We climbed in the back with two dogs, Ellie and Rebel, and rode all the way into town and to the Post Office. There we grabbed our boxes, repacked our bags, saw a couple of other hikers, and we were even offered a ride back up to trail. We ran over to the Red Wagon for a quick bite to eat, where we met two more hikers, Mac and Appa, and then climbed into our trail angel's car and headed back up to the pass. Our first in-and-out of town was a success! Also we must be close to the hiker bubble because we ended up hiking near four other hikers.

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Right back on trail we followed a dirt road close to 11,000 feet. During this climb we began to get our first glimpses of the basin and the trail that laid before us. We dipped back down into tree line and filtered water at a crystal clear, cold stream, one of the last ones apparently as we begin into the basin. We certainly did not take it for granted and enjoyed a quick break and snack. The two of us plus Winter and Dirt, continued on towards Deep Jack Trailhead. We jumped back on the trail and followed it through pine and aspen forests before climbing up to a bald. Dark clouds had moved in cooling everything down just a bit. There were a handful of blow downs when we entered back into the trees but we were able tofind a big enough flat spot for all three of our tentsjust before another rolling climb. We set up camp and then all ate dinner together.

Cheers! 

Garbelly & Critter  

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Day 96: Hello Wyoming. Entering the Medicine Bow (1336 to 1361)

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Following a dirt road that eventually turned into an overgrown dirt road, we finished out our last several miles in Colorado. Just feet from the border, a stack of blow downs blocked the trail. We hoisted ourselves up and over for the last time in Colorado. The feeling was great. We reached the Wyoming State Line and were overwhelmed with excitement, the feeling of accomplishment, and relief. We had walked our way across another state, an incredibly tough state, a humbling one. Colorado was amazing, but now it is time to continue on and begin a new chapter. We took our last steps and into Wyoming we hiked.

The trail continued on an overgrown two track trail mending into a single track as we entered a boggy meadow. We passed by a small seep but when we realized that was our next water we pivoted ourselves around and hiked back down trail to filter.

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Continuing on we entered the Huston Wilderness, a part of the Medicine Bow National Forest, and followed a bit of unnecessarily winding trail up to the most beautiful creek, Dale Creek. Crystal clear water flowed through shaded forest which in turn was framed by gorgeous rock formations with enticing hand holds and cracks. We stopped to filter, rinse our hair (yes, Garbelly too), and eat some snacks. A couple of hikers gathered at this spot while we sat there, including Quicksilver and D=rt. With a climb ahead of us, we decided to pack up and finished our miles for the day. The climb was gradual and the trail faded in and out. As we grew closer to the top, the terrain became rocky with smooth boulders. At the top, lightning moved in with the wind. We hiked faster until we finally came to a spot to camp that was both flat and dry. Mosquitoes were treacherous but once the rain started everything quieted down. 

 

Hello Wyoming.  

Garbelly & Critter  

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