Day 101: 28 miles
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.
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.
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.
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.
Day 102: 27.5 miles
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.
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.
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.
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.
Day 103: 33 miles
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Garbelly & Critter
Liam showing off his strength.