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 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 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 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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