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 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 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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