Lima – Brooks Lake Lodge
CDT mile 1096.5
my mile 970 prolly, day 33
Today we hike in trees again! lovely, cool trees. The social interactions in Rawlins and our angel visit have rejuvenated me. The morning passes easily.
Around midday we pass a huge backpack by a log. So huge, I don’t notice at first there is a person attached. Here we meet Tugboat, a 52 year old retired firefighter who started in Glacier on June 1st, trudging thru snow with an 80 lb pack. Tugboat is old school and didn’t know about the hiking culture which allows for hitching to town every 3-7 days for more food. Therefore he’s carried 21 days of food at a time, as well as his slingshot, pistol and pole so he can hunt, fish and grill game along the way. Amazing. A dude who really can survive the apocalypse. I am so impressed. Now that he’s realized he can go into towns he’s about 20 lbs lighter and much happier. And hella ripped.
Groucho and I pass him and take a different alternate, but I feel happy knowing he’s out here.
At dusk it starts to rain and we pitch our tarp for the first time in days. There are actual trees to pitch between!! We are almost to Colorado.
This morning we see Curtis (hiker) and Sable (dog) who we met in Lander. They hiked out a day earlier than us from Lander but our ride from the Rawlins angel helped us catch up. Curtis is admittedly lonely since his lady friend had to get off trail for work. We happily hike with these buds.
Around 11am we reach the Boarder of WY and CO!!
Then a nice leisurely walk into the hills and short mountains. Curtis gets ahead in the afternoon but we catch up at the dinner break and I let him know that, tho he is faster than us, he’s welcome to hike with us if it would be good for his spirit I know it will be good for mine.
A few hours before dusk we begin a long descent into meadow. Then a long burn area. We pass up several sites because of so many snags (dead trees). Finally Curtis chooses a meadow and though it isn’t perfect, we submit. There aren’t any dead trees for about 40 feet in any direction.
At midnight a huge cracking sound and an earthquake-like shudder in the ground wakes me. Lighting? “What was that?!” I ask. Groucho replies… “A tree fell.” A big tree. Very close. I count my lucky stars and try to fall asleep again but it is hella cold and damp in the meadow.
We wake with frost frozen on our sleeping bags.
Today we enjoy a 3500 feet climb over 10 miles. I feel weak and tired. Altitude?
It’s the beginning of bow season and all day long we pass happy hunters decked in camo or hunter orange with bows slung over their shoulders.
There is so much dead forest here because of pine beetle kill that we can’t help but sleep amongst some snags. It’s barely worth it as all night I feel awake. Staring at a sillouttte of a snag hanging over our heads. And by 4am hunters start tromping by our site. I need to get me some hunter orange gear lest I be mistaken for an elk or deer.
Im so excited to get to town! The morning passes quickly passing many hunters and day hikers and lakes. It’s almost all downhill.
I do a movie-length retelling of Little Women and suddenly (2 hours later) we are at the trailhead! 2 lovely day hikers are parked and offer us a ride to Steamboat Springs. We accept and stay at the awesome Rabbit Ears Motel, across from the PO and natural food store. Sooooooo many vegan snacks.
Aug 17, 18, 19Zeros
The exhaustion and calorie restrictions caused by the wind River Range, now require us to take 3 zeros in a row. I suppose that’s what we get for not taking a day off in a whole month. We’re around 1000 miles into our hike.
We arrive in Lander and I realize I haven’t looked in a mirror in almost 2 weeks. I don’t recognize this person. I look and feel dirty, depleted and gaunt. I shower, launder and give myself a bang trim with my mini Swiss army knife.
Then I try to gain weight. Over three days I will eat caramel corn, hummus, chips, bean dip, sandwiches, wraps, pizza, more pizza, waffle fries, again with the waffle fries, coconut chocolate milk, bread sticks, bananas, peaches, salad, more salad, more salad, and many Luna bars.
I begin to feel normal ish.
Our hotel room is ridiculously spacious. We spread out over 2 queen sized beds and air out our gear, clean and repair things, ice our knees and feet.
I also practice talking to other humans again. My first attempts are runaway train style. And I realize how lonely I’ve felt out here in our stretch since we left Helena. I turn on my phone and dash off dozens of text missives to friends back home.
The teevee offers an impressive array of 80’s hits including Beverly Hills cop and Full House.
Lander is a charming town with a great bar/restaurant, outfitters, groceries, a Post Office, thrift store, coffee shops and a yoga studio. We take yoga and feel great. And now, finally, it’s time to get back on trail.
A Beautiful Day. Finally!
Today is a joy. We relish several hearty breaks, make good miles, and traverse easy but gorgeous terrain of frosty meadows, aspen groves, epic lakes and aqua green rivers.
It’s a popular area with troves of trail runners, day hikers, canoers, and some 7-day section hikers on a similar route as ours.
The green river lives up to its name and we only wish we had extra food so we could camp early along it’s shore.
At the end of the day we turn up the Knapsack Col alternate. Recommended by all NOBO’s this 13 mile alternate replaces as many miles of the CDT. We camp a mile in, saving the climb and “big reveal” of the landscape for tomorrow.
There are so many hearty, kind, adventurous Wyomingians out here. We meet several couples who we leapfrog with throughout the day. Social time feels great. I miss people.
But most importantly the views and features along the alternate drop jaws. 100% awesome.
Bouldering becomes the new normal as we scramble up and down mountain cols, skirting glaciers and skipping over glacial melt. The new way of traversing Takes more time, strength and energy tho, and we finish a 12.5 mile section at 5:30 totally depleted having already eaten all our snacks for the day.
Normally we’d simply eat more to perk up but we are on rations now (having taken a low mile day early in this stretch and adding -23mi- when we had to bail from the high route.
I’m very stressed out about this. I’ve never run out of food hiking. I feel so far from our goal – landers, Wyoming. We still have 77+ miles to go and with less energy we go slower still. I feel like a jerk because this is one of the most breath taking places I’ve ever EVER beheld. And all I can think about is getting to town.
We could bail a few places, hiking 11 miles down a side trail to a popular trail head or campground but we’d have to come back the same way which at this point sounds like a drag.
I’m so tired. But stubbornly press forward. Mile after gorgeous difficult mile.
A Good Day. After yesterday’s rigors today feels a bit easier. We wake early, discipline our selves to time our food breaks every 2-3 hours. Miles go more quickly along so many gorgeous lakes.
At one we pre wash our bodies and clothes. Anticipating the 36 mile hitch to town in a few days.
We ran out of coffee yesterday but run into a weathered, handsome gentle soul who becomes our Coffee Angel having packed in too much instant folgers. Groucho pulls a bag out of his collection of slightly used ziplocks and we feel hyped in anticipation of our afternoon coffee break ritual.
In the evening we almost jog across a 4 mile stretch of flat, high, open meadow. Chatting merrily I spy a weird looking dead log by the side of the trail (never mind that there are no trees up here.). As we approach I again wonder why dead logs often look like dead animals. Another two steps and almost imperceptibly the log twitches. Oh crap. “Back up back up back up back up” I stammer as I realize it’s a Badger!! I love badgers but from afar. They have strong jaws and teeth and for their size can be very intimidating if you startle it. This one is pressed as flat in the brush as possible, like a cat stalking prey. I take a great tho shaky video which I will post to YouTube.
We continue till dark, finding refuge under a large tree.
At 3:30am it begins to rain on us. We work swiftly to set up the tarp together. Some things we are really good at now. Like truckers hitch knots. Our gear is just a tiny damp but dry by morning.
I’m a broken record that cannot stop pining for town. But today holds a lot of beautiful, treacherous and rigorous distraction in our Cirque de Towers alternate. A 21 mile path thru 3 steep, Rocky Mountain passes, among jagged peaks and pristine lakes.
A few photos:
Though my mind drifts toward town and my very light food bag, the challenge keeps me very much in the present. Isn’t that what we all aspire to? To be “here”? Not to be with wandering stress, distracted thoughts, worries about the future or regrets about the past. Just to be here now… It’s a gift if only I can accept it. Today I realize that often it takes fear – jumping into the unknown or placing one’s self in precarious and difficult situations – to snap someone back to the present. I’m thankful for this difficult lesson – . In today’s case presented via thunder, rain and hail at 2 mountain passes, steep traverses down narrow, worn down switchbacks, with recent evidence of rockslides, and inclines so steep that my toned calf muscles burn and burn and burn some more.
We can’t locate the trail several times today. It doesn’t worry me any more, as much as annoy me. It’s much slower to walk thru open terrain than on a solid trail. And I want. No I NEED to make miles today. I have to get to town.
At night we stop by a river. We’re heading to bed earlier on this journey. Not as much from fatigue, it’s just easier to find a flat, soft, sheltered spot in the light. On pct and AT we were spoiled. all guidebooks show where you can find slightly (or very) impacted sites and shelters along the trail. So hiking at night, it was easier to have faith we’d come upon a decent site by reviewing the data. On this hike we only have our eyes and topo maps to guide us to a safe slumber.
Today’s rations are light and we know it. Unless we run into campers we can beg for food we will be totally out by nightfall. We have 31 miles to the road where we can hitch to town. Okay. Ready. Get set. Go.
6:00: We are up and at it.
7:20: I find raspberries and pick a dozen to add to our oats!
7:30: morning break.
8:00: We rejoin the CDT.
8:15: hike up a hill.
9:00: intermittent huckleberry foraging whilst ascending our steepest climb for the day.
10:00: Break at creek for water, a Luna bar, and to wash my shirt and hat. I smell.
10:15: resume walking (downhill!!)
12:30: water break. Coffee. Last protein powder. Begin to enter the desert of the Great Basin area. Hot sun!
1:30: blessed clouds greet us. We love them. Miles go faster.
3:15 dinner break of a cup of rice, nutritional yeast and olive oil.
3:35: hike up last long hill of day.
4:00: trail retellings of mice and men (Groucho) and ghost busters (Harpo)
5:30: we recount our Hungary hike along the Blue Trail town by town. Campsite by campsite. (We miss you Huck!)
6:00: coffee break at top of the hill with last dribbles of snacks: a cherry jolly ranger (me) and 2 squares of chocolate (Groucho)
7:00: 7 miles to go! We start trail running on the downhills
7:45: pass a huge herd of prong horned antelope
8:11: reach road! Start hitching.
8:14: official sunset
8:30: stop hitching.
9:00: Camp along the road in grove of aspens. Share miso packet.
10:00: sleep. (I realize ironically that today is the first in this whole hike we haven’t spoken too or seen another living soul.)
4am: wake with grumbling belly
7:15am: start hitching
8:15am: a wonderful couple headed to North Carolina drops off another SOBO at the trail head and offers us a ride to Landers!!!!! We are saved!!!!!!!!!
We sleep in. Delicious sleep.
There is an active but 80% “contained” fire on the east side of this mountain, so our hike today is a reroute along dirt roads on the west side.
We meet a Man from Texas on a wagon with his son and 4 horses. Two of the horses are carriage ponies from NYC pulling the wagon. He tells us story upon story of being lost, killing elk, and being attacked by a grizzly he and his buddies had to take down with 7 gunshots and then call fish and wildlife for a CSI style investigation. Grizzlies, like humans, are a protected species.
On a long break under a bridge we rinse clothes and review maps, deciding which of the half dozen routes to do thru Northern Wind river range. There are many alternates and side trails to discover if we have enough food.
The afternoon carries some challenging way-finding up to Sheridan pass. Exhausted, we decide to sleep here… it’s too beautiful to move along.
A day of reckoning. Are we brave enough to attempt the cdt wind river range high route? A little dotted line on our map indicating less than distinct trail. We’re told it’s like combining katahdin with mahoosic notch in some areas. Both the toughest parts of the Appalachian Trail. Hum.
The morning moves fast but I feel lonely. And by 3:30 we’re at the turn off for the alternate, squinting at the sky. Are those fluffy playful clouds or storm clouds? Map notes say to ensure a clear forecast before attempting the high route. We’ve seen clouds the last few days but no rain. We don’t know the forecast but a cautious couple on an ATV say they think it’s supposed to be warmer this week.
After dinner at Lake of the Woods we decide to go for it. The first 10 miles are along an ATV road but gains 3000 feet elevation. This will be the rest of our day. Then tomorrow we’ll have 14 miles up and along the high route before 4-5 miles descending and rejoining the CDT.
Feeling excited we set off and are making good time but the last few miles are killer on the jeep road and we get to the pass right at sunset.
We look at the map. now we’re supposed to bushwhack off trail for 1.2 miles, toward some lakes and find another footpath that will connect us to the base of Shale Mountain.
For this task we use a paper map and the compass on our phones and the Gaia app which will use the phone GPS to draw our route in case we want to go back.
As we start down the last leg of the jeep road I realize we already missed the “turn” for the bushwhack section. We can either backtrack, or just start from here. I pull out my tools, okay let’s go.
The bush whack would take us straight up and then down the other side of the mountain on our left. We decide on a round about course following a topo line for awhile and judging our way down the hill based on what we see. We avoid the super steep areas and head for wider spaced topo lines on the map. This works for awhile… until the sun sets.
Around dark we reach a place where the alpine meadow transitions to a tallus field where we maneuver around huge boulders. We attempt to descend slowly and carefully toward the tree line we can barely see below. Eventually we begin to feel mossy dirt under our shoes and see sparse scraggly trees here and there. In the dark, with just Groucho’s night vision and my headlamp guiding us, we maneuver to soft tho slopey duft under the protection of several trees. We are adjacent to a glacier and sleeping close to 11,000 feet.
We eat snacks and pack away all our food in our opsaks. Grateful for the odor barrier ziplocks since we have no trees tall enough for a bear hang.
At 4:44 I awake to rain?! Oh wait no… Actually it’s snow. What?!
We scramble and throw our tarp over us batwing style and are warm and dry but worried what for this mean for the high route?
We talk and hit snooze on the alarm, waiting until light to check the scene out. The popcorn snow stops, but as the light seeps grows we behold a persistent cloud cover blanketing the sky. Menacing dark clouds hang just beyond our beloved high route. Shale mountain shrouded in mist.
We make a difficult choice to forego the adventurous high route and (ugh) retreat 11.8 miles back to the regular CDT and resume south from there.
We encounter more light snow, hail and rain off and on all day. Also scattered sun and wind. By noon we are back on trail and though I feel relieved believing we made the right and safe choice, I dread the days ahead now we are squarely in the middle of this section and I have a sneaking suspicion we are low on food. We review the maps and look at our remaining food, realizing yes… we will have to ration food… having added approximately 24 miles to this already-long leg of the journey
The morning goes like this: pack up, walk on paved road to bridge bay store, charge devices, drink coffee, get a camp permit for tonight on the thoroughfare trail, go to the bathroom a dozen times (town food? Too much coffee? the free beer yesterday? Too much bison poop in my water?) hitch to Fishing Bridge for resupply (mostly ramen, bars and oats), hitch to nine mile trailhead with a super great family from Wisconsin!) all these chores take about 5 hours. Generally speaking, 5 hours is enough time for basic resupply. Throw in Internet, correspondence and laundry – a good town day can last 8-24 hours. But none of these spots offer wifi. And we decided not to invest in laundry at this time. So we’re out pretty quickly.
The amazing thoroughfare trail runs along the east side of majestic Yellowstone lake for about 20 miles. Today we knock out 13 miles finding wild strawberries, raspberries and huckleberries, bear scat. And huge dog prints? Or Wolf prints?
Groucho and I engage in good, challenging, invigorating conversation and hours pass quickly till we arrive at our spacious lakeshore site. It sleeps 12 but we now know that the Park’s policy is first come first served and they make no attempt to share sites among multiple parties. So we are wonderfully alone except for the chirping chipmunks.
The thorofare trail runs remarkably easily, breezily and beautifully along the east side of Yellowstone NP. Reportedly this area is the most remote in the lower 48, with no road access for 40 miles in any direction.
We follow a long river valley, stopping for breaks and seeing huge Pelican claws in the sandy river shore.
I’ve begun reading again on trail. I enjoy reading stories about women and make an effort to download books with the free library “overdrive” app. This week is finally “wild” by Cheryl stayed. Surprised but I love it. Don’t know why the patriarchy tries to smash her so hard. Brave and interesting writer.
Reading makes me feel creative and enjoy my blogging more. Groucho and I discuss how we might be ready to process/communicate more outside our blog about the thru hiking experience. Today we discuss these possibilities at length.
A tragedy befalls us. I’ve lost my beloved Jean Luc aka Patrick Stewart. Tho he was just a .6 oz, golden, anodized aluminum poo trowel he was treasured by all in the Wrong Way Gang. I know Future Dad particularly will be sad to learn of his disappearance.
*a moment of silence*
so yeah. It’s lonely out here. Groucho wakes on the wrong side of the bed. We indulged in a series of intimate conversations yesterday about families, relationships, friendships, personal histories and he is emotionally depleted.
I walk alone all morning, looking for animal prints in the sand with the same expectation I used to attend to my email inbox. Hello squirrel, hello hawk, hello chipmunk and bear and dear buddies. The only human prints today are Groucho’s wavy vibram soles. I feel far away from everyone.
No matter. Im in no shape to accept company. It’s been 12 days since we were in Ennis and indulged in soap. The musk under my arms has transformed from salty to sour. I have a weird scab between my eyes, and tiny ones up and down my calves like topo lines – caused by bush whacking thru the brushy sage. My Fingernails collect dirt and grime no matter how short I cut them. My feet look like a cracked desert landscape.
And today I accidentally stowed my spoon in my trash bag instead of my snack bag. It may have touched a packed out poo napkin so I spent most of my morning break hosing it down with hand sani and water.
Groucho wants me to tell you that his poo is more regal than my plebeian poo. This is penance for accidentally spraying his Taboo-tees with the water while cleaning off my poo spoon. Groucho’s magnetic, majestic patriotic poo p. (This from a man hiking in socks and sandals. )
In the mid morning we rejoin the CDT and run into 8 consecutive northbounders and 3 consecutive thunderstorms. Our gear stays *mostly* dry but the trail alternates from slippy to squishy to shitty (literally from horse manure and figuratively as the horse shoes tear up the ground.)
We make camp at 8pm under two big trees, just as the clouds break and the sun spills over the plateau to dry our gear.
Crazy day. We fight hard, first thing in the morning, about style differences. It’s pretty trivial but dramatic.
Groucho speeds off and I follow reluctantly wondering many things: does he want to hike alone? Do I? Can we? Do I want to bail and head to my high school reunion this weekend? Do I want to “finish” this hike? What does it even mean to “finish”? Isn’t this trail, this line thru the rocks, this process, this idea just another trap/job/shackle/competition if my whole validity is based on some narrow concept of finishing created by who knows… God?? Am I trapped in some patriarchical religion invented by an unknown leader? I thought I was supposed to be discovering neo-transcendental America. I thought I was supposed to be discovering myself.
Or do I just really need a day off?
As I huff up the hill my anger ebbs, then renews. We always stop after the first hour or two for breakfast and three hours later still no Groucho. “He must be really mad.” I eat oats sorrowfully alone and skip hot coffee cause he has the stove (I carry the fuel).
I scan the ground looking for vibram soles but only see the Brooks and the Altras belonging to Dirt Wolf and Cheese Snake who are just ahead. Huh…
An hour later I see two weekenders and ask if they crossed paths with Groucho. They don’t think so. “Unless he is from Nebraska?!” One inquires. Uh… no.
So now I wonder if I somehow am ahead. No tracks. No sightings. But it doesn’t make sense. where the heck is he!? Did he take the wrong route or step off trail to poo?
We are lost all day from each other, but we both have maps. And we both know we are going to pick up resupply box at Brooks Lake Lodge.
I now assume I am ahead but how far? Should I wait? What if he is ahead and waiting makes me fall behind? There’s no way to know for sure. So I keep myself found, and go to the lodge. At least if I don’t see him by nightfall there will be a phone and people there to help.
I feel almost bad going inside the Lodge. It’s super beautiful and clean and smells good. All things I am and do not. They are so super sweet. It’s amazing they offer to hold boxes. I can’t afford to stay the night (it’s over $300 says my guidebook) but they let me use their phone to call my mom, and when my resupply arrives by UPS they let me unpack it on a picnic table.
About an hour and a half later Groucho rolls up. I’m so relieved to see him. We discern that early in the morning he pulled just off trail for coffee as usual and I walked right by, we were both too quiet to notice the other. He waited and then retreated 2 miles to make sure I hadn’t hurt myself at the ford. Adding 4 miles to his day. We extend compassion and harmony to each other but it’s also tough. We are about to go into a 7 day section without going into town. Do we need a break first? Are we about to emotionally collapse?
We decide no and push on walking an easy 5 miles to a friendly Wyoming campsite in the foothills of the Winds where we enjoy a small campfire in a fire ring and sleep under a huge tree.