Monday, July 4, 2022

Day 114: 'Twas a Starry, Starry Day....

August 12: As the sun was rising over Lake of the Woods, I woke up and started eating breakfast. It was my usual morning routine, which included a bowl of granola cereal and some dried fruits, along with powdered milk fluffed up with cold water.

My view of Lake of the Woods while eating breakfast. Until...

I had my food bag spread out around me and was about halfway through breakfast when I noticed a dark blob behind some trees about 50 feet away that vaguely resembled a bear. It was hard to see behind the trees and didn't seem to move, however, so I wasn't entirely sure. Squinting didn't help me figure it out. So I finally shouted out, "Hey!" 

It stood up and turned its head to look at me--it was definitely a bear. I don't think it realized I was there until I called out to it. And there I was, just sitting there with food spread out all around me like I was part of a buffet. My bear spray was in easy reach, and I picked it up--just in case.

The bear went back down on all fours, however, then wandered off away from the lake shore and ,y camp. It was gone.

I never did get a clear enough look to identify what kind of bear it was. I was in grizzly country now. Theoretically, it could have been a grizzly. But there were still black bears around as well. Through all those trees and in the shade, however, I just couldn't see it well enough to be certain which had paid me a visit.

The rest of my breakfast was uneventful. I finished eating, then brushed my teeth and packed up camp. I was ready to hit the trail again!

Once I left the lake, the trail came out of the trees and through a series of cattle ranches. Overall, it was a pretty easy day of hiking and I crushed the miles quickly without even really trying hard. The day was sunny and warm, but fortunately not especially hot.

A couple of hours later, I reached an alternate route for the CDT which I decided to take based on the recommendations from Guthook comments. The alternate only lasted a few hours before it reconnected with the red-line CDT. It had wide-open views and far in the distance, I could see craggy peaks which I assumed were part of the Grand Tetons but didn't have any way of verifying.

Are those part of the Grand Tetons? I'm not really sure....

I must have passed the bulk of the south-bounders at this point as well. At the peak, I was seeing two or three dozen each day, but today I only saw a dozen or so. They were on the downswing now. I didn't run into any north-bounders the whole day, but I got regular updates of those who were ahead of me from the south-bounders.

Late in the afternoon, I passed a couple of south-bounders who commented on the clouds behind me. I hadn't noticed them since they were generally toward the south and I was hiking northward, but once they pointed it out to me, I was entranced by them!

They were long, wispy clouds that floated in the air, and looked freakishly unnatural. The south-bounders that drew my attention to them were named Gourmet and Zero Percent, and I asked them how long those had been up there. At least for an hour, they told me.

It almost looked like the clouds were painted onto the sky, and I commented that I thought they looked like something from a van Gogh painting. Like Starry Night, except in the day, which they agreed was a good description of the phenomena.

The wispy clouds entranced me! =)

We chatted for a few more minutes then continued on our separate ways. Every few minutes, I'd turn around to look behind me and see what was happening with the clouds. I took photos and videos, but annoyingly, they didn't seem to do the clouds justice. If I zoomed in close enough to see them in detail, you missed the wide-angle view of them. But if I zoomed out to get them all in the photo, you couldn't really see the detail. It was annoyingly frustrating that I couldn't capture what I could see with my own two eyes!

I was very glad I ran into those south-bounders who pointed out the spectacle behind me, though. For all I know, I might not have noticed the clouds at all before they vanished, and it really did feel like a special treat to see them.

I never really could get a satisfactory photo of the wispy clouds, though. =(
 

Late in the afternoon, I reached another alternate route for the CDT. This time, the alternate used to be the main red-line CDT, but in the past year the trail had been rerouted. The reroute was quite a bit longer, however, and crossed the highway leading into the next trail town further away so the ride into town would be longer.

That in itself didn't bother me, but reports from the south-bounders I met who stuck to the new red-line route reported it as being unfinished in parts and required cross-country travel or difficult to follow trails and urged everyone to use the old trail which was actually still marked with official CDT markers.

So that's what I did. This alternate would reconnect with the main red-line CDT another 20 or so miles away. It was a pretty substantial reroute as far as reroutes go.

Late in the day, the trail started getting back into trees again, and I pushed onward until I found a decent-sized clearing to camp in. Tonight was the Perseid meteor shower, and I wanted to be camped somewhere with a good view of it!

Back in cattle country!

There are some tiny white dots just to the left of the road where it crests the hill. Those are pronghorn antelope, but the started running away shortly after I took this photo.






Friday, July 1, 2022

Day 113: Buried alive!

August 11: It was still dark when I was woken by a horrific crashing sound. I was camped near the base of a steep slope, and I realized immediately it was the sound of a rock slide! Looking around, I tried to figure out exactly where it was or if my location was in danger of being buried by the slide. It sounded like it was coming from just above me.

I couldn't see anything, though, and after several seconds, the sound stopped. Well, it mostly stopped. I still heard smaller rocks rolling down the mountain. Probably the loose ones. For the time being, though, it appeared that the landslide had stopped and I wasn't buried alive, so I considered that a successful start to the day. =)

 

The end of the Wind River Range definitely went out with a bang!

After thinking about it some more, I decided not to worry about further slides. Although I was camped near a slope, I was not particularly near the steepest sections. And, fortunately, the slide seemed to have stopped. I'm not even sure why it happened in the first place. It wasn't like there was rain to destabilize the ground or anything.

A few hours later, the sun started rising. It was a bit chilly in the morning, but fortunately no frost or condensation to cause problems this time. I had camped under the branches of a tree which probably helped keep the frost away because the open meadows were sopping wet from the frost. Looking around the nearby cliffs, I couldn't see any evidence of a slide which seemed weird. It was so loud! I know it happened. It wasn't a dream. Definitely not a dream. Probably not as big as I imagined it, though.

By 6:40am, I was on the trail and hiking. The first few hours of the day, I passed a half-dozen or so southbound thru-hikers. The most notable one this time was a girl from South Carolina who had decided to hike with a trombone! It was plastic, but it was still big and bulky and a surprising item to see a thru-hiker carrying. Her trailname was Slider, which seemed like a good choice. =)

 

Slider got her name because she carried a trombone in her pack! I really wished I had a chance to hear her play one evening around camp. =)

After those first few hours on the trail, however, I didn't see anymore south-bounders for the rest of the day. What happened to them all?! Why did such a huge gap of them exist?

I set up camp near Green River Lakes, which basically marked the end of the Wind River Range. The dramatic scenery of the last several days become more muted and dull. It was still nice, but nothing like the jaw-dropping scenery of before. I was also back among the cow pastures.

There were a couple of short sections of trail with blowdowns that the south-bounders had been sounding an alarm about, but I didn't find them particularly problematic. They were definitely an annoyance and slowed me down, but they were so short as to be forgettable. If it weren't for all the warnings that the south-bounders kept giving me, I'd probably have forgotten to mention the blowdowns in my journal. If they thought that was bad, they had a nasty surprise ahead in a few days!

 

Blowdowns were a bit of a problem along a couple of sections, but they were pretty short and mostly forgettable.

I did run into two north-bounders today, Money and Stranger. I had met Money briefly once before hundreds of miles back near Winter Park. I'd actually forgotten that we had met until he reminded me. Stranger was a new face for me.

We stopped for a break at Gunsight Pass and I joked that Money should change his name is "Long Time No See." They asked why.

"So the next time I run into you two hiking together, I can say, 'Hey, Stranger! Long Time No see!"

It was a stupid joke, and I knew it was a stupid joke, but they laughed uproariously like it was the funniest thing in the world. If I had any doubts about them being high as a kite smoking pot, that laughter certainly settled the matter.

I pushed onward, eventually stopping for the night by the Lake of the Woods, perhaps 20 feet from the shoreline. It was a bit breezy and I thought about moving to a more sheltered location, but I really liked the view over the lake and the breeze helped keep the mosquitoes away. The mosquitoes hadn't been a big problem, but they were around and the breeze definitely helped keep them away

So I made myself comfortable by the lake and called it a day.

Lake of the Woods

I did find someone camped in front of this shelter which could have been a thru-hiker for all I know, but I didn't see anyone and didn't bother them in case they were still sleeping in late in the morning.



Blowdowns!


I didn't know for certain, but I think the craggy peaks in the distance might be the Grand Tetons.




Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Day 112: Familiar faces

August 10: The morning was brutally cold. Frost formed on everything, and even some of the water in my water bottle had frozen. After eating breakfast, I went to brush my teeth and was pretty surprised when I stuck a toothbrush in my mouth and realized the bristles had frozen solid during the night! Had to thaw them out with my mouth before I could really brush with it.

With that sort of cold, I really didn't feel like getting up in the morning, so I stayed in my sleeping bag a bit later than normal and wasn't on the trail and hiking until 7:00am.


Just before I start hiking, I typically turn on my SPOT device which updates my location every 5 to 10 minutes so my friends and family can see precisely where I am, but this morning, I found it not working. It was still working fine when I turned it off the evening before, but by morning, it wouldn't go. I wondered if the cold helped kill the batteries as well.

Even worse, I hadn't expected the batteries to die so quickly. Typically, the batteries it uses only needed to replaced about once per month and I was sure they still had at least a week before they needed to be replaced. As a result, I didn't carry any extras. They were in the bounce box that had my laptop that I forwarded to the next trail town. Hopefully, if my mom noticed that I'm not moving today, she just assumes that I forgot to turn it on and doesn't think I was eaten by a bear during the night!

The day's hike was gorgeous. The Wind River Range really does not disappoint! But the whole day, I felt unmotivated and not particularly excited about hiking. At least the trail wasn't difficult. In fact, it was pretty easy overall. By the end of the day, my GPS had recorded only about 1,000 feet of elevation gain--which isn't to say that the trail was flat because there was over 4,000 feet of elevation drop. But it was pretty easy overall. I was glad about this. Maybe if I camped 3,000 feet lower tonight, it might not get quite so cold as it did last night.

Throughout the day, I probably passed over 20 south-bounders. I had long stopped counting them at this point. There were a lot of them, though, and--as it turned out--I actually knew one of them!

I was heading down a particularly steep drop while he was climbing up and I recognized him immediately.

"Ryan!" I said, feeling a bit weird since it was my own name as well, but that's also why I remembered his name so clearly.

He looked at me, kind of with a "how does this guy know my name?" look.

"It's me! Ryan! From the PNT!"

He was the one and only PNT thru-hiker I had met on that entire trail so he stuck out in my mind. We even shared a hotel room in Bonners Ferry, ID. 

This is Ryan, the one and only thru-hiker I met while hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail, who was now thru-hiking the CDT southbound.

Then he recognized me. We chatted for about 10 minutes. He had a trail name now: Rewind. When I had met him on the PNT, he hadn't had a trailname. 

He suggested certain alternates routes ahead on the trail that he had done and highly recommended, and I told him about the blowdowns he'd soon be facing. Typical thru-hiker chat.

It was fun catching up, but we eventually continued on in our own directions. It was a shame we hadn't crossed paths at the end of the day and could camp together.

Another southbound hiker I met was named Moose. "That makes you, like, the 10th moose I've seen on this trail!" I joked.

He noticed my pack and asked if I had made it myself. "Well, yes I did!" I replied.

As it turned out, Moose had also sewed his own pack, and then we got into a big discussion about sewing packs. His pack looked very professional and awesome and I told him as much. It was so good, I hadn't even recognized that he sewed it himself until he pointed it out, and I felt like an idiot that I hadn't noticed. But it was a top-notch pack. I could sew a pack like that, but deliberately throw all sorts of wild colors into it to make it look like I made it myself. =) I'm still a bit bitter that Cotopaxi stole that idea of mine since now sometimes people think I'm wearing one of their packs. (I'm sure they didn't really steal that idea from me, but I was making my colorful packs long before that company was even founded.)

A photo of Moose's homemade pack.

Unlike me, however, he actually sells some of the stuff he makes and had stickers with his company name and logo asking if I wanted one. Well of course! =) I never knew a thru-hiker that carried his own stickers! Brilliant! I added it to the cover of my journal, along with the other stickers that I picked up in my travels. He told me that most thru-hikers don't want the "extra weight" of a sticker. Yeah... not a problem for me. "I carry my own stamp and ink pad," I told him. *nodding*

We took photos of each other's packs because, you know, why not? =)

Then we continued onward in our separate directions.

For all the southbound thru-hikers I was meeting, I never saw anyone going northbound the whole day. Funny how that works.

At the end of the day, I set up camp. I pulled out the batteries from my headlamp and some spare batteries for the headlamp to get my SPOT device working long enough so I could click the check-in button and let everyone know I was still moving and fine. Then I popped the batteries back out to put back in my headlamp for later in the evening. 

I really couldn't use them throughout the day. The headlamp batteries were already used so they might not have much juice in the them. The spare batteries I had for my headlamp were fresh and new, but there weren't enough of them to power the SPOT device. So I only put them in the device long enough to check in, and figured I'd do that each afternoon when I set up camp. The rest of the day, the SPOT would be turned off during the day so as not to run down the batteries, and I'd use the batteries at night to power my headlamp.

I set up camp near the Green River Lakes, not far from the headwaters of the Green River, which flows into the Colorado River. The river was a gorgeous light blue color, clearly filled with glacial flour from the high elevation glaciers nearby.

And thus ended another day on the trail.....

Have you ever seen a more gorgeous valley?! I set up camp not long after taking this photo.




This is the Green River, which will eventually flow into the Colorado River.

The light blue color of the water is glacial flour! I wouldn't want to drink it, but it sure is pretty to look at. =)



Monday, June 27, 2022

Day 111: Goodbye, Pinedale!

August 9: I took my time getting up this morning, but only because the post office didn't open until 8:45am. That's not a typo--that's the actual time it was supposed to open. I'd never seen such a weird opening time for the post office, but it is what it is.

But it also meant I could sleep in late and take my time checking out of the motel.

There was a line at the post office when I arrived--apparently it was the happening place in Pinedale! But I eventually got to the front of the line and picked up two packages.

The first was my shoes and the main reason I stuck around in town for so long. Baby really needed a new pair of shoes!


I walked over in my Crocs leaving my old shoes behind at the motel to be disposed of with the expectation that the new shoes would be at the post office and in good condition. It was a bit of a gamble, but I had checked the tracking number for the package and it showed as being ready for pick-up at the Pinedale post office. *fingers crossed* So that worked out well and I laced up my new shoes right there in the post office lobby.

The other package, I realized, wasn't actually mine. It was addressed to a Carpenter, but it wasn't my first name. "This isn't my package," I told the lady behind the counter. She went back and searched some more, eventually finding the package with my laptop. Thank goodness the other Carpenter didn't drop in and steal my laptop. *shaking head*

Of course, now that I was leaving town, the laptop was pretty useless and I didn't really need anything else in the package, so I asked for it to be forwarded to the next trail town.

Mission accomplished, I was cleared to leave town!

But... since I was here.... I decided to grab a lunch from a deli next door to the motel, ordering the Italian sandwich. I thought about taking it with me. It was still a bit early for lunch and it would make a nice lunch later, but I decided that I really didn't want to carry the extra weight (nor the trash it would leave behind afterwards), so I wound up eating it right then and there.

Then I walked over to the road leading back to the trailhead, stuck out my thumb and started hitching a ride. I'd been at it for about 15 minutes when Puffy arrived, also ready to return to the trail. We were there for another 5 minutes or so when a local couple pulled over to give us a ride. They weren't originally planning to go all the way to the Elkhart Park trailhead but decided to go out of their way to drop us off which we were both very grateful for.

And then it was another 11 miles of off-trail hiking to get back to the CDT. Fortunately, I didn't have to retrace all of my steps. About halfway down the side-trail, it splits in a Y shape. When I walked to the trailhead, I went down the right side of the Y. Now to return to the trail, I'll go down the left side. So there was only about 5 or 6 miles that I actually had to repeat, and adding the extra miles didn't feel quite so bad as long as I didn't have to walk over the same path twice. It was actually a pretty scenic route, after all.

The trail was just as busy as the Elkhart Park TH looked!
 

In fact, it was a little too scenic. The trail was absolutely crowded with day hikers and weekenders and felt positively claustrophobic. It wasn't until I reconnected with the main red-line CDT where I finally got away from the big crowds.

About a half hour into the hike, my phone unexpected started ringing. It was somewhat of a surprise for a couple of reasons. First, I thought I had turned on the airport mode to save battery power so it shouldn't have worked, and second, I didn't even realize I got a signal out here!

I went ahead and answered the phone, and it was the desk clerk from the motel I had checked out of. She wanted to let me know that I had forgotten my shoes in the room!

Which made me chuckle. I explained that I had new shoes shipped to me at the post office and no longer needed the old ones, but that she was more than welcome to keep them herself or give them away to someone if she still thought they were still usable. Or just throw them away. I wasn't going to back for them.

But that was really, really nice of them. The staff at the Sundance Motel were really good. They were really top notch and very friendly.

I hung up, and then turned the airplane mode on--like I thought it was before. I still needed to conserve battery power as much as possible until the next trail town! Anyone else who called would just have to leave a message for me to check later.

A couple of hours into the day's hike, I found a moose off the side of the trail. I took a few photos, and when a group of five loud people came up behind me, I tried signaling for them to shush so as not to startle off the moose. He was just minding his own business, eating leaves off of trees, and it was nice to watch.

See the moose in this photo?
 

The trail climbed steadily higher and higher until reading the CDT. The last hour or so of hiking, the heel of my foot was hurting a bit, but I wrote it off as part of breaking in the new shoes and didn't think much of it.

I eventually set up camp a bit off trail late in the afternoon, a little before sunset. I hadn't actually gone particularly far--a little over 15 miles in all--but I got a late start on the trail getting out of town and to the trailhead.

In camp, when I pulled off my shoes and socks, I saw what the problem with my heel was. A thick callus had formed on my foot (that part wasn't new news), but my skin had cracked down to the live layer of skin. That's what was hurting me. I applied some Neosporin and slapped a band-aid over it. I didn't know what else to do with it. That had never happened to my foot before, but the skin was very dry so I figured the Neosporin's creamy coolness might feel good and help prevent infection at the same time. Win-win! =)

I also noticed that a small hole had formed in my pack where the shoulder straps attached to my pack. I knew that would have to be patched up before the hole got worse and my pack suffered a catastrophic failure, but the sun had already set and at these high elevations, my hands were absolutely freezing. I just couldn't do anything that needed as much dexterity as hand-sewing. The hole in my pack would have to wait a bit. Maybe I'd fix it tomorrow. 

It didn't look like the hole would be an immediate problem, so I figured it could wait until tomorrow afternoon when the temperatures were warmer. During a lunch break or something. I'd definitely keep an eye on the hole to make sure it didn't get too bad in the meantime.

And thus ended another day on the trail. 

There are rules about how far you can camp from water sources and trails and such, but this trailhead had markers so people could count out how many steps it took them to go 100 or 200 feet.

For me, it was about 33-34 steps to reach 100 feet, which is the distance that one should camp from streams and rivers. (From trails and lakes, the required distance was 200 feet, but it seemed pointless to share that photo. It's just like this one except for the text.)

Puffy is on the trail!

So many horses on the trail.....

I have no idea who this is. Just one of the many, many people admiring all the wonderful views.




See that dark crack that formed under my callus? It hurt! And there really wasn't much I could do about it.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Day 110: The Pinedale Zero

August 8: I had a zero day, but that didn't mean there wasn't stuff to do. Nope, I had to get my clothes washed. They were filthy! So I walked to the other side of town where I reached a laundromat in a car wash and did a load of clothes. I didn't bother with the driers, however. I could simply hang the clothes in my room and let them dry naturally.


I also figured out my plan of attack for the next section of trail, this time carrying me from Pinedale to Dubois. After figuring out how long it would take to take hike that distance, I headed over to Ridley's Family Markets where I bought enough food to last the necessary distance.

However, for the most part, the day was dull and uneventful. With the required tasks done, I had the rest of the day free to relax and explore. And without a laptop, it's not like I could lock myself into my hotel room and do some work. So I decided to head out to the Museum of the Mountain Men and their exhibits about the fur trade in the 1800s throughout the Rocky Mountains. It was an interesting museum where I could easily spend an hour or two looking through all the exhibits, and that's exactly what I did.


I stopped at the Museum of the Mountain Men to pass some of the town today. An interesting place and I enjoyed taking as look around.
 

For lunch, I walked over to the Burger Barn. It was a bit of a walk, located a short way out of town, but I felt like stretching my legs a bit and didn't mind the walk. The traffic along the road wasn't pleasant, but at least there was a wide shoulder to walk on. The owner of the restaurant seemed stunned when she found out that I had walked there all the way from Mexico and kept asking why people would do this. She couldn't wrap her head around it. It seemed like an utterly ridiculous and crazy thing to do, and to be fair, she wasn't wrong.

I stopped for lunch at the Burger Barn. =)

Later in the evening after returning to my room, I flipped on the TV and checked what was on. I usually watch shows on my laptop or even my phone, but I didn't feel like watching a show on my phone and turned on the TV of a hotel room for the first time in months. Flipping through the stations, I finally settled on the movie Crazy Rich Asians which was playing and the family was, indeed, crazy, rich and Asian. Truth in advertising! =)

And that was about it for the day. Nothing particularly exciting. And if I wasn't forced into a zero waiting for the post office to open, I wouldn't have even bothered with a zero day. I still felt a little bitter about that.


Foxy, for her part, was thinking about flipping up to the Canadian border and hiking southbound. For the time being, she was also taking a day off the trail, waiting for Prince and his friend whose name I still forgot to arrive in town. They were actually the ones thinking about flipping up to Canada and she was thinking of joining them.

I was actually a bit surprised at the match-up. Foxy seems absolutely determined to complete this trail with a level of dedication that far surpassed my own. She had suffered an injury back in New Mexico and wound up taking a zero month in Pie Town waiting to heal. I had joked with her that I couldn't have done that. I would have committed suicide if I were stuck in Pie Town for a whole month with nowhere to go or anything to do, and the only Internet access was a poor connection at a restaurant in town.

At the very least, I'd have gotten off the trail for a month then returned after the injury healed, but living in Georgia, she figured it was just easier and cheaper to stay in Pie Town the whole time. She suffered other hardships and difficulties along the way, never even enjoying luxuries like an occasional night in a hotel and relying almost exclusively on free hostels or free camping within trail towns. This was her first thru-hike and she was absolutely bound and determined to finish this trail no matter what. I admired her determination. I certainly planned to complete the trail, but I was definitely not as dedicated about the matter. I'd be disappointed if I couldn't finish this year, but I didn't feel like it would be the end of the world either. I'd just have to return and finish another year.

Which is why I was so surprised that she wanted to hook her ship to Prince, who seemed friendly enough but seemed completely unmotivated and unconcerned about actually completing the entire trail. I think he might have even skipped some of the "boring" sections, although I don't know that for certain and it didn't matter enough to me to ask. He was out to enjoy a bit of camping and nature, but without any hard goals. (I had goals, but wasn't driven exclusively by them.) So it felt like an unlikely alliance between Foxy and Prince, but it didn't really concern me. It just surprised me that she'd take a zero day to wait for him which would just slow her progress and make it less likely that she could finish. 

But he had some friends or family (or something) that could drive him up to the Canadian border and Foxy somehow figured joining up with him was a good idea. There actually was a certain logic to this idea. The snow near the Canadian border would likely be heavier and come sooner than further south on the trail, so it extends the hiking season by flip-flopping. I think Foxy's logic was that a longer hiking season would increase her chances of success. On the other hand, she was taking an otherwise unnecessary zero (or two) waiting for Prince and it wasn't so late in the season that she had to worry about flip-flopping. Not yet, at least! Actually, we were cutting it close at this point, but I didn't think it was necessary to flip-flop quite yet, but it definitely might be necessary at some point.

So her somewhat tentative plan was to finish getting through the Wind River Range (also known for early and heavy snows), then flip north to Glacier NP and get through that area, then have plenty of time to connect the section between those points at her leisure.

Anyhow, that was some of the stuff going on on my zero days. Plans being made!


This was the same hiker box from which I grabbed the bear spray the day before. I dropped by again today to take photos after realizing that I failed to do so yesterday.

At first I though this was a recreation of a thru-hiker attacked by a bear. No... just a mountain man being attacked by a bear. If I recall correctly (I didn't take notes, so correct me if I'm wrong), this is actually based on the real-life attack of Hugh Glass who survived the mauling and whose story was later turned into the movie The Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Teepees outside of the Museum of the Mountain Men.