Monday, May 30, 2022

Day 99: It was only a matter of time.... prison!

July 28: Today was expected to be another very hot day, and I decided to wait it out with another zero day. I was not, however, planning to stay stuck in my hotel room all day. Oh, no.... No... today, I planned to book myself into prison! 


Today I'd tour the Frontier Prison Museum!

Yes, you heard that right. I headed to the Frontier Prison Museum for the first tour of the day at 9:30am. They provided an hour-long guided tour through Wyoming’s first state penitentiary. It first opened its doors... or rather, I suppose, locked it's doors in 1901 and incarcerated about 13,500 people during the next 80 years of its history.

The penitentiary closed its doors... or, I suppose, opened them? The terminology is a little confusing when it comes to prisons. ;o) In any case, the prison closed to inmates in 1981. It sat vacant until 1987 when the location was used as the setting for the movie Prison. I've never seen the movie, but our tour guide assured us that it wasn't very good. I'm still tempted to watch it someday just to see how many of the scenes I recognize.

Filming the movie actually damaged parts of the prison since, at the time, the old prison wasn't considered a historical site (a designation that applies today), and our tour guide happily pointed out artifacts from the filming, including cutting a giant hole in the wall of the courtyard where the inmates could go outside.

While the prison was active, 14 men were executed: 9 by hanging and 5 in a gas chamber. The inmates who hung were hung on a Julien gallows, a device I had never even heard of before but basically required the inmate to hang themselves. It saved the state from having to pay a hangman, or having the hangman feel guilty about killing someone later and avoid any social stigma that might have been attached to the job. 

The original Julien gallows were dismantled and removed when the state changed executions to use the gas chamber instead, but the museum has replaced it with a reproduction. There's also a miniature version at the beginning of the tour so the tour guides could show exactly how it works. Kind of interesting, definitely morbid.

The gas chamber at the facility, however, is the original one where five men were executed, but us mere visitors were not allowed to go into it or sit in the chair and take mock photos of us being executed.

This is the gas chamber where 5 inmates were executed.

There was one kid in my tour group who seemed to have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with the prison and everything to do with it. He'd ask the tour guide questions about what kind of guns the prison guards used and other strangely specific details. When the tour guide admitted that he wasn't sure, the kid then went into a small soliloquy about the most likely types of guns they would have used and why.

I whispered to another person in our group that it seemed like he was already planning his own escape from prison when he grew up. He seemed like a born serial killer. Or maybe the cop who likes to catch serial killers if you want to give it a more positive slant. =)

The kid was kind of funny, albeit a little creepy. I was glad I didn't have to sleep in the same room as him! I don't think I could have slept well.

At the end of the tour, they led us through their gift shop--but of course, that's the standard thing for tours--but our guide told us if we bought a book, they could stamp it with a rubber stamp which read, "Stolen from Wyoming Frontier Prison." 

I didn't want to buy a book, but I asked if it was possible to get my journal stamped, and he was happy to oblige. Awesome! So my journal is now stamped that it was stolen from the prison. =)

I did buy some postcards there, and if you got a postcard from me from Rawlins, it most likely came from the prison museum. (I did get a couple of free ones from the Chamber of Commerce, however, so if it's about the CDT itself, you got a Chamber of Commerce postcard!)

Anyway.... after tour the museum, I headed over to the library to print maps of the CDT through Wyoming. I finally had paper maps again! Woo-who! I was very excited about this. I hadn't had any paper maps since Creede, 37 days ago.... All my Colorado maps had been trapped in my bounce box since then.

Then I wandered over to Burger King for a quick lunch, another quick stop at Walmart to pick up a couple of items I had forgotten to buy the day before, then back to my hotel for the rest of the day.

While walking back from the downtown core, I did run into Bugs who was just walking into town, so we chatted for a couple of minutes. She was the only other hiker I bumped into during my wanderings, though, and I recommended visiting the prison if time permitted.

Back at the hotel, I thought it would be funny to put on a temporary tattoo and tell people it was a "prison tat." I went to prison in town, and left with a prison tat. =) I'm so silly, I know.....

If I recall correctly, this is where inmates got their hair cut.

The artwork in the cafeteria was done by one of the inmates.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Day 98: Movie thrills!

July 27: Today was a zero day! And I spent most of it online, catching up with work. Not very exciting, I know.

I did, however, walk out to Taco Bell for lunch. There was a sign across the street from the hotel that rotated between displaying the time and temperature, and at one point when I passed it, it showed a temperature of 97°F (36°C). Ugh! So glad to not have to do any hiking in this weather. It was utterly miserable walking around outside. I'm not even sure that that was the high for the day--it was just the highest temperature I saw while walking by. Definitely a good day for a zero, and definitely a good day to hang out in air-conditioned buildings.


But I didn't spend the whole day in the lovely air-conditioned buildings. I did have some tasks to do. The main task that I felt really couldn't wait was to walk over to Walmart and resupply. I spent some time figuring out the logistics for the next section of trail, and the next trail town required a hitch to get to, but there was a location on the trail where I could send a package to pick up later at South Pass City. Don't let the "city" part of the name fool you, it's not a city at all. It's basically an old ghost town, but there is a visitor center that would accept hiker packages, so by shipping food to myself there, I would save myself the time and effort of hitching into a trail town. 

It wasn't very far ahead, however, and I worried that a package I sent might not make it in time for my arrival, so I walked over to the Walmart to resupply then immediately over to the post office to mail the package ahead. Get it moving! Hopefully it'll arrive before I do and save myself a bit of time and money by not hitching into the town to resupply. *fingers crossed*

While I was over by the post office, the same woman who helped me the day before started going through her spiel about going to the Chamber of Commerce for their hiker goodie bag. She had clearly forgotten that I'd already gotten the speech the day before, but this time my pack was largely empty so I went ahead and wandered a block or two away and checked them out.

They had a bunch of stuff, mostly promoting Carbon County. Apparently they used to hand out bags of stuff to hikers but now had it all spread out on a table for people to pick and choose whatever they wanted. I guess hikers were getting stuff they didn't want. (While walking into town when I ran into Reality Check yesterday, she told me that the hiker box at their hotel was "overflowing" with buffs which she thought was weird. It was one of the items in the hiker bag. Mystery solved!)

Anyhow, I picked out some stickers to decorate my journal with. In fact, one of the items I had my mom ship me was a fresh, new journal since the one I'd been carrying from the Mexican border was nearly full. I'd put stickers on it whenever I came across free ones, so the cover was currently decorated with a large, colorful Pie Town sticker, and a smaller Bivvi Hostel sticker which I got in Breckenridge, and a "Hiked It-Liked It" sticker about Colorado. (Although, admittedly, by the time I left Colorado, I was less excited about the "Liked it" part. I was soooo tired of all those mountains! Exhausting!) I also had a cool-looking stamp from the outfitters in Leadville on the back cover.

It was a colorful journal, and I was a little disappointed to be giving it up for a plain, empty one. Now it wasn't so plain! I had new stickers for it! I hoped to continue adding more stickers further up the trail as well.

They also had small pins to attach to clothing. I used to wear an A.T. pin on my hat, but I stopped doing that when I lost the back that held the pin in place just before walking into Grants. A strong gust of wind blew my hat off, knocking off the pin. I found the pin, but I could never find the back for it that allowed it to attach to my hat. So I grabbed this pin. Maybe the back of this pin would fit the A.T. pin I still had? (Which I'd been keeping in my bounce box, so it was now in my hotel room.) When I got back to my room at the hotel, the back didn't work particularly well with the A.T. pin, so I wound up just wearing the Carbon County pin instead for the rest of my trip. The A.T. pin would just stay as part of my bounce box for the time being.

I also grabbed one of the buffs. Or rather, it was one of the fake-buffs. I call them that when they aren't official Buff merchandise, which are easily identified because they don't actually have a Buff logo on them and you'll find a seam where the tube is made. Official buffs don't have any visibly-sewn seams. But it was actually a pretty thing so I grabbed it. It was much too warm and unnecessary for the trail at the moment, however, so I planned to put it in my bounce box for later. More cushioning for my laptop as well.

I also grabbed one of the small bottles of hand sanitizer for myself. I was confident that that was a pandemic-related addition to their giveaway, but I've always carried hand sanitizer on the trail. It's not like there's plumbing to wash your hands after going to the bathroom on the trail, after all! And as it turned out, my hand sanitizer was getting low, so it was nice to restock it for free. =)

With that taken care of, I headed back to the hotel for more air-conditioning and online work.

The 1st Choice Inn was, in fact, my first choice for a room. Definitely a budget motel, but it was in my budget! =)

One thing I had done when I first got into town was Google for things to do in town. It's not like I visit Rawlins very often! If there was something interesting to see or do, now was the time to get it done!

And one thing I stumbled onto was that the town had a movie theater. And it actually appeared to be open! It was playing the newest Hollywood blockbuster, Black Widow. I can't say that I was particularly excited about the movie, but I really liked the idea of just going out to a movie. It seemed like it had been forever since I'd been to a movie theater! And while I wasn't especially excited about Black Widow, it was certainly one I'd be willing to sit through.

The movie didn't start until about sunset, though. It looked to be about a 25-minute walk from the hotel, so I headed out about a half hour before the movie was scheduled to start. Temperatures were still miserably hot outside, but I brought a light jacket with me in case I found it too cold in the air-conditioned theater. In my mind, I imagined they had air-conditioning, but even if they didn't, maybe it would be cooler on the walk back long after it was dark. Better safe than sorry! So I bought a light jacket.

I settled in for the movie, bucket of popcorn in hand and watched. It was a lot of fun. I mean, well, okay... the movie was just okay. The usual action, superhero stuff that's generally predictable and dumb, but it was just so fun to go out to a movie at all! The whole auditorium only had two other people as well. The place was practically empty! So I was also happy about the theater not being super crowded or noisy. All-in-all, I enjoyed my taste of pre-pandemic life. =)

After the movie ended, I walked back to the hotel. It was still plenty warm outside. I definitely hadn't needed the jacket, but no harm done bringing it with me.

And then I was back in the hotel for the night. I had also, by this point, decided to take an extra zero day in town. A double zero! My last double zero was way back in New Mexico! But I just couldn't help myself. The hotel was relatively cheap--and I knew that was not going to be the case in towns further up the trail. Temperatures were miserably hot outside but they were expected to cool later in the week, so I could enjoy slightly cooler weather by delaying my departure from town. Plus, it would give my food package to South Pass City an extra day to arrive. And... there was still one more thing I wanted to get done before leaving town.....

But that is a story for the next post.... ;o)

Yeah, I know the feeling. *nodding*

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Day 97: Rattlesnake Wrestling!

July 26: During the night, the wind picked up dramatically! I woke up and rearranged a few of my items to make sure nothing would blow away. Setting up my tarp would have been helpful to break the wind, except there was absolutely nothing around to attach it to, so I just lived with the wind blowing through camp.

I managed not to lose any gear, however, and packed up in the morning and hit the trail just before sunrise. I wanted an early start to take advantage of the cooler weather in the mornings and today I expected to get into Rawlins, so the earlier I started hiking, the earlier I'd be in the comfort of air-conditioning and restaurants!

A couple of miles into the hike, the trail passed a park where I was able to throw out my trash in some garbage bins. Although it wasn't that far into town, it's always nice to get rid of any amount of weight. At least I wouldn't have to carry this trash for an extra 10 miles.

The trail continued following gravel roads, pretty much all the way into town.

The highlight of my day came a couple of hours into my hike when I noticed two rattlesnakes on the trail, rising up from the ground like they were being controlled by a snake charmer. Then they twisted around each other and wrestled a bit, flipping each other over before rising off the ground like the snake charmer regained control of them and repeated the exercise. Over and over again.

I wasn't really sure what was going on. These were the first rattlesnakes I had seen since New Mexico, although I knew they were definitely in the area, and I'd seen a lot of rattlesnakes over the years. Not just in New Mexico earlier on the trail, but also on the PCT, Arizona Trail and countless day hikes over the years. I've never seen any snake do anything like this performance.

As I approached closer on the trail, they stopped their wrestling briefly and eyed me, but they didn't slither off nor coil up and shake their tails in warning. I stopped to continue watching, and eventually they went back to wrestling.

It seemed like some sort of mating ritual to me, but I could only guess. Later I would find out that they were actually two males fighting over a female snake, probably hidden in the bushes somewhere nearby. I never did see the female, however.

Wrestling rattlesnakes! What an exciting find!
I wound up watching them for about 20 minutes in all, hypnotized by the spectacle. It was such unexpected and bizarre behavior! I was curious how long this would last and what would happen after they finished, so I patiently just waited and watched. (And filmed, of course.)

The day was scorching hot, however, and just standing in the sun I was sweating bullets. After about 20 minutes, I couldn't take it anymore. I needed to keep going. I didn't know if they'd be at this for another 5 minutes or 5 hours. I'd have waited another 5 minutes, but definitely not 5 hours! After 20 minutes with no sign of them slowing down, I called it quits and continued on my way... but what an interesting spectacle! That alone made it entirely worth it for me to not have taken the road walk into town.

Perhaps a miles or so outside of town, the trail finally connected with paved roads, which I followed the rest of the way into Rawlins. Along the road walk, a man driving a pickup truck slowed down and asked if I wanted a cold water. Sure!

He pulled over and brought out an ice cold water bottle. I wasn't hurting for water--I made sure I carried plenty to get me into town--but it was miserably hot and so was the water I carried. This was ice cold and I downed it in about two gulps. It was such a treat!

Ice cold water for trail magic! Worth its weight in gold!
On the way into town, I noticed the official red-line route seemed to do a weird zig-zag through town that added a few unnecessary blocks to the route. Not seeing any good reason for that, I did take a shortcut here over a bridge crossing the railroad tracks. It wasn't until I got to the other side of the bridge and saw a sign saying that pedestrians weren't allowed on the bridge that I understood why the zig-zag was required. I never saw a sign saying no pedestrians from the side of the bridge I came, but I'm not sure if that's just because I missed it or if it was because there was no sign at all. I wasn't going to hike back to find out, either.

So I did cross that bridge illegally as it turned out, completely by mistake. But at the same time, it struck me as a stupid rule. The road didn't have any sidewalks which I'm sure was part of the rational for it, but it was a really wide bridge! It could have had four lanes of traffic going over it! And it wasn't like the bridge was busy. I maybe saw four cars cross while I was on it. There was plenty of space for pedestrians and I never felt like it was even remotely dangerous to walk on the road. Stupid rules. I was kind of glad I didn't follow this one. =)

Oh, NOW they tell me after I've already crossed the bridge!
Once I was over the bridge, I basically arrived in the downtown core and pulled out Google Maps to lead me to post office. I had packages to pick up including (fingers crossed!) my long-lost laptop! The last time I used it was back in New Mexico. It probably didn't even have any charge left on it at this point.

So I arrived at the post office, and the lady at the desk asked if I was thru-hiking the trail. Well, of course! Then she went into a spiel that I just had to make sure to stop at the chamber of commerce because they had all sorts of stuff for free that they'd give out to thru-hikers. She pulled out a bag showing me all the goods they had available for thru-hikers. Stickers, hand-sanitizer, pens, buffs, pins and more. I promised I would do so, but maybe tomorrow. Today, I just wanted to get into a hotel, take a shower and get cleaned up!

I did pick up my packages, however. This time I had three of them, and one of them was my long-lost laptop! "Hello, my precious!" The other one was from my mom, resupplying my strawberry leather and dehydrated ground beef. I don't really remember why there was a third package. Maybe I sent some of my gear ahead from a previous town? Maybe I ordered something online, though--a new something from REI, for instance.

In any case, in my journal, I wrote that I had picked up three packages so I know that much is true, but I failed to note what each of them were and now I don't remember what the third one included, and I didn't think to jot it down in my journal.

Between the three packages, it was a lot to carry. So I opened the packages there at the post office and rearranged things to make it all fit into my pack. Well, a few items I could just throw away. For instance, all the maps I had printed out ahead of time to use through Colorado were basically useless at this point. Not that they took up a lot of room, but it was a tight fit to get everything, including my laptop, into my pack. Any little thing that was no longer helpful could go into the trash cans at the post office.

Then I walked toward the east end of town where I had made a hotel reservation. I was pretty excited about the hotel. There were a few options for a measly $50/night. It was great to get out of expensive Colorado! I had already planned to take a zero day, my first in nearly a month. Now that I had my laptop and could get some serious work done and a cheap hotel to enjoy the comforts of town without breaking the bank, I definitely deserved a day off. *nodding* Off from the trail, at least.

Walking into town, I bumped into Reality Check and Prince who were on their way out of town. Reality Check reported seeing two mountain lions that night after she passed me on the trail during her 41-mile hike into town. Woah! Cool! Although she said it was a bit worrying at the time. It made me think the stampede that nearly ran over me two nights ago was was, in fact, started by a mountain lion. It could have even been one of the ones that Reality Check saw.

Reality Check had already taken a day off yesterday after walking into town, so she was ready to keep going. I showed off my wrestling snakes video, which they both found impressive. Wow! "Yeah, I know!" It had only happened a couple of hours earlier, just a few miles outside of town.

I also ran into another hiker I'd never met before. He was walking in the opposite direction and stopped to ask if I was heading north. Confirming that that was the case, he grabbed me gently by both shoulders, looked me straight in the face, and told me, "Whatever you do, take the Cirque of the Towers Alternate. Do not, I repeat, do NOT stay on the red line. You understand? I will not let you go until you promise to take that alternate."

Whaat? He went on to explain that he had just gone through that section, in the Wind River Range, and the blowdowns were massive and horrible. He made the mistake of staying on the red line, which was one of the worst mistakes he ever made in his life. He pointed down to his bare legs--he was wearing shorts but I hadn't really noticed them before--but now noticed they were covered in seemingly hundreds of scratches.

I gotta say, those are some pretty sad, ugly-looking legs!
I was convinced. Definitely avoid the main trail through that area. The alternate would be a lot better option. I swore to take the alternate, then he let me go saying that he was done. He was getting off the trail and had a bus to catch. The Wind River Range had broken him.

Well, that was something to look forward to, I guess.... 

I finally made it to my hotel, the 1st Choice hotel which, for me at least, lived up to its name. It was, in fact, my first choice. It tied with the hotel across the street for being the cheapest, so I was bound to end up in one of those two hotels at the very least. =)

First thing I did was strip off all my dirty clothes and take a good, long shower. One of the perks of my bounce boxes were fresh, clean clothes to wear while I was doing laundry, and now that it finally caught up with me, I could put them on. Fresh, clean clothes! I use them as padding for my laptop, but my town clothes had been stuck in purgatory along with my laptop for the last 43 days. It felt so nice to get my town clothes back!

Deer wandering around in downtown Rawlins.

Then I dropped off all my filthy, dirty clothes at the front desk to be washed. There wasn't a laundromat on the premises to wash my own laundry, but they would do a bag of a laundry for a reasonable fee which worked just as well. They'd return the bag to my room when the laundry was done.

At this point, I was ready to eat some food! But I really didn't want to go back outside to a restaurant. It was so freaking hot outside! Definitely in the 90s. And there wasn't anything right next door or anything, which is when I got the idea to just order pizza and have it delivered. Yes! Delivery! I sometimes forget that that's an option because I do it so rarely.

I found a Dominoes Pizza in town, and ordered a pizza, bread bites and a 2-liter bottle of Coke. I didn't really expect to eat it all in one sitting, but this was going to be lunch, dinner and maybe even a meal or two for tomorrow as well.

The website said it should arrive in a half hour or so, to kill time, I plugged in my laptop and powered it up. Time to get online! Glorious electricity!

A half hour or so later, I heard a knock at my door and answered it, and my food was sitting on the floor in front of my door. I looked down the hall and saw the delivery driver wave from a distance. I waved back, and he left. Covid. Strange times. I wasn't surprised to find my food on the ground, though. They did say that the delivery would be a "non-contact" situation.

I brought the food in and feasted. Oh, gosh! How I feasted! Later in the afternoon, the hot temperatures started seeping into the room from outside so I turned on the air-conditioning. Oh, glorious air-conditioning!

And I never left my room for the rest of the day. I spent the whole rest of the day just catching up with a boatload of online stuff that I needed to get done, but I enjoyed every minute of it. =)

It was gonna be another hot day! Don't be fooled by this photo. That's not a lake in the distance. That's a dry lake bed covered with salt.

My water source this morning was this small spring. That's some good, quality water in this otherwise inhabitable place!

I took a lot of photos of these rattlesnakes wrestling!

If you're wondering why the color on this is so different than the previous two photos, that's because I took this one with my cell phone and the other two with my regular camera. The pictures look a bit different between the two!

And, of course, I also took videos of the wrestling rattlesnakes!

This is the bridge that I accidentally crossed illegally.

And wow... look the view from the top of the bridge! =)

Monday, May 23, 2022

Day 96: Stampede!!!!

July 25: Most nights are usually quiet and uneventful, but at one point during this night, I was woken by the sound of a stampede! A large herd of animals went running by me, the ground rumbling from impact of hooves striking the dirt. In the darkness of night, I couldn't see anything, but it sounded like they were running by a mere 100 feet away.

I didn't know what the heck was going on. I figured they were probably cattle because what other animals would be out here in such large numbers, but why were they stampeding in the first place? One thing I know about stampedes... they typically are caused by something that the animals see as threatening. Was there a mountain lion chasing them or something?

My biggest fear wasn't that I'd be attacked by a mountain lion, however--it was that one of these animals would run over me in their terror, not seeing me until it was too late. I had no idea how well these animals could see in the dark to begin with. To improve my chances of surviving whatever it was stampeding, I stood up in my sleeping bag, trying to make myself more visible and less likely of being trampled and shouting out, "Stay away from me!" The fact that, theoretically, I could see out further when I stood up was a bonus, but ultimately useless in the darkness. Even the light from the moon was hidden by clouds. I was surrounded by darkness.

The beasts, I'm happy to report, did not run me over, and never seemed to approach closer than about a hundred feet. Which was still too close in my book, but still better than directly over me. Listening to the stampede running off into the distance allowed my thumping heart to slow down a bit.

After the stampede ran by during the night, I was happy to still be alive to see the sunrise this morning! =)

Now that the immediate threat had passed--and being run over by a stampede in the middle of the night was not a threat I had ever considered before--my mind started pondering more about what caused the stampede, and I settled on the idea of a mountain lion. I was sure they were out here, and I was sure they would love to catch a cow, and I was sure they could hunt in the dark. But I never saw anything. It could have been a herd of deer rather than cattle, for instance. Or maybe one cow got startled by a rattlesnake that created the whole stampede for no good reason at all. I had no way of knowing for certain.

But in my head, I latched onto the story that it was probably a mountain lion chasing one of the members of a herd of cattle, and they all ran right by me, a mere 100 feet away. And what if the mountain lion didn't catch anything? It was still hungry and then suddenly noticed me sleeping not far away: alone, fragile, slow, soft and squishy?

That was a bit unsettling to think about, but it didn't seem like there was much I could do about it. Eventually, I tried going back to sleep, but it was a little difficult while pondering if there was a mountain lion that might be stalking me now. I kept cursing my over-active imagination.

Eventually, however, I did manage to fall back asleep and was never attacked by any mountain lions.

I had planned to get another early-morning start to the day's hike. Temperatures were expected to get into the 90s today, so the more hiking I could do early in the morning, the less I had to do in the heat of the afternoon. I slept in surprisingly late, however, and I was shocked when I woke up and noticed that it was already after 5:30am. I had wanted to be up before 5:00! I must have been more tired than I thought. That stampede during the night certainly hadn't contributed to my rest!

A little annoyed at myself for sleeping in, I quickly ate breakfast and did my usual morning routines and was on the trail and hiking by 6:30. Early by most standards, but still much later than I had intended.

The day was basically a continuation of yesterday's hike through a treeless and largely flat terrain, following along little-used gravel roads.

The first several miles followed more-or-less parallel to Muddy Creek, which did grow increasing murky the further downstream I continued. The trail crossed the creek several times over bridges, and each time I crossed I got a good view of the water quality in it.

The last time I crossed it was around 9:30am. I stopped under the bridge for a short snack break and to get out of the hot sun, but I didn't linger very long. It was too early in the morning to stop for a long break. Temperatures were already warm, but it was going to be utterly miserable by the afternoon. If it was already early in the afternoon, I night have stopped for two or three hours under the protective shade provided by the bridge.

This bridge over Muddy Creek provided the last decent shade on the trail for the next several miles! If it wasn't so early in the morning, I would have stopped here to rest for a couple of hours.

So I only stopped long enough for a quick snack and to top off with water. This would be the last water for quite a few miles. It wasn't as clear and fresh as it had been closer to where I camped, but it was still serviceable. Definitely a good idea to treat this water, though.

There would be stagnant ponds along the route, but they were largely meant for cattle and some were definitely worse than others, but all of them (according to Guthook comments) would be awful. So I filled up with a lot of water.

Then I pushed onward. During the morning, the only people I saw were three people riding motorbikes together, who passed me like I was standing still, although they did wave to me as they went by.

In the afternoon, I saw two more people, driving two trucks, one right behind the other, who quickly passed me by. I wondered why they each needed separate vehicles and why they hadn't carpooled together. Maybe it was backup, so if one vehicle broke down, they wouldn't die out here? The thought was a little morbid, but I doubted that was the reason.

Around noon, I did find one small tree that was large enough to cast a descent amount of shade and I finally stopped for a lunch break. I'd have preferred to have done it in another hour or two, but these were the first trees I had seen all day and looking ahead, I knew they might very well be the last ones of the day. I had better make use of them while I could. It was clear from the beaten-down grass next to the tree that I wasn't the first person to make use of this shade.

So I checked around the tree making sure there weren't any rattlesnakes hidden around in the brush where I'd sit down, then relaxed in the shade. In the shade and not hiking, the temperatures actually felt quite pleasant.

At around noon, I found this lonely tree casting a decent amount of shade, so I wound up stopping for a lunch break for about 1.5 hours here. Luxury!

But I still had miles to do. After about an hour and a half, I started losing my shade. It was a good as time as any to get moving again.

The sun was brutal that day. There was nowhere to hide. It baked the desert, and I felt like an egg being cooked on the hood of a car in Death Valley. The water I carried turned horrible. It warmed to 'room temperature', which in this case was somewhere around 90 degrees, and even clean water tastes horrible at those kind of temperatures. So I found myself not really wanting to drink water but still forcing myself to take regular sips just to stay hydrated.

Late in the day, I noticed a two-mile shortcut that I could take. The red-line CDT followed a meandering route, finally leaving the gravel roads for a cross-country route along several miles, but there was a shortcut that could knock two miles off the hike if I stayed on a gravel road that veered off to the north.

The gravel road was relatively easy to walk, and I was tempted by the shortcut, but ultimately I needed more water and the shortcut had none. The official red-line CDT, however, did pass by a stagnant lake where I could fill up with water. (As it turned out, it would pass by two different stagnant lakes, but I only knew about one of them at the time.) So ultimately, I stayed on the red-line CDT for the water.

The water was horrible. Some of the worst that I had to collect since back in New Mexico, but it was either that or nothing. I filled up with the water, and definitely took the time to treat it. Then continued onward.

I skipped the 2-mile shortcut to fill up with water at this stagnant lake.

The last three miles of the day, I finally left the gravel roads and followed a cross-country route through the desert. The route was still fairly easy despite there being no trail to follow, and if it wasn't so hot out, it would have been positively delightful. Most of the waypoints to mark the trail had been broken or fallen, so it was often difficult to find the next waypoint by sight, but my GPS was invaluable and kept me from going too far off track. 

At the end of the cross-country route, the trail intersected with another gravel road. This one was clearly not used as often as the ones I used the rest of the day. It looked like it hadn't been maintained in years and except for two rutted tracks where the tires of vehicles ran down the road, it wasn't really much of a road at all.

It seemed like a good place to set up camp, however, so I finally stopped for the day and did just that. It was located at the top of a slight hill with expansive views in every direction. A tall mountain range in the west soon blocked the sun providing a little relief against the relentless sun well before official sunset. I had little doubt that I would sleep soundly tonight. I was completely exhausted! But I did cover about 27 miles for the day. Not bad....

For the first three hours of the day, the trial followed more-or-less parallel to Muddy Creek.


The waypoints marking the trail through this cross-country section weren't in good shape, and they were often difficult to see from a distance in this condition!

Friday, May 20, 2022

Day 95: Wild Wyoming

July 24: I woke up and hit the trail at an early 6:00am. Already, the temperatures felt warm and uncomfortable which didn't bode particularly well for the rest of the day. There were a few pockets of thin forests during the first hour or so, but then the trail came out along gravel roads and endless plains emptiness. The terrain looked largely flat and bland, traditional Wyoming ranch lands as far as the eye could see.

And the trail would follow gravel roads almost the entire day. There was a real trail for the first mile or two, and another short section of a few miles that followed a paved highway, but the rest of the day was along gravel roads.

The paved highway, I thought, seemed like a colossal waste of money. The first 20 minutes along it, not a single vehicle passed me in either direction. It was a good, quality road that seemingly nobody ever used! After that, one vehicle about every 10 minutes would pass by. This was actually a good thing for me. Typically paved roads get a lot more traffic which is most definitely unpleasant, but I'd been on gravel roads that got more traffic than this one. It seemed a mystery to me why this road even existed.

All the same, I didn't like walking on the dark pavement. The road actually led all the way into Rawlins and many hikers take it as a shortcut into town. It's quite the shortcut too, cutting off a couple of dozen miles from the red-line route. It would be easy to lop off a day of hiking by taking the shortcut, so many hikers do. This section of trail is largely considered boring and useless anyhow. No reason to stretch it out any longer than necessary.

Do I dare follow the paved highway all the way into Rawlins...? No! I'm not doing it! You can't make me!

Part of me understood this viewpoint, but I didn't entirely agree with it either. It was a harsh, shadeless environment, but it was also different and interesting to notice the adaptations the flora and fauna to this harsh environment. It seemed remarkable that anything could survive out here at all much less thrive. And the lack of tree cover might not have been as visually pretty as a thick, primordial forest, but the views out here are wide open.

And the terrain was generally pretty flat, so it was an easy section to cover. At least in that sense. I didn't find the change of scenery a disappointment, but rather just with different challenges and different types of hidden beauty.

The only good thing about the paved road into Rawlins, however, was that it was a shortcut. Which is great if you didn't appreciate this type of terrain, but I did. It was also still about a 20-mile hike into town and the idea of a 20-mile walk along a hot, paved road didn't appeal to me at all. Nope, I decided to stick with the red line.

I veered off the highway here, cursed to following gravel roads the rest of the day. Which was still an improvement over the paved road in my book!

As the morning turned into afternoon, the temperatures continued to soar. It might not have been so bad if there was more shade available. Or even if the humidity wasn't so high, but it was definitely unpleasantly warm. Later in the afternoon, however, some cloud cover blew in which helped cool things a bit. It was still hot and humid, but the clouds made it a bit more bearable.

The change in scenery from the thick forests in the morning was rather dramatic. One Guthook comment suggested hugging a certain tree, half-joking that it was the last tree one would see for hundreds of miles. It's funny, but only because it was largely true.

Late in the afternoon, Reality Check caught up with me--which I thought was a fine trick since I had been absolutely 100% convinced that she had been ahead of me. How did that happen?!

Turns out, from the one paved road the trail had followed, she and Muddy had hitched a ride into Rawlins last night to enjoy the luxuries of civilization, then hitched a ride back to the trail this morning to continue the hike. Muddy had decided to walk the paved road the 20-or-so miles back into Rawlins, but Reality Check wanted to stick to the main red-line route and slackpack the 41 miles back into town. (Yes, 41 miles! She'd be hiking deep into the night by the time she finished.)

It was actually a brilliant idea, though. I could have hitchhiked into town, resupplied, and returned saving myself from carrying as much food out from Steamboat Springs. And getting an extra night to enjoy the town. The only potential problem is that the road wasn't very busy and who knows how long it would have taken to get a ride? It seemed to work out well enough for her and Muddy, though.

Muddy I would never meet, however, since he followed the paved road all the way back into town.

A pretty typical Wyoming view

The rest of the afternoon was uneventful. The trail followed gravel roads, along undulating hills through ranch lands filled with cattle. Except for a couple of ATVers who passed by, I had the roads all to myself. And the only hiker I saw all day was Reality Check, but she left me in the dust pretty quickly. She was, however, trying to cover 41 miles today. My goal was a more modest 25 miles or so, although I'd end up exceeding my goal by a couple of miles.

I pushed myself as far as Muddy Creek where I could camp near water and use all that I wanted for cooking dinner and cleaning the dishes. Muddy Creek actually wasn't very muddy, although Guthook comments warned that it would grow increasingly muddy as the trail followed it further downstream. Given the abundance of cattle in the area, I definitely treated the water but it looked pretty good even before treatment.

And thus ended another day in Wyoming....

Enjoy the trees this morning, because they would essentially be the last trees I'd see on the trail for hundreds and hundreds of miles!

Definitely getting into cattle ranching country! Look at those endless plains of flatness at the foot the mountain I'm currently on. That's where I'm headed!

Trail markers through this area weren't always in the best of shape.

One of the few people I saw today were in this ATV driving by while I was taking a photo of the lupine.

The black dot on the trail ahead of me is Reality Check, who was planning to hike 41 miles into town today.

The clouds in the afternoon provided a bit of relief from the hot temperatures and oppressive humidity.