Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Day 115: And into Dubois!

August 13: I woke up at 2:00am. I know it was precisely that time, not a minute earlier or later because I set the alarm on my phone to wake me up then. That was about the peak time for the Perseid meteor shower and I wanted to watch it a bit.

And I did see quite a number of shooting stars. The sky was clear and perfect for watching meteors, but none of the ones I saw were particularly remarkable and after about a half hour, I decided to go back to sleep.

Despite the interruption in my sleep, I still woke up relatively early and was on the trail and hiking by 6:45am. The trail was relatively flat and easy, angling down a slight slope pretty much the entire morning. The first few miles were along trails, but the rest of the day the route followed gravel roads.

The most interesting thing along the way was a yurt where I took a short snack break. In a heavy rainstorm, I had little doubt that the yurt would have been truly awesome. As it was now, it was just a curiosity for me. It's not often I see yurts along the trail.

Yurt on the trail!

Along the way, I passed two south-bounders, both of whom who seemed particularly chatty. They were hiking separately, and I probably spent the better part of a half hour chatting with each of them. One of them was very insistent that I should take the Blue Sky Alternate which was coming up soon. The main red-line CDT takes a circuitous, windy route along the Idaho-Montana border, but portions of it had been closed to thru-hikers due to wildfires and the road walks around it were long and miserable, plus the smoke was absolutely horrendous according to the few hikers that tried it anyhow. Almost everyone was taking the Super Butte Cutoff or the Blue Sky Alternates, although I was still a bit unclear if those were the same alternate or not. Neither of them were listed on Guthook, but both of them were massive shortcuts that could lop off as much as 300 miles of hiking.

I was inclined to start taking every shortcut I could by this point. I figured I had maybe another month or so of reliably "good" weather--that is, before the first winter storms started dumping snow on the trail--and I was starting to have concerns that I might not finish the trail this year if I didn't start taking every shortcut that I could.

But the one south-bounder assured me that the Blue Sky Alternate was truly spectacular and was well worth a visit even if it wasn't officially part of the CDT. It was nice to hear that I could take the alternate and still be able to enjoy some great scenery.


Come on, man! I need a ride!

I eventually arrived at Highway 26 and the road leading to Dubois, WY, nearly 30 miles to the east. I definitely wasn't going to be hiking into this trail town! So I stuck out my thumb and started to hitch.

It was a busy highway, but no cars were stopping. Car after car passed. I hadn't tried counting them, but there must have been over a hundred of them that drove on by. Ugh! I hate hitchhiking! But it's not like I could just walk into town. If I did that, I wouldn't arrive until tomorrow night!

I did try turning on my phone but didn't get a signal here, so I didn't even have the possibility of calling for a ride. I was completely dependent on hitchhiking.

After about an hour on the side of the road, another thru-hiker arrived. He came in from the opposite direction, though, going southbound, and he asked me how long I had been trying to get a ride.

"About an hour now," I told him. "It's a busy road, but nobody's stopping."

He introduced himself as Elvis, and he started sticking out his thumb as well, and I let him have at it while I stopped to eat some snacks. I hadn't dared stop to eat snacks before, wanting to be ready in case that special vehicle pulled over, but now that Elvis took over thumb duty, my hands were free to eat a couple of quick snacks.

And about 10 or 15 minutes later, a pick-up truck pulled over and offered us a ride. Yes!

We piled into the back and chatted with each other during the half-hour drive into town.

Elvis and I hang out during our ride into town from the back of a pick-up.

When I was in Pinedale, I had checked lodging options in Dubois and everything was ridiculously expensive. The cheapest hotels I found were about $150/night, but the Episcopal church in town would host up to 8 hikers per night for free so that's where we headed first. Claim our spaces before it was full!

There was one hiker already there, Flash, who said she had been in town for a week recovering from some sort of leg injury. Although she hadn't been at the church the whole time. The church had a policy of allowing hikers to stay for a maximum of 2 nights to ensure that no one hogs the limited spaces. She had been staying at the local campground, but was ready for a couple of nights indoors. As it turned out, she was also from Seattle so we chatted about Seattle for a bit. I had never met her before, but she was also hiking northbound and I had been seeing her register entries since way back in New Mexico. But she was also planning flip up to the Canadian border and hike southbound back to Dubois.

After getting checked in and settled, I headed out to the laundromat to wash my dirty clothes and take a shower. The church didn't have showers available, but there were public showers available at the laundromat so I could kill two birds with one stone there.

I started my laundry going, then jumped in the shower. The shower never seemed to heat up, though, and it was painfully cold. I endured it anyhow because what other option did I have? I really needed at least a quick shower. I was a bit annoyed that there seemed to be no hot water for it, though. Later, another hiker told me that there were showers available at the KOA campground nearby and for $5, you could take a shower of unlimited length instead of dealing with the quarter and by-the-minute showers at the laundromat. In hindsight, I wished I had used the showers at the KOA.

Although the showers had much to be desired, I loved the entrance for the laundromat! =)

In any case, I was finally clean (mostly!), and my clothes were soon clean as well. Normally I'll hang my wet clothes out to dry naturally, but at the church, there wasn't really space for me to hang out my clothes so I went ahead and threw them in the dryers and played with the wi-fi on my phone while my clothes dried. Between the clothes and showers, I wound up using about $7 in quarters.

Speaking of phones, one small annoyance was that my phone didn't work in Pinedale. I could still make calls and surf the internet on wi-fi connections (which, fortunately, was available at the church), but there was no cell signal for my phone to use anywhere in town.

Once my clothes were done, I headed to the post office where I picked up my laptop. Hello, beautiful laptop! It had only been barely two weeks since I last saw it, but after Colorado, that seemed like a luxury. It arrived like it was supposed to!

And then I was ready for a late lunch, so I dropped in at the Cowboy Cafe on my way back to the hostel. Even at 4:00 in the afternoon, that place was busy! I thought I might have to be put on a waitlist, but fortunately a table vacated just as I arrived and I could take a seat immediately where I ordered a burger, fries and a bottomless glass of Pepsi which I'd end up getting refilled three times.

Finally back at the church, I started diving into the intricacies of Yellowstone permits. The next section of trail would take me through Yellowstone NP and I definitely needed permits to go through that section. Not just the process of how to get a permit through the park, but also figuring out an itinerary through the park since I had to select specific campsites where I would camp each night. It bugs me whenever I have to plan out specific campsites so far in advance. What if I sprain an ankle and have to slow down? What if the trail is easier than I thought and I could go further than originally planned? I like flexibility! Yellowstone permits were anything but flexible. And what if a campsite where I wanted to stay was already occupied? Would I have to do a 30-mile day somewhere? 

By the time I figured everything out, the permit office for Yellowstone had long since closed for the day so getting the permit would have to wait until tomorrow. But at least I could map out a few potential itineraries and be ready to call them first thing in the morning tomorrow.

Holy giant jackalopes!

I also did some Googling for information about the Super Butte Cutoff and Big Sky Alternate, looking for maps and information about the route since none of it was available on Guthook. As far as I could tell, the two routes were similar and parts of them overlapped, but they were exactly the same. The Super Butte Cutoff followed the main red-line CDT through Yellowstone then veered off the main route near West Yellowstone, reconnecting with the trail near Butte. The Blue Sky Alternate veered off the main route in Yellowstone. There were a couple of routes hikers were taking, one leading through the eastern half of Yellowstone and the other heading due north out of Old Faithful before passing through the town of Big Sky, Montana. Near the Tobacco Mountains in Montana, all the various routes merged or crisscrossed each other until reconnecting with the main trail near Butte. It appeared that there were as many variations of the route as there were people hiking it.

Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to stay on the main red-line CDT as long as possible, so I decided to go with the Super Butte Cutoff which would take me to West Yellowstone. There was a post office where I could send a package to at Old Faithful, so I decided to mail some food to myself there. The grocery store there, so I heard, was very limited and relatively expensive. I'd have to mail it tomorrow, though, since the post office was already closed for the day.

Throughout the day, more hikers arrived at the hostel. Except for Flash, they were all south-bounders that I had never met before. Well, Flash I hadn't met before today either, but she was a north-bounder like me and the only other north-bounder there that night. Where were all my fellow north-bounders?! At least until she flipped up to Canada. Was I the last north-bounder on the trail?!

Most of the hikers headed off to check out a rodeo happening at 7:30 in the evening and didn't return until nearly 10:00am, so it was a relatively quiet night in the hostel. I wasn't particularly interested in the rodeo and I had plenty of work I could get done on my laptop, and that's what I did the rest of the evening.

This is the inside of the yurt.

There's a south-bounder coming up the trail!

The road to civilization is near!

Dubois, WY


Mary said...

Ryan, Did you go inside that big rock (last photo)? That looks interesting! Did you stay at a hostel or camp by the church? I'm confused because you've mentioned a hostel.

Ryan said...

I didn't go in the big rock. Not sure what that is. The hostel IS the church. They have a room that they opened up for up to 8 hikers to crash each night. For hikers that showed up later and wanted somewhere cheap to stay, the best options were camping at the KOA or other nearby campground. Or pay $200/night for a hotel room! (Which, if you split it with enough people, might actually be affordable for some hikers.)

Mary said...

I thought you'd camped outside on the church grounds! That's nice they had a room inside for hikers.