140 miles through gorgeous Wyoming! Yellowstone National Park. Snake River Valley. Whiskey with Hojo! The Parting of the Waters. A creepy cowboy. Victory over a tree. Green River Lakes.
It was 5 p.m. before I left Old Faithful Village because I was waiting for a package from Hoka that didn’t arrive. I was hoping to try a new pair of shoes out, but it wasn’t to be. I’m still on the perfect shoe quest. Yellowstone National Park has a permit system and my permit required that I make it to a campsite 20 trail miles away. Realizing it was already 5 p.m. and that wasn’t possible, I opted to hitch to a different trailhead and walk a different trail to get to the site on my permit. I felt slightly guilty hitching the 6 or so miles, but I didn’t really have a choice because the village was booked out and I had to get to that campsite.
The hike to Shoeshone Lake was really cruisy. The first 4 miles wound its way through pine forests and meadows and the last 4 along the east shore of the lake. A half mile or so of the trail was right down on the shore of the lake. It was a great evening back on the trail.
Cold morning, I woke up at 4:45 a.m. hoping to get a quick and early start, but it was so darn cold that while it was an early start it was anything but quick. The tent inside and out was covered in frozen condensation, little baby white ice crystals everywhere. It was really hard to get out of my warm sleep clothes and sleeping bag, and my usual pack-up routine as a result was out-of-order and seemed to take way longer than normal. When i finally dragged myself out of the tent it was so cold that my feet were on the verge of turning into a glacial block.
I finally hit the trail about 6:30, but i was moving really slowly and didn’t get very far very fast because of my frozen feet. Top Shelf had camped nearby and popped out on the trail at about 7:30. She said it was 20 degrees last night, no wonder I was cold! I met Top Shelf back in Lima a hundred or so miles back, so it was good to see her again.
The first part of the day we hiked from Shoeshone Lake to and around Heart Lake, through pine forests and geo thermal hot springs. There was virtually no elevation change, so it was super easy walking. Have I said how much I’m loving being in Wyoming? The second part of the day meandered up the Snake River valley, and boy was it pretty! We made our 30, but didn’t pull into camp until 9:30 p.m. after a couple of miles of night hiking. I really enjoyed walking through Yellowstone.
Top Shelf is a cool gal. She’s SOBO and this is her second long trail, the PCT being the first. We had some interesting discussions, including the battle between needing to make miles vs slowing down and enjoying the scenery more. Wouldn’t it be cool to only hike 17 a day and have time to read a book or take a long lunch? On the other-hand, wouldn’t it be cool to get the whole trail in one year? There’s increasing discussion about ‘the snow in Colorado’ amongst all SOBOs. There’s no snow in Colorado yet, but with fall colors starting to come out and the recent cold snap it made it easy to start thinking about.
I slept in a little after the late night we’d had and didn’t get moving until 9 a.m. Felt kind of nice to get out of my tent with the sun already warming the valley. Top Shelf got up and moving about an hour before me and so we said our ‘happy trails’.
Today was nice hiking. I was happy to exit the park after 2 miles and get by a fire closure that had its boundary set right next to the trail i’d been hiking on. It’s turning into a big fire and has closed the southern road entrance to Yellowstone. Glad to get past it! I feel like I’ve been really lucky with fires actually. Most CDT hikers land up with some section of trail that is consumed by fire and requires some kind of an inconvenient road-walk re-route. I’ve walked near fires, the Salmon fire in Idaho being the largest and closest to me. I actually got to call in a fire that was just starting to burn south of Lemhi Pass back in Idaho which enabled the local fire crews to put it out before it had a chance to spread, they hadn’t had it reported yet, so I was happy to have helped put it out in a timely manner!
I spent some of the morning walking along the headwaters of the Snake River. It was really easy walking and very scenic. I ran into a couple of Wyoming section hikers who said that Hojo was up the trail just a few miles and was looking forward to seeing me. Hojo and I started at the Mexican border together last year attempting a CDT NOBO hike, as you know I only made it 110 miles to Silver City before sustaining a stress fracture in my tibia. Hojo made all of New Mexico and Montana, before coming off with a shoulder injury.
Sure enough an hour or so later I met Hojo on the trail. It was so good to see him. To my surprise, he had carried a small bottle of whiskey all the way from Rawlins, Wyoming to celebrate our both being back on the trail, that’s something like 300 miles. Thanks Hojo, wow! We drank some whiskey and sat on the side of the trail for about an hour catching up. He was having a great trip, despite a hypothermic episode in the Winds, and was planning to walk through Yellowstone back to the site of his injury, giving him now the completion of New Mexico, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. He’s saving Colorado for the final push another year.
After saying farewell to Hojo I started the climb up Two Ocean Pass. I started thinking about how section hiking really is a great way to see the CDT. Section hiking a trail, distinct from thru-hiking it, is where you hike sections of it in one year and not the whole thing. Some of the benefits are that you can pick the best time of year to hike any given section of the trail and that you can take your time and enjoy the scenery a little more than when you’re charging through it on a thru-hike.
I came out of my section hiking thoughts when I noticed a low-set but chubby animal waddling it’s way up the trail towards me. It hadn’t seen me yet. I suspected it was a badger and decided I should get out of its way as they can be vicious little bastards. When it did notice me it froze, crouched down and stared at me from behind some grass. I gave it a wide berth and after 20 seconds or so of both of us looking at each other, it decided to keep trotting up the trail. Just because i’m a wierdo I took the safety off my bear spray in case it decided to come at me, but it didn’t. I included a photo of it below, correct me if i’m wrong but I think it’s a badger?
The view from up on Two Ocean Pass was great, back to some mountains! Dropping down the south side of the pass I came across the ‘Parting of the Waters’, a really neat hydrologic phenomena where one creek splits about equally to create Atlantic Creek and Pacific Creek. Atlantic Creek flows 3488 miles to the east via the Yellowstone, Missouri and Mississippi Rivers into the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Creek flows 1353 miles to the Pacific Ocean via the Snake and Columbia Rivers. Fish swimming upstream from the east can transition to swimming downstream to the west and vice versa, pretty neat!
I hiked until dusk, set up camp on a nice piece of dirt under a pine tree, and slept well.
I hiked a couple of miles along the prairie and did some laundry at a stream crossing, hanging my socks on the back of my pack to dry for the rest of the day.
I saw D=rt as i was taking a break on the side of the trail late in the morning, which is actually D=rt not Dirt as I’ve been spelling it, Distance = Rate of movement * Time of movement. D=rt is a rock start, he’s been long distance hiking for more than 10 years and has a pretty impressive list of trails under his belt, including that he has already hiked the Appalachian Trail this year and is now on the CDT. Anyway, I saw D=rt and he said that he and Dora the Explorer were planning to camp at a lake further down the trail. I said I hoped to make it to the same lake.
Lots of stream crossings today and I wasn’t carrying my sandals, argh, they’ve been in my bounce box since Anaconda because most of southern Montana and Idaho didn’t have any significant streams or creeks to cross, certainly none that required wet feet. I took my shoes off and crossed barefoot through most of them, but one was up to mid-thigh and moving very fast, so decided I should keep my shoes on. One major drawback of hiking in Keen hiking shoes and not trail running shoes is that they take forever to dry out after getting wet, even with having taken the liners out before crossing. I’ve almost beaten the blisters on my feet and I was definitely not going to hike with my feet in wet shoes, get wet socks, wet skin and re-agitate the blisters. So, I sat in the sun on the other side of the stream for nearly an hour waiting for them to dry out a bit. Only bummer was i’d just had a 45 minute lunch break a mile or so back and so the extra hour cost me a few miles for the daily mileage total. Oh well, at least I wasn’t walking with blisters again.
I was hoping to get to the lake to camp with D=rt and Dora, but given my lack of mileage today, it would require a couple of miles of night hiking. I was planning on it, but at about twilight D=rt and Dora’s prints became covered by big grizzly prints. I followed for about a quarter mile before deciding to call it a day and camp in a grove of trees a couple hundred feet from the trail. D=rt and Dora weren’t that far ahead of me, so neither was the bear. I don’t need that kind of excitement at the end of a day.
I followed the same Griz tracks a mile and a bit down to a stream. The trail followed along the river for a few hundred yards through some willow bushes and I had the safety off my bear spray, just in case. Happily there was no bear.
The stream crossing required shoes off, a nice brisk way to wake up today! Brrr. I ate breakfast by the stream and did some laundry while my feet dried and warmed in the sun.
There was a lot of evidence of bear activity on the climb from that stream up to Brooks Lake, bear scat and prints. I made plenty of noise and reminded myself that i’m nearly done with Grizzly country. Just another hundred or so miles through the Winds and it’s adios to those big scary animals. I can’t wait for that!
Most hikers resupply in Dubois, which is a 30 mile hitch from Togwotee Pass. However i’d arranged for a small resupply package to be sent to a resort on the trail, Brooks Lake Lodge, and I was going to hike another 60 miles to Green River Lakes where i’ll resupply in nearby Pinedale.
I’d read in the CDT town guide that Brooks Lake is an exclusive resort and that while the lodge accepts packages, you should get in and out without expecting anything more from the stop. Well, I spent an awesome two hours at the lodge! The lodge manager, Adam was super nice. The staff had just had lunch, so he took me back into the kitchen and got me a Pepsi and a huge plate of gourmet hot dog, fries and bread pudding. Man it was so good! Especially as I wasn’t expecting to eat town food for another few days. Yay! He plugged in my devices at the front desk and let me hang out while they charged, was pretty neat wandering around the historic building. Thanks to Katie too for the Trader Joe’s treats in my resupply box, the Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter was delicious. If you’re looking for a luxury dude ranch in Wyoming you should definitely consider Brooks Lake Lodge.
I reluctantly left the lodge and got back on the trail. The CDT was closed a few miles ahead south of Highway 26 because of the Lava Mountain Fire, so I planned to hike the re-route up Squaw Creek to Sheridan Pass instead which unfortunately involved an extra 10 miles of gravel road walking, argh.
Part way down the road I was taking a break when a work truck came driving along. It belonged to an outfitter and the cowboy behind the wheel was headed to their horse camp about 5 miles ahead. He had cold beer and air conditioning so I jumped in the truck and opted to skip the rest of the road walk and let him drop me off at the Squaw Creek trail. It all started out well but then he started drinking beer, and then whiskey, and then made one after the other suggestive comments, he even sprayed some Guess cologne into the air vent to circulate through the truck cabin. So corny it sounds funny, but it was anything but funny while I was sitting in that cabin trying to figure out the safest way out of the situation. He kept stopping the truck and talking, it took us hours to go the 5 or so miles to the end of the road, I would have walked it quicker. I’ve been really lucky with all the hitches I’ve had on this trail, but this situation is exactly the reason that people tell me I shouldn’t hitch. My backpack was in the back of the truck, along with my bear spray, and so I couldn’t just get out and split when the truck slowed, i’ll never do that again when hitching on my own!
When finally we made it to the end of the road I jumped out and got my backpack, he told me I should really camp with them at their Outfitter camp given that it was nearly dark, I said ‘the hell I will’ and ran. I knew he was pretty drunk and so took my chances that I could outrun him if he came after me. I went as fast as my legs would carry me down a trail that definitely wasn’t the one I had planned to take, the last thing I wanted to do was to camp anywhere near where he thought I was. I hiked well after dark, and in complete silence despite being in Grizzly-land. I stopped in a grove of trees in a meadow and when I was sure he definitely wasn’t following I set up my tent and crawled inside. My mind was racing and heart was thumping. I looked at the Delorme map on my phone and planned out a new route up to Sheridan Pass for the morning. I didn’t sleep too well.
I woke up very early and was ready to hike at sunrise, I wanted to get up and over a few ridgelines to put some distance between me and the drunken creepy cowboy. I encountered a slight hitch though, as I got my food bag down from a tree my rope got stuck on a branch. I’d got my rope tangled a couple of weeks back and had already cut it and so I wasn’t keen on cutting it again, instead I decided that the tree was going to have to give me my rope back. It was standing firmly upright, but was dead, so I figured with enough force it could be pulled down. I looped the rope around my waist and yanked and yanked and yanked until the base of the tree started to crack and crack and crack. After about 15 minutes of hauling and some initial hip bruising, the tree finally toppled. I untangled the rope from the branch and proudly took my rope back. Haaa, take that tree!
I put in some good miles today, 10 miles by about 11 a.m. and 20 miles by about 4 p.m. I was feeling better and better the further away I got from the creepy cowboy and by lunch it wasn’t a concern anymore. I’d also GPS texted my buddy Trover and was checking in with him every couple of hours. The hiking was pretty cruisy and the views were nice. One vista in particular was especially awesome today, I was hiking down a big open field and on the horizon to my right were the Tetons, the east facing side of them this time, and in-front was Squaretop Mountain and the north end of the Wind River Range. Pretty impressive.
I was hoping to get in close to 28 miles today, but after my afternoon break my hamstring started doing something cooky, so I only hiked on another few miles. I set up camp in a grove of trees about a mile from Union Pass. It was nice to set up camp before the sun set. As it turns out I shared my camp with a big bull cow, but he didn’t seem bothered by my presence and left me alone.
I’ve acquired a couple of new tricks to keep warm at night. The first is a pair of down socks that I had shipped to me at Brooks Lake Lodge, they are super warm and incredibly cozy. The second is that I eat some cheese before bed, it takes hours to digest and helps to keep me warm well into the night.
Yay, town day! This has been a long stretch.
The hike was very scenic, especially descending from Gunsight Pass with lower Green River Lake and the north end of the Winds spread out in front of me.
I’d been day dreaming of swimming in the lake for hours and when I got to the lake Dora, D=rt and Top Shelf were all sitting there. Mimicking a strip tease I walked towards the lake shedding layers and dove into the cool water. It was so refreshing, and provided some funny entertainment for my fellow hiker trash friends.
We sat on the shore and soaked up the sun. It was really nice. I said farewell to the crew and headed out to the trailhead parking. I’d organized for the Pinedale shuttle to come pick me up so I didn’t have to deal with hitching on a quiet road. It’s a great way to get around the Winds if you’re in this area, the shuttle company will even shuttle your car between trailheads for you.
Rest in Pinedale
Well, rest in Pinedale only lasted 12 hours. More on that next post. I did get time in to eat a big tasty dinner at the Wind River Brewery, a burrito and latte from the drive thru espresso hut for breakfast and pick-up my bounce box from the Post Office. Pinedale has a Pine River and Pine Street, it’s good to be in small town Wyoming.
Don’t stay at the Lodge at Pinedale, it’s run by an Indian family and the whole hotel reeked of curry, I love curry but not in my hotel room.
There’s always a few things when you get to town that makes you feel like you’re out of place. Three hit me on my walk from the hotel to the post office and back again. The first was that while Pine River looked like an exceptional place to bathe, I probably shouldn’t do so. The second was that I needed to blow my nose and realized that I couldn’t blow a snot rocket on the main street. The final was that when I finished my breakfast burrito and latte in the garden next to the drive thru espresso hut, I realized I couldn’t quickly dig a cat hole to poop. Sorry if that’s too much detail, but it’s true!
Thanks for reading.