Continental Divide Trail Thru-Hike Journal 2006 – Part 2 : Wyoming
August 7th – Old Faithful Village
"Colter's Hell" was the name for Yellowstone when originally described
by John Colter over two-hundred years ago. Seeing the steam and smelling the sulphur certainly brings up images right from my Catholic school days (minus nuns with rulers! ). Yellowstone is pretty unique to say the least. The thermal pools, the geyers and the most famous landmark of all: Old Faithful. Along with seemingly 3000 other people, saw this spectacle. The park is slowly recovering from the infamous 1988 fire. Young pines are growing. Wildflowers abound. Nature is healing itself. Continue to see more northbound CDT hikers. Looks like Wyoming is where we are crossing paths. And just ahead are more Southbounders. As of today, I am in Wyoming. The border is arbitary, but feel a milestone has been reached. The Montana/Idaho section was intense. Can't wait to see Wyoming, though. Yellowstone, wild horses in the Red Basin and of course "The Winds". Before I know it, will be back home in Colorado. For now, will continue to enjoy the trail mile by mile
August 8th – Heart Lake
An aspect of Yellowstone I did not expect was the large lakes
surrounded by thick forests. The scenry very much reminds me of Maine. I have
not been to Maine in over eight years, but the memories were brought back
The setting sun reflecting on the water, the loons sounding and then
the full moon rising all make for a memorable place to camp. As with
Maine, this area is a more subtle beauty. A beauty that is best appreciated
sitting by the lake and hearing the water lapping against the shore.
Yellowstone continues to be a place where Nobo and Sobo hikers cross
paths. I figure there are about 15-20 of us all spread within 50 miles.
As my hike progresses, starting to meet more people who are also doing
the trail. Do not feel quite as isolated and has been nice to talk to
August 12th – Dubois, WY
Hiking the CDT is an exercise in flexibility. Many choices of what route to take and sometimes zigging where you should have zagged means backtracking a little bit. But overall on this trail, Ma Nature determines the course of what to take. I have had to backtrack once due to a trail being closed because of grizzlies. And now I am in town due to a massive fire right where the CDT goes through (Sheridan Pass). The trail may or may not be open; if the fire spreads though, the trail WILL be closed for sure. Luckily, one of the managers of the Black Country Bear Inn is a sheriff for the county. We studied a collection of maps to find an alt route. It is not the CDT, but I will avoid the fire area and then hook back up to the CDT. He is even giving me a ride to the trail in the morning! Everything works out well on the trail. Just have to be flexible. What I am enjoying about the CDT is that it is not a "paint by numbers" hike. The CDT is a work in progress. And the rough nature of the trail is what makes hiking the CDT so rewarding.
August 14th – near Three Forks Park
The fire did indeed close down a section of the CDT. Tradja, Jess and I
did a jeep road walk to reconnect to the trail. It was not the ideal
way to do the CDT, but on this trail, Ma Nature is the one who calls the
Tradja and Jess are a couple from Bend, OR about my age. We met at
Yellowstone in front of a ranger cabin towards evening. The (extremely
cool) ranger adjusted their permit so they could share a campsite with me.
Since I also stopped in Dubois, we ended up splitting a room. We also
hiked together all day yesterday and shared another campsite together
last night. Early afternoon we parted when they went to a campground to
(hopefully) get rid of some extra food. (Tradja’s food bag looks like it
could supply for two weeks!)
I only mention all these details because it is the most amount of time
I have spent with other thru-hikers on this trip. Since the three of us
are about the same age, live in towns with a similar culture and share
many poltical and social views, it was quite enjoyable to hike with
Jess and Tradja.
I have been solo the majority of the time on this journey. I enjoy solo
hiking. For me, solo hiking is the most intense way to enjoy the
journeys in the wilderness. But part of me also enjoys the company of friends
in the wilderness. Hiking with Jess and Tradja felt like a backpacking
trip back home. Tne conversations were similar, their pace made the day
feel like a weekend outing, and it was just enjoyable to share part of
the journey with such good people.
I think spending time with them was so enjoyable in part because I was
reminded of my home in Boulder, or more accuaretly my friends back in
Boulder. As I get closer to Colorado, I can feel myself getting more
anxiouus to see my friends. I read and reread every email from them. When
I received an email about the birth of my friends’ child, a small case
of home sickness was felt.
When I did the PCT four years ago, was just starting to form a
community of friends who are like a second family to me. Four years later, this
trip is making me realize how important that community has become in my
My family and friends back in RI are often thought about as well. But
since they have been two-thousand miles away for over seven years now,
hiking for a few months has not been a hard adjustment in my
relationship with them.
As any thru-hiker will tell you, trail time and “real world time” are
different. Six weeks on the trail is not like six weeks back home. Time
dilates out here.Every day is long and filled with something new. And
by hiking solo, the “trail time” feel is magnified significantly. The
emotions are more intense solo. When you are in your own head for hours
or even days at a time, everything looks and feels different. And that
is why I think hiking with Tradja and Jess was so enjoyable. I may
enjoy solo hiking, but part of me very much needs a sense of community at
times, too. Balancing a need for solitude with a contradictory need for
community is definitely felt more on this trail than other trails. Once
you choose solitude on this trail, you are solo for a while. I choose
solitude because it is how I need to hike the long trails. Every choice
involves a sacrifice.
Today, I also saw two friends from the hiking community I have known
for years. Jim and Ginny Owen are on their second CDT thru-hike. We
passed each other just outside the Wind River Range. The five us talked for
well over an hour. Our talking about the places we’ve seen and places
we hope to yet see on the trail made for some animated discussion.
As I camp solo tonight at the start of the Winds, I think of why I do
these long hikes. They are done in part because of places such as the
Winds. Magical places that can only be seen on foot. Places that require
going in many miles to been seen at all. I go on these journeys because
I love the passion that like minded people can share for nature. I go
on these journeys because of the journey itself. How an average person
can take a pack and walk from one end of this country to another.
The decision to go on these journeys involve some sacrifices at times.
As I think of why I go on these journeys, I realize that the sacrifices
are worth the price. The price is not for something I want to do…but
for something I have to do at this point in my life. To again spend
months immersed in nature. To again see new mountains every day. To again
become excited about what is over the horizon. To again become excited
about the journey itself.
August 18th – near some jeep road
As mentioned previously, hiking solo makes all the emotions felt that
much more acutely. My pangs of home sickness passed after hiking through the Winds. The Winds are simply the most magical place in the American Rockies. I elected to do some cross-country high routes rather than follow the CDT that was lower. The route I chose was difficult at times, but rewarding. Mountain passes thar rival the High Sierra. Alpine lakes a deep blue. Mountains surrounding you and covered with glaciers. If low points are felt more hiking solo, so are the high points. When I reached the top of Temple Pass and saw the morning sunlight hitting the peaks, I knew why these hikes are taken. No matter what may happen to me on the trail, no matter what I may feel, it will all pass. What will not pass are the memories such as I experienced in the Winds. Where the views are vast, the mountains are high and the valleys pristine. To be able to experience nature for months at a time is a wonderful gift. A gift for which I am thankful.
August 24th – Rawlins, WY
The stretch between The Winds and Rawlins could not be more different.
High mountains with cool mountair air to the lower elevation sage brush
The Great Divide Basin is where the (little) water that flows goes
neither to the Pacific or the Atlantic. The Basin is nearly flat. The basin
is also very hot and the horizon seems to extend forever.
The Basin is not without its highlights. The vast, wide open spaces are
striking. The wild horses that roam the desert are some of the most
majestic animals I have seen. Though not native, they somehow seem to
belong out here.
Was fortunante enough to catch-up with other CDT hikers on the Basin.
Currently there are eight of us in town. Hiking on and off through the
Basin made the miles go by easier. The hikers who made it to town a bit
a head of us even were able to do some trail magic for us. A friend of
Skittles visted him in towns. Toby was nice enough to drive us around
town. He also surprised us this morning by delivering doughnuts and
juice on the road walk that is the trail into Rawlins. Unexpected morale
Now Iam in town. Rested, fed, laundry done and showered. Enjoying the
stop with some fellow thru-hikers. And looking forward to hiking through
my adopted home. Colorado is getting closer and closer.