Thursday, July 12, 2018

CDT Part 6: Grand Lake to Pinedale

In my most recent post, I lamented the fact that I hadn't hit my stride on the CDT. Multiple zero days and unexpected delays had contributed toward a nagging feeling that I just wasn't making much progress. 

Since then, I've walked nearly 500 miles in 20 days. 

It helped that the terrain evened out, of course. But although I'd been hiking for more than four months now, I hadn't yet entered that state of flow where the legs go on autopilot, the mind is free to wander, and the miles come easier. Upon leaving Grand Lake, however, I realized I'd have to really turn on the jets to make it to Encampment, WY, before the post office closed for two days the next weekend. I pushed myself and made it in time to pick up my package, and then kept that momentum going across the dreaded Great Divide Basin. Over the years, I've discovered that I'm happiest when I keep moving at a consistent, reasonable pace, spending minimal time in town. And over the last three weeks, I've achieved just that.

The Great Divide Basin: Among CDT hikers, the Basin has a reputation as a bit of a boogeyman. If you've ever drive Interstate 80 through the state of Wyoming, it's the boring, hot, crappy central part of the state that's tedious enough to drive through, let alone walk through. The water is either chemically undrinkable, disgustingly cow-fowled, or completely non-existent. And there's absolutely nowhere to hide from the blazing sun. There are no trees, no tall rocks, no overhung cliffs - just flat country with foot-tall sagebrush. Fourteen hours per day, in 95+ degree heat, and absolutely nowhere to escape from it, not even for a minute. It really takes a toll, not just physically, but mentally. I averaged close to 30 miles per day across the Basin, just to get across it as soon as possible and escape to the relative cool, shade, and glorious cold water of the mountains again. 

Pretty, but undrinkable.

The Wind River Hordes: Of course, as soon as I got into the mountains again, I wanted to be back in the desert. Well, that's not true, but a new challenge confronted me: mosquitoes so thick they're worthy of "Eleventh Plague" appellation. In the Winds, I've covered up from head to toe - long sleeves, long pants, a headnet, and DEET - all day, every day. I've never seen bugs this bad before. A few days ago, I killed six mosquitoes with one swat of my hand. Oh, and it's rained every day too. 

The Wind River Magic: In spite of the challenges that the Winds present, they really are beautiful. Although it was still too snowy to do the off-trail route that I really wanted to do, I still took a small detour through the Temple Pass and Cirque of the Towers area. I'd been there before, but it was no less beautiful this time around. The lingering snow on the north side of a few passes allowed me to do some glissading. Bonus: even ravenous zombie-mosquitoes can't catch up with you while you're sliding down a snowfield!

Happy 150th, South Pass City: I was cruising across the Great Divide Basin when I ran into a local on his ATV one morning. We got to talking, and he mentioned that South Pass City (approximate population: 50) was having its 150th anniversary celebration the next day. He mentioned that there would be concerts and... BBQ! I was still 51 miles away from South Pass, but I determined that, if I really hustled, I could make it for lunch tomorrow. So I went into overdrive, hiking 36 miles that day and 15 the next morning to arrive just in time for the festivities to start. South Pass is so small that normally, there's not even a place in town to get a hot meal. When I arrived, though, I found two food trucks, a free concert going on, and old-timey baseball tournament between several cow town teams, random gunpowder explosions, and more. I spent most of the day there, sitting in the glorious, glorious shade, watching baseball and drinking pop. Happy birthday, South Pass!

What's next: The northern half of the Wind River Range beckons, including (hopefully) the famous Knapsack Col. Those plans are still up in the air though, as there's apparently a nasty snow cornice lingering up there. After the Winds, it's less than a week through the Absarokas (the locale of last summer's big trip) to Yellowstone National Park. Within a few weeks, I should be in the last state of the CDT, Montana. There's over a thousand miles of trail in Montana though, so don't hold your breath quite yet!


  1. Glad you're making good time. See you soon!

  2. Great summary of the Basin. I missed the BBQ! Hope to see Knapsack Col photos :-)