After spending a few days recovering in the small community of Riverside, where the action is in Encampment, we hit the trail with a new CDT hiker. Our group got a ride from a very friendly local who drove us back to Battle Pass, where we started the trek to Rawlins, our next destination. The sky was covered in dark clouds and we prepared our bodies and our packs for the eventual rain that would come. We started our climb up the rolling mountains and with a flash of lightning the rain started to come down. We quickly scattered into the thick trees to hide from the torrential downpour that continued for 30 minutes. After the futile attempt to stay dry we headed out into the rain and made our miles along the wet and muddy trail. The thunder cracked and shot all around us with deafening sound. This forced us to find an alternate route, avoiding the high ridge walk on the divide. We found a new route that stayed low but, missed some creeks we knew we needed for water and cooking dinner that night. After hiking more miles then we wanted to, we finally found a semi-flat spot that would hold the three of us and provided a small creek for our water needs. After a good night’s rest we continued on the trail, eventually sitting to rest when another CDT hiker caught up to us. Now we were four and it was good to have the company after hiking solo for such a long time. Being in a group is good because it gives you more brains for navigation and conversation. The trail is your constant standing topic. Experiences and views are always in discussion.
We gradually made it out of the mountains for this section but dreaded the 30 mile road walk into Rawlins, which would torment us for the next two days. The road was long and filled with rolling endlessness that seemed to go on forever. The first night on the road we walked until 11 pm, when we ended up cowboy camping along the roadside in basically what would be considered a ditch. Rising early at 5:30 am I hit the road listening to my morning dharma talk about being compassionate to all. I was feeling less than compassionate for this road, but tried to find the beauty in the open desert I once again found myself in. Not since New Mexico had I been in this landscape and I can’t say that I missed it. After 13 miles the soft gravel road ended abruptly, giving way to pavement that made my feet scream.
A man driving by in his truck offered me some water that I gratefully accepted. The water reports for this section included notes such as “Saline water which, believe me from experience, will give you the runs”. I have enough problems with frequent bathroom breaks that the thought of destroying my stomach with bad water made me want to rather go thirsty. Road walking is a necessary evil on an uncompleted trail and I’ve found myself just going into what is called “walking meditation” where you just let your mind go blank and focus on your steps. It’s quite relaxing to focus on your steps and breathing and nothing more.
At the end of the pavement was the sight of Rawlins, WY, a desolate town with not much going for it, as far as I can see. It seems to be a victim of economic times. After hitting the local grocery store and Domino’s pizza for dinner I spent the night at a local hotel preparing for the next section, the notorious Great Divide Basin. This area was a desert that delivered big open stretches of land and even bigger stretches of no water. The longest water carry was 30 miles between Benton Spring and Weasel Spring.
The next morning I started my hike across the great desert. It started innocently enough, parrelling the highway for most of the stretch and a welcomed spring that was fenced in and provided good water. You had to almost stretch your whole body down into the tube to reach it but it was clear and tasty. That night we hiked until 11 pm on a road toward a uranium mine. Cowboy camping next to the road again was fine, but the wind was whipping and cold. The next day we continued piecing together the trail, following BLM CDT signs which was the only way to figure out which direction to go. The trick was to assume the sign would be there since 90% of them were knocked down from vicious winds and bad winters. The walk was long and hot, reaching 109 degrees on one of the four days it took to hike across it. Reaching each spring was a vindication of your sense of navigation, letting you live another day. With no trees anywhere, you were a slave to the brutal sun as it beat down on you with very little shade. When I took my breaks in the sun I felt like a piece of bacon frying on skillet, without the satisfaction of eating bacon. Benton Spring was a welcome sight as there was a cluster of trees that provided relief from the sun. I spent several hours there rehydrating and relaxing in the shade, which had become like a valuable currency.
This was the beginning of a 30 mile stretch with no water and my strategy was to hike long into the cool of the night. I’m not a big fan of night hiking but in the desert it’s a different story. It was cooler, the ‘trail’ was easy to follow and gave great views of the big open sky and its stars. On one of these nights, the sky to the north was full of thunderstorms which entertained me with an amazing lighting show. It’s a beautiful thing to walk and watch nature provide its violent, but beautiful array of lightning bolts and spectacular wonder. It was a night I will not soon forget. After hiking from 5 am until midnight we made camp near the road. After setting out my quilt and pad I laid down to what I had hoped would be much needed sleep. However, after only five minutes, rain came through, which forced me to roll myself up like a burrito in my shelter. If it weren’t for the funk coming off of my tent it would have been a good night. Rising at 5 am to beat the heat, I walked the remainder of the desert road until getting to a new road that would lead me to South Pass city where a resupply would be waiting. Arriving in South Pass City, Wyoming’s biggest gold rush city, I grabbed my resupply, toured the old building and walked to the highway to catch a ride to Lander, WY. There I took a couple of much needed days of rest and let my feet recover from the torment the desert provided.