The town of Lander, WY is an old cowboy town and was a good resupply point. A hiker in our group was a NOLS (national outdoor leadership school) alumni so he was able to get us a room at the hostel that houses the students as they come and go. At only $15 a night it was well worth it. I resupplied at the NOLS bulk store, getting some good light weight food such as beans, potato’s, vegetables, and malted milk balls that were a great change to my regular diet. Not the best for me but a nice change.
I made a good sign to hitch out of town and it eventually worked after about 2 hours of working the cars as they came by. I tend to make a little bit of a dance out of it with my thumbs. It gets the attention of the drivers and even if they don’t pick me up, they atleast get a smile out of it. After our ride dropped us back off at the trail head that lead into the much anticipated Wind River range, which I had been looking forward to for a long time. Its full of high mountains, the cirque of the towers and hundreds of lakes. A beautiful place that did not disappoint.
Our first day was walking through sage brush on dirt roads but opened up to the wilderness area. The first few miles of the trail was surrounded by streams and deadfall that covered the trail at every turn. I went around, over and under all of the downed tree’s making slow progress on the gradual uphill that lead to little brooks lake. It was a spectacular view at sunset. The lake was surrounded by tree’s and mountains that was reflected in the water as the sunset with orange, reds and pinks permiatting from the sky. As I was enjoying this beautiful display of nature I realized my hiking partner had not shown up yet. He should have reached me already so I got worried and hiked down the trail thinking he had passed me. After a short time I realized I didn’t see his footprints in the dwindling light so I rushed back up trail and looked for him behind where I had seen the sunset. It was dark at this point and I was without water and my headlamp was still buried in my pack. I decided to camp right next to trail, believing he would walk past me in the morning. That night, without water to cook, I ate a Clif bar for dinner and called it a night. The morning came and went and no friend to speak of. I assumed he had passed me so I headed down the trail stopping at water and cooking what should have been my dinner before continuing. I walked through a magnificent valley with a winding stream that seemed to go on forever.
Eventually I came to a high mountain lake that had me surrounded on all sides by high peaks and seemingly no place to go. As I studied my maps, scratching my head on my next move, I saw a small orange spot near the pass. It was my hiking partner. I quickly put on my pack and followed behind him over the unmarked pass.
Finally meeting up with my hiking partner was a relief. He had actually passed me as I was watching the sunset and just kept going. Back together we walked down the scree field, passing more gorgeous lakes. At Brooks lake we stopped for the night next to it and enjoyed our first bear box of the trip. As there are many bears in the range, including grizzlies, we put all of our food in the box for the night.
The next day we took an alternate route that was suppose to save us 8 miles of hiking. Alternates are not always short cuts, as this one proved, it actually took longer then the offical route would have taken us. There was no trail and route finding was difficult. We eventually made it but it took us 2 hours longer to take the short cut, so it wasn’t really anything of the sorts. We stopped to talk with a couple of Southbounders on the CDT, which was becoming more frequent as we were passing the herds at this point. The rest of day was full of mountain lakes, over cast skies and good walking. The only problem was that foot was starting to hurt. With every step my foot was hurting more and more, right in the middle of my foot which was oddly attracted to every rock on the trail. It was only 6 pm but I had to stop. I quickly found suitable site next to a lake so I could soak my feet in its cool water.
Walking was painful and every step shot pain through my nerves. This was going to be a problem. I was in the middle of the Winds with no quick exit. That night all kinds of thoughts were in my head. Would this be the injury to take me off the trail? Would I quickly recover? How do I even get out of here quickly? In the morning the pain was even stronger so I decided to walk out of the Winds, even though it pained me to leave. I met a couple on the trail who was a nurse and gave me the response I hate hearing from medical professionals “I don’t know what that is but it looks bad”. Augh. They told me to walk out the 12 miles with them and they would drive me to Jackson Hole to get medical attention. When we reached there car they offered a room they had a condo they owned for me to rest up. They had done a lot of foreign travel and wanted to repay some of the kindness they had received on their travels to another traveler.
In Jackson I was able to spend about 4 days recovering my foot without seeing a doctor after one of the roommates who works at a urgent care facility in town said that its really expensive to be seen. As I am almost to the end of my hike, money is really tight so a $150 visit telling me to rest wasn’t worth it to me. The town of Jackson is great but very touristy in the town center with a cowboy theme sprawled throughout. Prices were high for food and drink so getting off the beaten path or just hitting the grocery store was the way to eat.
Dealing with another injury was difficult and made me start thinking about the trail ending soon. What if I had had to end my hike from this, what would I be doing? How fast would I need to find a job again? Where would I live? It brought up things I wasn’t ready to think about but just yet but know I will have to soon enough…