Monday, July 22, 2013


Lander, WY- Day 86, 1626.7miles.  1534 Switchbacks (no switchbacks in the last 200 miles)

From Rawlins to South Pass City (the pass above Lander) was about 120 miles, was all dirt road walking, had approximately three trees, four hills, three rattlesnakes, and two turns in the road.  It was incredibly blah.  We had absolutely no shade except for a telephone pole one day, and our water sources were spread fairly far apart.  The worst part though was being able to see the road for seven to ten miles in advance.  Mentally it was tough.  Our view was this....

Exciting right?  Now imagine blistering sun, rattlesnakes waiting to snack on your ankles, and 30 miles a day of this.  For the entire stretch we would hike the section you see above, come over a small rise and then see the next section....

And the next section...

And this section...


     Ok, so maybe that is a slightly exaggerated, but that is exactly how it felt while hiking.  After the first full day of this and having no shade, we decided we should be proactive about hiking in the heat.  So we got up at 3:30 the next morning (after a thunderstorm kept us awake for half of the 5 potential hours of sleep) and hiked through until noon.  Then during the hottest part of the day we took a long lunch and nap in the shade from a sign before resuming around 2:00pm.  Aside from being exhausted from lack of sleep the miles were much easier that day.  We went through much less water and the heat did not seem as oppressive.  
     The stretch was not entirely miserable, just mostly.  We did see hundreds of antelope.  They were everywhere.  We even started hearing antelope calls as they were barking at us.  We have both seen antelope before, but the sheer volume and proximity of the antelope in this stretch was impressive.  
Still, this stretch was boring enough that I ended up pulling out the Kindle and reading aloud.  I normally do not like taking away from the hike, but since I could go an hour in between glances around and still not miss anything I decided it was OK.  Without Jack Reacher's shenanigans this stretch would have been even worse.
     The last day we shared the trail with the Oregon Trail for a few miles, which once we made sure we weren't actually headed for Oregon was neat.  It was fun to imagine coming through the same stretch on covered wagons.  We decided we would rather have wagons than walk because at least there would be some shade.  
     Needless to say, when we reached South Pass City and found our boxes and Amber waiting for us it was a great thing.  Just finding a reprieve from the sun was amazing.  We can't wait to get into the Wind Rivers now.  Going from such bleak areas to glaciers is going to be great!  

Amber's dog, Liam.  Much softer and way more fun than rattlesnakes.
-Track and Field

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wyoming: The Great Divide Basin, Sea Birds, and a 44

After taking nearly four days off, we left Steamboat Springs and made our way back to where we got off the trail. I was feeling much better after getting started on the right medication for Giardia, and it felt great to be hiking again. Rather than trying to hitch a ride back to the Three Islands Lake area, we found a hiking route out of town that would rejoin us with the CDT after about 25 miles.

Though this added an extra day to this stretch, it was great to see a different part of the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness. We crossed many flowing streams (yes, we treated ALL of our water this time), passed huge granite cliff faces, and meandered through expansive aspen groves. The wildflowers throughout this stretch were spectacular. Indian Paintbrush, Lupine, Sunflowers, and a variety of other colors and aromas surrounded us.

Once we rejoined the CDT, we weren't far from the Wyoming border. Crossing this state line felt momentous, and after a series of trials in Colorado it felt like we were finally making progress. Our maps instructed us to "whoop it up" as we crossed the stateline, and we surely did. After about 15 more miles, the terrain changed drastically. We went from dense forest with many fallen trees to open rolling plains of sage brush, grass, and even some cactus. Our route transitioned from single-track trail to roads, and in a way it almost felt like we were back in New Mexico. By the time we made it to Bridger Pass we had officially made it to the Great Divide Basin. This basin does not allow any water to flow Atlantic or Pacific Oceans. Any rain that falls in the basin remains there, and mostly evaporates.

With a quick inventory of our food and an examination of our bleak water sources, we decided to push our daily mileage and make it to our next resupply point in Rawlins a day early. This involved hiking a 35 mile day followed by a 44 mile day, our highest ever. To be honest, much of these two days now seem like a blur. Highlights include a spectacular sunset, seeing some very misplaced bear prints, and being visited by a seagull and other sea birds during dinner (we were very confused by this at first). Lowlights include biting flies, hot weather, and walking on roads for hours on end. All of the surface water in the last 30 miles of our stretch was alkaline and salty, and hence undrinkable. It was taunting to be hot and thirsty, with only a limited amount of water on our backs, walking by a lake that was practically untouchable.

We made it to Rawlins late, and had trouble finding a motel room. Apparently Rawlins, Wyoming is a very busy place in the summertime. Fortunately, we snagged the last room at the Days Inn, a smoking room. After taking a well-deserved day off our feet, and moving to a non-smoking room, we will get back on the trail tomorrow. The entirety of the next stretch remains in the Great Divide Basin, which ends at our next resupply: South Pass City. Once there, we are looking forward to visiting with our friend Amber who lives in Lander.

Sorry for the absence of pictures. Every time I try to load them the computer crashes. We will try to load some in the next post. Until next time, and further down the trail...


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Steamboat x2

Another quick update....

We made it from Rocky Mountain National Park to Steamboat Springs in a few days (saw three bears and a fox, but more to follow) then set off to Rawlins, Wyoming.  After a few days into that section Sara started having severe stomach issues for the second time in a few weeks.  We were able to hitch back to Steamboat and get to a doctor, where we just found out that she has giardia.  We have been here for two nights now and are planning on resuming from Steamboat tomorrow morning with some great medication.  More details to follow!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Brownies and Blowdowns

Jack and Sara
Day 64-1153.2 miles and 1377 switchbacks

Leaving Silverthorne took a while.  Since we were meeting Sara's parents at Grand Lake (just outside Rocky Mountain National Park) there was no benefit to rushing out of there only to get to our next place and wait around.  So we decided to hit up the dollar menu on our way out of town.  Apparently dollar burgers do not help when trying to climb up out of a town to a

Above Lake Ann in the Collegiate Peak Wilderness

pass while carrying fully loaded packs.  We felt rather lazy anyway that day, so we managed seven or so miles then opted to camp just beyond Ptarmigan pass.

The next day we somewhat broke our up-a-pass, down-a-pass pattern and walked along another sweet knife edge ridge.  The random snow drifts along the top made it difficult to hike and look at the elk below us but we made it through.  We reconnected with the official CDT route (apparently took an alternate to get to Silverthorne although both were loosely signed) at Jones Pass and had the privilege of camping below Vasquez Pass where we could hear the monotonous grinding of a huge mine right below us.  Unfortunately a creek drowned out most of the noise otherwise we could have better heard the mining drone, which came from a mine that had torn apart half a mountain.  Ah, progress.
Sara's sister sent us wine

One of the really scary marmots
We set a personal record the next day with 125 switchbacks.  Our previous high was 91 so this was a big day for us.  Whichever trail crew built the section of trail between the top of Flora Peak (just over 13000' and the valley below should do landscaping work because the trail was incredible.  Aside from actually having switchbacks where they should, the crew turned all the rocks in a talus slope to create a flat-ish road for us to walk on.  It was incredible.

Later that day we climbed James Peak, which was just over 1330', and then had an awesome walk on the CDT again.  In case you have not noticed, we enjoy walking on the ridges.  We were able to camp somewhat legally(?) at Rollins Pass at the entrance to Indian Peak Wilderness.  We had a gorgeous sunset, no wind, and woke up to elk grazing outside the tent at sunrise.

Push-ups below Hope Pass
Hiking a sweet ridge edge
Quick pushup update.  Sara is still doing at least sets of 20, sometimes 40, sometimes 64.  I am still in one set, although the last few days have been rather on the difficult side.  We have 65 today, still looming over our heads.  Why did we think this was a good idea?

Our last full day of this stretch we put in some miles.  It helped that we dropped down to a measly 9,000' and had flat, well groomed trail, but we still pushed it.  Late in the day we hit Monarch Lake, which by dem-bones logic is connected to the Granby Lake, which is connected to the Shadow Mountain lake, which is connected to the Grand Lake.  And all of these aquatic appendages are connected to Lake Powell by the Colorado River.  We had the great realization that when we urinate it flows down to where our friends get to guide river trips on it.  Anyway, all these lakes have more water than Arizona.

Climbing the trail
As we were passing through a campground we stopped at the Little Moose Trading Post where Connie (the woman who runs the place) takes awesome care of hikers.  She immediately offered us food and drinks and most importantly, a chair.  Our quick stop turned into gatorade, ice cream sandwiches, muffins, and chips.  We left an hour later armed with three chocolate brownies, which went very well in our pudding that night.

 With only 10 miles to go the next morning we slept in before tackling the blow-downs on Knight Ridge.  The bark beetle has completely ravaged this area so any wind that comes through creates a nightmare for trail crews, fire fighters and hikers being chased by bears.  This section was supposed to be incredibly bad, so I took more weight in the pack since I can steeple chase most fallen logs and this allowed Sara to nimbly pole vault over the worst of them.  In many areas there were three or four trees fallen on top of each other, criss-crossed with the next group.  We ended up going higher up the ridge off trail and found it to not be quite so bad.  Sara had some lovely stomach issues that day so it was good we did not have to go to far.
Sara outside Indian Peaks Wilderness

the Divide from James Peak
We got into Grand Lake just in time to take shelter from a rainstorm that blew through.  Sara's parents met us up here with their new camp trailer and Zeno!  I was worried he would not remember us after so long on the trail but he nearly jumped out the car window trying to get to me.  Definitely made my day to be covered in dog hair again.

At the top of Mt. Elbert
Originally our plan was to day hike a 25 mile loop in the Park today, but a fire on the trail closed that section.  Instead we are just relaxing for today and tomorrow before heading toward Steamboat Springs.  'Tis all for now.

Happy Trails

Track and Field