Daily Log: Day 16

16 1922.1 6/30/2021 Sunny with white puffy clouds. Although the knoll I was on was windy everything stayed ok all night. The morning was warm there too. I was on trail at 5:30. The first climb was uneventful but there are more than average number of blowdowns to circumvent. I got tired of them real quick. There had been a massive forest fire that instigated these blowdowns. Several horse groups passed me and I got out of their way for them. At one small creek crossing there was mud on the far side. Not thinking I crossed, stepped in the mud and sunk. I pulled my foot out of my shoe but the gaiter keep it attached. I hobbled to the creek side, sat down and took off my shoes. I washed my socks and shoes, and put them back on. What a mess. Later I had to cross the sibling North Buffalo Fork River. No bridge and the current was moving fast. Again it was slow and careful, but my stress was high – did not want to fall. The water depth reached my crotch and the water flow caused my poles to vibrate again. Sheesh! I met three hikers going southbound. Then I had one final climb of the day. Slow and steady I climbed. On the other side was my objective – a creek at mile 1922. Once refilled I found a flat spot right beside the trail. The mosquitoes were swarming so I put up my tent, jumped inside and killed any mosquitoes inside. I was done for the day. But wait. A few minutes later someone outside asked if I was in my tent. I said yes and they asked if I would get out and step away from the trail about 20’. Ok I did that and then as he passed he loudly complained that I put my tent too close to the trail. Since I barely have seen anyone over the past two weeks I ignored it. A few minutes later another group of pack horses. So I got out and moved off. However, this time the second horse and rider got spooked by my tent and his horse turned around. This cause the remaining four pack horse to get detached. These horses went around my tent on the other side – very nearly trampling my tent and equipment. I got back in and tried to relax. Just as I decided I’d move my tent back 15’ off trail yet another set of horses came by. Where the hell are all of them coming from or going to. So I moved my tent, re-killed all the inside mosquitoes and hopefully it’ll be a little less stressful from now on. Naturally no other horses came by after that. What an ending for a day!

After a very stressful fording both the South and the North Buffalo Fork River I looked back to take this movie of the North’s intense current and the fact that luckily I didn’t fall and get swept downstream

Daily Log: Day 15

15 1905.5 6/29/2021 sunny, some clouds. It was cold yesterday night and I pulled and put on my puffy overnight. The ground and tent had frost on it. Another reason not to sleep in a basin. I left at 5:35. The bear can is heavy but it’s my choice to carry it. The trail started fine but devolved into a hard lumpy mess that wore out my ankles. The mess was caused by cattle and horses using the trail in spring when the track is soft mud. Later the hardens and is much like rocks. The problem is that it goes on for miles. My left ankle is not 100% right now.  Then I had to ford the South Buffalo Fork. It was wide and crotch deep. My poles hummed in the very fast current. I got across but it is only a matter of time before I could slip, fall and get totally soaked or worse – dragged down river. I got to the goal creek only to learn later the I was a mile early. So after loading up on water I searched for a campsite. Finding nothing nearby I continued on climbing. Finally I found a flat spot and put up my tent. It’s a bit windy which I hope is ok. Also I came to realize that the NEXT creek should have been my ending point so I’m short by 1/2 miles. Oh well I’ll make it up tomorrow. 

Daily Log: Day 14

14 Old CDT Alternative 19.1 6/28/2021 sunny, cool in shade. Woke, packed up and on trail at 5:35. Again it was either swampy meadows or road walks. The second climb I thought might go over a pass but no it climbed up a steep meadow again and again with barely a trail and the ended at a road to be walked down to Justin’s campsite. I arrived about 9:30 am. We chatted for a while, but realized that it was early enough that he could drive me into Dubois WY and we could talk on the way.

During which I learned that he has the entire next 5-6 days planned to get me through Yellowstone and included a hotel stay at Old Faithful Lodge – amazing! The next three days I’ll be solo and he’ll meet me 2 miles outside the park and resupply me. Then we enter together for two days and hike back to the Jeep and stay at the Old Faithful Lodge. Then I hike a long 20 mile “Slackpack” and meet up with Justin. Finally I’m again solo to the next two days when we meet outside the park. Now we just have to execute the plan – ha!

In Dubois we got showers, did laundry, made some calls, did a financial call, had a big lunch, talked to Katie who is preparing for the end – you go girl! and returned to Brooks Lake Campground. We again went over the Yellowstone plans and he give me the permits and day-by-day. The only issue is I’ve now got to carry the bear canister. Ugh! I keep hearing stories about grizzly bears. Double ugh! Back at the campground we did chores and prepared for the next few days. We were so full from lunch all we had were chips and bean dip. Time for bed. Night night.

Road walk heading towards Yellowstone
Wildflowers, luscious greens, big mountains, puffy clouds, and blue skies
Arriving at Brooks Lake Campground I enjoyed sitting in a chair (always a treat for hikers who normally must sit on the ground) and chatting with Justin. The Mexican Coke was a gift from admirers who camped near Justin’s Jeep the day before and heard of my hiking exploits from him (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
In Dubois WY after a shower and enjoying the sun while awaiting our laundry to be dry. Afterwards we had lunch and then returned to Brooks Lake Campground (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
Thanks to Justin here is my upcoming Yellowstone permit including a stay at the Old Faithful Lodge on 7/3. I’m especially looking forward to that!
I positioned my tent behind the Jeep. I’m in my tent doing chores to prepare for hiking out very early tomorrow morning (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)

Daily Log: Day 13

13 Old CDT Alternative 11.3 6/27/2021 cloudy, some sun, a sprinkle. It was warmer last night. In the night I woke to get on my gloves but the next time I looked it was 4:45 am and time to get up. I was on trail about 5:30. The trail was more swampy, had a badly burned section and at the end was a forest road walk. Oh and the mosquitoes were bad too.  Now I think I know why the new CDT trail was proposed. I zoomed along with some climbs and completed 5 miles by 7:35 when I stopped for my first snack. I wasn’t pushing it but I bopped along at my normal pace. I had my second snack and then lunch. By lunch I was only a mile from being done with my planned 15 miles. I filled up my water at a stream and started looking for a campsite. The clouds were threatening but only gave out a few sprinkles. Finally I found a flatish spot among some pines. It really was a nice little campsite. I completed an easy 15.8 miles. Tomorrow I have two big climbs in the remaining 7.8 miles. 

The sunlit bright chartreuse green caught my eye and I just had to take a picture of it
Hmmm, that sure looks like a bear print to me. Just in case I’m always packin’ bear spray on my belt

Daily Log: Day 12

12 1863.0 6/26/2021 cloudy, cold. I was on trail filled with dew laden plants at 5:35. But the hardest part was putting on cold wet socks and putting them into cold wet shoes. Brrr! Nevertheless if they’d been dry they would have instantly been soaked by the dew from the trail plants. If you ford a river your shoes and socks get wet but then you’re out of the water. A dew laden trail goes on for miles and miles. Double Brrr! The elevation varied less today (+/-500 feet) but each climb still causes  me to huff-and-puff. I made good time for the first 5 miles of 2.5 hours by 8. Similarly for the next section by 10:30. Then a little slower for the last section to get overnight water of 2.5L, eat lunch and find a campsite. At the last section it sprinkled a bit but nothing continuous. Nevertheless the dark clouds made me frantic. I stopped just after 16 miles at 1:30. Typical bothersome mosquitoes were abound so I put up my tent, quickly, dug my cat-hole and jumped in my tent. I didn’t sleep well yesterday, because I was cold so today I laid down for a nap with my sleeping bag over me. It was cloudy and quite cool out – in the 50s. The quilt felt good. I probably dozed off because it was soon 5 pm. I had my chores to do and started them. Made dinner, which was Peak Refuel’s Beef Pasta Marinara, and it was tasty. Now more chores in my little tent before bed. Doing 15 more miles tomorrow and the route looks obvious, that is, no major climbs. Good night world.

I looked back and took this picture when leaving Justin and the Jeep for today’s hike
Very early in the morning a lone deer stood in a misty clearing

Daily Log: Day 11

11 1846.9 6/25/2021 sunny, small hail, sprinkles, at the end hail, then rain. Justin drove me from the campsite to the trailhead. Then he walked me down to the CDT and after a hug I was off at about 5:55 am. The grass and bushes along the trail were full of dew so my pants, shoes and socks were drenched within a few feet. I had two climbs during the first half. The first was gentle from the Green River flood plain up to the surrounding hills. The climb was a little easier but I’m still trying to get my “trail legs”. The second climb was longer and steeper. Almost from the beginning I counted “twenty-fives”. I can’t even try to remember how many I did, but it was a lot. Nevertheless, all hills must end and I finally crested the grassy peak where I stopped for a snack and water. The wind was blustery and I was cold. Maybe that was when the weather front came through. There were many minor blowdowns and a few bigger ones. During one it started to hail and I got out my rain jacket, pack cover and umbrella. I had been expecting rain, not hail. I got through the blowdown and the hail stopped. I hiked across a broad grassy plain and at that time the wind was too strong for the umbrella so I put it away. Then it would sprinkle and I’d put it up. In the last mile I had to cross a stream and I got my shoes, socks, and pants wet up to the mid-thigh. Now my pants might not dry before bedtime, and because I sleep in them I’m not happy – grrr! On the climb I saw a newborn dear all huddled down on the trail tread. I initially thought it was dead until it blinked its eye. At the end of the day Justin was right where he’d planned he would be. He was up in the pop-up and I, after putting my backpack in the back, sat in the driver’s seat to warm up.

In the mist Justin drove me back to the trail, and I was off again hiking northward
I crossed a bridge and was soon climbing towards the hills in the background (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
On the climb I looked back and the valley from where I came was shrouded in mist
Beginning a broad grassy plain dotted with wildflowers

Daily Log: Day 10

10 1831.6 6/24/2021 cloudy, few sprinkles. Woke up to the rush of Elbow Creek and the fact that I’ll have to cross it first thing. Got packed up and was on trail about 5:30. The icy cold creek has a short intro of a side wash. Then I went slowly across the main part facing into the torrent. Step at a time. And I was done. It was up to my knees. My feet were freezing. I re-shortened my poles and took off hiking. I’m pushing to do 19 miles and get to Justin. First is a climb but I’m starting to get used to them. Across a large flatish plan. Then I begin to descend. The scenery is spectacular. I think I’m near the start of the Green River. As I descend more and more that little river becomes a torrent of greenish water. After many switchbacks I meet a trail crew who are building a massive log bridge.  I thank them for their efforts. A few minutes later I stop to chat with some hikers. Although I need to keep making progress I chat with each group. Onward and down until I reach a flat trail. Push, push, push. I plan on stopping for lunch at the next water on the map, but I miss it. Finally I stop and when I start again I only have 4 more miles. Yea! I’ll make it. I get to the trail turn off and getting confused twice, but I finally get to Justin at about 3:15. We chat about all the experiences we’ve had since Pole Creek and tossing the food bag over the rushing rapids and narrowly making it. We drive to the campsite and it’s in a confusing set of curved roads so Justin agrees to drop me off at the trailhead tomorrow morning. I’ve got 16 miles with two big climbs so I’m taking my next dinner just in case I can’t make it. For tonight’s dinner Justin made pan spaghetti with meatballs which is tasty and nice. The mosquitoes are swarming here and we go to our individual tents. Justin above the Jeep and me in my tent next to him. It is supposed to rain tomorrow and that could be a problem. We shall see.

Another beautiful sunrise
Into the mountains I go again
Because the mosquitoes were swarming we ate our spaghetti dinner in the confines of the Jeep. Moments before this picture was taken clumsy me accidentally spilled Parmesan Cheese all over the center console (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)

Daily Log: Day 9

09 1812.2 6/23/2021 sunny, cloudy with some sprinkles in the mountains, sunny. What a day. It was harrowing and so exhausting. I was on trail about 5:30 am. Mosquitoes were swarming right away. I hate those little buggers. So with a bug net on I ate quickly and was off. I wanted to do 16 mikes so I could see Justin tomorrow. The first climb was hard. But what made it even harder was the massive snowfield at the top. It was still too early so it was frozen and I could not kick in foot holes. Also I was unprepared because I didn’t have micro spikes or whippet ice axe or even snow baskets for my poles. So on my hands and knees I was able to climb it. Then I had to re-find the trail afterwards. Nope. Over and over and over I had to deal with snowfields and it got worse as the day progressed because the snow began to thaw. I was postholing galore. There were many times I had to climb around the field. And at one point I had a major creek underneath the snow and chose to climb way around it. Instead of trying to make my miles I decided to hike 11 hours and then stop. And how many miles did I accomplish – a measly 12.7. OMG! It was a terrible awful day. Oh and somewhere I lost my glasses. Sheesh. For the good news. I finally figured out how to blowup my NEMO air mattress easily.

Adage: “Red sky at night sailors delight; red sky in the morning sailors take warning.” Should I have been concerned?
I’m really in the mountains now
Climbed this frozen-solid snowfield on hands and knees and then had to search for the trail afterwards. It doesn’t look steep, but it was
The weather-worn sign says Lester Pass
Although it was beautiful it was becoming a very hard hiking day
Climbs, snowfields, and hidden water was a challenge
But coming upon a bridge over a fast-moving stream was greatly appreciated
More and more snow fields and lakes covered with patches of ice made hiking difficult and dangerous
Especially streams covered by uncertain ice bridges caused me to carefully climb on the slopes around them
Too many snowfields to count, but I continued to climb. It was a very tough day