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Food for the Soul
Update update, read all about it, CDT wonders ensue onward from low point in trail. Magical journey ever since! Holy crow holy crow!
So, last I think I left off here was Dubois Wyoming? That was just a hot second or two ago... Oops. Guess it's time to rapidly catch up on story after story galore. Prepare yourself... Though still filled with highs and lows since Dubois... The trail has really ROCKED in many genuine, kind, and crazy ways! Many many people have taken part in lifting frigid spirits and removing hunger pangs. This whole entry might just be an ode to them all.
First off, Steve, Tony, and friend... You wonderfully sneaky guys that zipped me along 20+ miles of jeep roads scouting for elk and my cross country non existent trailhead... I made it to Breckenridge dandy! Sorry it took me more then 5 days to get this message out there.... Got caught up in rest, relaxation, and play. But anywho, you can literally take credit for allowing me to catch my flight on time, making my trail vacation work smoothly, because you saved me a day in the wilds. I owe you hoot of a crew of guys mega. PS... That cross country route was just a quick bushwhack up hill for about 50 yards before I did pop out on another jeep road that took me to the trail. Easy Peasy lemon squeezy.
Now back to the beginning....
Glorious Gloria!!! The gal that took me back to the pass from Dubois... I am so glad to have you as my doppelgnger! I really hope you get out there on the PCT like we talked about. And... As I later found out... What a hoot that you've crossed paths with a besty of mine Sammy?!!! You wild horse women you! Guide on!
My next favorite, to the Coors Lite Cowboys. On my forest service road walk down from the pass Gloria dropped me off at, you stopped and said howdy driving by. Your trucks were loaded with horse packing supplies... And enough Alfalfa pellets to feed a herd for a week. I cannot thank you enough for checking in. And to truck number two who just rolled on by and offered me the Coors out the window... You did make my day... That road walk went so much faster. Hoot-E-nanny.
Then there was Steve and Jenny. You guys, what a couple, saw you out around the Green Lakes area upon entering the Wind River Range. Fates aligned as my hometown came up, and you thinking of moving to one of our fabulous Cohousing communities out here. I'm serious, let's have a cup of tea if you end up here! Snapdragon here we come. The world is SUCH a small place.
Next came my hitch in a Camero.... I still don't believe this happened. Robert, thanks for trusting me with your car keys and letting me drive the 20 miles up to the pass from Lander WY. Zipping along in the drivers seat of your silver with royal blue racing stripes need for speed car was a total guilty pleasure. Now I know why scrawled across your hood is the name The Silver Fox. That thing is slick!
Okay, a couple trail things before it's back to recognizing more and more generosity.
The trail spent some time wandering along the tracks of the Oregon Trail. Wagons and all I tell ya, imagining the great migration west in the barren landscape I traveled though put into perspective just how tough these settlers really were. That computer game we all played in elementary school doesn't quite do their journey justice, dying oxen, dehydration, and fevers....
However in this desolate area, with a watering hole or two, was something of great beauty. Herds and herds of wild horses scampered across the gravel road path. I'll never forget watching that dust rise and fly as 80 hooved mustangs took to the wind upon catching my scent. Like National Geographic magazine... Except real.
On the other end of the spectrum, activity and awe lacked in the straight line run of The Great Basin. Here the trail follows the oil pipeline for about 4-5 days. Sandy roads and burning sun. As I noted at the time... Entertainment of the Great Basin: slurping melted chocolate from candy wrappers, dancing on dirt roads to music, and dodging lightening strikes. This made up the transition zone between Wyoming and Colorado.
As a farewell from Wyoming, leaving its last town Rawlins, I felt the care of Momma CDT. My breakfast was paid for by a man I hardly spoke a word to a couple seats down from me at the restaurant. As he said, I just loved watching you eat... The 3 plates of food I had in front of me.... He had 5 daughters at home at one point. Seeing my vivacious energy and adventuresome spirit made him think of his girls. He wanted to encourage the journey.
After breakfast... Road walking yet again out of Rawlins... A wind farm construction man stopped to see if I needed a ride. I did not have my thumb out so I could categorize this as a trail provides moment rather then a skipping of trail fault. Jason zipped me down the road 5 miles before letting me off just before his work site. That's nearly 2 hours of walk time in thru hiker speak. Thankfulness and luck, I walked away with more enthusiasm for the next 20 miles of gravel I must traverse. Momma CDT was not finished though.... Half an hour later along came David and Cindy.
This couple are absolute troopers. Recently retired and wanting to travel, they got an RV and have been working as camp hosts, exploring. They stopped the truck when they got to me and asked first if I wanted a bottle of water. All the water in that area for about 30 miles had been noted as saline and not drinkable on my maps. With this in mind, I was stoked for their hydration offer. We chatted a bit, they knew all about the CDT and had actually put some trail signs up at a trail head earlier in the season to help the forest service out. Next thing I know, they offer me another ride in the back of their truck... They'll take me up to the trailhead they marked they said. With a smile the size of a full moon on my face I said sure and jumped on in the back. I felt like a farm girl again as we bumped along the gravel road. I got all discombobulated map wise as 5 minutes turned into 20. We finally stopped at a Y in the gravel road with a green street sign that read Saratoga. Oh Lordy I thought... Where are we now? David popped out of the truck with a question for me. He said, so we actually take care of this forest service cabin just below the ridge your trail walks over as a part of being camp hosts. It's the cutest spot. Tonight is supposed to drop below freezing. We'd be happy for you to come spend the night there and then we can take you to that trail in the morning? Cindy and I think you'll be much more comfortable there. Would you consider it? I asked him what time it was... 4:30... Getting dusky. I thought about it for 5 minutes and then agreed. That's how I ended up in the Jack Creek Guard Station eating their beef d'jour left overs, staying warm with a propane stove, and reading country living magazine for a night on the CDT. Amazing people, I hope our paths cross again. Refreshed, renewed, and revamped.
But, just when you think it's over... Magic fairy dust does dissipate eventually right?.. It wasn't. Colorado was trying to compete I think? And man, the magic of this state so far was been something to contend with. It all started with Steamboat Springs. I understand why this place could be referred to as the perfect town. From my hitch down from the pass, a laugh filled breakfast consuming that waffelaughagus at the Creekside amongst good people, hanging out in town with Brighteyes and her puppy Sadie, being mistaken for an Olympic athlete due to the pins for legs I have at this point, to soaking in the town hot springs at 8 at night as the stars glowed over head and the mineral water balmed my skin. Steamboat was quite a Colorado welcome.
And it continues... One more story of genuine magic and we'll call it good here. My last and favorite so far... I introduce you to the horrors and joys of traversing James peak. It was the end of the day. One more massive climb to about 13k feet and I could think about camping. The temperature dropped, dark clouds gathered, snow started to fall... Bits of dip and dots fluff drop drop drop. The climb began. This may have been the slowest 1.8 miles of trail yet. 1000 feet higher thunder began. I started to regret my decision. All backcountry safety info I knew came flashing back to my mind.... I was ignoring all the precautions and just pushing ahead into stupidity. I reached the top of James peak. Lightening flashed a half mile from me and thunder boomed close after. I abandoned my route and went for the alternate. Fuck this, I'm done, I hate this, all went rolling off my tongue. Tears followed, rolling off my cheeks. Still in shorts and a tshirt... Frozen... Hungry... Exhausted... Ready to abandon ship. I scampered down my alternate storm route. To water, hydration, my sleeping bag, safety. CDT you win I thought. The lake came into view I was headed towards. A truck was parked at its edge. I thought, YES someone who can take me to town and get me out of here.... Scamper scamper scamper, 3 miles down from the summit I popped out of the brush right next to the truck.
This is where I met Tom. He is 3 months out of Iraq. Now army retired, he was a special ops Ranger that's seen more hard times then most of us ever will. Reclaiming his life and sanity, he had taken to the road with his truck and brand new puppy for 30 days of decompression in some of the US' most beautiful places, the Grand Canyon, Utah's Arches, ect. ect. A very attractive gent in his late 20's... I felt very subconscious bleary eyed and hiker stinky all of a sudden. He spotted me and said hello, where did you just come from. I related my James peak story to him as his puppy bounded towards me. I told him it was the stupidest thing I'd ever done in my life. He shot back immediately, congratulations!! I laughed. Tom went into action and told me I should sit in the truck for a while and warm up. I was grateful. We related trail stories as he tossed water my way and placed his puppy in the seat next to me. The little fuzzy nose was in my face in no time. An hour later feeling not so lost and weary anymore I told Tom I better keep moving and snag some more miles to make my trail vacation. He quizzed me to make sure I really wanted to head out late in the day. He also told me that when I first showed up I looked like a blueberry. I gotta get better about putting my layers on before storms.... A puffy down hug from him and I headed off towards the trail, feeling like I literally just met an angel. Okay CDT... Round two.