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Split & Two Step
Begins: May 1, 2017
Date: Wed, Sep 6th, 2017
Start: CDT Mile 1940.2, Highway 26
End: CDT Mile 1959.1
Daily Distance: 18.9
Trip Distance: 1,713.6
Hours Hiked: 10.25
Daily Ascent: 3423
Daily Descent: 3503
Max Elevation: 9472
Entry Visits: 200
Journal Visits: 39,964
Guestbook Views: 638
Guestbook Entrys: 57
Back to Hiking the CDT
Back to Hiking the CDT
John and Lisa gave us a great send-off dinner last night, and we talked into the evening. After saying goodnight, both Two Step and I did some reshuffling of our packs, and then finalized some down-trail reservations, before finally turning the lights out well after midnight. I was restless with anticipation about returning to the trail, and lay in bed for quite some time before slipping off into a restless slumber.
The alarm went off at 5:15am. Yawn. Shortly after 6:15 we were on the road with John driving us back to the trail in the dim pre-dawn of an early September morning. As we drove through the town of Jackson Hole and then Grand Teton National Park he kept up an informative and interesting conversation concerning the area - the kind only a well-informed local resident can do effectively. We saw one elk on the reserve that will house thousands this winter, but our attention was totally on seeing a buffalo within the park. Unfortunately, even though we scanned around every corner and to the horizon, today was apparently not a prime buffalo day.
We reached the CDT trail junction with Highway 26 a little after 7:30, and with final hugs and goodbyes, and a few pack adjustments, we were on the trail at 7:45. We were back!
I'd love to say our excitement overtook us and with the wings of angels we flew down the trail. In fact, with five days food, a new bear canister, bear spray, and about five pounds of water as well as rusty trail legs, we moved slowly up a sustained hill. Over the next 1.5 miles we climbed almost 700 vertical feet over disappearing trails - a further navigational problem. No sooner did we start purposely making noise in order to let any bears in the vicinity know of our presence than we scared up a small black bear about 75 yards down the trail, who luckily ran rapidly away from us. It appeared our bear precautions were well warranted.
We reached a dirt trail that would take us down to Brooks Lake Lodge and immediately began to make better time. We reached the lodge in about 45 minutes. The lodge accepts resupply mail packages for CDT hikers, but with our packs heavy with food, we just admired the pricey rustic cabins for rent and the well-stocked stable. We then walked around Brooks Lake, admiring the reflection of the nearby mountains on the surface of this large blue body of water. The sun was dim and the mountain features muted by the haze of smoke permeating the region. As hazy as this area is, the smoke had been even worse in Utah and Idaho as we drove to Wyoming yesterday. It seemed like the entire northwest has been inundated with smoke.
After walking past the lake, we followed the trail as it rolled up and down alongside a long open valley. About three hours into our hike, we saw our first hikers of the day - a couple from Helena, Montana. They warned us of worsening smoke as we headed north - not the best news.
We descended into a deep valley down a well maintained trail, losing all the elevation gained today, and took our first snack break about four hours into the day and 8.8 miles down the trail. We were moving at a moderate pace as we tried to rediscover our trail legs. Immediately after the break we came to a fifteen-foot-wide stream that we would have to ford. After a quick discussion we removed our footware and walked barefoot across the stream. The water was ice cold, and our feet were throbbing by the time we finished - but walking away with dry shoes was a huge plus.
We passed two young men on horseback, each leading another fully loaded horse, and they asked us if we had seen any elk. We answered in the negative and found out they were elk hunting. Although they had seen none of their desired game animal, they warned us they had seen many bears and to take care. Not particularly reassured, we continued on and soon broke for lunch.
The afternoon found us soon descending another steep hill through thick forest, and then fording another even broader and deeper stream. We again doffed our shoes, but although this creek was marginally warmer, the nearly-doubled distance found us gasping at the pain in our frozen feet. Again, we were pleased to have dry, light feet after the crossing, but we may need to rethink our strategy at the next ford.
As the afternoon waned, we moved slowly up a long gradual vertical climb, enjoying the stark and nearly vertical cliffs of the mountains across the valley. It was a couple hours and 800 vertical feet before we reached the last water source of the day. While I filtered, Two Step made dinner miles away from where we would camp tonight. It saved on carrying water weight, and also is an accepted strategy for avoiding food smells in our future camping area, a good precaution in grizzly country. About 45 minutes later, full of water and food, we were packing up to leave when the 5th and 6th person of our day arrived. CDT thru-hiker and flip-flopper NTN and his southbound female friend and section hiker Billboard stopped to chat. We got a tip on possible campsites ahead, and were able to reciprocate with some suggestions of our own.
We hiked for only another half hour which put us another 300 vertical feet upward and then just beyond the top of the hill. Here we found a flat spot directly adjacent to the trail to spend the night and hopefully catch up on lost sleep.
From the CDT,
Split and Two Step
Split And Two Step's CDT Adventure
The Continental Divide Trail is a national scenic trail that runs from Mexico to Canada via New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. This unfinished trail can potentially span up to 3,100 miles. Learn more: www.continentaldividetrail.org
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