Stock after Rawlins
On the morning of June 30th, 2022, rain pelted my tent. The rhythm of the rain lulled me into a feeling of sleepiness. It wasn’t until 7:30 am that we finally packed up and headed north through Medicine Bow. Everything we touched was soaked from the night before, making for a wet walk. Heavy thunderstorms littered the afternoon forecast so I decided to hitchhike to Encampment, WY while Cleansweep continued to Rawlins. While in town, I received incredibly generous trail magic: a local secretly paid for my meal, while another, who owns a town motel, offered me a free room. I was so relieved to have shelter from the storm!
I hitchhiked out of camp around 8am the next day. I saw no other hikers as I made my way out of the mountains and into the southern steps of Wyoming’s Great Basin. It was 24 miles to the Sage Creek Road, which would take me straight to Rawlins in over 32 miles. I secretly camped on the highway.
The next morning I woke up at 3am and immediately set off. It was a tedious drudgery, but the solitude of the open road in the morning coupled with the beautiful sunrise made for a time of reflection. Closer to town, I called my family before finally meeting up with Cleansweep again at the Econolodge. 28 miles in 9 hours – not bad!
Rawlins to South Pass City
We checked out of our hotel in Rawlins and began our walk in the pool around noon. The afternoon offered scattered thunderstorms. It was relatively dry until around 7pm when huge columns of darkness and lightning began to sweep diagonally across the open landscape. At that moment we accidentally crossed a paved road and a van appeared. The driver offered us shelter and a few beers in his mobile home – who could say no? The man’s name was George and he was an accomplished mountaineer, hiker and native of Wyoming. We exchanged contact information and left as the storm intensified. Cleansweep and I literally ran through the evening hoping to stay one step ahead of the clouds, but to no avail: we spent the night on the pool floor while lightning bolts frolic for hours, like ants under a magnifying glass.
Wet and exhausted from lack of sleep, we packed our things the next morning and quickly made our way north. I hiked 20 miles by lunch before realizing my phone was working. To my surprise, I received a text message from George, the trail angel we met the night before: he offered to pick us up off Crooks Gap Road and take us to Lander for the 4th of July! With that, we quickly packed our stuff and hiked another 10 miles to our meeting point. Not only did George show us incredible 4th of July Lander style (they make it big in WY), but he also gave us life wisdom and perspective.
The next morning I was slightly hungover but still ready to hike. George, Sauberfeger and I had breakfast and then set off. Although we hiked around 1:30am we still managed to descend over 20 miles before setting up camp.
The next day we got up before sunrise hoping to make it to South Pass City by nightfall. The pool was nice in some ways, but mostly boring: we saw wild horses, elk and pronghorn, but otherwise walked along a long and dusty dirt track. In the evening I only had 1 liter of water for about 15 miles. Just as I hit the wall of fatigue I saw Cleansweep talking to a car in the distance – it was none other than George! Our good man took the liberty of leaving us a couple of care packages and a handful of ice cold beers at the South Pass City visitor center. My beer soon ran out, but my heart and mind felt full. We walked the remaining 5 miles to complete a 43+ mile day and set up camp on the visitor center lawn.
South Pass City to Dubois
I slept in the morning of the 59th day. We organized our supplies and I even got hold of a can of bear spray for free from the hikers’ box in town. Later that morning we set out for the Wind River Range, but first we traversed the last hot sediment of the basin. About 24 miles later we set up camp and I spot a bull moose walking through our camp.
The first full day in the winds began with frustrating blowdowns that reduced our speed to about 1 mph. But after that it quickly got better. We took turns taking the Cirque of the Towers through the section. The hiking was tough but rewarding: the region was strikingly similar to the Sierra Nevada of my home country. I swam Temple Lake, glided over Jackass Pass, saw a porcupine and enjoyed what I consider to be the otherwise top 3 section of the entire Triple Crown system.
Day 61 would be slightly faster than the day before. The trail was flat as we rounded the eastern limit of the winds, but mosquitoes were among the worst I’ve seen. This made it possible to walk quickly despite numerous river crossings. It was another epic day in the mountains and we set up camp in a high pool surrounded by snow runoff.
The mountains of WY are as challenging as anywhere else in the lower 48s. The next morning we battled miles of snow and icy rivers as we traversed near Cube Pass. The afternoon presented a steep descent through old lodgepole pines and into the Green River Valley. The river itself features sublime shades of green reminiscent of Havasupai, making for a pleasant (and thankfully flat) stroll. We battled hordes of day hikers near the Green River Lakes before climbing Gunsight Pass before bed.
Not more than 1 mile from camp the next morning we encountered a fresh pile of bear droppings. Not only was the mound huge, but the sheer size of the poo itself was enormous: without a doubt, we were officially in grizzly country. As the day progressed the trail changed from glaciated granite mountains to rolling hills with broken forests. The bugs and temperature kept us modest, but somehow we managed to cover 40 miles by nightfall.
The following morning was short; We walked about 5 miles to the road and hitchhiked to Dubois, WY where we would spend 0 day. This was my second 0 of the entire CDT (first was Grants, NM). In the afternoon George from Lander visited us again because he was running errands in Jackson and Dubois was away. The 3 of us enjoyed a few drinks, stocked up and chatted with grizzlies into the evening. George even allowed us to borrow chords and other Bear Hang material. What we did to earn only altruistic generosity I will never know.
Dubois to Idaho
On day 66, Cleansweep and I left Dubois with another Nobo named Denver. The three of us happened to have exactly the same permits with Yellowstone NP and since we were getting late in the CDT game we decided to hike together. It was a gentle 17 miles outside of Dubois and under storm clouds. We would spend the night at a cute horse camp near a scenic creek.
Due to Yellowstone upstate licensing regulations, we were not able to camp within the park boundary except at certain campgrounds on certain dates. That means our miles were completely dictated by the permits we had. Regardless, day 67 would still be a hair over 30 miles away. We encountered several solid river crossings, at least 6 separate mule trains and several elk. The three of us set up camp at the edge of the park boundary and lightning shook the sky.
Our first campsite was only 14 miles away. We slept in, dried our gear and joked around that morning before entering the park. I hate to admit it, but the southern part of Yellowstone was pretty boring. It was just lots of hot grassland and the occasional shallow river to cross. We reached Heart River Campground in the early afternoon and spent the rest of the day sweating in our tents and splashing in the water.
Luckily, the next day’s approval woke us up to a more reasonable number: 32 miles. Within a few miles we rounded the shores of Heart Lake and entered our first geothermal zone, which was a real joy to experience. I did do Mt Lassen Volcanic National Park with the PCT, but that was baby stuff compared to Yellowstone. The trail was otherwise flat. Highlights included Shoshone Lake, a bog section, and more geothermal sections that gave me the feel of northern Europe. Around 6:30 am we set up camp at Upper Firehole Creek Camp and hid from mosquitoes in our tents.
Day 70 was a big day: after years of dreaming and months of hard work, I finally arrived in Old Faithful Village. Additionally, I’ve worked with and in National Parks for years, so it was a real treat to witness what is perhaps the most iconic feature in the entire NPS system. I enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the historic Old Faithful Inn (though nothing at Timberline Lodge) and sat in the front row of Old Faithful myself. We stocked up on supplies and then fought legions of tourists along the promenade. Numerous geysers were active this morning. Later we came across a guide van from REI Adventures – my former employer. We came across a group led by none other than Jason aka Steel Cranium, a former colleague Cleansweep and I met at AZT in 2017. The three of us laughed and traded stories before we parted. Sauberfeger and I enjoyed some adult drinks a few hours later on the Idaho border. We still had many miles to hike but finally it felt safe enough to start considering our hike is coming to an end.
Here’s the deal, plain and simple: Wyoming took every expectation I had, crumpled them, lit them, and then threw them into the stratosphere with all the explosiveness of a Barry Bond in his prime. I honestly can’t imagine why more hikers aren’t pushing up the Wind River Range, or why so many are disparaging the Great Basin. The people of Wyoming are heartwarming and genuine, and quite frankly, they make me want to be a better neighbor myself. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to experience this special region.