Day 3 (14.7 miles)
The morning found us a little stiff, but nothing ibuprofen and a cup of coffee can’t fix. We decided that we would have to apply a different tactic to walking, as our unplanned 10 day “taper” from hiking before we started on the CDT did NOT help. The weight of our packs to start with, was another factor. And, coming from sea level to 7000 ft plus didn’t help either. Today we will employ a four mile, to one hour break method, in hopes of not feeling so “trashed” at the end of the day, after completing our intended mileage.
We stuck to our plan. Up until we started to break from our second 4 mile break, we hadn’t seen another soul. With that said, we mostly took our breaks smack dab in the middle of the trail. Never did we think that a truck would come barreling down the road. Likewise, never did the occupants of said truck ever think they would find people “lounging” in the middle of the road. This led to a pleasant conversation, as they were scouting the area for their pronghorn hunt in September. They asked if we had sufficient water, which we did, and we both headed in opposite directions.
Out of Bull Springs it is literally a straight shot all the way to A&M reservoir. This does not mean that it is flat or wind free. For 13 miles we gradually, and sometimes not so gradually gained in elevation.
Even though the wind was howling, we diligently followed our 4/1 walk/rest ratio. This found us “napping” at the highest point (7585 ft)…in the wind, and our second encounter with another human.
It was if this guy appeared out of nowhere. Granted we were napping. But once again, in the middle of nowhere, what do you think the chances are of running into a guy wearing a backpack, pushing a pet stroller, up a hill, on the CDT? Turns out he was a section hiker, out of Laramie. He used the stroller to “carry” some if his gear and his 2 gallons of water. I believe he said he started from South Pass. He told us of a water cache and that the trail north of A&M reservoir was “mostly downhill” and sandy. We wouldn’t realize until the next day, what he meant. Let’s just say that we found a whole new level of respect for this guy the following day.
When we arrived, and walked up the side road to the reservoir, we flushed a dozen or more of what initially appeared to be “super chickens”, or grouse on steroids. A family was fishing at its base, and said that the Fish and Game has stocked it with rainbow trout the day before. As we were scouting for a place to set up our tent, the family packed up and left. Was it something we said? Or maybe the smell?…the wind WAS blowing in their direction.
Like clockwork, as soon as we began to set up our tent in what initially was the only “flat” spot we could find, the wind increased in it’s verocity. Paul, being ever the problem solver, got a brilliant idea and began to smooth out the “beach” area, that appeared to be somewhat more “protected” from the wind. We collected our gear and relocated our tent to our engineered “flat spot” for the evening. An hour later, after wrestling our tent and the wind, in what can only be described as a three stooges episode… the wind abated. Go figure.
Day 4 (15.6 miles)
The next morning we are blessed with a remarkable, windless sunrise. But there’s no time for lollygagging, we have miles to crush. My toe was still sore, but not un-walkable. The trail out of A&M reservoir is “easy” dirt road tread, and we travel the 4 miles to our first scheduled break in “record” time. As we break we notice menacing dark skies on the horizon in the direction of where we are headed. The air grows much cooler and the wind picks up. Yup, it is painfully certain we are walking directly into rain. As a prophylactic, we put on our rain jackets and pack covers, and pray that the dark skies dissipate. In no time, the trail goes from packed dirt, to soft sand.
Extremely soft sand! Like going to ocean, beach sand. How ironic is it that we find ourselves in Wyoming walking for miles in soft sand. This is when we realized what “stroller guy” meant. And this is when we gained an even greater appreciation for his experience and grit.
The tracks of his stroller being pushed UPHILL in soft sand remained as we trudged northbound, on a downward trajectory…in the increasing rain. By now we are thoroughly drenched, and beginning to get cold. It’s way past time to dig out our rain pants, but we do. And, of course they are on the very bottom of our packs. Rain pants on and umbrellas unfurled, we duck down into the sagebrush in an effort to ride out this storm cell. We found walking in soft sand, against the wind, in a torrential downpour, to be trifecta of misery. We sat for over an hour, and up until the point we began to shiver. Independently, we were trying to figure how (or if) we should set up our tent to stave off pending hypothermia, or if we should try and walk ourselves “warm”. Simultaneously we announced to each other, “I’m getting cold, we need to start moving”.
Moving was a good decision, as there was really no place to set up. Onward, we trudged in the soft sand that oscillated in depth. Eventually the rain slowed to a light “patter” upon our hoods. A rancher and his wife drove by us checking on their cattle. “Nice day for a walk”, they said stopping briefly to make sure we were okay. “Nice day for a drive”, Paul responded with a chuckle. “We’d give you a ride, but we’re going in the opposite direction”, the wife said with a smile. “We’re good thank you. It’s all part of the experience”, we replied with tentative smiles.
Liquid sunshine returned to full, raging, sunshine…with a touch of humidity. The heavy ranch truck that had passed us earlier laid down wonderful tracks in the soft sand. This made for “lighter” steps. In no time we were back to hard packed dirt and rock as our route climbed over small hills toward our day’s destination, Brenton Springs. In the near distance, pronghorn would stare at our silver bobbing umbrellas, and then dart away to “safety”.
We arrive at Brenton Springs and consider collecting some water and continuing another 3.4 miles to the next “reliable” water source. This would make it a 19 mile day, but we just can’t muster the energy. The soft sand, and shivering in the rain drained us more than we realized. The next 3.4 miles would have also been a 800 foot climb. 800 feet isn’t much, but when you’re tired, it isn’t inviting.
We wrestled with the idea as we collected water. We had plenty of daylight. In the end, the mind was willing but our bodies said, “Hell No!”. I really hate getting older.
Dejected, we set up camp in the only “flat” place we could find…the middle of the trail. We are sensing that this is beginning to be a trend.
Not continuing on turned out to be fortuitous, as a SOBO section hiker, “Still Deciding” provided us with water “intel” that included confirmation that the CDTC water cache at mile 1676.9 was stocked and maintained. This would prove to validate a gamble.
Tomorrow would be an early start with breakfast after a 3.4 mile 800 ft climb. And we thought when we graduated from college, our morning workouts were over.
That “road walking” brought back memories. Imagine hiding Easter eggs for Buddy Backpacker and then bring rescued for a bail out by yes one of those crazy ranchers driving those soft sand roads like a bat out of hell.