Day 5 (20.2 miles)
Like it or not today was going to be at least 19 miles. We got up with the sunrise, packed up and headed on our way. Breakfast would be “served” at the next water 3.4 miles away with a 800 ft elevation gain. We weren’t sure how we would feel having slogged through a torrential downpour and miles upon miles of “beach” sand the previous day. The air was crisp and the scenery was vast. This would be our first glimpse of actual trees!
At the apex of our climb we found that we had cell signal, strong enough to send an email, listen to voicemail and log into my InReach account to make some changes.
Today was all about water management. Camel up at each source. Carry enough to make it from each source. Take into account the fact that it was going to be a scorching clear day, seemingly void of any wind…a Wyoming first (for us). Water was a-plenty for the first 8 miles, and the tread, while mostly stair stepping up, was easy on the feet, legs and lungs (mostly). Having come from sea level, we still were not fully acclimated to the increasing elevation. In any event, we were feeling pretty good. The only thing we had to complain about was our new Sea to Summit pillows that just don’t take into account those “side sleepers” with broad shoulders. In the midst of our complaining, we neglected to negotiate an important turn just after a gate and continued straight down what we thought was the CDT for half a mile. By the grace of God, Paul happened to decide to recheck where the next water source was, only to discover that we were not only off trail, but going in the complete WRONG direction. Embarrassed, we turned around. It was then that we saw where we were supposed to be. For a brief moment, we considered bushwacking across the ravine that separated us from the actual trail. Remembering that “short cuts” aren’t always short, we about-faced and stomped back uphill to where we had gone wrong. We made our own little trail marker in hopes of saving other CDT hikers from making the same mistake.
Once on the right path we wandered over hill and dale, still amazed at the vastness of this country. Most people would say that there is “nothing” to see, but I beg to differ.
Wide open spaces. Rich blue skies, accented with brilliant white clouds that take on a life of their own. Hidden springs oozing from the folds of rolling hills creating narrow blankets of rich greenery where wildlife, cattle and pioneers of not too long ago refresh themselves. Fresh, clean air that carries the scent of sage. An ecosystem that is “built” for and thrives in these very conditions. This is not to say it isn’t brutally monotonous walking, but the wonder and beauty are still there.
The trail took us from sagebrush plains and through a narrow pine pocked forested hillside, where we spied mule deer feeding. Down the trail led to a fenced off spring area that was little more than a cowy mud pit. Bummer, as this was supposed to be where we refilled our water. A quick check on Guthook showed two “ponds” a little further down the trail. Only problem is that we had to get through the throng of cattle milling about, and blocking our way. Paul employed his best cowboy impression (based on Westerns we’ve watched) to get the cows moooving. And then there was the bull.
He stared us down big time, and lowered his head. Shit. This is NOT going to end well, we thought. It was like Paul and the bull were playing “chicken”. Luckily, Paul won and the bull reluctantly turned and walked away. Most likely because his herrum (the bull’s) was walking away as a result of Paul’s, “Ya! Get a move on! Ya! Let’s go!”, and waving of his arms.
After herding the cattle out of our way, we took a side trip down to one of the two large ponds. Here we rested for our hour and filtered ice tea colored water, that looked sort of “clear”…once filtered.
Based on Guthook, our next water was another cow pond, or the CDTC water cache…12 miles. The water was best served with highly concentrated Crystal light lemonade, or other flavor additive, but it would have to do.
We climbed for the remainder of the afternoon and into the early evening.
Miraculously we had little to no wind, and were able to use our umbrellas to reduce the temperature to a “comfortable” 95°.
We “lunched” atop one of the high points on the trail where we got cell reception and watched a YouTube video of a group of gals (The Wander Women) who were about a week ahead of us on the CDT.
With feet slightly recovered, we marched on taking breaks as necessary in addition to our 4 mile routine. As daylight was turning to dusk, we walked past the cow ponds located a mile before the cache. We had 1.5 liters of water left between us. Do we stop here and get water…just in case? Or do we press on, and go for the cache? When thru-hiking it is never a good idea to rely on caches, but we figured we take a gamble. Our fall back plan was that if we got to the cache and it was empty, we’d spend the night there, use our 1.5 liters for dinner, and in the morning slack pack back to the pond and collect water. At least we had a plan.
Even before we approached the cache, fervent prayers were being uttered.
As we weaved through the chacain into the fenced off cache, we paused before opening the box. “Please Lord, let there be water here”, was the final prayer.
Prayers answered and successful gamble. Fresh. Clear. Tasteless water!