Day 16: (16 miles) 1790.9 – Pinedale
So the night before, in going over the mileage and terrain, we discovered that in addition to having to take the Pole Creek trail (10.5 miles), our first 5 miles of the morning involved not one, but three additional passes. Each pass was snow covered and over 10,000 ft.
Pass number one. Success.
Pass number two.
A little dicey, as the snow was starting to get soft…on the way down.
Pass number three.
The approach was tricky, as post-holing was beginning to be a “thing”, but the final edge of the descent almost resulted in the use of our Delorme SOS button. We were trying to move as quickly and safely as we could through the passes, that were all covered in snow. By the time we were halfway through the descent of the third Pass we were more than sick of snow.
I was working my way around a snow patch and suddenly the ground slipped underneath me. I found my left foot and knee sliding behind my torso, heading in an unnatural direction (I am as flexible as a 2×4). This instinctively caused me to throw myself forward and “break-fall” (like in martial arts) face/chest first onto the snow covered boulder patch. The only thing about “break-falls” is that normally the “landing” is on one’s side or back. This thud of a landing was face/chest first and resulted in a good cry, while my body took “inventory” of its parts. Paul who had seen the “thud”, worked his way over to me with concern written all over his face.
- No blood. Check.
- No feeling or sound of a “break”. Check
- No searing pain… currently. Check
- All parts move “properly”, without much pain. Check
Once the internal checklist was complete, Paul helped me get my pack off, while still face down. While doing “inventory”, all I could think of is that we’ll never get to town now. No way in hell do I want to be “that person” that has to hit the SOS button. No way in hell do I want to be done.(No matter how much I complain about the CDT). Slowly I sat up and moved about some more. I was sopping wet and covered in mud. Great. It’s what caused the fall and probably what saved me, as well. Go figure. After about 15 minutes, everything seemed to be working, at least as it did before. Sadly no miracle improvements here. I reattached my pack and slowly worked the rest of the way down this final pass and to the water logged valley and CDT trail that would take us to Pole Creek trail, and down to the Elkhart trail head and parking lot.
While we kind of knew what to expect, thanks to comments from Guthook, we did not expect the Pole Creek Trail to be as daunting as it was. You really have to want to get to town really bad to do the Pole Creek trail. Especially this time of year. This trail was worse than what most of the CDT has been so far. We spent most of our fractured descent/ascent with our feet (up to our calves sometimes) slogging through muddy bogs, or sluggy snow still laying within and blocking the trail. Add the fact that we were dogged by mosquitos and an occasional biting fly a good portion of the time, and you have true town motivation.
The actual crossing of the wide, cold and fast moving Pole Creek was extra fun. I can see where someone of smaller stature would have a difficult time… anytime of the day. It was deeper than we expected, and moved faster as you got halfway across. This is significant as with such a wide and deep crossing you’re already cold and even more tentative. The good thing was that most, if not all, of the mud we had acquired was washed away. We didn’t smell all that “swampy” now.
As we continued down (direction and slope) the trail we were passed by at least 20+ people heading out for a weekend backpack trip. Most were equipped with fishing poles.
When we arrived at the parking lot, we were able to get a ride almost immediately from a great guy name Brian, who ironically hailed from Northern California.
He’s a peak bagger and has climbed and hiked all over the world. He drove us to Pinedale, gave us the “run down” of what’s where in the town and dropped us at our hotel (Best Western). Quickly we changed into our rain gear and started our laundry. No one wants to smell that (us) any longer than one has to. A quick walk for two large pizzas and a 6-pack of beer to go, we were back in time to put everything in the dryer. Now for a shower and to get off our feet for a couple of days.
We would spend the next 4 days in Pinedale, as everything was closed for the most part due to the 4th of July weekend. Hmmm, that explains all the backpackers headed to the “hills”.
Not to worry, as we needed the rest, and we were in a small town for the 4th of July. This was going to be fun!