John's CDT
Friday, September 10, 2004
Pink Rocks and Hunting Each Other

I've been on the side of Wyoming 70 for an hour and a half. It's almost 8 AM. Not a single car has come in my direction. None came (that I was aware of) last night either. It's cold and windy here on the mountain. I've been out of water for 12 hours now. Someone has to come along at some point.

I'm now in Encampment. It's 9:45 AM. A total of three pickup trucks came by in the three hours I was not-hitching. The third picked me up after some physical cajoling. At some point before the first truck drove by, I went searching for water. A house was not too far from the road. As I approached, I saw that the house was in the final stages of construction. Nobody was there, but I saw a water tank: empty. I spied a spigot: dry. I saw an open tank for horses: dry. Paranoid that I'd miss the only car in two hours I ran back up to the highway.

A retired teacher from Las Vegas picked me up. He was out hunting elk with his dog, Cassie. He dropped me at the Encampment farmer's market where I quenched my thirst with fresh pressed apple juice, and bought a hard peach and two lovely looking apples.

Questions about breakfast were met with nearly blank stares. Finally someone came up with a place. Before I went there, I stopped by the Sugar Pot, or something like that. She was not friendly and refused to even acknowledge that I'd walked in her shop even though there was only one other customer. I let the door slam as I walked out.

Breakfast stared with a pitcher of water and moved into eggs, hash browns and green chili with cheese on top. Yum.

Apple Pie and Spur walked in with their packs at 10:30. They had a ride lined up at noon. I had to get on it. I got my boxes at the PO, including a package of amazing goodies from Fenton. He sent lots of good stuff from Rainbow in SF.

Since the leg from Rawlins to Encampment took less time than I thought it would, both because I did that huge day and the non-purple alternate, I had lots of extra food. I sent a huge box of food back to Matt, my resupply guy. PO business done, my next order of business was finding the outfitter who had my Vasque replacement shoes.

Time was coming for the ride, but they were going to run an errand, so I had a little time. I walked half a mile to the Trading Post, a possible outfitter. Spur, Apple Pie and the ride pulled up just as I got there. No Vasque. We tried the Garage, an outfitter. No Vasque. I was out of time. I'm walking another section with blown out uppers.

The ride dropped me at the vista point I'd slept at last night. A 3-hour hitch for 3 hours in town. Hum...

I guess that's what I wanted though, a quick town stop. I could have never done it without the external pressure.

It's so nice to be hiking in the mountains again. The highlight of this afternoon's hiking was pink rocks. I hiked until dark in a landscape dotted with pink. Lots of quartz too.

We got what turned out to be a very predictable afternoon thunderstorm. It came.
It did its thing. It left. Its thing was pretty impressive, noise-wise. I also had the added tension of the knowledge I'd gained listening to Spur read the posted lightning safety info at the trailhead. Somehow the knowledge made me feel a little more vulnerable.

I sat out the worst of the storm and took the chance to read an editorial Fenton had written and sent along. I enjoyed some of the snacks he sent while the sky ripped open overhead and his words to Kentuckians about gay marriage gave me hope.

The landscape was amazing: mature fir and spruce trees lined open grassy areas, called parks, with pink stones and boulders as necessary. The mountains here are soft, but I could see some rugged peaks becoming in the distance.

Another nice aspect of this landscape here in the southern Medicine Bow Wilderness is the CDT. As a sign announced at the trailhead, the trails are not maintained. Instead, they use cairns and blazes to indicate the route. I love backpacking this way. Hiking cairn to cairn makes it less like a foot race and more like a journey of discovery. While searching out one of those route markers, I saw some people. At first I thought they were backpackers in camp. They I thought they might be cow inspectors because they were in a clump of trees with cows all around. As I got closer, I then thought they might be a video crew because of stuff they had.

Turns out they were elk hunters in full drag. Cute elk hunters. I offered a big Howya doin'? to which I got a finger to the lips and a shhhhh. I rolled my eyes. The closest one asked, in a very hunterly hushed voice, "I don't suppose it was you that bugled?" I said no and let go with a tooting fart as I walked off with a smirk.

The fading light of the day found me descending. I picked a spot just as the sun was setting, which is early for me. I didn't want to get to the bottom of a cold valley to sleep. Below me I can here a different hunting party bugling. I think the hunters are hunting the other hunters.

The Milky Way is almost stretched from horizon to horizon. It's right overhead, so if it falls, I'm a goner.

By the way, something big is going to happen tomorrow.
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