Dubois, WY to Lander, WY – This is Why I am Here
Pretty much a zero… we hitched out of town after one last dinner in town and got to the trailhead at the same time as Snake Eyes and Shrodinger.
The hiker community is a small world. We met Shrodinger on the PCT in 2022. We started and finished around the same time as Snake Eyes on the AT in 2019, but never met him. Together we did a few miles before setting up for a cowboy camp. We specifically wanted to cowboy camp tonight in hopes of seeing the meteor shower and we did!
We woke up soaked with dew! Luckily, our stuff was able to dry out in the sun during the day. We found fresh bear poop and tracks on the trail only ten feet from where we camped.
As I stepped down off a log into tall grass, I landed in a pothole and rolled my ankle pretty hard. I cried in fear that this injury was enough to take me off trail. Every hiker’s worst fear. I walked slowly and cautiously for the rest of the day. I felt so incredibly lucky there was no swelling or worse and I felt ok to keep going. We hiked and camped with Snake Eyes and Shrodinger again today. Usually, it’s just us two, so it’s a nice change to have others to hike and camp with.
It was SO COLD last night. We woke up to frost covering everything. We hiked with Snake Eyes and Shrodinger again all day. At the end of the day, they went to Pinedale for resupply, and we kept going.
We woke up to a beautiful scene of fog hovering low over the lake.
We are currently hiking through The Wind River Range. Today was challenging. I recall a conversation I had with Snake Eyes as we were hiking together the other day. He asked what mantras I use on hard days. I like reminding myself that everything is temporary. The pain, discomfort, weather, terrain… it’s all temporary and I can stick it out. He liked to remind himself “this is why I am here”. I am here to endure, challenge myself, push myself to the limits, and fully experience the highs and the lows of trail life. I’m a thru-hiker. This is it. This is what I do. I related to that so deeply and absorbed that mantra into my daily self-talk.
We woke up to a helicopter circling very close by. Another hiker confirmed a rescue had been conducted that morning.
Around midday after crossing a stream, I was oblivious to a junction and unknowingly followed the wrong trail. I checked my map and realized I was two miles off trail. “No, no, no, no, no” was all that was crossing my mind as I kept refreshing my map app. I’m already completely exhausted and now I’ve hiked four unnecessary miles round trip, resulting in wasted time, energy, and precious calories. I wanted to scream, cry, sit down, and refuse to walk… but this is why I am here. I am here to control my emotions and push myself through the most difficult tasks. This is part of it. I turned around and walked back to trail. I allowed myself to cry angry tears for maybe ten seconds, but after that I dropped it and moved on.
I woke up dog tired. Drained. Fatigued.
This terrain is the absolute most difficult we have encountered so far. Plus, our hunger has grown newly rampant in this stretch, and we have not packed accordingly.
A few miles into our hike, we meet a group of guys that have rode horses in, set up camp around a lake, and are fly fishing. They are jealous of our adventure, but I’m jealous of theirs! As we are walking away, they yell out “Do you want any snack bars?” THE TRAIL PROVIDES! Of course, we say we’d love some if they have any extras to spare. They all dig through their packs and give us snack bars, pistachios, apple sauce, and three dehydrated mountain house meals!!! We thank them profusely, but I think maybe they have no idea how much of an impact they have made on my mood, my day, and my hike. It’s the random kindness from strangers that is worth its weight in gold. With these extra calories, I actually start to feel a little stronger. Shout out to our trail angels Jonathon, Benson, and the rest of the gang!!!
Later in the day, I saw a heart shaped rock someone specifically placed in a way that would catch one’s eye while walking by. It makes me smile and I can’t help but feel love for all the hikers making their way through this section. I don’t know them all, but I feel connected to them just knowing they’re walking the same footpath as me and are experiencing similar highs and lows like me.
With this extra food, we can hike a little slower. It’s a huge relief. We stop at an alpine lake for lunch and dip in. We’re now on the Cirque of the Towers alternate and it’s breathtaking. Thru-hikers are outnumbered by weekend hikers in this stretch.
We went over Texas Pass and it was insane. I looked towards the pass, and as I got nearer, I wondered where the trail would lead us. As I got to the base of a boulder field, it became apparent we were going straight up. Hands and knees style.
When we got to the top, the view opened up like a portal into an alternate universe. A secret perfect place protected by tall mountain ranges.
We camped at the very top of Jackass Pass. We wanted to cowboy camp, but it started to sprinkle, so we dragged our pads into a rock cave. It was windy but we were pretty cozy in our rock cave 🙂
We finished up the Cirque alternate today. More absolute prime time hiking. Just spectacular. Great weather. We were fortunate to get to enjoy this section.
We had one final steep Boulder field ascent and sandy descent before flattening out and connecting back with the CDT. The last two miles of the alternate was a hot mess. There were blow downs and the trail became lost. I followed another well-worn foot path thinking it would bypass the blow downs and connect back with the official trail further south. I ended up on a rocky cliff side and concluded I might’ve made a mistake in following this path. It took me roughly 45 mins – one hour to go 0.4 miles. (Some of that time included a few seated breaks to calm my nerves and give myself a pep talk.) This is why I am here.
We camped at an empty BLM campground with picnic tables and a pit toilet.
We took a dirt road route today instead of the trail. Dirt roads are sometimes preferred because we can easily cruise with no blowdowns and usually it’s nicely graded. We knocked out the last 17 miles of this stretch in good time. We even saw a moose, several prong horn, and some grouse.
After maybe ten minutes of hitching, a car stopped for us! We got lured into a double zero. We had a few friends in town, our hotel had a pool and a hot tub, and I ate sooooo much food. I was no longer eating to enjoy food, my only goal was to fill my body with as many calories as possible.
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