Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 17 Rawlins to just short of Colorado

Day 17

            Since we had been running on E pretty much ever since Lima Montana, we decided to get a little later start. We woke up at around 6:30 to 7:00, which actually is sleeping in for us so far on this trip, then stumbled around the corner to a sub-par continental breakfast in the motel lobby. We whiled away the morning till the Pizza Hut opened at 11:00. At around 10:55 we rolled into the parking lot, walked in seconds after an employee unlocked the door, then ensconced ourselves in our customary booth. We ordered a family size pasta dish, ate all of it with gusto, and then headed over to the grocery store. By now the thermometer was displaying 94 degrees and it was only noon. After buying enough groceries to hopefully get us to Steamboat Springs Colorado, we headed out of town. Looking at our map it looked like we had a steady climb for the next thirty or so miles. Not even two miles outside the town limits I saw a truck camper heading toward us. With only a hundred feet until it roared past, the driver suddenly slammed on his brakes and rolled down his window. Not really knowing what else to do Joseph and I stopped. Before we even had a chance to exchange a greeting the man in the truck launched into a several minute long diatribe about how that the road was closed. He seemed to be rather distraught, and it was hard to understand anything, but I picked up that because of the extreme drought, all traffic was being stopped so that no one would spark any forest fires. He seemed convinced that it was folly for anyone to continue on, but because he seemed a little unhinged and his information seemed somewhat suspect, Joseph and I decided to press on anyway.

Our route curved toward the west and almost like clockwork the infamous Wyoming wind kicked up. The wind wasn’t totally in our faces but the crosswind was still making progress harder than it should have been. After two hours of hard riding with not much forward progress, I was beginning to get a little discouraged. My water was lukewarm as well as running low, and there was not much in the way of surface water along our route. Soon I was in survival mode, staring a few feet ahead of my wheel and hoping the wind and heat would end. I was so absorbed in the waves of suffering washing up on my consciousness that I almost didn’t see the battered white Toyota Forerunner pull to the side of the road just ahead of me. I really didn’t know what the deal was, and at this point I really didn’t care so I just detoured to the middle of the road and pedaled on. After a few more moments I saw something in my peripheral vision that caused some concern. The white Toyota was back! I had heard stories about cyclists on the Great Divide Route being pestered by some of the natives so I was suddenly aware that we were extremely exposed. Except for the occasional antelope we hadn’t seen anything in hours so the chance we would have a rescuer was very remote indeed. Someone stuck their head out the passenger window and shouted, “Hey do you guys want some water?” I looked over at the car and inside was two men with long, greasy hair. I was still a little leery of them but by this time I would have given my right arm for one sip of cool water. I approached the open passenger window and replied that we would love some water. As Joseph and I answered their questions about what we were doing in the middle of a Wyoming wasteland on bicycles I noticed that they were both clutching Bud Lights in their hands and that they seemed rather “talkative.” Obviously these men were in their cups more than just a little! My first reaction was to be appalled that these men were driving drunk but then I thought, “What would they really run into, sagebrush or a slow pronghorn?” Thanking them profusely for the ice-cold waters, which were fished from the bottom of a cooler filled with beer, we pedaled on much refreshed, both physically and mentally.

A few miles later, after an extremely steep climb up to yet another Divide crossing, we saw a dot along the road far, far in the distance. As we got closer we realized it was a man walking along the road. A few more yards and it dawned on me that it must be a CDT thru-hiker. The Continental Divide Trail is a long distance hiking trail in the same strain as the Appalachian Trail that runs from Mexico to Canada following the Continental Divide as closely as possible. I don’t know much about the hiking world but I do know that if you have hiked the CDT you have done something. Around 400-500 people thru hike the AT each year, compared to only around 30 thru hikers on the CDT. The reason for this is that the CDT is just much harder. There are some sections of the trail where you might not see anyone for days, and resupply points are often spaced hundreds of miles apart. Because of this only the most ardent and hardened hikers dare to even attempt to hike this trail. I had been seeing signs for the CDT ever since Montana and I had been hoping to talk to at least one person who was thru hiking the trail. As we approached the man started dancing around and waving his hands to get our attention. I wasn’t sure if he needed help or he was just acting crazy so I braked to a stop right in front of him. I soon found out that the reason he had been waving his hands is because we were the first people he had seen since Steamboat Springs Colorado which was over 120 miles away. He was covered in dirt and looked like he had had a rough time of it. He sat down in the middle of the road, fired up his pipe, and started talking to us. As we were chatting I noticed he had several tattoos on his legs and arms. I suddenly had a strange thought, “This guy really seems familiar!” I hiked on the AT in the summer of 2010 and I remembered seeing a man who had lots of tattoos on his legs, “Could this be the same person?” I asked him, “Did you happen to hike the AT in 2010?” As it turns out, he had! How we could meet again two years and over two thousand miles away from Vermont, was simply amazing. If we had not talked to the rednecks or had started out later that day, we probably would not have met. The events that had to line up perfectly for something as improbable as this to happen simply boggles the mind. After talking to the hiker for about ten minutes about some of his experiences we decided it wasn’t getting any cooler so we wished him  well and pushed on.

Less than an hour later we saw a vehicle heading toward us trailing a massive cloud of dust. As it turns out it was our redneck friends to check on us. They had finished their errand or whatever they were driving around doing, and were now headed back to Rawlins. As they talked to us they offered Joseph and me some beers. Although we were appreciated the sentiment I informed them that alcohol was probably not the best thing to ingest in near 100 degree temperatures when you were already partially dehydrated. Since we refused to drink beer they offered us some more waters. Gratefully taking the water, we bade them farewell and once again set off.
Ever since Pinedale the trees had slowly become fewer until we hit the Basin, where they disappeared altogether. Ever since Silver City, close to 200 miles back, we had seen no trees to speak of. Both Joseph and I were getting weary of the monotony of sagebrush, jack rabbits, and the occasional antelope. By this point we were both not feeling very well. The unceasing wind, dehydration, and hunger, drastically slowed our pace. The elevation profile on the map showed little climbing but as we had already found out, maps could be deceptive. We really didn’t gain much elevation because as soon as we would climb to the top of a large hill, we would drop the same amount down to a dry creek bed, then climb back up again. After repeating this more times than I would like to remember, we finally saw just a little green in the distance. 

More Stunning Wyoming Skies

Trees Again!!

With renewed vigor we attacked the climbs until we were finally back amongst trees again. We were mentally refreshed but as you could imagine we were still physically exhausted. After another ten miles we found a small creek that could offer a good water source. As Joseph set up the tent I fixed supper. With our stomachs full we went to bed realizing that now with Wyoming almost behind us, we were just over half way done with our journey.

Till next time,

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