Location- Side of trail
Elevation- 9,229 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 16.4 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 950.5 miles
Weather/Temp- Rain, clear, cloudy, 70s
Pain level- none
Wildlife encounters- zero
Human Beings encountered on trail- zero
Thru hikers encountered on trail- zero
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 2
Everybody slept in and we rode the room until checkout at 10:30 am. Lucky for us, Bob, the owner of the Cowboy Cafe offered to give us a ride back to trail at 11 am. I ended up packing two more steaks out to the trail.
Timing was not on our side today. No sooner did Bob drop us off at the trailhead, it began to rain and blow. Luckily it was done after 15 minutes and the six of us were on our way once again. There was more rain all around us throughout most of the day, but it always skirted just past us.
We road walked on an easy jeep road for more than ten miles, sticking together for the most part. The final 5 miles however were almost all bushwacking. Mostly trekking through and over bristly sagebrush, but there was no shortage of other overgrown vegetation.
At one point we were all sitting down in some thick sagebrush when we heard the calls of a lone coyote coming from further down the valley behind us. Seconds later a pack of coyotes started calling back from over a short ridge on our right. After about a minute of this back and forth, yet another pack began answering from just over the ridge on our left. These mountains were crawling with canines.
The bushwack was exhausting, and made what was really a short day feel like a long one. It’s easy to take trails for granted, but once you’ve had to cut across country without one…you’ll thank your lucky stars the next time you have a path, no matter how obscure.
I rolled my bad ankle hard during the bushwack. The ground always seems to be washed out and uneven in the sagebrush fields, especially on the slopes. It rolled into a washed out crack on a downhill, and nearly sent me tumbling. I caught myself and recovered, but still had the hot, tight, throbbing pain for the next 20 minutes. It’ll most likely be tender through tomorrow. The best thing you can do with a rolled ankle is walk it off; keep walking and moving through the pain. It’ll keep the blood flowing and stave off any swelling.
We finally reached normal trail again and pretty much immediately called it a day. It was just after 8pm. Now it was time for me to do my mayoral duties. I got my trail name because I take care of my people, and I bring people together. Be it sharing food, sharing my motel room, or going out of my way after a long day to make a fire for everyone to enjoy; the “mayor” takes care of his people, whoever they may be. I try to live up to that as often as I can.
So while everyone was setting up their shelters, I dug a pit, then dug up about ten large rocks that were scattered and half buried in the dirt around our location. I made a crude fire ring around the shallow pit, then collected a healthy pile of dead branches from a nearby blowdown. To top things off, I shaved a few appropriately sized sticks into meat skewers. About 2 minutes later I had a small fire growing into a blazing campfire. It was about that time that everyone migrated around the fire ring with their respective dinners to enjoy the warmth and camaraderie.
I cut up the steaks so that everyone was able to get 3 heartily sized pieces to cook over the fire on the skewers. No marinades, no seasonings, just good old fashioned wood fire charred meat, dripping caramelized fat. Best trail meal so far, by far. I’m going to do this again soon.
I’m cowboy camped under another conifer, and I have the most spectacular view of the milky way that I’ve ever seen. There are nights when you can see a billion stars, but the nights when you can see the thin cloudy cluster of the milky way stretching from the horizon to the heavens…that’s a special night.
It was about this time that I planned to start hitting the bigger miles hard through Wyoming and beyond. Funny enough, I don’t really have the desire to. This little group has grown on me so much in the past couple weeks. I didn’t think I would have a problem leaving them and hiking ahead, but I thought wrong. It’s such a diverse and range of ages and backgrounds, but everyone is incredibly down to earth, thoughtful, intelligent, and easy going. There is never any conflict, drama, or gossiping; only good humor and good times that continue to roll. I could see myself going all the way with these individuals, but how realistic that is…I do not know. Only time will tell.