Distance Traveled Today- 11.9 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 989.9 miles
Pain level- none
Wildlife encounters- pack llamas
Human Beings encountered on trail- 4
Thru hikers encountered on trail- 2 sobo
Days without shower- 0
Days without laundry- 0
Completely opposite from the night before, I slept terribly last night. It got down into the high 20’s and I kept getting cold drafts into my hammock all night, waking me up. The zipper on my $600 sleeping bag broke a couple weeks ago, so I’ve been draping it over me like a quilt since I can’t zip it closed. This works just fine until I toss or turn and lift up one of the edges, exposing my skin or clothing to cold air. With an actual quilt, this would normally not be a huge issue, but when I’m using a traditional mummy sleeping bag as a quilt, it’s really not wide enough or suited to the task. Either way, I’ll make it work. It only seems to be an issue in the hammock, but not on the ground.
So today was actually planned to be a 25 or 30 mile day up into the official Wind River Mountain Range. Plans changed. Around 80 miles into this stretch out of Duboise we planned to take an 11 mile side trail that leads to a road where we can hitch into the town of Pinedale. As of this morning, we were still over thirty miles from the start of that side trail. Now rewind just a little bit. Over the past week and a half I had been talking to other Nobo thru hikers for advice and tips on this upcoming section through the “Winds.” About half a dozen had said, “Don’t take the 11 mile side trail! There is a campground called “Green River Lake campground that’s right next to the trail where you can get an easy hitch into Pinedale.” After hearing this piece of advice a few times, I took it as gospel.
Coming out of Dubois, I began to search my map and guide for any sign of this campground. I couldn’t find it anywhere. I checked all the trail junctions for notes or names of the campground and found nothing. I knew there was no way ALL the Nobos had been lying, so I chalked it up to something that wasn’t marked on the map, but a campground you just ran into. So I gave up searching, and we stuck to the 11 mile side trail plan unless something obvious popped up.
By this morning I’d pretty much totally forgotten about the campground all together and was ready to hit the side trail tomorrow. I was around 7 miles into the morning, staying at the back of the pack as usual, enjoying a nice solitary breakfast of fritos and beef sticks while scrolling over the topographical map on my phone to look at what the day had in store. I noticed a large lake around 5 miles ahead and zoomed in on it. The words “Green River Lake Campground” materialized next to it. “There it is!” I thought to myself excitedly. I found it completely by chance.
So if we went into Pinedale today to top of our food supplies, we would lose just as much time as we would if we had hiked the side trail. Same amount of time lost, but one option had us walking 22 extra sideways miles. To me it was a no brainer.
I quickly packed up my food and took off down the trail in an attempt to catch the others before they passed the unmarked junction. Stomper and Sonic were the first ones I caught up to, but the others were no where to be found when we eventually reached the lake around noon. Both Stomper and Sonic were more than thrilled to have this latest option instead of losing nearly an entire day hiking extra miles. Given the time of day, we knew the others wouldn’t be too far past the lake, having lunch by now.
As more luck would have it, two other Sobos were heading back onto the trail from the campground across the river. We let them know about our friends and gave them a message to relay whenever they ran into them. We knew they would wait to pack up lunch until all of us had caught up, so it was guaranteed these other Sobos would run into them soon.
The three of us hiked up into the campground and walked to the main road leading in and out. We staged our hitch. While waiting on vehicles, a young woman named Courtney who was parked/camped nearby struck up a conversation with us. Long story short, she offered to drive us 50 miles into Pinedale, even though she was slated to camp there until Friday. She was going to go 100 miles (round trip) out of her way, just to help us out. It was almost TOO kind of her.
Come to find out, Courtney was from Washington and had lived in Portland and as a result was very familiar with PCT thru hikers. She helped them out on the PCT when she could, and wanted to do the same out here. This turned out to be the longest hitch of my thru hiking career, so far. The ultra long hitches can sometimes be tough to carry on conversations on…this was not one of them. When we finally arrived in Pinedale, I insisted on compensating Courtney for the very out of the way drive she’d just given us. She insisted against it. I insisted that she’d given us a ride out of the kindness of her heart, and that I could repay her in the only way I could, out of the kindness of my heart; gas in the tank. She finally gave in, and my universe felt balanced once again.
About 30 mins after arriving, I got a text from Puma saying they’d got our message from the other hikers and back tracked a mile to the campground and gotten a ride to town as well. Nobody wanted to do the side trail if they could help it. So it all worked out and Puma, Red Bass and myself split a room while the other three decided to stay at a church for free.
This mountain range boasts some pretty epic trout fishing (so I hear). I don’t have any of my fishing gear, so I plan to buy some tomorrow before heading back to trail; maybe get a temporary fishing license while I’m at it…maybe.
On another note, I bought a fanny pack today. I got it to wear on trail, but also within towns. All my life I’ve made fun of the fanny pack, but never knew that deep down inside…I’m a fanny pack man myself. I don’t know if I’ll ever not wear a fanny pack from this day forward. All of your important items conveniently located on either of your hips, above your butt, or above your crotch…take your pick. Mark my words, the fanny pack is coming back! We’ll see what new hitchhiking adventures tomorrow brings…