Date- August 13, 2019
Location- side of trail
Elevation- 9,984 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 16.3 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 1,029.6 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 70s
Pain level- none
Wildlife encounters- 2 garter snakes
Days without shower- 1
Days without laundry- 1
Today I hiked into one of my favorite places on earth (so far) – the Wind River Range.
After some early morning chores, errands, and breakfast – we caught a ride with a local woman named Morgan and her friend Mike. In fact, we’d had the ride set up for two days thanks to Jetpack getting their contact info from Bamboo (who was friends with them).
Jetpack, Quiet Man, Data, and I all piled into their Land Cruiser a little after 9 am. We were hiking out of Green River Campground a little after 10:30.
The Green River Valley
The trek south up through Green River Valley along the CDT is about 10 (very leisurely) miles long. This stretch of trail is one of my favorites in the country. The river, the lake, the ridge-lines, the scenery, the views of Square Top – all of it makes for a spectacular hiking, camping, viewing experience all around. I could live here if it were practical.
I had bought some cheap fishing gear in Pinedale, so I let the others hike ahead while I went at my own pace – stopping to wet a line several times; hiking very slow while taking everything in… for the third time.
Sadly, I never caught anything with a fly, or my Panther Martins. It was too close to the middle of the day. Plus, I’ve found river fish to be far more picky than lake fish. The rivers are always pushing food and nutrients down stream, so the fish have an almost constant flow of food. In the lakes, competition is a little more fierce, and the fish have to take whatever comes into the lake, when they can get it.
Anyway, the river fish skunked me today. I didn’t catch any, which is unfortunate because I didn’t pack any dinner foods for the next 100 miles. My plan is to just eat trout every night until I get to the next town. We’ll see how that goes.
It was just after 3 pm when I finished my slow walk through the valley and came to the first climb – a 3,000 footer. I wouldn’t be going all the way up though, only around 2,000 feet. I planned to take an official 14 mile alternate of the CDT called “Knapsack Col.” It’s not any shorter than the official CDT – just much, much harder… and much, much more beautiful. Even though I’ve already done this alternate twice before (in both directions) I’m a glutton for punishment and a sucker for pretty things. Combine them both and I’m hooked.
So my mind was made up about doing this alternate while Data and Quiet Man were firmly opposed to doing it; Jetpack was on the fence. Knapsack Col is probably the single most brutal stretch of trail on the entire CDT, and I’m only talking from a physical standpoint – under ideal conditions.
I caught up to Jetpack during the climb and talked to her about the alternate. She was leaning towards not doing it. After answering some of her questions and telling her other info she should know about it, she asked me if I really thought she should do it, and if she’d be alright. I told her, “If you do it, you’ll be very glad and proud of yourself. Especially with all the people who are avoiding it like the plague.” She then excitedly exclaimed, “Okay, I’m gonna do it!”
Knapsack gets very exposed very quickly, and can be a bad place to get caught during inclement weather. Most parts of it are freezing at night too. Luckily, I’ve been down this way twice before and know where the best camping spots are located. For us today, it was going to be a little over a mile into the alternate itself – about halfway between a valley below, and a flat meadow above. I knew of a little flat spot off the side of the trail, in some thick trees, where I camped last summer with a buddy. I’d even built up one of my nice fire furnaces.
We arrived early to the spot, and some remnants were still there. Someone had scattered all the rocks of my fire ring all over the surrounding area and had left just a pile of old coals. It may surprise you to hear this, but there are people within the long distance hiking community and the “outdoors community” who don’t believe you should have fires. Some think it’s a violation of “Leave No Trace.” Others think it’s too risky. Many think it’s both. My personal belief – fire is in our souls. It’s as much a part of us as it is nature, and I’ll never stop enjoying both responsibly – at the same time.
Since we were stopping pretty early, I thought I’d just go ahead and make another furnace. A better one. A bigger one. One that would maybe break the heart of whoever might be tasked or so inclined to take it apart. Or, at the very least require great physical effort to scatter again.
So that’s what I did, and lemme tell ya… this one won’t be getting scattered. Whoever disassembles this one is likely to get a hernia in the process if they’re not careful. This one was my coup de gras of this trail.
We had a nice fire. I brought in some big sitting rocks, and then when it was almost dark and Jetpack had gone to bed – I threw down my pads and am now cowboy camped next to my furnace. First day into the Winds and I’m cowboy camping. Back in 2017, I cowboy camped every single night of the winds, the Great Basin, and all the way into Colorado. On a clear night, with zero observable chance of rain – it’s my preferred method to camp. You don’t get any closer to nature.
Tomorrow should be one hell of a day, one way or another…
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