The second half of month #2 on trail has been challenging and exhilarating in a number of ways! I spent nearly a week with a friend exploring Grand Teton National Park and was blown away by the natural beauty there. I saw elk, bear and moose, as well as a LOT of tourists and some of the best marked and maintained trail that I've seen all summer. Taking a break from thru hiking to spend time with someone from "normal" life was incredibly refreshing. It gave my body some time to recover (even though I still hiked a bit) and was fulfilling in a way that I really needed.
I returned to trail refreshed, a full heart and full pack on my back. I embarked on this section alone, as my hiatus had separated me from everyone I had met and hiked with thus far on this trail. Being totally on my own for the first time on this trail was bittersweet. I missed my friends, but being completely in charge of my day, from choosing the time I woke up to my pace, my mileage, where I set up camp and everything in between without consulting another soul felt freeing and empowering. I finished the remainder of Yellowstone National Park in the rain, and continued hiking in on and off rain for days. The trail turned to mud and then to swamp, especially where horsepacking tours came through regularly, tearing up the trail. I saw a couple going the opposite direction that I had met on the PCT, which brightened my day so much that I completely disregarded the mud. I even startled a grizzly the next morning before popping off trail to resupply and heading back in.
Carrying 9 days' worth of food, I trekked into the Wind River mountain range, a section of trail that most CDT hikers regard as some of the best hiking of the entire trail. I had very much wanted to share this section of trail, as although experiencing these magical places is incredibly rewarding, it sometimes feels selfish or empty to do so alone. To combat these feelings, I tooks lots of videos to send home when I got some cell signal, helping to feel like I was sharing with my loved ones who are following my journey from home. I met new hikers along the way from all points in their lives. These people filled me with their stories, their enthusiasm and their joy at being in this incredible place. I climbed three high mountain passes in one day as I hiked the Cirque of the Towers route, an epic but also somewhat sketchy alternate from the traditional CDT route. This was breathtaking in all of the ways, and I practically collapsed into camp that night.
The following day, I did my highest mileage day so far, finally hitting 30 miles for the first time. My body felt strong, my pack light and my soul full. Now I am getting ready to enter the Great Basin, a comparatively flat, exposed section of trail with little water or shelter from sun or weather. This will be a new kind of challenge and I am looking forward to seeing what it will teach me.
Trail totals so far
Days on Trail: 62 Miles Hiked: 1077.6 Number of Showers: 13 Times my Laundry has Been Done: 9 Days of Rest (Zero miles!): 13 Nights Spent in a Bed: 17 Nights Spent Camping Alone: 8 Times I've Fallen: 9 Number of Bears Seen: 3 Times I've Hitchhiked: 8 Shortest Full Hiking Day: 9.7 miles Longest Full Hiking Day: 30.0 miles Average Daily Mileage: 17.4 miles (including zeroes)
As I continued hiking, I took more notice of the hundreds of cut trees that lay along the side of the trail. I thought about the hands that may have cut them and the many hours spent keeping this trail clear. I have so much gratitude for the employees and volunteers who work so hard to maintain this trail while keeping our wild land wild.
Sometimes you find a beautiful spot but your tent doesn't quite fit. In this case, I just couldn't pass it up and wedged my tent in anyway. This beautiful lake in the Winds was such a treat. I even had a weekender out with his family come and visit for a bit, some welcome social time after a number of days hiking alone.
After hiking through Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Pintler Wilderness, Yellowstone National Park, the Wind River range and countless other breathtaking locations with epic vistas and natural wonders, many CDT hikers dread "the basin" in southern Wyoming. I had been hearing about it for hundreds of miles, with lots of fearmongering on...