Coming Down the Hill
“I’m not sure if I have enough gas to get down to Encampment,” she said as I got into her truck. The inside was stacked with clothes, kids, and a little dog named Boyfriend. I smiled and pulled my pack onto my lap as I slid into the cab. “I’ll be happy to help you out when we get to the bottom,” I replied.
She took the turns wide, using both lanes of the road, as we swept down from Battle Pass. “I’m moving back to Cheyenne before school starts. I want the girls to be in one school.” I turned my head as far as I could towards the girls to catch a glimpse of them. They were both in the seat behind me with Boyfriend precariously perched on a stack of clothes in the seat behind the driver. “That’s a good idea,” I said.
“Hope this gas holds out,” she reiterated. “I’ll just call grandma from the bottom,” she said to the girls behind me. “Somebody will be able to come help us out.” It was long 16 miles down that hill. She stayed off the brake and used the road.
We made it the bottom and I filled her tank. Kids have to be safe.
So there I was, alive and a bit invigorated from the ride, standing on the corner of two small Wyoming towns, Encampment and Riverside. It was 4:15 pm. I’d walked 20some miles to get to Battle Pass. I didn’t have enough food to make it all the way to Steamboat Springs, another 80 some miles, so I’d come down to resupply and eat and drink.
The Lazy Days campground gives CDT hikers a tent site for $10 which includes a shower. No towel. I was welcomed warmly and quickly set up my tarp and showered. Off to the small store where I picked up a noodle dinner, chips, pretzels, and a bunch of candy bars.
Then across the street to the Mangey Moose where I quickly decided on the Moose Burger, two 1/2 pound patties, and an order of onion rings. I sucked down some electrolytes while I waited. Bartender had a masters degree in human development and was going back to school for teaching certification.
After talking to a few locals who felt winter was coming early this year, I finished up and headed back to my tarp. I sorted my food into days and bagged it up. It was 7:40. Usually, I’m just finishing setting up camp at 7:40. I tend to walk until 7:15 or so. My belly was full and I was in bed early!
It didn’t turn out to be a restful night. Too much traffic down the road for someone used to being in the mountains. I slept later than normal. Moving at 6:20 I was packed and out of the campground by 6:55. Trucks were parked in front of the second bar across the street. It was my lucky day. They opened at 7 on Saturdays. Coffee, a breakfast burrito smothered in green chili, and 25 minutes later and I was walking the mile to where Wyoming highway 70 left Encampment back to Battle Pass.
I passed the historic information about the history of Encampment and the K-12 school. It was quiet. Only a single car went passed in the direction I was headed.
As I hit the final turn out of town, a couple enjoying the morning sun and a cup of coffee, called to me from their porch. The ran a small business in town and wanted to know more about hikers and how they aid them when they came to town. It was a nice five minutes. I could hear a truck coming, so I said, “Goodbye” and turned back to the street extending my arm with my thumb out, glasses off, hat tipped back, with the biggest smile I could muster. He slowed immediately and pulled over. “Headed up to the pass?” he asked.
“Climb in,” he said as he rearranged the front seat for me to get in. Twenty five minutes later, I was at the pass and back on the trail. It was 8:15.
The last few miles of Wyoming were a grind emotionally and physically. Pieces of trail like this are connectors. Rarely travelled by anyone but CDT hikers, they lack maintenance and any sort of view. They are simply connecting two other pieces of trail. Lots of blowdowns and non-marked trail kept my mind busy but frustrated.
At 4:35 pm on August 26th, 2017 I crossed the border between Wyoming and Colorado. Took the obligatory photos and whooped once halfheartedly.
The trail quickly changed in Colorado. I followed an ATV trail for the first 20 miles or so. The good thing about an ATV trail is that the tend to be clear of blowdowns. Lots of rock though.
Sheep and Dogs
First morning in CO I ran into sheep and my initial encounter with guard dogs. From the moment the first one saw me and barked, it only took 10 seconds for me to be confronted by 7 or 8 barking and growling dogs. I held my sticks in front of me yelling, “No!” at them repeatedly. I backed towards a tree, so they couldn’t surround me. Two puppies came towards me with what appeared to be friendly intentions, but I didn’t trust them. I fended them off with my sticks and backed away. When I did all the dogs but the biggest male and the puppies lost interest in me.
What To Do?
I had to get by and didn’t want to wait for the sheep to move. I started slowly up the trail again. The sheep bellered and bleated and ran away as I went forward. The male and the puppies followed me. I crossed my sticks behind my legs, to semi-prevent an attack from behind. I would have crossed my fingers if I could have. Eventually I cleared the sheep. The male stopped but the pups continued to follow me. I shooed them back several times to no avail. Finally, another dog came skulking out of a clump of trees and the pups joined it.
I wish I’d had a chance to get a photo of the sheep and all the dogs, but I was honestly worried about being bitten with at least 30 miles to walk before I could get help. I settled for this shot of the pups as I looked back.
Mt. Zirkle Wilderness
The scenery quickly improved with a solid climb to over 11000 feet. It was good to be up high again. The late afternoon thunderstorms spit rain at me but didn’t dump anything significant.
I’ve landed in Steamboat Springs after a great afternoon yesterday with another hiker, Deluxe. I haven’t hiked much with anybody else and the afternoon of conversation was good. We camped together and talked until much later than I normally stay up. Deluxe is on the ambitious pursuit of connecting all the National Parks in the United States on a three year tour. Wow!
Regrettably, I had to leave him because he’d already been into Steamboat through another road. I’m hoping we might connect again before he leaves the CDT around Salida, Colorado.
Fall is coming. The delicate plants are dead and dying. Frost coats my tarp and bivy more frequently. Shades of red and gold are appearing.
Wash, food, drink and rest for me now.
Kindness matters (more than ever)