CDT day 89: Cirque of Towers day/the hardest day

August 1
Mileage: 27
1661 miles hiked

I sleep so, so hard. Almost too hard. I’m usually a light sleeper. Dang, I must’ve been tired.

I’m usually kind of slow when I start out in the morning- I fidget, adjust things, stop to get water, poop, put on sunscreen. Most mornings I lose about a half hour this way, and feel like I’m running behind until after lunch, when I hit cruising speed and am finally able to turn my brain off. This morning I am extra slow, I think from being worn out from the past few days. Our first act of the morning is to climb up and over Texas Pass, one of those thousand-feet-of-elevation-gain-in-a-mile/faint-path-through-the-steep-scree passes, of which we will have several today, each one going up to nearly twelve thousand feet. It’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong- like an enchanted high-altitude land of rock and water, but boy am I tired. I make it to the top of the col and down the equally steep descent, at the bottom of which I feel shaky and exhausted, and check the time- I’ve gone three miles in two hours.

Fuck. Fuck fuck. We’re supposed to do 30 miles today- but how the fuck is that even going to be possible now? I try to pick up the pace, but the descent is tricky- so many boulders and roots and things in the trail! Spark said the other day that the tread on the CDT feels to him like a blend of the PCT and the AT, and if that’s true I can definitely understand now why the AT is so hard. I can’t hike fast in this! Spark is in his element, though- rock-hopping is like his favorite thing, and the trail today is one long rock hop. I haven’t seen him for hours, although I do see his footprints. Track Meat is even farther ahead- he camped a few miles past us last night. I start to stress a little bit- I’ve got to keep up!

But I can’t. I can’t I can’t. Nothing I do will make my body move faster over this high steep rocky trail. I even take the wrong trail for a bit, adding about 30 minutes to my day. It’s 12:40 when I reach Temple Lake before the final steep pass (which will climb a thousand feet in .5 miles, natch). I’m hungry and dehydrated, and I’ve hiked just 9 miles.

Nine miles by 12:40. And I only took one five minute break all morning, to get water. I didn’t think I’d see Spark again but he’s at the lake, finishing his lunch. I shove some food into my face and then set out for this final giant climb. Switchback up the meadow. Hop from boulder to boulder. Faint path in the scree. I watch the lake grow smaller below me, the granite world stretching away. The sun is so hot! And the horseflies land on me when I least expect it, leaving painful welts. I have to stop every few minutes on the climb to catch my breath. At this rate I’m getting nowhere fast. I start to feel so, so frustrated- frustrated and tired. There’s this thing that happens when I reach a certain point of exhaustion- I just start to cry. I cry and cry, and there’s no stopping it. So that’s what I do. I cry.

I reach the top of the pass, cross a field of sun-baked boulders and begin the descent- the narrowest of switchbacks in a near-vertical scree slope. At one point the switchback I’m on just dissapears for a few feet into impossibly steep scree, before picking up again. This shouldn’t be a big deal- I could just hop over the spot. But if I fell- fuck I hate steep scree! I start to cry and then I’m sitting on the trail, tears blearing up my vision. I’m tired! I’m tired and I’m scared and I have no more energy left for these constant small obstacles today, dammit!

It’s one of those days. Actually it’s the lowest day I’ve had on the CDT so far- even when I was sick in Montana my morale was higher than this.

Low moment. Today I am having a low moment.

It happens.

The tread does not grow easier once I’m down the pass, as I’d hoped it might. I’m walking cross-country over lumpy alpine meadow, following a river down a beautiful valley. Somehow I haven’t been drinking enough water, and my pee is dark. I stop in the shade of a pine and make myself drink water. I haven’t eaten much so I force down a few bars. And then I just plod. Plod and cry, cry and plod. The crying is the fatigue and anxiety coming out of my eyeballs, releasing and releasing. Oh, it’s definitely one of those days.

I enter a dark forest and the trail becomes faint- I lose it a couple of times and have to bushwack, climbing over tangled blowdowns and up steep rock. Every time the trail climbs it goes straight up- no switchbacks. I drag my trekking poles behind me, feeling like a pathetic fool. I calculate my pace- there’s no way I’m doing 30 today, unless I hike until 10 p.m. 25 though- 25 I could do. I wonder how far ahead Spark is. One of the things that’s reached a sort of peak of frustration for me today is knowing that no matter how hard I try, I will always be the slow one in the group. I don’t walk faster than 3 mph. I just don’t. I’m like a fuel-efficient sedan with absolutely no power. Track Meat, Spark and I do the same miles, but I literally only see the dudes during the day because they stop and take long breaks or intentionally wait for me. I have no control over whether I’ll see them or not, or when- and sometimes they don’t stop, for whatever reason, and I’m just sort of screwed. I worry that today will be one of those days. I’m having an epically shitty, low day, and I really, really don’t want to camp by myself tonight. I want to be around my nice dude-friends and say “Today was hard” and have them say “Yeah those passes were hard” and then we all stare off into space together while we eat our dinners. But to do that I’d have to catch up to Spark and talk him into camping before 30 miles. Which I’m pretty sure he’d be down to do- we both have extra food, and he’s been pretty worn out by this section too. But in order to talk to him, he’d have to stop and wait for me. And I imagine he’s about an hour ahead, just cruising in his own world, trying to get to camp. Fuck. Fuck fuck.

This seems like a little thing but it’s also the story of my life- last year I was the slowest walker in my group on the PCT, and this year I am too. I don’t mind maxing out at 3mph- 3mph is all you need on a long trail, and the fact that I walk slower is probably one of the reasons I rarely have foot pain. But it’s hard to be crossing a big open space and watch your friends get farther, and farther, and farther ahead… and to know that you likely won’t catch up until camp, unless they decide to stop and wait for you.

Every. Fucking. Day.

But maybe Spark will stop and wait today? But no, he’s not stopping. His footprints go on and on. I’m so fucking tired of staring at my friends’ footprints. I’m so tired of feeling like I’m always late for something, on top of everything else that happens each day. I’m just fucking tired right now, and I want to camp. But I don’t want to camp alone, not tonight.

In the evening the trail at last drops down into smooth flat third-growth forest and joins a soft gentle dirt logging road. There’s a parking lot with a campground and a trail register- Spark is about an hour ahead, and he writes that he’s hiking until eight. It’s 9 p.m. and getting dark when I finally reach the spot where he’s camped, on a ridge above a small, tannin-colored stream. I’m so tired that I don’t even want to eat dinner. Spark and I have a heart-to-heart, and he tells me that he had no idea that I felt so frustrated about not being able to keep up, or that it was a hard thing for me. Or that I was having such a rough time today. We all just sort of act like we’re always fine out here, and I take it for granted that I have to tell people when I’m doing badly, or ask specifically for what I need. It feels awkward and vulnerable to do so, but I ask Spark if he’ll check in with me during lunch, in hard sections like this, about where we’re camping/how far I actually think I can go, since I might not see him again for the rest of the day. Of course Spark has no problem with this. Of course he’ll check in. He doesn’t give me shit, or call me slow. He doesn’t act like I’m just being needy or unreasonable. Spark gets it. He’s my friend. And he’s a really good dude, this one.

Tomorrow we get to Lander! I am so, so ready to take a zero.

Photos on instagram

CDT day 88: george clooney and captain picard

July 31
Mileage 29
1634 miles hiked

I wake up- is it dawn? I have to pee. I wriggle out of my sleeping bag and pull myself out of the tarp. It’s not dawn, it’s the moon! Oh moon, where have you been? How did you get full so fast? The way time goes by on the trail… how many weeks do we even have left? I can’t think about it.

I wake again to actual dawn, warm and cozy because there was zero condensation last night. It’s cold again this morning, but not too cold. Normal cold for 10,400 feet? Yay July!

I’m sore all over today. My arms, chest, shoulders… I don’t actually use those parts of my body very much out here and climbing knapsack col was a full-body experience. I guess I’m an epic weakling, because today I can barely bend my arm back to reach my water bottle.

I have reception for a few minutes on a ridge this morning and I get a message from Pox of the Pox and Puss podcast- I hadn’t heard of the show before (only because I’m not much of a podcast listener) but it’s about the appalachian trail thru-hiking experience and thru-hiking in general, and I make a mental note to download some episodes when I’m in town. Apparently Pox asked some people on facebook which trail book they thought should be made into a movie, and a few of them mentioned my book. Standing on the ridge reading my email and learning that people like my book in this way is incredibly soothing, especially since I just got a super-hateful amazon review wherein the reviewer calls me a slut and an idiot and says that I have the IQ of a jar of mayonnaise. Writing memoir means that people don’t just attack the book, they attack you. It’s weird and awful and I’m trying to grow thick skin about it but some days it’s still really fucking hard. Women are also the subject of online bullying much moreso than men- every woman blogger/writer knows what I’m talking about. Online bullies want to tear women down, and to put them in their place. This is the world we live in and sometimes it really fucking sucks.

I am under no illusion that a movie will ever actually be made out of my book, my book being self-published and, to be honest, a little bit boring in the middle (sorry about that folks) but Spark and I joke about what actors would play who as we walk. We decide that I would be played by George Clooney, Spark would be played by Patrick Stewart, Beyonce would play Track Meat and Instigate would play herself. And Ramen, of course, would be played by Reese Witherspoon.

Today is more gentle than yesterday but still there are small steep passes devoid of switchbacks, difficult tread, I lose the trail a couple of times and have to bushwack… I imbibe caffeine and ibuprofen. This section is hard.

Tonight we camp at Billy Lake, a clear gunmetal water at the base of Texas Pass, our first climb on the Cirque of Towers alternate. We’ll go over a bunch of steep high granite passes on this alternate tomorrow, and it will be beautiful. It will also be our last arduous high-alpine day before we drop down towards the great divide basin, wherein the sun will roast us and the wind will beat us on our flat dirt roadwalk out of Wyoming. At camp I wade into the cool waters of billy lake as the sun drops, washing the dirt and dust from the scratches, heat rash, and horsefly bites on my legs. I feel dirtier in this section than I have in a while- the hot sun with no shade, the long climbs, the fact that I haven’t washed my clothes in over a week… what a glorious feeling it will be to take a shower in Lander the day after tomorrow.

Photos on instagram

CDT day 87: Knapsack Col day

July 30
Mileage: 25
1605 miles hiked

We camped in a narrow river canyon tucked between two mountains so the sun doesn’t reach us in the morning- I’m switchbacking up towards Knapsack Col with my numb hands pulled up into the sleeves of my puffy again, my breath misty. We’re climbing up to twelve thousand feet! I’ve eaten a bunch of caffeinated jelly beans and I feel pumped. I love hiking!

Three thousand feet of elevation gain over five miles, the final part being a rock scramble on talus and scree. Rumor has it that this is the toughest day of the entire CDT.

We leave the forest behind. Alpine meadows full of lupine, small cold tarns. Clear light air makes me feel happy and drunk. Granite ridges like rows of busted teeth above, catching the light. There are glaciers up here! I have just one lung! Suddenly the sun is roasting us.

I’m climbing up with Spark and Buck-30. Buck-30 is an unassuming CPA who has hiked 20k miles of trails (I’m guessing). He’s friendly and unpretentious. He does it for the love of adventure, not for the ego. He goes slow if he feels like it, and yet he really knows what he’s doing. He also gets a kick out of the drama within the trail community, and we have fun gossiping as we climb. It’s been a long time since I’ve had someone to gossip with! Track Meat and Spark just don’t care about any of that stuff. Which is one reason I like hiking with them- it keeps me from dwelling too much on little things that don’t matter. But still… there’s something about human drama that has always fascinated me. I’m a writer, I love a good story more than anything! And some of the stuff that goes on… you can’t make this shit up. If you only knew, dear reader, about the drama that goes down within the long-distance hiking community, you would be shocked and amused. Slander and hearsay, rifts and alliances, betrayals… Buck-30 and I jabber on while Spark looks on, bored. I am so entertained.

We reach the col (which wikipedia just informed me is another word for saddle or notch) after huffing and puffing up a faint trail in the talus and scree. We sit in the sun, feeling weak from the elevation. Buck-30 is eating doritos. Track Meat is somewhere ahead- we took too many breaks and lost him. Then down the other side- Spark shoe-skis down the steep dusty scree that was not too long ago covered by the much-receded glacier, Buck-30 picks his way down the boulders and I do a combination of the two, mostly making my way down on my butt. I’ve decided that I dislike climbing/descending on sketchy talus and scree more than most things. I go into these things with such good intentions and yet often end up backed into some sketchy corner, terrified and alone. No me gusta!

I make it down the loose steep rocks, slide a bit on a snowfield and rejoin Spark and Buck-30. More boulders, water running out of everywhere, down down down and we are finally back in the land of flowery meadows. We take a lunch break on a sun-baked granite rock next to a sparkling otherworldly lake and that’s when I realize how slow the morning has been.

The trail up here feels like the PCT through the sierras- twisted and convoluted, full of rocks and roots, always going up or down or around some great obstacle. I’m tired so I’m rolling my ankles a lot, tripping and stumbling, hiking kind of slow. Towards evening the pain in my shoulders becomes so bad that I can’t even hold my trekking pole. I’m also getting this weird stabbing pain in my big toes that I get randomly when I’m tired- like someone is shoving a knife under my toenail. Knapsack Col kicked my ass and I’m kind of falling apart.

We decide to do 25 today instead of our planned 30. The last three miles are some of the hardest of the entire CDT for me- I am just so busted from the day. Spark finds us a nice campsite just far enough above the soggy valley floor (which will turn into a refrigerator as soon as the sun sets on account of the way cold air sinks) and I eat dinner wrapped in my sleeping bag, watching the pink light of the sunset on the granite ridge. Time for sleep!

Photos on instagram

CDT day 86: diamonds on the grass

July 29
Mileage: 30
1580 miles hiked

Another cold night. In the morning our tarps are stiff with frost and our water is frozen again. I sleep til 6:30 like the cozy, hedonistic thru-hiker that I am and when I wake the sun has just come up over the lake and its warm rays are beginning to melt the frost on the grass. Spark and Track Meat are just waking up as well. How can we get up early when it’s cold like this?

Who am I kidding. We never get up early. It’s awesome.

The lumpy meadows are beautiful covered in frost- I walk through them, numb hands pulled up into the sleeves of my down jacket, wishing I could somehow capture the way the ice sparkles like diamonds in the sun. But nah, it’s just there.

We climb up to Gunsight Pass, which from a distance looks like a notch in the mountain. Carrying a heavy pack is starting to bother me today- I’ve got shooting pains in both my shoulders, and my knees are sore. Again, how do regular backpackers do it. How.

We have lunch next to a gorgeous clear river, our shoes, wet from the meadows, drying in the sun. Then the rest of the day is flat- meadows and forests, meadows and forests. In the afternoon we come around a grassy bend and there is Green River Lake set against some granite peaks- it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen on the CDT so far. We must be getting into the winds! The water is an impossible blue color, on account of the glacial silt washed down from the mountains. There’s a cluster of ancient cabins on the shore of the lake, and we poke around inside. I jump in the water, gasping at the cold. Spark and Track Meat won’t go in.

The trail follows the Green River upstream after the lake, and I look at the sparkling water as I walk. What a magical planet we live on. Camp is at the base of the climb that will take us up to Knapsack Col, which is said to be one of the best parts of the CDT- tomorrow we climb to 12 thousand feet!

Photos on instagram

CDT day 85: a perfect day

July 28
Mileage: 32.5
1550 miles hiked

We wake up to shelters crusted in ice and water partially frozen in our bottles. How did this happen? July in Wyoming. Go home weather, you’re drunk.

This weather feels nice once we start walking, though. Cool and crisp and sunny, and the trail climbs gently along the forested ridge. We’re wearing all our layers. We pretend it’s a brisk fall day in Maine.

We make up an alternate partway through the morning- the trail makes a big arc to go around a steep rock bluff but we decide to go up and over it. Its steep scree but the scree is big and it feels safe and fun to maneuver on. Once on top we’re warm from all the climbing, and we have a sense of accomplishment. Hiking is fun!

I feel freaking fantastic today- I slept like a log in the cold last night. And I’m starting to feel strong again. I’m carrying 6 days of food, the most food I’ve ever carried at once, but oddly my pack doesn’t feel too bad. The elevation profile continues to be gentle and kind- there are faded jeep tracks along rolling ridges, broad lumpy fields of waving brown grass with trail that comes and goes. Springs, small clear streams that trickle through the grass. Thank goodness for Wyoming.

At lunchtime the temperature peaks at a balmy fifty degrees. We sit next to a pond wrapped in our sleeping bags eating strange combinations of junk food, watching our shelters dry where we’ve spread them on the grass. Afterwards I listen to Willie Nelson’s Stardust cover album as I plod through the meadows and fields, the ragged peaks of the Tetons on the far horizon.

Time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much

Camp is at Lake of the Woods, a largish lake spotted with lily pads, the waxing moon reflecting off its surface. Track Meat is there when I arrive, building a fire in the fire ring. We rarely build fires, but what a genius idea! The temperature is already plummeting and we huddle around the fire, absorbing the magic heat and consuming our underwhelming dinners. Ah, winter camping. A loon or something is calling in the woods. I am happy!

Photos on instagram

CDT day 84: snow in July

July 27
Mileage: 3
1517.5 miles hiked

I wake up at 2 a.m. in our motel room, thinking it’s morning. But it’s only… 2 a.m. I’m awake for a while in the dark, answering emails and doing errands on my phone. Everything piles up when I’m in the woods, unawares- it piles up and piles up, and then when I get to town and have reception it’s like a deluge. I think of the main character in the Dave Eggars book The Circle, and how she would “open the chute” every morning at her desk job. It feels like that.

I wake again and it’s morning. I feel like another version of myself in hotel rooms- clean but wearing dirty clothes, hair fluffy, sunburn washed off. This version of myself goes to the cafe in front of the hotel for breakfast. The Kowabunga Bandits, freshly laundered, order huge plates of sausage and eggs. The cafe is also a donut shop, and many donuts are consumed. I am now in a glutenfog. Then begins the hustle and bustle of a town day.

We do so many things, and yet by the time we hitch out at 6 p.m. all the things are not even done. My backpack feels crazy heavy- this next stretch to Lander, Wyoming through the Wind River range is 165 miles, the longest resupply any of us have ever done. We want to do the section in 5.5. days, but we’re carring 6 days of food just in case. It feels like there’s an anvil on my back. Fuck! How do regular backpackers do this? There are two really cool alternates in this section, that are the same length as the CDT and that most everyone does- Knapsack Col and Cirque de Towers. I think about these words as I pack up. Col. What is a “col”? And towers! This section is supposed to be really difficult, and most people bring at least seven days of food- but hey, we did Montana. Every day that passes in blissful gentle Wyoming makes me more fully aware of how hard Montana actually was. So much steep climbing, never ever flat. I think my blog posts in Montana actually got pretty negative for a while- especially when I had giardia. Sorry about that folks. Sometimes shit is just bummersville.

“Are you sure you want to hitch out tonight?” Says the woman who gives us a ride back to the trail. “It’s supposed to get down to 33 degrees.”

“Yes?” We say, knowing she means in Dubois- it’ll be even colder at the pass, up where the trail is. At the pass we shoulder our packs and set out- we’re wearing all of our layers and a frigid wind is blowing. We hike just a few miles to water and set up our shelters in the trees. Soon the sun is blocked by great dark clouds and presently it begins to snow. Bitter cold snowflakes, falling down around us. I realize as I’m eating my cold-soaked quinoa dinner mush that I forgot to check the weather, and I have no idea how long this cold front will last. I wonder what this section will bring…

Photos on instagram

CDT day 83: Dubois!

July 26
Mileage: 30
1514.5 miles hiked

I wake up at 4:30 in the freezing dark (coldest hour of the night!) so that I have enough time to hike the 30 miles to the pass and still hitch into town. I shiver through my breakfast in the dark but then the first light of dawn comes over the mountains while I’m walking and it’s all worth it. I wish I woke up this early every day. But to do that I’d have to be asleep by eight… and it’s not even dark out by then. Soon, though. Fall is coming!

Three long climbs today. I take the wrong trail for a halfmile and fall behind- and then I crash. I sit on the ground next to a stream blearily eating chips. I’m tired. My body is tired today! Onward. Climbs! The trail has a million junctions, it’s hard to keep track of where I am. Oh and I only have a bit of jerky and a few spoonfuls of nut butter left, for food. Oh this day.

I never catch up to Track Meat and Spark. The only reason I even see them each day, being the slow walker that I am, is because we usually take an hour lunch, and I’m often about a half hour behind. But no lunch today, in the rush.

A few miles before the pass the trail winds pass Brooks Lake- jagged mountains rise up on both sides of the wide flat water, giving me a taste of what I imagine the Wind River range will be like. Wyoming is really beautiful today, and I know the epic-ness has only just begun.

It’s a hard hitch from the pass into Dubois. I get there at 5:30 and I’m standing in the hot sun for almost an hour, but then Dude in a Pickup Truck comes to the rescue, per usual, and ferries me along. Wherever you’re hitching, no matter how stuck you are- Dude in a Pickup Truck will eventually stop, even when no-one else will. Dude drops me off in two-block Dubois, which features a string of homey motels and a couple of quiet cafes. Buck-30 and our english friend Benjamin are there, as well as Shera, who is hiking northbound and whose blog I read! It’s fun to follow someone online and then meet them at last. It’s good to be around hikers! I only wish she were hiking south, instead of us passing like ships in the night. It’d be fun to hang more!

Dinner is a burger from the diner, a wonderful shower is had, much online errands are done and then I collapse, listening to the sound of the Wind River through the window of our motel room.

Photos on instagram

CDT day 82: the kowabunga bandits

July 25
Mileage: 32
1484.5 miles hiked

I have the most magical dreams and when I wake up on my neo-air in the frozen morning air with the dew on my sleeping bag I feel happy for no reason. It’s amazing to be alive, you know?

Long slow climb this morning, out of the forest back up into the flowery alpine meadows with their granite peaks. Way up to ten thousand feet! We’re in the Teton Wilderness now. My legs are tired after that climb and I zone out all the way to camp, which is in a river valley between green mountain slopes. I saw a black bear today! Nosing about in a burn amongst the fireweed without a care in the world. It didn’t see me. In camp Track Meat, Spark and I sit in the wide, muddy trail, made convoluted by invisible horses, and make up the story for our bandit gang as we eat our dinners in the gloaming. We’re called the kowabunga bandits, and the setting is medieval Europe, roughly. We’re vigalantes who take out feudal lords and redistribute wealth, after keeping some of it for ourselves. We hike mostly at night and disguise our camps well. Track Meat’s character is called The Red Sweater- he was high up in the king’s guard but deserted after becoming disillusioned after a string of particularly unethical raids on villagers. The Red Sweater has access to much resources and connections and provides us with our hideout deep in the mountains. He’s handy with the hand axes in a fight. His weakness is his bum knee, and he has a characteristic limp because of it.

Spark is Creator the Blight- a super-ninja of sorts who can descend into a room and snap the necks of every person in it without making a single sound. He’s deadly with a tomahawk, guillotine wire and a long knife. Creator’s ethics, however, are questionable, as he seems to be in the gang mostly for the killing and the money, and we don’t quite trust him. When he speaks he has a super whiny, annoying voice, and he only talks about himself in the third person, prompting The Red Sweater to regularly declare- “Shut the fuck up!” His weakness is that he’s illiterate.

I’m Ol’ Blindy, the intel/logistics/infiltration specialist of the group. I’m also the most passionate about our do-gooder mission, which can sometimes cripple us. I do the legwork to figure out how to sneak into these large estates, bribe guards for uniforms and information, slink around in the dark collecting intel and formulating a plan. My weakness is that my vision is terrible and I hate combat, so I’m totally useless in a fight. I pretty much just run away.

Tonight our gang of vigilantes sets their alarm for 4:30 a.m.- we’ve got 30 miles to the pass in the morning and we need to make it there with enough time for what is a notoriously difficult hitch into Dubois.

Photos on instagram

CDT day 81: flat trail and hot creeks

July 24
Mileage: 29
1452.5 miles hiked

Spark set his alarm for 5:55 a.m. last night, as that’s when the sunrise is and we’re camped at a really nice lake with optimal sunrise views. At first I was grumpy about this, as I hate waking up to an alarm more than anything and am likely to sleep poorly if I even know than an alarm is set- even so, at dawn I am grateful. Because this sunrise is fucking awesome.

I feel like crap this morning, sort of tired and out of it, but as the day goes on I start to feel better. The part of the CDT through Yellowstone is completely flat- just monotonous pine forest with the occasional geyser. We’re in a super-valcano, apparently. With wolves and bison.

We meet more northbounders! “The snow people” I am calling them- the people who went through the snow, instead of taking time off or flipping. We meet The Reverend, Karma, and Maniac. It’s so fun to see other hikers. The way everyone is split up on account of the snow has turned this into quite the lonely year to hike. I wish there were more people around to hike with.

In the afternoon we stop to fill our bottles at a creek- and the creek is hot! It’s called Witch Creek. So cool! At Heart Lake we find the spot where Witch Creek empties into the lake and Track Meat and I jump in, paddling around in the tepid bathwater. Then more hours cruising through the flat forest, to camp.

Photos on instagram

CDT day 80: old faithful village overwhelm

July 23
Mileage: 22
1423.5 miles hiked

Old Faithful village is a bit of a nightmare. Even on a Wednesday in the rain the crowds are so thick that I feel like I’m at some sort of sporting event- hundreds of clean people in bright clothing clustered along the boardwalk around the main geysers, waiting for them to erupt. People jostling for things, people going in and out of doors. It rained hard all night last night and then we hiked here this morning in the cold rain- I just want someplace warm and dry to explode my pack and maybe get an overpriced sandwich or something. But these people. Walking fanned out in slow motion down the boardwalk, slowing our progress. After the first few geysers, which are like cool jewel-colored portals to another world, I can’t even enjoy them anymore. I just need to get away from the crowds.

There’s a big fancy lodge and we post up in the lobby, after consuming lots of expensive food in the cafeteria and table-diving even more. For some reason I can’t manage to get anything done- the internet on my phone won’t work, even though it says it has 4G, so I can’t check my email or upload blogs, and the post office here, much like the one in West Yellowstone, has sent my package return to sender after fifteen days. We do manage to dry our stuff, spreading it in the grass behind the lodge in the warm sun that has just come out. Spark overhears some people talking about us-

Did you see those mountain people? To come into a nice place like this and smell that B.O.!

The people here are decked out in gortex jackets and quick-dry zip-off pants, and this is a national park with a thousand miles of trails, but they seem never to have heard of a thing called backpacking. They stare at us with open hostility. We gotta get out of here!

Since my box was sent away I end up doing my entire resupply at the small general store, where there is very little that I can eat and everything costs at least double what it should. I end up with mostly chips and granola, plus some jerky. Time passes at a dizzying rate and by the time we hike out it’s 3 p.m. We only have eleven miles to go, to our designated campsite at a lake. The trail here is completely flat and before I know it I’m sitting on the shores of such lake, eating chips and watching Track Meat wade out into the water. The clouds are light and fluffy and there’s a moose in the meadow behind us. In 90 miles we’ll be in Dubois, which is supposed to be a perfect hiker town.

Photos on instagram