8/16 – We left Lander and walked to South Pass City, a city that grew up around gold mining and later served as a resupply stop for those headed west on the Oregon Trail. It’s now been beautifully restored and is a state park.
We had a look around, signed the trail register and then made use of the picnic tables to have a lovely lunch. Myke & RT had Subway sandwiches and Heaps & Joker were enjoying tortillas with avocado, cream cheese and Chulula hot sauce. I was eating dry crackers and Dan was having cold oatmeal. Oh the jealousy! Joker has been our food advisor on the trail. He is full of unconventional wisdom and unusual trail food choices. Most people recommend dehydrated, lightweight food but after a while your tastebud object. Joker, on the other hand, would carry 1 bag of chips per day, avocados and now – a glass bottle of hot sauce! Not your typical resupply but tasty indeed. Joker truly has a love affair with Chulula….. but the good news is we’ve been invited to their wedding! First, he just has to find her!
We were beginning a 120 mile section in and around the Great Divide Basin, an area where the Continental Divide Basin splits and creates a circle. Since this area is relatively flat, the water that falls in this basin never reaches the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans. This may lead you to believe the Great Divide Basin (GDB) is lush, but in reality it gets barely any rain so it’s a desert of sage brush and alkali flats.
Lack of shade and water are serious concerns in the GDB, so imagine our surprise when we found ourselves in the thunder and lighting storm of the century on the first day out. There were no trees, nothing to serve as a lightning rod (except for Heaps, as he’s 6’7″) and we also had to cross 2 mud/swamp pits where the water reached my upper thighs. The lightning was spectacular, lighting up the horizon for miles in the distance and shifting constantly so that it seemed to be coming at us from all sides.
Thankfully we weren’t struck, though it did take us a while to warm up after the sun returned. We could see the mighty Wind River Range reduced to small blue silhouette on the distant horizon. That evening as we walked on the endless jeep road, continually intersecting the old Oregon Trail and California Trail, a rusty-red jeep lumbered towards us. The driver, a friendly man named Tom, stopped to chat and (drum roll, please) offer us a few beers. What a way to end a day!