The Winds: Rock & Ice

Moose mama & calf

8/11/10 – We were excited to re-unite with Kombucha, Hawkeye, Joker, Rolling Thunder, Myke and Stretch that morning…. they’d had a shorter but also arduous bushwack to Clear Lake. The next day I got sick, vomitting several times before sadly deciding to skip the Cirque of the Towers, a cirque of mountains that required an bushwack up to 11,000+ feet. Everyone else did the Cirque, except Myke who was eager to meet his wife Naomi in Lander. Hawkeye had had a similar stomache bug the past few days. I don’t think the 1.5 days of insane climbing cross-country put my imune system in a very good state.  But despite my bubbling, aching tummy we made it over Temple Pass on 8/13 and met Pace, Coach & Whitefish by Little Sandy Lake. We’ve named them “Team Flip Flop” because they’re thru-hiking the CDT this year but have flip flopped all over the place. They started in New Mexico, hiking North, then flipped up to Canada and began hiking south with some other sections in between.  Coach & Whitefish also did the PCT in 2009. I’m pretty sure that the majority of the CDTers this year hiked the PCT in 09 like us….. so far there’s us, Kombucha, Joker, Rock Steady, Myke, Heaps, Sage, Ice Ax, Snorkel & Frogger, Pi, Coach, Whitefish… and I’m sure I’m missing some.  Total there’s only about 25 thru-hikers going north (NoBo) and about 25 going south (SoBo).  Anyhow, they were friendly but unfortuantely we probably wouldn’t see much of them since from Hwy 28 they would skip ahead to Rawlins since they’d already done the Great Divide Basin.  Our last few miles to the highway were on a dirt road, not very scenic but fast miles and easy terrain. And as we were leaving the woods we saw a mama and baby moose in a swampy meadow….. I can’t say they’re the most beautiful animals but it was still an exciting wildlife viewing!

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The Winds: Trailicious

8/10 – We anticipated it only taking us a few hours TOPS to follow Pixley Creek cross-country back to the actually trail along the Green River. However we spent until noon that day scrambling/rock climbing/boulder hopping/down-climbing waterfalls. When we first got low enough to see grass and wildflowers it was thrilling. The precious Indian Paintbrush, Aster and Alpine Arnica had never smelled so sweet. Then we were filled with a similar joy at the sight of our first tree….. until we were having to push our way through tree branches and climb over downfallen logs. When we finally reached the trail Dan & Heaps just sat there, soaking up the joy of a pleasant dirt path for us to follow…. the gorgeous scenery continued with Vista Pass & Shannon Pass… alpine meadows brimming with wildflowers and dotted with granite rocks, numerous lakes and streams reflecting the intense blue sky and NO mosquitos! That was a true blessing!

The Winds: Bushwack Bonanza

Sunrise near Three Waters Mountain

Looking down on Dad's Lakes

8/7 – 8/8 We started in smaller groups but strangely enough ended up re-uniting after a bushwack around Lava Mountain until Tok, Lost & Found decided to stick to the Red Route (the official route) while the rest of us headed to Union Pass on the Purple Route (an alternate).  On 8/9  Rock Steady, Heaps and us set off on the Rainbow Route to top all Rainbow Routes (cross-country routes we made up).  It started off with sunrise that turned everything in its light a pale shade of pink. Then we startled two buck elk who posed majestically on the hillside before crashing off into the woods. Ascending the rocky meadow near Shale Mountain, we looked down on alpine lakes whose water was steely grey in the morning light.  As the sun rose the lakes changed from a milky turquoise to a placid cornflower, and still we climbed.  We crossed some permanent snowfields and were up on the Divide climbing up yellow-tinted rock when we decided to stop for lunch. Rock Steady decided to go on ahead. Our plan was to be down off the divide by the afternoon since we’d had some intense thunder and lightning storms the past few days, but we were making much slower progress than anticipated. Still, we found time to cross Continental Glacier and scramble up to Down’s Peak, a 13,260 foot rock pile perched on the Divide.

 

Thankfully, though, the weather held…. we heard a rumble of thunder and had some brief hail/snow flurries on our way down but the most threatening clouds seemed to just blow on past us. Nonetheless, we were making pathetic progress and using muscles normally dormant on a thru-hiker.  But the scenery was getting more and more spectacular.  In the distance we could see Gannett Peak, the highest mountain in Wyoming, and a dozen other granite towers and peaks. We enjoyed a small section of flat ground before traversing around Yukon peak, and glissading down to the glacial moraine between Baker & Iceberg Lakes. As we came around a bend we saw a huge serac – a massive cliff as if Sourdough Glacier had been sliced open – and Klondike peak above.

Baker Lake

We thought the going would get easier now that we were off the Divide, but the size of the boulders just increased and at one point we were forced to backtrack when we hit an impassable cliff face. Still, elated and exhausted we arrived at a semi-suitable  camp spot and disappeared into the safety of our sil-nylon just in time to hear the rain begin to pound our wind-blown shelter. What a day!