It was another 4 miles down a road to the
trailhead we were shooting for. The letters C.D.T., those were just letters, we
were making our own way. It wasn't even close to the official CDT, but it
didn't matter, we were walking into the Winds. A mile into our road-walk,
another car stopped. Less time on the road meant more time in the mountains. An
elderly woman looked back at us. "Where do you need to go?" She was amazing,
dominating. She had a quicker wit than most people half her age, and she knew
everything. She knew exactly where we were going, "Oh, I went back there 30
years ago", she said, "the glaciers are really receding now though, it's a sad
thing to see." She loved the Winds. She lived just off the road, owned an
entire lake it seemed. "Here's something you'll want to see", she stopped the
car and pointed to a large rock. We got out to investigate. The side of the
rock facing the lake was covered in a huge petroglyph. It wasn't some simple
handprint smear, it was an intricate carving, one that had taken time and
planning to create, a god? a demon? both? "Oh, there are a bunch of them around
here", she told us. "There's another", she pointed up to a rock decorated with
a crisp design even more detailed than the last. "This area was very sacred to
the ancient people", she said, in a tone that told us it was sacred to her too.
Our guided tour was too brief, "Well, this is as far as I go.", she told us, as
she let us out just before the trailhead. She didn't need to be excited for us,
she'd been in these mountains, she knew where we were headed, she didn't have
to dream about any of it, it was her reality, her life.
We arrived at the trailhead and started walking.
We were each weighed down by 7 days of heavy food, and didn't make it very far.
We called it a night on the side of a ridge, about 3 miles
A few miles into the next day, we left the
trail. We'd picked the fastest route up to the divide, it was just a matter of
following the topographic map. It was great, we could go anywhere it seemed,
and anywhere we went, we were the only ones there. We weren't trodding some
path that had been explored by dozens of hikers over the last 20 years, we were
just winging it. We climbed through a light rocky forest, then down to a small
tarn. Then we went down some steep rocks to a creek, which we followed up a
pile of boulders to the plateau of Shale Mountain.
Shale Mountain was a 12,000ft slanted shelf, 2
miles wide and 3 miles long. The surface of Shale Mountain was made from
boulders, which were slowly being covered by grass and soil. How long, I
wondered, had it been like that up there? It looked like the grass had just
started growing, but I knew it was probably a hundred years old. The entire
mountaintop had been covered with a sheet of ice during the little ice age, the
one that had ended in the mid 1800's. We hopped from rock to rock for two miles
straight - it was the only to get sure footing. Far to our left and right, the
edge of Shale Mountain dropped into thousand foot cliffs, we were on the island
in the sky, our own private country: population 3.
Ahead of us, the mountain slowly rose, a 50-foot
high anomalous stack of boulders marked the summit. On the way, we passed the
last remnants of the little ice age - a permanent icy snowbank melting rapidly
into a giant serene puddle which was framed by naked rocks. In one place, where
the ice had cracked, I walked up into the belly of the dying monster. The sun
beat through it, and a deep blue glow emanated from within. A rivulet of pure
water drained from the top. It was real water, better than the kind of water
they paid for in trendy cafes in Paris. I had all I could drink, more than I
could ever hope to drink. I climbed up the summit stack of Shale Mountain. John
and Mario were already there, examining a little jar containing a small
note-pad - a summit register. Only one other person had signed it that year.
The view south opened up, we could see miles of the divide - rolling grey
peaks, covered in sheets of ice that got steeper and rougher as the miles wore
Our plan A was to walk the divide, south from
Shale, a good 15 miles or so to Tourist Creek, then drop down and pick up the
CDT once more. The sky wasn't cooperating though, dark clouds had formed all
around us, and it was just a matter of time before they broke open. We were
standing quite literally on the highest point for miles - a little nipple of
rock on a giant mound. John wrote in the register, "3 CDT hikers, black clouds,
gotta go". Anybody who read it would understand the urgency. We raced off the
summit just as it stared to snow. The nearest tree was miles away, we had to be
content with whatever cover we could get - our odds of "not being hit by
lightning" improved slightly with each step downhill.
The dark rocks on the north side of Shale were
the size of small cars and motorcycles, in every conceivable sharpened angular
shape. No solid soil was visible beneath. I had the feeling that the entire
mountain was just a mess of giant broken chunks, hundreds or thousands of feet
deep, all stacked and balanced on top of one another. We hopped over dark gaps
in the rocks, and balanced along their rough broken edges. I looked over at my
companions as they glided effortlessly over the pile, not even thinking about
any step, just moving, balancing, bouncing, drifting, picking their way along.
We'd been doing it a lot. I'd never thought of rock-hopping as a skill, but
apparently it was, and we were all champions at it. For one of the few times in
my life, I felt somehow special. I was good at it. It wasn't anything I'd
consciously worked at, but there it was... I was having a blast. One bad step
would have meant a certain serious injury, but it never even occurred as a
thought, just as one doesn't think about tripping down a staircase.
The snow quickly turned to a light rain. Sharp
sonic booms echoed through mountaintops, plan B had definitely been the right
choice. We spied a giant boulder that leaned on one side, there was a space
underneath - out of the rain. We waited there for the storm to pass. We were
near the shore of a small lake where the terrain was still dominated by dark
jagged rocks, the sky was various shades of grey, constantly moving and
reforming. The surface of the lake was still, the sparkle of fine raindrops
faded quickly into the glass. The lake was young for a lake, but to us,
everything was ancient.
As we descended from the lake, lower in
elevation, the rock gave way to more alpine grass and flowers. We were
re-entering a land where things could actually live, survive, and even thrive.
The plants were always pushing that upper envelope, but they could only go so
far. Lower, the grass and soil became dominant, a few sharpened tips of giant
rocks poked out here and there, a reminder of what was underneath it all. Pikas
perched themselves on the tips of rocks like little decorative fuzzballs,
announcing their presence, "meeep"... "meeep".
We continued, following our map, constantly
re-examining it to make sure we were still on course. Just above us, clouds had
covered the highest mountaintops. The clouds were whipping through and past the
rock, swirling, breaking up and re-forming. An occasional crack of thunder gave
a us a hint of what was going on behind the grey blanket. Again, we were glad
we'd taken plan B. We passed by a series of tranquil lakes, framed with lush
grass, grey rocks and alpine flowers, late in their bloom. It was summer, a
brief time for the mountaintops. A month ago, the snow had finally melted, but
in another month the next winter would start. We were still headed downhill.
We finally got low enough to intersect a trail.
We passed a couple big backpacking tents, set up behind rocks. The first few
dwarf trees appeared, the same species grew to 50 or 60 feet down low, but at
elevation, they were barely higher than we were. We ducked under a few of them
to dodge another rain squall... a pretty dismal shelter, but better than
A group of horse-packers were ahead of us on the
trail. We assumed they had the same destination we did - Faler Lake. The
horse-packers were having trouble with one stubborn greyish-white horse. The
horse was loaded down with two gigantic boxes of... who knew what? all the
stuff from which I was happy to be away, I supposed. They coaxed the horse,
they tugged its reigns, they beat its backside... it moved a couple feet. They
left it there on the side of the hill, alone, it was torture for a horse. It
just stood there. "Was he scared of the lightning?", I asked one of the
packers. "Naw, he's just tired, he don't want to go anymore." The horse wasn't
stubborn, it was utterly exhausted, it had lost all desire to move any further.
In its mind, any degree of beating was better than one more step forward. I
felt sorry for the horse. When they finally managed to get it down the hill,
they unstrapped the boxes. Deep stretch marks were visible where the boxes had
been tightly lashed down.
The hike down to Faler Lake was a postcard, a
painting. It was unreal. The slope of short brown grasses led down to the lake,
a blue fragment surrounded by sheer cliffs. As we hiked down, a bald eagle
soared past, screeching, "I am free". It was almost too perfect a scene to
actually be real. Perfect how? It was that one great clip from that movie, the
one that they played over and over and over, and it never got old... it was
perfect like that.
We got down to the lake and found a place to
camp, back in some trees. We sat in a small patch, eating our noodles and
watching the horses graze. The packers were on the other side of the hill, near
the lake, making a fire and setting up their army tents, I assumed. One of the
horses was tugging desperately at a leg strap that kept it close to a tree, it
didn't understand. Another had already managed to free itself from its bonds.
"These people...", Mario shook his head, "They should at least brush the
The trail ended at Faler Lake, but the next
morning, we kept going, beyond the end. The way was steep, very steep. We
followed a wooded slope, next to a creek that raged down some rocks, down
through the forest. The sound and feel of splashing water dominated. We found
some small cairns on the right side of the stream... it was somebody's secret
route, their favorite place. The cairns didn't mark a trail, just a way to
weave through the woods without walking over cliffs. The forest flattened
briefly at another lake, more isolated than Faler, perhaps even more majestic.
It hardly seemed possible.
We kept heading down, past that lake too. The
slope slightly flattened. The forest became a tangle of broken and fallen
trees. It had burned a number of years ago, who knew when? The fire had created
a maze, a barrier to all but the determined. That was us, we only had one way
to go - forward. There were no complaints, I relished picking my way through
the busted trees. We reached a natural bridge, where the river ducked under the
earth, then back out the other side. Trail again. Then I remembered, walking
didn't have to be tough. The trail was like driving on smooth pavement after a
life on a gravel washboard. We were sailing once again, the Winds were blowing
and there was more to come.
I looked back toward where we'd come. The valley
was perfect, a wide river wound through the tall green grass, jagged mountains
were all around. I looked over the river and saw a small grassy knoll that rose
slightly above the valley floor. It was where I needed to be. Obstacles had no
meaning anymore, I waded through the thigh-high water and climbed up the knoll
just to view the view. We'd just walked from "there", I thought, all the way
downhill from Shale Mountain... a day ago, from Canada, 2 months to the day. I
knew why, but couldn't explain it even to myself.
We were following the Green River, headed
upstream, back "up there", further south. The river flowed like a giant liquid
emerald - glacial silt reflected the sun making the water glow a surreal
aquamarine, as if enchanted by elves. Above us, peaks were everywhere. We
slowly bent around Squaretop Mountain - every angle more revealing than the
last. The trail was perfect. It was a snake, smooth and elegant, we rode its
back, slithering through the woods on a magical mountain tour.
We took a break under some trees near a small
creek. A couple hikers passed by, then a couple the other way. They were just
more mountain wildlife - homo modernus nyloni. A couple of forest service
workers passed by, dressed in camouflage green. We made up some excuse to talk
to them. They had secrets, I thought, they'd been out there long enough, they
knew something I needed to know... They had just blown up a dead mule, an
aspect of the job they found both disgusting and humorous. What else does one
do with a mule carcass laying on the trail? I didn't ask where they'd put the
dynamite. I was busy concocting a plan C, and asked them about it, "Hey, we
were thinking of going up Knapsack Col & down the other side, do you think
that'd work?" I had found that most government employees I met in the woods -
national parks and national forests, etc, - either didn't know much about off
trail travel, or didn't think that anyone was capable or deserving or
responsible enough to try anything even slightly risky. These two were
different though, they understood our motivations and our dirt. "I think it'd
work, I've never done it, but it seems possible..." one of them figured. They
were plum cool. They also suggested climbing Fremont Peak when John asked,
"which peak would be killer."
We passed the stench of the mule carcass...
somewhere back there, it was nothing more than scraps of protein morsels the
forest would soon consume. We climbed into the evening, into the sky. The
clouds raced close above the treetops. We found a perfect campsite - a cleared
area underneath a thick group of tall trees. I set up my tarp, my 3ft x 9ft
home. The wind made soft music through the branches above as I took deep
breaths and pulled my sleeping bag around my face. 2 months, was that all? At
that rate, I figured, I'd live forever.
The sky was clear in the morning. I could feel
that the weather had turned. Every morning was clear, but there was some
intangible feeling about the start of days destined to stay that way. Maybe I'd
tuned into the barometric pressure or something, I wasn't sure. We climbed back
above the trees, occasionally glancing back, down the gigantic valley that held
the Green River. The river was just a shimmering line in the bottom of a vast
A group of people were headed down from the pass
above, Cube Rock Pass. The first one was sitting on a rock, staring ahead and
breathing hard. "Tell the others I made it.", he said urgently. "Ok", we
responded. We kept heading up. More homo modernus nyloni came down, "This is
the worst trail I've ever been on!", one of them exclaimed to anyone within
earshot. Another warned us in a worried tone, "You'll never make it through
here, the trail is wiped out, it's really easy to get lost." 20 yards later, we
came to an area where more gigantic boulders had slid down, obliterating any
sign of a hiking trail. But it was barely worth a footnote in our books. We
clamored over them, and reached smooth tread a couple minutes later. "Was that
what had them all flustered?", we asked each other. We got to the top of the
pass and basked in the sun. I took off my shoes and felt the 2-inch grass
permeate my souls.
We had to make a decision, would it be dragons
or the chart? Somewhere up a slope of grass and rocks and glaciers was knapsack
col - a notch of a pass, one that the maps didn't show in much detail. It
appeared there was a small glacier on the other side. We weren't positive we
could get through safely, but I was willing to gamble. I knew we'd figure
something out. I wasn't foolish, just confident, I knew the difference. John
wanted to save his knees for Fremont Peak the next day. My knees weren't a
factor, I wanted to do both. Mario felt more like I did. "I go there", he said,
pointing to the mountiantops. So, we split up. The world was big, but the trail
was thin, we'd see John again on the other side somewhere.
Mario and I stepped off the trail, and onto more
giant megahedron boulders. Their size dwarfed all the previous "baby rocks"
we'd walked on before. They were the size and shape of dead elephants, of buses
and busted suburban homes. We were hiking in 3 dimensions, all directions, the
maze continued around a small lake. We had to go backward to go forward, go up
to get back down. It was the only way.
We stepped off the boulders and quickly
encountered... a trail - a footpath beaten into the ground by generations of
professional wanderers. The path led the way, up, up, past a roar of thick
water, into the trickle of the fairy streams which poured out of the soil like
as much magic - gifts for us mortals. The path wound up to the Col, a little
notch above. Sheets of dirty ice decorated the mountainsides all around -
rapidly melting glaciers covered with rocks, dying in the sunlight. It was a
glorious death though, one for which they were worthy. Two travellers came our
way. They'd met the old man on the mountaintop, and he'd sent them back, filled
with words they couldn't hear, and wisdom they could never understand. Mario
immediately knew - they were Dutch. There, of all places, halfway 'round the
globe from Holland. I wanted to be Dutch too.
We reached the top of the col, the pass. The
world was below. I felt timid and small, I opened myself to the mountains and
they swallowed me up. I was nothing, just a transient fleck of fleshy earth
dust. If I could have lived forever, I thought, I would have been a rock on top
of a mountain, watching time pass in eons like seconds. There. I immersed
myself in the moment, I knew that for me, pitiful little me, the moment
couldn't last. I HAD to remember it all, every sense. The mountains were so
lucky, I hoped they knew it. Ahead of us was a giant cirque of rock and ice. A
2000 foot vertical wall of cracks dominated the far side. Jagged peaks jutted
above others and others - a parade of pinnacles that nearly encircled us. There
was but one way down, all the everything drained down a hissing snakestream far
The way down led over a sheet of ice. It wasn't
too steep, but I had no way to gain traction. I tried every resource I could,
but each step was a slip. Finally, I gave in to the slip and crouched down, I
aimed for a adequate place to land. Tiny rivulets of glacial water streamed
down the top of the ice - little clear ribbons, one next to the other, marching
one way, forever downhill. They had it easy. But, I didn't have it too hard.
The slope of the ice eased and I was able to step onto solid rock before too
long. In order to continue, the fastest way down was straight down. That way
wasn't steep, but it was all ice. The glacier wasn't crevassed, at least not
severely, but sliding down the snow and ice didn't look inviting, I just knew,
we had to traverse over the rocks, around the side of the ice. Plus, it looked
like there'd be a great view that other way - I had my
The rocks on the side of the glacier were also
giants, but we could see beneath them. Ice. We were far from solid ground. The
boulders were new, they had only recently tumbled down onto the glacier, at
least more recently than the ice had formed. The ice was melting, which meant
the ice was moving, which meant the boulders were moving, shifting, slowly.
They were not like the stable boulders we'd been cheerfully hopping through
earlier. From the outside, they looked the same, they felt the same, but they
were not. Each step required more thought, more caution. Progress was trickier,
but we focused. The ice dimmed, further and further under the rocks... were we
off the glacier yet? We stepped onto a small patch of soil, a plant or two.
I couldn't see the dragons, they were flying
behind my head, turning when I turned. One of them let loose a huge hunk of the
mountain from above a glacier, across the cirque. The rock tumbled down the
steep ice, tearing up a cloud of snow, smashing into fragments, spinning, out
of control. The thundering cracks and rumbles were delayed by the distance and
refracted by the mountains, it sounded artificial. Dramatically, the gigantic
boulder rolled down, down, finally crashing into its brothers, finding its new
home. Each rock had been born of the same circumstance, each of these millions
of rocks, alive and moving. "That is why I want to go here.", Mario said,
pointing underneath us. I had temporarily forgotten about the dangers of the
fall-line, I had just wanted a view. The dragons were testing me, warning me,
being nice this time.
We picked our way down more steep rocks and
short cliffs. Finally, the slope abated, and we didn't have to be as careful.
We could just relax and enjoy the view of the towers all around. Near the base
of the 2000 foot vertical wall, a small city of tents had sprung up, a few
people wandered about. They were headed up to Gannet Peak the next day, or
maybe it was going to take a couple days, I wasn't sure. Gannet was the highest
point in Wyoming, and that fact was an irresistible advertisement to anyone who
loved climbing mountains. The group was from, of all places, Wisconsin. They
were in a little over their heads, but they knew it, they were learning things,
being cautious. Gannet wasn't a super-technical climb, but it did require a
knowledge of glacier travel techniques - rope, crampons, ice axes, knots, etc,
etc, etc... They were excited for us, I was excited for them, for us too... I
wanted to hug them. I didn't care who they were or what they were doing, male
or female? Whatever. I was just happy. I understood Azure.
As we continued down the the drainage, a giant
pair of glacial lakes filled the valley below - Titcomb Lakes. The lakes glew
blue and green in the sunlight that filtered through the clouds. We took a
break in some soft short grass nearby. I didn't want to move, didn't want to
walk any further. Whatever I'd been looking for on the hike, I'd found it... I
just had to stay there a while and figure out what it was. Time had other ideas
though, it was constantly pushing ahead, and as quickly as I'd decided to stay,
I got up and continued down, on trail. I looked back every 5 steps though. The
view was ever-changing, unbelievable. What was it about a view that awakened a
fire within us? I wondered. I did not know the answer, I figured I'd never
know, I just enjoyed the warmth of the flame, it was roaring.
We intersected the trail again, the CDT... or
was it another trail, no matter, it headed where we wanted to go. John was
right there, right then, completely through unplanned timing and luck. We said
our hellos and headed toward Fremont peak.
The land was rolling, glaciated. True boulders,
isolated rocks weathered into rounded shapes, dotted the landscape. Some other
time, glaciers had covered the land, the boulders had fallen onto the glaciers
and been carried by the slowly meandering ice. When the ice melted, the rocks
settled to the ground. That ground still held the scars of the glaciers - it
was solid rock, smoothly carved and shaped into lakes and hills. Plants had
taken root, made thin soil, multiplied where they could. It would have been a
bizarre landscape in any other setting. But there, it was everywhere, miles and
miles of it, bounded by sharp peaks on one side, and a green sheet of forest on
The pikas were talking to each other. I swore...
planning some grand party or revolution. They chattered away in their one-word
tongue, "meeep", as the light silently faded. We spent the night in that place,
11,000 feet above the sea, 2700 feet below Fremont, waiting for the sun to spin
around and give us another day.
Early the next morning, we headed up the
mountain. The climb up was a gigantic decision matrix. There were a thousand
correct paths, it was just a matter of choosing one. We drifted apart, each
finding our own way, alone. The slope tilted up, my hands came into play. It
was never really technically difficult or dangerous, just glorious. The world
opened up beneath as I pulled myself through the field of rocks. I reached the
top of Fremont Peak - population 5, elevation 13,745 feet. Two others had
started out before us. The tip was small. The other side of the mountain was a
vertical cliff, dropping straight down a hundred feet to a flat sheet of ice.
We were on the divide, a ridge of similar peaks and cliffs extended northward.
Gannet peak stood out among them, only 59 feet higher than we were standing,
but... higher. There was a giant metal cannister under one of the rocks - a
summit register in proportion to the peak. It was filled with names, dates,
words, thoughts, memories, occasions, photos, praise, everything and anything
people thought was important enough to leave. I left a few words, a few
memories, and a few minutes of my life - time I was glad to donate, but then I
thought, maybe like fishing, time spent on top of a mountain like Fremont
We headed down from Fremont. We had to put in
some miles. There was still a CDT to be hiked, and there were many mountains
ahead, we knew it, we could see quite a lot of them on the way down from the
top of Fremont. Titcomb lakes laid below, two giant splotches of blue, they
looked large, but not as large as they truly were. The land to the west
gradually flattened to the horizon. The winds were big, but they were all in a
line, hidden by huge tracts of rolling forest and desert to their sides. People
didn't know about the Winds, how was that possible? In a way I was glad that it
We circled around rock-bound lakes, up through
more glacial hills and boulders. We passed occasional hikers, on their own
trails, headed this way and that. By the early evening, the adrenaline had worn
off, we were beat. We stopped for a break at a tranquil lake just inside the
tree line - the first trees we'd seen in two days. In some other setting, the
lake would have attracted throngs of fans, sported summer homes and cottages
along the length of its shore, and been featured in magazines. In the Winds, it
didn't even have a name, it was just Lake 10,175 - distinguished only by its
elevation. A hummingbird moth - an unlikely creature, more bird than insect -
whizzed past my face while my body did nothing. "If only they could see this
place... see this moth...", I silently pondered and shook my head. The break
lasted all night.
The next day was a work day, we had miles to
cover. We were going through a section of the winds that saw little traffic.
Most other hikers came east to the mountains, then back west to their cars - a
day each direction. We were headed south, across the grain of the sparse human
traffic, with the grain of the divide. There was nobody out there, just
occasional lonely signposts, secretive mountain fauna, and the faded prints of
quickly forgotten travelers. The trail wound around the mountains, traversing
the flanks of a giant ridge to our left, the divide.
We drifted away from the highlands, into thicker
and thicker woods. I stopped to filter some water from a forested lake. It was
gigantic puddle replenished each year by rains and melting snow, then sucked
dry by the sun and earth sponge underneath. The sparkle of water hid the true
dryness of the place. The lakes were warm and stagnant. A dozen miles to the
west, the land was sagebrush, desert. John put it bluntly, "This water tastes
A small group of backpackers arrived at the lake
- they were done for the day at 3pm. It had been a long walk from their cars to
the lake, from their sedentary lives to that temporary other one they were just
figuring out. As usual, I asked them where they were headed. "Oh, we're going
all the way up to Europe Basin", the man said, He looked proud, strong, "It's a
long way up there", he boasted, trying to convey his sense of pending
accomplishment. "That should be great.", I replied. I looked it up on the map
later, 11 miles. I was happy for him, he was pushing his own limits in his own
way. They never asked us where we were going, or where we'd been. But it didn't
We finally found rest at 25 miles. 3 miles short
of our original plan, but far enough - it was always time for a new plan. We
set up camp on the grassy shore of a large lake in the unnamed zone between
mountains and desert.
The next morning, we continued over rolling
grassy hills. The craggy ridge of the divide was visible in the distance. The
trail faded away, we were left with occasional cairns, small piles of rocks in
a sea of grass. I rolled ahead, Mario and John disappeared.
I came down to a green grassy valley, where a
herd of a thousand sheep was grazing. In "the wilderness". In 1963, congress
passed the Wilderness Act - designed to set away land from the impacts of man,
to preserve bits of what was once everywhere. Most designated "wilderness
areas" were rough and rugged land, rock and ice and thick forests, land that
people hadn't yet pushed each other into. The Wind River mountains were covered
with a network of intertwining wilderness areas, areas that stretched all the
way north to the Tetons and Yellowstone. But before 1963, back a couple hundred
years, people had been grazing sheep in the lush mountain valleys in the
summers. The wilderness areas were a compromise, the livelihood and traditions
of a few people depended on grazing rights, and that trumped any other
priority. Their grazing rights were their identity, without sheep, without
access to the land, they were nothing, they would cease to exist. But, they
mostly hired cheap South American and Basque shepherds - those were the people
actually out with the sheep. The people who held the grazing rights? They owned
the sheep, collected the money, and occasionally drove jeeps or rode horses out
to check on things. They'd convinced themselves that they were really doing all
the work, that the land was their ancestral home. But, I felt their real
connection to the land went straight through a bank.
The trail became a stock-driveway, littered with
sheep shit. A few cows wandered here and there, thrown in for decoration, why
not. The lakes began to really taste like ass, they'd been reduced to giant
watering holes for the sake of business as usual - shores of hard-packed dirt
and churned-up mud.
John and Mario showed up, they'd taken an
unexpected detour somewhere back in the fields - the scenic route. We'd hiked
20 flat miles by 3pm. A few more miles and we popped out at Big Sandy
We were tired, the lodge was quiet. It consisted
of a series of cabins and one main building. A few quiet people worked there.
The clientele of the lodge was mostly hunters and fishermen. We were there in
the off-season. We had sent a package to the lodge from Dubois. We'd mailed it
on a Monday, via priority mail, to Rock Springs Wyoming - where the lodge's
owners lived - the package hadn't arrived. The owners had just been in Rock
Springs the previous day - no box... sorry. There wasn't anything they could
do. We had no new supplies, and we were a good sixty miles from the nearest
paved road. They offered us a box full of things that other hikers had left
behind - a tube of tomato paste, some couscous, rice. It wasn't enough. We ate
a quiet dinner at the lodge, and thought about our fate. There was only one
choice - we had to get out, had to skip ahead.
There was a trailhead parking area about a mile
from the lodge. We walked there. The lot was filled with cars. The trail beyond
the cars led to what was probably the most popular group of mountains in the
Wind River Range - the Cirque of Towers - a group of mountains we now wouldn't
get to see. Oh well. Certainly, we figured, somebody would be hiking out of
there the next morning, we'd get a ride to some town... somewhere in Wyoming,
we'd figure things out as we went.