CDT 2021: Day 100, Bison Basin Road to Antelope Hills

I need a miracle every day

Dusk sky in Wyoming

I still sometimes shake my head in disbelief when I think about yesterday's hitchhike to Denver. How the day played out was improbable yet fitting in the ways of thru-hiking.

As the Grateful Dead song goes, "I need a miracle every day." We sure needed one yesterday and we got it.

Hikers always seem in need of a miracle, and in some inexplicable way, it is always delivered. We often use a different phrase to describe that: "The trail provides."

DateWednesday, July 21, 2021
WeatherPartly cloudy and breezy with a high temperature in the low-80s
Trail ConditionsGradual uphill on a double-track road
Today's Miles18.1
Trip Miles1413.7

I was mostly just a bystander and beneficiary of yesterday's miracle, and I am grateful for the four heroes who magically made it happen. First was OldTimer, who reached out to a friend, and second was Mark, the friend who agreed to drive us to Wyoming.

Then of course there were Top O' and Lorax. If they hadn't had a chance meeting on the road in South Fork, we probably wouldn't be in a Denver suburb this morning and ready to leave for Wyoming.

We decided last night we wanted to be out the door this morning by 5:00, and with surprising precision, we were in Mark's truck at 4:59.

The truck was much nicer than Lorax's cluttered minivan. I appreciated this because the drive to our trailhead in Wyoming was five hours.

OldTimer and Mark

To get to the trailhead, Mark had to drive the last 12 miles on a gravel road. It turned out to be helpful that Top O' and I had to walk this road when we were stranded after hitchhiking from Rawlins. We were able to assure Mark the road was smooth the whole way and didn't require four-wheel drive.

When we arrived at the trailhead at 10 a.m., we weren't just saying goodbye to Mark. OT was also leaving us. When he did his own flip to Wyoming last month, he managed to get farther north than us. He had already hiked about 30 miles more than we did.

Top O' and I would have liked to continue hiking with OT, but there was no need for him to duplicate those miles now. Besides, he said he was anxious to finish at the Canadian border as soon as possible because he had a lot of chores waiting for him at his farm in Ohio.

A trail marker at Bison Basin Road

Being dropped off where Bison Basin Road crossed the trail was a valuable help to us. It saved a half-day of walking from where Mark would have left us if he wasn't willing to take the gravel road from the main highway.

The trail makes a sweeping curve

Admittedly, to be dropped off here just hours after being in Denver's freeway traffic felt like being blasted through hyperspace to another planet. Top O' and I were familiar with this terrain, yet it seemed foreign after hiking for the last five weeks at elevations above 10,000 feet.

Gone were all trees, streams, and mountain views. In their place were wide open spaces, sagebrush, and an occasional herd of cattle.

Top O' reads a hiker registry

We didn't have to walk far before arriving at a sign kiosk erected by the Continental Divide Trail Coalition and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. A large cache of water was here, but we didn't take any. We were carrying plenty after filling up at Mark's house.

It was fun to read through the trail logbook left with the water and see names we recognized. They were hikers we met in New Mexico or met when we crossed paths in Colorado. Now they were just a day or two ahead of us.

The trail seems to extend to infinity

The trail was a double-track road that seemed to stretch all the way to the horizon. Except for a small hill or gully, there was nothing between here and there to block our view.

Cows grazing near small ponds fed by a spring

We stopped for lunch near a spring where cattle grazed nearby. I hadn't missed drinking cow-flavored water, but now I needed to get used to it again.

There was no shade where we stopped. That was also something we would have to get used to for a few days. Fortunately, the direction we were heading would take us soon to Wind River Range. In three more days, we will be walking again among trees, streams, and mountain passes.

Top O' walks far ahead

It is easier to appreciate this terrain if the temperature doesn't get too hot. It was warmer today than when we were here last month, but we were fortunate to have a breeze. Some clouds moved in during the afternoon to also make the day bearable.

Markers show the route of the Seminoe Cutoff

Late in the afternoon, we began to see a series of concrete markers. These showed where immigrant trails of the mid-1800s crossed. The trail we were walking was the same route used during the westward expansion before the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Most people know of the Oregon Trail, if for no other reason than the classic video game. It was just one of several trails used by white settlers. The California Trail and the Mormon Trail also passed through this part of Wyoming. They generally followed the same route from the east until splitting just west of here in Wyoming.

The section we were on was part of the Seminoe Cutoff, a 35-mile shortcut that bypassed four river crossings and a rugged climb over a ridge.

The cutoff's name was not a misspelling of Seminole, as in the indigenous tribe of Florida. The name came from Charles "Seminoe" Lajeunesse, a fur trader who owned a nearby trading post. His nickname was derived from his French Catholic baptismal name, Simonot, meaning "Little Simon."

Lajeunesse gained another unusual nickname, "Bad Hand," after he forced his fist down the throat of an attacking grizzly bear. His wounds from the fight never completely healed.

Wind River Range can be seen far on the horizon

The terrain gradually became a little more hilly, with rock outcroppings appearing from time to time. I caught a glimpse of the faint silhouette of Wind River Range on the horizon when I crested one of the hills at 5 p.m. From now on, the view of these mountains will loom larger and larger until we arrive there.

Top O' collects water at Upper Morman Spring

I stopped at a pond but found the water had an unlikeable flavor. Top O' didn't stop there and continued another 3.2 miles to Upper Morman Spring. The water from the spring tasted much better, so I dumped what I collected earlier and got some more.

The time by now was 6 p.m. and we had already walked nearly 17 miles after our late start this morning. We decided to look for a suitable flat spot to set up our tents, hoping that we'd luck out with a gully or depression that offered some protection from the wind.

Sunset in Wyoming

We walked a little more than a mile before realizing we would never find a spot out of the wind. It was a good thing that the wind wasn't too gusty. The ground at the spot we found just off the trail was solid enough that stakes sufficiently held our tents in place without rocks. There were no large rocks nearby to anchor the guylines, and with a stronger breeze, we could have been in for a rough night.

Soon after we had pitched our tents, two hikers walked by. Dirty Money and JayZ were the only people we saw today, but we knew we would start seeing many northbound hikers. Looking at the hiker register earlier today, we saw we were now back with the pack.

I didn't expect to have a cell signal here and was relieved to see it when I turned off airplane mode on my phone. Today was Kim's and my 42nd wedding anniversary, and I wanted to call her.

This is the third anniversary I've missed because of a long-distance hike. I am always uncomfortable about that because I feel selfish for being gone for five or six months at a time.

If this bothers Kim, she never shows it to me. But really, I think she isn't bothered by it. She feels just as solid in our relationship as I feel. We have many shared interests and enjoy being together. Yet we also have separate interests. We understand the importance of those and know that being free to pursue them keeps us happy and healthy.

Kim is my daily miracle.

And it's real
Believe what I say
Just one thing that I gotta say
I need a miracle every day


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.