CDT 2021: Day 56, between East Arapahoe and Magpie creeks to Rocky Draw

Sometimes we ride on your horses, sometimes we walk alone

There were some odd noises around our campsite last night. I heard crunching sounds, like something eating twigs.

The noise wasn't worrisome for me or even bothersome. We were camped near the only stand of trees within a radius of maybe five miles, so it wasn't surprising to hear animals nearby.

DateMonday, June 7, 2021
WeatherClear, then becoming partly cloudy; temperatures from the mid-50s to low-80s
Trail ConditionsUps and downs and long stretches of flat over mostly tree-less terrain
Today's Miles20.9
Trip Miles747.5

My only hope was the animal, probably a cow or an antelope, had eyesight good enough to see my tent in the dark and not trample on it.

The sounds eventually went away, and I fell back to sleep.

I left camp at 6:50 a.m., just a minute or two after Top O'.

The CDT so far in this part of Wyoming has been entirely on old jeep roads. Some have been in better condition than others. The two-track road I followed this morning was sometimes deeply rutted.

I frequently switched from one track to another as I walked. I tried to stay on the track that was less rutted and rocky.

The day started with a long descent. We had camped at about 7,650 feet above sea level. In the next 4.5 miles, the trail gradually dropped almost 1,000 feet.

About two-thirds of the way down, we came to our first water source of the day, though really, that is using the term "water source" generously. It was more like a mud pit than the flowing spring we had hoped for.

The spring was supposed to be surrounded by a fence to keep animals out. A sign posted by the Bureau of Land Management asked for a gate to be kept closed.

I could see that cattle had no respect for this request. The gate had been knocked down. The cattle were obviously to blame for that because their footprints and droppings were everywhere.

Although my water filter has never failed, I took an added precaution this time of adding two drops of bleach to my water after filtering it. If there were any residual bacteria or parasites the filter missed, the chlorine would kill them. Unfortunately, the bleach didn't remove or cover up the "cow" flavor.

The morning wasn't as breezy as the last couple of days had been, and Top O' was able to use his sun umbrella.

The sky was clear all morning with a dusty haze.

A wild horse watched us from about a hundred yards away. It didn't seem to be bothered by us.

Interestingly, cattle we've passed have been spooked by Top O's umbrella. They scattered when they saw him coming.

We arrived at the second water source of the day about three hours after the first one. The quality of the water here was much better. It lacked the cow flavor of the last spring, so I dumped what I still had from there. I then not only filtered more to carry but I also cameled-up by drinking a liter.

After leaving the spring, I had my first success taking a photo of an antelope. I wouldn't call it a framable piece of art, but I considered it somewhat an achievement because of how fast antelopes can move. I had failed to get a photo in my previous attempts.

Pronghorn antelope are the fastest land mammals in the U.S. They can run at nearly 60 mph and can sustain that speed for a much longer distance than any predators.

A cheetah is slightly faster, but there have not been any cheetahs in North America in 12 thousand years. Still, scientists believe the pronghorn antelope of today inherited their speed from their ancestors, which had to outrun cheetahs to survive.

By late morning, the road we were walking was no longer rutted and rocky. It had become sandy, and many times the sand was loose. I found this was more difficult to walk on than the ruts had been this morning.

When we found a cow path next to the road, Top O' and I followed that instead. The ground next to the road was a little more firm, making it easier to walk on than the road.

Again, there were a lot of roads that crossed in all directions. Some were used by ranchers. Petroleum and natural gas pipeline maintenance crews used the others.

Top O' and I stopped for lunch next to a natural gas monitoring station with a solar panel. Without as much of a breeze as the last couple of days, the temperature felt hotter today than yesterday. Later in the afternoon, however, a scattering of clouds moved in with a breeze. That moderated the temperature a little.

After walking 17 miles for the day, we came to A&M Reservoir, a pond with a small creek flowing into it. I collected four liters here because the next water source was more than 14 miles away.

This spot could have made a pleasant campsite, but we arrived there too early, so we continued down the straight road.

We didn't expect to have luck finding a sheltered campsite like the one we had last night. There were no trees in sight.

Then at 6 p.m., we found the next best thing. It was a wash just a few feet from the trail. The ditch was shallow but deep enough to provide a little protection from the wind. Certainly, it was a better spot than anything else we had seen until now.

While I was preparing dinner, I realized my feet didn’t hurt today. I still don't know what was bothering my feet the last two days, but I was hopeful I had walked through it.

The clouds that appeared in the afternoon never made the sky completely overcast. They swept west by late afternoon and now the sky was mostly clear around us. I could still see the clouds in the distance, though, and rain was now falling from them.

While I sat and watched the sky, a thought dawned upon me: Top O' and I never saw any hikers today. I doubt we will always have the whole CDT to ourselves, but it felt like we did today.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own
And sometimes we visit your country and live in your home
Sometimes we ride on your horses, sometimes we walk alone
Sometimes the songs that we hear are just songs of our own

From “Eyes of the World” by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead)

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