CDT 2021: Day 57, Rocky Draw to Fish Pond Spring

Goin' where the water tastes like wine

Overcast sky in the Great Divide Basin

Although my navigation apps showed me where we camped last night, it was a little difficult to put a name on the spot. The maps didn't show many named features near here. In other words, we were surrounded by land not worth the effort to give it a name.

Rocky Draw was the nearest and largest natural feature listed on the map, and I decided to use that for where we camped. In truth, our campsite was above the draw.

Some maps also show a uranium mine located near here. I didn't see any evidence of a mine, so it may have been just a prospector's claim.

DateTuesday, June 8, 2021
WeatherMostly cloudy early, then clearing; windy with temperatures from the mid-50s to low-80s
Trail ConditionsUps and downs over tree-less hills, sometimes steep; no footpath at times
Today's Miles26.9
Trip Miles774.4

There don't appear to be any records of uranium being extracted from the mine site. That was good to know because that meant water in this part of the Great Divide Basin was unlikely to be contaminated by it. It's bad enough that most of the water has a strong flavor enhancement provided by the cattle that graze here.

Top O' and I knew before leaving camp this morning we would need to ration our water today. In all, we would be walking farther than a marathon, with long distances between sources. We didn't want to carry more water than necessary.

To conserve it, I decided to eat some snack bars for breakfast instead of preparing my usual breakfast that includes Carnation Breakfast Essentials. Only a small amount of water is needed for that, but I wanted to save as much as possible. I knew I would want it later after the sun rose higher.

Descending to Rocky Draw

The day started nicely cool, and the sky was mostly clear.

Soon after Top O' and I left our campsite that was tucked in a wash, we descended toward Rocky Draw. It was hard to distinguish this ditch from all the other shallow folds in the landscape.

Clouds form in the sky

Within 30 minutes, I began to notice more clouds were moving in. The sky has constantly changed from clear to cloudy and back to clear since we started walking in this part of Wyoming. So far, no rain has fallen from those clouds, and I didn't expect any today.

Parry's Townsend daisies

The land was still covered in grasses and sagebrush, with no trees in sight. A few wildflowers appeared in the morning, however. The first flowers I saw were Parry's Townsend daisies.

desert paintbrush

There were also a few clumps of desert paintbrush. This is a wildflower common to the west and is similar to Indian paintbrush.

It's not unusual to find desert paintbrush growing near sagebrush.

More clouds in the Great Basin

After walking for nearly two hours, I noticed the sky had become mostly cloudy.

The deflated remnants of a gold, mylar balloon floated by across the tops of sagebrush, and I wondered how far it had been blown to get here.

A fork in the road

An occasional patch of wildflowers, the balloon, and a few cattle were the only diversions to view while walking this long, straight, and boring section of trail. It was nearly flat, though I couldn't take advantage of that as much as I wished. My hiking speed was impeded by gusty winds. I had to lean into the wind for most of the way to stay balanced on my feet.

If I had wanted to stop for a break, there was no place to sit except on the ground. The only time I wanted to stop was when the road I was following split in two directions. Unsurprisingly, there were no navigation aids posted here, like a sign or trail blaze, so I had to pull out my app to figure out the correct route.

Bull Springs

I reached Bull Springs at 11:15 a.m., our first water source of the day. It was also the only water source we would have until we finished hiking today.

Top O' arrived here several minutes before me and told me he had to shoo cows away from the water before he collected and filtered some.

As usual, the water had the essence of cow, but the smell and flavor were not as bad as some of the water we found yesterday.

Though the time was early, we decided to eat lunch here and relax a little.

A distant view of the Ferris Mountains

After lunch, the trail made the first turn of the day as it curved around Bull Springs Rim. The range of Ferris Mountains stretched out across the horizon ahead.

The highest point in the Great Divide Basin is in these mountains, and most of them stand about 3,000 feet from the valley floor. It's too bad the trail didn't go in that direction because it is covered in large stands of Douglas fir trees.

We haven't seen any trees since we started our southbound walk through the Great Divide Basin, except for the small stand we camped near the day before yesterday.

Crusty, dried mud

I missed a turn where the trail crossed a dry and crusty patch of ground. I might not have quickly realized my mistake if I hadn't seen Top O' ahead. He was stopped to talk to two northbound hikers.

Their names were SOS and Just Passing Thru. Top O' remembered meeting SOS in 2017 while on the PCT in the Sierra.

It's a trap!

At about this same time, an object caught my eye on the ground. It was a rusted animal trap, which seemed like the wrong thing to be placed on a hiking trail. Fortunately, it wasn't set and was probably so rusted it couldn't be.

The trail was supposed to be here but was hard to find

After most of the day spent on a long stretch of flat terrain, the trail's path began to make several short climbs and descents. A couple of the ups and downs were surprisingly steep. The ground was also sandy.

Some hikers suggested in the Guthook app that a road next to the trail was a better route because the trail was hard to find. I decided to follow the road, but before long, I began to question that decision. I didn't want to diverge too far from the trail, so I decided to bushwhack my way back to it.

This wasn't a smart decision because I was ignoring the main reason for the suggestions to take the road. The trail was often impossible to find. Though I checked my location on the app from time to time, I overshot the trail. I then used a badly eroded dirt road to take me back to the trail.

When I eventually found the trail, it remained difficult to follow for a long distance, and it went over a series of washed-out ravines.

U.S. Highway 287

Despite these frustrating difficulties, I correctly reached U.S. Highway 287 where the trail connected to it. By now, the time was after 6 p.m., and I still had more than three miles to go to the next water source, where Top O' and I intended to camp.

The trail followed the highway for a short distance before it turned to go along the side of a ridge. Unfortunately, there were no markers to show where this turn was supposed to be. Using my app, I took my best guess and eventually found a marker on the ridge.

A CDT marker stands in Great Basin

The rest of the way to Fish Pond Spring was a tiring traverse on uneven ground. There was no trail, though there were a few unevenly spaced markers to follow. I had to stop several times to scan ahead and try to find the next marker, then head in that direction.

These were flimsy, fiberglass markers, which aren't easy to pick out in the distance. To make matters worse, some were lying on the ground. They may have been knocked over by cattle, elk, antelope, or even the wind.

Small cactus among rocks

It didn't help that patches of small cactus were hidden among the rocks and short grasses. With no footpath to follow, I had to focus on the immediate ground ahead, as well as on the markers I was trying to find in the distance.

Walking toward Fish Pond Spring

The section that should have taken about 90 minutes to walk took two hours.

As I got close to Fish Pond Spring, I didn't expect and didn't see water seeping from the spring. I stepped into it up to my ankles.

I finally arrived at the pond at 8:15 p.m.

With a difficult day of walking behind me, I collected water to make my dinner. The source was fenced off, so animals couldn't pollute it. At last, I found some that wasn't cow-flavored. It tasted good!

At dusk, Top O' and I watched several elk wander up the pond. It was a pleasant way to end the day.

Tomorrow should be much easier. Though again the route will be dry and boring, we will have less than 10 miles to go before we return to the town of Rawlins.

I'm looking forward to drinking something besides bad-tasting water.

Goin' where the water tastes like wine
Well, I'm going where the water tastes like wine
Goin' where the water tastes like wine
I don't wanna be treated this a way

Goin' down the road feeling bad
Goin' down the road feeling bad
Goin' down the road feeling bad, hey hey hey, yeah
Don't wanna be treated this a way

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