The route Top O' and I would walk this morning to Rawlins went over some hills before connecting to a highway. From the map, it didn't appear to be difficult, and we knew we could get to town with plenty of time to resupply and do laundry.
We were looking forward to that. The last three days had been long and dusty, with a mind-numbing sameness to the trail.
This would be the second time we stayed overnight in Rawlins. It's where we began our ill-fated hitchhike north before starting southbound from Basin Bison Road.
It's worth a mention that our previous stay wasn't the first time I had been to this town and walked on the trail along the highway.
|Date||Thursday, June 10, 2021|
|Weather||Partly cloudy early, then clearing; temperatures from the mid-50s to low-80s|
|Trail Conditions||Ups and downs over mostly tree-less hills, sometimes steep|
My wife and I stopped in Rawlins fifteen years ago while driving from the Seattle area to our home in Tennessee. I realized then that I had an opportunity to walk the Triple Crown in a week.
I didn't intend to walk the full lengths of the AT, PCT, and CDT in a week, of course. I wanted to walk the width of each trail. It was a silly idea but seemed like an entertaining diversion on our long drive home. Funny enough, I was already planning to attempt a thru-hike of the AT, but I assumed our road trip would be the closest I'd come to hiking the PCT and CDT. In 2006, the other two trails seemed out of reach.
My first trail crossing of this trip was on the PCT at White Pass. I described that day when I wrote about returning there during my 2019 PCT thru-hike.
When Kim and I left Washington and continued our drive across the country, I didn't know much about the CDT except that it passed through Rawlins. I didn't know exactly where, however, and I didn't have a map that showed the trail. Remember, these were the days before the Guthook app or Google Maps. This was even before smartphones existed.
Arriving in town, I decided to look for a sporting goods or outfitter store, figuring someone there could direct me to the trail. I found such a store, but when I asked about the CDT, the sales clerks acted as if they had never heard of the trail.
My backup plan was to ask someone at the local Bureau of Land Management office. The store employees had no problem giving me directions there, but when I arrived and asked about the trail, I got a similar blank stare.
Finally, though, a staffer in the back of the office said he knew where the trail was. "It's right behind you," he said, pointing toward the highway that ran in front of the BLM's office building. "The trail runs along that road."
The trail still follows that road, and it's the one we walked today.
My descriptions of the Great Basin may have at times seemed bleak. I have to admit that there have been occasional beautiful views in this terrain. One of those was this morning at sunrise.
The sky has been colorful and enjoyable to watch nearly every morning and evening. Perhaps this is a benefit of not having any trees to obscure the view.
Trees have not been around to block our views of animals, either. Just before we left our campsite this morning, we noticed three wild horses wandering up to Fish Pond to get a drink.
As soon as we began walking at 7:15 a.m., we had to make a steep 220-foot climb up a hill. It was also a pointless climb, though it offered a better view of the surrounding landscape.
On the way up, we could look back to the pond and get a better view of the horses. They stood at the same spot where elk had stopped by for water last evening.
Like nearly all other patches of ground in the Great Basin, there were no trees on the hill. When we reached the top, however, I noticed there was hardly any vegetation at all. The top was covered in loose rocks, lichen, and a few stubs of short grass.
There were also no footpath or trail markers. We had to use the Guthook app to find our way up and then down from the top.
I could see a cell tower on another hill in the distance, so I took my phone out of airplane mode. This gave me a chance to reply to a few text messages and download a podcast.
On the way down from the hilltop, the trail crossed a barbed-wire fence. There wasn't a gate or stile to go through or over it. I thought at first I would have to climb over it, and that didn't look easy to do.
Then I spotted a long stick lying nearby. I don't know if it was left there intentionally, but it did the trick. I propped up a wider opening in the fence and was able to crawl under without getting snagged in the barbed wire. When I got to the other side, I removed the stick and left it in a conspicuous place so the next hikers would find it.
The trail after the fence was marked because it crossed privately-owned land on a narrow easement.
A dirt road was at the bottom of the ridge. Top O' had stopped there to wait for me.
We could have continued on the trail from there, but Top O' suggested we follow the road a short distance to where it connected with the highway into Rawlins. The trail would eventually connect with the same highway, and there was no difference in the distance for either route.
I agreed that walking on the road seemed like a better way to go. The trail had been poorly marked for most of the way. Chances are, we would spend much of our time trying to navigate if went that way. Either way, there was no water to be found until we reached Rawlins.
The road may have been easier to follow, but it was otherwise another long and boring stretch of highway. Still, it brought back memories of when I stood on the side of this highway 15 years ago and claimed I had walked the width of the CDT. Today was one of those "if I had only known then" moments.
Looking south, I saw a range of mountains. Some peaks had snow on them. I knew these mountains were not where the trail would go when we left Rawlins, but they were roughly as tall as the mountains we would soon be climbing. Despite our best efforts in making a flip to hike south from Wyoming, it seemed we weren't going to avoid walking on snow.
That would be something to worry about another day. For now, I focused on getting into town.
After a quick lunch at a fast-food restaurant, we asked about a room at the Econo Lodge next door. The desk clerk told us the only one available was for smokers. I might normally balk at that, but I was too dirty and tired to be bothered.
“That’s okay," I replied. "We’re smelly hikers.”
It seems likely Top O' and I will be back in Rawlins in a few weeks. For now, we will continue hiking south. After we reach the spot where our footsteps ended in Colorado, we'll need to somehow make our way back to Basin Bison Road, where we started hiking south. From there, it's onward north to Canada.
Of course, talking about that now is fast-forwarding too far ahead of where I am now. There's still a long way to go before then. I just don't want to take another 15 years to get back here.
Fifteen years of rock and roll
Fifteen years on the road
(Can you turn up my guitar a little bit)
Fifteen years my guitar and me
Played every song we know
Fifteen years in a row.
I was a young man I used to be, but I still can rock and roll
Fifteen years been good to me
Fifteen in a row