CDT 2021: Day 59, Rawlins to Teton Reservoir

It's a careless wind that carries me across the great divide

Top O' walks against the wind in the Great Divide Basin

As we looked at the map of the trail ahead, Top O' and I agreed we didn't need to push too hard today. We only needed to go as far as Teton Reservoir, which was less than 16 miles south of Rawlins.

There was no point in trying to go farther than that because the next reliable water source past the reservoir was more than 23 miles away. We would save those miles for tomorrow.

DateFriday, June 11, 2021
WeatherClear and windy, with gusts up to 50 mph; temperatures from the mid-50s to low-80s
Trail ConditionsAsphalt road
Today's Miles15.7
Trip Miles799.9

Getting to the reservoir required a long road walk. The official CDT route only followed the road for part of the way, then turned before reaching the reservoir. If we wanted to get water and camp at the campground there, we needed to stay on the road.

Though the official route also had at least one water source, its quality and reliability seemed suspect. Either way, the routes were completely exposed. There would be no place to get out of the sun or wind along the way.

The road route also saved about a day of hiking, though that wasn't entirely an advantage. We wanted to complete our miles as efficiently as possible, especially where water was limited. Still, we weren't in a hurry to get to where there might still be snow.

Leaving Rawlins, Wyoming

Top O' and I slept in until 7 a.m., which was a rare luxury. We didn't check out of the motel until 9:00.

When we left, we had about a mile to walk before reconnecting with the CDT.

a mule deer

I wasn't surprised to see a mule deer nonchalantly walk by us. Mule deer are generally less afraid of humans than whitetail deer. We also saw a couple of mule deer when we arrived in town after our bus ride last week. They seemed comfortable hanging out in town.

Walking through the Rawlins train underpass

After rejoining the trail, we walked through the same underpass we found when we entered Rawlins five days ago. We had now reconnected with our earlier footsteps so we could continue our walk south.

Despite the flip-flop Top O' and I made when we left Colorado, we wanted to keep a complete and continuous footpath for our hike. Although we have already walked on several alternates that deviated from the official route and are now going in a different direction, we both feel it is important to end our hike to Canada with an unbroken path from Mexico.

In trail jargon, skipping a section is called "yellow blazing." Neither one of us did that on the AT or PCT, and we weren't about to start that now.

Walking under Interstate 80

Our walk through town ended when we went under Interstate 80. It was like passing through a gate between a concrete and automobile world and a sagebrush and tumbleweed world.

The wind blows against Gravity and Top O'

There was no shelter from the wind on the other side of the interstate. We were now walking without the protection of trees and buildings and were immediately hit with gusty winds. They blew consistently at about 30 mph and gradually increased in velocity the rest of the day. Before long, we were buffeted by gusts of up to 50 mph.

The curvy road ahead

Like our previous days walking in the Great Divide Basin, there was nothing along the road to block the wind. We had to lean into it when it blew straight on or at the side. My hiking speed slowed when that happened.

At other times, the wind propelled me from behind. When that happened, I picked up speed on the solid footing of the asphalt pavement.

The road had a wide shoulder. There weren't many vehicles on it, so it was a safe route to travel.

The CDT follows a ridge

By the time we passed where the CDT split from the road, we had walked 10.5 miles. The trail we didn't follow veered from there to the west and followed a long ridge.

I started to get hungry by noon, though it took about thirty minutes to find a place to stop for lunch. A large pile of gravel on a widened side of the road appeared to be the best and maybe only place to sit that wasn't on the flat ground. I stopped there and waited for Top O' to catch up, who was only a couple of minutes behind me.

Snow on a mountain ridge

Continuing southbound, a range of mountains came into view in the afternoon. In the middle of these was Bridger Peak, standing at 11,004 feet. To the right was McCormick Peak, which was 10,686-feet tall. These and most of the other mountains in that range were capped in snow.

The mountains were more than 30 miles away from where we were now. The trail will take us there in two more days.

The road appears to stretch forever

The road seemed to be endless and the day dragged on. Top O' and I finally arrived at Teton Reservoir at 3:45 p.m.

We followed a side road to where the Bureau of Land Management maintained a free campground next to the reservoir's earthen dam.

Teton Reservoir

The campground included a privy and five campsites with picnic tables. Each site had a small fence installed as a windscreen, but we decided to sit behind the privy. This offered better protection from the wind and also provided some shade.

The wind was too gusty to set up our tents. We could have walked down to the lake and collected water, but the wind was churning it up. It looked milky, and we thought the sediment would clog our filters. Instead, we sat, waited, and watched.

From our spot at the privy, we could see several people working below the dam. They appeared to be conducting some kind of environmental study or survey where water flowed from an outlet from the dam.

We patiently waited for them to return to their trucks.

Bureau of Land Management crew members return to their trucks

At 5 p.m., Top O' turned to me and said, "Showtime!"

We sprang into action, timing our arrival where the crew had parked their trucks just a minute or two after they did. We didn't want them to leave before we had a chance to yogi some clean water.

A crew member offers cherries

We chatted with some of the crew members, who told us they were from the Bureau of Land Management office in Missoula, Montana. They had come down here for a training program and were conducting a water quality study.

In proper yogi-ing fashion, we didn't ask directly if we could have some water. We asked if the water was better where they had been working. Just as we hoped, they offered us to take all we needed from their large water jugs. One of the crew also offered us some fresh cherries, which of course we gladly accepted.

Cowboy camping next to a privy

Resupplied with water and cherries, we returned to the campsites. For a time, we attempted to sit behind a wind fence at one of the sites. We weren't there long before Top O' suddenly jumped from where he was sitting. He thought he heard a rattlesnake next to him, but that turned out only to be some branches of a shrub brushing against the fence.

Though the "rattle" was a false alarm, we decided the fence was an insufficient windscreen, and we moved back to hunker down next to the privy.

The wind was still blowing too much hard to set up our tents, so we concluded we were better off cowboy camping. We were fortunate there were only two of us here. The privy was just barely wide enough for both of us to get out of the wind. Thankfully, it did a reasonably good job of that, so we didn't have a problem keeping our stoves lit for preparing dinner.

I slept more comfortably than I expected and only woke up briefly around 10 p.m. The wind had finally diminished to a light breeze by then. The clouds had also cleared, offering me an unobstructed view of beautiful stars and a brilliant Milky Way.

It's a careless wind that carries me
Across the great divide
From the wretched underworld to
The place where fear resides
Behind the line you hold,
You can only hold so long
When you see my forked tongue
And hear my twisted song


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