CDT 2021: Day 60, Teton Reservoir to Deep Gulch

Please, please don't eat the daisies

Sage Creek Road in Wyoming

As much as I would like it to be, a thru-hike isn't an endless stream of joyous experiences. There isn't a new and gorgeous view around every turn. Some sections of the trail require a slog through boring or difficult terrain before reaching more enjoyable scenery. An uninspiring landscape must occasionally be endured for a day or two before finding another beautiful vista.

Still, I can usually find something of interest daily along the trail, even when the terrain doesn't offer an inspiring view from a mountaintop.

DateFriday, June 11, 2021
WeatherHazy and breezy, with gusts up to 25 mph; temperatures from the mid-30s to mid-70s
Trail ConditionsAsphalt road
Today's Miles23.5
Trip Miles823.4

I must admit, though, I'm getting weary of not seeing any trees in the Great Divide Basin. I have especially missed them for their shade.

This road, as well as the trail we walked before reaching Rawlins, has been the longest stretch of barren land I've seen. Even the New Mexico desert had more trees than this part of Wyoming.

Sunrise from Teton Reservoir

Once the wind died down last night, I slept well. The sky was clear overnight, and the temperature dropped unexpectedly into the thirties. Nevertheless, I managed to stay warm and comfortable.

I was glad the temperature didn’t drop below freezing because I failed to put my water filter inside my quilt to protect it.

Top O' and I woke up at 5:15 a.m. That was before sunrise, so we waited until the sun appeared above the horizon before we began to move around and start the day. Because the morning was so cold, we didn't quickly pack to leave.

Top O' walks on Sage Creek Road

There was no need to take down our tents because we had cowboy camped, but we didn't leave the campsite any earlier than usual.

Soon after leaving Teton Reservoir, I notice the zipper on a pocket of my shorts was open. I usually kept my wallet and sunglasses in that pocket, and this discovery gave me a momentary fear that I had lost my wallet back at the campground. I was surprised to find the case for my sunglasses had fallen out, but the wallet was still there. I didn't lose my sunglasses because I was wearing them.

A cooler of water bottles

The temperature remained chilly for most of the morning. It hadn't warmed much by 9 a.m., but when I found a cooler of cold water next to the road, I was still grateful for it. I wasn't expecting trail magic because we haven't seen any other hikers in a couple of days. The water was a pleasant treat.

smooth woody aster

Around the same time I found the cooler, I began to notice wildflowers growing along the side of the road. There may not have been any trees to look at today, but I was pleased to find some smooth woody aster. They only grow in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, South Dakota, and Utah.

This wildflower has an uncommon characteristic. It often contains a high concentration of selenium. Sheep have become ill after eating too much of these plants. The selenium in these plants is also noteworthy because it can leave a slight stench in the soil.

alpine sweetvetch

Near the smooth woody aster were clumps of alpine sweetvetch, a purple wildflower that has a much wider range for growing. It can often be found in Alaska and Canada. Wild animals and livestock also eat this plant, and humans have been known to eat it. Alpine sweetvetch is sometimes called wild potato or Eskimo potato.

However, there is an unfortunate story connected to it. Although the plant is edible, the seeds contain L-canavanine, an amino acid that can be toxic in large quantities.

Author Jon Krakauer theorized in his book Into the Wild that canavanine led to the malnutrition and death of Christopher McCandless. The tragic story was turned into a movie by Sean Penn.

Though others have disputed the theory, Krakauer is firm in his research that McCandless tried to subsist on alpine sweetvetch and was poisoned by it.

western blue flax

The wildflower variety most visible on this stretch of the road was western blue flax. Each flower only lasts one day, but the plant continues to produce new blossoms for weeks. Western blue flax is native to much of western North America.

The plant's scientific Latin name, linum lewisii, was given to honor Merriweather Lewis.

So far as I know, it is safe to eat western blue flax. I didn't try it. Linseed oil is pressed from the dried, ripened seeds of a cultivated variety of this plant.

Crossing Sage Creek

I crossed Sage Creek late in the morning. The road we have been walking since yesterday was named for this creek.

A small flow of water was in the creek, but when I took a look at it, I decided not to collect any. It didn't look clear, and I thought I was carrying enough. Thanks to the trail magic a couple of hours earlier and the water we got yesterday from the water study crew, I figured I had enough to get me to the next creek.

After Sage Creek, the road began a steady climb. I noticed around this time the sky had a dirty brown haze. I thought this was probably dust stirred up by the wind. It wasn't blowing as hard as yesterday but was still strong and gusty.

When I found some large boulders near the top of the first long climb, I decided they looked like a suitable place to stop for lunch. The time was 12:15 p.m.

This spot was roughly 17 or 18 miles from Interstate 80 and Rawlins, and yet I found there was cell service here.

Snow on a ridge

I finally began to see a few shrubs in the afternoon, but still no trees. The temperature was much warmer by now, and I appreciated how the wind helped me avoid becoming too hot.

The road passed a campground that didn't appear on the maps I was using. I didn't understand why someone would camp here because there was no water source nearby and no shade. Perhaps it is used by hunters who bring their own water.

As the road continued to climb, it began to curve around the contours of what was becoming a more rugged landscape. I passed by some patches of snow like what I saw from a distance yesterday. These looked like cornices found on mountain slopes, where wind creates an overhanging shelf of snow.

A dirt road where the CDT goes

Shortly before 5 p.m., I passed where the road rejoined the CDT's official route. There were no signs or markings here to indicate the two-track road was the trail. From what I could tell, we didn't miss anything by taking the road instead of the trail.

More than one hiker has said about the road versus the trail in this section, "Pick your poison." As painful as it was to walk on Sage Creek Road, it allowed us to avoid 20 miles of an equally-painful dirt road. Hikers often say the CDT is a choose-your-own-adventure trail, and that's what we did.

Top O' walks down to the stream at Deep Gulch

Top O' and I arrived at Deep Gulch about 30 minutes past where the trail rejoined the road. We were not only looking for water in a stream here, we were hoping to find a spot nearby to camp.

The road crossed the stream on a high embankment. We found a slope on the other side that gave us a path down to the water.

Water flows from a pipe

Water from the stream flowed through a pipe under the embankment. I was relieved to find it was clear and plentiful.

Tents in Deep Gulch

After hunting around nearby, we found a couple of flat spots good enough for pitching our tents. We camped between the tall embankment and some small, scrubby trees.

Yes, I said trees. These weren't big, barely larger than tall shrubs, but they were the first trees I had seen since we left Rawlins yesterday. They were also large enough to help shelter us from the wind.

We should see more trees tomorrow as the trail continues to climb toward McCormick and Bridger peaks.

We wish we could get to the town of Encampment tomorrow, but that doesn't seem likely. We're guessing after looking at the elevation that we will be walking across about 10 miles of snow to get there.

If we need an extra day to reach Encampment, at least we came prepared with plenty of food. We won't be forced to eat any of the local plant life.

Please, please don't eat the daisies,
Don't eat the daisies, please, please.
Please, please don't eat the daisies,
Don't eat the daisies, please, please.
Here I am waitin' and anticipatin'
The kisses that I'll get from you.

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