This post was written in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day. Please excuse any errors.
In Macks Inn, I say goodbye to Wild Land. He’s been one of my favourite hiking buddies, but he’s continuing on the Great Divide trail and needs to do 35s to finish before it snows. Yellowstone has convinced me I can do similar mileage, but I have no desire to. I like crushing miles, but I also like eating thimble berries on the side of the road and resting my sore ankle. Plus, hiking to a schedule, with the pressure of making miles, doesnt meet my criteria for fun. Wyoming has been my favourite state so far, in no small part thanks to Wild Land, and I know I’ll miss him a lot.
Solo again, I head out. A mile down the road, I find Wild Land sitting outside a coffee shop. He grins sheepishly. The big miles can start tomorrow. Soon Thatch rolls up. He knows Wild Land and we soon discover we have another friend on common. He hiked in 2015, around my friend Corey. We hang out for a bit, then head out. We climb 2,000 ft, far above the valley floor, and then it’s cross country to a spring. Thatch and I have been hiking roughly the same speed, chatting about bikes, and Wild Land has waited for us there. I’m feeling sick from dehydration and the heat, but I manage a subway cookie that Wild Land surprises me with. We head out together with the intention of camping soon, but Wild Land quickly disappears with his long legs. And we don’t catch him. Thatch is busy taking photos and I’m struggling, constantly rolling my already sore ankles. Thatch and I call it as dusk falls, camping together on the edge of a meadow. I already miss Wild Land and our little nightly routine- fire, chatting, setting up. And then I hear it wring out through the night… HOLA! Our call to each other. But it comes from back up the valley. We must have walked past him somewhere as we cut cross country. We call back, but with the river rushing, there’s no way to know if he heard. And then, are they getting closer? A rustle in the bushes and then out pops Wild Land! He’s realized we missed him, decided he didn’t want to camp alone, and gone into search and rescue mode. We all head out together in the morning. This cross country section is more bushwacky and my legs are soon covered in scratches and rashes. We reach the trail and then it’s up to a high ridge. A sobo warns us about experimental sheep and their guard dogs up ahead. We won’t see any sheep, but we’ll spend all day debating what’s experimental about them. Super powers? Glow in the dark? We’re coming down from the ridge, Thatch far in front and Wild Land behind me, when Wild Land yells to me. He’s decided to cut cross country to a road that leads straight to Lima. Leaving from there will save him a few days. He says he’ll see me in town, and then he is gone. I hike fast, catch Thatch by the water and explain what happened. We camp together by a trail head. I miss my friend, but I’m glad Thatch is around for an easier transition back to solo hiking. It’s more of the same in the morning. Up, down, back up, some slopes so steep that my worn out, treadless shoes slide backwards. We still manage more than a marathon, despite the elevation change. We camp 5 miles from the highway. The wind whips up at night, but I have service, so I’m not sleeping anyway. In the morning, we’re at the highway before 8, and in town by 9, where Wild Land is waiting for us.