This post was written in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day. Please excuse any errors.
We zero in Pinedale. My body heals almost instantly from a long section, but my mind still struggles. We get ready to leave and I feel my anxiety building with the thunderclouds over the mountains. The CDT makes me scared in a way I’ve never been before. But quitting scares me too. I know I’ll regret it too much. This was never a fun hike, but I can’t back down from the challenge. And as the CDT gives me new fears, it breaks down old ones.
We hitch up in two parts, both people going out of their way to give us a ride. Then, at the trailhead, we have to wait out a thunderstorm. Rain falls in sheets and hail pummels our shelter. Welcome back, says the CDT. I see Young Blood coming down the trail for the first time since Chama. We hustle up the hill, passing backpackers. We meet Spindrift almost immediately after getting back on the CDT. We camp high at the edge of treeline, storm clouds gathering. I dream of bears, and in the morning, there are fresh paw prints on the first snowfield we cross. Wild Land teases me for being more scared of the clouds than of the bear. We’d planned to out and back to titchcomb lake, but as we reach Island Lake, the rain starts to come down. We have ten miles to a high, exposed pass after our sidetrip, and we decide we need to do those miles before this storm really nails us. We turn around and are back at our campspot before 7am. We climb up, fording little rivers, circling alpine lakes, getting closer and closer to the towering spires of granite. We pass Spindrift and Attrition tearing down camp- we’ll leapfrog with them all day. And then the snow starts. Drifts and patches, then sheets. I ford a river so cold you can see where the snow meets it, and my feet are so cold they hurt. I catch Wild Land by a trail junction. Want to take a shortcut? He asks me. There’s a pass that cuts miles, letting us get low faster, but I’m worried it will be sketchy. The rain starts up again. Ok, I tell him. I guess I’m more scared of thunder than snow now. We climb up over Shannon pass. It is all snow, but not awful. As we come down the other side, you can see the end of the knapsack col trail. One day, I promise it, when it’s not a crazy snow year. We climb up to Cube Rock pass, including a detour around a sketchy snowfield for me. Wild Land waits for me at the top of the pass, a curious marmot just feet away. We descend a long, steep snowfield, bootskiing and sliding our way to treeline. We’re in a long river valley, fording side streams that feed into the Green River, while granite faces look down. The thunder never comes and I start to enjoy the light rain. This I can deal with. This are the kinds of clouds I like. The valley remind me of Eagle River and it makes me homesick for Alaska. We camp by the river and a mouse invites itself into my tarp. At one point it traps itself in my headset, though not while I’m wearing it. I free it and hope the mosquitoes aren’t bad enough that I’ll have to risk hauntavirus. I wake to mist, every thing soaking in condensation. The first order of the day is to cross a river. Wild Land almost loses his balance in what is thigh deep water on him. I have to find another ford site further down stream. It’s still tough to cross, water pushing at my legs. After, I’m so cold I worry about hypothermia, hiking fast through the fog. We meet a work crew at the bridge to the trailhead. We’re staying on trail, but Wild Land wants to use the outhouse. I sit by the bridge and wait. He comes back with a thermos of coffee. The CDTC is coordinating volunteers to replace the bridge. We go up to the trailhead and a man hands me a fleece hoody and a cup of coffee. They press snacks and fruit on us and I am finally warm. We tear ourselves away, pass Spindrift and Attrition, and then we are running for Gunsight Pass, racing thunderclouds. Everyone stops at the top of the pass and we yard sale our stuff, in the last of the sunbeams before the clouds move in. Four hikers in one spot! What a crowd! We run down, dodging storms as the scenery changes from jagged peaks to rolling meadows. The mosquitoes are intense and my hiker hunger is strong. If I could stop for long without being plagued, I’d eat everything in my foodbag. In the morning, the trail is as bad as the day before- bugs, blowdowns and no tread. Wild Land and I have had enough. We bushwack to an alternate on a road on the top of a ridge, and once the official alternate ends, we stay on the road. It hooks over to the highway, where we can hitch to Dubois a little early. We make it to town just after the first wave of storms.