Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Day 58 - Into the fire
Weather was clear and hot, and a few hours after we started down the trail, we ran into Steve! Every time we see Steve, and part, we always make the same comment, "if I never see you again, look me up in PA..." So, it's always a pleasure to see Steve. We hiked together for a little while, but then he dropped back, and we haven't seen him since. We hoped to hike the Winds with him, but don't know where he is. We last saw him just before the trail prescribed bushwhack down Leeds Creek.
Now, when I started this trail, I had heard it was 85% complete, with sections of unfinished or unfinalized trail. I thought these would be long, ambiguous sections. Instead, they are like the bushwhack today, where we are at the headwaters of Leeds Creek, and the trail is downstream some 3-4mi with no clear path. For better or worse, we've all gotten very comfortable with wandering off trail, somewhere in the woods, in the right general direction. Personally, I've come leaps and bounds in comfort level since the beginning of this trail. If I think about it too long though, I do psych myself out. And when you're hiking with someone, and encounter a bushwhack section, like we did with Steve and Leeds Creek, I never know when / if I'll see them again.
After Leeds Creek, we rejoined the CDT atop a long ridge. The trail was contiguous with an ATV trail, and we met a few very friendly couples who were agog that anyone would be so crazy as to walk this section of ATV trail, let alone try and walk between two countries. You and me both, friendly couples. As we saw the last couple on the trail, the storm clouds were closing fast, so we all said quick goodbyes. We had just thrown on our ponchos when the rain started, followed quickly by odd looking snow. Instead of individual flakes, the snow was coming down in miniature snowballs, the size of a green pea. The snowballs were soft and powdery, and shattered upon hitting the ground, like little white paintballs. I've never seen precipitation like this. Snowball fight results: Us: 0, Clouds: Millions. Not a fair fight.
After the storm, we ran into one more couple on an ATV. (Apparently ATVing is the date activity in Wyoming). They mentioned they saw Steve up on the ridge during the storm. Fingers crossed for him. We left him a note at the next junction, and hope to see him soon.
Around 4:45pm, we hit a notice for the fire closure for the Green River Lakes region. The trail had been brushed over with logs and sticks, but this was premature. The actual closure area was ~8mi farther, so we decided to push on to the Northern boundary. We did the long gradual climb up from Union Pass to Gunsight Pass. It was a long, straight traverse through cow country up into pine forests. The pass itself did look pleasingly like a gunsight, a symmetrical notch at 10,000'. At the top of the long, tiring climb, we saw one more notice for the fire. Along with instructions on how to skirt the closure with a re-route written in ballpoint pen, and beginning with "The USFS are jackasses, so follow...". Probably left by a fellow CDT hiker.
As it was 8pm at this point, we ran down from the pass, but stopped dead in our tracks after a few hundred feet. The Green River Valley was suffused with smoke. We could see at least three points which were continuing to spew smoke actively. We didn't want to backtrack over the pass, so we went as quick as we could down to the Roaring Fork basin.
We crossed the bridge to the South side, and started to set up camp. I had forgotten that the official fire closure area is the South of the river. So, I actually pitched the tent, on the South side, then unstaked it, then crossed the bridge, and re-staked it on the North side. I'm a rules follower.
Late night to get down from the pass, but hope it was worth it to put us in position for the fire closure tomorrow.
Mileage: 28mi from Spring past Sheridan Pass to Roaring Forks River