Monday, August 26, 2013

Day 71 - More guts than a government mule

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. We were out early today, by 6am, in search of water at the Tetons Reservoir. The sun was still low in the sky when we came across the huge beautiful blue pool of water. As we approached, I noticed a few odd things I never thought I'd see in the WY desert: clammy air, crawdad shells, and seagulls. I must have misunderstood the BLM site, because the water at the reservoir was saltwater. The recreation area had everything else: bathroom, tent sites, parking spots, picnic tables, trash cans, grills. But no non-saline water.

Since we had planned this section on getting water here, we were in deep trouble. The next decent water was another 15-20mi away depending on our route. I started to panic a little. Gangles and I decided the only thing we could do was ask a passerby for water. Fortunately, the second car which went by pulled over. Inside was a retired gent with a 'NRA forever' hat. We explained what we were doing, and he told us "you've got more guts than a government mule". Which of course made me pine for a government mule. He was carrying 2 liters of bottled water with him, and offered them up. We thanked him profusely and kept on walking. When we saw him a few hours later, he pulled over again and told us to keep our eyes peeled for elk, which are good eating. I agree with him, but all of my attempts to hunt elk barehanded have been unsuccessful.

Later in the day, a red jeep marked 'Wyoming Water Department' pulled over. The man inside spontaneously offered us water, which we gladly took. That must have been the first of maybe 7 different people who pulled over and offered us water. We must have looked thirsty walking the side of the road.

When we reached the first 'good water' as noted on the J. Ley maps, it was the North Fork of Savery Creek. It was next to a construction site. The water wasn't flowing, but was sitting in a deep brackish pool. Just as I was about to dip, the crew boss came over with a very wet yellow lab. He told us he wouldn't drink that water since his dog had been playing in it all day. He offered us bottled water, and we followed him back to his truck. He also gave us grapes, celery and offered us all sorts of food. We were happiest to see the water. He seemed like a 'good dude', as my military buddies would say. Funny guy. We discussed the local radio stations, the CDT, and Southern Colorado. He obviously though we were nuts for walking across the country. I can't disagree. He also mentioned seeing 'an Oriental guy pulling a handcart [ed. note: sounds like a rickshaw] to California two weeks ago', so he must see all kinds.

I should note, my Asianness has been unusual here in MT and WY. Living on the East Coast, I'm just one of many. Out here in the smaller towns, I tend to stick out. It comes up indirectly in conversation. People will come up to me and ask me questions such as: What really killed Teresa Deng (the C-pop Madonna)? Why does Tsingtao beer taste terrible? Do you know this Japanese guy I met in Canada twenty years ago? (These are real questions; I couldn't make these up if I tried.) Once, during a discussion about how the pines in CO are being decimated by some kind of Japanese Bark beetle, everyone turned to look at me. I set them straight, I'm not Japanese and I don't eat trees.

The rest of the day was relatively uneventful. We finally cleared the construction area, where the last crew member was halfway through a true crime book on Amanda Knox. Gangles promised not to ruin the ending.

We came across Hartt Creek, which was infested with cows. I insisted that we keep climbing to the headwaters, where it would be cleaner. When we arrived, it was dry, since it was so late in the season. So almost 50mi from Rawlins, and we have yet to drink trail water. We decided to push on, and will take an alternate which hits water in 5mi or so, around mile marker 64. This is certainly the longest I've ever been in the backcountry without drinking trail water, and I like it. I've been fretting about what a steady diet of bleach-purified water is doing to my benign GI bacteria.

On the way to the next water, Gangles got a little ahead of me, and I caught up with her at the top of the ridge. She was talking to a man who she introduced as 'Rainbow'. The sun was going to set in ~30m, so we decided to push on to get closer to our next water source. As we left, Gangles turned around and mouthed 'Rainbow?' to me. Turns out, I had completely misheard them, and his name is 'Mike', not 'Rainbow'. Waitaminute. Does he have a red hat? He's out doing a section?

It's MICHAEL SYDLASKE! For those of you who don't know, I work with his daughter, Allison. When I told her what I was doing, she mentioned her father, Michael, has been section hiking the CDT for the past several years. Mike and I had traded a few e-mails before I got out here. He mentioned the sections and dates for this year, but I didn't write them down. I mean, what are the odds that we'd be in the same place at the same time? The trail is ~3,000mi long. I've been leaving notes for him in most of the trail registers, in the hopes that he might see one. Serendipity indeed.

Gangles and I turned around and hiked back to ask if he was indeed Michael Sydlaske, and he was! We decided to camp early for the night. I think he was both disgusted and impressed by how much food we ate. Hiker hunger is less relevant if you're doing two week stretches. Fun to catch up and talk trail, and to meet the mysterious man himself. He's planning one more day out than we are, so we may only overlap for tonight and tomorrow, but so happy to meet him in person.

Encampment tomorrow?

Mileage: ~30mi? From before Teton Reservoir to a few miles past Hartt Creek. (J.Ley maps have sections without mileage, plus we were off trail in search of the saline Teton reservoir)

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