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After leaving Dubois, Wyoming

 

by Meg McAlonis

After leaving Dubois, Wyoming, it only took a couple days until Aaron and I reached the Wind River Range, but thankfully my ankle felt well enough to cross through some of the high (~12,000ft) mountain passes.  What an incredible mountain range!  This

Wind River Range

Wind River Range

wilderness area of rugged mountain peaks, boulder fields, melting glaciers, and thousands of lakes is definitely worthy of being protected by the National Park Service, but it was nice not needing to follow a permit system to explore it!  We took our time, hiking lower mileage days (under 20 miles/day), to care for my ankle and fully soak in our surroundings!

Once we dropped out of those mountains, we knew the next section was going to be brutal, so Aaron and I began hiking with a couple guys from Maine (misery loves company!).  We entered the Great Divide Basin as we hiked through the southern half of Wyoming – a long, hot stretch of desert, where water was severely lacking.  No trees, no shade, and mostly sugar-sand tread to boot!  It was necessary to hike nearly 30 miles for a few days in a row to find water in springs that weren’t laiden with cattle pies.  One day was so hot that we barely made any progress during the day, hiding in whatever shade we could find or make (such as a barrel, or a pipeline service shed), and decided to wait out the heat. When the sun lowered that evening, we walked on through the moonless starry night, finally making camp at about 2am!
The Continental Divide gains elevation and enters trees again just a couple days before crossing the state line into Colorado.  But

Walking the Divide in Northern Colorado

Walking the Divide in Northern Colorado

that same day we celebrated entering a new state, the thunderstorms began!  It was still monsoon season in the mountains, meaning it’s necessary to hike as many miles as possible in the mornings, and keep your eyes and ears out for thunder and lightning in the afternoons.  Above tree-line, we could watch the clouds form, and when lightning was striking on the CDT ridgelines, we just had to be patient, and wait to cross once the storm rolled through, and pray that another one wouldn’t pop up while we were exposed with no where to hide!  This was also the time that CO was all over National News for a ‘thousand year flood’ event taking place just east of us, so we began to lose motivation, and after spending 5 days in Steamboat Springs waiting for the rains to die down, we also lost momentum.

We did hike on, though, passing by Rocky Mountain National Park, with trails closed due to all the flooding, and climbed even higher yet just south of there, following the Divide ridgline between 11,500 ft and 13,000 ft elevation.  It was absolutely

Studying the Map

Studying the Map

breathtaking being in Colorado’s high peaks!  The hiking was the most difficult yet – with steep, rocky, no-trail-tread terrain and such little oxygen in the air we breathed!  I was loving every minute of it!  But, winter was coming on fast.  On September 18th, as we hiked above clouds in the morning sun, we could see more storms around us, heading our way.  The wind was blowing hard and bitter cold – I began preparing my mind for snow.  Once we dropped off the ridge and were tucked in down by a stream below Vasquez Peak, Aaron said it.  “I’m done.”  He began rattling off frustations, “I’m sick of eating this kind of food… I don’t want to be so cold I can’t stop to drink from a stream… I’m not crazy enough to be hiking in these mountains when it’s snowing unless I have a snowboard to ride on…”.  And knowing I didn’t want to push him to do something he no longer wanted to do, in my head I began coming up with my own good reasons to leave the trail – I’ve been rolling my ankle about once a week since my initial sprain and knew the longer I walked on it, the more I was causing long-term damage… I’m out here because I love to hike, and would hate to feel like I was just ‘suffering through’ most of Colorado being forced down out of the mountains and onto roads due to these early winter snow storms, being cold, surrounded by clouds without views… AND I’d have more time to spend with family before my job begins!

Mexico isn’t destiny.
So that was it, we were done…  We hiked down to the nearest road and hitched into Silverthorne, CO at I-70.  It was pretty surreal, having walked about 1500 miles in exactly 3 months, over some of this country’s most wild lands.  And I couldn’t wait to come back to hike through those gorgeous Colorado mountains when we can really enjoy their beauty!
More about the wildness:
Porcupine

Porcupine

There were nights in Wyoming where we were howled to sleep by wolves!  As elusive as they are, niether of us saw one, but following their huge tracks felt close enough!  We saw other neat animals, like a porcupine, hundreds of antelope, wild horses, families of moose, and the herds of elk and frequency of seeing them grew as we entered Colorado!

On trail angels:
To many people that live along the CDT, the idea of people hiking from Canada to Mexico (or vice versa) is still something of a mythological story, but when those disbelievers actually meet people attempting that goal, you can only imagine how amazed they are!  We received some incredible trail magic along the way…  sometimes in the form of beer, soda or snacks offered to us at trailheads, rides along dirt roads or in and out of towns, delicious homemade meals, soft warm beds… and in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, we were even given the opportunity to test out gear from awesome companies like Smartwool and Big Agnus (our tent-maker)!  Our appreciation for those moments along the trail is nearly too strong for words!
In order to keep this email from getting too long, I’ll tell you about travels since I stopped walking another time…
But until then, I hope you enjoy the pictures and have been having a great autumn season!
Peace and love,
~meg
aaronmoose

aaronmoose

CDT CO

CDT CO

Knapsack Col in the Winds

Knapsack Col in the Winds

Titcomb Basin, Wind River Range

Titcomb Basin, Wind River Range

Cirque of the Towers, Winds

Cirque of the Towers, Winds

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