View Full Version : Last update from the "CDT"

07-12-2005, 14:36
I find myself in Jackson, WY, after an odd sequence of events. First off, I left Bozeman on the 30th of June and hiked up into the snow (ygad!) below Hyalite Peak. The next day I forced the snow up to the top of the peak, which was thankfully snow free on top, as I needed some place to fall over and rest. Great weather helped me see what was coming up: About 30 miles of solid ridge walking up in the open air. Unfortunately, the Devil's Backbone "trail" was also buried in snow right on the crest, where I had to go. Off I set for one of the hardest hiking days of my life. The snow, up to 12 feet high in places, was frequently rotten, which meant that with each step I sunk to my knee or hip. Sometimes faceplanting. Occasionally I could tighrope along the side of the crest where there was no snow, but the melt made everything muddy and slippery and I frequently came close to taking something of a tumble down into the valleys below. Got lost in a snow basin where the "trail" avoided some cliffs by dropping down. By the time I cleared the worst of the snow, I had covered about 6 miles. In something like 8 hours of hard work.

The snow now set off the crest and allowed me to rumble fairly well, although I was already spent from the previous 6 miles. Definitely the most scenic "trail" I've ever hiked in the lower 48. Better than the Sierra. Better than the volcanic ridge walk out of Kennedy Canyon to Sonora Pass. Better than Fire Creek Pass in the North Cascades. Better than, well, anything I could think off. The big downside was that I was always the tallest thing around, trees being mostly non-existent. When the hail and wind storm came, I took something of a beating for about 30 minutes. Then, good weather for an hour. Then, the rain and wind came back, accompanied by a lot of close lightning strikes. With nowhere to run to, I just plodded on. I realized that I really didn't want to die out on the ridge, which surprised me as during previous summers I hadn't really cared very much.

I survived the storm and made it to a forest service cabin, which was occupied by two women horsepackers, one of which had been the backcountry ranger at Thorofare, in Yellowstone, for 10 years and had a lot of great stories to tell about the place. The next day I had good weather until noon, when a storm came in, but I was done with the Devils Backbone and took a lower route out to HWY 191, well away from where I had hoped to come out. It rained and rained and no one would give me a lift, so I roadwalked, over the course of the rest of the day and the AM, to the Fawn Pass trail, which (pretty, pretty), I ran into Mammoth, putting in a little over 30 miles to make it to touron heaven.

On the 4th, I set out toward Cooke City through the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone. At a critical point, I had, well, something like a hallucination, or vision, or whatever. I'm not sure what it was. Sometime I describe it more fully, but not now and not here. To be short about things, I couldn't get across a ford, spent 2 hours looking for a bridge on my map that doesn't exist, and eventually had to detour about 3 miles to get across the ford. Powered out to the road, as I couldn't make it where I wanted to go before dark set in and I was wiped. Tried hitching to a campground. No luck after an hour. Frustrated, I changed sides of the road and put my thumb out. Second car was a work truck that picked me up. Oddly enough, the bed of the truck was filled with snow. So, I rode back to Mammoth in snow. A little dejected.

Took two days off in Mammoth resting and trying to figure out what to do. Decided to hike on, but not toward Cooke City. No good trails for a ways to the south. So, very cleverly, I got on the Tour Bus with all the old folks and rode it to Yellowstone Lake. Road walked 10 miles to a trail head and entered the worst mosquito hell of my life. Worse than Alaska or Northern BC. In the heat of the day, I was in my rain jacket, hood up and cinched tight, just to try to maintain my sanity. But, I was moving south again, which was something.

The something ended at the lower Yellowstone river. More like a lake. about 40 feet across and deep enough that I couldn't see rocks. Got about 7 feet out and was at midthigh (I'm 6'4"). Hadn't even gotten to the deep part yet. Dejected, I had to turn around. Back through mosquito hell for 20 miles to the road, then road walked another 6 miles before a woman construction worker took pity on me and drove me to a campground. No options left.

Spent the next day and a half road walking through the park, as I couldn't access the trail system to the south. Just wanted to get to Jackson and be done with things. Yesterday, just before getting out of Yellowstone, a car pulled up alongside me. "Hey Suge..." floated out the window. Looking over, I spotted Yogi, out on the road to do some research on the CDT.

The next few hours went by somewhat oddly, and I wasn't entirely sure if I was hallucinating or not. When we picked up a hurt hiker named Stick (AT 2004), who was hiking Old Faithful to Colorado, I was pretty sure things were as they seemed. Yogi took us in to Jackson (my God, this is the worst place next to Gatlinburg) so that Stick could get his leg looked at. Spent the night drinking beer and talking, then racked out at the RV park.

I'm pretty sure I'm done here. The Winds hold no appeal for me at this point. That might indicate my mental state at this time. I've tried to give the trip time to work itself out, to ferment in me and produce something good. But, I haven't gotten this done. I need to go home and settle things, get my head straight, and then continue on in the summer. I won't be coming back out here this year, but fortunately I live in a place with rather good outdoor stuff. Instead of seeing a great opportunity in front of me, instead of enjoying the hereandnow, I see only barriers to getting far enough before pride is satisfied. Barriers to be overcome before I can go home and rebalance my life. That isn't what I like about long distance hiking. About living. It wasn't what the last few summers have been about.

07-12-2005, 14:45
That's quite an ordeal Chris. Know what you mean about Mammoth, the "touron capitol" of Yellowstone and I completely agree that Jackson is akin to Gatlinburg ...albeit without DollyWood.

Was up in Yellowstone myself the weekend before last and saw some of the snow up high. Couldn't believe how fast the Yellowstone River was flowing !!

Get home safely.


Spirit Walker
07-12-2005, 17:29
Chris, I'm sorry you weren't able to do what you set out to do, but if your heart isn't in it, it is time to go home. Next year will be better, and as you said on CDT-L, you have mountains in your backyard and two months to play. Good luck with your girlfriend. Hopefully this time has allowed you to figure out what you want, if not what to do about it.

07-12-2005, 18:15
I always enjoy hearing about your adventures. Look forward to the journal for some good winter reading. Keep living the dream Chris

TJ aka Teej
07-12-2005, 18:47
an odd sequence of events
Somebody send Chris an ultralight rabbit's foot, quick!

07-14-2005, 13:36
Hey man, I am in awe of the situations you have dealt with. I'm sitting in Dubois, WY - was actually hoping that Pereguin Jack and Big Stick were going to be catching up with me here. Probablly not - was his leg seriously hurt and did his buddy continue hiking? As for your adventure - I am so sorry that it has ended and not with the joy and enthusiasm that you had initially set out with. If you change your mind you can always hike with me. Positive waves abound or so I try to convince myself. At any rate I am sending you out a great phat mental hiker hug! Keep in touch - if you actually check this message I am spending a second zero day here and can be contacted until I decide to check out at 307-455-2893 room 22.
Peace out brotha! ;)