Day 78 – Day 89

Southern Colorado, entering the San Juans

Day 78 – October 3

Getting up at 7:30am in the Monarch Lodge outside of Salida, CO, we took it easy and I mended some of our clothes before getting breakfast at the hotel restaurant. It was a strange experience since the chef was also the waitress and dish washer, and their credit card reader wasn’t working. The staff gave us our breakfast for free since we had no cash in exchange for a review of the hotel. Sounds good to me! Our pancakes were full of uncooked batter, but I didn’t mind since our waitress/chef/dishes girl was clearly stretched too thin and doing her best.

We left with a ride from some friendly guests who saw us trying to hitch out. They were on their way up to hike near our trailhead so it worked perfectly to be dropped off by them! Thank you kind family!

See the mountain biker? It was hard to get my camera out in time to catch him, they are so speedy!

Today on the trail were TONS of mountain bikes, plenty of dirt bikes, and one thru hiker… Lunar! Yay! What a treat to see him on the trail. We chatted for a bit and set back off.

It looks as if there is a strange mystical creature in these woods, hiding behind trees

Today we hiked 15 miles from noon-6:30pm. Not bad! It’s another 85 to Lake City. Being in the woods feels great, but with the cold setting in I notice I am getting a lot more particular about my comfort than I used to be. About two more months of hiking left! Let’s see!

Can you see the forest from the trees?

Day 79 – October 4

A crisp morning

Cold cold, chilly chilly, brrr brrr! It’s strange to wake up and find that the little steam you camped by is iced over anywhere the water is not actively flowing through. We both slept poorly since our site was on the side of a hill, I woke up several times in a ball at the bottom of our tent since my sleeping bag likes to slide down my mat. Ha! It was also chilly which didn’t help the sleep. At least we got to bed nice and early.

My alarm went off at 5:30am and by about 6:15 we were slowly eating breakfast still in our bags. Over two hours later, after camp chores and avoiding the cold, we were on our way for the day.

It was interesting to plan our water stops. After 6 miles of hiking, the next viable source was in about 22 miles. Yikes! Ryan did some sleuthing and found in the Guthook comments (Guthook is the navigation app we use with detailed explanations of what’s on the trail) that there was an unmarked water source, a lake, half a mile off trail in 10 miles instead of 22. Thankfully we could refill there which meant we needed to fill and carry four pounds, 2L of water, each to make it to the lake hydrated. When we fill up at the lake we will need more water to finish up about 12 miles to water and camp overnight with enough to cook our rice. It will be a heavy carry, but we are glad to be splitting the 22 mile load up into two manageable parts.

Today was up and down all day but in short bursts either way and fairly well graded. My mood, which has been low the past several days, reared it’s head but I walked through it pushing hard, breathing through my nose (thank you Breath, the book that we are currently reading, for providing the motivation for this) and listening to music. My mood lifted and I had a burst of creativity that was much appreciated!!

Seeing these two young bucks was a treat today

In this creative mindset I thought about trying to give another tattoo (thank you again Andrew for being willing to take my first practice run!), sewing my own clothes, and living in Europe. It was a lot of fun to be in my mind!

We made great time getting to our next water source, mainly because Ryan’s meticulous care of his IT band is seriously paying off. He has incorporated a lengthy routine with resistance bands in the morning, MSM and gelatin in his diet, and stretching still as needed. Go Ry!! You are an inspiration working hard to heal yourself ❤️ I love you!

Our water filling destination. Gorgeous.

At the lake where we went WAY down for a short stretch off trail, we found so, SO many tiny little swimming, swirling, scooting, spinning and squishing organisms in the water. It was DENSE with them. Poor filter. We gave ourselves six liters, 12 lbs, to make it over night and the 12 miles of hiking to the next good source. Hello heavy load!

After hiking up the mountain to the trail from the lake, then climbing some more elevation back on the CDT, we got a nice level plane to walk on and a slight down to where we set up for the night. Tonight our campsite is FLAT! Hallelujah! No more sliding down to the foot of the tent all night. Time to cook our Knorr side with butter, watch an episode of Space Force, then cozy up and sleep 😴 about 65 more miles to Lake City plus many more beautiful views, wise trees, and busy critters between here and there.

Day 80 – October 5

Hello 26 miles! What a day. Here it is in a nutshell:

It was easy walking, mostly flat which we haven’t seen in a LONG time. Our first ten miles of the day went quickly since we were making no water stops and surviving instead on what we had packed from the lake yesterday. We ran into James and Mike who we met our FIRST day on the trail and haven’t seen since! We also got into new terrain, I finished the book Breath we’ve been listening to, and we fueled our adventure with very little food since we are running low.

We got up slowly (as is usual since the sun doesn’t rise now into well after 6am) then took down camp and walked onward and upward. The morning brought the majority of any climbing we did for the day and soon we were headed on a long, steady four mile downhill through aspens that had nearly lost all their leaves. Pine trees, red shrubs changing color, and the occasional Gold Crested Ground Squirrel, which if you had asked me before I learned their name, would be considered a chipmunk, also graced our eyes.

Hello Gunnison National Forest

Ryan and I kept good, stimulating conversation and our bodies went about 7 miles before the first pangs of walking set in. The pangs stayed and got much worse over the next 19 miles. Such is life when you walk all day long.

Mike and James

Reaching water by 12:15pm felt amazing. We made fantastic time and were proud of it! While sitting and eating our lunch we saw two hikers approaching from a ways off. We watched until they were close enough to talk and we soon discovered it was James and Mike!! No way!!! We had met them our first official day on trail, literally hundreds and hundreds of miles ago by foot, and hadn’t seen them again until today. I had even thought of them earlier today and wondered if they were still on trail and how they were doing. So so cool.

We spent some time catching up on the past three months and found they had jumped south to northern New Mexico from Rawlins, WY to avoid fires that had just started south of there. They are walking Northbound through Colorado and flipping back down after reaching Rawlins in about 500 miles.

My mood was so lifted after seeing them and I had a sense of wonder at how amazing it is to run into people, TOTALLY out of the blue, that I have thought about and wondered about for months now. When we met Mike and James who hiked the AT last year, I asked if they ever felt like quitting on the trail. Miles said “every day.” Knowing he had decided to keep moving despite doubts has kept me moving many times. James and Mike (AKA Appa and Momo), happy trails to you both and hopefully we will see you again further down the way.

Sage brush and dessert terrain. Are we back in Wyoming?

The rest of our day was pretty much downhill or flat despite one more up and down. We enjoyed a change in scenery at about 11 miles into our 26 mile goal. Suddenly it felt like we were back in Wyoming! Lots of sage and rabbit brush, gorgeous blue desert ground cover plants, singing grasshoppers, and cow ponds. Although the Basin in Wyoming was hard, it somehow feels like being back home coming into such familiar terrain.

A beautiful valley we walked towards as the sun was low in the sky, making the colors speak gently

We were VERY tired as the sun was setting and we had about six miles left. My hips were hurting and Ryan was seriously tired of walking. We decided to try a little running for a boost and enjoyed the rush that came from a quick pace and fast breathing. Eventually we settled back on walking the rest of the way and drug ourselves to the next water source. We got to camp when the stars were almost all visible and the horizon had the SLIGHTEST bit of color in it still. It was chilly and dark, but so beautiful and serene.

Ryan ran ahead of me in the last mile and I took my time, exploring what it was like to walk by starlight. I took a moment to remind myself where I was. 100s of miles from anywhere I’ve ever called “home,” out in the woods away from anyone else than Ryan, under the stars in Colorado. I took a moment to be thankful for being here, no longer sitting behind a desk. My body is strong and lean. My mind is uncluttered and open. I am comfortable in solitude, not afraid of the approaching cold night, any animals that may be out around me, or the 39 miles left to walk into town.

I forget to be thankful for this lifestyle. It is SO challenging, so difficult to keep moving through pain, uncertainty, fears, boredom and discomfort… It is also a gift to experience such freedom from society, expectations, schedules, shopping malls, radios, houses, buildings, billboards, screens (I know, I’m on one right now typing), showers and beds. What an adventure, truly. Good job dear Morgan! You are doing something incredible, even when you are struggling through it. Thank you so much Ryan for being the reason I am still on trail. My heart is overflowing!

Joining Ryan at camp quickly brought me back to earth as we worked on our camp chores and prepared a much needed meal. We have a very curious and busy visitor who I have been able to catch short glances of amidst rustling and scratching sounds. A mouse is about!! We hung our food or it would almost certainly be snacked on while we slept. Goodnight mouse and stars and moon and my very, very tired body.

Day 81 – October 6

Scritch scratch, scurry scurry, Ryan said he woke up a couple times to a little mouse running over top of him on the outside of our tent, underneath the rain fly where it was very visible. We definitely had a visitor!

The moon has been rising late in the night so when we go to bed it is very dark. Sometime in the early morning however our tent gets a soft blue moon glow and it stays until the day turns and slowly the glow gets brighter and brighter. Today we slept until it was nearly full light and looked at our clock to see the alarming time of 7:16am! We slept in.

A COLD morning

Turns out Ryan had very poor sleep due to a stuffy nose and the extra cold that we got overnight. Our water bottles had completely iced over the little water that was left in them. Brrrr! Needless to say it was difficult to get out of our warm cocoons in those conditions.

We eventually toughed it out though and slowly got ready for the day. By about 9am we were sitting in the sun while Ryan did his physical therapy for his IT band. He must be doing a great job because his resistance band snapped! Time to move up to the medium band a couple days early. While he did his PT I filtered water and enjoyed some breathing exercises. What a grounding way to start the day.

Despite getting cold, hiking in the fall definitely has its perks

We set off for a fairly flat stomp around in the forest. It warmed up quicker than we anticipated and soon, despite very little climbing, we were sweating and hot! My mood was low after a late start which tends to leave me overwhelmed by the thought of our day’s task. It is overwhelming to even think about walking before we start, but once we get going the rhythm of the day kicks in and all is well. Soon we were enjoying conversation about the Romans (Ryan is an EXCELLENT history teacher) while approaching lunch at a beautiful stream that we followed up for the rest of the day.

Ryan carefully crossing the river where we enjoyed lunch

The second half of our walk (usually lunch marks the split into two parts) was absolutely stunning. We are in the La Garita Wilderness and I would HIGHLY recommend this hike. It is mostly flat with a slight inclination up all day, so slight you can’t even feel it. It’s along a beautiful stream that you can hear bubbling along the entire way, and you are walking in a narrow, long valley with nice mountains framing it. There are wide open grassy areas and plenty of trees to add interest for your eyes. The mountains are rocky and rugged but easy to pass and not too tall which means we hovered just below the tree line. Today was one of my favorite days hiking.

Entering La Garita Wilderness
One of the most beautiful valleys we have hiked through
The view across the river

We ended our time with podcasts and music as the sun set and we set up camp as it was just getting dark. The cold was intense and frustrating, but tonight we ate a big meal since we expect to make it to town tomorrow for dinner if we can get a good start! Hooray!

We are alive with one another

We live here in the light of this unlikely world that isn’t ours for long

May we spend generously the time we are given

May we enact our responsibilities as thoroughly as we enjoy our pleasures

May we see with clarity

May we seek a vision that serves all beings

May we honor the mystery surpassing our sight, and this one earth, homeland of all we love.

John Daniels

Day 82 – October 7

Today we nearly all above the tree line, rugged and starkly beautiful

Some days things don’t go as planned. I am still trying to decide whether or not that means I should stop planning, which sometimes has fantastic results, or if plans are just doomed to fail from time to time and I should focus on mitigating expectations to avoid the pain that comes when things go awry.

Today there was definitely a plan, to make it to Lake City for dinner, but due to this and that, that and this, we didn’t make it and still have another five miles to cover in the morning.

It’s so frustrating how it feels a whole day can be wasted by wishing it was going differently. What does one do in this circumstance? I hobbled between grave acceptance that we wouldn’t make it and then a giddy glimmer of hope that we would. Neither felt stable or desirable. Yikes!

All there is to do is keep on walking

The scenery today was thankfully gorgeous and from time to time I would look up from my brooding or pause my music to commune with nature. We saw a few herds of big horn sheep that were majestic and intriguing. They would pop out from behind a huge rocky mountain and watch us carefully to decide when to bolt… which they always did. One herd had to have been at least 15 goats all incredibly running away from us over rough terrain, white butts wiggling as they went.

Ryan going to search for the big horn sheep who ran out of view

We also had some gorgeous views. It was an up and down kind of day terrain-wise so we made it to four different summits all with something to offer our eyes.

Tomorrow we will try again to make it to Lake City. The fears of being caught in the cold, running out of food on trail, not hitting our mileage without serious digging deep due to shortening days are all hanging quite heavy over me right now. It makes it a lot harder to hike and to enjoy the journey when my fight or flight keeps kicking in. This is interesting and challenging. I hope I can do the best with our options to minimize regrets and maximize gratitude!

Day 83 – October 8

Good morning!

Does today count as a walking day? We did five miles to get to the pass where we could hitch into Lake City.

It was a great hike since we had done all our climbing yesterday. It was all downhill after rolling for a couple of miles over the plateau we had slept on. It was a gorgeous campsite and we were visited by curious coyotes that sounded off closer and closer to us before we heard their calls nearby and around our tent. Spooky!

We met a few day hikers headed up the trail as we were coming down and soon we had reached our trailhead at Spring Creek Pass. It took us a good hour or so to get a ride since this highway is very quiet and the towns on either side are summer home destinations which means wealthy people. When we see a luxury car, we know we won’t get a ride and plenty of what passed over the Divide were luxury vehicles. Eventually we were picked up by the Sheriff’s Deputy in Creed and we got a fun education on hunting mountain lions. It was a pleasant ride and we were dropped off in town right outside the BBQ joint where we had lunch. It was delicious and characteristically expensive being in a small mountain town.

Our cozy little getaway

Ryan found us an ADORABLE room at the Wagon Wheel Cabins right next door. It was one room with a nice little bathroom and had a full kitchen, TV, couch, bed, and the sweetest county decorations. We washed off the last five and a half days of hiking and then set for the laundromat. It was a hassle getting cash, breaking the 20s, and then finally getting our clothes clean just in time for most everything in Lake City to be closed for the day.

Luckily we were able to make it to Packer’s for dinner and were informed of a tiny market that was open another half hour where we picked up calorie dense food to replenish our bodily stores while we lounged in bed and watched TV. Pretty nice. Thank you Lake City for a nice stay, and thank you Ryan Wagner for being such a good travel buddy!

Day 84 – October 9

We woke up cozy and warm in our little cabin under four layers of sheets and comforters. Very nice!!! We ate ice cream and milk for breakfast then enjoyed one last hot shower and packed up our packs.

Coffee was a necessity for my love so we went to grab a cup and sat and relaxed in the warm morning sun. The temperature difference at a lower elevation is undeniable! It was a mile walk from there to the grocery store for our resupply. Resupplies are always stressful, especially so in small towns without the usual superstores that have low prices and anything you might want. We had to do some creative work with our diet but found good solutions and packed up six days of solid food for our next stretch. We are ready!

It was a great coincidence that we ran into a man we had seen the night before at the restaurant we had dinner at. He asked us about our hike, how we were getting back out, and then offered us a ride! Thank you Art!! You were a pleasure to chat with and you got us to our destination so easily. We were extremely grateful.

A cairn is in the distance here, calling us towards it saying, “you are going the right way!”

Once back on trail we noticed the weight of our food packed packs and could feel the work we will be putting in while we slowly eat through our stash. It’s already beautiful which we have heard to expect of this section. It’s the San Juans! We have been trying to get south to beat any storms that hit this range, the last big mountains of our journey, and we have done it. No storms, clear forecast. Here we go!

Goodbye Lunar! We will miss you!

Shortly onto the trail we had the good fortune of seeing Lunar again. This is probably the last time we will get to pass our hiker friend since he is about to head home for the winter. We have loved seeing you Lunar and will really miss you and your cool truck with the red cover. Best of luck when you come back next year to finish the trail!

The start of a long, wild journey through the San Juan Mountains

We camped about 8.5 miles into our 118 mile stretch and are set up ready to be cozy at 7pm. Very nice. I am doing some cold exposure right now, sitting in just my underwear, to help my body acclimate and as I am writing this I am shivering generously. BRRR!!!! It is cold out here.

Day 85 – October 10

Let the scenery begin

Strange day. We were not on top of our game. The San Jauns are beautiful and stark and have lots of ups and downs to climb. Despite a very nice morning and cozy night we hit a mental edge. Bummer! We made it 12.5 miles today with an 8am start.

We are definitely into the range now

That being said, we are good now, cozy, and still surprisingly on track for such a short day. All is well!

Day 86 – October 11

A cold start to our windy day

Last night was intense. Southern Colorado has had incredible night skies without exception. The intensity of the universe shining down on us was paled by the insanity of the winds trying to blow us off the mountain. It was by far the windiest night we have had in our year of sleeping outdoors. The wind was amplified by the fact that we camped at a high elevation. When we set up camp the high elevation seemed genius, we would be in perfect position to soak up the early morning rays of warmth coming from the east. Instead our high perch served to subject us to gale force winds. Upon waking in the morning everything, breakfast, brushing, stretching, everything took back seat to the pressing need to get out of the wind.

The take-down procedure was modified due to the extreme circumstances. We made sure everything on our packs was held down, then took down the tent first while leaving the rain-fly standing to break the wind. Everything was stuffed into our packs as fast as possible and we were off.

Setting off!!

We hiked a mile and half into a valley with a pristine lake to complete our morning rituals. It was still very cold and windy but far better than the ridge line we had just descended from.

After finishing breakfast we proceeded to enjoy a morning of hiking straight up then straight down then straight up again. I say enjoy instead of endure because the views we were greeted with were likely the most breathtaking of this entire trail. The San Juan mountains of Southern Colorado is likely the most amazing landscape either of us has ever seen. These mountains are beautiful like a jungle viper. Stunning and dangerous, with the danger only serving to magnify the beauty. All day the winds became stronger than the winds from this morning. We would turn a corner and be blow sideways only to turn another corner and be protected by some gigantic rock face. This continued all morning, we walked without resting because resting would only mean freezing in the wind.

Eventually hunger got the better of us and we did stop to eat lunch. Lunch was delicious thanks to a new hidden valley spicy sauce we have been trying. After such a saucy and relaxing respite we were both back in good spirits. The mountain, however, still had a few tricks up its sleeve.

This crazy mountain weather is gorgeous!

Immediately after we started walking again it became apparent very dark clouds were gathering overhead. In the distance mountains we could see a few minutes before were now shrouded in white. Then the snow hit us. It was mild at first, then wave after wave of intense snowfall washed over us. It was such a ridiculously appropriate cherry on top of the day we had been having that we both paradoxically began beaming smiles at one another. We put our noses down and powered through the storm. Neither of us could hear a word from the other with the howling winds swirling around us. Neither of us could gaze at the mountains with the swirling snows howling around us. The only thing left to do was delve deep inside and think, and also walk.

The after math of our snow flurry

This carried on for several chilly hours before the most amazing thing appeared above us. The sun! The sweet warmth of sunlight gave us just enough energy to power across the top of a windswept plateau.

BRRRR!!! The wind was cutting through us as we rushed to get off the plateau.
Colorado Trail, it’s been a pleasure. Here we part ways for the rest of the journey

At the end of that plateau we descended into a valley with far less wind and far more moose. It was only one moose, a bull, but it was still technically far more than before. At the other side of the valley flows a crystal clear stream. Next to that stream lies a tent containing two very tired hikers. Good night mountains, you can try to break us again tomorrow, but now we sleep.

Goodnight!

Day 87 – October 12

Good day to you beautiful San Juan peaks!

The mountains weren’t trying so hard to kill us today. Thank goodness!! It was cold getting up, as usual, with lots of ice in our water bottles. We slept great though and I only woke up a few times through the night. Lately it’s been several times and usually it takes me more than a minute to fall back asleep. Last night I was right back to sleep. I guess we were tired from the days work!

What a nice spot. We think this lake is called is Ute Lake

We began our hike with a nice big climb followed by a dip back down to the same elevation we had left from, then another equally big climb back up. It was very slow progress in the morning which meant the rest of our day needed a little extra oomph in our step if we wanted to be in our cozy tent before the temperature sharply dropped and the daylight faded away to darkness. These mountains are nice and CHILLY as soon as the sun goes down. It is an instant change even when you step into the shade.

We are rolling over these peaks and valleys

We went up and down a few more times before breaking for lunch at 10 miles. We were already cutting into the second half of our day stopping after 1pm which is the halfway mark of our daylight, but thankfully after a bit more good climbing, it was all downhill for over four miles. No sweat.

One of the many nice surprise views we got today after getting to the “top”

Our lunch was a LOVELY break with plenty of sunshine to keep us warm enough that we didn’t need our jackets while resting, and we picked up some Hidden Valley Secret Sauce that has been generously gracing our wraps. I filtered a gallon of water out for us and Ryan did his physical therapy, then we set back off.

Fueled and ready to go

The second half of the day was an up, then the down. It we stunning going up. We moved slowly towards some very rocky, jagged mountain tips then on a nice flat ridge lining a valley and finally up some big switchbacks on the side of a steep, bald mountain. It was all a fun climb with great views. It was especially fun because I had a great conversation partner! Thanks Ryan for helping the time fly by.

Going down into the valley. Goodnight woods.

We descended and just before camp met a hunter named Phillip with his two mules and very fancy house sized tent. The mules are making music for us tonight with their funny, eerie breys…

Night night!

Day 88 – October 13

We are on top of the world!

What a day. Yeesh. What a day.

We woke up to one of the coldest mornings we have had yet on the trail. It was clear once we got near flowing water, which had large frozen sections, that this chill was no joke! Normally flowing water is ice free but this morning there were thick layers of ice on the edges of rip roaring streams.

We got up and walking by 8am and started our first big climb of the day up and out of the valley we had frozen in. The sun soon warmed us up and the bulk of our day was pleasant and had a chilly breeze to keep us from over heating even while climbing. We made slow progress in the first half of our day, probably due to the large elevation gain and the varying temperatures instigating many stops for wardrobe changes.

A bear print we encountered on our morning climb… how do the animals survive out here in this cold?!

It was fun when we reached the peak of our climb and popped over the edge to see another backpacker! Jim is traveling a two weeks on then two weeks back at home schedule hiking through some of the most beautiful spots we have seen. It was fun to hear him naming off locations that we had hiked through on the CDT and being able to relate to his experience there. We are slowly becoming well travelled!

Alright Jim! You are awesome.

We said goodbye and started a descent into a gorgeous valley closely lined by a wall of mountains. The fall colors are warm and cozy despite the cold air we are experiencing. We took a lovely rest to stop and eat. Ryan was so sweet and filtered all our water while I got to just sit back and take in a little bit of the scenery around us for what felt like the first time in far too long. This thru hiking business is serious work! I often find my nose facing down at the ground from under my wide brimmed hat and realize I may have just walked by the most incredible view, or even a wild animal. I would have no idea.

Reaching the top of our 1,000ft climb
A hard earned view

The second half of our day immediately brought a 1,000ft climb. Ryan and I both powered through it breathing heavy, sweating, and our bodies asking for a break well before we reached the peak. It was a fun climb though and a definite challenge. It felt good to summit. We had achieved something worth being proud of yet again.

The sun has set, and we still hike yet

The day quickly turned to dusk, then night as we hiked on to our destination. We found ourselves with our headlamps out walking on a very, VERY narrow and extremely steep mountainside. This was not where we wanted to be at night. I think it may have been the sketchiest situation we have found ourselves in yet on the trail. Turning our headlamp into the abyss, off towards the sheer drop, it was pure blackness. The trail was sloped slightly with the mountain and occasionally sections were eroded or over grown with willows which required some fancy footwork to navigate. A fall may not mean death, but seriously injury seemed inevitable.

At first we decided to keep going since our destination was less than a mile away, slow and steady does it, then we encountered a pile of ominous skree, loose rocks on the SIDE of a steep mountain and no trail in sight. It was a terrifying moment. I felt so small and exposed with nowhere to turn but back across the long treacherous stretch we had just hiked.

We decided to carefully turn back and hiked for what felt like an hour to safety and a flat place for our tent. What a bummer. We fell short of our goal for the day, had to backtrack, and now will have to brave that mountainside, for the third time, in the morning. We are less than pleased, but safe and cozy in our tent. Time to make dinner, then sleep.

Day 89 – October 14

Another LONG day in the San Juans where we don’t quite reach the 20 mile mark. It is hard work moving through these beautiful, scary and exposed mountains.

Today we were early risers and were rewarded well for our sacrifice. Sunrises are a welcome way to start the day.

We woke up after our freaky dark trek onto the knife’s edge where we were hugging a steep, very steep, and tall mountainside. My body had adrenaline coursing through it as I reminded myself to just keep walking, to keep looking forward, to take deliberate and thoughtful steps, and to breathe. It was a long way down. The view was incredible though as we walked on that narrow strip of trail which turned to mostly ice with bits of gravel on top that helped with traction. It took me a good hour to completely regain my mental composure.

Realistically we were pretty safe yet the imminence of threat if I misstepped caused me to feel some panic. Just what you want when you are teetering on an edge. NOT!

At the end we were both very thankful for the experience. Ryan had been much less shaken during the day than he was last night and I enjoyed confronting my fears and the sensation in the pit of my stomach. It’s not an easy one to get! I had earned it along with the opportunity to closely observe my fears.

We thought today would be easy since the majority of our climbing was a little scribble up and down on our map. We had a 1,300ft climb coming about 15 miles into our day, but that was a problem for Morgan and Ryan to worry about further down the trail.

The beginning of the elevation scribbles on the map

Turns out the little up and down scribbles were quite taxing. We were taken up on top of a very exposed, windy, and rocky ridge where we bobbed up and down in elevation until coming to even bigger ups and downs in the trees. I would anticipate the gripping sensation that comes up inside of me about 30 ft into a climb. The first couple of breaths are smooth and easy, and then it hits. The need for more air, the burning in my legs, the gripping desire to stop what I am doing and rest. It’s amazing the contrast between this and the effortless breathing and walking that comes from a flat or downhill hike. Uphill is a totally different beast. Once you push through the initial discomfort however something clicks into place and you are in a new mode. Climbing mode. It takes a transition nearly every time and the quick up and downs (probably 100-300ft each) were taxing as I had to confront that difficult switch over and over.

Walkin’ the ridge

Finally we were on a more even and gentle up and down and the afternoon began to pass. We had lunch at the last water source we had seen in around 9 miles, relishing the excuse to sit and relax while we ate.

Today was the first day Ryan told me he was really questioning what we were doing. We attributed his frustration to the dwindling stores of fat on his body that had helped take the edge off on past long sections where we had to carefully ration our food. It’s just too heavy to carry any more than you need. We dipped into our stores a little more generously since town is so near and the extra fuel seemed to help his motivation return.

I have been listening to the audio book, Educated, by Tara Westover, and am completely and utterly gripped. I can’t stop thinking about what I am hearing. Having a good audio book makes hiking easier, and this is the best book I have read since I can remember. I found myself last night wishing I was hiking again so that I could be listening. It is a definite gift to have such a gripping narrative to follow on a challenging stretch, on a challenging day like today.

Even with the book in my near future it was as difficult as ever to get up and continue walking after lunch but once moving we were back in a groove. Unfortunately we took a wrong turn at some point and had to add a little distance to our day, hiking up a beautiful river valley to return to the CDT. It was an adventure getting back as the trail marked on our maps was nonexistent to start and so we began by bushwhacking. Thankfully it was mostly low grass we were walking through and only had to brave a patch or two of willows.

After a little ways of this bushwhacking we found a well worn trail that led to a small fort of tents which probably belonged to hunters. We followed it until we got close to the tents and then spotted the trail we should be on a short distance away. It lined up with what our maps were telling us so we cut over to it and had smooth sailing the rest of the way to Piedra Pass where we met back up with the CDT. It was strange to depart from our course to the tents while a man was carefully watching us leave our trajectory towards his fort. I wondered what he was thinking… friend or foe? I surprised myself with the thought of anything other than friend. Originally seeing the tent fort made me excited with fantasies of being lended a horse to carry us and our stuff out of the wilderness or being invited to a feast. What had instigated my shift in mood? It was probably that he didn’t wave back when I waved. Probably he didn’t see me. We were much smaller than their nice tent set up and my feelings of vulnerability reared their heads a bit. I was thankful to get out of sight.

Our view at meeting back with the trail

The trail meandered until we hit a water source where we filtered out 5 liters in about 50 min. We won’t hit another water source for nearly ten miles and since it was about 5pm, we knew we would be dry camping tonight. We were already into our 1,300ft climb when we hit the water and tried to plan a course of action for the rest of the day. The sun would set soon and we were still about 4.5 miles shy of our 21 mile goal. Meeting that goal would give us a reasonable 15 miles to hike into town the next day which hopefully would plant us at the road to town where we would have enough daylight to hitch. We had to either hike late tonight into the dark or wake up early tomorrow and book it.

Our evening climb 😍
Goodnight San Juans!

The rest of our climb was stunning. The sun was setting as we reached the summit and the temperatures were still warm enough for us to enjoy ourselves. As we began to curve around the top of the mountain we decided against any night hiking. After yesterday we are gun shy. The terrain in front of us which looked less than favorable during the day seemed stupid to enter as the light was fading from the sky. We set up camp, 19 miles from the road to Pagosa Springs. Tomorrow is going to take some work.

It is extremely noisy in the tent tonight due to camping at high elevation where the wind is unforgiving. We are well staked down and have alarms set for 5:30am. Bellies full of Zatarains Dirty Rice, tortillas, and cheddar cheese… it is time to replenish for the day ahead. Goodnight!

Day 73 – Day 77

Day 73 – September 26

Our first wilderness zone for a long while

Rise and shine was around 6:45am this morning as the light just started to show from behind the mountains. We were thankful for the restful sleep and noticed that it had been warmer than we were used to! So nice! Thank goodness as well because we forgot to put our water filter in my sleeping bag where it goes before bed every night. If it freezes, it breaks. Yikes! There was no frost on the ground for the first time in a couple of weeks so I think we are in the clear.

Ryan got us powdered milk and captain crunch for breakfast which was delicious and fun. We ate, took down camp, and set into the day.

Despite being so close to the Holy Cross Wilderness, this section of trail is particularly busy since it is also near several popular trailheads. We passed lots of other hikers, some on backpacking trips and others just our for the day. One hiker, Boiled Frogs, told us about his time section hiking the CDT and finishing it in 2013. So cool!

Ryan’s IT had several bad moments today so we took our time and had lots of stretching breaks. It was fun terrain, mostly low rolling hills instead of the big up and down mountains we have been doing recently. What a nice change of pace. We spent most of the day breathing through our noses after hearing about its positive effects and got pretty good at climbing an incline with smooth, long and deep nose breaths. It’s strangely doable!

The photographer at work

The end of the day brought cell service so we called some friends and family to pass the time and I took care of some online errands. We are camped tonight at the trailhead for Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado at around 14,400ft, so we will reach our highest height tomorrow morning. Woo!

My favorite time of the day, when the sun is on its way out and the colors in the sky come to life. See you tomorrow, trail.

Day 74 – September 27

Elbert. What a mountain. Honestly…. what a pretty average big mountain… But the WIND. Oh the wind. We had no idea that Elbert wasn’t always, literally, knock-you-over-and-make-you-loose-your-precious-footing windy until we got down to lower ground and saw how crazily the trees, that are normally very poised and composed, were dancing and flipping around.

I guess we landed on an abnormally windy day for our hike and man we felt it.

It took about 4 hours for us to go from the 10,000ft trailhead at 8am to the 14,400ft summit. The trail was probably between 3-4 miles but the insane winds and huge elevation change left us moving at a snail’s pace.

Checking out the view of Twin Lakes on the way up

The way up was COVERED in other hikers. It was fun to pass a lot of them also on their way up with our seasoned hiker legs carrying us along, big packs and all! We had a lot of comments about how cool we were to be hiking in our backpacking gear. There were also a lot of questions like, “how long have you been out?” To which I enjoyed answering: “74 days” and getting an astonished face in front of me.

We felt like white buffalo: rare, and appreciated for being such.

Shoutout to Jodi and Anne Marie who we had the pleasure of hiking with and getting to know at the start of our hike, as well as to the young couple whose name we forgot! 😭 we met you on the way down and if you remind us of your names, we will put them in for you 😊

We are ascending!

After a very long climb, which by now I have gotten good at reminding myself along the way that it’s going to be a while until I can rest, so it’s best to just not even think about it and instead climb away, we reached the top. My legs still felt very fresh all things considered but my fingers were practically numb with cold and sitting still while we ate a snack and chatted with others at the summit made the rest of me start to shiver within seconds. It was crazy chilly with the wind and high elevation.

The various routes up and down Elbert

Our plans to hike down the far, south east side of Elbert (red line) changed in my mind as we made our way up in the uncomfortable wind. The south east ridge side is more challenging and very exposed with wind like today, but would drop us off far along the official CDT trail (purple line). Hiking back down the north trailhead (green line) which we came up, or the south trailhead (yellow line) right next to it would mean way less exposure, but also a much longer hike when we made it back to the trail. Since we were so tired at the top we decided to take the southern trail and think about hitching to make up the distance we would loose.

Once again, over time, our plans in my mind began to shift. For some reason, the idea of Chinese food seemed to be the reason for living and Buena Vista would be just a hitch away. It would also cut off about 30 miles of trail so it seemed too big a sacrifice to justify. I told Ryan “the little devil on my shoulder is telling me to go to Buena Vista when we hit the road and get Chinese food.” To my surprise, he said not a bad idea! It was supposed to be a joke but was quickly turning into a beautiful reality.

Goin’ down

We decided to cut the miles out of our trek and go for the hitch into BV. It still took a few hours to get to the highway below, a few hours of nearly all downhill, but when we made it we stuck out our thumbs and quickly got a ride from a van life couple in their 50s with a gorgeous Mercedes van. They were so fun to talk with and asked us great questions as well as offered us drinks. So nice!! They are from Boulder and have added another tally to the cool people we have met that live in Boulder. That city is looking more and more appealing by the minute.

They dropped us off where the road split and they took the north fork while we needed to head south. We were picked up again soon after by a threesome of hikers. The driver had hiked a big section of the PCT and all of the CT! It was great talking with them and before we knew it they were dropping us off at the only Chinese food restaurant in town. The food was expensive and pretty good. We ate slowly then made our way down towards the river in Buena Vista and found a tucked away stealth camping spot by the baseball fields. Time to rest under the indirect glare of stadium lights and nearby voices.

Day 75 – September 28

Happy Birthday Michaela, my beautiful sister! 😊❤️🎂

Our sleep by the baseball fields was filled with strange dreams. Probably the stadium lights and whoever was playing a game not 50 yards from us helped with the surrealism. It was a good rest though and we slept in then began our walk to breakfast.

We ate two breakfasts, one on the way to the cafe we scouted out with google, and another when we made it to said cafe. We passed a cheap taco shop with breakfast burritos that was calling our name so we seized the day, and the burrito, then continued on to The Rooster’s Crow. There we ate much more than our comfort levels would have recommended but it was nice to sit down and have some time to look over future plans.

We are going to be ending our hike in a couple of months and life after is starting to take shape in our minds. It’s strange to be making plans already, but also feels nice to have a picture of what’s to come.

After breakfast we picked up the package that Ryan’s mom and dad sent to us with the mittens and buff I accidentally had shipped to their house instead of Breckenridge. Whoops!! Thank you so much Susan and Jon Wagner for getting the goods to us and also adding such thoughtful treats! We love you!

Now armed with a new arsenal of cold weather gear, we made our final stop in town at City Market for a seven day resupply. Our next stretch is planned to be 140 miles. It’s very stressful trying to buy all the food you need while also considering the weight of each item. We try to bring JUST as much as possible without packing too much. Too much weight makes the hiking a total drag.

Thankfully, to help cut the stress, we ran into our friend Lunar in the parking lot! He is the CDT hiker who drives his truck south and hikes north in coordination with All In and Happy Dance who also have a vehicle. He offered us a ride to the trailhead, which we gratefully accepted, and his generosity didn’t stop there. He had acquired many delicious homemade treats after a visit from friends this weekend and passed us as many as we could eat.

We also met a cool traveler in the grocery store parking lot named Dr. John who has hiked the trails cross country trails multiple times and is currently biking to all 48 contiguous states. So cool! He is a more seasoned gasoline-free traveler than I ever expect to be. Go Doc go!!!

It was great riding with Lunar and talking on our way to the trailhead. He dropped us off, we ate some more, and he topped off our waters before we parted ways and began to hike. Today was nearly all above tree line and very windy and cold. It was also gorgeous and after the food fuel we took in today I wasn’t minding much of anything. In fact, I was pretty much on cloud nine the whole hike! We met lots of other cool hikers including a couple in their 80s who had hiked the Colorado trail in their 50s and told us that the secret to their longevity was luck… and to never stop moving. Noted!

Back on the trail

We also met a hiker, Glide, doing the Great Western Loop in sections which will ultimately be over 6,000 miles. So cool. There were multiple CT hikers, like Forrest Gump, who we met as well and we enjoyed sharing good will when we passed by each other on the trail.

Meet Forrest Gump, a northbound Colorado Trail hiker

Ryan is still having some serious pain near his IT band and we had to take several stops to stretch it out and rest today. Please please PLEASE heal up for us! It’s hard to see him in pain. I can tell it’s no joke.

Back in the mountains

Our campsite tonight is absolutely gorgeous set up next to the sunset. We are also right by a little spring piping out clear water from a huge rock face. Dinner was lighter than normal since we had to forgo the Zatarains which were out of stock in Buena Vista and instead return to Knorr sides. Thankfully the butter we bought made it very tasty. We are cozy and ready to rest for tomorrow… goodnight!

Bonne nuit!
Tucked in for the night

Day 76 – September 29

Good morning Colorado

Over it. Literally and figuratively.

We did a lot of up and down today, over lots of summits and saddles, and at the moment of writing this I am over the idea of hiking for two more months. This isn’t the first time I’ve been here, I’m hoping it will pass because it sounds so romantic and wonderful to finish the season out strong. It might be the cold, or our extra heavy packs, or the slow progress we are making, but right now hiking is not what I’d like to be doing.

It’s hard to admit this because so much of my identity is wrapped up in our adventure. I want to be able to say I finished the trail and to know I was able to push through the hard times.

Today was beautiful despite the hardship. There were clear blue warm skies, autumn colors, and we went across several basins with great views, each reminiscent of each other but slightly different from the last.

The beautiful basins full of fall colors and small lakes

We woke up at 4:45am to Ryan’s alarm which he had been awake waiting for for about an hour. I had been fast asleep and slowly woke up in the dark for a bowl of cereal in our jet boil stove.

We were slow to get going and just as we had gotten all packed up I noticed a loose strap on the ground that matched my backpack a little too closely. Turns out something had been busy while we slept and completely chewed through a couple spots on my shoulder strap!! My backpack was rendered inoperable until two hours later when I finished mending it with my sewing kit. Ryan also found a surprise. His trekking poles had been gnawed at and both straps were completely eaten off! What possessed a critter (which we suspect was a Pika) to do this? We have no idea. It was certainly a wrench thrown into our plans though and despite waking up before sunrise around 5am, we left camp at 8:30. Yikes.

Do you see the little sneaky pika? Eeee!

Hiking in the morning was still a joy though and we ran into a group of three young ladies who had been on the PCT this year but jumped to the Colorado trail after the crazy fires hit.

Ryan dealt with pain in his IT band all day and we took several breaks to stretch it out and buy some time before it began barking again. It’s really hard to see him in pain. It’s also difficult to decide what we should do because days off for rest almost certainly mean we don’t make the Mexican border, and pushing on means pain and slowed progress. Possibly a worse injury. No fun.

Later in the day we met too more hikers who are working their way through the Collegiate Peaks and we enjoyed their enthusiasm. They were very stoked on being out hiking! Good for them! Go go!

Our camp came early tonight by a small stream. I am emotionally beat and also a little physically tired. Time for dinner, then bed.

Day 77 – September 30

Deep breath in, deep breath out

In through the nose, out through the nose. We listened to a great audio book that Ryan discovered while listening to a Joe Rogan podcast a couple of days ago. It’s called Breath, by James Nestor, and I HIGHLY recommend it.

We are convinced of the benefits of breathing through your nose and worked hard to put it into practice again today. I cheated a few times while climbing a hill, sipping greedily through my mouth on the steeper stretches, but found to my surprise that breathing through my nose, even when I’m working hard, seems to be more satisfying overall than breathing through my mouth.

Mountain lakes 😍 this one came right before a big oil’ climb

Along with a hyper focus on our breath today, we also hiked over some beautiful Alpine passes and by some gorgeous lakes. We saw only two other hikers all day today and even hiked until after sunset.

Goodnight woods and mountains

We are settled in below the Monarch Mountain Ski resort and are both ready to devour a Knorr sides wrap. Yum yum! Here we come!

Zero in Salida and a stay at The Butterfly House

Rise and shine

Ryan and I had a slow morning, knowing we didn’t have any hiking to do until at least after a resupply in town about 20 miles away. We got up, packed up, skipped breakfast since we knew it would be coming soon, and stepped onto the mountain highway to hitch.

This road was NOT built for pedestrians.

It was a little scary hugging the shoulder and walking next to a huge drop off with cars coming around the bend at speeds over 50mph. Thankfully we soon found a safe enough spot with a pull out nearby and posted up to hitch into town. We were picked up by our first Jeep! Clint was using the family car to head home from a scouting trip, looking for sign of elk since his tag is coming up.

He dropped us off at a crossroads where we needed to go south and he was headed north.

Meet Jeff

We spent a few hours at the gas station there where we drank warm morning drinks, ate a little, and met a really cool gasoline truck driver named Jeff. Hi Jeff!!! I loved meeting you and hearing about your life. He taught me a lot about how gas stations and farms get refueled and then about what it is like to have been a policeman, and educator, a parent, and now a grandparent. It made my morning having such a pleasant and friendly encounter.

Hitching round 2!

After our breakfast stop, we walked a bit down to road and hitched again the rest of the way into Salida. This time we were picked up by Joshua and his two kids, Chelley and Nathan.

Ryan and I had joked in the past about being picked up by a parent with kids in the car, assuming it would never happen. I’m sure glad it did. I had so much fun talking with Chelley who is probably around the fourth grade. She was so sweet and mature for her age. It’s really interesting to get such an intimate peek into people’s lives when you ride in the car with them. You are in their very personal space and it makes for a great place for trusting conversation with very little pressure since you are both going your separate ways soon.

Town time ‘tis totally terrific
Town deer ‘tis cute

We resupplied at Walmart then grabbed a bite to eat at McDonalds before walking downtown in pursuit of a foam roller for Ryan. We found no foam roller but chatted with many nice and helpful shop keepers as well as a cool artist on the street selling his work. After this we walked two miles back to Walmart and then began hitching out of town to The Butterfly House.

We decided to make today a zero and try out The Butterly House, the cool new hostel we keep hearing about.

A truck picked us up quickly, Shelley and Jerry had seen us leaving Walmart around the same time we began walking out of town and they came to see where we needed to go. They drove us all around looking for The Butterfly House and were so kind and helpful! Yay! Thank you Shelley and Jerry!

After trying a couple different mountain roads we found the hostel and were greeted by a young man in a wide brimmed hat and unbuttoned shirt cutting wood with a table saw. This was Logan, AKA Mowgli. Soon after, we met Andrew who was painting a big moose on a big board and sported a mustache and shared the unbuttoned shirt look with Mowgli. Characters! They were both working for the owner, Shane, who was out for the day in Denver. In exchange for rent and space for their crafts, Mowgli making very nice fancy beaver felt hats and Andrew painting and building his business, they were helping with the many projects the cabins needed.

Ryan cooked the two of us a pound of steak each and we feasted on that with a head of raw broccoli on the side. After dinner we were invited up to the old mine at the top of The Butterly House’s backroad. Cameron, a van lifer who was visiting from Aspen, also joined us. We shot clay pigeons up there and had a great time. Ryan surprised us all by shooting all three of his targets spot on before anyone else had been able to even hit one! Go Ryan!! Woot!!!

Shooting clay pigeons
Ryan shooting with Mowgli throwing

They pulled out a fire pit when it got dark and we enjoyed the night before heading back to the cabin. I had a shower then joined in on a delicious home cooked dinner. Thank you SO much to Andrew, Mowgli, and Cameron. You guys were serious fun to hang out with. Thank you also for these gifts on my phone which I found the next day:

Cameron
Andrew
Mowgli

Ryan and I went to bed in the guest cabin and tucked into our little room across from Dave, AKA Glide. It was fun to see him walk into the hostel that afternoon since we had ran into each other a couple days back on the trail and lost contact.

Meet Dave

Dave is the coolest hiker I’ve ever met. He is 70 years old and has been an outdoorsman for his whole life as far as I can tell. He hiked the PCT in 1972 and 1973, is one of around 30 people to thru hike the Grand Canyon, and is currently section hiking the Great Western Loop which includes the PCT, CDT, and trails that connect two the for over 6,000 miles of total distance. He packs a ukulele with him and is a fantastic conversationalist with many stories to tell. Better yet though his shares great opinions and very applicable and pertinent information. Glide, it’s a true pleasure to have met you.

Zero round two. Tattoos and the Monarch Lodge.

Waking up in The Butterfly House was a treat. We spent the morning talking with Glide while we ate and got ourselves ready to go.

Before leaving, I gave my first tattoo.

Tattooing in the mornin’

Yesterday it came up that Andrew had a tattoo machine and offered to let me use it to give him one. It was by far my first time even touching a tattoo machine and I was nervous but had always wanted to try the art out and had a very willing subject. Andrew you are awesome and braver than I.

Andrew has experience giving tattoos so I had an awesome teacher. After putting on the stencil of the Colorado Trail on his shaved foot, he showed me how to work the machine and turned his flesh over to me. It took me a bit to really get the feel and I made a little mistake, now a permanent part of Andrew’s body, but overall it went well. Now I have officially tattooed someone and Andrew officially has the Colorado Trail on his foot. Woo! What a rush. I had adrenaline in my veins and would definitely do it again.

Goodbye butterfly house! From left to right: Cameron, Andrew, me, Ry, Mowgli, and Dave

Ry and I left after a nice group photo and walked a short distance up the main road to the Monarch Lodge where we got a room for one more day of rest.

It was great to have our own very cozy space and we enjoyed just laying in the huge cozy bed, taking a hot bath, and eating burgers at their restaurant. Very nice.

We ended the day with comedy and then a deep, pillow and duvet filled, sleep.

Day 67 – Day 72

Family time, new heights, and the Colorado Trail

Breckenridge, Colorado with Uncle Dave, Papa Paul, and Grandma Honey

Our group photo at “The Troll” in Breckenridge. From left to right: Ryan, me, Uncle Dave, Papa Paul, and Grandma Honey ❤️

After many nights of sleeping outside, waking up indoors, in a house, has some serious perks:

  1. You can stay warm and cozy even after leaving your bed!
  2. There are showers available. Wow. Luxury here.
  3. There is a stove top and fridge full of delicious, perishable breakfast items

There are a few drawbacks for me too like a much higher tendency to be lazy and slow to start my day. I also miss the fresh feeling of having to battle the discomfort of cold air and rough plants while stumbling out of the tent to pee first thing after waking up. All this can be invigorating and motivating but is really only fun in hindsight haha!

It was very nice to have this change of pace today and Ryan made us all a hearty breakfast of eggs and toast with butter before we set off for downtown Breckenridge to meet Papa Paul and Grandma Honey.

A cool throne sculpture in the arts district downtown

Our outing began with some quick store browsing, then we set off to see the troll. This sculpture/installation features a very large wooden troll who welcomes you into his lap for a photo in the trees. It also featured a long line of people looking for a photo. Well worth the wait in my opinion!

We continued our outdoor adventures with a hike in Officer’s Gulch on a very nice paved path next to a gorgeous river and amongst the bright yellow fall aspens. We saw plenty of bikes and enjoyed being outside walking WITHOUT an extra 30+ pounds on our backs. I noticed my mood, which was low and sleepy pick up significantly after a nice walk in the woods.

Following the hike we went to REI and outfitted Ryan with some nice new breathable Keen boots. He has officially retired his North Face trail runners and we can definitely say good riddance. Not only were they beginning to fall apart, but they also were nearly impossible to put on. No more struggling there!

Block print?! Amazing.

Following REI was a trip back to downtown Breckenridge for some art gallery time which left me feeling extremely inspired and thankful! I’m looking forward to getting more time to paint and create. The wood block prints of the forest by artist Leon Loughridge were particularly gripping for me. I see a new line of work in my future.

While downtown we were able to zoom call for Paul’s sister’s birthday. Aunt Elly! Happy Birthday! We love and miss you and loved getting to say happy birthday to you and see your beautiful face. I loved the lipstick and scarf. Elly is battling some serious cancer right now and we think about her a lot while hiking, sending prayers your way Elly!

We had a nice dinner at Eric’s sports bar to end the night and said our goodbyes to Papa Paul and Patty before heading back to Dave’s house. It’s been great to have time with family. I must admit I’m feeling hesitant to get back out on the trail… tomorrow morning we will be there though whether I like it or not!

Day 67 – September 20

Uncle Dave and Ryan

Ryan and I had a nice morning with Dave, eating breakfast and talking, before heading back out to the trail. We stopped at Wendy’s on the way for some lunch and hit the trailhead around noon.

It was a gorgeous afternoon with sunshine and a nice long flat bike path before we hit the road up to Gray’s Peak trailhead. This is where the climbing began. It’s going to be a long ways up to the highest point on the CDT!

We passed Lunar, another through hiker, who is hiking the trail southbound by driving his trucks south then hiking north and repeating the process when he meets the other awaiting vehicle that has been parked along the trail. He told us that we had a gorgeous stretch ahead of us! There are lots of people on the way up, then nobody. He also warned us that the top is very slow going and takes focus to pass safely, so we shouldn’t be there after dark. Ryan humored my concerns and we set up camp very early in the day, around 3pm, to get an early start tomorrow on the treachery… here we go!

Day 68 – September 21

Gray’s Peak! Our highest point yet. Yes it was windy and cold up here.

We have officially climbed the highest point on the CDT! 14,270ft. It’s all downhill from here… HA! We are planning to go slightly off trail in a few days to hit the highest peak in the state.. so I guess after that it’s all downhill.

Breaking on the long way up

We got up at 4:45am, our earliest start yet, to begin our long climb. It took about three hours to reach the top and we felt the altitude on the way, stopping frequently to catch our breath. After the top and chatting with lots of nice day hikers on the way up, we began walking the ridge to Edward’s Peak. This was definitely the hardest hike of the official CDT yet, not counting the alternate route we took for Knapsack Col in the Wind River Range which was still more challenging. We were walking with very steep sides on a small ridge between a 14,000+ and 13,000+ peak. Whew! We saw mountain goats up there and another brave hiker who was coming up the backside of Gray. What a cool day.

Heading to Edward’s from Gray’s

On the way down from Edwards’s Peak we met two hunters who had waited 17 years for a tag to get a mountain goat. They were standing right next to a group of five or six of them. The goats are very brave and don’t seem to mind being RIGHT next to their death. It was strange for Ryan and I to witness the scene where the two hunters were ignoring their bounty of sitting goats to wait for a bigger, better trophy. For me this registers as a type of sick humor. How funny! How strange! How sad! Run little goats run!

A long descent

By the mid afternoon we discovered we had gone only 8 miles in 8 hours and chose a road walk to bypass a risky section of trail with a big climb. We were happy with our decision and finished up our day a little after 7pm with almost 20 miles under our belt. Not bad AT ALL for such a challenging morning. Woohoo!

Goodnight Colorado 🌙

Day 69 – September 22

Whew! WHAT. A. DAY. We hiked 26 miles today between 6am and 7pm and were so fortunate to be picked up outside of Breckenridge by Dave, Ryan’s uncle. We then enjoyed a big pizza dinner and are sleeping in a house, showered. Amazing. I like ending a hard day of hiking clean, full, and on an actual mattress.

Beginning our hike before sunrise

Our morning today was stunning. We woke up at 5am to an alarm, took down camp and ate a Hostess Apple Pie which was far too sweet but also delicious, then got walking in the cool morning and watched the sun rise and the day go from gray to full color. The start of our day was mostly slow climbing up to Whale Peak along the Continental Divide and then we began our descent. First we followed the divide, then cut over through mostly descending mountains.

Most of the day was spent in shaded woods where we encountered other hikers and mountain bikers. Today we met up with the Colorado Trail which crosses a good part of the state and is a popular, shorter through hike at around 450 miles. The hiker we met on it today said it takes about a month to complete. Sounds luxurious! 😉

A cool boardwalk today, the Colorado Trail is well groomed and easy to follow

During our lunch break, while eating our famous tuna, cheese, and potato chip wraps, something long and lanky caught the corner of Ryan’s eye as it ran behind a tree near us and posted up on a stump, once again hidden from sight. Ryan was excitedly and quietly pointing to the tree and going on about “that thing!” Which I couldn’t see since it was hiding from us! He grabbed the camera and sure enough, a very cute triangle face with two little eyes and a little black nose looked at me before running off into the woods. Luckily Ryan snapped a great picture before it took off! Woohoo! Go Ryan! He is getting very good at wielding our camera. Turns out our visitor was a Pine Marten. So much fun!

Dinner after a loooong day of walking

By the end of our hike our legs, feet, knees, and hips were very angry but we persevered. It was such a relief to be with Dave who picked us up by highway 9, and soon after, seated at Eric’s ready for some eating. Ryan and I split potato skins and a 16in Greek pizza. What a treat after such a crazy long day!

As we were leaving and anticipating having to set up our tent in the cold dark, Dave offered to have us stay with him again tonight! We accepted and enjoyed hot showers before bed. Ahhh. Thank you so much Dave for your hospitality, engaging and interesting conversation, and generosity with your time. A half hour drive to and from town is a sacrifice we sincerely appreciate!

Day 70 – September 23

Thank you Dave for such a nice second stay!! We are so thankful to have been able to get a hot shower, a comfortable sleep, and best yet, to spend more time with you.

Treats!! Thank you Momma!

Our morning was easy and laid back. We left the house at 7:30am to make it to Breckenridge by 8am when the post office opened up. I got the package my mom had sent to General Delivery with my thermal leggings in it and tons of fun and interesting treats! She is always so thoughtful in sending boxes. When I was in college she would send the sweetest care packages full of fun things that helped me feel at home and loved even while being states away. It’s great to get the same treatment on the trail. Thank you Momma 😊

We got the package then went to the grocery store for a quick resupply. Ryan ran in while I worked on the blog (which is still being edited. It takes so long!) and we ate a nutritious breakfast of donuts, coffee, and milk. My yogini vegetarian self from a year ago would have probably fainted at this. We felt the meal talking in our stomachs after a mile or so of hiking into the trail. So many donuts.

Dave kindly dropped us off back at our trail and we set off for a big ol’ climb. From 9,500ft up to 12,500. Whew! Thankfully, being so close to town, we had great cell service and made lots of phone calls to pass the time and the get over the peak.

The master at work, taking a picture of a hawk on the way up

Today we met many mountain bikes. This route is close to a couple of towns and on a nice trail, so we saw probably 10-15 bikers passing us over the day. There was a twinge of excitement at the idea of being on a bike like them, plowing down the mountain over roots and rocks.

Up, up, up!
A view of Copper Mountain Ski Resort from the summit
Gorgeous golden hour in the valley

It felt good to be hiking and we made decent progress for starting at 10am. We also met some through hikers on the Colorado Trail and enjoyed talking with them. On our way up we met Zero and Smudge who were just about finished with the trail, and on the way down we met Stuart who is hiking in a very unique and cool way. He is doing the entire trail on weekends and short breaks from work by driving to where he last left off (or close enough to get there by hiking in half a day). He then day hikes. then half a day in and then half a day back out to his car. He will have hiked the entire trail twice, both north and south bound when he finishes since each section is a day hike out and back. Very cool! He was a pleasure to talk to and helped pass the time as the day drew to an end. He was also a sold Altra wearer. These trail running shoes pop up time and time again as the gold standard of hiking comfort in a shoe. Too bad we hear they wear our after about 500 miles and need replaced. I like the thrifty Keen boot which can last half the trail before buying a new pair. Maybe when we have more money I will try the Altra.

Ski town!

We split ways and set up camp near the Copper Mountain Ski Resort by a nice bubbly stream. One more day of hiking and we should be in Leadville!

Day 71 – September 24

It seems our good habits of rising early are very slowly getting pushed to the side. We still got up and at it, hitting the trail by 8am, but couldn’t help feeling a little silly after our previous days of 6am. Thankfully we only had an 18.5 mile walk to the road that could take us into Leadville.

Bunny kisses…
Bunny fighting!

Today I hiked without a visual forecast of our elevation which I would usually get by looking at our map on Guthook. It was kind of fun to just roll with the ups and downs and see what happened as we went. The beginning of the day brought a big climb over a couple of peaks but we felt good and made it up to the top by the early afternoon.

“There’s a place called Kokomo, that’s where we wanna go, to get away from it all”

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I wish it was a little colder today. I got SO hot being used to a slight chill in the air. My energy was zapped as we began our descent and my mood very low. Thankfully with a determination to continue moving and not sink into despair, plus good water consumption, the feeling passed and although I was physically exhausted, the rest of the day was pleasant.

Hello yellow fall
A waterfall treat

We hiked through GORGEOUS yellow and orange aspens and met a few more Colorado Trail hikers and other backpackers which was fun. More mountain bikers passed us up today which brought a little more fuel to the fire in us that wants to try bikepacking next time we take off up a mountain. Audio books and podcasts helped cut the fatigue and we met the first crossing of the highway into Leadville at about 6pm. The second, more traditional spot to hitch from, was about 3.4 miles down the trail but not near a water source. We were dry, completely out of that oh so necessary liquid, and crossed a beautiful creek right near the road that convinced us to call it an early day and set up camp right there.

It was fun to stop early and have a little extra time to just be goofy and lighthearted. Ryan got some sling practice in, throwing rocks around while being nagged at by a very territorial squirrel, and bed time came soon enough. We decided to hitch from our position in the morning rather than walking the extra 3.4 miles when we woke up to the other road crossing. Leadville, here we come!

Day 72 – September 25

Early to bed…… DOES NOT mean early to rise. Yikes. We got up around 7:30am to start camp tear down. Oh well! We were still on good schedule for our plans for the day which included hitching into town, getting breakfast, doing laundry and showering, then most importantly, hitting Melanzana for some fleece and resupplying for our next 70 mile stretch. Melanzana is a really cool store only found in Leadville that makes some unique and extremely popular fleece. We have seen so many people in Colorado rocking their fun colors and signature square pattern. The coolest part of this company though is that they make all of their fleece in house, at the store, and ONLY sell it there. You cannot buy it online.

Walkin’ around Leadville

They were closed for COVID but recently opened for “no touch shopping” and have a narrow window to buy from 1-6pm each day. They also have a line that forms around the building every day, sometimes starting around 11am, so we decided we needed to get a spot nice and early.

We got laundry going and took showers at the combination shower and laundromat. It was pricy, but it sure feels good to be clean. While the laundry was drying, I went to post up at Melanzana and get us a place in line. When I got there around 11:30am, there was no line so I ran to Subway for as dense of a sandwich as my money could buy, then planted myself FIRST in line on a nice bench right by the door. Very, VERY soon after I sat down, I was joined by the next person in line, Carla, who I had a great time chatting with for the next hour.

She works for a cool editing company that handles big name magazines like Good Housekeeping, and she had great questions about our travels. It felt good to talk to someone I knew I’d never see again about the trials and the highs of the trips. She seemed to feel the same and we had a nice time discussing lighter topics, and a cathartic time divulging some struggles.

Inside the store, we made it!

Ryan met me with clean clothes right as they were opening their doors and we spent about an hour, plus a dollar amount that will not be mentioned, on fleece. Yay!!!

After our shopping spree we went to Safeway for a resupply on this next 73 mile stretch then filled our water and walked ourselves to the edge of town. Hitching proved to be a difficult pursuit but eventually, we were swept up by the lovely Emma who happened to work at Melanzana! She was awesome to talk to and told us about her time in Switzerland for school. So cool. She also left us with one of the most delicious carrots I’ve ever eaten, a purple, locally grown one straight from the farmer’s market. Thank you Emma!!!

Back on trail 👍

Back on trail, we decided to try for an all nighter. Yes. All night. Our reason being that tomorrow is LP’s big fundraiser for ROMP where they hike Mt. Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado, with a group of paraplegics to help raise money for amputees in Ecuador to receive prosthetics. We got back on trail 26 miles from the Mt. Elbert trailhead and knew if we pushed all night, we could be there to support! We are actively trying to raise money for ROMP (you can donate under our name here!!: http://Give.rompglobal.org/cdt) and thought it would be awesome to be present for their annual event.

It’s getting darker….

Spirits were high as we finished our first three miles and it began to get very dark. It didn’t take much longer after that however for sleepiness, hunger, and boredom to creep in. It’s not easy to follow a rocky, hilly trail between trees when the moon is casting a side shadow on their trunks. What is the moonshine and what is the trail?! What is a rock and what is a shadow?? Not easy. Still fun though until you have a heavy fog of fatigue setting in since your body knows it’s night time.

It is also important to note that Ryan is having some serious pain in his right hip. We think it’s his IT band after lots of pinpointing the spot and consulting our friend Nathan who just became a certified Physical Therapy assistant. It’s very unfortunate because not only is there pain… it’s serious pain. Ryan is such a trooper when it comes to discomfort and he is truly struggling when the stabbing feeling comes on. We have incorporated stretching breaks which seem to help the hurt, but also add extra stops that take time and the pain tends to creep back soon. We will see where things go… hopefully towards healing!

We called it good at 9:30pm when we still knew we could catch a good night’s sleep. Ahhh. Time to rest and get ready for our walk to Mt. Elbert tomorrow.

Day 50 – Day 66

Rawlins to Breckenridge, forest fires, snow storms, and trail angels

Day 50 – September 1

25 miles today. Whew.

Back to the Basin!

We are officially back in the Basin walking all day long! Today we even got a late start, around 8:45am, yet still finished up our mileage within 12 hours at around 8:15pm.

We followed a big red dirt road for most of the day that snaked around gently rolling hills with wide vistas. It was prettier today than a lot of the other Basin days since it wasn’t just FLAT. There were even a few trees! Well, off our route of course, but seeing them was still nice.

A dry lake bed… no water here

The water sources today were few and far between, and the two we tried tasted very bad. Like dirt. Yuck! They were mud rimmed “lakes” that were difficult to get water from without sinking your shoes in mud or scooping up muck instead of the clear water since the edges were so shallow. We made do though and were thankful for the gallon we each carried in getting us most of the way to our destination… Muddy Creek. The name fits!

We utilized audio books, podcasts, and music today to help cut the monotony. The best though was ending our long walk talking about a fantasy world we have been imagining.

Since we are at the beginning of a 165 mile stretch, our bodies are beat from the heavy packs. Thankfully it’s only getting lighter from here! Nom nom nom. Time to sleep and recuperate. We are planning a 23 mile day tomorrow 🙌

Goodnight beautiful twilight desert

Day 51 – September 2

We woke up to our alarm at 7am. Time to get up, get moving and get on the trail! It was pretty apparent when we started walking that yesterday had been a long one since our soreness hadn’t subsided much after sleeping. It took a few miles but eventually our muscles warmed up and we were on our way for another day.

Roaaaad walkin’

We had pleasant conversation in the morning and enjoyed each other’s company. At our first water break about three miles in, I did some first aid on a little blister forming on my pinky toe. It’s amazing to me that I can still get blisters after this many days of hiking! They tend to be pretty manageable though and disappear within a few days of treatment or powering through the discomfort.

There are a fair amount of vehicles out here, we probably saw five or six today, and one stopped to talk to us. They were an older couple from South Carolina doing a tour along the continental divide in their nice truck with a pop up camper in the bed. Talking with them about our journey reminded me of how much further we have to go and struck some dread into my heart. It’s a long walk. Best not to think about the total distance and instead take it one step at a time!

We walked about 11 miles before hitting a piped spring that was giving lots of very nice water. Crystal clear, straight from the ground. Springs are amazing! We filled up for a 12 mile carry to camp and set back off.

Ryan closing up one of the many cow gates that the trail passed through today

I can’t say today was easy or very fun… but it also want bad and I’m proud of the distance we covered and thankful for the beautiful sunset we had to end the day. It’s great to be in the tent, time to eat, then SLEEEEEP.

Day 52 – September 3

Leaving our camping spot, ready to climb out of this basin

We woke up in the Basin by a river at the bottom of a long climb. We would end the day at around 11,000 feet and we were starting at around 7,500. It’s been a while since we’ve had much elevation change since the Basin is so flat! The climb showed. We ended the day with 20 miles done at around 9:15pm. Much later than normal for a 20 mile day!

Into the Medicine Bow National Forest… time for target practice?

The morning brought a short walk on paved roads with a few semi trucks then we were soon into the Medicine Bow National Forest, back on dirt roads and then trails! It’s also been a while since trails.

Braving the blow downs. We are back in trees!
Thank you Rafe for the delicious fruit and good conversation

Just after getting into the National Forest, we met Rafe, a bow hunter who gave us each two apples and oranges!! What a treat! Fruit on the trail is a heavy luxury we usually can’t justify. This was such a treat. It was also a lot of fun talking to him and getting to share what it was like through hiking the CDT. He said he could never see himself doing it, the boredom and time must be taxing! I agreed. It was definitely a pick me up to meet a friendly local, which we haven’t had the pleasure of in a while.

Goodnight forest

Ryan and I both finished our audio books today, he Oryx and Crake, me Talking to Strangers. We rolled into camp very late in the dark and quickly set up. It was a long evening and a lot of uphill so it felt great to make it to camp. Ahhh. Finally.

Day 53 – September 4

The full moon was very bright last night since we slept with our rain fly off to save time in the morning. It takes a few minutes to take down and every second counts! It was beautiful to see the moon and also a nuisance when we were trying to sleep. Spoiler alert, tonight we decided to go with rain fly on. Practice makes perfect! We are still learning how to set up camp even after over 100 nights of travel with our set up.

We slept well regardless of the bright moon and got up at around 7:20am. We dry camped (camped away from a seated source) so water chores were easy this morning. We set our goal at 24 miles and took off up the rest of the mountain we had been climbing. Ryan purchased The Chronicles of Narnia on his audible account and we both started The Magician’s Nephew which was a fun way to get the day rolling. Our 24 mile goal was a little lofty so I had a fire lit under me.

HIKER BOX!!!! Goodies!!
Shoes?! Food?!? WATER?!?!?

We walked about 7.5 miles to our water source and just before getting there we hit a hiker box! Woohoo!! Score! There were treats in there and we snacked on an expired can of ravioli and two 400 calorie protein bars. AMAZING! We are lighter on food again than we would like so this was such a treat and made the day a lot more enjoyable.

Breaking above the tree line

We hiked through lots of trees today and did a good amount of up and down. It’s strange to be out of The Great Basin for only 1.5 days. It feels like much longer now! There was some fun high elevation terrain and plenty of water available today.

Walkin’ in woods
You go girl!!

We also met a really cool hiker, Bad Ass Mary who is in her mid 60’s and finishing up her triple crown with the CDT! She is doing half this year, then half the next. You go girl. She gave us great tips on the Colorado portion of our trip before we set off on a dirt road that shaved a little under a mile off of our day to hit our goal. The evening and night slowly rolled in as we walked quickly down the road, occasionally getting off to the side let a dusty vehicle pass us, and made it to camp before 8:30. Our day was wrapped up in less than 12 hours from when we started walking, woohoo! Time to eat and sleep.

Day 54 – September 5

Wooo!!!!!!! COLORADO!!!!!

WE ARE IN COLORADO!!!

What a day! 25 miles. Whew. We did a lot of up then a LOT of down and are now only 40 miles out from our hitch into Steamboat Springs. Best of all, we crossed the border from Wyoming to a Colorado and have now officially completed TWO states of our four WOOOHOOOOO!!!

Good morning forest animals! This is a Grey Jay, but our friend Lunar who is also hiking the CDT says it’s the breed “a** hole.” It was a bold birdie coming to check out our camp this morning.

Also great news, moral is back. Being in the woods today felt fantastic. I felt back to myself after the long dreary Basin. Thank goodness. It was beginning to look impossible to finish the trail but now I see some hope again!

We met two other through hikers near the end of our day also which was awesome. They were taking a trail zero, sadly due to an unhappy stomach. Nostrovia and Larry Mashed Potato are also headed south and started at Maria’s pass like us. Very cool! It was fun for me to see a girl about my age as well. Most of the through hikers we meet are men. Two awesome girls in a row after Nostrovia today and Bad Ass Mary yesterday.

Ryan and I had a great time closing out the day in conversation and we also put a good chunk into The Chronicles of Narnia. Our food situation is looking up as well after realizing we are a day ahead of schedule and after finding three granola bars on the trail. Bonus prizes!

Heading down in the afternoon

We are camped on the Middle Fork of the Elk river tonight after hiking in in the dark under the stars. Time to eat, rinse our very, very dirty legs (the trails was SUPER dusty today), and then sleep after an episode of Community. Whoop!

Tomorrow we have a very big, 4,000 or so foot climb over the first ten miles. Thankfully we put in our distance today and now only have two reasonable 20 mile days left to town where goodie bags, hot springs, and a Walmart await us. Feels good.

Day 55 – September 6

Mt. Zirkel Wilderness, here we go!

Today we had a big ol’ climb. About 4,000ft over ten miles into the Mount Zirkel Wilderness of Colorado. We also had a very late start and left camp at 9:30am! It was nice to have a lazy morning, but it meant a very late day of hiking since we were determined to meet our goal of 20 miles.

A nice mountain lake on the way up

The climb was easy to begin with and ended with a steep 1,000ft gain over about 1.5 miles. It was gorgeous though, getting up into the high altitude where we went over Lost Ranger Peak at just shy of 12,000ft! This was our second highest point yet on the trail. It sounds like we have a lot more where that came from going through Colorado. We will even hit a 14,200ft summit in this state!

Ryan carefully gathering water from a small stream near our summit

The trails out here are noticeably busier than our last stretch in the Basin and it’s been fun running into other hikers. We met a cool couple, Evan and Elian, today on our way up the mountain. Elian hiked the AT last year so we hit it off no problem and I enjoyed venting a little bit about the discomfort that comes with hiking a through trail. We are about half way done with our journey and some things are getting easier like my legs not hating me as much after a 4,000ft climb, but others are harder like the cold coming and us having half of the trail still left to hike. That’s a long way to go and a hard thing to think about too much.

Some crazy dead trees WAY up there
I’m all the way up!

At least it is gorgeous and easier on my boredom to be back in the woods. It’s nice to not be able to see where you are going for the next 7 miles. Each turn is refreshing and new and keeps things much more interesting. Speaking of interesting, we ran into a new forest fire today! The smoke was lightly rising over a mountain top as we climbed, and soon there was a big tower coming from a patch of woods a little ways off. You could see a helicopter carrying water to the smoke from a nearby lake. We couldn’t see any flames, but they were definitely there, and the air was getting smokier and smokier. We called 911 to let them know what we saw and got back on our way, the night approaching.

The beginnings of what turned into a big forest fire

In twilight we ran across two womenwith their dog and two llamas (turns out llamas are awesome and can carry around 80lbs and have no problem eating the grass they find along the way)! They told us they were getting out in the dark because of the fire and had about 6 more miles to hike to their car. This made me more concerned about the fire, and as we slept about 3 miles from where we spotted them, I couldn’t help but fear a little and wake up in the night smelling smoke and hearing the wind and wondering if we were safe. We were! No fire by us in the morning.

Day 56 – September 7

Our alarm went off at 5:30am…. then we hit snooze two times to get up at 6am! Our goal for the day was only 20 miles to highway 40 where we would hitch a ride into Steamboat Springs and then enjoy some delicious Taco Bell 🔔

Passing some beautiful lakes this morning

The hiking went well and we passed lots of mountain bikers heading in and up as we were headed out and downhill. Our morning was literally freezing plus very very windy, but the day slowly warmed up to the usual make-you-sweat-when-you-are-going-up-a-small-hill temperature. We noticed a lot more smoke in the air and even woke up a few times in the night and could smell it strongly. The wildfire seems to still be burning away, thankfully not too close to us though!

We made good time and got to the highway around 5pm. It was a lot of fun watching cars pass us by while we had our thumbs stuck out. Usually we walk towards our destination with our thumbs out but have changed our tactic to staying in one spot and saving our legs a little bit of work. It made it easy to see the faces gawking as people drove by when we were just standing in place so we were laughing and joking the whole time.

Thank you for the ride Doug!!

Within about ten minutes of this, a car swung around and pulled into a side road we were waiting by, waving us is over. Doug picked us up on his way to the town he works in and kept us in good conversation for the 30 or so minute ride into Steamboat Springs. Thank you so much Doug! It was inspiring talking to you and hearing about your ironmans, long career of engineering for surface coal mining which we found very impressive, and time spent traveling and hitchhiking in the 70s. We are sure glad you picked us up! Sorry for the smell I’m sure we were filling your car with after over a week in the woods.

After getting in town, we had a nice conversation with Ryan’s parents, Jon and Sue, then attempted to get some fast food at the combination Taco Bell and KFC. No luck! Their indoor area was closed so we tried the number to call in an order at their door. No answer. Plan B was the go to Fiesta Jaliscos as recommended by Guthook, or hiking app, and Evan and Elian who we had met the day before our hiking. We walked a half mile over, both very hungry and tired, and as we approached the front door noticed an envelope taped to the window. It said “CDT HIKERS” in big letters so I drew in closer, very curious. Right below that we’re our trail names!! Retro & Speedracer!! I was blown away and so surprised. We snatched it off the window telling the hostess very excitedly that it was for us! Inside was a note from Evan and Elian saying congratulations on being halfway done with our hike and giving us a generous gift card for dinner. AMAZING!!!! Talk about trail magic.

Thank you Evan and Elian!! Yum yum yum yum yum yum yum

The food was so filling and delicious and we made plans with Evan and Elian (they gave us their number when we were in the woods) to meet up after dinner at a local Irish pub to chat. We had a great time with them hearing about their lives and sharing ours. Evan was a competitive cross country skier and has lived in Steamboat his whole life. He said he couldn’t live without winter. He met Elian at college in the North East which was home for her. She lived in Connecticut before coming out west with Evan and used to work as an outdoor educator but is now studying to apply for law school. She hiked the AT last year and it was awesome to be able to glean wisdom from someone who competed a through hike. We are halfway done… but that is still a long, long way to go.

They dropped us off after at the rodeo grounds where we quickly set up camp and fell asleep after an obligatory episode of community. It’s great to be in town.

Zero in Steamboat Springs, Colorado

What a lovely place! Ryan and I had a great, refreshing time in Steamboat Springs. That’s even with the extreme weather that rolled in and gave us very cold rain, then snow, and LOTS of wind. Lots.

We woke up at the rodeo grounds… well, I woke up with nature calling and Ryan was still blissfully tucked into his sleeping bag listening to the cold rain on our tent. I left and went to the grocery store a quarter mile away and brought him back a cup of coffee to help with the wake up. It felt SO GOOD to know we didn’t have to wake up and quickly break camp, then walk 20+ miles. What a relief to be at our own whims all day.

Walking to the store was fun and very cozy. I wore double layers and all my cold weather gear plus rain jacket and it lightly sprinkled in the early morning. When we both left it had started to snow!

Steamboat Springs was awesome because they had multiple nice grocery stores, a kick butt outdoors store, and lots of cute restaurants and bars. Best though was their FREE bus system that went all over town. We used it first thing to shuttle to Safeway where we ate roasted chicken, a pumpkin roll, cottage cheese, and a salad from the deli. The kicker was that we ate it outside the store, under the awning while it snowed madly. SO COLD. So cold. So so cold to try and eat out there. We had a couple super nice locals ask if we were okay an offer us showers and a bed. We had already booked a hotel and just had to wait for check in at 3pm.

Out with the old, in with the new

We killed a couple hours of that time at the Ski Haus right across the street from Safeway. This was by far the best outdoors store I’ve ever been in after REI. It was time to retire my Keen boots which were literally falling apart, so I coughed up the dough for another pair. If I had been asked a month ago what I’d do when my boots ran out of juice, I would have definitely opted for lightweight trail runners. After more thought though, I decided to stick with the sturdy boots. The snow helped sway me even more because they are water proof and will keep my feet nice and dry. They should also last me much longer than lighter shoes and right now my bank account is MUCH lower than I’d like. This hike is really expensive guys. I mean… way cheaper than living a normal life, but DEFINITELY not free. Especially with the amount of food we need to consume.

Ryan and I both also decided to finally invest in the Super Feet insoles that most hikers praise above all other. They were $45 each but when I put my foot into my shoe, it instantly made sense. I’ve got some plantar fasciitis starting from all this walking… hopefully these help heal it but at least they will slow the progression.

The people at Ski Haus were so nice to let us hang around and stay warm. We also replaced our broken trowel and got new fuel for the next leg. We are all supplied up once again. Yay!

The next stop for us was the post office where we planned to pick up a Nikon D3300 that my dad sent to us after we told him we were thinking of getting a nice camera for the trip. He has been working on photography for several years now and started with this camera but has since upgraded. It’s perfect for us amateurs though! We took the bus to the Post Office only to find that the storm had caused a power outage and they were completely closed. Thankfully when we tried again the next day, we had better luck!

Yay camera! Thank you

We decided to knock out all our chores for the day before checking into the Quality Inn which we had reserved the day before. This meant it was time to resupply for the coming 95 mile stretch so we went to Walmart. On the way over on bus we got a call that our room had been double booked and was no longer available. We weren’t very happy about this. Most hotels were full and we had found the best deal we could which was already pricy. Sometimes misfortunes end up being good though and in this case, the Nordic Inn where we ended up for the night was fantastic.

The Nordic Inn

After Walmart we hit our hotel and met Emily, the NICEST concierge I’ve ever met. She was so kind and excited about our journey. She upgraded us to a suite and helped us with our laundry when their guest machine stopped working. She was super cool even before I found out she had been a professional snowboarder for ten years in her 20s. What a lady!

Our room was cozy and warm with handmade furniture and two rooms. How luxurious! We also took a dip in their hot tub which you could only use on reservation so we had the whole place to ourselves. Ahhh. So refreshing.

We spent the rest of the night in our room apart from when I went out by bus to pick up a pizza. Ryan was able to do his fantasy football draft while I watched YouTube videos about different kinds of honey from beekeepers and then music videos. All the while eating mac and cheese, pizza, and milk and Oreos. Trying to put on weight is kind of fun haha!

The night was topped off by watching La La Land and sleeping in a bed for the first time in almost a month. Paradise.

Day 57 – September 9

After a lazy morning in the hotel and checking out RIGHT at 11am, we took off for Jimmy John’s for lunch before leaving town. Hitching was easy and a lot of fun because our ride had been looking for us! Chuck and Wendy said they had seen us a few hours before in the downtown area and thought about telling us they could give us a ride in a couple of hours. The timing was perfect because a couple hours later, they caught us trying to hitch out of town. Chuck is currently in the process of section hiking the AT and has been working on it for four years now. He’s also an avid backcountry skier and sparked great inspiration in us to try the sport where you get yourself up the mountain without a lift.

Cold cold, chilly chilly, burr burr

He dropped us off in the mountains where we left off and it was clear we had missed quite the storm. There was snow everywhere. We road walked on highway 40 for two miles before turning onto the quieter highway 14. We took this road for 9 easy miles, but we were FREEZING! It was so so cold. The coldest we’ve had yet. Walking helped us warm up but breaks were seldom to retain the heat we had built from exercise. During one short M&M break, we met an angry local who told us the CDT wanted to put the trail through his land. We listened politely as he told us about his frustrations and he soon turned very sweet wishing us a lot of fun on our journey. Other cars were extremely friendly sometimes giving energetic smiling waves as they drove by us. Most gave nearly a full lane of room when they passed. It feels great to be back out.

The best time of the day for walking. We love colorful skies

The sun came up in the evening so we could watch it set as we came upon our campsite 12 miles in. Time for some bed time wraps and a tea latte we are planning to share to help warm us up! It’s chilly out here!

Day 58 – September 10

Hello beautiful fall feelings

We woke up to a cold frosty morning. Brr!! It was a beautiful walk though through the quaking aspens and pine trees. Our entire day, which consisted of only 12 miles, was on dirt roads that descended slowly before climbing a few thousand feet up at a gradual slope.

Back into the forest

Since we ended up dry camping, not staying near a water source, we waited to have breakfast until we hit a good stream flowing about four miles out. To get there though we had to go through a huge heard of noisy cows including a bold young bull who stood me up and wouldn’t budge from the road until Ryan met me and he ran off. I guess there really is safety in numbers (and height) when it comes to animals!

We met a really nice hunter and his son who are out looking for Elk after we started our long steady climb. We chatted for a bit and even entertained the idea of slack packing, having them drive our backpacks up to the top so we could climb with no weight, but changed our minds and decided to hike the natural way.

Before bed, cozy and waiting out the snow

Right at the top, it began to snow. It got very cold and came down thick! The hiking got pretty miserable so we decided to call it good at 3pm and set up camp for the long haul. It’s supposed to snow on and off until 10am the next day and so far we have a very white tent and a very cozy interior. An early night to bed will hopefully mean a good and early start tomorrow…. if weather permits!

Day 59 – September 11

“Walkin’ in a winter wonderland”

Waking up in the freezing cold with a couple inches of snow outside and on top of your tent while you are snug in a warm sleeping bag is cozy. Getting out of said sleeping bag to get water, and then having to pack all of your cozy cozy warm stuff up and handle frozen tent pieces is not cozy… neither is walking in the below freezing temperatures and dealing with extremely chilling winds! It is however, gorgeous and exciting when it’s new and for us it was very new.

We took a very slow morning enjoying hot tea and breakfast and as carefully as possible putting our things away in an order that kept the warmth as long as it could be kept. Getting going was better than we expected since our clothes kept us plenty warm. Yay! The only frozen bits were our fingers and toes, and a little bit warmer but not by much, our noses, cheeks, and lips. We walked along the road we had been following for a while and commented on how nice the tire tracks were for seeing our way. Before long though we were off the road and in completely fresh snow. I was nervous about venturing into the cold, snowy, concealed world ahead. What would it be like having no easy to follow trail? How long would these freezing temperatures last?!

Are you kidding me?! The conditions right as we were leaving the road

Turns out not hard, and not long. The trail was surprisingly easy to follow as a white line weaving down through the forest and we began an immediate descent which thinned the snow as the day slowly warmed and it began to melt.

Clearing up
And by lunch… MUCH better

We had lunch at a little steam in a valley after enjoying the winter wonderland then we began a climb that eventually took us up to Sheep Mountain at around 11,600ft! Colorado has some high peaks, and we haven’t even seen the biggest ones yet. It was very, very snowy up high with drifts that made our feet sink in at least a half a foot, sometimes much more. The trudging through snow was slow going, and the uphill made it even slower, but we were still enjoying ourselves in general.

It was about 3/4 of the way up our first big climb that we realized Ryan’s rain cover had fallen off his pack on the way! I dropped my pack and began a run down the mountain scouting it out. It took probably 15-20 minutes of descent before I saw it laying in the middle of the trail. Success!! Hiking without a pack felt great and so did finding Ryan’s rain cover. I took off back up the mountain shedding layers even in the freezing temperatures from the effort of climbing. Ryan met me part of the way down and hiked back up with me to my pack. We continued our climb, noting the slow progress we had been making today mileage wise.

What a beautiful sight

The scenery was GORGEOUS up high, and the snowy mountain tops were just dangerous enough to be a little exciting but not actually risky. I couldn’t help but wonder what lay ahead on our next climb though which was supposed to be another 600ft+ and after a melty evening then cold night which could cause ice. It may be way unnecessary, but I knew I’d feel safer taking a lower route. We found another option that follows dirt roads through the valley and adds only 2 miles to our day. Ryan humored my worries and we decided to take the low road this time. It’s hard to not feel silly, I know I am way less bold than many other hikers who do the CDT. It’s so hard not to compare with others on stamina, boldness, asceticism, speed, or lightheartedness. We probably would be fine going over the peak, and we might be in much more treacherous conditions in the future, but this time, we are opting for the safe route and there is definitely some comfort in that.

While trying to decide which way to go, we met another bow hunter who is out looking for elk. His name is Jeff and we had a good time talking to him. It’s cool to meet so many people who are braving the harsh outdoors and camping out for extended periods of time. Jeff is staying for two weeks! He offered us a fill up on water from the five gallons he had in his truck and we accepted since the sun had set and we were ready to cozy up once again. Thank you Jeff!

Today we did 15.3 miles, snow is slow! Good thing we’ve got extra food this leg and an option to cut off some trail if we need. All is well!

Day 60 – September 12

We woke up to another cold morning, but this one wasn’t so cold that it hurt. Yay! Unfortunately though, my quilt in my sleeping bag had not stayed in place during the night and I didn’t think to check for it… instead I figured it was just that cold and I tossed and turned a lot through the night, much chillier than I would have liked to be.

We set off after another slower than we would have liked morning and began our easy walk on back roads, avoiding the 12,300ft icy/snowy/slushy peak the trail went over. It was a little muddy and icy but not too bad! We also ran into Happy Dance and All In who we had met in town a couple days ago. They have two vehicles and drive one south to hike up north to the one waiting for them and repeat the process. This means we will most likely cross their path many more times on our way south as they hike back up north from their vehicle as they, overall, go south too. They were a lot of fun to talk to, a really nice couple with good happy vibes and I enjoyed that they had chosen to bypass the peak as well. Happy Dance was having some knee pain so they decided to take it easy.

We got back on the official CDT in the mid afternoon and went over some gorgeous rock formations before dipping down a bit to a river. On our way down we ran into a mother moose and her baby grazing in the trail. There was zero fear in them and they didn’t budge an inch when they saw us. There was definitely some fear in me though and I kept good distance while Ryan snapped pictures on our nice new camera. We gave them a wide berth after about 10 minutes of them staying put!

We are camped by the river tonight and clocked in some low mileage again, around 15 for trail miles and probably 18 actual walked since our detour was a bit longer. Time for dinner then bed!

Day 61 – September 13

Ryan and I had a very late start today. We spent the morning mulling our time over, discussing what we wanted moving forward and getting on the same page. We left camp around 11am set off on a 19 mile day to end at a split in the trail. Our plan was for me to take an alternate into town the next day, about a four mile stretch, while Ryan went deep into Rocky Mountain National Park on a 21 mile loop to meet back up at night.

We’re goin’ up!

Our morning brought a big climb and we listened to Prince Caspian on the way up. It was a gorgeous day that warmed slowly after another freezing morning. The snow was slushy and sometimes the trail was very muddy so our progress was a little slow but overall enjoyable.

The boulder couple had a dog with them wearing “doggles” so he wouldn’t get a sunburn below his eyes like in the past. Too cute!!

After meeting a nice young couple out backpacking and hunting for elk, then a couple from Boulder celebrating a birthday weekend, we crossed Bowen Pass and stopped at the top to talk to Flamingo, another SOBO through hiker who wears pink pants and hits insane mileages! You can see him on Instagram @Phillip.david.t

We spent the rest of the day hiking together and had a really nice time. To hit our goal, we walked to 9:30pm into the dark and found a good campsite inside Rocky Mountain National Park perfect for our two tents. It was very chilly again but we were tired from such a long day so it didn’t take long to get all settled in.

Day 62 – September 14

Flamingo, all bundled up and ready to go. I took this picture from my sleeping bag haha!

Flamingo was up and out so early! We all woke up around 6:30 and before I was out of my bag he was on his way into town. Ryan and I had breakfast, took down camp, and then hiked together past wherethe trails splits to get water for each of our journeys. I had 4 miles or so into town and Ryan had about 21 miles over a pass in the park on a different loop.

A solo selfie
Entering Grand Lake

I hiked in solo and missed my buddy a lot, but also enjoyed taking it at my own pace. When I had just walked into the edge of town, Flamingo called out to me from a coffee shop and we both ate bagel sandwiches, checked the outdoors store, and settled in at the grocery store for a few hours while he charged up his devices. While sitting and munching on some food, another through hiker, Captain Dan, who had already done all three trails and was in town to hike the section we had just finished, which he had to bypass on his way through last year, bought us all some beverages and sat and talked for a couple hours.

The lost trekking poles!

At around 3pm I walked out of town with Flamingo, then wandered back in and posted up at a park to wait for a lost and found pickup! Yesterday on trail we found trekking poles that were mentioned on the CDT hiker Facebook page as lost. I strapped them to my pack and while in town we contacted the owner. His name is Lunar and Ryan and I had met him in Steamboat springs last week. He is part of the group with Happy Dance and All In who drive their car south, hike north to their other vehicle, and drive that one further south to repeat the process. He had just finished getting from Grand Lake to Steamboat Springs and drove his truck back to Grand Lake to pick up his poles.

I spent the rest of the evening with him, and Ryan who had made it to town after his long day in Rocky Mountain National Park. We grabbed dinner and crashed behind Trinity in the Pines church which offered a free campsite to through hikers. So nice!

Day 63 – September 15

FINALLY. Finally it’s a little bit warmer again. We had a very cozy nights sleep behind the church and Ryan let me use his second pair of long johns so we were both very warm and toasty. There was only a little frost out in the morning. Haha

Good morning Grand Lake

We took it super slow getting up and left our tent around 10am to walk into town for a warm drink. We also got bagels and sat around enjoying the comfortable morning air. On our way to coffee we met The Wander Women, two ladies in their 60s who are southbound this year, and said hi and bye to Lunar. We also met another southbound couple, Christy and Jay Drop (could have this name wrong) who just got in town for a zero.

We took our day at a very slow pace too and carefully combed through the small, expensive grocery store in town to select as cheap and delicious four days worth of food that we could. It was hard work, but someone had to do it. Or we would starve.

Walking the stream between the lakes

Leaving town was GORGEOUS as we walked next to the mountain lakes for over 7 miles. The quaking aspens got the message about colder temperatures and suddenly we find that they have all turned a bright and happy shade of yellow. Some are loosing leaves and our trail is getting colorful now too! I spent most of our walk texting and calling friends and family until my phone totally died.

We came upon a perfect little lakeside campsite at 7pm right before a .7 mile stretch in the National Park so we decided to call it a day at about 7.5 miles of walking. Dinner was delicious, ramen for me, Zatarains for him, and we had fun talking about silent retreats, throwing rocks into the water, and eating the staple m&ms.

Day 64 – September 16

We had a lovely morning waking up by the lake. An m&m we had left out over night as a critter test was left undisturbed and made for a sense of peace knowing we slept without small scavengers trying to get to our food.

We got up at 7:30am and took down camp quickly before eating breakfast bagels with nutella and peanut butter. Delicious, easy, and filling!

Even with the smoke, this lake was a gem. So pretty!

Our first leg of the day was about 7 miles to the road where we turned onto an alternate to avoid a crazy section of downed trees. Yikes! We were told a hiker took TWO days to go SEVEN miles. Are you kidding me?! A ranger we met on the way informed us that it was truly impassable and gave us good directions to get around and back to the trail without struggling through the mess. Ryan and I had a fun time chatting about our future while we walked and soon found ourselves at a privy right before our turn where we took a break chatting with the camp host who had a lot to say and was generally a joy to talk to. They also had potable water there so we filled up two liters each and set back off.

On our road walk beginning the alternate route we were passed by All In, Happy Dance, Larry Mashed Potato and Nostrovia who were flipping south in their car and offered us a ride to skip this section with blow downs and later a fire closure we also have to bypass. We thanked them and told them we were okay with our current trajectory but hoped to see them later!

I got to call my mom and sister to help pass the road walking time and Ryan and I made plans with Michaela about when she will come meet us for a few days to hike! Hooray! Sometime in late October we will have good company with us.

Back on a trail 🙂 there are a few blow downs to deal with today

The next part of our day was on a nice trail through pretty woods, not much elevation change, and a few friendly hikers. We passed the time with podcasts and made decent progress. Eventually we came to more road walking to finish off the day in the same way. We met some friendly hunters and passed our blog onto them, hello hunters! We hope you got your elk! Thanks for showing us your elk bugle call, that was really cool.

Our goal was 25 miles but we tapped out in the dark at 9pm with 23.9 miles for the day. We are hungry and very tired. Night night!

Day 65 – September 17

We walked the aqueduct road up and down to where we were set to rejoin the CDT. We had a conversation with Flamingo a few days ago about road walking… something about your foot hitting the ground the same way over and over and over on a smooth and groomed surface is PAINFUL! Although, it’s fast. I was feeling the road walk aches though, mainly in my hip flexors, especially after a 24 mile day before. It was about seven more miles of walking to get to the Devil’s Thumb trailhead where we cut over to the CDT again and discovered blow downs galore.

What?! This isn’t going to work.

It took some thinking but thanks to our three different maps and a nice day hiker from the city, we concluded it would be best to cut over to Fraser and do a small resupply before continuing on. We were getting a little low on food and the stretch ahead, after blow downs, was up over a 13,200ft peak and then a 13,100ft. That could mean some slow progress and we were already hungry.

On our way to Fraser a hiker we had passed heading out from Devil’s Thumb who was heading in for a quick hike with his dog passed us in his truck and offered a ride into town. We accepted! His name was Mark….. but his TRAIL name was Mr. Fix It. He had hiked the PCT in 2015 so we quickly hit it off. So cool! Since his hike he has worked for the forest service and is now working at a local brewery in Fraser.

He took us to Safeway and after a moment of shopping, told me that he had consulted his girlfriend, LP, and they wanted to make us dinner and offer us a shower, laundry, and bed. What?! We were very much on board.

From left to right, meet LP, Tusker, and Mark AKA Mr. Fix It

Ryan and I took care of some errands and then Mr. Fix It picked us up for a quick drive to their condo. Immediately I was hit with delicious smells and as only another traveler would understand, the shower was offered up before anything else including pleasantries was taken care of. Ahhhh.

They made us caprese and jalapeño popper appetizers, grilled tri tip and zucchini with homemade chimichurri sauce and a delicious side salad, and tilamook ice cream sandwiches for dessert. We were in heaven! Mr. Fix It also has some extensive wine knowledge so we got a fun perspective to enjoy with dinner.

I had a great time talking with LP hearing about her life and adventures. She is now my role model for outdoor and travel goals! She’s got experience in running marathons, white water rafting, mountaineering, and now running development for a non profit, ROMP.

Speaking of ROMP, Ryan and I are now officially walking for a cause and are representing ROMP. They provide prosthetics for amputees in Guatemala and Ecuador where it is very difficult to get prosthetics. We have a page set up with them at Give.rompglobal.org/cdt.

Please think about making a donation! Supporting ROMP will support Ryan and I and help make this walk a little more meaningful.

I’ve been having a lack of motivation and it feels good to think our hike might help someone become more mobile. She gave us a little knife and some darn tough socks (our favorite!!!) that are donated for sponsors.

We also had a great time hearing Mr. Fix It’s stories from the PCT and sharing some of our own from the CDT. He has passed on his love to us for slings, think David and Goliath! On the PCT he discovered how powerful of a tool they are and used the long days and walking breaks to practice his skill. We are now equipped with our own sling and the materials to craft another.

Thank you Mr. Fix It and LP for such a refreshing time!!! You made us feel so at home on such a long journey.

Day 66 – September 18

Tusker leading the way to James Peak

After a delicious breakfast of eggs, bacon and coffee, LP left for the office and Mr. Fix It took us and their dog, Tusker, up to a trailhead in his truck Bessie where we had easy access to the CDT. We landed just before James Peak and hiked in a ways with Mr. Fix It and Tusker where we got a good tutorial of how to use the sling. We are looking forward to this new hobby!

Ryan working on the sling
Time to climb!

After saying goodbye, we began our ascent to the highest point we have ever been in our lives: 13,253ft! Whew! You could definitely feel the elevation. The climb was slow going but eventually we reached the top. We also realized that the rest of our plans for the day were not going to pan out.

Chilly views from up high

Ryan’s Grandma Honey and Papa Paul are in Colorado visiting his uncle Dave. They offered to pick us up so we could spend the day together and get some good rest! Woohoo!! The plan was for us to hike another 13 miles that day from the peak and hit Berthoud Pass where they could easily pick us up by car. We realized though after our slow climb, that the NEXT climb coming up which was 100ft lower but which we started from 10,000ft instead of 11,000ft like we did with James Peak would put us at Berthoud Pass well after dark. We reconfigured our ideas and settled on a pick up at St. Mary’s about 3 miles from the top of James Peak and all downhill.

They drove about an hour and a half just to pick us up which we were so thankful for! It was great to see familiar faces and also to get to meet Dave for the first time. We are with family ❤️

We went to Mexican food for dinner before running by the grocery store for breakfast food and then crashing at Dave’s awesome cabin home. Tomorrow is a zero day of enjoying time with family, now for some rest!

Day 44 – Day 49

Lander to Rawlins: The Great Wyoming Basin

Day 44 – August 26

Back at it again!

We were up and at it by 8am despite a late night hanging out with Lotte and Dan. The city park in Lander was quieter because it was now the middle of the week and travelers must have moved on to their next destination or gone back to work.

Ryan and I snacked on m&ms while we took down camp and I finished up the this blog post. We said our goodbyes to our friends (Dan and Lotte we will miss you!) and set off down the road, by foot of course!

Breakfast on the way out was at a local bakery. Sadly we both left disappointed with the experience with small, expensive and nothing special portions, but we were full enough and switched to hitch hiking mode! It didn’t take long before a nice young couple picked us up on their way to climb at Wild Iris. They were locals in Lander and had moved there a few years back from the south because the climbing in this area is so good and the living so affordable. They dropped us off at their stop and we hitched again another 10 miles to the trail. This time we were picked up by Dustin in his work truck. He was from the Imperial Valley in California and moved up here to follow his siblings and parents as they all slowly migrated to Wyoming.

Hello, desert!

After a pleasant morning of hitching, we were back on the trail at 12:45, feeling fresh, feeling healed up, ready to go!!

We are definitely in a new environment. It is HOT out here, very flat, very very dry, tons of cows and their pies, and there is no shade to be found. It’s beautiful in its way and I am happy to be in the desert. I did tell Ryan though that I may not be saying that by the time we get to Rawlins in six days, 120 miles away.

Cows, cows, cows. This became a very familiar sight

Ryan did some fancy navigating for us and we were able to walk on nice dirt road tracks the whole day, cutting out a couple of trail miles through sagebrush and putting ourselves about 17 miles in for the day. This is extremely acceptable for an afternoon start. We are very pleased!

Rest before the end of the day. We had 1.4 miles left to our destination as the sun was setting

Tonight we ate a HUGE dinner of hot knorr side burritos, fresh picked tomatoes from a passer by who needed directions and gave us an offering in thanks, chocolate pudding, milk, and m&ms. I’m stuffed. What a fun thing to be able to say after starving last week on the trail. The food is heavy though so we need to ray diligent and eat, eat, eat to save our shoulders.

We are pitched by the Sweetwater River which is cow territory. Hopefully we have no visitors tonight!

Day 45 – August 27

On of the few things for my eyes to inspect out here. The California Trail! Hmmmm. We think all the dirt bikes we saw today were on this route

This is hard. Hiking the CDT is hard. The Great Basin is easy walking… but the lack of shade and the lack of things to look at is hard!

One of the wild horses we saw out here

We saw some beautiful wild horses today though which was exciting. There was a white mare and a brown colt right down the trail from us. They were very aware of our approach and so was their man who appeared from around a corner trotting right for us! He was black and definitely willing to come investigate the commotion. I raised my trekking poles overhead and waived them around which made him stop… consider… and when his lady and baby started running away he turned and followed. I was relieved! And invigorated. Wild horses are much more graceful than the cows that are dotting the gently rolling hills out here.

Long, flat, dry

We also encountered a weasel this evening when cooking dinner! Hopefully it doesn’t try to sneak some food while we are sleeping. Very cute though.

The most numerous reptile has been the horny road which we have seen around ten so far. They are adorable! Sometime I’d like to go all in and catch one which shouldn’t be too hard with a little bit of effort.

We’ve gotten 19.4 miles closer to Rawlins, not as much as we would have liked today but acceptable, especially considering that we left camp this morning at 10am after sleeping in to 8:30. Worth it!

It’s been interesting gathering water out here. There are occasional springs, oasis in this big dessert, that supply us with slightly questionable water. We are dry camping tonight and had to pack 6 liters in total from the last spring. That’s a heavy load! We’re using most of it tonight for dinner so the four miles coming in the morning shouldn’t be as back breaking as the last 5 were. Now to EAT.

Bonus: after blogging and eating, a night hiker, Neil Bob, strolled past our tent on his way to the next spring. He’s a north bound CDT hiker and was a lot of fun to chat with. Bummer we couldn’t talk longer!

Day 46 – August 28

How I felt today.
(We snagged this picture in Lander outside of a motel a few days ago.)

Today was the hardest day I’ve had yet on the trip emotionally. There was a serious struggle in my mind over finishing the trail or choosing another option… we are now about a third of the way done actual walking mileage, about half the way done distance wise, and we are going through growing pains still.

Our feet both hurt, we were not very skillful in navigating conflict today, and there was a SERIOUS wind blowing in the dry, dry desert where we had to walk 20 miles between water sources. We walked a total of 25 miles today!

That being said, it was ultimately still a very good day.

We walked the second most in mileage that we have yet. Leaving at 8am made for a nice and relaxed morning and we ended the day at a reasonable time (right at sunset).

A beautiful ending to such a challenge day

We managed to get through very difficult emotions and conflicts and end the day sweetly. It’s clear that Ryan and I both care for each other’s happiness and are getting better at handling tense moments. The moments felt like a loss… but I see them as a win. This isn’t an easy job, walking the CDT, and difficulty is sure to arise. We were able to navigate our circumstances with more wisdom than our younger selves would have ever managed. We are maturing and wisening!

We did our longest water carry yet. 20 miles between sources means HEAVY packs and a legitimate concern for dehydration. No problem here. We smashed the water carry that sounded so long and impossible.

A water cache set up and maintained by a kind local hiker who did the trail some years ago

There was trail magic in the form of a water cache. A former CDT hiker who completed the trail in 2014 has a really nice water cache set up on trail in a dry zone. We were able to fill up there, read an inspirational journal entry from a pioneer who wrote on walking, sign and study the log book, and enjoy a tootsie roll! Thank you kind hiker for the water and encouragement!

We also saw a baby cow drinking from its mama, tons of horny roads, a beautiful sunrise and sunset, and we heard a rowdy pack of coyotes.

Now SLEEEEEEEEEP!!!!!

Day 47 – August 29

NEW RECORD!!!! We walked 29 miles today. Whew! We also tried an hour or two of night hiking which was an engaging experience. The moon is nearly full right now so it did a wonderful job of illuminating the long, flat, straight dirt road we were trekking down tonight.

These miles didn’t happen on accident!

Needless to say, ow. Our bodies from the waist down are in undeniable pain.

A literal watering hole

This landscape is still dotted with cows and sparse with water. When we reached an electric well for our 14 mile mark and stopped for lunch, we had a great show as we ate. There were probably 40 cows with more slowly rolling in to drink water and socialize. What funny animals! They are so big that I feel a need to offer them respect as I pass. If they wanted to hurt us, they definitely could. Thankfully though they tend to just trot away as we get close enough to trigger their fight or flight. Whew!

Ryan was brave and returned to the well four times for filling our water filter bag so that we could store enough for the next stretch of 16 miles. They cows got out out of his way no problem each time. Even the big beefy bulls with horns.

These rain clouds are beautiful and brought some shade

Our lunch break ended around 3:30 and we walked again until 7:45pm when we cooked and ate burritos for dinner. We were able to squeeze in five more miles, now in the dark, before the day got the best of us and we set up camp a mile before our next water source. Tomorrow it’s just a short walk to some delicious water, and now only 31 miles to Rawlins. We are cruising!

On the home stretch before sunset there was really good phone service which we took advantage of. I called one of my oldest and most loyal friends, Kaelyn Baker, my sweet sister who is always generous with her laughter, and my mom who takes such good care of me even as an adult. That was the highlight of the day for me!

And we are still walking

Day 48 – August 30

We woke up at 7:30am, nice and sore, with another mile to our water source left to go. We were 29.3 miles away from Rawlins now and the plan was to walk about 27 miles and end up close to town for the following morning.

The spring was very nice, despite dunking my shoe in the water, and we had a small family of cows to entertain us again. My favorite was the young moody bull who stared us down while his sisters and mom drank, then went off on his own and found a comfortable sitting spot to park it for a while.

We got back on our way at around 10am and an hour later found we were headed down the wrong road, far enough that it made sense to keep going and take an alternate route back to the trail. When we saw bigger vehicles way in the distance, we revised our plan once again to connecting with the highway and hitching forward to where it met up with the CDT. It would shave about 5 miles off our trip but felt worth it because of the wrong turn. Work smarter not harder right?!

When we were picked up by David, the truck driver with a snarky but kind attitude, we decided to just finished the route and head into town. Our legs were so tired and we have a very difficult water and food carry coming right after Rawlins that we could use some extra strength for. Plus now we wouldn’t have to rush for showers, laundry, groceries, AND most importantly a hot meal.

Clean and happy! It’s strange to see myself in a mirror
The best social distancing sign I’ve seen yet, spotted in the fairground bathrooms

The fairgrounds in town allows free camping and showers, which are cold, but hey.. beggars can’t be choosers! We showered first thing then walked to the highly recommended Thai restaurant downtown. It was fantastic to eat a full dinner of gourmet cuisine. FINALLY. My palate was in need of some intrigue after so many tuna wraps this week. Dinner together was a great time and a very nice date night. Nice and full, we made our way to the laundromat and set ourselves up with a clean wardrobe. We also had the pleasure of talking to both of our dads which is always a mood booster!

Yum yum yum yum yum!!!!! Papaya salad, then pad thai, curry, and sticky rice with mangos for dessert
There are so many deer in town! We enjoyed watching these cuties have their lunch
Remember, it’s COVID season. Wear your bedsheet when you go out.

Following the laundromat where I enjoyed a 2008 fashion magazine and chatting with Mary, a self declared senior citizen originally from Detroit, we settled down at the Hole in the Wall bar which was also highly recommended by other through hikers. We had a fantastic time meeting some locals, dancing, and playing pool. What a great way to spend the night.

Camp is set and it is WAY past my bedtime writing this post. Just finishing up at 1:48am. I’ve been craving a late night and it has certainly been provided. Goodnight!

Day 49 – August 31

It’s back on the trail again for us after a very nice lazy morning. We woke up slowly but early and enjoyed taking our sweet time packing up, watching music videos, and being in a good mood together before we set off for some cheap food at McDonalds. We ate outside and chatted with a nice couple in their 70s who had done some good adventuring in their youth. The husband had climbed many of the mountains in the Cascades in the North West. He kept telling us to “do it while you’re young!”

After food, we mozied to Walmart for our resupply where we bought $120 worth of food for the next eight-nine days on the trail. Heavy packs! We also added a gallon of water each since we anticipated a long dry stretch, my pack is heavier than it’s ever been… but it feels manageable which makes me think I’m getting stronger.

We took full advantage of the fast food situation at the edge of Rawlins and also had a big meal at Taco Bell, then got back on trail which in this case meant walking right through the middle of town and out the other side! I called my grandma, Nana, which was a lot of fun and kept me in very good spirits on our way out. Thank you for the good conversation Nana! 😘

We are set up for the night a little early, after about 8.6 miles of walking, due to rain and a late night last night which has left me tired. It’s colder than it’s been in a while for us and getting cozy sounds fantastic. Time for some rehydrated milk, peanut butter, and a few M&Ms before we watch TV and then sleep. Not too shabby.

Our tent nestled into the sagebrush at sunset

Day 35 – Day 42

Back into the Wyoming Wild: The Wind River Range

Day 35 – August 15

What is that I see in the distance?
Those grand Tetons! Wow!!

Waking up in a covered wagon was a nice way to start the day. Breakfast with my parents and Ryan soon followed in the Heart 6 Cafe where we were joined by two very cute doggies. It was pretty obvious what their motivation for being there was, but I chose to entertain the idea that maybe they just really liked US and not our delicious and tempting food.

Back at the wagon we packed up and sorted through the plethora of tasty hiking foods my mom had carefully selected for us. We decided there was enough there to get us 8-9 days down the trail. Mommy, thank you SO much for being our resupply. Your generous offering made it so that we gain a day not having to stop in Pinedale, and so that we save money on TWO resupplies since we get to bypass the one we had planned next. Yay!! What a good start to this next leg on our journey.

After breakfast we drove to see the Tetons up close and well lit by the morning sun. We amassed many geology questions.

What a view ❤️

The rest of our time together was spent mostly in the car enjoying lunch from a nearby deli and contemplating what lies ahead. For Ryan and I, it’s much more walking, walking, walking. For Mommy and Daddy, it is soon back to work!

They dropped us off at our trailhead around 2pm. We got to chat with a bike tourist who is currently headed from Portland to Boulder and hiked the CDT last year! His trail name was Flip Flop. How cool to meet a fellow adventurer.

Back on the CDT

Ryan and I are now back on the trail, really missing my dad’s company our here, and enjoying being back in the woods. We are camped tonight by a nice river with a bridge. Unfortunately a bear hang is not available so we are risking it with the food in our tent and bear spray at the ready… this will be published long after tonight, but please pray for us!

Luckily the river we are on is very warm so I ended the day with a nice rinse. All set for a good night’s sleep.

Day 36 – August 16

We woke up bright and early, groggy but pretty well rested. No bears visited us during the night for our food so I was feeling very happy about that!

Our goal for the day was at least 21 miles. Spoiler alert, we made it! What a LONG hard day. Thankfully it was mostly flat. We also spent a lot of time… 2.5 hours or so listening to audio books or podcasts. That made the pain and suffering move to the back of our minds for a while which was a nice reprieve. I’m listening to Oryx and Crake right now on my dad’s recommendation and it’s very gripping! What a nice way to pass the hours of walking and walking and walking.

Our packs are exceptionally heavy right now with food so any incline feels much more intense. My back and shoulders are sore again for the first time in a while after getting conditioned. There was a point today that I lost my spirit for about 10 minutes but thankfully regained the desire to keep going on the CDT!

A notable rock from today. Very fibonacci!

It helped that we also met a cool section hiker (hiking the trail over many sections with long breaks of normal life in between instead of all at once), Kirk, AKA Still Deciding. He gave us some great tips on upcoming trail sections which was appreciated. It’s always a lot of fun meeting other people who are making the CDT their main priority for a bit.

Just a few of probably 80 Elk we saw

We also ran into a giant heard of elk today near the end of our long hike which was a fantastic way to wrap up our day. We are camped with a gorgeous view of the Tetons next to a little bubbling spring. Tomorrow, the goal is 22… time to REST!!!!

Good to be back out here

Day 37 – August 17

Long, long day. Ryan and I hiked 22 miles or so today and we are spent! Fortunately the terrain was dry forgiving and we had audio books and music to keep our minds from going a little crazy due to the monotony. Unfortunately, we managed to get under each other’s skin more than we would like to admit… I guess what can you expect when you spend all day in physical stress and discomfort right next to someone else who is in the same boat.

All is good though and we were able to end the day on a very high note with pleasant conversation on our way down to Green River Lakes. What a GORGEOUS spot. This is one of our favorites yet on the trip and we are planning to cowboy camp… despite the tiny mosquitoes out here. They are small but mean!

One of our brief breaks. Sit pad for comfort while filtering and flavoring our water… plus a snack!
Going over the ridge for a big downhill to the lake. Great views up here!
Now for the descent

We are also have double rations tonight since we are ahead of schedule and working hard means we need the extra fuel. This leg we will definitely loose some weight, but the hunger adds to the adventure appeal in a strange way.

Gaoshan on the trail

We had the good fortune of running into Gaoshan today, a northbound hiker who started at the New Mexico / Colorado border. He has to be in his sixties and Ryan and I were both inspired by his ability to hike such a hard trail at his age and are aspiring to the same hearty lifestyle.

We crossed back into the wilderness right before camp. Check out Square Top Mountain in the background 😍
Goodnight

After a rinse off with a portable shower, left with us by my dad, Mr. Clean, we hit the hay ready for another very long day tomorrow… This time, with mountains to climb!!

Day 38 – August 18

Setting off in the chilly morning

Today we saw many, many other backpackers. Definitely the most that we have seen since starting our trip. It’s no surprise, because the area we and all these other friendly hikers are currently stomping around in is likely the most famous place to hike in Wyoming. 13,000+ ft peaks, gorgeous rocky summits, and crystal mountain lakes make it so.

A stunning day of climbing

We met many fun groups doing longer hikes than we are used to non CDT people saying they are on. Most are on at least 10 day trips! We also met many people over 50 and once again enjoyed the idea of hiking this at their age.

Hygina and Box

There was one duo hiking the CDT who we had the pleasure of bumping into around 11am. Hygina (look her up on Instagram @ginazoid) and Box who are heading north from the Mexico border. It was great to pick their brains about what was coming, and to feel the instant bond that appears as soon as you hear you’re on the same LONG journey.

Ryan and I had a nice early start and got our miles in fast before lunch. When we took a break for wraps and a load of creek laundry, it was just after noon and we were at 10 miles. This was good because the second half of our day held a big elevation gain and some difficult trail. We both admittedly had some nerves, but we were ready.

Climbing up some skree, this is quite a workout with a pack on

Boy was the climb slow. Boy was it worth it! Initially we had the usual slow ascent with switch backs, easy trail, shady trees… but slowly that shifted into literally hopping from boulder to boulder, crawling along at a glacial speed (pun intended!), and drooling over the views in front of us with disbelief. We saw a little pika again too which was fun! What cool little rodents who live up so high.

We also saw some gorgeous alpine flowers

Today we set a new height record, 10,600ft!! Tomorrow we SMASH it first thing going in the morning going over Knapsack Col. We are camped beside a gorgeous pristine lake, hitting the hay nice and early. Lack of water sources for the next bit forced an early stop, so we plan to rise and shine around 5:30am and hit it hard.

Some very well earned rest at the end of a crazy hard day

Day 39 – August 19

Good morning, mountains
Here we go!

Today was the hardest day I’ve hiked yet. We set off for Knapsack Col first thing in the morning, leaving later than we planned at 7:30am, and met two other adventurous hikers on our way up who had stopped about a mile from where we camped. Ashley and John were up there with their adorable dogs and decided to head to a different hike since their little Ruby dog was limping a bit probably from climbing the huge boulders we had to brave on the way up.

Ashley and John with their cute doggies!

We said goodbye and kept climbing up to the col, our legs burning, but our eyes entertained by the incredible rocks around us and gorgeous high altitude wildflowers.

Amazing rocks, we saw so many different kinds
Some Elephant’s Head flowers up high
A pretty patch of Fleabane

It was a daunting task to climb that mountain. Every time I looked up it seemed to be impossible to get all the way up there! The trail was nearly nonexistent and a good bit of the hike was jumping between big rocks or scrambling over slippery dirt and small fragments that had been carved away from the mountain by glaciers and snow. On top of this, it began to rain near the top and the temperature was very cold. Thankfully we met some friends on the way up, a section hiker and his daughter who was joining him for a week. Climbing the mountain together made the task seem a little less impossible.

Hello from 12,253ft!!

We reached the top… YAY!! New record at 12,253ft!!! And looked down at the other side which seemed even more treacherous. It was steep, and a good bit of the way down was covered in deep snow. I opted for a route to the left of the snow over some big boulders and skree while Ryan went down the steeper part towards the snow.

A daunting “downhill”

The way down was thrilling and terrifying. I was dizzy from the high elevation and no food in my stomach which didn’t help to calm my nerves in some very sticky spots trying to navigate the big boulders with my pack on. There were patches of ice and snow around in the rocks slowly melting away to form a raging stream below them which you couldn’t see but could definitely hear.

Safe and sound again! So so pretty out here

Finally I got to the bottom around the same time as Ryan and our new friends. We ate a lunch and I did my best to relax again after such a scary climb down before setting off for the easier rest of the way to the Titcomb Basin. It was strange to see so many hikers on the other side after crossing such a difficult pass! They came up the way we are going out and probably won’t be climbing over the col.

At the Titcomb Basin

The Titcomb Basin and lakes following it were super crowded. We ran into tons of other hikers and had good conversations with many of them. It was weird to hear the distances they were covering each day, usually around 8 miles, while Ryan and I have been aiming for at least 20!

Ryan doing some navigating for us as we made our way through the basin

It took some time but eventually I fell back into the groove and we walked into the afternoon. Knapsack Col had taken hours to cross with very little mileage reward, so we decided to try some night hiking out. We walked until sunset, made dinner, then adorned our headlamps and stepped out into the night.

It was a lot of fun! We covered a couple more miles before setting up our tent in record speed and crawling into our sleeping bags exhausted from the day. Ahhh. I had some nausea after going on so little food and then eating dinner, but eventually that passed and we passed out.

Day 40 – August 20

Leaving camp in the morning

Waking up in a place you couldn’t see when you when to sleep is a fun experience! We were in a very low foliage spot on top of a climb, different than any other point in the day before. It was a short hike to water so we waited to have breakfast until descending to the creek below where we devoured a mountain house scrambled eggs and talked to some friendly hikers who were thinking of doing the CDT too. We met a lot of cool people today since we were once again off the beaten path after leaving Titcomb Basin and Island Lake.

Breakfast by one of the many lakes out here

The scenery was gorgeous and we were SORE. SO SO SORE. Despite this we walked hard all day long and ended up covering almost 22 miles. It was no small feat. We hit a couple points of wondering if it was worth this hard work and discomfort but when we reached our destination it was glorious.

Walkin’ ALL day long

Today we also had smoke roll in. I texted my awesome dad to get the scoop on where it was coming from and he informed us that it was most likely blowing in from California! It was sure a lot of smoke and had us wondering if we should hike the Cirque of the Towers with such poor visibility.

At least the smoke makes for a pretty sun

We ate double rations at dinner and got to call Ryan’s parents with the little bit of cell service we had at our spot! What a treat. It was quickly off to bed… after an episode of Community which was a great escape after such a challenging day.

Day 41 – August 21

Good morning little friend on my hat

It was a good surprise to find that my soreness had subsided substantially over night! Amazing! Ryan and I ate a mountain house granola and took down camp slowly this morning. We left our spot at a little, warm and algae saturated lake in the Wind River Range around 8:30am.

I’m sure those mountains would be gorgeous. Ugh.

The persistent smoke swayed our decision for hiking the cirques and we decided to hold off. The official CDT offered a less scenic, flatter route, but less scenic didn’t matter one bit with such poor visibility. We are definite bummed but now we know where to return to hike someday when we are done with this trail.

After hiking a few miles we started encountering swarms of backpackers. We had many short and some long conversations crossing paths with lots of interesting people. It was fun seeing all of the dogs out there with their owners and it sparked conversation between Ryan and I about when we would get a dog. Someday when we are a little more settled down! The idea has come up a few times though to get a puppy on the trail… we will see.

Rock Ocean and Kimchi

Our favorite hikers we met today were Kimchi and Rock Ocean who spotted us quickly as through hikers. They had hiked the PCT and AT and gave us excellent advice and a ton of encouragement. I was inspired by their generosity and instantaneous kinship. It sounds like they are quite the DIY adventurers. They left us with their phone number in case we jump up later this season to hike Glacier. They said they would drive us to and from where we needed to be up there! Once again the bond between through hikers is showing. It’s a real thing. Respect is immediate when you’ve done something so challenging yourself.

Any guesses on what kind of animal this was?
Many gate crossings today and plenty of cows on trail to explain their presence

Later that day while breaking for lunch we met another SOBO CDT hiker, Skipper, who had just come in from Sandy Lake trailhead on a hitch out of Pinedale.

Turns out that Skipper left Maria’s pass a day before us after being stuck there waiting for a resupply box. How cool that we finally crossed paths today!! He had been hiking as a group of four with Tink Tank, Money Maker, and Mantis who we have yet to meet. We are hoping to meet them someday soon too after they finish their backtrack to hike the cirques.

We chatted while we hiked and all ended up camped about 21 miles from where Ry and I started at the algae saturated lake this morning. We set up with plenty of space between each other’s sites on our request so that Ryan and I could shower. We cleaned up, ate, and now I am writing the blog post way too late in the day. Time to SLEEP!!!

Day 42 – August 22

Back to the desert, onward to Lander

There is something about the last day or so of a long stretch of hiking that sucks. We think it is that this time isn’t considered before hand since it is right at the end, or is considered but as a stretch that will be “light” or “easy.” In truth, the last day or so of a long stretch is sometimes the most grueling as you slog along very tired after working as hard as you can to get close to town. Being close to town means still hiking for many hours. These hours you had figured would feel like nothing because there were fewer of them than normal… but they are just as difficult, if not more, than a normal day.

Today Ryan and I SLOGGED. We got up late, took down camp slowly (it was a fun and silly morning though which was nice), then set to hiking which was not an easy task. For whatever reason my body was not up for the challenge today and it felt like I was just dragging along half asleep. We did very few miles in the morning and ended up piling on long stretches of walking in the afternoon, hiking into the dark with our headlamps all to fall a mile and a half short of our goal for the day. Whew.

Seeing this Horned Worm made me way too happy. Definitely a pick me up! HE’S HUGE!!!!! Pinky for scale

It was a great day for audio books though! Ryan finished A Distant Mirror and I finished Oryx and Crake. It was also a good day for food as we are now plowing through whatever is left in an attempt to arrive in Lander tomorrow empty handed. The scenery was pretty nice and we enjoyed the desert which graced us later in the day with an overcast, cool sky.

Lots of forest road crossings to hint that we are getting closer to town

We also met Lorax this morning. He is a hiker who now does trail maintenance and was working on carving a 12 link chain with a chainsaw into a big fallen tree as we passed him. He said it’s art, and plans to leave it there for hikers to admire on their way through. It’s fun how the people on the trail love it so much. There is a fondness for these through hikes that a niche group of people share, that creates an instant bond when you find someone else who has hiked one of them. It’s a strange sport with eclectic participants.

Goodnight moon

Tomorrow we arrive in town after 11.5 miles of hiking. Time for some grueling anticipation and then some delicious fooooood!!!

Day 43 – August 23

Yummy yummy raspberries at our campsite this morning

It was a relief to wake up feeling pretty refreshed after such a tiring day and night yesterday. Ryan and I made awesome time getting from our little campsite to the highway into Lander. We left around 8:35am and hiked the 11.5 miles to the road by around 1pm. Not too shabby.

Hmmm… 😉

Hitching into town was a little bit of work but we had some entertainment of sorts while waiting. First a baby moose appeared inside of a property fence, crying and trying to find a way out. We were at a total loss of what to do but needless to say it was a sad sight. Poor baby. We hope it’s momma shows up soon to help it out, or that it belongs to those property owners and is just bored but has plenty of food and water.

The trapped baby moose crying for its mama

Second we witnessed a fully loaded vehicle, carrying two precariously perched kayaks on top, loose its load! Ryan commented on the looks of the situation as it passed and about 200 feet later, kayaks were tumbling down the highway. We ran to help them regain their orange one which had slid all the way down the steep bank of the road.

Finally we were picked up by Juan, thank you Juan! He was driving four hours or so to a work site and was so kind to give us a lift on the way.

In Lander, we settled first at the bar that we were told while on the trail had great food. The tip delivered and we ate delicious burgers and fries with a local beer on the side. My lack of alcohol consumption while in the woods showed because after one beer I was ready for a serious nap. Instead though we set off looking for some food and shorts and sandals for me. No luck on the clothes, but we did great with the food and are now supplied for another 6 day stretch.

While we sat outside of Safeway, eating more than any person who isn’t exercising all day would find grotesque, we met Lotte and Dan, two climbers traveling through in their van.

We talked for a long while and really hit it off. Lotte is from Belgium and met Dan, who recently converted his van, while camping and traveling around the US. She isn’t sure how long she can stay here since her visa will expire, and with covid it might take a while to renew. They offered us a ride to the City Park where camping for up to three nights is totally free and we all set off to settle in at around 11pm.

Ryan and I, stuffed to the brim on cake, ice cream, milk, and cottage cheese, set up our tent and blissfully fell asleep in the mild summer night on a grassy bed beside a wise old tree. Ahhh.

Rest in Lander – August 24-25

Our initial plan for Lander was in and out. We were ready to go after a couple chores like laundry and thrift shopping for crocs on Monday the 24th, but with a serious pain in the bones of his right foot, Ryan needed some healing. We decided to take it easy and play it safe, staying in Lander two more days to see if there was any improvement in Ryan’s foot. There was!! We feel good about avoiding a stress fracture that could take 6-8 weeks of off time to heal, and we had a great time enjoying rest and especially getting to know Dan and Lotte better.

Morning in the park

On Monday, I found some shorts and a pair of crocs at the United Methodist thrift shop for get this… $1.50 for BOTH!! Now I have pants for shorts to wear on laundry days and shoes for stream crossings, breaks, and camp take down. So good.

We did laundry, bought more food for the day, and hung out for happy hour at the Lander Bar where getting a local beer was only $2.50! What a deal.

We also completed the blog for the last stretch without my phone. This takes an insane amount of work and Ryan and I took turns editing. Thankfully we ended up staying another day because after Monday, I was beat from chores and blogging.

Dan and Lotte 😊

We ran into Dan in the morning at the city park where we stayed the night again. He invited us to come along to while he and Lotte climbed for the day at a spot a half hour from Lander. We accepted the invitation and rode along with all of our stuff in their van. We are so inspired by their setup which was hand built by the two of them and Dan’s family. We are also inspired by their ability to climb! Dan has done several climbs that took literally all day. He has even climbed half dome in Yosemite! It shows too because he has the biggest fore arms of anyone I know and can do a pull-up with just TWO fingers, one on each hand, supporting his weight. We got a great education about bouldering, sport climbing, and traditional climbing.

Today he and Lotte did some sport climbing which is where there are already bolts in the rock for you to clip into rather than traditional climbing where you place your own “pieces” which fit into cracks in the rock and are removed after your climb to secure you to the wall on your way up.

Perfect time for painting

It was a great opportunity to just sit around outside which we have done surprisingly little of despite spending months in the wilderness. I had the opportunity to paint and Ryan lounged while listening to audiobooks and podcasts. Very nice.

After they finished climbing, we piled into the van and set off for the happy hour in Lander. Ryan and I also got food, which I HIGHLY recommend, from the connected restaurant. I’m very impressed with the quality in such a small town of only 7,500 people.

It was so much fun hanging out with Dan and Lotte and getting to know them better. After happy hour we went to the store and bought the fixings for shrimp tacos with pico de gallo. Yes!!! Second dinner was on for Ryan and I as we are trying to put on some more weight. Lotte and Dan made delicious rice and shrimp and we enjoyed the atmosphere pouring out of their van as we sat outside to eat. It really does feel like a little home. We will miss their company as we head back out tomorrow!

This stretch will be unique since we go through the Great Basin / Red Desert. They will be flat, long, shadeless and low water supply days. I’m ready to feel like a cowgirl and enjoy some beautiful desert sunrises and sunsets… let’s go!!

Day 20 – Day 34

An explanation, a goodbye to friends, a walk through Yellowstone, a stop in Cody, and a walk with my dad!

Dear reader, my phone was lost. I’m so sorry for not posting sooner! Thankfully, my mom is so sweet and provided a new one, meanwhile we wrote each night about the day and are finally attaching pictures to go with the story. Hopefully future blog posts will not be so few and far in between.

Day 20 – July 28

Ski lifts! We are in resort town

We started our day camped by Jack Creek, a shortcut told to us by an old Montanan man named Kelley who we met a few nights before in the mountains at Sureshot Lake. As we were breaking down camp we were passed by a couple of other thru hikers that had heard of the same shortcut.

The day began with gorgeous views of mountains in the distance. The crumby part started when we had to walk down a dirt road and past a golf course. We eventually walked into the resort community of Big Sky Montana, and a man stopped and offered us a ride to the grocery store. He had previously hiked the Appalachian Trail, the Long Trail, and half of the Pacific Crest Trail, so he knew hiker trash when he saw it.

Groceries in town were over priced, similar to Ennis. We had to get a lot of food though because the next stretch to Cody, Wyoming is nothing but sweet sweet wilderness.

On our way out of town we decided to check out a restaurant that our ride recommended as not overly expensive and very tasty, the Riverhouse BBQ. We noticed large storm clouds sweeping the valley on our walk to the Riverhouse. Luckily another piece of hiker trash named Chris happened to be driving by and offered us a ride to the restaurant. Unluckily Morgan’s phone fell out while being loaded into his car and is MIA.

At the restaurant the owner gave us permission to camp out back. “Out back” here means a field of clover butted up against the Gallatin River. Pristine camping spots awaited us while we rode out the storm with brisket, burgers, and a mound of fries.

The evening was made even more exciting after realizing Morgan’s phone was missing when she decided to run back to where our savior from the storm picked us up. Running in a twilight drizzle was a nice change of pace. Sadly, no phone was found on the side of the road.

We set up camp in the dark in the rain and had a great night’s sleep on the banks of the Gallatin.

Day 21 – July 29

Crash Bandicock’s foot has some large open sores on it so he needed to call it for the day. However Morgan and I had to walk farther in order to stay on schedule to meet her dad in Cody. This meant parting ways with The Wandering Kiltsman and Crash for the first time in a week. We exchanged numbers and all hoped to meet up again somewhere down the trail.

Some huge trees in the morning, Morgan for scale.
In addition to large trees we saw magenta colored Indian paintbrushes for the first time!

After only a mile from our departure the skies opened up and a thunderstorm erupted. Weather changes on a dime in these mountains. Thankfully the large pine trees works amazingly well for blocking the rain. We ended up just setting up camp here with plans for early bedtime and a long day tomorrow.

Lake where we ended up splitting up with Crash and Kilt (Kiltsman in background)
Ominous clouds quickly led to lightning strikes too close for comfort.

Day 22 – July 30

Our morning was damp, damp, DAMP after last night’s thunderstorm. We walked through overgrown meadows that shimmered in the morning sun, and also completely soaked our pants and shoes. I’m talking like we stood in a shower from the waist down.

Thankfully after slipping and sliding our way through the morning, the hot July sun warmed the forest up enough to dry all that water and eventually, our socks and shoes. Woo!

Around the middle of the day we were dry and experiencing gorgeous views.

Today we made it into Yellowstone. It’s great to see progress, this walking thing really works! It was sad to leave our hiking companions behind, Kilt and Crash, we miss you already and wondered at several points through the day if we would hear the Lord of the Rings soundtrack coming from the trees before seeing a man in a kilt round the corner. Also, Crash we hope your feet are healing well!

Shhhhh, don’t tell the feds about our gun
We feel pretty good about the gun after seeing lots of mountain lion prints, plus this enormous scratching post.
A small sampling of the oversized wildlife Yellowstone has to offer (Mormon Cricket)

We climbed a lot this morning up to around 9,000ft before descending down into a valley in Yellowstone. The mountain top provided valuable phone service where we were able to order Ryan a new pair of shoes (his are starting to fall apart) and call my dad to tie up loose ends. We meet up in just over a week! It’s exciting to know another hiking buddy will be joining us through Yellowstone.

We pushed hard today and covered a lot of ground, around 20 miles! 3.5 of those were on a paved busy road and the rest on gorgeous mountain trails. We met a few other backpackers too, including a sweet family of four who’s backcountry campsite we crashed.

Turns out the spot we wanted a permit for only offers one, and the family had it. They were so nice to let us camp here too. It’s very difficult to reserve a spot in the National park because you must reserve within two days of getting there, you have to get lucky and catch someone on the phone when you call, and you must get even luckier and find service within those two days. So far, we have failed to do our duty… sorry America! We are illegal right now.

A dirty scoundrel last seen walking without paperwork somewhere in northern Yellowstone, call the Park Service if you have any information on his whereabouts or thereabouts

Day 23 – July 31

Today, we hiked a lot. We saw a mountain lion! We also saw town Elk in Mammoth who were completely unafraid of people. We are officially in Wyoming and so far it is beautiful!

Elk of the town

Ryan and I climbed a very big mountain today and made great time getting into town (Mammoth in Yellowstone) where we wanted to resupply and camp. We started early in the morning, hiked all day, and crawled into town with very tired legs past boiling hot springs and hail on the ground the size of garbanzo beans from the afternoon’s storm. Turns out the store was closed and so was the campground so we got creative and hitched a ride out of town. Full of burgers, soda, combos, fries, and ice cream (the picture of health over here) we met Patrick from Cotton Alabama (right outside of Dothan!) who manages the restaurant in Mammoth. He gave us a ride to a trail head on the edge of the park where we are once again illegally camped… hmmm… I miss the National Forest! Tomorrow we hitch back into town and continue onward to Cody.

Hail that landed just ahead of us.
Late July snow, proof that the mountain we climbed was ,in fact, very tall.
Interesting hot springs outside of Mammoth

Note: we met two CDT hikers in Mammoth, Snake Eyes and Logic. Pretty cool people! They are finishing their triple crown right now (hiking all three trails) and are a month into a NOBO (north bound) hike before they flip flop down south to finish the rest of the trail.

Day 24 – August 1

Something about our campsite last night was special. It was beautiful, desert, Wild West and the temperature was extremely kind to us. I felt very at home waking up naturally around 6am, stepping out of the tent, and seeing a gorgeous sunrise beginning its work. We also heard owls last night and coyote doing their thing this morning. The wildlife in Yellowstone really is notable.

We hiked out and hit the road ready to hitch back into Mammoth. Before we could even leave the trailhead, a very friendly Yellowstone employee, William, pulled over and asked us where we were headed and if we needed a ride. Score!!! Thank you so much William. We got lucky meeting such a cool individual. He has worked for the National Parks, Teton and Yellowstone, for 8 years and is an ex-marine with a love for the beauty of this land. He showed us a shortcut to get out of town and dropped us off to wait for the store in town to open with good wishes.

The morning was nice and lazy and we bought breakfast and coffee (Yellowstone has Disneyland prices unfortunately) then resupplied at the equally expensive little market there full of touristy souvenirs.

The prices are the same, but Disney World doesn’t have nearly as many elk roaming around.

We hiked down and out of town to a gorgeous river, Lave Creek, which we followed for a few miles. The mud was INSANE down there. We had fun checking out animal prints from little and big critters who took the same path earlier in the day. Lots of Coyote and mice.

Passing Undine Falls, we took some touristy photos and went on our way. Our goal was campsite 2H4 19 miles away. The day was VERY hot and we did some climbing before settling into a longer downhill stretch to the Yellowstone River.

Some cute lady posing in front of the waterfall. Unlike Disney World, Yellowstone is much more lackadaisical about guard railing.

It’s amazing seeing a well built metal bridge in the middle of the wilderness. The Yellowstone River certainly deserved it with very wide banks and an emerald glow to its swift flow.

Bridge crossing the Yellowstone River
Glamour shots
What a gorgeous river

The sunny day turned to overcast and we took a break on its banks where Ryan filtered water and I got to take a short nap! I needed it. The rest helped get me back in the groove and a little down the trail we had a fun surprise! Sitting down for a rest of their own were Grylls and Swig.

A lovely napping spot
A lovely lookout spot on the Yellowstone River

Kiltsman and Crash had told us many times about four other SOBO (south bound) hikers they met up in Augusta a couple weeks ago. We had finally run into half of the group! They said their hiking companions, Caleb and Aden (18 year old hikers!!! What beasts!!), were just behind them. We went on our way and hit another mosquitogeddon before they passed us up and we met them too.

Ryan and I forded a river just before our campsite and prepared food before setting up for the night. We are filtering out four bottles of water tonight (each takes 8 minutes, I timed it) before going to sleep before sunset. Tomorrow we have a goal of 32 miles! That means a very early rise. The first half of the day (15 miles) is a dry spell that we are preparing for.

We have a challenge ahead with around 6,000ft of climbing, 7,000 of down, 15 miles of no water sources, and 32 miles to hike to our reserved campsite. Let’s get walkin’!

Day 25 – August 2

Ryan and I woke up to an ambitious goal at 5:15am. We quickly took down camp, ate our overnight oats, and set off down the trail at around 6:15… our earliest start yet!

It was a gorgeous morning. We enjoyed the sunrise and cool morning air as we started off the day at a good clip. I had my sights set on 32 miles down the trail. Let’s go!

Another gorgeous crossing this morning

We saw a buffalo in our first few miles, mistaking it for a few minutes as a rock, then thinking again it was a buffalo. Finally it got up and moved proving our original theory to be true!

Bison or rock?
A large curious boulder
Just passing through, enjoy the grass
We both walked past this lounging bison before turning around and realizing he was sitting there. It’s really true what they say about the sneakiness of bison.

We made quick work of the first six miles of the day and stopped at the Yellowstone River to filter out a full three liters each for a 15 mile dry spell. It was fun meeting some curious tourists who asked us about our journey and told us we had some good buffalo sightings coming up ahead.

Our long trail for the day, Specimen Ridge, came up quickly and we began a big climb. Today we climbed around 6,000ft total! It was hot, dry, lots of sagebrush, buffalo, antelope, and fruit snacks!

The only male out of a skittish herd of 30 antelope, lucky fella.

We made great time for the hard work we were doing and took as short of breaks as we could manage. Our 32 mile goal still seemed attainable!

The hard work was rewarded with gorgeous views from the top of Amethyst mountain

The no water stretch got the best of us and by the end of climbing in the heat we were absolutely parched. When we finally reached a stream it took a lot of self restraint not to just drink the water before filtering. Our filter unfortunately takes a ridiculously long time of carefully concentrating on squeezing a smart water bottle as hard as you can before you finally get enough water for a satisfactory gulp. We miss Crash and Kilt’s full size Sawyer Squeeze. Thankfully one will be arriving in Cody, Wyoming on the 8th with my dad and our filtering woes will be over!

It took a looooong time to filter enough water to satisfy the dehydration we had just acquired. By the time we were done our window of opportunity for reaching our campsite was getting dangerously narrow. On top of this, we had two difficult slippery time consuming river crossings and we had to go around several buffalo standing in the trail. Ryan made a plan that if we reached our fellow travelers campsite after 7:30pm, we would call it a day five miles short of our 32 mile goal.

Despite our fatigue, we pushed on with intention. We reached the campsite 3L4 at around 7:45pm and decided to descend to the river and spend our evening getting to know Caleb, Aden, Grylls, and Swig instead of hiking on very tired legs into the night.

It was fun to see what the other hikers ate after such a long day. We picked up some good ideas! Grylls made his own dehydrated veggies which he throws into his ramen, and Caleb and Aden made a big pot of beans, cheese, and rice to roll into burritos. Delicious!!

We are camped tonight in the Lamar River Valley on the Lamar River and have around 30 miles left to our destination in Cody. Sweet dreams!

Day 26 – August 3

Our bodies enjoyed a sleep-in after such a CRAZY day yesterday. It’s our new record! 27 miles and around 6,000ft of climbing. Whew. We left camp after all our fellow hikers had cleared the scene at around 10:30am.

It became very apparent very soon that our legs were not so happy with us, but walk on we did! Around the mid afternoon something clicked and walking became a little more manageable as we approached a decision point for the day.

Most of our trek was flat as we followed the Lamar River, but to get out of the park there is a 9,600ft summit. We were walking down in the 6,000s by the river and our muscles were feeling any small hill after so much climbing yesterday.

We got to the base of the mountain at around 6pm with cloudy weather and a few sprinkles of rain. Still feeling in the groove, we decided to summit.

This was our favorite climb in Yellowstone. We got some nice cooling rain, lots of thunder to listen to, some hail for excitement, and GORGEOUS views of the valley below. Finally we had a break from the hot summer sun and the climb went great with around 52 switchbacks.

Pretty views as we left Yellowstone via the Frost Lake Trail
Some interesting flowers growing at the peak

At the top we anticipated a small stream and the mountain delivered! Springs are amazing. This water just flows right out of the mountain up here at 9,600ft. We probably don’t even need to filter it BUT just to be safe we are.

Ryan made us dinner and hung our bear bag while I set up the tent and our bedding. Tomorrow we have a nice descent and around 13 miles to hike to highway 20 where there is a gas station with cold drinks and a ride to hitch waiting for us! We will get into Cody with four days to spend however we would like before meeting up with my dad. Yellowstone, it’s been really great. We will see you again very soon!

Day 27 – August 4

This morning we had an encounter with the wild. A female deer, possibly pregnant, spent her morning in tandem with ours enjoying the mountain top. She kept her distance but walked around the perimeter of our campground munching on plants and tapping her hooves on the ground for us to hear as she walked around.

It’s amazing how unphased by humans animals are when they aren’t hunted

It was a great start to the day and we left camp later than normal headed down to Cody where relaxation awaited.

Moods were high and flowers were plenty as we headed back to civilization.

The hike felt longer than normal and after heading downhill for around 6 hours, fording a couple streams, and eating ramen dry and crunchy with sips of water, we arrived at Pahaska Tee-Pee on the Highway just a couple miles west of the Yellowstone park border.

Grouse are a source of amusement when the trail seems never-ending

We had a bite to eat from their convenience store and set off to hitch into town, 50 miles away. It took a good 45 minutes or so before Cy pulled over with a 2,600 mile PCT sticker on the back of his SUV. We knew we had found a like-minded hiker friend who had been in our shoes on the sister trail!

Cy talked to us the whole drive into Cody about his experience hiking and working now at the Pahaska Resort to save up for hiking the CDT like us next year. It was refreshing to meet someone off the trail who cared about the little through hiking details that would be boring to most people who haven’t hiked a long trail. It’s funny how much time hikers spend talking about the nuances of shoes, water carries, and lack of showers to name a few topics. We also discussed our new record day of 27 miles only to be blown away that he did a 42 mile day towards the end of the PCT. The competitive part of our brain is already anticipating a 43 mile day before the trail is over.

Strange architecture on the road into Cody

Cy pulled into Walmart where we planned to restock on food for the next few days in town so that we could try to put on some weight! Our job is to eat, try to learn some interesting facts, restore our bodies, and have some fun. Not a bad agenda. Cy was coming to town to do some shopping and grab a bite to eat, so we decided to all go out to dinner after.

He brought us to The Silver Dollar and was so generous to pay for our meal despite our protests that a meal for a ride was a great trade! We were tired, but stocked on food both in our pack and bellies, so we were feeling good. Our new friend dropped us off in the National Forest on his way back to Pahaska and we camped for the night about 30 miles outside of town.

Cody, Wyoming

Ryan and I spent three full days resting in Cody. We experienced lots of trail magic, ate some amazing meals, and enjoyed learning about Buffalo Bill and the town’s history.

Our first day of rest we hitched back in the morning in search of coffee with Darcy and Darlene, two sisters traveling around in their cool conversion van. We had fun getting to know them and sneak a peak into the lives of some fellow wanderers. Their van was very inspiring as well! We would love a set up someday that is so comfortable and portable.

Ryan and I spent our morning at the visitor’s center looking at art, then at a local coffee shop, Rawhide Coffee, where we crashed for a couple of hours. We met some really cool people there and enjoyed some downtime doing nothing. While I was working on a little sketch, a handsome weathered man wearing a red bandana with long black hair came over to ask to see what i was drawing. He was kind to admire some of my sketchbook and when I asked him if he was an artist, he gave me his website to look at later. Turns out he is an amazing painter making work that I am aspiring to. Check out Johnpotterstudio.com to see his paintings and read about his interesting life.

We also met a man (the subject of my sketch) named Andrew Murray (not the tennis player) who came to ask us where we were hiking. He had done a large portion of the AT a few years ago with… get this… his two daughters. 8 and 10 at the time. We were so impressed. What a cool dad! We talked about the area and people like us three who were from out of state coming in to live there. He had moved from LA and it sounds like he never wants to go back.

On our way to find something else to do after coffee, I have some local hotels a call to ask about prices and see if a work for stay was possible. Lots of people on the AT get opportunities to do some work in exchange for a free room. The Hotel 8 told me they didn’t think it was possible, but would check and get back. A few minutes later they called me saying unfortunately no, they don’t do work for stays, but fortunately, their owner wanted to give us a room on them that night! We loved meeting their staff and had such a wonderful time relaxing, showering, getting clean laundry, and of course eating as much as we wanted. I found time to paint our view across the street as well which was awesome. I’ve been feeling a big drive to continue making art.

The next day we set out for the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. This museum is five in one. They have an INSANE firearms exhibit with over 7,000 guns on display and all the firearm trivia you could ever hope for. They also have a Western art, Buffalo Bill, Native American, and Natural History exhibit. They ticket was $20 and good for two days, so we took our time exploring.

Four barreled shotgun at the museum
Who needs aiming when you have a Duck Gun?
A gun confiscated from an unruly mouse
Revolver shotgun, it went right on the Christmas list.

Midway through the day we visited the Chinese buffet just down the road and ate not as much as we wanted, not as much as we should… but as much as we could. We left full. So full. We cracked joke after joke to each other which caused painful laughter. Then the fact that we were so stuffed it hurt to laugh made us laugh even more. The cycle took some serious deep breathing to finally stop.

After the museum closed we went to the park for a free summer concert where Cy came and met us. Afterwards we went to the Irma hotel for drinks and good conversation. We stayed out late enjoying good company, including the bartender, Christina, who moved here from Russia at 18 knowing no English. She is an avid rock climber and we had a blast talking about outdoor adventures, cheap travel, and altitude sickness. What a cool night! We stayed at the King’s Hotel and had breakfast with Cy in the morning downtown at Pete’s Café before splitting ways. Kings hotel is notable for the enormous collection of taxidermied endangered African animals, all personally hunted by the owner of the establishment.

How can you operate a quality hotel if you’ve never even killed an elephant?
The rare white rhino…..

Hopefully when we get to The Wind River Range just south of Yellowstone, Cy will join us again. This time, for some hiking! Woot!

We spent our last full day in Cody back at the museum and then the park for an afternoon nap. The staff at the museum invited us back for another bonus day since we had been there so many times. What a cool place! Good thing we’ve been graced with extra time because we still have more to see if our morning tomorrow allows.

Tonight Ryan and I are camped just outside of town on a quite ridge. We are going no tent tonight and are enjoying a gorgeous Wyoming sunset, the sound of the rushing river below, the smell of sulfur from geothermal activity (is this enjoyable?) and a little family of noisy deer who just stumbled upon our impromptu camping spot. Cody Wyoming, you’ve been awesome! Tomorrow, we meet up with my dad for another go at Yellowstone and the 28th day of our journey south to Mexico.

Our first try camping without a tent went swimmingly
More beautiful flowers near our sleeping site.

Day 28 – August 8

Our last day in Cody. We woke up from a night of stargazing where we were able to the Milky Way, create our own constellations, and see Elon Musk’s satellites looking eerily like alien activity in the sky. Cowboy camping next to the Shoshone river was awesome.

Ryan and I got his morning coffee then went to Walmart to resupply. We’re getting pretty good at picking out our food! This time we will be enjoying plenty of flavored drinks, burritos, peanut butter wraps, and Nutella when we want something extra special. After a few days of eating heavy, calorie rich foods, my stomach is perpetually full and my mind is worried about my diet. I went a little lighter on the sugary foods this shopping trip and instead of beef sticks in the burrito, I’m going for lean protein rich tuna.

After our resupply, we met a cool local who was interested in hiking and bike touring. We chatted for a bit then set off to meet my dad! Woohoo!

Walking was hard work with the pack on. Something about being on the road makes it much more difficult than being on the trail.

We met my dad at the UPS store in Cody where we all shipped a few unneeded items back to my mom, then we went to lunch at a local brewery. The food was delicious and the company was even better! Full on fuel, we left town looking for a ride back into the forest.

About a half an hour into trying to hitch with no luck, Marsha, our lovely trail angel drove by and quickly pulled to the side. We met her a few days before at the Motel 8 where it turns out she visits regularly since living there with her english mastiff and boxer for a couple of months after the Paradise, California wildfire a few years back completely destroyed her material possessions. She did the California stretch of the PCT about 30 years ago so we instantly felt a connection. Thank you so much Marsha for making us feel welcome when we came into Cody, and giving us safe comfortable passage to the trail head which was way out of your way. You are awesome!!!!

Marsha saved the day! Thank you Marsha!

By the time we got to water, we were all parched from the salty lunch we enjoyed. Thankfully, my dad brought us a CNOC bag and a full size Sawyer Squeeze. WOO!! We are completely set now. Our 8 minute grueling filtering squeeze for one liter is now practically passive and takes less than half the time. What an amazing difference. Hydration will no longer be a painful chore.

We hiked a couple of miles into the park and enjoyed lots of berries on the way. We ate wild raspberries and strawberries and admired many other varieties that may or may not give us diarrhea. Let’s not risk it.

Tonight we are camped in the Washakie Wilderness next to a creek on a gorgeous sand bar. Plenty of hands made light work of building a big fire to enjoy with our dinner. The stars tonight are top of the line! We are way out there without almost any light pollution so we can see almost any star our ancestors would have been gazing at. I don’t know if I’m willing to give up this view for very long stretches at a time again.

Father and daughter looking fresh at the wilderness boundary

Day 29 – August 9

First thing’s first we left no trace. Our campfire from the night before got a good decomposing where we had fun tossing huge rocks back towards the river and big unburned logs into the water to watch them float away.

We set off after a leisurely morning around 10am for a quick day. We were approaching Yellowstone so we had to camp before entering the park which was about 12 miles way.

Taking our time for the first real day of hiking with Trace
Our wonderful camp site from the night before

After a couple turns arounds, we found or trail which immediately crossed a creek. There were two other groups out with us this morning, both on horseback. We spent a while talking about how nice it would be to have a bigger carrying capacity, and also how nice it is not to have to care for those big animals. Someday though it would be fun to take a mountain trip with them and have the leisure of looking all around while moving instead of staring at the trail so as not to trip every five feet on a rock.

Good to be in the woods with good people – photo from daddy
Photo credit to daddy

Today was the day of stream crossings and we took our time with them. Every creek too big to hop across ,or without a log ,or big enough rocks to jump to means you must remove your shoes unless you don’t mind very wet feet. We also went through a very wet, swampy section where Ryan and Daddy’s non-waterproof shoes got saturated. They took advantage of the already wet shoes to enjoy easy crossing at the next few streams where I still removed my boots.

We had some GORGEOUS views of Pinnacle Mountain on our way through the valley. The top was still snowy and the jagged silhouette felt very adventurous in the distance.

Our campsite luckily had a view I was able to paint. We got in for the night around 5:30 and enjoyed a very leisurely evening and early dinner. Ryan and Daddy even took a shower and did some laundry while I was engrossed in painting. We finished off the day laying our under the stars for another night of cowboy camping despite the chilly temperatures.

Day 30 – August 10

We woke up to very damp gear. The dew was intense in the lush forest environment and we had a chilly morning with lower temperatures than normal.

It was a get up and go day and we left around 9am. Our first task of the day, walking up a mountain! We were headed to the pass between Eagle Mountain and Pinnacle Mountain at 9,600ft. The climb took a while but we worked our way up over the course of the morning with breaks as needed. We were also treated by tons of huckleberries and strawberries on our way. The top was rewarding with a fantastic view and a grand entrance to Yellowstone! We had another 9 miles or so to go to our campsite for the night and the rest of the day was downhill or flat. Piece of cake.

Back in Yellowstone!

The park definitely has wildlife about as we saw a lot of different tracks throughout the day. The easiest to identify were the wolf prints left from a muddier time. Now they were completely dry and very solidified. Ryan and I learned while we were in Cody that wolf prints overlap each other as the animal walks. These definitely fit the bill.

Wolf prints! – photo from daddy
What a gorgeous day – photo from daddy

Later in the day we saw a bunch of big bear prints. They look almost like a human foot with an arch and five toes. Sometimes you can even see the creases in the skin on the bottom of their foot! It was pretty clear this bear wasn’t too far from us since the prints were on top of powdery dirt. There was plenty of fresh purple poop full of berries as well to give us a hint.

A bear!!!! – photo from daddy
Purple bear scat and wonderful flowers, we
were treated to a plethora of color today
Monks head flowers
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Today was our longest day of my dad joining us since in Yellowstone you have to camp in a designated spot. Our campsite, 6C2 was about 14-15 miles from our site last night. With a tiny little fire lit under us, we reached our campsite around 7:30pm. It took a little searching, but when we found our spot there was a nice fire pit, benches, and a bear hang waiting for us along with a gorgeous river and mountain view.

It’s burrito time – photo taken by Daddy

Ryan and I had a delicious hot bean, rice, and cheese burrito as we warded of the mosquitos and enjoyed a roaring fire. Tonight, I’m writing the blog post as Ryan sets up our bedding and Daddy gets his bivy sack set up. Tomorrow we leave the park and get to enjoy a slightly shorter hike with plenty of picnic time.

Day 31 – August 11

The sun shown over our whole camp early in the morning because we were lucky to have a gap in the mountains to the east. This meant dry gear first thing which pleased us all. Daddy got up first and we soon followed. We ate breakfast, Ryan and I bagels with peanut butter and Nutella and Daddy with instant oatmeal, then set off for some gorgeous high valley hiking in Yellowstone. Our elevation barely changed all day as we walked beside huge rocky mountain tops and got to look out over vast grasslands that would have been marshy in the spring.

The scaredest moose there ever was

Early into our hike we had the pleasure of seeing a big adult male moose run across our path! What funny lumpy and insanely cool animals. This guy was enormous and ran from us like we were a force to be reckoned with. I was thankful he thought so! It’s been said that moose are dangerous and can be very aggressive. Not this one!

The deadest elk there ever was

Shortly after the moose we came across a big elk carcass on the side of a big river. What a sight to see. We couldn’t help but fantasize about the scene that must have recently played out. What took this big animal down? How long had it been there? Is the killer still lurking around the corner?

The next animal sighting of the day was much tamer as we came across two very noisy Sand Hill Cranes calling out when they saw us approaching.

It has been a blast to have my dad along with us. He knows SO many plant and animal names. We’ve been getting a great education on this hike and I am continually feeling proud to be the daughter of Trace McCune. He is also giving me a hope for the future seeing his ability to hike and carry his entire life on his back at twice my age. Not only is he physically fit but also able to contribute so much knowledge, wisdom, and a sense of lightness with his signature humor. We all agreed it is the opportunity of a lifetime to be able to hike this week together.

Our trio came across the first other humans we have seen in a day and a half when we exited the park. A contractor and his crew were set up to be working on a bridge crossing the Yellowstone River until sometime in October. What a cool way to get to spend time out in the wilderness! We had fun chatting with them, especially the volunteer cook, Bob, and his sturdy and cute English Labrador, Charlie, before continuing on. We soon encountered another group with horses and dogs headed the opposite direction from us. It’s strange to suddenly run into people after not seeing anyone for so long!

Sweet, sweet seclusion

Our hiking ended for the day by a pretty creek where we took an improv bath in the water, did laundry, and ate dinner. A little mouse who lives in a stump right by our tents provided good entertainment. We also enjoyed some dessert tonight! My dad made us pudding and we shared our chocolate before heading to bed. Goodnight!

Day 32 – August 12

Beautiful rock formations and some overcast weather

Damp, damp, damp! These woods are damp. Last night must have been cold and wet because in the morning we had plenty of dew and even some frost on our tent.

A chilly morning made the day seem a little daunting, but once we got moving the cool air made for an efficient morning. We hiked around 5 miles to our first stop at The Parting of the Waters. This true Continental Divide spot is where Two Ocean Creek splits into two. One side flows to the Atlantic, the other to the Pacific! We joked about peeing in the water and having a little bit of us end up in each ocean. As far a I know, none of us followed through… as far as I know.

This frog had me frogging out – photo by daddy
Slithery little snake by the two oceans pass – photo from daddy
Hello big guy! Best of luck to you on your travels – photo by daddy

We lunched at the split for a nice hour and a half where Daddy dried out some of his gear that was still damp from the morning and we ate delicious burritos. It’s nice to have a good long break to sit and enjoy the nature along the way.

At the split of the rivers with my love! – photo from daddy

Post lunch I was VERY groggy, but what’s a groggy girl to do except push on and just keep walking. Thankfully my dad and I got into a lively conversation that made the miles fly by and woke me up. Some of my favorite and most impactful memories from growing up were long walks in the woods talking with my dad about everything from the meaning of life to Jar Jar Binks. It’s great to be adding to those memories still today!

The only other hikers we ran into today were two by the parting of the waters and three others set up a few miles from our campsite enjoying some very nice camp chairs near their site. It was a funny thing to see since their tents and packs were hidden behind some trees… just three guys in the middle of the wilderness sitting in chairs.

The afternoon brought some intense but very short but powerful showers and cool weather which made the walking easier. The three of us continued on with good conversations. So good in fact, that we took a wrong path and ended up adding about two miles to our day. Whoops! Our estimation for the day was about 17.5 miles! Our legs are feeling it, but it wasn’t too bad.

Feeling small out here and hiking loooong distances – photo credit to daddy

Ryan made us a nice fire tonight while we settled into the campsite. One thing about hiking in the year 2020 is that you can watch TV on your phone. We are taking full advantage tonight, enjoying a few downloaded episodes of Community before hitting the sleeping bag. Daddy earned a trail name today and is now officially Mr. Clean. It fits since he has had a rinse or shower nearly every day and somehow manages to take care of laundry for clean clothes almost every day. We are now Retro Blaze, Speed Racer, and Mr. Clean! Go team go!

Day 33 – August 13

Two friends near our campsite – photo credit to daddy

Our morning was nice and lazy. We woke up to the alarm…. and then slept another two hours. Very nice! The extra rest was wonderful, and the late start gave some time for our wet gear to dry before packing up. After a PB and Nutella bagel, we hit the trail only to cross a big creek a few feet later. Brrr! The water is so cold. Ryan and I are thinking of getting some type of sandal for stream crossings to help mitigate the owie rocks and for late night having to pee moments when putting on socks and hiking shoes means barely making it out of the tent in time.

So glad to get this time with my dad ❤️

Today was my favorite day so far with my dad, and probably on the whole trip! The three of us talked all day long. All day. The conversation made for progress that felt effortless and the topics were very stimulating. I felt peaceful and thankful to be with Ryan and my dad in this moment.

The day brought lots of up and down, another stream crossing, and fantastic views of jagged mountain peaks and green meadows. Thank you Wyoming!!

Two explorers, in their element

We hiked 17.5 miles again today and the consensus is that we are sore. Dinner was well earned and we are cozying up tonight to watch Community and eat chocolate before bed. Tomorrow my sweet mom picks us up and we get to enjoy a covered wagon for housing, sandwiches for eating, and showers! Woohoo! What a good time. I am so thankful for my parents and Ryan and the good memories we are making.

Day 34 – August 14

Frosty strawberry leaves – photo by Daddy

This morning brought us a nice August gift… frost on the ground! What a strange find in the hottest part of the summer. Thankfully the sun still did its job and quickly after rising, we had nice warm dry gear again.

Good morning from our warm little
cave! – photo from Daddy
Really?? In August?! – photo by Daddy

There was a pep in our step knowing that ahead of us was only 9.7 miles until my mom! She was bringing us sandwiches and many other goodies, but best of all we would get to see her. She had booked us a covered wagon for the night on a ranch which meant showers and other amenities that people who don’t live in the woods get to enjoy.

Here we come 10,000ft! – Photo from Daddy

The walk ahead was mostly uphill and took us past some gorgeous crystal clear mountain lakes. We also crossed our highest point yet on the trail at just over 10,000ft! Ryan and I were glad my dad was with us to set the new record. It was bittersweet knowing we had succeeded in hiking the 80 miles to meet my mom. There was a definite sense of accomplishment and a lot of good vibes after such a fun time hiking with the three of us, but it also meant that the time with my dad was ending. Ryan and I agree that he would be welcome with us any time on the trial. We all wished we could keep going on together.

Back on the CDT, woohoo!!
Feeling’ small at the wall

The climb out was a lot of fun since our scenery was sublime with a GIANT rock wall towering over our heads. It literally made you dizzy to look up to the top! We also got to enjoy a nice newly blazed trail. This was a new section of the CDT that has only been open this year. It was a surprise to get to the top of a nicely graded, gently meandering path to see the small backhoe that was creating it and no more trail past where it had stopped. Thankfully the old trail over the pass was still in tact. It was clear why they were redoing this section once we got back on the old trail and had to climb nearly straight up in some sections.

The trail blazer – photo by Daddy

We lunched at the saddle of the mountains when we reached our maximum height and then hiked down to highway 26, 300ft below us.

A very sunny reunion ❤️

My mom showed up just a few minutes after we did and we quickly went to a nice picnic spot on Wind River Lake where we ate and talked to a bike tour guide named Cindy who was passing by. It’s always fun to meet other people with unconventional lifestyles. We asked her if she would recommend her job and she said there were parts of it that she loved… but there was a reason she was 61 and still single. It doesn’t lend itself to holding healthy relationships.

We got on the road and headed to Heart 6 Ranch for our covered wagon. It was a really fun set up! Two bunk beds and one king sized bed in a fully functional covered wagon. There were outlets and a heater as well.

After showers, and laundry in the shower (grape stomping clothes with soap works surprisingly well!), we drove to Jackson for dinner at a mexican restaurant and after DQ for dessert. It was such a treat to spend the day with my mom and dad!

Goodnight!

Day 10 – Day 14

Mid Montana with Kilt and Crash

Day 10 – July 18

The Montana state capital building in Helena
Cool carved mural at the State History Museum
A real taxidermied white buffalo!!

After a nice stay in Helena at the Budget Inn downtown, Ryan and I headed out down the road with our packs back on our back.

Just outside of town, we were picked up by Ashley and Cliff. These two locals were so kind and shared our love of the outdoors. Ashley is a fourth grade teacher in town who planned to hike the Oregon section of the PCT this year. She’s going to try again next summer when things are hopefully opened back up. Cliff is a rafting guide who gets PAID to be adventurous. So cool!

Back in the wild
We love the weird trees, when you see so many, there are bound to be a few standouts

They dropped us off at MacDonald pass and we set off once again. The start of our day, around noon, was full of friendly day hikers from Helena who we chatted with as we met on the trail. We heard tale of two other CDT through hikers ahead of us, one wearing a kilt and carrying a guitar!

The Wandering Kiltsman and Crash Bandicock
Boulders! The landscape is changing

The guthook app we downloaded in Helena, a fantastic guide for through hiking at $39.99 told us we had to go about 16 miles before hitting water! Luckily the trail was mostly on a dirt road which meant no slow stepping around rocks, fallen trees, plants, etc. and we made fantastic time.
Funny enough the water source described was not our cup of tea and we passed up multiples others on the way waiting for the “spring” that meant the app showed where we wouldn’t have to spend time filtering water. Oh well. We heard tale of more water just over a mile up the trail and found it along with a gorgeous campsite marked on the map.

Nice and flat tent site

We set up late, around 9:30pm and I cooked ramen nearby while ryan made us a nice little fire. We’re planning to look for the comet tonight so a late evening is just fine!
We hiked over 23 miles today all after 12pm. Woo!

Day 11 – July 19

We had a nice long sleep in after a late night stargazing and checking out the comet, barely visible, but definitely there underneath the Big Dipper.

The comet! Photo cred to the Kiltsman

I went to filter water for our morning while Ryan took down the tent and we were back on the trail around 10:30am. At our first break, we ran back into The Wandering Kiltsman and Crash Bandicock who we met yesterday afternoon. They were so thoughtful last night and came up with trail names for us! We have been officially dubbed Retro Blaze AKA Ryan, and Speed Racer AKA Morgan.

We are both very pleased. Thank you Kiltsman and Crash!

The rest of our day we stuck together and enjoyed great conversation that helped the day pass while we did some big elevation changes in pretty forest.
Turns out that Crash lives in Fort Walton Beach, the same town as Ryan’s parents and invited us to go fishing with him next time we are down there. The Kiltsman is a director from Los Angeles and has been wearing a kilt since 2016. No turning back.

They met hiking the AT and have completed part of the Florida trail. Now they are well on their way their the CDT. Kiltsman is very good at documenting the journey, you can find his story online at thewanderingkiltsman.com.

Fresh spring water we didn’t have to filter. So nice!

We had a great time hanging out and made a big campfire between our three tents. The stars were amazing, the Kiltsman played his guitar which he carries strapped to his backpack, and we shared good conversation.

Campfire pics from Kiltsman!
Long exposure + fire sparks = HA!
Photo cred: Kiltsman
Kilt Playing his guitar around the fire

What a fun day!

Day 12 – July 20

Sitting by the water trough we filtered agua from today
Photo cred: Kiltsman

The dirty trough, luckily the trickle of spring water coming in was clean!
Photo cred: Kiltsman
Huge mushroom!
Big silly bird we encountered

Well, today we woke up, we took down camp and then ate and walked a little bit… then we sat and ate and filtered water and walked a little bit…. then we took an alternate route where we walked a ways, then we sat and ate and filtered water and walked some more…. then we got back on the main trail and we walked some more! After all that we set up camp and socialized and watched an episode of Community and ate Nutella and then we slept!

Kiltsman’s guitar basking in the sunset
Our tents tonight

On our way to town where PIZZA and SHOWERS await. Boo yah.

Day 13 – July 21

We got up and on our way with Kiltsman and Crash after a pleasant sleep on the side of a mountain. Kiltsman played the Lord of the Rings soundtrack as we marched along.

Road walkin’
Photo cred: Kiltsman

We had a lot of blow downs to walk over and under so progress before lunch was slow until we stepped onto dirt side roads to bypass the untamed trail. The roads also gave us a little boost in our mileage and we adopted the mindset “work smarter not harder.” It was a good day for conversation walking side by side with wide paths and I had a lot of fun getting to know more about Crash and Kiltsman’s hobbies, pasts, futures, and especially their adventures before this trail. What fun travel companions!

Roooooad wakin’

I can’t help notice the lighter vibes they carry with them everywhere we go. It’s lower stress than when just Ryan (Retro) and I are walking. They take longer breaks, but they still get there! I think I would like a mix of our two dispositions and plan to adopt a little of their laid back attitude. The fact that they have already completed one great American trail gives a lot of credibility to their approach.
My legs are tired, but I’ve noticed getting up in the morning and after breaks is a lot easier than it was last week.

A nice lazy dinner break
Photo cred: Kiltsman

Water was scarce today and we made a fast two mile sprint into the sunset at to find a place to camp near a spring up a 1,000ft climb. Whew! It was a fun way to end the day, pushing hard and listening to good music courtesy of Kiltsman as we plowed up the mountain. We set up in the dark in a great spot found by Ryan and carefully rationed our dinner. We were so low on food that we barely ate at all! Town was coming though, and we were expecting a pizza feast in a day or two, let’s go!

Roaoaoaoad walkin’
Photo cred: Kiltsman

Day 14 – July 22

Our landscape today

A lazy late rise set us on trail around 11am and we hit it hard. Our descent from the mountain we camped on was gorgeous and the landscape had evolved from dense, wet forest to dry desert with brush, pines, and boulders. It was beautiful!

Some really luxurious trail maintenance here!
Can you spot the toad?
We are officially on the purple!

Our trail today diverged from the official CDT as we started our alternate route, the super butte cutoff. This option will get us a 200 mile boost which is good since Ryan and I started late in the season. We need to reach the San Juans BEFORE snow hits them. It’s funny to be planning for snow on a very hot July day.

Ryan and I ❤️
Photo cred: Kiltsman

Once again water was low and we raced into town on a gradual downhill for most of the day in the hot sun. It’s in the 90s right now and we are feeling the heat. That also means water is more important than ever as we sweat out what we drink in what feels like a matter of minutes.

Our goal for the day was an RV Park waiting about 7 miles out from Whitehall where we would resupply the next day. We couldn’t get ahold of the park, but we did get ahold of the local pizza place, Stageline Pizza, who delivers! We are eating like kings tonight!

Ryan and Crash with the pizza pace going
PIZZA WE ARE COMING!!

The sun turned to clouds and we pushed ahead down more dirt roads towards town and interstate 90. At the bottom of the hill…. NO RV PARK!! Turns out it closed down a few years ago, no sign of it whatsoever. We kept our hopes high though and started to walk into town, thumbs out. We figured hitching a ride tonight was worth it and turns out we were right!

Thank you SO much Paul and Shannon for the ride!

We got picked up by two very kind Montanans, Paul and Shannon, who let us ride in the bed of their truck right to the pizza place. They ALSO gave us money for the food after we got out! So nice!!! Thank you thank you thank you!

Ryan and I split a 20in fully loaded pizza, cheesy bread, and two 2 liter bottle of 7up. The pizza place had amazing employees who made us feel extra cool and asked great questions about our trip. Most importantly, they made AMAZING pizza. Thank you Stageline Pizza! By the morning we ate all but one slice. Full at last.

Pizza party 😊
Photo cred: Kiltsman

Our camp was set up under a park gazebo and it was HOT. We barely slept, but we stayed dry with a little rain. Tomorrow, laundry, showers, and resupply!

Day 0 – Day 9

Bob Marshal and Scapegoat Wilderness in Northern Montana

Day 0 – July 7th

It’s official! We’re doing it!

Goodbye sweet little Mini Cooper!

Ryan and I arrived in Kalispell Montana after driving through gorgeous mountainous terrain and couldn’t help but notice the GIGANTIC mountain range ahead of us as we pulled into town. We dropped off our cute little Mini Cooper at the Enterprise Rent A Car and asked if they had a shuttle that could drop us off down the road on our way, turns out no shuttle, but this Enterprise had something even better… Jackie!

Thank you sweet Jackie for such a nice start to our long journey!

She saw our backpacks and asked where we were going, her shift was just ending and she offered us a lift to the trailhead. WHAT?! We were picturing hours of walking beside a windy mountain road before being picked up by a strange stranger in a truck who would transport us to the trailhead. How could we be so lucky?! Thank you SO much Jackie for starting our trip on the highest note possible.

Not only was Jackie generous with her time, but she also entertained us for an hour drive with great personal stories. She played college basketball and rugby then found her way into a career with Enterprise which she enjoys. She told us about her boyfriend Chris (he’s a lucky guy to be her boyfriend 😊) who works with lasers and her grandma who immigrated to Montana at 17. We’re so happy to be meeting such cool people already!

I’m ready! Let’s go!
The first of many CDT trail markers

After a nice send off, we started down the trail… the wrong trail, and quickly noticed on our GPS that we needed a slightly further walk down to the road to get going. Our trailhead was just inside the Summit Campground where the camp host pointed us in the right direction.

So far the trail is nicely groomed and very muddy. There are LOTS of mosquitos but it’s still manageable if you keep covered up.

We also already met our first through hiker today! His trail name is Trout, and he is only a couple hundred miles away from finishing the triple crown. Hiking all three of the great American trails, the PCT, AT, and now the CDT. Amazing!! He also commented on the size of our packs and bet us “his cash and credit card that we won’t have all that on us when we reach the end.” We ate a big meal tonight to help cut down on weight haha!

So far, we have hiked two or so miles today and are off the trail again, about a half mile in the wrong direction camped by the Two Medicine River Fork. Tomorrow, we backtrack and then forward track as far as we can in the generous 15 hours of daylight we’ve got!

Wayyyy zoomed out (we are the blue arrow up top)
A little less zoomed out, the red is our trail!
Aaaand the two or so miles we’ve hiked today from the Summit. Half a mile of backtracking to start the day tomorrow

Day 1 – July 8

Today we met James and Mike, two hikers about our age who are also heading southbound on the CDT. We enjoyed picking their brains about hiking a through trail since they completed the Appalachian Trail a few years ago and have much wisdom to share. We now know to get special insoles for hikers, replace our waterproof boots for quick drying, light trail runners, and download the app they use which is much more geared towards CDT hikers.

Yeah man, we’re in the Rockies!

The mountains here are very bare… very rocky. Hello Rocky Mountains! We are hiking just below them on an ungroomed trail through lots of living and dead pine trees. The ground is covered in small green plants which have lots of beautiful blooming wildflowers to entertain our eyes 👀. It’s also quite muddy and the trail often disappears for a foot or two under a layer of water.

Stopping to lay in the flowers.
Indian paintbrushes are GORGEOUS

Speaking of water, we have crossed over 10 rivers and streams today, almost always having to remove our shoes to wade across and save our feet from slogging along the rest of the day. I’ve learned my lesson after miss stepping at the end of the day and filling both of my shoes with water. Turns our waterproof is great for keeping water out of, and inside of your shoes. Sorry my now pruney weird looking feet!

A bear track in the mud on the trail

Lots of water means lots of mud means lots of tracks. We are not alone out here! There are many big animals in these woods including grizzly bears, black bears, moose, elk, deer, wolves, mountain lions, and many smaller critters too.

What a view! 😊 I love hiking with Ryan

Our mileage was much lower than we hoped today, we estimate around 15 miles covered, due to lots of downed trees, water crossings, muddy trails, and super heavy packs (we brought too much food… whoops!). Despite all this our spirits remain very high! Day two was a good one, and we are now a little bit closer to Mexico than we were this morning.

Day 2 – July 9

We walked a lot today. 9:30am-8pm, breaking only to eat or fill water (which takes a surprisingly long time). Despite our efforts and without tracking turned on the whole day to conserve precious battery, it appears we haven’t walked very far at all. Hmmmm.

A beautiful mountain lake

Our goal is to do around 20 miles a day, and based on map estimates we are at MAYBE 18. Based on our effort and past experiences with walking however it feels more like a 22 mile day. Hopefully our intuition is correct!

Walking through wildflowers
Another bear print! Those claws are no joke
Indian paintbrush
My favorite flower today

The scenery today was GORGEOUS with lots of wildflowers. We also met some friendly north bound hikers who all started a few hundred miles south of us. One group was a family with kids! I can’t help but wonder how daring and brave they will be as grown ups already being on such adventures!

Feeling good

Our feet and shoulders are officially tired. It’s fun to be making progress and we’re hopeful for the days ahead!

Our little campsite

Tonight we camped at a nice spot by a creek. There was some firewood already set up for us so we made a little fire to dry our wet shoes and socks. The mosquitos were bad but they seemed to leave us alone once the fire got going.

Day 3 – July 10

Feet first aid

Soreness is real! Blisters! Ow! So strange how easy it is to keep yourself going, but as soon as you take a break to sit for a moment, every step to get back in the swing of things is grueling.

We hiked all day again today, definitely no slacking here, and endured a rainy night and very wet morning which meant damp feet all day long, many many mosquitos that like to bite your face, miles of climbing over fallen trees one after the other, bodies as stiff as a board, foot blisters forming under calluses that get sore and angry, and foot odor to make you turn your face away in disgust and shame.

A friendly deer we met while bushwacking to recover the trail

We also enjoyed encountering some of the most gorgeous views we have ever seen, crips clear mountain vistas covered in wildflowers and sunshine, a few horses along the way in make shift stables grazing in open fields, a much needed rinse in a mountain creek which cleaned me and invigorated more than anything else today, a huge meal of double the usual ramen next to a gorgeous stream, cute chirping squirrels and chipmunks, a healthy friendly deer who trusted us and just watched as we crossed its path, and a sense of accomplishment throughout the day as we watched our environment change around us as we walked and walked and walked.

What a beautiful walk in the woods

Day 3 has been both pleasant and torturous. We are ready for day 4!

Bonus photo of a fossil spotted while putting shoes back on after a creek crossing

Day 4 – July 11

Today was the hardest day yet, by far. My body is officially angry with me and I don’t know how to make it happy!

At least we ran into some very cool people, way, way up in the mountains where only cool people go because you can’t get up here with much of a bad attitude. It just won’t happen.

Christian and Nate

Our day began with Christian and Nate, two Forrest Rangers out cutting fallen trees from the trail. Thank you! What a job. They have to do it all by hand, no chainsaws, no motors, just the good ol’ saw. “It looks romantic, but it isn’t. It’s really just hard work.”

They said the forest we were in had burned in 2007 and again in 2017. Nate said he thinks the burns are just fine for the forest and can even be good.

Holy cow!! What a view! It was worth the climbing to get up to the North Wall Trail

We took the CDT about 7 miles to the west and along a huge ridge for most of the day. We climbed A LOT and I’m having pain in my right calf, Ryan in his back. The view was worth it though and we are planning a short cut starting tomorrow to help make up some time. Whew!

We are camped at the base of the mountains next to some local Montanans out here with horses and a tee-pee! They are pretty cool. Once again, haven’t met anyone who isn’t yet out here!

Day 5 – July 12

Wide open!

We descended the North Wall after a leisurely morning next to the friendly Montanan folks who went on their way to fish at “stock lake.”

Fields of wildflowers, this one was red Indian paintbrush

Our mileage went fast since we were going down nearly the whole morning. After a couple short breaks with nearly NO mosquitos!!!… we took a turn off the main trail to access a big short cut.

What a view out here

The terrain became very grassy and much drier which was nice! Our trail was faint and COVERED in wildflowers including clover fields thats smelled amazing.

In the mid afternoon our luck took a turn for the worse as we entered mosquitogedon. I wouldn’t wish it on my own worst enemy. The mosquitos were so thick that we had to cover in clothes head to toe and nearly run, all the while sweating profusely and swallowing mosquitos with our labored breathing. HORRIBLE. Horrible. We are planning to acquire some mosquito nets.

After about two or three miles of this, the mosquitos subsided and we covered good ground. We had a new appreciation as we ate our dinner (we splurged tonight and had the Mountain House Beef Stoganof from my sister, Michaela. So good!! Thank you Michaela!) for the normal amount of swatting and buzzing that usually felt like such a nuisance while we tried to enjoy some rest and a meal.

As the evening approached, we set lofty goals for the rest of the hike and headed out in search of a good stream to camp by after a few more miles. Nearly all of the water sources on our map were dry as we passed one blue line after the other. We began to worry about finding water at all before the night and just as we were about to reach the most promising spot on the map, we stopped dead in our tracks.

The three little bears

About 100 yards away from us were three bears, three grizzly bears with humped shoulders and fur the color of milk chocolate. They looked like babies which set off alarms in my mind of angry mother bears. They watched us, we watched them, I armed the bear spray, Ryan armed his gun, and the bears ran off up the hill away from us. We quickly crossed the path they had been in hoping desperately for the water we needed and were rewarded! After a quick filter, bear spray at the ready, we kept on marching. We kept the conversation nice and loud and sang as we covered enough distance to feel safe before the sun set.

Our camp tonight is on the ridge of a grassy hill with a 360 degree view of beautiful rocky jagged mountains. We hung our food a good distance away tonight.

Today we covered a lot of ground and are ready for what lies ahead! Woo!

Day 6 – July 13

20+ horses we ran across this morning with a group of outfitters

Today was the day of long distances and river crossings. With nice flat terrain for the majority of the day and very groomed trails after we connected back up with the CDT, Ryan and I made great time today.

Getting ready for our first crossing
Brrrr!!!!

This was all despite the huge amounts of time we put into crossing rivers. We had several today and nearly all were challenging. One was downright scary and Ryan had to take his pack across, come back for mine, and cross AGAIN. He said after the first time accross he dreaded coming back, but if I were to go, with my height, my pack would definitely have been submerged and the extra drag in the water probably would have taken me down.

In a few steps, the water got up to Ryan’s waist!

I had my feet pulled out from under me a couple times going across even with my trekking poles for support as the water was above my hips and really moving. Talk about adrenaline. After reaching the other side I felt like I needed to cry, but the feeling subsided and we made great progress again after collecting ourselves.

Exiting the wilderness area!
A bridge?! Information signs?!?! Civilization!!!

Today we also ran into a popular camping destination near the town of Augusta, MT. It was fun to see signs of society like a gorgeous bridge, day hikers, and casual fishermen. Ahhhh.

The rest of our day was spent moving at a fast pace and we dealt with another river crossing that was a little deeper than our liking. We are camped in what feels like an enchanted forest for reasons neither of us can put a finger on. Our tent is on the banks of the South Fork of the Sun River.

Goodnight!

Day 7 – July 14

Today felt almost routine! We had to really push ourselves in the afternoon to reach our goal though due to a nice late start, sleeping in until 9am.

My legs and feet have a deep ache to them, but my mind feels light and happy that we reached our goal for the day!

Look at those cool angled rock layers. TECTONIC PLATES!

No mosquitos to bother us and a fairly flat, straight march south on trails that were rarely overgrown (although sometimes had too many rocks for my taste) allowed for a quick pace.

We did have one hiccup today, loosing the trail, and spent a long time trying a different route that didn’t pan out. What a bummer! Some bushwhacking towards the route on our GPS thankfully our us right back on the trail.

While searching for the trail we came across a cool empty cabin, outhouse, and shed that serve as a ranger station. It was straight out of an old western! Minus the solar panels. Ryan and I have a dream of building a cabin like it someday and are now more inspired than ever.

Day 8 – July 15

Today we CLIMBED. So. Much. Climbing.

At first it sounded like, and felt like a huge chore, but we both admitted by the end of the day that it was well worth it.

We had a late start this morning and had to recross two rivers when I realized I’d left my sunglasses at our campsite. I also had a run in with a stinging caterpillar that left welts on my leg even through my pants!

The little devil curled around the stick I’m holding

After that bumpy start the trail went up, up, and up. Our mileage wasn’t so good today, but we feel proud of our accomplishment nonetheless.

Walking from peak to peak

Today we walked on top of multiple mountains, from peak to peak. We climbed up higher than we have yet on the CDT.

Wind blown but elated

We ate dinner beside a gorgeous mountain lake, two ramens each! The lake was full of strange little red shrimp creatures and water bugs that were fun watch swim around.

Filtering water at the lake

We were able to call our parents! It’s funny how the service is so good in the middle of nowhere when there’s nothing around to block it, just wide open sky for as far as you can see.

The trees do weird things up this high
Time to set up camp
Ryan’s beautiful picture from the mountain top

We plan to take a short cut into Helena in a couple of days. Delicious food and a real bed… here we come!

Day 9 – July 16

After two full days of not encountering another soul, we suddenly ran into tons of other hikers.

Thor and Drive By

The first duo we met was only a mile or so after setting off for the day. Introducing Thor and Drive By! They are finishing up the section of the CDT that they had to skip back in 2017 due to fires and smoke. Both of them have already hiked the AT and PCT. They said their packs only weigh 8 pounds before food and water. What?!? Mine is closer to 20. No wonder they looked so energetic still after such a climb in the morning.

What a fun group of Montanan gentleman

We soon ran into some day hikers, some horse back riders, and then this very fun group of local weekly hikers who were such a pleasure to chat with. They get together once a week to hit the trails and enjoy good company. We ran into them just after they finished a long ascent and then a delicious piece of rhubarb cake at the top. We like their style. They also gave us a water bottle after hearing we were running low. THANK YOU!!

Just after meeting them we passed the spot Lewis and Clark crossed over the Rockies. How they did it with the technology and gear they were carrying, and NO TRAILS…. I have no idea.

The entire morning was spent pushing to the road waiting below us where we planned to hitch a ride into Helena, about 60 miles away. We were very ready for some tasty hot food and a bed and after 11 days… a SHOWER!

Still time for some wildflower admiration through our sprint to the road

Pushing was hard due to more elevation changes. We went up incredibly steep mountainsides to clamber right over the top and down the other side. Some climbs were up and down 1000ft. Whew! All the while we were walking with some of the strongest side winds I’ve ever felt.

On our very last climb up one of the steepest mountains yet, we ran into another through hiker named Nobody who turned down a picture. What a cool guy! He was hiking alone and carrying a big gun. There was no air of intimidation though, since he had a trendy haircut, gorgeous beard, and shorts that were short enough to show off his Mandala thigh tattoo. Oh and since he was very nice and well traveled. That helped too.

We hiked a hundred feet or so further and met a local trail runner who offered us a ride after she finished. She said she would go another half mile and turn around so we set off as fast as we could for the final 2.4 miles to the road.

We made it!!!!

It felt awesome to arrive at Roger’s pass, completing our first leg of the journey.

Thank you so much Robin, our trail running friend for giving us a lift to the junction for Helena.

We were picked up right away again by Veronica, a really cool hairdresser/ hiker/ artist/ popsicle lover/ hiker helper who drove us 48 miles into Helena with great conversation and then showed us around town in the car before dropping us off at Suds Hut for dinner. We had been craving fried chicken and they delivered. So good. It felt great to sit in a booth and enjoy some delicious food.

Time to rest. Signing off until the 18th at the Budget Inn 👍🏼


We are moving along! Day 0-9
Our campsites are marked by the colored flags, triangles, and finally, the red circle before hitching i

Inhabiting Idaho

2020, a year of closures due to the Covid 19 pandemic, has thrown many curve balls to almost any world citizen’s carefully crafted travel plans.

Ryan and I were thrown one as we tried to decide whether or not to visit our friends and loved ones in San Diego, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho after our bike trip from the Georgia coast to San Diego, CA. We pondered the question: How serious is this Covid virus? Should we risk infecting ourselves? Would we risk infecting our lives one? Where should we go to get away from the madness?

We settled on avoiding contact with anyone, faithfully wearing masks, and heading to the Treasure Valley in Idaho to stay with my grandma, Nancy Henry, who is a gracious, generous, and fun host, on her spacious property. After a quarantine period in her shop, we spent two fantastic months eating to our heart’s content, running on the canal banks, camping, relaxing, gardening, playing cards and Settlers of Catan, listening to 100 Gecs, painting, petting cats (and getting bit by them!), and soaking in time with family in the country.

Ryan and I with Nana outside of the shop

We enjoyed lots of time with my aunt, uncle, cousins, and their families. Shout out to Randy, Lisja, Faith, Kamden, Bradan, Katie, Calvin, Hudson, Peyton, Kayla, Jeff, Anne, Quinten, Wesley, Anika, Dawson, Ami, and Kenyon Brothers. We love you all and now have so many good memories of our time together to carry with us wherever we go!

We did a little bit of work on the visit like washing cars at Bro’s Auto, owned and run by my aunt and uncle, building a chicken coup and pruning trees in exchange for home cooked dinners, and working for a week to sell illegal areal fireworks to Idahoans who are willing to fork over hundreds of dollars for the festive explosives. 🎇 We has a blast!

Nana’s sweet Lilly in the garden
Pour painting lessons with Faith, taught by our master painter of a grandma
Faith’s dreamy pour painting
Epic camp fire at Silver Creek
Biking on the Boise Greenbelt
Snowy lake in June found in Frank Church!
Home fireworks show
Nana and I celebrating the Fourth of July
Backpacking camp in Frank Church
The first wall on the chicken coup with Lisja and Randy!

The Continental Divide Trail

Our second 2020 curve ball came in the form of closed National Parks which made it impossible to legally hike the Pacific Crest Trail like we were hoping. Thankfully, our country has two other border to border trails: The Appalachian Trail and The Continental Divide Trail.

We chose the Continental Divide which is the most rural and rugged of the three and conveniently located 12 hours away from where we were staying in Idaho.

While staying in Nampa, ID we sprinkled in plenty of training for our upcoming hike and spent lots of time in the Idaho Wilderness. It was fun to get some perspective on just how rural Idaho is as we headed into the biggest protected wilderness area in the lower 48 states, the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area and surrounding National Forests where one can enjoy walking all day in the cleanest air you can find, not encountering one other person on the trail.

Backpacking in Frank Church

This wetted our thirst for secluded mountain ranges and kept the fire of desire for a cross country hike burning even as we enjoyed comforts we had missed on our bike trip like a bed, social interaction, cooked food, and running water.

About the Trail

The Continental Divide Trail

The CDT is about 3,100 miles long stretching from Canada to Mexico and is estimated to take 5 months of hiking around 20 miles a day to complete. It goes through about 35 “towns,” some of which barely qualify, and is hiked by 400 or so people a year. This is a much smaller number than the thousands who hike the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail.

Our starting point

We unfortunately have to start our journey just south of the Canadian border, outside of Glacier National Park which is still closed due to the Cornavirus. Waiting for it to open would mean pushing our start date back much too far to make it through Colorado before snow starts covering the mountains. No thank you!

What a gorgeous drive in Northern Idaho

We left Nampa, Idaho on July 5th, drove a ways down a secluded highway in a rental mini copper (which I love!), then encountered a big rock slide forcing us to backtrack. We took advantage of the reroute and added another day to our trip to stay the night with my mom, dad, and sister nearby in Washington. What a nice send off before our big journey!

Me, my mom, and sister 😊

Ryan and I are currently driving through Idaho on our way to Montana, winding through mountain roads covered in pine trees. Tonight we will drop off our rental car in Kalispell, MT. Our hope is to begin walking from there on the road with our thumbs out and hitch a ride to the trail to begin the first section of our hike: 200 miles through the Flathead National Forest to the first town where we will resuply.

Here goes nothing!

Expect blog posts infrequently, I will post as service becomes available but plan to still write every day while on the trail.

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