Day 82: A second Zero

We are having a second zero day. We rang the back country permit office yesterday to see if we could move our permits forward one day and Yeti’s good friend Jim who has helped us sort out the camp sites and who Yeti has spoken to several times asks if we  will  still be early with the weather that is coming in. We ask what weather and he says there is snow forecast for the next two days. We say good point…let’s leave the permits the same and we will check the forecast. 

Sure enough there is snow forecast from Brooks Lake to Yellowstone so we decide to stay in our nice warm motel room for another day. 

Day 81: Monte Baker

We had a nice start to our day with coffee in bed and then another warm shower. 

We strolled down to the Cowboy and had a nice big breakfast on one of the outside tables on the sidewalk. As usual we ordered too much food but enjoy most of it. 

I needed to replace my sunglasses that I left next to Lava Creek so we headed to the Wind River Outfitter. I found a pair of glasses and Yeti  decided to try on some shoes. Our great friend Gail had posted Yeti’s hiking boots to us and Yeti has been wearing these around town today to see how they feel. After the super light and soft Lone Peaks her boots feel very tight. Her feet are swollen from walking and even though her boots are a size larger than her normal foot measurement she is not sure they will fit. After walking to breakfast and over to the Outfiter she already has a couple of numb toes. She tries on lots of shoes looking for something that will give her more stability while still being quick drying. In the end she settles on a pair of Salamons.

We stroll back down the street, stopping in at the milk bar for a milkshake. There is another guy just leaving and he has an Australian accent. Yeti calls out to him and he comes back for a chat. He is from Victoria and has a job working for the government controlling wild dogs in the high country of Victoria. He does some of his work on horses and soon starts talking to Yeti about pack saddles and packing gear, getting down to the type of knots they prefer to secure their packs. The country he works in is the area the movie the man from snowy river is set and is a very wild alpine region.

We stopped at the bead and gallery shop to talk to Monte again. We had stopped in yesterday and he fixed Yetis earrings and we had a look at his carvings. These had left a big impression on Yeti and she had been thinking about them all night. She wanted to take some photos to send to the girls and after asking permission she went around taking some shots of the incredibly intricate carving. I had read the information on his web site. He has an Electrical Engineering degree along with maths, physics and German. Except for the German it is the same qualifications as I have and I was interested to find out how he got from there to here. It turned out he started a masters degree in Robitics, the same as I had done in the 90’s but when he came to do his thesis he was told the areas he wanted to work were restricted technology and he could only do it if he worked for the CIA or a government contractor. He looked at where he would have to work and decided he did not want to work in a big city and so packed up his family and moved back to Dubois and gave up the Engineering. He did not regret this decision. 

Day 80: Matthew And Dubois

We have 4 miles to go to the highway where Matthew from the Black Bear Inn in Dubois will pick us up. We have organsied to meet at 10 and so have plenty of time to cover the distance. 

As with most town days we are on a road heading out of the forest and with the added incentive of a hot shower, good food and a warm bed our pace picks up. We make it to the road by 9:00. 

Matthews family own the Black Bear Inn and come up every year to open it for the summer. For the rest of the year they live in Colorado and Matthew attended the same high school with Yeti’s youngest daughter and played in the boys basketball team while Katie played in the girls team. This we found out because Matthew’s cell number had a Denver prefix which lead to the question of where do you live. 

Matthew picks us up and we head to Brooks Lake Lodge to pick up our food boxes we had sent. Our original plan was to do a resupply at Brooks Lake and not go into Dubois but when Mathew posted in the CDT that he will pick you up for the cost of gas it was too good a chance to pass up. 

As we take the 30 mile drive down to Dubois we get to know Matthew and ask him what he does after the summer. He tells us this year he is planning on doing a solo kayak trip down the Mississippi. Something he has been planning for a couple of years. He originally wanted to go with someone else but could not find anyone that could take the time off for such an adventure. This sounds like a tremendous adventure and we plan to follow along with his blog

We have a shower at the motel revelling in the hot water. Clean and respectable again we head to the laundromat to make our trail clothes the same. 

Having completed our chores it is down to the Bistro to try the famed Thai Beef Salad. It turn out to be every bit as good as its reputation and well worth the 15 mile walk since we first heard of it. We accompanied the food with a couple of good beers and made it a wonderful first meal and afternoon in Dubois. 

Day 79: Ice and Moose

It was a cold night, our coldest of the trip. Half way through the night I scratched around the tent floor to locate my beanie and warm my head and ears up. When we woke in the morning the condensation had turned to ice and even our sleeping bag had a thin coating of ice. 

I woke before sunrise and I laid there watching the Suns warmth first hit the top of the trees, then slowly move down. It hit the ground 20 feet from our tent. I laid in anticipation of it hitting our tent and the almost instant heat the sun brings. 

As we lay there we watch outside and see a deer walk across the grass. It stops and stares at our tent. We both watch it thinking how cute. Then another shadow comes across the tent and a cow moose walks 20 feet from our door. We are still thinking how cute but become a little more wary, moose can be unpredictable especially if the have a calf. As soon as we think this along comes the calf followed by a bull. 

They all turn and stare at our tent. We think what do we do now. Do we make noise and see if they go away, do we stay quiet. We don’t know the protocol for moose encounters, where is google when you really need it. We wonder if bear spray works on moose if they turn nasty. I grab my phone to take a photo but the lens instantly fogs over from the cold. I get the camera and stick my arm out the tent door and snap away, I ended up with a collection of Suns spot photos. They start to move off into the trees and we get a little gamer opening the door and I get a couple of blurred long distance photos just before they disappear.

It has been an eventful morning and we have not made it out of the tent yet, can’t wait to see what the rest of the day brings. 

It is a beautiful mornings walk. We are on a gradual descent for most of the morning on trails that are park like in their appearance. We are surrounded by views, wild mountain flowers and lush green grass. The trees form lush shaded avenues and it is a pleasure to walk. 

As the day warms up we pass from the mountain paths onto forestry roads that gradually get more and more substantial. We come off a slightly over grown road into a well graded gravel road and just as we do a forest service truck comes around the corner and pulls up next to us. We start chatting and they ask us how the trail is going. They ask if we are going into Dubois and when we say yes they instantly tell us to go to the Bistro and have the Thai Beef Salad and the Cowboy for home made pie. They obviously know what is important to hikers. 

They leave us to hike the rest of the afternoon with the image of Thai Beef Salad, one of my favourite dishes, distracting us from the foot pain that road walking always seems to bring on. 

We stop at Lava creek for a drink and a cool down as the afternoon is now hot. I decide to wash the salt out of my hair and put my sun glasses down on the ground while I wash. It is not until the next day that I realise they are still on the ground next to lava creek. 

We again camp early struggling to find a good camp spot. The spot we end up with is sloped in all sorts of ways and leads to both of us having a bad nights sleep with Yeti spending most of the night awake and turning to try and find some comfort. It is lucky it is a town day. 

Day 78: Bear Spray

With our new more relaxed schedule we can take extra time in the mornings and wait for the sun to hit the tent and warm us before we emerge out of our nice warm quilt. It is the simple things that become luxuries when your world is made up of walking and trying to ditch everything that adds weight to your back. 

The day is overcast and cold again. We are walking through a large park area with some great views of the Tetons in the distance. 

When you can see for a long way you get to watch the weather and rain move around the mountains. You watch it and hope it does not turn your way. Today was not our day to miss the rain and as we watched it blew closer. We hear it beating the trees on the way up the ridge towards us. We stop to don our rain gear. No sooner than we have it on the rain hits us. We shelter under a tree thinking it will pass soon but after a couple of minutes decide it is here to stay so continue walking. To our surprise and delight we are soon passing out from under the rain cloud and back into semi sunshine. We look back to where we sheltered and it is still grey with the rain coming down. Moving on turned out to be great decision. 

We crestted the high point for the day and started walking down the other side through a lightly wooded forest. Yeti was in front when all of a sudden she is pushing back on me saying Bear! Her next words are “Dont run. Get your bear spray!” By the time I locate the Bears the mother has already turned and started charging towards us after trying to push her cubs in the opposite direction. After some panicking on my part and shuffling back and forth I gain my composure and with Yeti’s urging I pull my bear spray and face the charging mother. 

She started about 50 feet from us and quickly has the distance down to 20. Her face looks just like the picture of the vicious grizzly on the Bear Spray Can that makes you want to buy the spray in the first place. Yeti has told me that most times it is a bluff charge to scare us and give her cubs time to get away but with roughly 500lbs of bear coming at you faster than you can believe  that thought goes right out of your mind and before I realised it I had released a burst of pepper spray in her direction. She was about 20 feet away by this stage and she hit the bottom of the mist cloud. I have to work on my aim.  She stopped and turned around and headed off into the tree after her two cubs. We watched her go, shaken and wondering what to do now. As we stood there watching a slight whiff of the pepper spray comes back up the trail and I get a small taste in my mouth and nose. I feel sorry for any bear that gets a full blast because that stuff stings. For the next hour I am washing out my mouth and nose trying to stop the stinging. 

Compared to that 30 second encounter the rest of our day was rather dull. We walked down the valley and up to the top of a ridge making lots of noise as we went. 

The ridge we end up on descends steeply down one side to a wide valley below. The wind is howling up the hillside from this valley. Most of the area has been burnt out by a forest fire in the past couple of years and with the noise of the wind and all the dead trees it seems like a rather desolate place. Our trail is about 100 yards off the ridge and because of how steep the windy side of the hill is we are totally sheltered from the winds malevolence. 

About 5:30 we stop on a log for a foot break. We plan to hike on another mile or so but when we check the distance to the highway where we will be picked up to go to Dubois we see it is only 20 miles from here. We have another two days to cover this distance and we decide we may as well stop for the night. 

Getting up in the morning after the sun is one type of luxury and stopping a bit earlier in the day is another. We have time to setup camp, do some stretching and have a walk around to look into the valley bellow. Setting up camp takes some extra time now because we have to hang our food and anything else that might attract bears. We have been doing this since the start of the Winds but after today’s encounter we are extra careful to make sure everything gets in my pack which is then hung about 10 feet off the ground in a tree a long way from our tent. 

The last two days have been relatively easy and it has given us the time to stop and enjoy the places we are passing through. Reduction in the number of mosquitoes from a black wall that was hard to see through to just the odd,occasionally annoying few, has certainly helped our enjoyment as well. I have gone from feeling like I don’t want to do this anymore to having that excitement back that makes every new day a fun adventure. 

Yeti says that I am really just a big kid. She has lowered her estimate of my age to 4.5 on this trip. While I have the strength and stamina to do endurance activities and have completed some in the past, it is much more fun to hop out of bed in the morning with that child like excitement bubbling to the surface. Yeti hates it when I use the hop word. On such a long hike pushing hard each day was feeling like you have another hard day in the salt mine to conquer and there is no child’s fun in that. 

Day 77: Green River Lake Trailhead

After a great nights sleep in the Yellow House we headed over to Rivera to enjoy one last fantastic breakfast put on by Emi. Dans friends are in for breakfast while Dan himself is driving Tim to Jackson to fly home. Gabe is there and we confirm that it was him hanging out the fire truck window last night. 

Emi’s friends Garry and Jo, who are going to give us a lift to the trailhead, arrive and join the rest of the crowd around the communal table for breakfast. The Rivera is a hard place to leave. 

After saying our goodbyes we head to the Green Rive Lake trailhead and spend a nice hour chatting with Jo and Garry on the way. They are a very interesting couple and we have a lot of things in common. They spent a lot of years packing Llamas into the forests around the Winds and also have done some cycle touring. They hosted three siblings from an Italian family as exchange students over the last 5 years and are off to Italy in a couple of weeks to tour around with them. 

When we get back on the trail it could not have been better. We were both beaten around by the days hiking in the Southern Winds and in particular the mosquitoes drove us crazy. We could not face another couple of weeks of that or even another couple of days. So when we started hiking this morning with only a few mosquitoes but nowhere near the black mass that surrounded us before, we both breathed a sigh of relief. 

The hike out of the lake climbed for the first part up to Gunsight Pass. As usual on this trail, the views in all directions were spectacular. We were again treated to fields of wild flowers amongst the green grass. Another very welcome but unusual thing for our trail was a bridge to cross the first stream we came to. After spending lots of time wading through freezing water  or balancing on logs to find a bridge brings a very simple joy to the day. 

They day was cold and by the time we stopped for lunch at the top of Gunsight Pass it was starting to cloud over. The afternoon was spent walking down from the pass and across various wide open parks with intermittent light showers. 

We started a new book in the afternoon, Bryce Courtney’s The Potato Factory. We have really enjoyed his last couple of books and just love the narrator Humphrey Bower. 

We decided to camp on a open rise for the night hoping the breeze will keep any mosquitoes at bay. It is a spot that has been well used by car campers and I am sure over the long weekend would have been full. As I set up the tent Yeti starts the dinner and lights a fire in the fire ring. We don’t have to go far for fuel for the fire as the car campers have left the ground covered in wood chips and broken branches. 

We have been using the Ley maps for this section but had a slight problem with them today. The gut Hooks route and the Ley Route were almost identical through this section but on the Ley map he has the distance we covered today as 13 miles while from Gut hooks it has us at almost 17 miles. Of course we would prefer to believe the gut hooks distance. 

We have been hanging our food each night and today at this established camp site it is made easier by a cross beam tied between two trees. It is not the recommended 100 yards from our tent but is at least down wind. 

Day 76: Fourth of July

The shuttle service we had organised to take us to the trailhead got the wrong day and turned up this morning. They were not sure if they would be going tomorrow so Emi got on to her list of contacts. Within an hour she had found someone that would take us to the trailhead and so we could stay for another day. 

As the B&B was full for the night, Emi asked if we would like to try her new place that is still under renovation but has one room ready to go. We of course said yes and packed up our stuff and moved over to the basement rooming in the Yellow house. The room was beautifully decorated and was a great place to stay. 

We hung around town enjoying the time off the trail and in the evening we went to the Legion Park for the live music and free food. The sky was looking dark and the start of the music was delayed for a short time while a rain squall passed over. We joined the long line of locals to get our free hot dog. 

The first band consisted of two banjo players and while they played were a lot of fun. Unfortunately the rain and wind came back and they had to leave the stage. As the wind picked up and rain came in people started leaving and so we got to move into a nice sheltered spot next to facilities block. The rain quickly passed and the next band came on, Jalan Crossland. They were a great and very lively act and soon had the crowd up and celebrating, as you should, for the 4th of July. 

Dan had a couple of new friends, Jay and Bret, arrive today and they all turned up and joined us in the shelter of the wall while we watched the band. We had a great talk with Jay and when we got on to bicycles he tells us that his brother Tim was a champion mountain biker in the 55 to 59 year age group. 

We also met two Germany Cyclists and an American woman riding the CDT and spent a good hour with them chatting about cycling and the trail. 

After the music finished fireworks were scheduled and we thought we would walk to the grocery store while waiting and pickup a couple of snacks. The car park of the grocery store was lined with families tail gating while waiting for the show. We grabbed our snacks and joined them. While waiting for the show to start we heard someone call out. We turned around to see Gabe hanging out the window of the fire truck waving to us as they drove past. 

Gabe is Emi’s friend and a great guy.   He is a soil conservationist who graduated from CSU.  He does triathlons and we really enjoyed talking with him.  We met him at a dinner Emi hosted at her house and we hope that one day they will visit us in Colorado so that we can reciprocate.

Our visit in Pinedale has been a great one and to celebrate the Fourth of July here was a treat and a real privilege. I have been to a lot of places in the world but and I am sure the US is the friendliest and most welcoming of them all. 

Day 75: Museum Of The Mountain Man

The B&B has a tradition of doing a pancake breakfast on the fire outside next to the river on Sunday’s and so we joined the other guests out there for a delicious breakfast. We spend another delight long breakfast chatting with the other guest. 
Today’s goal is to go to the museum of the mountain man and pick up some groceries. On the way we stop in at the tourist information centre. Terry at the Center is looking over maps of the area working out where the CDT goes and after looking at the maps and showing him  we decide if we could find someone to take us to Green River Lake trailhead we could spend another night in Pinedale, enjoy the picnic, live music and fireworks and still be on schedule for our permits into Yellowstone. With Terry’s help we put out the word and by the time we finish our visit to the mountain man museum we are in contact with a shuttle company and it is looking good. 

The museum of the mountain man is a great celebration of the trappers that headed into the Rockies and tried to live in this incredible beautiful but extremely harsh area. It is a small museum but well worth the visit. After spending most of the last couple of months living outdoors you can really appreciate how tough these people were. 

Day 74: Yellowstone Permits

The Rivera B&B is a great place and the woman that owns the place has been very welcoming. Breakfast is served in the main house in a communal setting and you get to meet the other guests. 

Travis comes in for breakfast and we quickly pull him to our table so we can continue our previous day’s conversation. We have a lot to talk about with bike touring, the CDT and just finding out about Travis. Travis is one of those people that you instantly feel the warmth and sencerity in his personality and he is really a pleasure to be around. He is doing the CDT between finishing his masters in Architecture and starting a job with a firm in New York that specialises in designing building envelopes.

Our breakfast takes several hours and only comes to and end out of consideration for the miles Travis wants to get in today. We go out and take a photo of Travis and his bike and wish him good speed for the rest of his journey and tell him to look us up if he is ever in Colorado. 

The rest of the morning is spent in the library working out the backcountry camp sites for Yellowstone and on the phone with Jim from the backcountry office. Jim is extremely helpful and by lunch time we have everything squared away. We help Carlos get his permit form filled out and sent off and then head to the Chinese for lunch. 

In the afternoon I head back to the library to work on our blog on their lovely iMacs which is so much easier than doing it all on the iPhone. 

The Beast, Joe and Jacqualine are in the library  working out their permit requests and I fill them in on what we found out this morning and print out copies of the request form for them to fill in. 

Em, from the Rivera, has invited us to a BBQ for dinner tonight and we offered to pickup a green salad and some wine. While walking to the store we decide this is too good an opportunity to make something we love and so change our ingredient list to be for salad Caprese. 

The night is spent in great conversation with Dan a fisherman and a regular to the B&B and his friend Tim. Gabe, Em’s boyfriend, is also there and we enjoy find out about him and his job as a soil scientist. 

Day 73: A Lift With Dave & Kyle

As it is a town day and we both want to get away from the bugs we break our normal breakfast routine and take off down the trail with just a bar to keep us going. 

The Pole Creek Trail and the Seneca trail join about 5 miles above the trail head and when we reach the junction we find Carlos standing there reading the sign, checking which way to the trailhead. We fall into conversation and continue down the trail. We have been seeing other hikers for the last few miles and now we start to pass people coming up the trail heading out for the 4th of July long weekend. It strikes us at how clean these people look and how dirt we must look to them. It has been a hard few days and we are covered in dirt and our clothes must have a smell all of their own. 

We reach Photographers point and marvel at the view. There are also two young girls there heading out with their boy friends. They are touching up their makeup as the boy friends chat with a couple of other hikers. We have entered into a whole new world of hiking. 

 Leaving photographer point we are joined by two other young hikers that have been climbing in the winds. Dave and Kyle have been in since Monday doing their first ice climb. We start talking and getting into a very interesting conversation about climbing and how these guys learnt to do it. Turns out most of it was learnt from reading and getting out and climbing. As we get closer to the trailhead we ask if they would mind giving us a lift to Pinedale and they graciously agree. 

They drop us off at the Rivera B&B and we organise to meet them at the pub for a beer and shout them lunch as soon as we get settled.

Over lunch we get to know them some more and find Kyle has an ambition to climb Everest. He has already found the company he wants to go with, Peak Baggers. They have a zero fatally record and no serious injuries which seems a good way to select a company if you are going to do something so extreme. We had a great time with Dave, Kyle and Carlos over lunch. We even got Dave to pose in the slipper chair on the way out to send to our girls as he does not have a girlfriend. 

After saying goodbye to Dave and Kyle we grabbed our now very smelly clothes and headed to the laundromat. It is interesting watching the clothes in the glass door industrial washing machines as the water instantly turns a very muddy brown. As we wait for our clothes to wash Carlos comes in to put his in the dryer and then Jacqualine and Joe walk past. We have not seen Jacqualine and Joe since Pie Town and the toaster house. We all start talking about our next big obstacle, backcountry permits for Yellowstone. We all agree to meet at the pub once the clean up is finished. 

While waiting for our clothes to finish we start talking to Travis a CDT biker. Turns out he is in the Rivera B&B as well and we invite him to the pub. 

The evening is spent at the pub with Carlos, Joe, Jacqualine, Travis and someone else we have not seen for a good while, The Beast. It was a fun night catching up and talking about how the trail had dealt with everyone up to this point. Carlos was the only one that has walked all the way from New Mexico. The rest like us have skipped Colorado to go back and do it when there is less snow.