Day 72: Hat Pass, Wolves, Bears and Eagles

Today is our first day that started with overcast skies and not too long after it started raining. The rain was light and we both put our umbrellas up to use them fot the first time for real rain rather than sun or a passing shower. 

Either we are getting accustomed to the bugs or they are decreasing. They were not as much of a distraction from the spectacular scenery as they have been the previous days. 

We meet Carlos for the first time today. He started the CDT on April 1st and has walked all the way from New Mexico, including a lot of road walking in Colorado to avoid the snow. He is planning to go into Pinedale as well but will hike down the Seneca trail while we plan on hiking the closer Pole Creek Trail. We hike with him for a while chatting away until we start the climb up Hat Pass. Carlos is much faster than us and the last we see of him he is disappearing up the hill while we stop for water. 

Hat Pass was steep but a reasonable climb with the big advantage of having water all the way up. It is wonderful not having to carry water uphill. We did stop to fill up at the last water marked on gut hooks but could have avoided even this as the snow is melting and both sides of the pass have a nice supply of water.

We head off the CDT towards the High Line Trail. On the walk down through the trees the mosquitoes come back with a vengeance. I need to stop for a toilet break and am instantly swarmed. Yeti gets mobbed and they crawl between the buttons on her shirt to unleash a new series of bites on her stomach. I am lucky in that they don’t affect me when I get bitten but Yeti is getting a very large collection of red lumps that are constantly itching. We are quick to start walking again and get away from this shaded spot.

The trail through the trees comes out at Chain Lakes and when we reach the lake shore there is a nice breeze blowing which we take advantage of to have a mosquitoe free break. It is a very beautiful spot and really nice to finally get some time without bugs to sit and enjoy it.

We have set our goal for the day as the Pole Creek Trail which leads down to the Elkhaleart Trail Head and hopefully a lift into Pinedale. 

We still have about 2.5 miles along High Line Trail through the willows at the lakes edge before we get to the Pole Creek Trail so our break is ended before we both would have liked. 
We have been seeing black bear tracks for most of the day and by the lakes edge we come across even more prints that have been freshly left in the mud after the rain earlier today. These tracks have been made in the last few hours so we both go on full bear alert. We are calling out as we walk and breaking into snippets of songs and nursery rhymes to alert any bears to our coming. The willows we are walking through are easily tall enough and thick enough to hide a bear from our sight and what’s worse, hide us from its sight. Each time we enter a new patch we make lots of noise. 

Along with the bear prints we have been seeing a very large dog print in the mud. We come across a relatively fresh set of the prints and take some photos next to Yeti’s hand for reference. We are convinced that these must be the tracks of a wolf. We have been told that they have been moving down the range from Yellowstone along with the Grizzly Bears. 

Near the lakes end we enter more willows and make our usual noise. Halfway through we come to a small stream running down the hill side. As we are about to cross we notice a half eaten fish. This is a fresh kill with the blood still dripping from where something was eating it just a few seconds ago. We look at each other and say Bear? Now we are on super alert and think this is a bad place to dawdle. We take our first few steps on the other side of the creek and hear something big rustling in the bushes. We both draw our cans of bear spray with the speed  a gun slinger of the old west would have been proud of. We are watching the brush and continue walking. Then a giant bald eagle hops out of the willows  and on to a rock at the lakes edge. We both stare at it with a feeling of relief and awe. It is only about 20 feet from us. I try to get the camera out but as I am still holding my bear spray it has taken flight before I even get to the zipper. 

When we reach the end of our trail we have one last obstacle, Pole Creek itself. Where the trail crosses it is wide and about knee deep, on me at least, higher on Yeti. We hate to get our shoes wet this late in the day but the depth, width and speed of this creek leaves us with little choice. 

We get to the other side of the stream and see more bear prints. Our shoes are now full of water but we have made it to where we wanted to so now it is just a matter of going until we find somewhere to pitch our tent. 

Dinner tonight is pasta with Thai Tuna and pesto sauce. As Yeti starts to cook the delicious smell wafts across our camp site. Yeti looks up and says “I think this was a mistake to cook something so odiferous in bear country”. We end up taking our dinner 100 feet down the trail to the creeks edge and eating there. We take extra precautions to make sure none gets on our clothes. After dinner we take extra care to wash everything in the stream including the empty tuna packets and then put everything in my pack and hang the lot in a tree away from our tent and retire for the night. 

Day 71: Elk Herd

We started the day with a visit from a bachelor herd of elk. They were spectacular with dark lustrous coats and growing racks. They came out in the clearing above our tent as we were packing up. They stopped looked at us in somewhat of a surprise and then gathered themselves and took off back into the woods. They were only about 50 feet from us but of course the whole encounter was over so quickly I could not get the camera out. 

Laying in the tent last night I was looking over our schedule for the next sections and I noticed that there was a problem with the estimated arrival date column. Some entries were not increasing from the previous one. I fixed this problem in the spreadsheet and we discovered that our completion date was now 18 days past the deadline date of us being back in Denver for September the 1st. This was a real blow as even though we had not expected to complete all sections of the trail this year we had hopped to make it to Canada and only have a couple of sections left in Colorado to complete.

We had some hard thinking to do. Should we skip a section so that we can get to Canada this year? Should we continue on until we are out of time and come back next year to hike to Canada or lastly, should we not go back to Colorado until we have finished later in September?

The last option was never a real consideration as we would have to bear the brunt of the wrath of our daughter for not being there on September the 1st. When Yeti told me that I would have to be the one who broke the news the decision was made.

In the end we have decided to hike on and see where we make it to. This option also lets us ease off the pace a bit, take more time each day just to sit and enjoy the places we are hiking, bugs permitting. We can now take some more time in towns if we want to. 

We will finish hiking in Helena we think and then fly back to Denver. Next year we will come back for three to four weeks and finish the trail and do some extra hiking in Glacier park. It works out well as we will have enough of the trail left to make it worth while but it is still a short enough time we can explore some other parts of the park we would have not gotten to and still met our September the first deadline. 
It took us most of the day hiking to finally settle on this plan and while we are both disappointed not to make it to Canada we are both starting to see it as the right plan for us. 

The hike this morning was easy walking along a relatively flat ridge of mountains. We were again accompanied by the swarm of mosquitoes and views in all directions. The mosquitoes were winning the competition for our attention which is a real shame as the Winds are spectacular. 

As we climbed over our high point for the day we were welcomed by the sight of a herd of about 100 cow elk with their calves. We stood as the cows sent out the calls of warning and the herd began to flow across the mountain. Some of the babies were being left behind and their mothers launched into their own calls. The herd split into two as cows at the front stopped and turned back to rejoin the slow cows and calves. The faster ones disappeared over the hill while the slower group moved over the ridge trying to follow the first group but not wanting to expose themselves fully to us. They watched us for a while and then turned and headed over the other ridge away from us. As we walked down the hill excitedly discussing our encounter we could hear the calls between each group from different sides of the trail. 

By afternoon we were descending and it seemed like the mosquitoes had retired for awhile. This does not mean there were not any it just means they were no longer a black wall in front of your face. We were still liberally using bug spray and Yeti was still in her bug net. 

As we came around a corner in the trail we ran into a large group of young hikers. They obviously had been told to move off the trail if they meet anyone as the word quickly passed along the line and they stood out of our way. They were a NOLS group out here for a month of wilderness education. They were carrying heavy packs, wearing heavy leather boots and clothing covering all skin. Most were wearing bug netting over their heads but still swatting at the mosquitoes. The instructors and a few of the kids started asking us questions and when we said we were hiking the CDT the instructor ask if we would tell the group about what that was. Yeti held a short lecture about the overall goal which was followed by a question and answer session. Yeti fired off a question to the group, “Are you having fun?”, no one said yes. We left feeling sorry for these kids that were going to spend a month in this bug infested wonderland without the relief of heading into town for even a short respite.

We found a camp site for the night on a slight rise with a wind blowing up the river valley. We hopped the wind would keep the mosquitoes to a minimum and at first it did. Soon however the stronger flyers had battled the wind and again they were thick around us. Eating consisted of getting a spoonful of food, quickly lifting your head net just above your mouth, shovelling the food in and dropping the netting. It was so unpleasant that not eating was almost better. Due to being in bear country we did not want to risk getting food smells in our tent so we had to battle the bugs or go hungry. 

Getting into the tent was also a challenge. Even diving through the door with as much haste as I could muster still resulted in 20 or so pesky blood suckers sharing our scared tent space and resulted in several minutes of chasing them around the inside of the tent to snuff their life out. 

Our tent is our only respite from the bug onslaught and it is taking its toll. Going to the toilet is a whole new level of bugs. As I squat I run my had over my exposed bum. It comes up black with dead bugs. This is turning into a nightmare and Yeti has it far worse than I do. We are holding in there, just. 

Day 70: Temple Pass & Lake

Today is our first real pass. We walk up the valley floor towards the pass. The ground is soggy with the snow melt and we cross several piles of snow but nothing that is too hard to cross. The valley is climbing towards the pass and by the time we get to the lake at the foot of our climb we should only have about another 800 feet of climbing to get over the pass.

We keep looking at the peaks in front of us and trying to judge how much snow we will have to cross and how steep it will be. As the valley curves around we don’t get to see our pass until we are almost at the bottom of it. At first glance it does not look too bad. We can see the trail and it looks like there are two pieces of snow we will have to cross. From the bottom it is hard to tell what it will be like so we just start climbing. We have picked an alternate route out that avoids the snow but I decide we should try the trail first and see if others have crossed the snow and follow in their footsteps.

The first snow bank turns out to be easy. The snow is not too hard and not too soft and we are quickly across it. The next snow bank is another story. The tracks I saw from the bottom turn out to be an animals. There are some other hiker tracks higher up the mountain but I decide to try where the trail crosses. At first the snow is good and I can make foot holds even if it is hard work. I spend about 30 minutes making foot holds for Yeti to follow me but only make it half way before the snow starts to turn to ice and I can no longer get a good foot hold with just my trail shoes. The middle section is now at about a 45 degree angle and very hard. If I slip there is no way I will stop sliding down the snow until I have traveled 200 yards and run into some very large boulders. It is time to turn around and look for a safer route. We next try the location where someone else had crossed but here in each foot step the snow is up past my knees and I think this route is not good as well ,so on to plan 3, the rocks.

We climb back down below the snow and cross the loose rocks and dirt on the slope. Each step causes a small land slide. We quickly make it past the snow and start the climb back up. We can see signs of where other people have also made the same decision we have to climb the rock ridge rather than the snow field and this seems somewhat encouraging. The hill turns out to be very challenging. It is very steep and is a land slide waiting to happen. I tell Yeti to wait off to the side until I have climbed up because I am afraid of falling rocks. The first couple of steps sees a two foot slab slide from under my foot and down the hill. It is like trying to climb a sand hill as every step launches another cascade of sliding dirt and rocks. I make it about 20 feet up and on to some firmer ground and can see the spine of rock continuing up the hill to the trail. Yeti starts her climb up the hill and can’t get her balance on the rock slide with her pack on. I tell her to leave her pack there and I will come down and get it for her. Without her pack it is still a struggle to get up but we both eventually make it to the firm ground and then continue up the ridge. We get to the top of the ridge only to find another snow field. What a disappointment. This one is not as steep and the snow is firm enough for us to walk across without any real problems. We are over the top of the ridge and feeling grateful to have made it but still anxious to see what the other side will bring before we get to the valley floor. The climb down has some snow but we can easily find bare ground to walk down even if it is very steep and muddy.

We get near the bottom of the climb feeling very relieved to have the pass over and sit down to have some breakfast and enjoy the view over Temple Lake. It seems like we fought very hard to get this view so we better take some time to enjoy it and rebuild our strength.

As we sit there looking over Temple Lake we marvel at the peaks that now surround us and now that the pass is over we are glad we took this route so we could see this.

For the rest of the day we hike down the valley floor on relatively easy trails. We pass Big Sandy Lake and follow a very well made trail. As we descend the mosquitoes start to increase and by late afternoon it is no longer possible for us to stand still without getting swarmed. We have our bug nets on to protect our heads and bug spray on any other exposed skin but they are still very annoying.

We setup camp after having hiked only about 12 miles for the day. It may sound like a short day but it took us 5.5 hours to cover the first 5 miles and get over the pass. The pass left us both feeling exhausted and stopping for the night was very welcome. As we setup camp we see a very large coyote jumping around in the grass near us hunting for food. It does not notice us at first but as soon as it does is off into the trees.


Day 69: Bears & Moose

After our decision last night to do a short day today and tackle the pass the first thing tomorrow morning we decided we would sleep in. It was a real luxury staying in our nice warm quilt until the sun had hit our tent spot and warmed the air up.

We got up and had a slow breakfast including a hot coffee, something we normally never do. In fact, this is the first time this whole trip. As expected our tent and bag were damp so we took the time to hang them while we enjoyed breakfast and a coffee.

We are getting more into bear country now and had bear spray shipped to South Pass City for us to carry from this point on.  We didn’t expect to have any real problems till after Pinedale but we wanted to be prepared.   We fitted the holsters to our belts yesterday and did a few practice draws to make sure we could get the canisters out quickly when needed. They recommend you try a test spray from each can just to make sure it works and so this morning before leaving we both had a go at drawing and shooting the spray. Yeti of course was a natural and her hands moved so fast it was just a blur of motion resulting in a cloud of mist. I think those bears have a lot to fear from us.

Nearly all of our hike today is uphill and we start the first section of 8 miles of road walking. As we come to the top of a rise and just start going down the other side Yeti sees a bear in the shrubs beside the road. She has 2 cubs with her and is about 100 yards away. We stop, wondering what to do, and then start shouting to get her attention. She is intent on what she is eating and while her cubs hear us and pop their heads up in our direction she just continues to eat. We yell some more and finally she hears us. She immediately turns and starts charging towards us. We both have our bear spray out but of course do the wrong thing and start backing off into the shrubs away from her charge. After about 30 yards she realizes we are not a threat. She stops, stands on her back legs, looks at us and then lumbers off after her cubs away from the road. We still take a wide arch around the spot she was and keep an eye on the way she went. Ok, our first bear encounter and we already blew it but it is hard not to run from a charging bear. And this was only a black bear……..The grizzlies are yet to come.

Mid morning we are passing another BLM campground and as we read the sign we look down the road we are traveling on and see a moose looking back at as. It stands there for a while and we wonder what to do now. Moose can be very aggressive and unpredictable. Again, we start heading cross country to give it a wide berth and it just ambles off down the other road to the camp ground. I am sure there will be some surprised campers down there.

By the afternoon we have hit the spot where the CDT and the Ley and CDT route split and we start taking the Ley route. We are following a nicely made trail when I notice it does not match with where the Ley route has us. This trail we are on is marked on the map but it goes to a dead end. We go cross country to get back to the Ley  Trail, find something but just end up in a mosquito infested swap which could have been a trail a long time ago but is now just congested with downed trees and swarms of bugs. We struggle on for a while, climbing over trees and sloshing through ruts that could have been trails but are now just streams full of run off water and mud.  We debate about turning back or going on and finally climb the hill and find a real trail. By this time we have guessed that the trail we started on was the new trail that led to this spot but our maps have not been updated to reflect this. Another lesson learned about navigating.

Our camp site for the night is on an island in the middle of the stream that is flowing down the canyon floor. We have started encountering snow and all the ground on either side of the island is either too wet to put our tend or too steeply sloped.  We have gone as far as we wanted for the day so we settle on this spot as our best option and call it home.  We have started hanging our food bags at night away from our camp and complete our day with this chore.

Day 68: Water Everywhere

We started our days with pancakes, eggs and black coffee, thanks to our hosts, for the last two mornings.  We have had such a luxurious and much needed break that we are ready to get back on the trail.

We meet our second host, Patrica, for the first time this morning. We chat for a while and then she offers to drive us to South Pass City to get back on the trail and after several refusals we final accept her gracious offer.

South Pass City is a historical site where original buildings from the 1800’s still stand. The people that work there all dress in period costumes and were excited to tell us about the site. We went to the souvenir shop to pick up our box and had a great conversation with the lady that worked in the store. She told us how she and her husband had been coming to the area for years and decided they wanted to retire here. They bought some land and then when ever they could, would come up and work on their log cabin.  After several years of projects they were able to finally move in permanently and they currently now live in. She was also excited to tell us about  her upcoming hiking trip into the area of the Winds, particularly the area we are about to hike through.

The hike today was such a pleasure because there was water everywhere. We are used to having to carry a large volume of water because our sources are often 15 or more miles apart.  Water is very heavy and creates a heavy load but now we can get by with just a liter and this makes our packs considerably lighter.

We take one of the Ley Alternate Routes and end a very pleasant days hike at the BLM Sweetwater Campground. We have the luxury of toilets, rubbish bin, fire pit and a picnic table at our disposal and they are much appreciated. We are camped next to the river as it was the only spot left open. We know our tent and bag will be wet in the morning but decided the other luxuries make up for this.

Each night before going to sleep we look over the maps for the next days hike. I had looked at the CDT trail on the web for this section and saw that we had no really high passes for about 5 days but when we study the map this night we saw that tomorrow had a 10,800 foot pass to go over. We could not reconcile this difference until we realized that the Ley route and the official CDT route did not take the same path through this section. The pass started to climb about 17 miles further past  our  current camp site and we decided to do a shorter day of 15 miles tomorrow and then tackle the pass first thing the next morning. We know that there is a good chance of snow at this altitude and do not want to chance having to either summit the pass or camp on top at the end of a long day.  There is also always the chance of summer storms and the top of a pass is the last place you want to be when one of these blows in.

Day 67: Atlantic City Zero

A day to do nothing. Well in terms of not much walking anyway.

Yeti spent the day at the house and found a good book on the woman that travelled the Oregon and California trail. After I exhausted the satellite internet at the house uploading photos I headed over to the Grubsteak to try and flood their Internet connection and finish my blog entries.

The woman at the Grubsteak was great.  Even though it was not on the menu she made me a great milkshake and I sat there for several hours working away and watching the large crowd come and go.

Our original rough plan for the day was for Yeti to come over for an afternoon meal but she was enjoying the cabin so much she ended up making a nice lunch with tuna and fresh lettuce from our hosts greenhouse and the pantry in the cabin.

I returned to the house and we watched a movie together then headed back to the Grubsteak for dinner.

After being on the trail doing nothing feels really good.

Day 66: Town Day in Atlantic City

A town day is  always exciting and the thought of soon being clean and having a roof over your head always is a big motivation and does a lot to lift your spirits.

We still have a long way to hike to get to town but there is an end in sight. Our next goal is the Sweetwater River.

As we start our day the trail has another surprise for us with a freak and short rain storm blowing in just as we are about to put on our packs. We grab the umbrellas while we pull out rain gear. By the time we are suited up the worst of it is over. We start hiking with the gear on but within 30 minutes we have to stop and take it off as we are now too hot.

We hike for a few hours and stop for breakfast just before we reach the river.  Approaching the river we see a large animal climbing the opposite bank. We look at it for a while wondering what it is and then Yeti says it is a moose. First one of those we have seen this trip and not something I expected to see in the desert.

The river is a lovely spot with grass and shelter from the ever constant wind and, of course, one of my favourite things, water!! We stop and wash to remove some of the hiker smell before we head into town. Most days in this stretch I have gotten to swim and each time I wash my shirt but that does not mean I don’t smell. We sit there thinking this would have been a good spot for a layover day telling ourselves that a layover day on the trail, as we had originally planned, would still be restful.

After leaving the river we follow the gravel road that leads towards Atlantic city and South Pass. We have decided to go to Atlantic City and see if we can get accomodation for the night. It is a long road over the last part of the plain and we are both exhausted. We hope for a truck to come past so we can hitch into town but end up walking for several hours with only two cars going in the opposite direction.

We stopped for lunch and just after we sat down we spotted a truck going our direction. On the plain you can see a very ling ways into the distance so we see it while it is  still a long ways off.  We quickly stuff everything back in our packs and get back on the road and start walking. It always looks like you are still trying if you are walking as the intended ride comes by. We have got hitching down to a fine art. Yeti is always on the side closest to the driver.  She sticks her thumb out and looks friendly. Yeti does the talking because, for some strange reason, many Americans have a hard time understanding me. Being a couple I think also helps and it has never taken more than two cars for us to get a lift and today is no exception as the truck is going to Atlantic city and agree to give us a lift. We spend the next 10 miles hanging on to the back of the flatbed truck and getting covered in dust but compared to slogging it out in the hot sun this is real luxury.

We end up at the Grubsteak Bar and ask the owner if she knows if there is any accomodation in town. She knows everyone and after a few phone calls has a place for us to stay. It is a beautiful little cabin with our own kitchen and the fridge stocked with the essentials.

We start to enjoy the shower and being inside. We get the dust off and feel clean for the first time in days and then remember back to the river. We decide a rest day camping on the trail is a long way from a rest day spent in a lovely house. We are very glad we came to Atlantic city and decide to stay two nights. We completed 110 miles in 5 days and think we deserve a rest.

Day 65: More Horses & Pain

We wake to a magnificent morning but with a heavy cloud to the south. After checking the weather forecast we only have a 20 percent chance of rain but are very thankful for the cloud cover that keeps the suns heat at bay for awhile.

After walking for a mile or so down the road my hip starts to hurt. Gradually the pain seems to move to my whole left leg and I am soon hobbling. It looks like it is my turn to suffer today. I call a halt and tell Yeti I need to do some stretching before I can continue.

I grab  the mat and start to stretch on the trail doing some of the yoga stretches we have learned. Soon my hip has released and we set off again. A couple of hours later we stop for another foot break, more stretching and ibuprofen. The stretching seems to be helping and I am moving relatively pain free, well, as pain free as you can be when you are walking 20+ miles a day.

We are again listening to Brother Fish and making relatively good time as we climb the hills. The story is a good distraction as the pain makes me grumpy. As we get to the top of the hill I call a halt again. Time for a rest and more stretching. We look across the hill and see a band of about 70 horses grazing in the distance. We would have loved to have been closer. Yeti yet again marvels at seeing the wild horses. Seeing her happy lightens my mood somewhat.

We make it to Weasle Spring for lunch and decided we need to pick up some more water before heading off. We have read the notes about the trough being dry but the spring having water. It says it is 300 yards in the fenced enclosure so I head in looking for it. I find the pipe and congratulate myself on my brilliance at finding a way of locating the spring. I am fighting my way through the sage bushes, tripping over the twisted trunks, getting scratched by the broken branches and generally having a terrible time of it. I finally decide to abandon the pipe and head to the bottom of the gulch and follow the stream bed up. I look over at the stream bed to see it has water in it and did have from where I entered the enclosure. So much for my brilliant water finding technique.

As we approach the top of the hills we also come to the end of our audio book. It is a great book read by a brilliant voice actor. We started listening to this book what seems like a long time ago in New Mexico and now it is over. It is like saying good bye to a group of dear friends and we are both sad to hear the end.

We walk for a while discussing the book and what a great job the reader did bringing all the characters to life. As both Yeti and I are extremely tied and I am still in pain and grumpy we still want something to distract us so I look at what other books I have loaded. We try the adventures of Tom Sawyer as our next book, mostly because I already have it loaded on my phone.

We start passing concrete polls that mark the Oregon and California trails and Yeti tells me about what these are. We wonder at what the life would have been like for these people who spent 6 to 9 months traveling these trails in wagons. We think about us with our light weight gear and town stops every 5 to 6 days and think life must have been very very hard for these earlier settlers.

After another long day we eventually find a small patch of ground to pitch our tent at the intersection of two roads. We sit down for a break before battling the wind to cook and set up our tent. As we sit there and discuss the day a car comes down the road. We look at each other and think what are the chances. We have not seen anyone for days and as soon as we sit in the middle of the road a car comes driving down. It is not heading down our road so we sit and wave as it passes by.

Yesterday morning was hard for Yeti and today was hard for me. We have found this many time doing these things together. One day I rely on Yeti to pull me up and the next she will rely on me. I don’t think we have had a time yet where we have both felt down but I am sure when it happens we will still be there for each other.

Day 64: Wild Horses to the Rescue

Yeti had another night where she did not sleep well. Our morning routine gets us on the trail each day without too much thought and it is not until we start walking that you have time to think about what is ahead.

The very tough day yesterday, along with the long days we are doing to get to South Pass, is taking its toll. As we hit our first hill it gets too much for Yeti and she turns to me and says this is too hard she doesn’t  want to do this anymore. She says she is not having fun and this seems like just a job. She tells me that I should go on without her and she asks me to promise I will. I tell her that I won’t give her that promise as without Yeti it would be no fun for me. She turns, still upset and walks on. We pass through a gate and we stop to rest. Even if we want to give up we still have to make it to South Pass so we can get out. We sit for a while and then stand to go. I put my arms around Yeti and she begins to cry. There are no words between us and the hug says it all. We are in this together.  I respect Yeti for telling me how she feels. There is no failure and no recriminations in wanting to stop. We stand together for a while and then walk on.

We walk for a couple of hours and see some horses on the next hill. Horses have a magical place in Yeti’s life and seeing them gives her renewed energy. We watch these four horses for a while and try slowly walking towards them. The horses hold and I take photos as we approach. We end up getting very close and notice one of the mares has blood all down her back legs. She looks like she has given birth but it did not go well for her. We turn and start walking up the trail. As we walk we see more spots of dried blood on the trail and feel sad for what have must have happened.

When we get to the top of the hill we see another couple of horses. We watch them and then they notice us and start to move. More horses come over the rise then the mothers and foals. Soon we have 70 horses wheeling around us as we walk. They are startled but not scared. Yeti thinks they have been handled before as she spots a beautiful black stallion that has a freeze brand on it side. These horses are incredible and in terrific shape. Their coats shine and it looks like something from a movie set. We feel like the man from Snowy River as he wheels the wild bush horses. Well at least I do. Yeti is just excited to see them. She picks two beautiful roans as her favourites and we watch them turn to face us and stand their ground. I am taking photos wishing I had a longer lens to get closer shots. It is a magical moment.

I eventually drag Yeti away and as we walk down the hill she says “It is ok, I don’t want to stop anymore.”.

One of the things we have said and thought often is that you work very very hard to get to some of theses places with many hours that are just hard work but then you get to experience something that makes it all worthwhile. To be surrounded by these wild horses is a once in a lifetime experience and a childhood dream for Yeti. It is now a fabulous day.

When we get to the bottom of the hill we see several horses at the top and they seem to be checking to make sure we have left.

That afternoon we hit another dam late in the day. I take a swim and we think it would be great to camp here for the night but the mozzies and midges are already thick. We have dinner and hike on.

Thinking that by moving we will outsmart the bugs was a fools wish. They followed us as the only likely meal for the night. We set up camp fighting them off and dove into the tent. We had another great sunset as we snuggled in our tent.

Day 63: Howling Wind

We are getting back into the swing of the earlier morning starts and wake when the morning birds start to sing at first light. We have got packing up down to a fine art with us both having our dedicated jobs to get us on the trail.

Early morning is my favourite time of day. I love the coolness of the air, the beautiful warm colours that the world takes on and the excitement that I feel in what the day may bring. Every new day promises a new adventure and on the trail that adventure may be hard but it is always exciting.

As we walk past the solar well we saw last night the horses from one band are making their way to water. The stallion is at the back with his ears down pushing his band of mare’s along making sure they stay away from any other stallions. Yeti is again excited and we stop several times to watch them go.

Our goal this morning is the top of the hill that marks the end of the plane we started yesterday afternoon. It seems like a good goal until we get to the top and look over to see another plane as long as the one we just crossed. I took a photo in each direciton from the top which are below. If you look at them about the only difference is the shape of the hills way off in the distance.

Our next goal was the A&M reservoir and to pass the time we had Brother Fish audio book playing. As we follow the road we come to an intersection, scratched into the dirt were a series of arrows pointing to the correct road and the name Hob at the top. We had a great evening with Hob and his wife at our home during our time off the trail and seeing his name in the dirt and knowing he had been this way a week earlier bought a smile to our faces.

Not knowing what to expect at the reservoir we were greatly pleased to see a large expanse of water complete with two guys in a boat fishing. We met two cyclist doing the continental bike trail next to the reservoir and we spent some time getting to know them.

We headed to the waters edge for breakfast and in my case a swim. I never miss a chance to get in the water and while it was cold when you first got in it felt beautifully refreshing. I could not convince Yeti to get in all the way but she enjoyed having enough water to at least wash some of the dust off.

The bike riders came down to filter some water for their next leg. On their route their information said the next water was 70 miles ahead. They wanted to take at least 6 litres each and started filtering with their Sawyer mini. They were having the same problem with their filters that we had in New Mexico and the water was barely dribbling out. We decided that the sawyer were just some sort of cruel joke so we swapped ours out for the much heavier but much much better First Need XL filter we used on our horse pack trips. I took pity on these guys and offered to pump some water for them. Within a few minutes I had filled their bag that would have taken at least an hour with the Sawyer. They were thankful and said if they did this again they would definitely swap to the First Need.

Leaving the water was hard especially when the day was heating up and the wind was starting to howl but leave we did.

Another long flat, then a small hill followed by a long flat. This time however the trail had some new twists for us. The two track turned to sand, the wind picked up to gale force that would knock me from side to side as it gusted. At over two hundred and ten pounds and with another 40 pounds in my pack it takes a lot of force to move me but this wind was easily pushing me from side to side. Yeti was having a much harder time and it become a real drudge. We pressed on for about 4 hours into this wind and arrived at our next water stop, a piped spring. We were both exhausted. We spread our mat on the ground, circled our packs and put our umbrellas up to try and make a wind break. We lay there with our feet soaking in the water with the occasional gust of wind making it through our fortifications bringing with it a fine spray of dust. We were both covered in dust. Every time you took a drink you could feel your teeth grinding with dust. Small cakes of mud would come out of your eyes as your eyes tried to clean themselves with tears. It does not sound like a place to take a rest but believe me it was a lot better than walking.

We sit next to the pond for a couple of hours and the move on again. We planned to do a couple of more miles and find a spot to camp next to the trail. As the evening progressed we started to climb into a valley and we got a small break from the wind.

It is amazing out here that with all this open space it is hard sometimes to find a place to put up our tent. The ground is covered with low sagebrush with its thick twisted trunks snaking along the ground. These trunks are too lumpy to sleep on and rarely are spaced far enough apart to fit our tent. Tonight as we head exhausted up the valley the sage is doing its best to thwart our attempts at a good nights sleep. We look for several miles of trail with no luck and eventually decide we are only a mile from the next water source and so should push on to that. Camping next to water is a luxury and after today we could do with all the luxury we can get.

We end up doing 23 very hard miles and finding a spot of semi level grass near the small stream. A hot dinner went someway to relieving some of the exhaustion and bed was very welcome.