Tramily to Rawlins
Day 7: Encampment, WY to dirt road group camping, 17 miles
After a relaxed town morning and a 6 person hitch to the trailhead we had a 5ish mile climb up to some radio towers. The climbs leaving town are always a bit tough because packs are full. My pack was extra full because I swapped out my fuel for a larger more full fuel canister Tapeworm was ditching and I had an extra day and a half of food on me. We had decided to take a road detour that it seems most people take as it would shave off about 25 miles (one whole day) and the scenery would be identical. Barren. The water sources were a big concern and the road seemed to have reliable creek crossings and more opportunity for vehicles on the road to help out and give us water or Gatorade or anything.
Red Stripe and Hat Trick did not have the TopMaps downloaded on their Guthook App, which meant we really needed to stick together to navigate the detour. Red Stripe and I yo-yoed with Hat Trick and Tapeworm most of the day and the four of us had a nice long break at a creek. Red Stripe commented that was the first time she had experienced a group congregation and true break like that at a water source. I remember having these sort of interactions on the AT, but the CDT is so much less social and desolate that hikers don’t seem to group up like we were doing. It was nice to have a little core group to experience the trail with.
Tapeworm was super impressed with my speed and strength on trail. At 6’4” he was shocked I could not only keep up with him, but many times would even drop him. He can throw down the miles and the pace and his long legs help a lot, but he told me my trail name should be Mighty Mouse “because I’m tiny like a mouse but deceptively mighty in how strong of a hiker I was.” I was glad I could hang with this trio as they all had months of trail legs on me and I was just getting started.
Right after we left our creek break we came to a dirt parking lot where another hiker who had just caught up to us (Hoover) had his parents at a tent giving trail magic to him and the other thru hikers. They had Gatorade, fruit and I even got to enjoy two celery sticks. Hoover had just ordered a bunch of salt tabs and gave us some also which was great because I was really nervous about the upcoming basin (no water, shade, trees and unbearable sun and heat nonstop). It was really nice to all enjoy the trail magic from his family as a group and I think his parents enjoyed it maybe just as much as we did.
We had about 2 more miles of mountains and trees. A comment in Guthook warned us NoBos to hug a tree because this would be the last of the trees for 170 miles! There was a hazy overcast situation we encountered after leaving the trees that we called “smoke-shade.” It felt shady because of all the smoke from the fires and the temperature was a bit cooler without the blasting sun so we were grateful. We submitted a few “balds” with totally new landscape with cactus and sage brush. It was beautiful for a while but then evening descended and I realized this was impossible landscape to pitch a tent on. It was rocky, slope-y, prickly and rough desert ground. I eventually just felt so worn out I told Red Stripe I needed to call it a day soon and so we began looking for tent spots. It was unusual for me to just suddenly tap out on energy in the evening. Usually I can go for a long time, but I just felt zapped and worn out and no longer cognitively sharp. I was fading and we needed to find some place to end our day.
We tried a few spots but realized they were so slanted and there really was only room for one tent, not two. Eventually we crossed a dirt road that looked like nobody drove on and we decided this would be our best bet. This also allowed space for the guys to set up camp when they caught up to us, which was only not too long afterwards.
We had a nice family dinner where we all cooked (except Hat Trick who I think just ate candy in his hammock next to us). We took turns taking about the highlight of our day and how we all really enjoyed the day together and that the new feeling of community on trail with our group made the experience feel so much richer. We all had great days and we laughed and talked and stayed up a lot later than I might have on my own. Eventually I had to lay down and talk to the group from my tent because I just wasn’t feeling well. My period cramps were escalating and I was just exhausted in a way I couldn’t explain.
Day 8: Road walk detour to Rawlins, 15-17 ish miles?
We started off the morning all waking up around the same time and packing up camp in a similar rhythm with each other. We went about two miles before we needed to detour off the trail and find a forrest service “road” that would take us to an actual road after 5-6 miles.
The turn off was easy to find, but I noticed the guys took the more established path and the path we needed was to hop a gate into what might be private property and take a very overgrown and worn “path/road.” I called them over and the four of us stuck together as we had to do some way finding and bushwhacking together to find and stay on this connector path. I was really glad and grateful to have the group for this. If I had been alone I would have hated the feeling of maybe being lost all the time. But with the group I felt more confident and also less fearful of getting or being lost.
We saw and heard an elk group and saw baby elk running along a ridge right near us. Wow that was special. The whole time we were on this forrest service road section we had a big cloud covering the sun providing shade for us. I was super grateful for that cloud as it gave us a more manageable morning.
Eventually the path became more straight forward and easier to follow and more established as we neared the actual road. When we arrived near that junction we took a little break right near a cattle pen and there was a dead cow trapped in the pen. It was super sad to see. Then a truck drove up as we were finishing our snacks and told us we were on private property and we should move along. He was the rancher and was really upset that someone had come out and trapped one of his cows as some type of revenge thing. We had a cordial interaction and were super empathetic about his dead cow. We moved along and then finally arrived a the road.
The road waking felt somewhat easier on the legs but the first 6ish miles were some pretty significant climbs - almost nonstop. I clicked into gear and just went. The sun was now out and our morning cloud had disappeared. I think Red Stripe, Tapeworm and Hat Trick stayed together more and took a few smaller breaks but I just went for it and didn’t stop. The climbs and descents are my strengths while backpacking and I think from my cycling days I have a mentality of never taking a break until I reach the top or the bottom or some long flat section. I have a difficult time stopping in the middle of a climb for a break so I just went and went and went. For the entire 6 miles of climbing. Eventually I got to what seemed like the end of the real climbing and sat down in the parking lot on the side of the road to a camping area (the most barren camping area you’ve ever seen). According to the notes in Guthook we were only 2.5 miles away from “shade camping” and another 2.5 miles away from a creek.
When the group caught up I mentioned these milestones and was glad to have shade coming up. I figured we could take a longer break at the “shade” spot in 2.5 miles because sitting on the side of the road in the blasting sun was zapping my energy quickly. After we regrouped, I clicked into go-mode again and just started motoring. My location services quit working on my phone altogether. My google maps, Apple Maps, Guthook maps - all the maps had my location like 200 miles away from where I knew I was. This was super frustrating because it made it more difficult to track mileage or how close were were from “shade camping.” Eventually I just suddenly collapsed and needed a break. Side of the road break again and I knew we had gone way more than 2.5 miles. We had probably gone about 4 miles because Tapeworm was able to figure out on his phone that we were about 1 mile away from the coveted Sage Creek. The “shade camping” area did not exist and I exhausted myself trying to get there. At this break spot I took out my sleeping pad and put the shiny side facing the sun and just hung out underneath it. It helped quite a bit and was cooler than just sitting there without something to reflect the sun away. We rallied for one more mile and we would take a nice long afternoon break at the creek before cranking out evening miles. The afternoon slugfest was not productive so we agreed on a very long afternoon break to cool down and rest so that in the cooler hours of the day we could throw down and make progress on our 30 mile day.
I was grateful for the Gatorade I had from the trail magic the day prior and the salt tabs and was trying to stay on top of my hydration as the day was warming up quickly. I was peeing regularly so that made me aware that my hydration wasn’t severely lacking, but I was starting to just not feel well. Perhaps I was getting overheated and hydration wasn’t a factor. Food was really REALLY unappetizing but I kept forcing it down.
Arriving at Sage Creek felt like an ironic oasis. It was literally a trickle of a creek with overgrown algae and lots of cow poop nearby and probably straight up in the water. We found a spot that was flowing rather delightfully and the water we harvested from that spot was actually clear and tasted fine. I had a few iodine tabs I considered using a this source, but we kind of all agreed that the source was actually better than it appeared. I crawled my way to the creekside and sat on a rock and soaked my feet and ankles for what felt like an hour. I just couldn’t start feeling better though. I kept feeling sleepy and like I was fading. I ate the rest of my GoMacro bar which really wasn’t tasting good. My stomach was off and something just wasn’t right.
I laid down and took a nap and probably got a little overheated because the sun came out stronger but I literally couldn’t even talk. Then a truck pulled up and offered us some trail magic! They had cold beer for the dudes, Red Stripe got a chocolate bar and I grabbed a pickle and ate it. Again, thinking it was an electrolyte/hydration issue I was dealing with, the pickle would have helped, but it didn’t taste good and was hard to get down. About 15 minutes later, the crew was ready to hit the road again and I informed them I had to hitch hike into town because something was not right and I wasn’t feeling well.
Just then, a truck pulled up and brought me into town. I staggered to the hotel, asked for a thermometer and realized quickly I was pretty sick. Maybe it was being overheated? I had a 101 degree fever which rose to nearly a 102 degree fever within the hour. I was shivering and using a wash cloth to try and not be too hot under the covers. I turned the AC off completely in my room and eventually the super sweet hotel owner brought me some Tylenol, electrolytes, some crackers and a can of vegetables. I attempted to eat, but could really only take the Tylenol and crackers.
Fast forward two days and my mom drove from Denver (3 hours 45 mins one way) to pick me up so I could go to Urgent Care in Ft. Collins. I literally don’t know what happened those two days because I spent 98% of the time sleeping or on the toilet. It was awful. I was sick for probably 4 days straight and came back positive with Rotavirus, likely from a poor water source somewhere near where people camp or poop.
My decision to get off the trail was independent of the rotavirus episode, but the timing worked out. I called it and have been recovering since.