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Day 5: 28 miles. Almost to WY

I woke up early after not much sleep. My legs were super achy all night and I tossed and turned all night long.

I packed up my wet tent and Red Stripe seemed a touch behind me so I took off from camp and let her have an easy morning. The morning was soooo gentle and nice and EASY! It started with a 5 mile descent on beautiful single track trail through the woods. Nothing technical, smooth sailing. What a gift. I made sure to appreciate every moment of it.

Then I had a few hot miles up and over a few small mountains. I took a break at a creek to dry out my tent and wait for Red Stripe. Wow! We had hiked 10 miles by 9:30 am with ease. I was so happy about our “10 before 10.” This is a thru hiker mantra for the early riser mile crusher, and I rarely seemed (if ever?) to get that 10 before 10 on trail. I dried out my tent/sleeping bag and socks and shoes and tended to my feet. Skylar’s dad gave me pieces of wool to just put on my blisters and it seems to be helping (or at least none of them were getting worse)!

After this nice long break we joined a 4x4 ATV road for many many miles. Like the rest of the day and then some. It was so bright and hot and brutal. Not having sunglasses was an extra dose of intense. My head cold/allergy situation was a little better but on and off.

Eventually we took a nice long lunch break at a creek where we soaked our feet. There was no shade in sight, but we got a few golden moments of cloud cover and had a nice time just relaxing at the water source together.

After lunch, the day wore on. The rocky 4x4 road was getting to me. It was packed and hard and the rocks were loose and my feet were just aching. My head space wasn’t great in the afternoon. I noticed that I have a better outlook and mood in the mornings. I really meditated on “quitting” versus “leaving” versus “being done” with the trail. But these thoughts alternated with planning my next resupply or when I would need to order new shoes or adding things to my “to do” list when I have service. I noticed that these thoughts came easily, but came from a place that was not really my heart. Staying on trail and forging on in many respects felt like the easy answer, but not necessarily the one that aligned with my heart.

At the end of the day I told Red Stripe I just didn’t think I could hike 2 more miles to camp at the Wyoming state border (we had thought we would do a 30 mile day to get to Wyoming). After 33 miles the day before (and huge days every other day prior), I was really getting worn down. It didn’t help that my body didn’t feel great and I kept contending with an awful allergy-like situation. The water source at the border sounded iffy at best, so we had plenty of water to dry camp and she was totally fine calling it a night when I was.

That evening I literally watched the mountain-lined horizon disappear into a smokey haze in a matter of 15 minutes. We didn’t know what it was, but there was tons of wind all of a sudden and it seemed super smokey.

We cooked together and chatted and I mentioned to her that I was having mixed feelings about being on trail for an entire thru hike and I wasn’t sure if my heart was totally in it. I felt like I clung onto something she dreamed up as a nice landing pad for me while I was flailing around not really sure what I was doing with myself or my time. We discussed various angles and she was such a good and supportive sounding board for my processing.

Day 6: WYOMING! 22 miles to town.

Now that Red Stripe and I had synced up on trail, our feminine energy wasted no time and did the same and we both started our periods. UGH. I forgot about how uncomfortable having a waist strap hug your hips is when your uterus is hard at work cramping like crazy. And how hot and stale air is basically the worst. Luckily for both of us, we ended up having a pretty good day all things considered, and had a good laugh at just how all the guys on trail never have to even consider something we have to tend to and gives us bonus cringe-worthy pain on top of all the other ailments and challenges the trail presents.

We stuck together in the morning because Red Stripe didn’t have her new topomap loaded for Wyoming and we needed to do a detour for a fallen out bridge (way finding and a downloaded map was required). We had to navigate some pretty nasty bogs also where the trail was completely gone and I got ankle deep wet in the bog - yuck.

Then we had some climbing. It was steep and hot and sunny and we separated due to our different paces. My eyes were just so tired of the sun and the reflection of the sun on the light tan/whitish dirt. The top of the climb above tree-line was really interesting. It was kind of a boulder field and it involved a lot of looking for the next cairns, which was fun and kind of tricky. Sometimes it was like a puzzle. I kept going as it was quite hot and I wanted to keep moving until there was a creek. At the creek I took a very long lunch break where I cooked myself ramen. I desperately needed salt and I figured I would have a little extra time since I was going to wait for Red Stripe here. I drank a nuun tab with my lunch also.

Wyoming was MUCH better than Colorado about CDT signage & cairns which made the way finding more interesting and less fatiguing on the mental energy.

We met two section hikers in the afternoon and yo-yoed with them after lunch. They were a father (trail name Reggie) and son (no trail name, Jeff) from Philly. Reg had hiked the CDT up until Grand Lake, so they were working on the section from Grand Lake, Colorado to West Yellowstone, WY. They had section hiked the whole AT & AZT in large swaths as well, so they were quite experienced.

At one point, Jeff came up behind me and told me that he had just seen Red Stripe laying on her back in the mud in a bog and thought “wow that’s an interesting place to take a break!” It turned out, Red Stripe had slipped and fallen in one of the bogs that afternoon and fell on her back. With her back on, it is really hard to get up! She had a good laugh at herself and told Jeff she was going to change and then catch up to us. We were approaching the highway (the exit to hitch hike to Encampment, WY) and I waited for Red Stripe so we could finish the day together. We had such a good laugh at her bog fall. All three of us had nailed the crossing and the girl who has been on trail for 2 months longer than the rest of us was the one who ended up rolling around in the mud!

We got to the highway and there was a car but the two section hikers took the hitch as there really wasn’t room to squeeze all of us in. Red Stripe and easily got a hitch from a sweet older couple and we sat in the back of their car where the dogs usually sit. We had a lovely chat with them and they caught us up on the Steamboat Springs fire which had blown in the previous day and was completely uncontained. We were so lucky to have hiked north of it as we would have been stuck in Steamboat Springs due to this new wildfire.

Encampment, WY.

When we arrived in town I checked us in to the lodge (the only place to stay) and worked my charm to make the owner laugh. He was a grumpy guy that was clearly sick of accommodating hikers and ran the lodge completely by himself. When he asked if we were staying for one night or two nights I hesitated slightly and explained that I wasn’t sure my heart was really in it for the long haul and I didn’t know if I wanted to thru hike the whole CDT, but one night for now. I asked him if he offered laundry on site and he said “no, but I’ll do it for a tip” (which was similar to the donation-based laundry comments we had read about on Guthook). The lodge was full of thru hikers who were all stunned we got to do laundry as they had to do theirs in their bathtubs or sinks in their rooms.

We went next door to the only restaurant in town and saw Reg & Jeff there. We joined them for dinner and had many good laughs as we filled our bellies with real and fresh food. The restaurant was surprisingly high quality and had a variety of nice ingredients and was extremely accommodating to my vegan eating.

Later that evening, Red Stripe and I were hanging out in our room when I got a text from the owner of the lodge, Desi, saying that if I wanted to get off trail I could have a job at the restaurant! Haha! I got us laundry AND a job offer! At that moment I looked at Red Stripe with my resupply box and told her “I guess I’m hiking to Rawlins!” After a good meal in town, laughter and some friends, I felt like a whole new person and was ready to keep hiking.

The next morning we took it super easy and had decided we would hike about half a day, then throw down a big day the following day. I ordered two $5 orders of avocado toast on sourdough at the restaurant, declined the job offer, and we had breakfast with two other thru hikers, Tapeworm and Hat Trick. They were both getting back on trail after a leisurely breakfast (the section hikers decided to take a zero day so would be a day behind us). We all left the lodge together, found two other thru hikers also trying to hitch hike back to the trail and lo and behold some very nice woman gave all SIX of us and our packs a ride back to trail. I sat in the trunk with all the packs because there wasn’t room for 6 people to squeeze into 4 seats.

Onward to Rawlins!

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