In the 60 miles since we left Encampment on Tuesday morning, we have literally dropped out of one world and into another.
After one last climb up through pine forest onto Vulcan Mountain on Tuesday afternoon, we started losing height. The forest became more patchy, with dense pines becoming interspersed with more meadows. The meadows themselves became less lush and green, and more dry and scrubby. By Wednesday morning we were following a series of low rocky hills covered with sagebrush, and we spotted the first cacti we had seen in many weeks! Much as we loved the high mountains and colourful alpine flowers of Colorado, it was lovely to see the muted colours and different textures of desert plants again.
From the rocky hills we could see the land ahead flattening out, with low distant hills disappearing into the haze. All the landscape was a dull yellowy brown – the colour of a parched desert landscape.
Dropping down from the hills onto Sage Creek Road, which varied from dirt to gravel to tarmac surfaces, we crossed a couple of creeks with good water in them. The notes on our maps told us we had a 34 mile stretch ahead with very little water, and what water there was, was alkaline and undrinkable. So at the last creek we both filled up all the water containers we had, while swifts zoomed over our heads and through the steel culvert carrying the creek under the road. Then we staggered off with our hugely heavy rucksacks – Neil with 5.6 litres and me with 6.2 litres of water. It was hard going, but way better than facing dehydration!
But as we headed down the road, we soon realised the water situation might not be as bad as we thought. There was a big road improvement programme underway, with lots of contractors working on the road in the baking heat. Lots of the guys working on the road called out as we passed, to check if we needed any water, offered us electrolyte powders to add to our water (essential when you’re sweating a lot), and someone had set up some “trail magic” – two cool boxes filled with chilled bottled water. Even though we had plenty of water with us, it had got really hot in our packs, so chugging down chilled water was absolutely lovely.
Another guy also took the time to warn us about rattlesnakes – as we were dropping down out of the mountains into desert, he warned us that rattlesnakes would become more common, especially as we got closer to our destination town of Rawlins, where the denser population of rodents acted as a magnet for them.
Sure enough, the following day, as we walked along the road just 2 miles from town, Neil took a sudden leap three feet sideways into the road as he nearly trod on a rattler! A nasty shock – we really must remember to be on our guard.
Rawlins isn’t really our kind of town – it’s very spread out, baking hot and windy, and we’re off in a no-man’s- land of motels and fast food outlets. But we’re taking a rest day tomorrow to sort out our equipment boxes which we’re sending from post office to post office along the trail, swapping out our gear as required. In the next 200 miles we’ll need our hot weather gear for the Great Divide Basin before changing back to mountain gear (including thermals and waterproofs) for the Wind River Range, so we need to make sure we send the equipment we need to the place where we’ll need it! It will also be good to rest our feet and our backs before setting off into the heat and the wind again. Just hoping for no more rattlesnakes!
Fab to watch your progress – and great blogs to boot.
Put in – get out – enjoy!
Big contrast from Colorado, now flattish all the way for 120 miles to South Pass City, savour every droplet of water.
That portion of the trail is extremely interesting, the emptiness was acute as we went through there