8/10 Ack, I’m in a holding pattern. I went into Lander for the night and spent the next day googling transportation logistics in Wyoming, not a lot of public transport hereabouts, but there are shuttles running in limited areas to a few towns and regional airports, and rental cars here and there. I asked the wonderful, possibly extended, family that runs the Holiday Lodge if they knew a company or person that could drive me to Riverton airport. English is their second language and Wyoming is not where they originated, ( I guess China but it feels intrusive to ask in these immigrant-sensitive times, “Oh, I’ve been to China! Where exactly are from?”) but they worked the phones and got me some great leads. I wound up renting a car from the RV park right here in Lander to do a little self-guided tour of towns, museums and sites near the CDT. There is so much history, I could spend weeks looking, learning and pondering, although I feel so aimless wandering in a car with no fixed goal in mind.
As a kid I watched Wagon Train and Bonanza and cowboy movies. In my high school a new class was offered and taught by a Native American, called “Indian Studies” and I realized that the history of the American West has been revised, scrutinized, detailed and retold from a lot of different perspectives through time. History isn’t static. The museums I’ve visited here have great collections of artifacts but sometimes the descriptions, although mostly factual, omit bigger picture information. For example, the plains buffalo nearly vanished in a short span of time leading to the starvation of the tribes dependent on them, and the tribes’ “relocation” as one museum puts it, to reservations. Buffalo hunters killed them to sell their hides for fashion wear back East in this narrative. But what about the link to the post-Civil War government policies and Acts that sought to move people from the East to the West and the idea of Manifest Destiny? In one place I saw the coolest collection of barbed wire samples with the year each was invented. In another, barbed wire was described as a solution to violence between ranchers who were hostile to another rancher’s cattle on their grazing grounds and remarked that barbed wire coincidentally lead to the demise of the formerly and necessarily free-ranging buffalo.
It makes me think. One of Mama Raven’s reasons for homeschooling her kids is that she says in her school district they don’t teach History anymore. One of my issues is that, since high school, I wanted teachers who loved history and who knew history, to teach it, not the basketball coach who stood in front of my World Civilization class while I raised my hand to correct him on the particulars of Ancient Egypt, but the guy who taught us Native American history. I just like history and read it on my own. I’ve always been curious about people, places and culture. Not chemistry, astrophysics or fluid dynamics which I can’t imagine anybody could teach themselves. Incorrect assumption I know. Hence the need for proper teachers or, for a proper curriculum so that our kids can learn to think about our world and be informed citizens. But I don’t know, is history being taught still? It’s a rather broad discipline, so how do school districts decide what the important bits are?
I put together a plan to hike to the right place for the eclipse. I want to be in the wild, nowhere near sold-out hotels and traffic jams and hoopla. (Every store is selling Wyoming Eclipse tee shirts, hotels all over the entire state have jacked up their prices and sold out, public service announcements warn about traffic issues.). That involved delaying off trail awhile longer.
I set up a flight home from Denver, a flight from Wyoming to Denver, a shuttle ride from Dubois, WY to the regional airport and a motel room the night before. The eclipse has been my obsession and if I kept to my original hiking schedule I would have been far enough ahead that I’d have to figure out how to get back south to the Dubois area. When I told Papa Raven this, he tried to hide the look that told me he thought I was nuts, “You’d still be in the path and would see a 96% eclipse.” I know, I know, it’s just a thing I’m fixed on–to be high in elevation, open country, 100%. I also know that with the near constant cloud cover of the last couple of weeks, I may only see brief darkness, no black disk covering the sun. Who knows?
At whatever point in time I decided I wouldn’t finish the CDT this year, I was both liberated and demoralized. I can’t call myself a thru-hiker anymore, which matters to who? Nobody. I have several reasons or excuses, all valid, all my own choice. After running into High Country, a hiker I first met on the train ride from El Paso to Lordsburg in April, I’m feeling better. This is his second season on the CDT. After some rough times last year on the trail, he had to go home without finishing. This year he has gone north, then flipped and went south so that he will finish the whole CDT at South Pass City very soon. In my age group, when he gets there he will have earned the Triple Crown (AT, PCT, CDT) hurray! He did the PCT in 2001 and only slept indoors 4 times the whole trail. Over a beer, we agreed that I’ll get to pick my months next year for Montana and for the chunk in the San Juans I missed, and that’s a good thing.
Heading back on the trail tomorrow. Tonight I will eat another burger at the Lander Brewery, truly the best I’ve ever had. Local-grown, free-range, organic, etc etc–the Black and Blue burger is another reason why I love Wyoming.
Very importantly, I have a nomination for the best beer can blurb. Melvin brewed in Pine, Wyoming.