8/18 Trooper set up a shuttle ride for us all, including German Mormon and me, back to Elkhart Trailhead. The driver was the 2nd or 3rd pompous, sexist Wyoming man to say, “Listen to me!” and proceed to drone on with information I neither needed nor asked for. Jerks, too bad they can’t read my face. I started hiking and never saw German Mormon or Trooper again but I did see lots and lots of people heading out for a few days camping. I met Joey and her service dog Thor, she asked good questions about solo hiking and gear and she is going to do the Colorado Trail next year. Thor was truly well trained, and handsome. It was a fun interlude but she was fast and I lost track of her. The outstanding thing today was the variety of mammals I saw carrying packs: humans, dogs, horses, mules, llamas (!), and goats (!!). Even with all the people on the access trail, and tents set up along every lake, I managed an isolated little spot just a few miles after turning northish onto the CDT.
8/19 The most amazing encounter of the entire trip happened after a few hours of hiking into a flow of people heading towards me, hikers spaced just 10 or 20 minutes apart. I saw a couple hiking from an access trail to a trail junction sign. As I got nearer, I recognized the man! It was the USASA Snowboard and Freeski Nationals Director I work with every spring at Copper Mountain. I think gobsmacked is the word. If I’d been just a few minutes faster, I’d have missed this encounter with one of my other worlds. So amazing to see this truly friendly face. After chatting a bit and catching up, I hiked down past a log jam of people taking off their shoes to ford a river, and then up a bit along a meadow where I dry-camped by a fire ring and old horse poo late enough that no hikers passed me.
8/20 It was great tread today, as it’s been since the Big Sandy trailhead, perfect weather and the Winds are spectacular with rock and lakes. It was beastly filled with people until past the Green River trailhead, seriously annoying massive groups of folks heading at me. I stepped off the trail dozens of times. When one man said, “Thank you sir,” without noticing my feminine legs below the skirt I wear, I snapped, “Ma’am,” as I managed to get back on the trail for a few feet. My bad, but really? You fat, clean, trail-hogging eclipsomaniac. I turned uphill and lost the hordes as I went up and over Gunsight Pass. Between 7 and 9am I saw no people, but by 12:30 I counted over 200! After 12:30 a dozen nice, regular people, and after 6pm a pack of at least 12 CDT SOBOs! Mid afternoon I met old guys Phantom and Kitchen Sink.
“Where you from?” they asked.
“I was born in Palmer, Alaska in ’53!” said Kitchen Sink.
“I was born in Oakland, California in ’53!” I said. We laughed.
8/21 Wow. Usually a hiking day doesn’t have a lot of surprises. Today had 4.
1. I saw my very first badger, ever, this morning as I hiked to Union Pass. It hissed at me, the dirty bugger, and then scuttled off into the sage, an enormous animal, wide and flat to the ground in cockroach proportions.
2. Of course, the eclipse wasn’t a surprise, but it was so much more than I expected. I knew there would be bunches of people and vehicles at road-access Union Pass, so when I saw them I stopped and dropped behind a rise so I had the eclipse to myself. I arrived early, about 10 for the 11:37 totality. I put on some layers, ate snacks and read my book. I put on my eclipse glasses and looked at the sun–an orange ball. As I read, I started to get cold and the light got funny. I glassed the sun and the moon was taking a bite out of the orange ball. It took a long time, 20-30″? I didn’t look at the time. Then the totality, the corona, white glowing around the black moon disk. I’ve never seen anything so amazing. It was dark, but not night dark, the horizon lit up 360 degrees on the mountains, like dawn or dusk all around me. As the sun started showing again, I choked up, I caught myself thanking the sun out loud for coming back with tales of Raven bringing light to the world in my heart. Yeah, I guess I’m a pagan. It took a long time for the sun to be free of the moon, and it was cold. I started hiking to warm up, a mile past all the people, cars, RVs and tents.
3. In the afternoon I flushed a fat sage grouse and her fluffy, nearly grown brood of 3.
4. At 4:30, I came to a creek and found 2 cold cans of Modelo! A first on this trail. I saved 1 for the couple of hikers just behind me. That beer tasted so great on this hot afternoon, so great.
8/22. Same ‘ol, same ‘ol, I couldn’t find a campsite when I wanted one, so I kept walking. Tonight’s is way better than last night’s cold and slanty desperation pitch. Tonight I have a fantastic view just 6 miles from where the trail crosses the highway to Dubois. Eclipsomania is over, today I saw 5 hikers, 1 dog, 1 biker, and 2 guys in a truck worried they’d misdirected a red-bearded hiker who had problems with his GPS. Not a hard day, just hot since I’m at lower elevations.
8/23 2 easy hitches and I’m in Dubois, DOO-boyz. I took an extra night on the trail, to make 5, because there were no motel rooms available until today. I could have stayed at the Episcoplian Church, for a donation, but that’s just weird.