"This is the most rain I have experienced since Glacier," I mentioned to a northbound hiker named Beef Stew, when I arrived at my designated camp site in Yellowstone. Beef Stew was also assigned to the same camp site. The Yellowstone back country office mostly lumped all of the CDT hikers into the same sites as we traveled through the park. It worked out well for us I think. That night Spinns and Baboon, as well as another southbound hiker named Raffle also joined us that night. It was one of those rare nights where several of us thru hikers were able to sit around a warm camp fire and trade war stories and share some laughs after a cold, wet evening hike.
"It's rained almost every day since I've been hiking through Wyoming," Beef Stew replied.
His reply almost seemed hard to believe since Montana was so dry. Well, as it has turned out, Wyoming has been pretty wet for us traveling south as well.
We have just traveled through the magnificent Wind River Range, one of the highlights along the CDT. I mistakenly thought that the Winds were "America's Best Kept Secret." It appears that they may have been a secret only to my own consciousness. As stunning as these mountains are, they also were very crowded this past week. I have never seen so many back packers in one area at one time. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but it made me appreciate the permit system that exists in some areas of the Sierra. The Wind River Mountains are very reminiscent of the Sierra Nevada, except as one day hiker I met mentioned, "They are like the Sierra except that it rains here!"Afternoon storms were common this past week as well as nights with passing rain showers, heavy at times. Good practice for staying dry and setting up good shelters.
One interesting experience I had occurred at a place called Knapsack Col. It's a beautiful and austere section of trail that climbs high along craggy granite peaks, travels over a pass where a "rapidly melting glacier" awaits on the other side with a descent just as, if not more steep than the initial climb to the pass. Raffle, a southbound hiker from Minnesota with a big red beard, and an ability to consume unfathomable amounts of food in town, joined me for the climb. After a somewhat difficult, and tiring climb to the pass, we reached the glacier and planned our descent after a short break. The directions on our maps warned hikers of traveling over the glacier due to rocks that tend to give out on, and slide on the ice. This was my first time being so close to a glacier that I assumed the directions were referring to a large snowfield to our right. It seemed odd to me, because there were no rocks on the snowfield, and the descent looked simple enough.
"Maybe the glacier has melted substantially since Jonathan Ley (the map maker) last visited here," I mentioned to Raffle.
As it turned out, and as I should know by now, Jonathan Ley is always right. Before I knew what had happened, I found myself slipping down the glacier, large quantities of rocks rolling down the steep slope.
"We sure are contributing to erosion!" Raffle yelled from above.
The glacier was hidden under a thin layer of dirt and rock. What I thought was dry trail, was actually a layer of ice that could be seen once I was walking on it, but by then it was too late. The situation did not feel particularly dangerous, but it did escalate the potential for injury, and was a learning lesson for sure. It was neat seeing first hand how glaciers move rocks and dirt, even while "rapidly melting."
Overall, the Winds were definitely a treat. The pica population seems to be thriving here. I saw another black bear, antelope, elk, and many deer in areas where people were not as common. This week we head into the Great Divide Basin, a welcome change of scenery through what sounds like desert. Water rationing will be a must this week. Trail life continues to be good, certain strangers still amaze me with their kindness and availability to offer a helping hand. Thanks for reading...