"So, how does it feel to be hiking another long trail?" I asked "Manparty," a fellow southbounder I met on the trail a few weeks ago. He and his wife are hiking their third long trail in as many years, finishing the Triple Crown. (Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail.)
"It feels like the trail is home," he replied. Not quite the answer I expected, but pretty cool nonetheless.
Last week, before entering West Yellowstone, it was getting late in the evening. Storm clouds had gathered, in fact a small thunderstorm had just rolled through the area. It was getting dark outside, temperatures were dropping, and I still was hoping for a quick hitch into town before darkness completely fell. Just before I reached the highway, I entered an outcropping where I could look down on the road. I could see numerous headlights and break lights from the cars heading east and west along the highway. Something about the scene created a wave of homesickness. It reminded me of a cold autumn evening on the east coast. I longed for comfort.
Interesting enough, after spending a great day and night in West Yellowstone, I was hiking back up the highway toward the Divide after getting a hitch 3 miles short of my destination. It was hot and sunny, and I was anxious to reach the trail. Sure enough, as soon as I entered the woods, I was greeted by the same familiar plants and trees that I've begun to know so well. A small bush covered with huckleberries seemed to offer a warm welcome back. I had a "huckleberry bomb." It's not rocket science, basically I gather as many huckleberries as I can into my hand and slam them into my mouth for a wild explosion of nature's sweet, caloric goodness. I felt like I was welcomed "home." Of course, the all too familiar shoulder pain, and foot pain also greeted me shortly after. But it was good to be back on trail.
Yellowstone was fantastic. It felt like a sin to hike through the park in two days, but that was how it went down. If I could offer any advice to future CDTers it would be to try and milk at least another day out of it. I was glad I obtained my permit at the West Yellowstone ranger's office rather than camp along the park's border and day hike all the way to Old Faithful. It allowed for a much more relaxed approach into the Upper Geyser Basin. How fantastic it was to approach the basin on foot. To look down on the steaming valley from above, imagining what it must have been like for early explorers of the day. The area was obviously unlike anything I have ever seen on trail, and will likely see again. Of course there were hoards of tourists, but I really didn't mind. I was just glad that on this day, I was not one of the two men who almost got into a fist fight in the parking lot over a parking space, or one of the motorists who almost ran down a group of pedestrians crossing at the crosswalk in order to escape the parking lot mayhem and reach the highway a couple seconds faster. No, on this day, I was the filthy, exhausted, disheveled man sitting under a tree at Old Faithful, while a cold drizzle fell from the darkening sky, drinking a Dr. Pepper and eating a blueberry and cheese danish, at peace with the world: Hiker Trash and proud of it!
At the moment, I am in Dubois Wyoming, a place that seems out of this world from anywhere I've been so far. Next, we head into the Winds, supposedly one of the highlights of the trail. It's already starting to feel late in the season. Nights are getting colder, animals can be seen gathering and storing food for the winter. Those of us heading south still have a ways to go. Anyhow, thanks for reading and have a good week everyone!