Great Western Loop: Day 71 - 73: Rawlins to Lander
Day 71: Open country (36miles)
I left Rawlins around 10am and followed another highway for just a few miles.
The trail than turned onto a dirt road and would stay on roads like this for the next 120miles (192km).
The basin is a quite waterless stretch and so i had to plan my water consumption and the amount of water i had to carry, carefully.
The roads were incredibly straight and i could see miles ahead, where i would be hiking a few hours from now. The ground was dry and covered with sagebrush. Trees were nowhere to be found and so i had neither shade, nor shelter from the wind.
Day 72: Storm! (44miles)
Before leaving Rawlins i had seen that some strong winds were to be expected for the day. With Lander being 35miles from the trail, i had also already arranged a ride from the trail into town on saturday morning. With more than 84miles left, i really had to push it, to make it to my pickup point in time.
I hiked with an average pace of about 4miles and really enjoyed it. The scenery might look boring, but the abundance of wild horses, cows and pronghorns was certainly interesting.
As i was approaching some higher country in the afternoon, the wind picked up.
According to the forecast winds of 30-40miles (50-65km/h) and gusts of up to 55miles (90km/h) were to be expected.
(First tree after 1.5 days...)
Hiking got extremely difficult. It was impossible to walk a straight line. The wind pushed me around and i sometimes had to stop, to avoid being blown away. I fought this wind for several hours and i knew i would face difficulties, pitching my tent.
(Wind River Range covered by clouds :-( )
I kept hiking until after sunset, hoping for the wind to stop, or to find a sheltered place. At 9pm the wind calmed down a little bit and i pitched my tent at the best place i could find. Unfortunately the wind picked up soon again and at 9:30pm it was hammering my tent. The tent was shaking and the wind caused extreme noise. I was afraid of severe damage to my tent and tried to stabilize it to the best of my ability. I also considered breaking camp and hiking on, but decided to stay. I had used several rocks to secure my groundhogs and my tent never collapsed. At 11pm i must have fallen asleep, despite the noise and when i woke up again at 1:30am, everything was calm and quiey. I finally relaxed a bit, made myself a hot-chocolate and went back to bed.
Day 73: Big cities! (40miles)
I was tired and mentally worn out. After all the struggles and hard terrain in Colorado, i just needed some easier days and the last day and night hadnt been easy at all.
Day 73 however would finally deliver on that.
The scenery didn't change at all, but little wind, nice temperatures and good music made hiking very easy. In addition to that i had perfectly fine water, from a water cache, provided by a Mormon group living on that area.
Throughout the day i met a few hikers going Sobo (southbound).
(Birds nesting under the bridge)
At 4pm i got to the Sweetwater River Bridge and had a 20min break. By now i knew that i would be at my pickup point in time, but i still pushed on pretty hard. 10-11miles from the bridge was the small town of Atlantic City. The town has some 50 citiziens and 2 tiny restaurants (but no grocery store). I figured, that i could make it there between 7-8pm, hoping to find one of the restaurants still open.
I got to Atlantic City at 7:05pm, found one restaurant closed and one still open. I quickly grabbed a table, ordered a burger and than hiked out again towards my pickup point at South Pass City. South Pass City was just 3 miles away and has even less citizens. This old and abandoned mining town, claims to have 4 people living there.
However, that day i decided to camp along the trail towards the town and to finish those last 2 miles the next day.
Day 74: Lander (2miles)
I leisurely hiked into South Pass City and waited there for my ride to show up. While waiting i had a lovely chat with a Wilderness Tour Guide, offering me a stay on her cabin in Montana, and with the staff that is taking care of the historic town. At its peak in the 1860's South Pass City had 3,000 citiziens, by 1870 only a few hundred were left.
My ride showed up at 9am and we quickly got to Lander. The reason for organizing a ride, was making it to town before the Post Office would close, to pick up my snowgear, as well as new shoes and socks, that i jad ordered online, as well as getting my 2nd covid-shot. The shot was due exaxtly today and i knew that it would be impossible to get it further north. For days i had tried to schedule an appointment for the shot in Lander, but all medical facilities were out of the Pfizer vaccine. After several calls i had made an appointment in Riverton, another 25miles from Lander, ordered a Taxi, and received the shot. The 20min drive there and back was fun, as i got to meet Richard, a 60-70 year old libertarian, who knew a lot about the native american tribes and history of this region.
Day 75: Side-effects? (0miles)
The Covid-shot was the perfect excuse to spent a day in town and to wait out potential side effects. Fortunately, i had no side-effects at all and so i spent all day eating, repairing gear and buying new rain pants.
(I just love people sitting at a bar with a gun...)