Great Western Loop Day 74 - 79: Lander to Dubois
Day 74: into the Winds (29miles)
Lander was a break that i really needed to recharge mentally, i felt really stressed out after Colorado. However, being here in the States feels all natural to me. I dont feel like a tourist or stranger and i know how lucky and privileged i am to chase this opportunity and dream. Meeting more people in Wyoming is helping me a lot, as i get a lot of support and encouragement from random people.
But time is running short. Making it to California before winter, means that i have to speed up and get more miles in.
The upcoming section would be the longest section on trail without resupply. 180miles (290km) without having a clear idea of how long it might take, due to difficult trail conditions caused by a freak storm in October 2020, snow and flooded rivers.
News from other hikers were concerning, but i knew some of those people posting about the trail. All of them had skipped Colorado and had no proper winter gear. Two of them i had met in Chama and we exchanged some pictures of the trail. It all looked manageble and i consider myself a much stronger hiker than these guys.
The girl who had picked me up at South Pass City picked me up again to drive me back to the trail. That really saved some time. The initial miles after South Pass City were rather unimpressive, until the blowdowns started. Some sections of the trail looked like World War 3 and so I decided to partly walk along a road to bypass these obstacles.
(Yes...that's the trail)
Day 75: Cirque of the Towers (24miles)
I had camped just before a section that was known for some blowdowns, that were just out of this world and that would require a lot of time to overcome. 3miles of utter destruction and sometimes 3-4 major trees piled over each other. I needed some 3hours to pass this section and lost my (empty) water bottle along the way.
Later on i finally found a picture perfect trail on the way to Temple Pass. Snow soon started to show up, but could mostly be bypassed. The section after Temple Pass was extraordinary beautiful and rather easy to hike.
(View from Temple Pass)
I met several people on the way down that did a day-hike from a nearby lodge. After passing Big Sandy Lake, I made my way up to the second Pass of the day. Jackass Pass fortunately wasn't a big challenge and didn't provide any snow that caused considerable difficulties.
From here I could finally see the "Cirque of the Towers". Certainly a beautiful sight, but I wasn't as impressed as I had expected. Views of Texas Pass had me slightly concerned. Quite some snow was visible and the access looked steep. At about 5pm I started the ascent for the final Pass of the day and quickly realised that I could bypass most of the snow by choosing my own route. Only the last few hundred yards were covered in snow that I couldn't bypass, but here the mountain wasn't that steep anymore. The northern side however was incredibly steep and had about a mile of snow left. Nevertheless I made it down here without using my snowgear and reconnected with the official CDT some miles later.
(Texas Pass, far side, middle of the picture)
(Cirque of Towers)
(Climb to Texas Pass)
Day 76: Mixed feelings (30miles)
Day 3 in the Winds started quite easy. After crossing East Fork River, which was ice-cold and almost hip-deep, I climbed to a plateau, which I than followed for several hours. My goal was to reach Hat Pass in the early afternoon and climb it as soon as possible. The Pass had been mentioned by other hikers as difficult and snow-covered, but didn't provide an obstacle for me. On the way up to Hat Pass I had to hike through some crazy clouds of mosquito's, but this was just the beginning...
Coming down from Hat Pass I had the option to bail out to Pinedale, but I decided to move on to Dubois as planned. At Cook Lakes I had to ford a creek, that was more than hip-deep and got my underwear wet
Fortunately it was a very safe crossing, as it had almost no flow.
My goal for the day was making it over Lester Pass, another 2miles from the crossing.
The ascent to Lester Pass was mostly easy, but for the last 1/3mile, I had to climb through snow. From here on, the snow would remain for another 10-12miles.
Day 77: Snow, again (31miles)
The days before I had almost been angry, that I brought my snowgear without using it. Well, that would finally change today.
For most of the morning I stayed at 10,500-11,100ft (3200-3400m). Not much of a difference to the previous days, but here the snow had not yet melted and so I used my snowshoes once again. Due to my broken micro-spikes I decided to stay on the official CDT route and not do the famous Knapsack Col Alternate, which would go up to more than 12,500ft (3800m).
Around noon I finally made it back to lower elevations. After crossing Green River Pass, most of the snow was gone and on this popular trail, some blowdowns had already been cleared. For several miles I would now hike downhill through a beautiful valley. Next to me the colourful Green River and some wonderful mountain walls. So far, my favourite section of the CDT.
I tried to relax while hiking an easy trail, but than got to Marten Creek. The creek was impossible to ford and so my only option was a damage (and technically "closed") bridge. Crossing this bridge over a raging creek, was actually the scariest thing so far on trail.
(Moose next to the trail)
Day 78: Gunsight Pass (31miles)
After an afternoon of downhill hiking, day 78 started with a 2,000ft climb (600m) up to Gunsight Pass, accompanied by some crazy blowdowns and a very faint trail. Massive Blowdowns continued on the way down and I had to choose different routes to bypass them. The rest of the day remained uneventful.
Day 79: Into Dubois (17miles)
My primary goal for Dubois was reaching it early, to visit the nearby Post Office to finally get rid of my snowgear. Day 79 was a Saturday, so making it to Dubois in time was a challenge and forced me to get up between 4:00 and 4:30am. I quickly hiked towards Sheridan Pass, than took the "old CDT" route towards the Highway. Some 4miles in, I realised that I could probably take a shortcut via a dirt road to reach the highway a few hours earlier. I took the road, made it to to the highway by 10am and than waited for some 2hrs for a car to pick me up.
I finally got picked up by a guy, who was happily drinking a few beer on the 20min drive to town. Dubois itself was small. Some 1000 people live here, with almost no cell service, as the town is tucked in the mountains. I stayed for the rest of the day, had some good food at the Cowboy Cafe, but didn't manage to make the Post Office in town. After throwing my broken micro-spikes away, I also gave my snowshoes away. Shipping them home would have been to expensive and in the previous days they had just caused severe foot pain. The only item I really wanted to keep, was my ice-axe, but well...I'd soon loose it :-(
Being officially in Grizzly territory, I got myself some Bearspray.