CDT Day 67 — August 31
Jackass Pass to some dirt road
Big Time Towers Camp to Hello Desert Camp
Miles hiked: 26.4
Total miles: 1161
Hard, but rewarding miles. Out of the mountains and into the desert. Trying to figure out SpiceRack’s location. A cold swim. Relentless day hikers. Amazing sun shows. Today had a lot packed into about 14 hours and I feel a world away, both spatially and mentally, from where I woke this morning. 26 miles is a long way, but it can feel like a blink.
I slept well, toasty and unmoving, above the pass, waking naturally with the brightening sky in time to pack up camp before the light show began. I munched on cookies for breakfast as I watched pink alpenglow flow down the tower faces, while brightening to a vibrant orange. The detail in the featured cliffs and contrast with the blue sky were superb. I felt like a small dot in the middle of an uncaring universe. I was there to observe, but had no influence on the unfolding scene. It would be there even if I was not. For this reason, I was grateful to be where I was, somehow after an entire lifetime of twists and turns, in this spot at this time, watching.
The sunrise put me a little behind, so I wasted little time once on the trail. I left the Cirque behind and dropped down to Big Sandy Lake. Tendrils of smoke rose from numerous campfires, colorful dots stirred below. After a sock wash and water break, I climbed first to Clear Lake, then up fun granite slabs to Deep Lake. Another panorama of sheer granite greeted me there. I took the opportunity to go for a dip, and although I harbor no regrets, it was too cold for enjoyment. I had to do it, though. Too beautiful.
From there, some super fit day hikers chased me up to the unnamed “Temple Pass” (11,500ft). More super steep scramble hiking and heavy panting. Temple Peak to my right provided all the excuses I needed to stop for a breather. I could also see all the way back to the Cirque, nearly to Texas Pass. An incredible stretch of hiking.
The trail ran out down the other side, but I found it again for the long walk down a green valley along the Little Sandy Creek. It was hot going, but flat and fast. I rejoined the official CDT around 1:30pm, hoping to find evidence of Spice’s passing, but only became confused by a mixture of familiar footprints in the dust. Maybe Spice went through as scheduled or maybe it was Crunchberry and Rooster. Huh.
I took a two hour lunch. No sign of Spice. Where is she? Must be ahead. I got going, telling myself that everything was going according to plan. I took my time up one last climb to a saddle, stopping for final views up the valley, before dropping out of the Winds for good.
I felt a definite sense of sadness leaving the Winds. I put in my earbuds and put on Empire of the Sun for some easy listening while I let my feet carry me down the gentle slope on soft tread through a sun-dappled forest. I was too tired to think about the awesome stuff I just came through. It was too fresh. I wasn’t ready to think about the next phase either. The mad dash across southern Wyoming, then the make-or-break push into the rarified air of the Colorado Rockies. I let my mind sit in the space after the ‘Last’ and before ‘Next’. Calm in the eye of the storm.
The terrain leveled out and trees turned to sage. The air warmed up. Into the desert. Spice’s name was conspicuously missing from the trail register, but Crunch and Roost had been there that day. Maybe they know something. I found them an hour later at a creek crossing, just finishing up dinner. Nope, no idea where Spice is. It was great to see them nonetheless, and the original plan was still in play.
I caught a bit of cell signal a mile later, which blew up that hope. A message came through from Spice with a bunch of words, but what I pulled from it was “Got super sick, pack stolen, in Atlantic City.” What the…? A phone call confirmed all of these things, though it answered none of my questions. My mind whirled with possibilities as we hiked through sunset(epic) to camp in the sage next to a random dirt road.
A lot on my mind. But for now the only thing I can do is get to Atlantic City as fast as possible. An early start to blitz the 20 or so miles is in the cards. I get to see Spice tomorrow. That’s cool. But what the heck is going on?