Okay, what is 160 miles long, is virtually treeless, has very little water, and features high winds up 40 mph all day? You probably first think of death valley. WRONG! It is the CDT inside the Great Divide Basin of southern Wyoming, plus the 40 miles south of Rawlins. I just hiked that section, and I am sure happy that I carried plenty of sunscreen and water purification solution.
The hiking was relatively easy with small changes of elevation between 6800 and 8000 feet, on roads and mostly 4WD tracks. I was happy for this because it put little strain on the torn lateral meniscus in my left knee. The new German-engineered knee brace, multiple does of aspirin and Aspercream helped also. The mental challenges of hiking this 118 mile section were a factor, but I am elated that my knee is feeling much better.
Challenges? They included: a) Little change in topography and foliage. It was like walking through an ocean of sagebrush, although I was happy to smell the unique aroma of sage when I sat down to take a break; b) the heat was uncomfortable between 10 am and 5 pm, but at least the wind blew like a hot air conditioner; c) cows, and more cows, harmless but I had to shoo them off the trail sometimes; d) and like I wrote above, shade was impossible to find, and I am a shade lover, not a sun worshiper; e) and finally, these are the “dog days”of the thru-hike, a very long 3.5 months since the start but not close enough to be thinking seriously about the finish in Canada. Dealing with the mundane conditions of the GDB makes the dog days feel more mind-numbing.
There are many bright sides to the five days I hiked the GDB. I saw wild horses for the first time.
They have an assertively curious manner when they encounter humans. One night in camp I heard the lovely creatures surround my tent, or at least it felt that way. They were gone in the morning. I would gaze upon the endless hillsides looking for antelope, which would usually look back at me for a minute before taking off at race-horse speed to escape my vicinity. This was almost an hourly event. I appreciated good water sources, some of which are maintained by the Bureau of Land Management for the benefit of hikers and other visitors in the GDB. Without the springs, streams and dammed ponds no hiker could safely hike the route.
Finally, I enjoyed the solitude. From the time I walked out of Rawlins on July 30 until I met southbound hiker Toe on August 3, I did not see or speak to another human being, except for a couple of drivers of pickup trucks and motorcycles. Too much aloneness? Not for me!
The route through the GDB follows part of the Oregon Trail. I think the original tread marks left by the pioneers’ wagons have been deepened by the 4WD vehicles that use the roads.
On to the Wind River Range!