From the lofty Wind River mountains we were washed into the Great Basin of Wyoming by a spell of wet weather. The Great Basin is a curious natural feature where the Divide actually splits in two: in the basin itself, water just goes “down” and seeps into the ground. Mountain ridges either side of it shed the water into Pacific (Green River) and Atlantic (Sweetwater River and Platte River) respectively. What falls in between just soaks in! It is a high plateau covered in silvery sage, inhabited by antelope (more of these later) and wild horses. No shelter, no people, no towns for mile – and very little water. 120 miles of this – our final challenge!
After a recovery stop in the town of Lander (home that weekend of the annual “one-shot-antelope-hunt” – it seems we were lucky to get a motel room!) we headed into the sage desert in bright sunshine. Here we crossed path with the Oregon Trail, the Overland Trail, the Pony Express and the Mormon Trail – thousands of hopeful souls who crossed these waterless plains in search of brighter futures in the 19th century. Now there’s just a big network of trails for the benefit of people who want to shoot wildlife it seems.
The pronghorn antelope isn’t one (an “antelope” I mean), actually. It’s the only exponent of a family of ungulates unique to the USA and wonderfully adapted to being on every predator’s dinner menu between the ice ages: it is the fastest runner in the Western hemisphere at 60 mps – and not just for a sprint but for about an hour solid if necessary – it has very sharp eyesight and can spot things at 3-4 mile distance (or so I read on the WWW), it is certainly very wary of two legged animals walking towards it – we never got closer than 300 meters to any of them. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem concerned about things on wheels (a bit like the sheep on Skye) which, given that your average American hunter shoots from the truck window, is rather a shame for the species. They also are the only animal that grows proper horns (as opposed to antlers) and then sheds them every year. We didn’t find any though.
On day 3 in the basin we camped by a little cow infested yet promising spring under benign cumulus, tent turned into a mild Westerly evening breeze – only to wake 2 hours later to the tent being flattened by a northerly gale with snow … bell-end departed company with the pegs and someone (a man’s job this, surely) had to go out in the lashing storm (in underpants) to re-peg the whole mess. The next morning, snow lay on all the hills around us and an icy northerly continued to blow us infront of itself down the endless straight jeep-roads that serve as the CDT in the Basin.
This morning, we descended from our last Divide peak (Bridger Peak 11,000ft) to a trail head at Battle Pass. This is the pass where we set out in 2004 on a 300 mile taster-hike along the CDT, the end of which was Dillon Lake in Colorado (where we started this year’s Colorado Southbound hike) … sigh … sorry to be so complicated. The upshot is that this morning we completed to make a set of footsteps between Mexico and Colorado on the CDT (with 300 miles of steps from 2004). This year we have walked 2,100 miles.
Now we are finished
Now our feet get a chance to recover
Now we must eat lots so as not to frighten our parents on our return
Now we will hire a car for 2 weeks and be tourists
It doesn’t seem real yet
We’ve done it!
Thanks to all the lifts and support and spontaneous help we have had.
It’s been FAB
ps thanks to Tom and Debbie , Florida for the rare photo of the 2 of us hiking….