Miles: 22.8

Camp: My CDT mile 1611

I was more drowsy than usual this morning. I attributed it to being at elevation (almost 11000 feet) for the first time in quite some time. It didn’t stop me though, as I have miles to hike whether I am tired or not. My spirits were good as I set out of camp, completely and immediately caught up in the amazing views. The Winds are a truly stunning mountain range, largely dramatic and full of dreamy lakes. Every turn in the trail is a new and wonderful view, new lakes, new mountains.

I had 2 passes to climb today which I knew would slow me down, so I moved a bit quicker through the valleys. The first pass (Jackass Pass) wasn’t too bad and it was over pretty quick. It opened up into the valley they call the Cirque of the Towers, a breathtaking place surrounded by monolithic towers. It is one of the more humbling places I’ve been. The climb out was a lot more intense. Texas Pass gains 1200 feet in a mile, essentially straight up. It was tough. I was breathing pretty heavy, growing lightheaded enough that I had to sit for a while (I rarely sit down on a climb). I filtered some extra water and drank it on the spot. It took a lot of focus to get up and then over the pass.

When I finally reached the top it was already close to lunch. I still had to maneuver down the other side, which was both steep and full of loose rocks and sand. The whole ordeal took quite some time and I was ravenous by the time I reached Texas Lake on the other side. I found a place to let my feet soak in the water while I ate and enjoyed some almond butter and jelly on tortillas. I started thinking about when I might see people again, starting to feel the first small twinges of loneliness. I see day hikers sometimes, but it isn’t the same as seeing other thru hikers. They can commiserate and celebrate with true understanding, day hikers just smell nice.

As I was thinking about Goosebumps and Beaut behind me, I saw a man that looked familiar on a nearby rock. He smiled and said, “is that Dust Bunny?” It was Clutch! He is a friend from Portland that also has lived in the hiker house. I had no idea he was going to be out here, so it was a real treat to see a familiar face from home. As a bonus, he was hiking with another friend, Action Pack whose room I took over when I moved into the house. What a small world and wonderful treat! To be separated from other hikers for 9 days now and just as I’m experiencing the first lonely feelings, friends from home are just hanging out by the same lake in the middle of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. It was just what the doctor ordered.

I lingered longer than planned and knew my mileage would be rather low today. Between the two passes and my visit with friends, I was about 5 miles behind schedule. Oh well, it will not set me back in the long run and was totally worth it. I had a new lease on the day after seeing those guys and it made me happy to remember the community that this life has opened up to me. It makes me appreciate the solitude even more, as I know I have a great community to return to. A community that has been through all of this, and now they are out on their own hikes (they are doing the Wind River High Route). It will be fun to reconvene in the fall after this great experience. Trail life is so cool.

I also ran into my first SOBO (southbounder) since I crossed into Wyoming. He said I’ll start seeing more of them at this point which will be cool too. It is a whole new set of hikers I have yet to meet, and it will be nice to see some grungy hiker faces again. I have a new appreciation for having people around, but I’m not ready to be done with being alone. It is just too right at the moment. Everything is working out right.

(Not to mention that I didn’t have to take any Aleve today! Things are looking up!)

Dinner: mac and cheese with chicken and salsa

Action Pack, myslf, Clutch and Chris (Portland friends!)

Because I never take selfies and I was super happy.