Heidenreich & Gass: CDT Thru-Hikers

Week 13: Yellowstone!

August 12, 2000—Day 110—Macks Inn, Idaho —From South Pass City we have come 307 miles to Macks Inn, Idaho. We left the lovely historic town of South Pass with Simon, Darryl, and Daniel and headed towards the Wind River range. After traveling through the desert it was a relief to once again be in the mountains, and the Winds were stellar. As opposed to Colorado, which everyone talks up, we hadn't heard much about the Winds, so it was quite a surprise to be amidst so many massive rock peaks jutting into the sky with the clear snow melt lakes at their bases. We opted not to resupply at Big Sandy Lodge, but to enter the forest south of Little Sandy Lake, walking up through The Cirque of Towers and bushwhacking from there out to the Highline trail to rejoin the official route. What a beautiful alternative that was! It was the one place in the Winds that had been repeatedly recommended to us and it was well worth the trouble. We were surprised not to find it crawling with climbers since it seemed to be THE place to climb in the range. However the rest of the Winds were the most peopled area we have come through thus far.

Because of our bypass of Big Sandy we had to carry eight days of food (which was quite heavy). A few days into the stretch Simon and Darryl realized they had 20,000 calories between them for the next four or five days, not very much for thru-hikers!! After giving them some of what we thought would be extra they headed off with Daniel to try to reach Togwotee at a superhuman pace. Team Shag was once again on its own. It was not too soon after they left that we realized our generosity had done us in. We were forced to ration what we had and to gently suggest to those we met that we were quite willing to take any extra food off their hands. The rest of the section was not unlike the Dr. Suess book"I Had Trouble getting to Solice Saloo". Every day was harder then anticipated and to top it off as soon as we made it to the dirt road at the end of the section, (where we thought the route finding and walking would be easier), it began to rain and turned the road into mush, making our boots into platform shoes. Out of all the equipment we had thought we would need, we had never considered skis, but that afternoon we could have used them.

At the Green River Campground (where much begging took place), we met Les, who works for the Forest Service. As it turns out, his son was the first person to hike the CDT northbound in one season. He did it in 1963 in 365 days! Les also tried to offer some reassurance about bears. He told us that in the last 100 years there has been only one death by a grizzly in the area, while there had been 30 caused by moose. This was only slightly reassuring—now we could worry about moose too. Supposedly if you're charged by a moose, your best bet is to get behind a tree—the moose may try to stare you down forever, but they won't ever come around that tree. So, if you never hear from us again, we may be living behind a tree with a moose on the other side trying to coax us out for a fight. Regardless of the actual danger posed to us by bears, we bought ourselves pepper spray when we got to Togwotee and replaced the bells we had fashioned Ron a tin can with a more pleasant sounding "bear bell." Now we no longer sound like a medieval caravan of tinkers traveling though the woods.

From Togwotee Lodge we headed towards Yellowstone. The landscape was burned forest and new undergrowth. The sweltering heat and haze caused by the burning forest to the north made it seem as though the burns were only recently extinguished. The thermal features were the most impressive part of the park, with their beautiful colors and the sulfury water bubbling up, or shooting out of the geysers. We were almost tempted to get into the hot springs one cold rainy day, but luckily we didn't. We later heard a story about a man who jumped into one to save his dog who had fallen in. When they fished out his remains, only 7 pounds of bones were left of a 175 pound man! Old Faithful remains true to it's name—we lined up with hundreds of other tourist to watch her go off within minutes of the hour. We will, however, have trouble proving we saw this most important landmark—in our amazement, we forgot to take a picture to prove it. We had the fortune to stay in the Old Faithful Inn, one of the largest wooden buildings in the country. We pretended to be in a big old ship headed across the ocean.

The walk to Macks Inn, Idaho, was short and uneventful, or would have been, save our own stupidity. We went 25 miles on two quarts of water each because we assumed we'd hit water. But in such a dry year, you cannot always count on the sources shown on the map. In Macks Inn, after taking refuge in the shade of a church, we were invited to a delicious pot-luck dinner and hymn sing. What a streak of luck we found in that shade. Looking ahead, we are exploring our options as the forests close in the north because of the fires. From here until Wisdom, Montana, it looks like we will be alright, but north of there until Lincoln, Montana, we may end up road walking.

Gear: Adrianne got a new pair of shoes at Old Faithful. We are now carrying pepper spray and a little bell. We tossed our water filter and are just using iodine or bleach. Read Adrianne's account of how it feels to be green in the Wild West.



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