Trip Report CDT: Wyoming pt1

National Park Tour
Sign marking Wyoming border

Crossing the Wyoming border and entering Yellowstone marks a new chapter on this CDT journey. The trail is well maintained and soon I find myself on a boardwalk with tourists. I share their wonder as I stare into the glistening pools of geothermal waters and at various spouting geysers. I take an side trail that takes me by all the geysers near Old Faithful.

Geothermal pool

Climbing up to a view point I wait patiently with others to watch Old Faithful geyser erupt and then I head down to get a very expensive lunch not realizing there is a buffet option. Wandering around waiting for my companions to catch up I do find cheaper food options and pass the time by eating. I eventually find Liz and I watch Old Faithful this time erupt from ground level.

Old Faithful erupting in distance

I accompany Liz as she partakes in the lunch buffet and then I sneak into the lodge for a free shower. We meet some hikers: Blackbeard, Apple and Dr. Za. Eventually the Teton crew(Tetanus, Roach and Wheels) arrive as we hike out into the evening. I hang out with Liz and we detour to go see Lone Star geyser. After waiting for an hour and a half, having almost given up, the geyser erupts and we have a close up show to ourselves! The last 0.6mi(1km) to our campground is by far the worst mosquitoes of the trip so far. I put on my rain gear to deal with the bugs and go to bed early.

The bugs linger in the morning but thankfully I have been carrying bug spray since starting SOBO. It's hot and humid outside despite periodic drizzle. I catch Blackbeard and his crew in the morning hanging around Minute-Man geyser which as advertised erupts very frequently. After taking a accidental turn down some old trail there is a knee-high river ford. After crossing I lay out all my gear to dry and wait for everyone to catch up.

Several groups of kayakers pass by as my hiking friends show up. We spend some more time relaxing by the water before heading further. On the way to camp we discover some tepid river streams and take a foot dip. There are more geyser pools beside our camp along with a million mosquitoes as I need to use my rain gear again to manage them. Tonight is the first step of our Teton detour as we step away from the CDT trail and we say goodbye to Liz who won't be joining us.

We start late but make swift progress as the trails through Yellowstone as basically flat. There are some hiccups as we get used to navigating without the aid of FarOut. Two rivers crossings later we exit through the southern boundary of the national park. I pass and chat with a day hiker, Gus, and he gives me some info about what to expect in the Tetons.

Arriving around lunch time at Flagg Ranch, we take a break and get food. I eat a ton and buy some extra snacks to supplement my food carry. After a few lazy hours with wifi we head out as a group and wild camp at a trailhead a handful of miles away.

Grand Teton park sign

The day starts in low-lying marshland as we enter Grand Teton National Park for the first time. The group comes up on a lone female moose in a burn area. Wheels and I get ahead of the other two and we try waiting for them at a junction with a ranger cabin. Time passes and no one shows up so we decide to head on. A NOBO hiker warns us about going through a bog which turns into an inside joke between Wheels and I as we never encounter it.

Hiker Wheels

Following my GPS track we head along Webb Canyon Trail and as we crest to the amazing views it begins to rain. The trail ends but the XC begins as we head straight for Moose Mountain. The rain intensifies and our morale begins to drop as we worry about the others. We reach Hidden Corral which was Tetanus' camp spot for tonight. It doesn't make sense though, we arrived way to early and didn't do the mileage he estimated. We begin to worry more.

We debate what to do, wait or forge ahead. Eventually I rationalize we must have taken a different and shorter route than Tetanus had planned but we should still push on since every mile we do now is one less we have to do later. The trail brings us down rain soaked valleys then up for brief reprieves on ridges where the clouds thin out. I estimate we do roughly ~29mi(47km) and with sun on our backs we decide to setup camp on a windy ridge. Our friends never catch up.

The rain starts again in the early hours and any small advantage we gained from drying out last night is lost. We have a bit of trail before going back to XC as the rain follows us in the morning. We have some steep climbing circling around Littles Peak and suddenly the Grand Teton is revealed to us. Smoking as curled mist drapes over their massive forms, the grey rocks protrudes to the sky in the distance.

From Littles peak there is a precarious rock hop along a straight drop down into the valley below. Despite the inherent danger it's fun to play on this terrain but that quickly changes as a chasm opens up below. Lake Solitude waits down below and the GPS is telling me I have to descend nearly vertically down. The gulleys are still filled with snow and the trickling of it's melted waters. Fog descends along the mountain face as I begin a scramble down the side of the mountain, any thoughts of fun vanish with a few scary momentary slips.

Teton valley

Taking my time I eventually make it down to the valley floor and try to dry out my tent while waiting for Wheels to catch up. Once he does we jump onto some well-travelled trails of the park and we cruise. Unfortunately at some point I lose my rain pants which I had hanging from the side of my pack. The sun comes out briefly as we approach Hurricane Pass. That is extremely short-lived as we crest the pass and see that the clouds from that side of the valley are just about to spill over and we are plunged into eerie clouds.

Hiker sitting at Hurricane Pass

As we traverse over Alaskan Basin and Death Canyon Shelf the rain comes down hard. The trail becomes muck as every step threatens a fall. Wheels with his poncho that has a hole and me without rain pants. We each have a fall into mud. Many groups of hikers pass us going NOBO searching desperately for the campgrounds they reserved. Every valley we climb up and out of invites the clouds to follow us and the wet never stops. Eventually I make the call to camp on top of a ridge as the rain lightens for a brief moment but then it continues coming down all night long.

It smells like wet dog and everything I have is either soaked or in the process being soaked. I pack up quickly with the knowledge that I'll be reaching Jackson today. It's very cold as I hike with my wet rain jacket and my legs are freezing as I'm constantly pushing through dense soaking brush. The trail doesn't give up either, providing me with plenty of passes, sheer climbs and mud to deal with.


My inner thighs alight as eventually the constant wet rubbing of fabric digs into my flesh. I grit my teeth through the pain and push harder and faster through the brush. Eventually I burst free from the vegetation and reach the trailhead at the highway. I spent about five minutes trying to hitch in the pouring rain and then just give up to start the long roadwalk into town.

About halfway to Jackson there appears a footpath that I hop on to get out of the danger of walking with traffic. The rain begins to let up and I start to dry ever so slightly while walking. The chafe is near unbearable as I walk with a strange widened and elongated gait to avoid pain points. Eventually I reach the bustle of Jackson and immediate head to find some cheap lodging.

One place quotes me for 700USD for two nights and the Super 8 says 336USD a night after a 10% discount. It's by far the most I've ever spent for a single night but I'm hurting bad so I take it and hope my friends catch up to help split the cost. Eventually and thankfully they do as Tetanus, Roach and Wheels apparate. It turns out every single one of us had taken a different path in and out of the Tetons, so much for planning. It turns out Crush, who I met in Montana, is also around and he drops by to share the room as well! We get pizza, ice cream, do laundry and dry out our gear.

The second zero day of my CDT hike, no miles to be hiked today! I spend it watching movies in bed before heading to REI to grab some cheap rain pants. I resupply at a Dollar Tree and dry my gear off in the sun around midday. For dinner I head over to McDonalds and on my way back the skies open up again for heavy but quick summer shower. The reunion is complete as Flo and Floss join us at the hotel for a few hours before finding a different spot to spend the night.

With our morale slightly restored but the forecast still predicting rain for the next three days we continue on our hike. Having the Tetons behind us is great success but now we need to reconnect back to the CDT. We take a bus to the edge of town and then hike into the Gros Ventre Wilderness which will be our home for the next few days. It's hot and humid to start as we wade through dense vegetation, steep passes and deal with periodic rain.

Hiker Roach

Everyone is breaking down: Tetanus' ankle is in a brace, Wheels is running out of steam on every climb and Roach has been nursing a wonky hip injury since Cottonwood Peak. Roach and Wheels have a chat on whether or not to quit but they decide to make it to the next resupply at the very least. I spend most of the day playing trail tag with Tetanus and we arrive at our planned camp spot after the sun has set. I chat with, Blue, a NOBO hiker about the Knapsack Col alternate before we setup camp in the dark. Wheels manages to find us in the pitch black just as a thunderstorm rolls in for an hour.

Thankfully there is no rain when we pack up in the morning and Roach manages to find us, the group is briefly reunited. It doesn't last long as the rain rolls back in and everyone drags behind with the hard climbs. I blast ahead and start on an amazing XC. Following my GPS I try to get clever and cutoff some corners but eventually hit a problem.

I seem to get farther and farther away from the track that seem to be on top of the mountain to my north. Looking closely at the GPS it seems like I missed a cross cut over the ridge. Backtracking and following the GPS religiously I'm faced with a sheer rock wall. I proceed to do a class 5 wall climb with a loaded back pack as the wind is roaring and I am pulling out loose rocks on my ascent. The saving grace is that the rain which was coming down the last few hours had stopped and the sun had dried everything out. It was still scary and I wouldn't have signed up for this had I known ahead of time. I wonder if the rest of my friends will be able to get over this crux as well.

Gros Ventre Wilderness

The XC continues all day and I traverse some small snow patches. It's wide open, remote and gorgeous in the mountains. After descending back down into alpine lowlands I follow a frustrating trail that seems to jump around at random. I try to push as far as I can and camp alongside a road which will take me to reconnect with CDT some ~20mi(32km) away.

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