Alright! Enough zero days!
We bloody gotta do “The Basin” now! No point in waiting any longer!
“Lightning storms you can come! Bring ’em’ on!
Off we go!
Long walk out of town, but now we seem to be in it! Aha! So this is the Basin!
Oh man, have I ever seen so much space without any sign of civilization at all?
I googled Wyoming: it’s the 2nd emptiest state in the US, right after Alaska! Do I need to say more?!
For me, coming from Europe, its absolutely amazing to see so much empty space! I love it!
Have a look at this!! Isn’t this HUGE WIDE SPACE just incredible?
It’s so cool to hike here. This is a landscape though one does not day hike in. So if we would see somebody, it would with a 100% certainty be a thru hiker too! So far we have not seen anyone though.
Clouds are rolling in.
We look up and check in which direction the wind is blowning the clouds to.
We set up camp, the lightnings drift away into another direction!
The post-storm light gets AWESOME! Oh how I love this warm evening light!
We both adore the sunset, but the familiar cold wind picks up, so we hit our tents before the sun is fully down.
Maggie rattles all night in the wind, I can hardly sleep.
“I slept terribly”, Felix says in the morning, “that wind!”
So I guess we both did not get enough sleep.
Well anyway! 5.45 am, time to hike on!
And its hot! No more freezing for the time being!
And we see all these pretty little desert flowers!
Sooooo many ticks, you wouldn’t believe it!!
Everywhere! These little fuckers seem to hover, waiting for thruhhiker legs to crawl up to. Seriously, they are literally EVERYWHERE!
I look down at my legs and observe two ticks simultaneously crawling up!
And there is one hanging on my neck too. I check my backpack: “two crawling up on it”.
Oh man, so I count five ticks on me at once!
We make it a habit and stop and check our bodies, cloths and packs for ticks every now and again and remove (aka kill) them. We have removed quite a few from each others neck and back by now. And if we have a break, we make sure to sit on the road rather than in the grass.
Tonight, we plan to nighthike, when it will have cooled down in the Basin.
I hear a rumbling in the sky.
Clouds are rolling in again.
Big, dark, clouds!
Lots of lightning.
Right in front of us.
The wind is weird, we can not really tell which clouds come near us and which go away from us.
Thunder gets louder.
Lightnings come closer.
“Hmmm, it’s maybe smart to find a “safe” place to hide rather than hike on?
It’s completely flat here and we are on a huge high plateau. And it is dark now.
Better reach into the bag and rummage around for my headlamp!
Felix looks at the map on his phone and searches for a possible creek nearby which would be a little lower than the flatness.
“About a mile from here would be a little creek, we would have to bushwhak there (in the dark, surrounded by lightning), wanna try this Heidi?”
“Well, uhm, yes, that is a plan!”
So we leave the road and whack into the bushes.
We come across a little ditch which is about just as deep as a tent is high.
“Maybe we should forget about the creek and camp here”, seems we need to hurry up”.
So we do.
I set up Maggie in a bit of a panic. The ditch is narrower than Maggie is wide, so I can’t pitch her quite right. Rain will come in.
All I want now is to duck and hide! I don’t care about getting wet AT ALL.
So now I lay in my tent. I don’t even bother to change into my night cloths or check my body for ticks.
I am rather paralized.
So many lightning strikes!
They are all around us now.
Not directly above us yet, but so fucking close.
I can’t stop shaking. I am not cold. I think the shaking comes from pure fear.
It’s going on for more than two hours now. Lightning after lightning. I count the time between the lightnings just to find out whether it gets less perhaps?
2 seconds. 5 seconds. 7 seconds. 1 second. 8 seconds. 5 seconds.
It does not get less. It’s still INSANE!!! A storm which never seems to end. That is not normal, is it? Storms are supposed to move on!
I need to poo and crawl out of Maggie.
I stare at the lightnings.
I don’t want to imagine how it would be like when this storm comes closer and all these lightnings hit the ground right where we hide in this little ditch.
“Please storm, please don’t come closer!!!!”
I keep counting and counting. The distances between the lightnings seem to finally get a bit longer. 10 seconds between two strikes. 15 seconds. 12 seconds. 7 seconds. 12 seconds.
OK. It might actually get less. And might actually not come closer perhaps?
We might actually survive this!
Felix shouts over from his tent:
“Shall we get up really early tomorrow and try to get out of here for now?!! There is a road in 7 miles which leads to a tiny Ghosttown called Jeffrey City, they have a Motel there!”
“YES!! I WANT OUT OF THE BASIN!!!”
I fall asleep.
We get up. I think I got somewhat 2 hours of sleep, the max.
I snap a quick picture of “our ditch” in which I just spent the worst night in my life.
I hike like a Zombie, as my brain is so tired.
“How was it for you Felix, how did you feel in this four hour storm?”
“Oh I read my book, there was not much else I could do”, he replies.
“Why are you bloody just never afraid of anything?!”
“Well I think the likelihood of being hit by lightning is indeed very low, so why worry. And when it hits me it hits me, there is not much I can do about it”.
As I always say, and pardon me for repeating myself: “this guy is incredible!”
We reach the road and wait for a hitch. No traffic at all. We wait and wait, new big clouds are rolling in.
“Felix, I am honestly thinking about giving up. Maybe the CDT is becoming too hard for me after all.”
“No, you don’t want to make this decision right now”, he says.
I start sobbing.
Second time so far has the CDT made me burst out into tears!
We make it to town thanks to Kevin!
We stay in the Motel, dry our tents…
… and then hit the hay and sleep all afternoon, both rather deprived of sleep and knackered.
Once waking up we check the weather. More thunderstorms with heavy rain in the next few days.
Bloody hell, I am NOT going out there again in storms!
I know Felix would go out and just try to hide and be smart about where to camp. He would get up there again despite the brutality.
But he is so amazing and stays down here in the Motel with me without even complaining about me being afraid.
He never does! He is such a great friend and hiking partner: “we are a team Heidi, remember?”, he just says.
The good thing about being here in this probably very typical little Wyoming town is that we get to meet the super nice and friendly locals! Once a mining town with 600 residents, now a Ghosttown with only somewhat 34 people.
And a gas station which is also a bar, a restaurant and a coffee shop.
OK, I had a good rest now and could digest my horror night. I am ready to go back into “The Basin!”
Felix’s phone rings. It’s Dale!
“I could come out again to you guys and help you a little more!”
“Yes!!! That would be amazing Dale!”
“I could meet you guys at the end of the week”.
“Wow great! Dale and “the van” will be back soon! He will drive us around the mountains in Wyoming, into Montana, where we can do another lower section and where the snow hopefully melts away soon.
Felix and I pack our bags, Kevin and his friend drive us up again to the trailhead!
Thank you so much you wonderfully nice people of Jeffrey City!
We now have to do another 65 more miles in the Basin.
Weather is good! I am of course very happy that I did not give up and that I am still on trail!
It’s still epic out here! Today is an amazing day! We see lots of animals, more Mustangs, and wildflowers! We also see so many Antilopes again. It’s just impossible to get them on a mobile phone camera, as they always seem to run away. And boy can they ran fast! And boy are they elegant when they run!
We bump into Dogma and Tim! Wow! It’s been a very long time since we last saw them!
The wind is super ultra strong.
My only wish is that we get through the Basin without any more storms!
We hike till it gets dark and camp in a relatively windproof ditch.
Today, the weather still looks good, the wind is super strong again. If I packed out Maggie, I could probably go flying with her!
The Basin is still enormously big and enormously flat and enormously impressive.
And we keep working on our tick removal routine.
Clouds come in.
Will it storm again later today?
It does look like rain, and camping in this crazy wind seems rather unpleasant…
Felix studies the map.
(You know by now that this is a good thing!)
“We could leave the CDT in about a mile, try to get lower, into a big river valley. In that valley we have a chance to be less exposed from the wind and a possible thunderstorm.There is a dirtroad going this way, all the way down to this river. There is another trail on the other side of this river on which we can rejoin with the CDT tomorrow. As always, I have no idea how this road is going to be like. Wanna do this Heidi?”
“Yes, let’s try this, let’s try to get out of the wind and be low down for the storms… ”
So we leave the CDT and walk through more absolute crazy big landscape.
The dirtroad seems to be an old one which is not longer used. Not a problem, we have a GPS and map.
We make it down into the gorge, where we have to cross a river.
Whoops, the river is rather high!!
We had both assumed that the crossing should be easy, as obviously cars used to cross here.
But nope! Apparently cars did not cross this river in Spring and early Summer…
“I go first and try it out, Felix says”.
Brave as he is, he walks right in.
The first 1/3 is fine, then he reaches a steep part with super strong current, the water gets up to his chest. He fights through it and gets to the other side.
It looks so easy when Felix does this. But now it’s my turn. I go in, reach the nasty bit, panic and turn around.
“Fuck, I can’t do this Felix!”
Felix is still in the river, near the other side.
“I come back and help you!” he shouts and wades back. He is totally soaked and must be freezing.
‘I stand right here where the current is strongest so I can take off a bit of the water pressure for you.”
I go in one more time and reach Felix who stands chestdeep in the middle of the stream, oh my God that water is fast and strooong. I try to stabilise myself as I learned doing in the Gila River two months ago in New Mexico.
“I am not stable!! I AM NOT STABLE Felix!!”,
I scream on top of my voice, feeling the water pressure on my chest.
He grabs me and I am not sure how he does it but somehow he helps me to get through this deep and strong bit and I feel how the current gets less strong on the other side.
“I MADE IT!!!”
I reach the other side and I am SO RELIEVED!
We both are freezing cold and set up our tents asap.
We both change into dry clothes and go sleeping right away.
It takes a while to get warm, but I eventually am warm enough to fall asleep.
Early morning wakeup. I put on some of my wet and cold cloths. The pants I hang on my backpack to dry, but they freeze solid!
It’s so cold!
We come across a very old cabin and try to hide from this bloody cold wind for a few minutes.
It’s our last day in the Basin, we can already see “The Wind River Range”, the mountains we would hike through next, if the snow would not be so high still.
The plan is to drive up to Montana with Dale, hike to Canada still Northbound (NOBO) then turn around at the border and hike Southbound (SOBO) and fill in all gaps, until we have continously hiked the whole CDT!
That’s plan A for now. But we have to adapt our plans all the time out here. The CDT makes sure we stay flexible!
Let’s see how it goes!
Next goal: Atlantic City, where we will hopefully meet up with Dale!