Total Miles: 1709.2
The Red Desert of Wyoming is not a place you easily miss. At better than 9,000 square miles, you’d need only a pair of eyes to see it readily from space. And zooming down from space to ground level, you might have seen two specks ambling slowly across it.
As only a portion of the larger Red Desert, the Great Divide Basin is to many hikers, I imagine, nothing more than a necessary evil. A stretch of trail to be endured, survived. Not enjoyed or appreciated. It’s certainly not the alpine splendor of the Winds or the San Juans or the Bob Marshall Wilderness, but if you want to have a visceral feeling of your tiny place in the world, it’s just the place.
With yesterday’s dusk, the sun dipped behind a bank of clouds and would hide all the way until sunset, ushering in a chilling cold and wind that had us walking the final miles wearing all of our layers. Moonlight chased away the remaining clouds and we walked beneath it without even the need for a headlamp until we settled down into a flattish opening among the sagebrush.
After the past several long days, having “only” 25 miles to cover before reaching the oasis of Rawlins felt more reasonable than it probably should have. The dirt roads that had guided us this far continued until they final delivered us to the first pavement we’d seen in over 100 miles. Walking against the traffic, I can only imagine what thoughts lie behind the quizzical looks of the drivers and passengers that zipped past.
A mixture of cross country walking and more dirt roads led us to an amazing height of land that provided what may have been the most impressive view of the entire Basin. Despite what has been a veritable graveyard of trail markers for days, most broken and lying helpless on the ground, there it stood—a lone brave one askew but upright, defiant in its resilience.
There was even a barbed wire fence to crawl beneath just in case we felt the need to mimic a prison escape.
Beyond, the never-ending road extended into the vanishing point of the horizon, reminding me that distance is so much greater to the eye than it is to the mind. In a car-centric world, what’s 10 miles? Merely 10 to 15 minutes of patience. Here? Try 3 hours of constant motion.
Reaching the pavement once more, the town of Rawlins began to rise around the bend of the road and each step of creaking knees and aching feet drew us one step closer to what we’d dreamt of: a shower and a bed. And food. Lots and lots of food.