Total Miles: 1759.3
One truck. Then another. And another, and another. On and on went the 4am procession, racing past our tent that wasn’t 20 feet from the shoulder of the highway we’d followed since leaving Rawlins yesterday. Hunting season had apparently followed us all the way from north of the Wind River Range to here, where midnight had marked the beginning of the local rifle season. The stampede of early morning traffic was like a herd of runners racing away from a starter’s gun.
Twelve miles further of road walking stood between us and where our alternate and the official route would again be one in the same, and halfway along that distance a sweeping bend in the road revealed where much of the early morning traffic had been headed. It looked like a gathering for an outdoor rock concert, one where big pickup trucks and campers were a prerequisite.
As we left behind the local hunting epicenter, although it slipped out of view it took only moments to be reminded of why they were there in the first place. The report of rifle shots rang out with a muffled popping sound, some coming in small bunches.
The official route back beneath our feet, it continued along the highway for another mile or so before we finally stepped off the pavement and onto a dirt road that ultimately became trail once again. On the grassy hills beside us, something we hadn’t passed beneath for nearly 175 miles greeted us with their golden fall color: trees. Even removed from the heat of summer when shade would have been a most prized luxury, seeing them again marked the equal and opposite transition to the one we’d made a week ago. This time, we were rising up and away from the arid expanse of the Basin, back up into forested mountains.
Within only a few miles after reacquainting ourselves with the forest, we had reached the first mountain stream water source in nearly 200 miles. Filtering its clear and cold water, it seemed to close the final chapter on our story of having traversed the Great Divide Basin, which I’d only semi-jokingly began thinking of as the place where water goes to die. Considering that no water leaves the Basin to flow to an ocean, it’s not far from the truth.
Nestled among the trees for the night, the same giant moon as the night before slowly rises above them like a nightlight gradually moving its way into position. Above us, the fluttering of aspen leaves on the lightest of breezes makes a sound imperceptibly different than that of rain on the tent itself. My favorite lullaby soundtrack.