CDT Day 45: Mile 1713.8 – 1742.8 + 1 mile to Atlantic City (30 miles – 48 km)

Friday May 31, 2019

We were camped near a creek at an elevation of just under 7000 feet. It was the most comfortable nights sleep on this leg of the hike. Being so close to water attracts birds and the creek banks were alive with birdsong. Such a beautiful wake up alarm.

We had splendid hiking conditions this morning. Sun was shining, the wind was light and we were hiking over undulating creek valleys with beautiful birdsong accompanying us. Antelope would spot us long before we spotted them and would take off into the distance. They make the strangest sound, almost like a seagull.

The jeep track we were following stretched out into the distance over the rolling hills. The landscape began to look a little bit more rugged with granite boulders exposed along the hilltops. A line of huge snow covered mountains were to the north. We spent most of the day getting closer to these snowy peaks. These we thought were Freak Mountains which are near Atlantic City. These mountains still held a huge amount of snow on the south face. I could imagine what the north face must look like.

The highlight of the day was crossing the historic Oregon, California and Mormon Trails. From the first crossing, the CDT parallels the Seminoe Cuttoff of the California Trail. It is such an unforgiving landscape. It is hard to imagine what it must have been like traversing this landscape in wagon trains in the to mid-1800s.

The CDT parallels the Seminoe Cutoff until the Sweetwater River, which we crossed just after lunchtime.

By the time we were near the river the snowy peaks of the Freak Mountains were getting closer. Looking behind us, dark clouds seem to have gathered and were hanging low. Hammer thought we could out hike the movement of the darkest cloud which seemed to be following us. But it was not to be.

Soon after lunch we crossed the Sweetwater River and before long a cold wind sprung up, followed by slushy snow and hail. At first Hammer was confident that the snow and hail would not last. I got into my wet weather gear because it got very cold, very quickly. Within minutes we were being pelted by hail. Realising that this was not just a passing shower, Hammer got into his wet weather gear.

Hail turned to heavy rain as lightening and thunder moved over us and off to the east. It was an unbelievably quick transition from pleasant and warm hiking to an unpleasant cold, wet and windy conditions. I took comfort from the fact that at least it wasn’t as cold and as miserable as last Tuesdays driving rain. And Atlantic City was only 10 miles away. This marathon had a finish line.

Our original plan was to camp before going into Atlantic City tomorrow. But with the cold and the rain we decided to pick up our pace and try and make it to town before 6pm. It continued to rain until the last few miles.

Atlantic City is an old mining community established in a deep valley. It was so nice to leave the trail and descent a very steep one mile on a dirt road to arrive in town. We were so happy and relieved to make it just before 6pm. The town felt like an oasis after days of hiking over the sage brush covered rolling hills and flat land. Tall pine trees lined the road on the way down. The sight and fresh smell of the trees after the rain was so uplifting. We were done with the Great Divide Basin.

We got a room at Wild Bill’s B&B and had dinner at the historic Mercentile Bar. We were joined at dinner by another hiker, Bill whose trail name is Mr President. He was heading south and was coming back on trail after taking time off to return to work. A very pleasant end to another relentless and unforgiving day on the CDT.

And just before hiker midnight at 9pm, I was dead to the world, fast asleep. Hammer stayed up late so that he could talk to his Mum again. It was again a huge relief to hear that she is sounding like her old self. And she has already booked a golf game in 8 weeks time.