Hi all, just got into Rawlins, WY, and damn I am tired. This town is reminiscent of those in New Mexico, where a long road walk leads right into civilization. It seems like a mirage, an incongruous collection of buildings huddled around a span of railroad tracks hard up against a set of hills in the middle of a desert. The people seem friendly enough, and a man even drove some ways off road just to offer me some water on the way in to town. Even funnier, I was mistaken for a homeless traveler, this time by a woman who has "been there" before. Despite my insistence that I was not "where" she thought I was, and my patiently explaining what the trail was, she shoved $5 in my hand and gave me a hug before jetting. It never ceases to amaze. Maybe I'm just not explicit enough, or should carry some CDT Association literature on me for such occasions.
The area also shares the unfortunate distinction of being cattle country, which means several things. First of all, poop. Poop everywhere. Wherever you want to set up camp, there it is, dried up or fresh, constantly taunting with its seeming invulnerability. It makes one question the wisdom of eating red meat, seeing home much of the stuff these animals can produce. Second, the random dust storms that occur with their frantic flight from any hiker, particularly when they run in the direction you are already walking on the road. And third, the trampled ground around any water source that turns it into a muddy mess, and renders ground unwalkable once hard. Why anyone would choose to raise such animals in an environment like this is beyond me.
The Great Basin is a giant bowl formed where the Divide splits in two, resulting in an area where all precipitation flows inward, with no outlet to the ocean. Because it is in a perpetual rainshadow, the whole region is exceptionally dry, and all the groundwater eventually evaporates. This leaves behind excess salt in most of the drainages, meaning potable water is dangerously scarce. Its a bit cruel to be walking beside a flowing stream in the middle of an arid wasteland and yet not be able to drink a drop of it. I was forced to filter water from a cold but sulfurous spring just to make it to town, which, if you've never drank sulfur before, is ewwww plain and simple.
But not everything out here is bad. The famous big sky is present with every sunrise and set, the temperature isn't as bad as it could be (particularly with brisk winds during the day), the trail is an easy dirt road for the most part, and the fauna is different than I've been seeing; pronghorn antelope are literally hopping around everywhere, as are badger, muskrats, and, paridoxically, gulls at the saline lakes. These water sources can look suspiciously like a white sand beach, what with their salt-crusted shores, adding more insult to injury. Beautiful, but ultimately useless. Ultimately, the trail continues in the basin for... longer than I would like to contemplate right now, but its continued distance will make the entry into the Wind River Range and Yellowstone all the better. The fact that Kate is coming out to take my mind off things for a few days doesn't hurt either, but it will certainly make this next section seem like an eternity. Regardless, the trail goes on, and I'll talk to you all from South Pass City in a few days.