Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day 44: Highway 28 to Knoll Overlooking Sweetwater Creek

The CDT's climb out of the Great Divide Basin over the past two days was so gradual that we barely noticed the subtle changes in the landscape that indicated we leaving the red desert. But hiking on from the highway today, entering the tree covered foothills, the difference is readily apparent. The same golden grass and pale green sage still cover the hills, but now pines occasionally shade the trail. 

Antelope still regularly bound across our path. Early in the morning a large herd scattered as we approached. Later, a mother and small baby scampered up into the hills after spotting us on the trail. 

Water cascaded through lush green meadows as we crossed several streams and creeks throughout the day. Beautiful wildflowers sprang up from the forest floor amid aspens and pines. Butterflies flitted from flower to flower, and a tiny butterfly settled on Sierra's arm for a short ride. 

A loud shriek warned that all was not well behind me. Turning, I found Sierra in the middle of the trail, clutching her head where a large, swollen knot was already forming. We hurried back to Blair Creek to clean up. We eventually hiked on, a cool, damp cloth on Sierra's forehead. 

We found camp on a sandy knoll overlooking Sweetwater Creek. But shortly after setting up, the thunderheads that had dogged us all afternoon started gathering again. And when lightning touched three neighboring ridges, we decided it was time to move. Quickly we gathered our things and carried them back down the trail to a more sheltered spot in the woods we had noticed earlier. Sierra kept everything dry and organized while I pitched the tent. 

Flashes of lightning illuminated the inside of the tent. Thunder rippled across the sky like a tin roof rustling in the wind, gradually getting louder as the storm approached. Rain tapped gently on the outside of the tent, getting louder and more insistent as the storm built. 

Several cycles later, just as I was drifting off to sleep I heard loud shouts from Sweetwater Campground, a mile or two back down in the valley. I looked at my watch. 2:00 a.m.  A bear?  I lay awake a while longer, waiting for the next storm, the next shouts, the next bear traipsing through our camp. It never came. I finally fell into an exhausted sleep. 

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