CDT Day 98: desert landscapes

Cooks Creek Spring to mile 1707.1: 25.9 miles

Total miles: 1473.3

The Great Basin, aka the Red Desert, is full of surprises. Some may find the landscape monotonous, but I’ve found it full of variation. Within the trappings of the yellows and browns composing the basin are bones bleached from the sun, dark patterns of cattle, orange pronghorn dotting the undulating hills, colorful herds of wild horses, and the occasional patch of green- our favorite color because it indicates water.

We expected relentless sun and dry conditions; but I awoke to rain in the early morning softly falling on the tent. I fell back asleep, and by the time we had our coffee at 5:30 it had stopped. We debated waiting around for the tent to dry, but a cloud bank was blocking the rising sun and we decided it best to get on with our day.

We had a short 6.5 miles to a spring, which was protected from the cattle by a fence. We met No Day there, who we learned had camped just past us the night before. The enclosure around the spring was full of lush grass, which should have been a welcome sight to all the sand and dry cracked earth, but made me nervous about ticks. We’d read on some trip reports that ticks were present in this area, and sure enough I found one crawling on the back of my leg. We quickly finished filtering our water, and abandoned our small spot of shade. As we were leaving we met Red Feather and Wind Walker, it’s been awhile since we’ve seen three people on the trail.

From the spring it was 19.5 miles to a pond to collect more water. We didn’t make it too far before we saw a tree with a large canopy, and decided to stop for an early lunch with shade while we could. It ended up being an excellent decision, as the rest of the day was treeless and the sun was out in full force with no clouds to block it.

Despite the heat and a few hills, the miles went by relatively quickly and we made it to the pond a little after 7pm. It wasn’t an ideal water source, and definitely tasted like pond water after filtering, but it was good to be in the shade with water again. As we were eating our dinner not one, but three more new to us thru-hikers came to join us. We haven’t seen six people in a day since southern Colorado! They decided to move on to a reported water cache a mile up the trail, but we found a spot behind the pond to set up the tent and jumped in just as night began to fall.