CDT Day 106: headed east

Day 106: mile 1827.3 to Elkhorn Trailhead, 12 miles

Total miles: 1610.1

We slept peacefully in the most picturesque camping spot we’ve had all trip. As predicted camping on the grass with no tree cover, and surrounded by lakes, our tent was soaked with condensation on the inside and the outside. A small price to pay for a place amongst the mountains.

While we had 12 miles to hike to the Elkhorn Trailhead, where we would have to find a ride the 15 miles into Pinedale, only about a mile of the hike was on the CDT. Under normal circumstances we wouldn’t have chosen to go into Pinedale, and instead would have skipped hiking the extra miles into and out to the trailhead, and carried seven days worth of food to make it out of the Winds. As we’ve well established though, this is not a normal hike.

The mile went quickly, and soon we were on the trail leading us to the trailhead. We followed a creek for a couple miles, eventually crossing it, as we winded our way out of the mountains. The hike was an enjoyable one, but as we made our way further from the CDT I couldn’t help but think that on other hikes we’d cover these 12 miles in four hours, instead of the nearly six it was taking us today.

The funny thing about it all, is that we were passing day hikers and other backpackers as we hiked out of the woods. While I may not be moving at thru-hiker speed, I’m still faster than your average person in the woods- but that still doesn’t mean mean that I can cover the distances needed to get from town to town as we get further north, and bailout points get less frequent. We’ve been talking about what we would do when I decided to get off the CDT, and while Garrett wasn’t thrilled about the thought of hiking on without me, he also thought he’d be able to get to Canada in about six weeks if he were by himself (whereas it would take us closer to ten weeks if I where to continue too, bringing me nearly to 8 months of pregnancy and I’d ruled that out long ago). If Pinedale was the endpoint of my hike this season, it would just help the inevitable occur sooner, and take the emotional stress of leaving town wondering how the next stretch would go end. I kept these thoughts in the back of my mind, but was mostly able to focus on the simple pleasures of hiking and be in the moment.

We made it to the trailhead, and got a ride out in twenty minutes from a young couple we’d passed earlier in the day when they emerged from the woods. A quick hop into a pickup truck, and soon we were at the brewery in Pinedale for a well earned lunch. We found a room nearby and settled into running through our list of town errands: laundry, a stop at the post office, and looking up various bits of information we’d been interested to know while in the mountains. Mainly, was there a bus or a place to rent a car in Pinedale, or the next two resupply points up the trail.

After a quick search I determined that there was no public transportation in Pinedale or within at least the next 200 miles of trail north of here. Dubois, WY and Yellowstone National Park, which were my next options for getting off the trail, have a lot of tourists passing through. Tourists are notoriously hard to get a ride from for a few reasons. First, their cars are normally full of kids and stuff, so there isn’t any room for two extra people and their stuff. Second, even if they have room, they aren’t familiar with the area and why there are two stinky, dirty people standing on the road trying to hitch. If I where to get off the trail at either of those two locations, Garrett wanted to hitch with me to make sure I got set up to get back to Pittsburgh where our car and my parents are, and then he’d have to manage a hitch back. While eventually we’d be able to make this happen, in Pinedale there was a trail angel who said he’d be able to give me a ride to Jackson to pick-up a rental car or fly out of the airport in a couple of days. Pinedale really started to seem like the most rational place to end my hike.

Physically, I really think I could keep hiking. I have no doubt that the trail ahead would bring some rewarding days, but the harder days where I questioned what I was doing out here would most likely become more frequent. Emotionally, while I love to hike, I was also mentally prepared to stop. It didn’t seem like a failure in my mind, as the goal of the hike wasn’t to complete it, but to enjoy our time out here and to have a healthy pregnancy. When we set out from the Mexican border, I didn’t even know if making to to Colorado was possible, let alone Canada. As soon as we found out I was pregnant, we immediately made adjustments to our hiking plan. We repackaged our mail drop boxes into “Amy” and “Garrett” boxes, with the maps in Garrett’s, so that if I stopped hiking along the way Garrett could easily continue. I’ve wanted to have a child before I ever fell in love with long distance hiking, so getting off the trail is simply leaving one good thing for another. Most importantly, we both wanted to have a child together, and we’ll be 35 or older (for the record, I’m the younger one!) when the baby is born, so our child bearing window is much shorter than our long distance hiking one.

I gave myself a little time to think about it, but I think I knew when I stepped off the CDT in the Winds that those would be my last steps on the trail for the year. I assumed Garrett would keep hiking on, and we set him up to do so. We purchased a solo tent in town, and I found a great deal on a rented a car for 11 days to spend some time in Jackson and meet up with Garrett in Dubois and Yellowstone. Afterwards, I planned to fly home for my 28 week prenatal appointment, and then hopefully return for the last couple weeks of the hike to similarly follow Garrett up the trail and pick him up at the end. Plans in place, we spent a third night in town, and the next morning I planned to drive Garrett back to the trailhead.

While my decision was ultimately an easy one, Garrett was conflicted as to what he felt he wanted to to as well as what he should do. As he said, actually continuing on the hike without me was much easier to say than to do when it came time to make the decision. The morning we’d planned to take him back to the trail, he woke up and told me he wasn’t going to go back after all. We’d started this together, and he wanted to finish together. Hopefully, we’ll be able to return sooner than later, and the thought of finishing with Piglet one day makes us both smile. Whenever that happens, we will have come up with an actual name for our firstborn; but, sorry kid- your trail name will always be Piglet. Once you get a trail name, it’s hard to shake.

Thank you so much for following along with us on our CDT journey. I’ve never kept a blog on a regular schedule, and I really enjoyed capturing and sharing each day we spent on the trail. Moving forward, I’m going to try to keep a regular posting schedule, but pair it down to once or twice a week. The life of a pregnant woman not hiking is hopefully not nearly as exciting as one on the CDT. We’re looking forward to returning home and starting the process of preparing for the biggest adventure of our lives: parenthood, and all of the joys and challenges it will bring. As a write this, Piglet is giving me some swift kicks in the side, so undoubtedly he or she will keep us on our toes when they arrive in a few months.

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