Mustangs and Horny Toads

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I wanted to post a more upbeat message after my last post about my loneliest day ever. That’s easy because I’ve had lots of great events since the hut on Parkview Peak.

But a quick note about my last post. I appreciate everyone’s compassion and kind comments. Everything is good now. Parkview Peak was several weeks ago (I’m a bit behind in my blogging). Chris is back in Alaska, I’m still on the CDT, but plans are materializing for more big adventures together.

Last Views of Colorado

Despite Chris’ sad departure, the CDT still had some glorious days in store for me. Here’s a quick sampling.

Anita Redux!

Here’s a cheery event…I saw Anita again! If you remember from the Appalachian Trail, I was leading the northbound hikers until Anita passed me and Chris at Front Royal. Anita and I were both going for the Calendar Year Triple Crown (CYTC), which means hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT), Continental Divide Trail (CDT), and Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) all in the same year from January to December. I quickly realized that I’m too slow to do all three in one year, so I’m “just” doing two this year, the AT and CDT.

However, Anita is still going for the CYTC. We’ve been in contact in a group chat with some other CYTC hopefuls, so I knew Anita was north of me heading south. We crossed paths at a mountain pass in Colorado just south of the Wyoming border. Even though we only met once on the AT for a few hours, we’ve been in contact for months sharing stories of our adventures and cheering each other on. It was fantastic to see him again. I gave him a huge hug. Got a photo to commemorate seeing my friend again. Love you, Anita! Good luck on the CYTC! Rooting for ya!

Tight Squeeze and Anita on the CDT.
"Tight Squeeze" and "Anita" on the CDT.

Horny Toads

Shortly after meeting Anita again, I crossed into Wyoming. Basically, the first thing you encounter is the Red Desert, specifically the Great Divide Basin. It’s flat and barren. No trees. No bushes. No shade. Just 10-inch high shrubs and occasionally a short, overly-prickly cactus. Two-track dirt road that stretches from horizon to horizon. Days of walking this straight dirt road. Mind-numbing monotony. Oppressive sun.

I know, I know…Where’s the uplifting part? Well, as I’m trudging down the road, I would occasionally see something scurry at my feet. Horny toad!

I love horny toads! I used to play with them all the time as a kid in Texas back in the 1980s. They were great. Ran slow, so they were easy to catch. And once you had them in your hand, they became very docile. Didn’t try to run away or even really move. You could pet them, stroke their scaly bodies, and they sat there peacefully.

Then they suddenly disappeared. Never saw them again in Texas. I’ve only seen one in the last 25 years and that was in New Mexico.

Well, the basin has them all over. I cannot adequately express to you how excited I was when I saw my first horny toad on this trip. Then another…and another. I saw several each day in the basin. Big, fat horny toads. Skinny horny toads. Little baby horny toads. Here are just a few of my horny toad photos.

Lemonade in the Desert

In the middle of the Red Desert, I encountered an unexpected treat. The CDT goes along the highway for about a quarter mile. Along this stretch of desolate highway, some little kids have opened up a lemonade stand. But that’s not all…

They have a soft serve ice cream machine, too! Plus cinnamon rolls and cookies. So there I am, on the side of the road in this desert basin, eating raspberry soft serve ice cream and drinking a huge glass of lemonade. Such an indulgence over the usual trail food of dry protein bars and filtered water that still has a funny tang.

Wild Mustangs

As expected, water is limited in the Red Desert, but there are a few springs. Livestock know where the springs are located. So do wild mustangs. That’s right. Wyoming has wild mustangs. One of the locals told me about them. I was lucky enough to experience them.

One spring that I camped near was tucked between two small hills. As the sun set, multiple herds of wild horses came to drink and frolic in the pond below the spring. Before they came to the pond, I could hear them galloping on the other side of the hill, circling around before cresting the hill, down into the valley, then up the adjacent hill. Again, I could follow their loud galloping on the other side of the hill as they circled, and then they would crest the hill and plunge into the pond.

They splashed water with their front hooves. They dunked their heads in the water and tossed glorious arcs of water into the air. They rolled in the water. They played in the water like excited children at a pool party.

I was some distance away with only my phone’s camera to capture their joyous activities, but if you zoom in, you can see their tiny silhouettes against the sunset. This was one of those moments that I wish I had carried the extra weight of my real camera.

Part of what these sunset photos so great was a storm that had just past through. I was actually right on the edge of it. Got a tiny bit of hail and hard rain for about five minutes before it blew past. But the clouds still lingered and made for and amazing sunset.

Dark storm on the horizon.
Guess where the trail is taking me...

Storms on the CDT

Speaking of storms, stay tuned for my next post where I am surrounded by multiple storms while desperately trying to the flee down a mountain top. Rain pummels me, wind blows so hard I can’t stand upright, and lightning fills the sky. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t die.)

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One Response

  1. Loved the pictures of the horny toads and wild horses. I’ve read all your posts. What an amazing journey!!!!
    Love you cuz!

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