Dad told me during our 2nd meetup that he had been trying to figure out some way we could hike together for one of his 2 or 3-day segments between meetups. At that moment, I was not so receptive to the idea because I was still trying to balance all the responsibilities as his “support team”: grocery shopping, cooking during meetups (and feeding myself the rest of the time), seeking out various bits of gear, exploring and hiking on my own, and getting to our pre-arranged meetup locations—on-time. All of which I thoroughly enjoyed, but I had yet to really establish a rhythm or catch my breath. That, and the terrain through which the CDT wove between South Pass and Rawlins was, frankly, pretty underwhelming.
While scouting our 6th meetup location, I bumped into a northbound thru-hiker who sung the praises of the Huston Park Wilderness that he’d just come through, and which Dad would be entering after that meetup, at the start of a 3-day, 46-mile segment. It occurred to me that I could hike out with Dad, camping with him on his first night, hiking back on the second day, and then driving ahead to meet up with him on the third. Though I planted this seed, it obviously didn’t take root, because he was genuinely surprised and tickled when I informed him during our 6th meetup that we’d be backpacking and camping together the following day. So not only would he be resupplying, but I would be converting from overland-mode to backpacking-mode. And it just so happened that we’d be aiming to camp within 6 trail-miles of the Colorado border—“spitting-distance” to a thru-hiker.
Well, I picked one doozy of an out and back. According to Guthook, over 14.2 miles there were 2,500 feet of cumulative ascent and 3,100 feet of descent, which I’d get to repeat the next day, in reverse. At the start there was a rocky trail with some elevation gain and loss, and then, from what I recalled on the way there, two expansive marshy meadows that we either crossed or circumscribed, without any chance of maintaining dry feet. However on the way back I realized it was more like four or five large marshy meadows, with, again, no hope of escaping with dry feet.
There was a climb in the middle, and then a steep, rocky descent followed by three or four “bumps”—steep ups and downs of several hundred feet, the type that really take the stuffing out of you. Of course just hiking the trail itself wasn’t enough of a challenge. After a pleasant, overcast day, it started to rain around 1:30pm, with less than a mile to go. We reached our destination about 15 minutes later, racing to pitch our tents in the rain (for me it was the first time since the Arizona Trail a year ago—“How does this thing work again?”), before sequestering ourselves within. The rain stopped about an hour after it started, and boredom finally drove me out of my tent around 3:30pm. Much to my surprise, Dad was fast asleep. There was a fire ring, so without much else to do, I started to make a fire. Dad didn’t emerge from his tent until after 5, acting as if he’d been hit by a truck. He was also shivering, so the rare fire turned out to be a boon. Neither of us have ever previously made fires while backpacking—normally we have neither the time nor energy. We joked that perhaps his body had just decided that it would start requiring “old man naps”. In all likelihood it was probably a combination of the deceptively challenging terrain, a hiking partner nipping at his heels, and the chill of rain at the end of the day that sapped his energy. Since then, he proudly reports, “There have been no more naps!”