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[cdt-l] CDT Planning - Wyoming
These are some of our trail notes for the section across/around the Red
Desert in Wyoming (from Atlantic City to Rawlins) and some general comments
about the rest of Wyoming.
We took the BLM route from South Pass City/Atlantic City around the eastern
edge and into Rawlins – in part to evaluate the BLM route for Jim Wolf and
the BLM. This is what we sent to them. Ginny made other notes, but we no
longer have a copy of those. You’ll need the maps to really make sense of
If you take a different route – like straight across the Red Desert into
Wamsutter, then these won’t be of any real use to you. Choices, decisions –
freedom – and consequences. That’s what this thruhiking stuff is about.
This section was worrisome before we got there - there are some people who
skip it entirely. But it was a wonderful experience for me – there were
wild horses that played with us and 50 – 60 antelope per day. I loved the
desert – it’s hard, it’s harsh, it’s dry and it demands respect. It’s a
different kind of challenge and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I won’t edit these - you get them ”the way it was”. But I will insert some
additional information in brackets [….]. I'll also add some other notes
about Wyoming at the end.
Oh, yeah – gotta give credit here --- It was Bob Ellinwood who sent us his
notes on water sources for this section. They really helped. We’ve added to
them – maybe they’ll help someone else.
Trail notes – Atlantic City, WY to Rawlins, WY
We picked up CDT markers on the ridge south of Atlantic City. Followed them
for a while then went back to the road. Reasons (this is a thruhikers
viewpoint and not meant to impugn what’s been done) –
1. The road is nearly level – the trail (as marked) has a lot of elevation
gain/loss – in and out of one ravine after another.
2. Tromping through knee-high sagebrush and briars with no treadway is SLOW
by comparison to road walking (1 mph vs 4 mph)
3. Thruhiking is partly about time, energy and efficiency. Very few
thruhikers will take the trail as marked when it’s paralleled by a road that
they can see from the trail and when there’s no clear treadway (basically
bushwhacking from one carsonite post to the next). [Particularly when they
know that the trail rejoins that same road in five miles.] I’ve found that
the “Keep the trail entirely off the roads” philosophy is espoused mostly by
those who are not long distance hikers. There’s more to be said about this -
Trail conditions –
For the most part, the trail was well marked from Atlantic City to just (a
couple miles) before the A&M reservoir.
[The trail marking was completed for this section after we went through]
We lost the markers when the trail apparently left the road and crossed into
the Magpie Creek drainage (no markers). We followed the route indicated on
the map - down the road along the ridge west of Magpie Creek and picked up
the markers again when we were headed east toward Brenton Springs at the
bottom of the ridge.
[Pay attention to the maps. This isn’t – and wasn’t - that big a deal]
East of Crooks Gap Road the ‘road/trail’ becomes an intermittent morass of
deep sand for several miles and we abandoned the road to walk in the
sagebrush. Slow, but not as slow or as tiring as the soft, churned sand of
the ‘road’. Walking on that kind of surface, to put it mildly – sucks swamp
water. Not good trail. We also understand that there is no alternative –
this is desert – and it’s the nature of the land.
The absolute worst part of this section, though was the road walk along
Route 287 into Rawlins. That 15 miles is, very simply, an accident waiting
to happen. Several years ago a young couple was killed on the Pacific Crest
Trail under conditions that were far less dangerous than those which prevail
on the Rawlins road walk. That 15 miles is along a 2-lane highway that's a
main north-south route for fleets of 18-wheelers – with a 1 ft shoulder.
Sooner or later, some thruhiker will die on that road. Who’s gonna take the
responsibility for that? Who’ll take the heat for it? Under the
circumstances, I can only assume that
this is another case of bureaucratic inertia and/or laziness for which some
hiker will pay the price.
[This roadwalk may no longer exist – last we heard was that the BLM was
doing land swaps to eliminate the roadwalk. Check with CDTS (Jim Wolf)
and/or the BLM for the latest information]
One other comment on the route – the ‘official’ route from Bull Springs to
Route 287 adds several miles and a long bushwhack through a lot of prickly
pear. We didn’t take it. Nor would any other thruhiker with any common
sense. That’s already a 26+ mile waterless section - we don’t consider Bull
Springs to be a viable water source. Adding more miles – and waterless
miles, at that – is simply unacceptable. Note that the Larsen Sheep Co.
land is posted to say that recreational users are welcome on their land
(just west of Separation Rim). They should be approached about a trail
corridor. There’s also a broken well along
that jeep track that could be fixed as a water source.
[Again – check with the BLM and/or CDTS for the latest status]
Water sources –
Upper Mormon Spring is located about 200 ft NNW of a broken Oregon Trail
marker. The spring is in a pile of rocks on the backside of a low rocky
rise. There are 2 small pools in the white rocks. Good camping about 200
yards west of the spring.
Haypress Reservoir is useable – but barely. It’s a muddy, cow-churned mess.
The size of the suspended particulate matter makes it nearly impossible to
filter without destroying the filter element. NEED to use a coffee filter
or similar prefilter here. The same comment applies to Bison-Basin
There is a reservoir and piped spring east of Crooks Gap Road. The piped
spring is great.
The spring at Weasel Draw had water – it was a beautiful shade of green. We
filtered 1 qt of water and kept moving.
There is good useable water in Arapaho Creek and the lower end of Magpie
Creek (west of the route as marked). Nice camping if the cows aren’t
around. There’s another nasty green spring ¼ mile west of Magpie Creek.
Brenton Springs was fenced, but a lot of cows apparently don’t know that.
The water was useable though if you go upstream in the enclosure
The A&M Reservoir is VERY low (at least 20 ft) and chock-full of visible
livestock as well as being very green.
[Last information we received was that the reservoir is even worse than when
we were there. Check with the BLM and/or CDTS.]
Best water source of all was the solar well about 6 miles south of A&M
Reservoir. My question is – why is the solar panel oriented so the well
won’t operate until late morning or early afternoon?
[Additionally - solar equipment has a history of unreliability over long
periods of time with little maintenance. Again check with the BLM about the
status of the source. DO NOT ASSUME that this is a viable source.]
Worst water source was Bull Springs. There are 2 cattle skeletons and a
fresh carcass feeding into the springs. There is no way to get acceptable
water out of this area. The smell alone precluded getting close enough to
the water – I nearly lost my lunch there. The rabid coyote was just an
added incentive to leave the area quickly.
The spring near the junction of Mineral-X Road and Route 287 is NOT a viable
water source. Dead willows line the channel and the water is alkaline and
There is no other viable water source between A&M Reservoir and Fish Pond
Spring (the spring 4 miles south of Mineral-X Road and ¼ mile west of Route
287). This means a 26 mile waterless section between the solar well and
Fish Pond Spring. Missing Fish Pond Spring (it’s NOT obvious) would add
another 12 waterless miles. To get to Fish Pond Spring, go around the south
end of the snow fence that starts north of milepost 11 on Route 287. Follow
the jeep track west toward the ridge for about ¼ mile. The spring is the
vertical drainage pipe in the middle of the fenced enclosure beyond the
(dry) reservoir. The map has the location of the spring correct, but it
lies about the road locations.
Our filter clogged solid 3 days into this section. The filter was less than
3 weeks old at the time. We used both the filter (with a coffee filter) and
iodine. The water still smelled and tasted like cow dung. But we were
grateful to get it.
A few more general comments about Wyoming:
Yellowstone - call ahead to get a permit. They WILL do that regardless of
what you've been told. But know what you want before you call.
The Teton Wilderness is horse packer heaven. Get used to it. Watch where
you are on the map - there's a bit of confusion between the guidebook and
the trail. Evidently they moved the Wilderness Area sign near Turpin
South of Togwotee Pass the trail is 'obscure' - really obscure. We were
told that the FS was planning to build trail from Brooks Lake to Pelham
Lake, but at the time there was no trail built. Don't know if it's been
built since. We followed a route we found on the map, not the official
route, after hearing several others mention getting lost in that area.
There was new trail built near Lake of the Woods and north of Gunsight Pass.
The Bridger Wilderness down through the Green River area and the Wind River
Range is beautiful, remote and rugged. Enjoy it. We did.
Can't tell you about the "official" route south of Big Sandy Lodge because
we took what "should be" the "official" trail - through the Cirque of the
Towers and the Popo Agie Wilderness. It sounded a lot better than the
roadwalk that constitutes the "official" trail. And it was.
When you drop out of the Popo Agie is when the desert begins - about half a
day from South Pass City. Water up before you get into the sagebrush
country. We ran into our first trail markers in over 100 miles a few miles
before South Pass. (Evidently, the FS is under the impression that
Wilderness Areas are not supposed to have ANY trail signs or trail markers.
Wyoming is not the only place we ran into that particular bureaucratic
idiocy, but except in Wyoming, most W.A.s had trail markers.)
South of Rawlins you're still in the desert for a day or two, then you get
into real mountains again and the trail is well marked for a while.
In general, the problematic section with respect to water is only a couple
hundred miles, and even there, the problem isn't really quantity, but
quality. A lot of people think Wyoming is boring - we didn't find it so.
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