Zen On Dirt

CDT Day 86 and 87 – Nero and net-zero days in Jackson

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Day 86

16 miles. 16 miles is all I have to pedal until breakfast. It seemed so…straightforward. Yet…so far away.

Scott was awake at 6:30 getting breakfast ready. Marmot and Gabriel were long gone by that time. I bet they have to set an alarm…could you imagine waking up to an alarm out here? I can’t.


With the food clock ticking, we packed up and started down the 2 miles of trail. It dropped quickly into a river valley and the temperatures dropped just as quickly. 47…46…43. We made a good choice with our camping location.

A river crossing stymied us. We explored several log crossings, but with already cold feet, didn’t want to risk the plunge. Instead, we went for the old fashioned Take your shoes off and suffer cold feet for a few minutes. Compared to the air, the water actually felt warm. Warm-ish. Ok, not frigid.

The road turned wider and flatter and soon we were on our straight shot north to Jackson. We ate the last of our food as we stripped jackets off in the sun. Nothing left to do but pedal. I didn’t do the pedaling gracefully, but we made it into town.

“The Mercantile is closed! We’re hosed for resupply!”

“That’s a problem for after breakfast,” Scott pointed out.

We lucked out with breakfast at the lodge, all-you-can-eat buffet on Sunday mornings. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten that much in one sitting. Four plates piled high with scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, fruit, bacon, and sausage. I even got the not-so-nice waitress to bring me more watermelon after I cleaned out the buffet’s portion.

We shared breakfast with two thru-hikers, Dash and Trail Names Are Stupid, who’d hitchhiked into town to check out the hot springs. They were on the CDT hiker’s version of the hotsprings tour and had nearly as many as us.

With the room not ready, we went for a 105 degree soak. Divine. Exactly what these old bones needed.


We pondered our resupply options. Dillon was 47 miles one way, Wisdom was 18 in the other. The road going through Jackson had a traffic rate of about a car per hour. The hikers had had a heck of a time hitching. Problem for tomorrow, we decided, and focused on eating and resting instead.

Dinner at Rosie’s led to meeting two Chinese cyclists riding a modified TransAm. One had a bike weighing 90 pounds. Without food and water. 90 pounds! I almost wanted to ask if I could unpack all of his bags to see what he had.

The four cyclists and two hikers (who’d failed at hitching back up to the trail) ended up shutting the hotsprings down that night, soaking under the stars, figuring that if one had to be stuck someplace, Jackson wasn’t a bad place to be.

Day 87

Sleep. Sleep is awesome on zero days. So we slept until our stomachs insisted otherwise. Breakfast was at the main lodge. A hot springs soak followed soon after. Then, knowing that we couldn’t survive the next stretch on Almond Joys and Snickers bars which the lodge had available, we made plans to visit Wisdom.

We haven’t had to hitchhike yet this trip (aside from Dave giving us a ride to the top of Cumbres Pass from Chama) and we’ve taken pride in the self-sufficiency of the bike. “Let’s ride!” We declared. “It’s only 18 miles and pan flat.”


Heading out was a lovely ride. Ospreys flew overhead. Mating bugs flew by the thousands across the road. Winds were gentle. Riding bikes is fun.

We stopped at one of the three eating establishments in Wisdom for lunch, restocked on trail food at the small grocery store, wrote some postcards, and pointed the bikes home. The ride home was approximately 17 miles too long. The lights went out for me with about 2 miles to go…tomorrow was going to be a long day.


With food figured out, I slept the rest of the afternoon.

Getting out of Jackson needed to happen. The place had a weird energy to it and weather looked like it was going to take a turn for the worse.

Dinner. Hot springs. Sleep.


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