Zen On Dirt

CDT Day 101 – Cold mornings, unknown routes, and weird trail towns

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Sleep was not easy to come by for me last night. Firstly, it was cold. Not outrageously cold, but cold enough to make my permanently cold-sensitive feet ache from threatening numbness. The rest of me was all-in-all fine, but my feet…guess it serves me right for all I’ve put them through, I’m sure I’ve damaged a nerve or two in my day. That, and I was scared of bears and we were sleeping in noisy woods with creaking trees making all sorts of whoops and thumps in the dark.

It was cold enough that as usual, I had no desire to get going in the morning. We’re actually contemplating sending the stove home for this last stretch because the last thing we want to do when we get to camp and it’s cold is make dinner and the last thing we want to do in the mornings is make breakfast…so we may bid it farewell in Lincoln.


We got moving eventually, 36 degrees out. We had all our clothes on and warmed up quickly, which is comforting to know that we can probably stay warm into the 20’s if we need to with our current clothing selection.

The trail was “annoyingly rideable” according to Scott. Rocky enough to be a PITA, but not bad enough to warrant walking. Maybe it was just bad because we were cold and the sun was being blocked by a layer of clouds.


The trail eventually got better, the temperature eventually got better, spirits got to the point of “the CDT isn’t THAT bad.” (That last one may have been helped with some Cracker Jacked (seriously, it exists) and some Dr. Pepper.)

We did our best to keep our feet dry until the task became impossible through some tall, wet grass. Luckily, the sun was batting 0.5 and we were able to actually consider taking jackets off for the first major climb of the day. It was “annoyingly climbable”, according to me. Steep enough to make me hurt, smooth enough to not warrant walking.

We sat down for lunch at the top, using a brief window of sun to dry out sleeping bags. When the sun went away, we kept going. No point in sitting around and being cold, we reasoned.


We came to an intersection at Bison Mountain. The GPS said right. Ley maps said left. A handdrawn CDT marker said left. The Ley maps warned of vandalized signs intentionally steering people the wrong way.


We went with Ley and found lovely ATV trail all the way down to a creek and then lovely, annoyingly climbable jeep road out of the creek. We opted to drop down to the small town of Elliston from a low point, a seven mile dirt road ride. We needed food for the last 50 miles of trail to Lincoln. We’d called ahead and found the only motel full, so we knew we weren’t getting a room for the night.

We rolled up to the one restaurant in town, The Lawdog Saloon. It was one of those places where we walked in and the place went silent with everyone staring at us. No one said a word.



It was a weird place. The food was pretty terrible. But at least it wasn’t expensive.

The shop next door wasn’t any less strange, the clerk only spoke in one-word answers. The answer was always “No”. We gathered what food we thought we’d need and walked out the door. By the time we turned around to throw away our trash, he’d locked the door and shut down for the day, an hour earlier than the sign on the door claimed.


Fully weirded out, we left town ASAP and climbed back on almost the same route we’d left. We’d opted to climb 400 feet on the road instead of the trail and rejoin a few miles down from where we left after we’d seen the trail on our way down to town, and deemed it terrible looking.


We rode until 7:30, found ourselves a flat spot high on a ridge with amazing views and it’s looking like it’s going to be a headlamp-free night. The sunset wasn’t bad either.


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