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Riverside, WY to Saratoga, WY (18.0 miles)
Today is mostly a people story, but of course involves some hiking description.
The restaurant was not open for breakfast so we ate from our backpacks, but with another town stop at the end of the day, we had plenty.
The first several miles of hiking was on the highway before turning off onto our planned dirt roads and Jeep tracks. All went well until we turned off the highway, when Just Jim discovered he had left his wallet in the cabin. He planned to hitch back into town while Pockets and I went on (Feral was behind us). He would just be later into Saratoga.
The planned path went well. At first is was dirt roads through ranch areas near a creek, then turned off to a little used Jeep track following a fence line. This area left the creek area and was more desolate; dry with low sagebrush. And it was sunny and hot. Not pleasant but we had water and expected this based on Google satellite imagery. (Modern technology is great.)
About a half mile past the last dirt road I got a call from Just Jim saying to stop. The man who was giving him a ride to get his wallet and back was saying our proposed cross country route would not work. He asked that Pockets and I return to the last major dirt road and they would meet us there. Going backwards is not fun. They pulled up and the man and his wife described how our route would be just cross country sagebrush bushwhacking and not a good idea. He outlined another proposed route that mostly avoided the highway. But....it was longer. We thanked him for his advice as he pulled off to return Just Jim to his hike. Pockets and I waited for Feral to show, then we discussed our options. Though it was hard to ignore the advice of a local, we were confident on our route and went our way. I know it sounds cocky, but we had seen worse trail and didn’t want to extend our day. So off we went.
Bottom line: our route worked out fine, though it was indeed desolate for several miles. I got ahead as Pockets and Feral took breaks and made it to Saratoga first. Thankfully, the major grocery store in town is on the south side, so I went there for Gatorade, a cherry coke, and some snacks to await the others.
As I was eating/waiting, I checked out camping opportunities in town. Unfortunately, both RV parks did not have camping (which is strange) and the nearest public campground was a little out of town. Bummer. Now what.
The whole gang was together by now, eating our snacks on a bench in front of the store. As always, we got several questions about what we were doing and enjoyed the conversations. Just Jim got talking to a man who had hiked the AT and was part of a local CDT support group. Upon hearing our dilemma, he offered for us to camp on the lawn of his church, which was just across the street, with access to the bathrooms. Wow! He verified with the pastor and we were set. (BTW: his trail name is Disciple. Very appropriate.) The church is small but has a beautiful lawn. They were even thoughtful enough to turn off the sprinkler system. Thank you Disciple!
Our next goal was different from other town stops; hot springs. Saratoga has free public access to where they pump a natural hot springs into two pool-like areas, along with a shower house. Perfect. We walked the couple of blocks there and had a good soak and shower. Perfect for hiker trash.
The only remaining goal was food. Since it was late and we had easy access to the grocery store, we decided to eat from the deli section and store food. So we had a picnic of sorts with ribs, various sides, desserts, and cold drinks. It worked out to be a great day.