Sunday, June 28, 2015

Day 65: Muggy Miles

6/26: mile 1035.2-1064.2
Miles: 29
Total trip miles: 915.4

Packing was a slow affair this morning, a condensation soaked tent is not a great motivator. Oh well, that's why I hate camping in meadows. 

Good morning highway 

I start with less than 2 miles to the CO 116 trailhead. Overall the day looks like it will be at a higher elevation with a few more climbs than yesterday but nothing too exciting. Plus I have an encouraging note from J. Ley warning of a long rocky trail. Yay?

Thanks J. Ley, glad to know I shouldn't let the rocks be my downfall. Seriously though I love his comments, I'm always sad when my maps have no pithy remarks. I'm totally stockpiling my favorites to read later. 

All my views are hazy, I Silverton I heard it was from fires in California 

A few miles in I left the road for trail and spent the next few hours rolling along the divide through the Cochetopa Hills. It's forest, lots of dead trees I'm guessing from the beetle kill (which is incredibly widespread and devastating out here) but there's trail and some shade which is nice. 

Obstacle courses are fun but every time I don't have to clamber over trees I'm pretty thrilled. It feels like a trail crew has been out pretty recently as there's still fresh sawdust and a ton of the blowdowns are no longer blocking the trail. I love trail crews. 

I get my first water around 11. I've gotten spoiled by the snow. It's a pain to walk through but it means I don't worry about water. Looks like it's a 14 mile dry stretch and then an 11 with a dry camp somewhere in there. I'm hoping I cross some unmarked seasonal stuff but so far the hills have been darn dry. 

The afternoon is more of the same. It drags on as it heats up. I catch myself whining out loud about the heat, oh well maybe I'm keeping the squirrels entertained. I definitely scared at least one moose. The last town said they were having a heat spell, it sure feels like it. 

At Tank Seven Creek I grab water to camp and decide to head a bit farther. It's not quite late enough for me plus I'd like to make tomorrow even a little easier so all the miles today help. If I don't run into too much snow I think I can make it to Monarch Pass and hitch into Salida. 

I skip the pretty spot for sunset because the wind is so bad. There are some ominous clouds up in the mountains and the mosquitoes are ramping up so a tent doesn't seem optional tonight. It's only 7.5 miles to water in the morning and 18.2 to the Pass I'm crossing my fingers it's smooth sailing. I passed a few snow patches today but other than stuffing some into my hat it was totally uneventful, you could walk right around each one. I'd heard the last 8 or so miles into the pass were pretty lousy but that was before all this heat. Either way that's what I'm aiming for. 

Day 64: Birthday Miles

6/25: mile 1003.8-1035.2
Miles: 31.4
Total trip miles: 886.4

Today was inspired by Shroomer. He's an awesome triple crowner who I was living near right before leaving for the CDT. He humored me while I asked a million CDT questions and regularly leads some awesome training hikes. So for his birthday this year I believe he hiked his age in elevation, not to shabby when your birthday is 60 plus and it's a day hike. 

Well today was my 29th birthday and while not even a little original I thought I wanted a goal to make the day more fun. 2900 ft in elevation gain isn't too exciting out here, I did more than that yesterday. But it has been a really long time since I was able to do a 29 mile day, 14 was pushing it last week and 20+ impossible for me. But today looked like it would work perfectly. Over 30 miles below 11000 ft, and most of it on roads! So as long as my feet and shin played nicely the game was on. 

I woke up and found the trail still a muddy, rocky creek. Oh well at least there were some dry spots. The first 10 plus miles were spent following Cochetopa Creek. It was calm and cool, and I spent my morning surprising deer, elk, rabbits and even a moose. 

I'll admit my first few miles were really tough, I was awake but my limbs all felt slow and heavy. It wasn't until almost 8 that I realized I skipped my morning caffeine. My amazing friends had actually just sent me some nice instant Starbucks which I'm too cheap to buy myself so it was an extra birthday treat. After that all was right with the world. Good to know I'm more addicted to caffeine out here than at home, whoops. 

Past a trailhead (with a bathroom!) and some lovely dry dirt trail. I got to the Cochetopa Creek crossing that I had been worried about before 10. I'm sure crossing in the mornings is helpful but it really wasn't bad. I used some gravel bars and went across in 3 parts right above the washed out bridge, I didn't even get my shorts wet. I'm just fine that the river has gone down a bit, my ego needs nothing to do with river crossings, those things scare the bejesus out of me. 

Cochetopa Creek ford

Once the trail left the river the rest of the day was on dirt roads. I spoiled myself rotten and listened to music all morning. Road walks are great for zoning out and I geeked out on a ton of show tunes and badly sang my way down the trail. 

I even saw other people. Some fishermen on atv's and a southbound Colorado Trail hiker who warned me of hordes of mosquitoes coming soon. Ugh 

Passing a cattle guard, I stopped to fix my shoes when a truck pulled up and some fisherman offered me a cold drink. I started walking and checked my GPS. Oops missed my turn. But hey everything happens for a reason, I only went there wrong way for about 30 ft but I got a drink out of it. So really another success. 

It was a long afternoon though. It was hot and muggy and there wasn't actually water every so I carried a bunch to dry camp making my pack much heavier than its been in awhile. I was dragging and the mosquitoes were definitely around if you stopped which made everything more unpleasant. 

I passed my 29 mile mark and still felt okay so I kept on at it. I would have stopped alone than I did but I was anxious about water (which I of course found before stopping because this spring is nuts and there's still a lot of seasonal water). 

I ended up camping at the bottom of a canyon in meadow close to the CO 116 trailhead. I hate camping in meadows but I was done and it was late so I'll just dry my gear tomorrow. 
The mosquitoes are out in force so I'm tucked into my tent hoping tomorrow is more smooth sailing. 

Prettier sunset than it seems, but I was not willing to brave the mosquitoes to get the pink in time 

Day 63: Cochetopa Cruising

The 6/24: mile 981.9-1003.8
Miles: 21.9
Total trip miles: 855

I love this hostel, sleep has been so good here. But hiking calls and an alarm had me up and getting ready to go. The amazing Linda said she would pick us up at 7:30 but Nightcrawler still couldn't find her jacket and told me to take the ride and we'd just catch up on the trail if need be. The only thing we've heard might be tricky this section is the Cochetopa Creek crossing about 30 miles in, the bridge washed out and it's supposed to be deep. But the Colorado Trail Association has said its crossable, you just have to head upstream to a wider and shallower spot. So when Linda arrives it's just me, if the creek is bad I'll wait otherwise we'll still get to Salida the same day. 

The drive isn't too long but it's great chatting with Linda and I still can't believe our luck. The best trail magic and trail Angels are the unexpected and this has been my favorite town stop so far because of them. It's been such a treat. 

The trail immediately starts with a climb, pretty quick too. Over 1500 ft takings back to the land above treeline. Once up there it's 4ish miles across Snow Mesa. I'll admit I'm crossing my fingers about the snow, it's not a comforting name and I've seen how tough it was 2 weeks ago. 

I have the place to myself, except for the pikas and marmots and I've lucked out. Between the rain and record heat these past 2 weeks almost all the snow is gone. There are patches but nothing to get excited about at all. 

The Mesa is pretty but I'm more concerned with the gathering thunderheads. The weather said I had until noon and I though I could be across the Mesa and past the high point and into treeline. Well my backpack weighs close to 40 pounds with all my winter gear and 5 days of food, fresh town pack and sore feet mean slow miles. Shoot.

 I try to speed up and make it the high point right as thunder starts rumbling. Up and over as it starts to sprinkle. I get pretty close to trees but not quite, hail thunder and lightning sure do help motivate though. Nothing like postholing in patchy snow in a hail storm. 

Storms coming 

I get to the trees and of course the sun comes out. It gets warmer and it's beautiful dirt trail. Then it's more ups and downs through mostly dirt but occasional patchy snow. Nothing compared to last week. 

The bowl leading up to my last pass of the day had the most snow. It did top out at almost 12800 ft. But it really wasn't too bad because I was just following someone else's postholes. Slow but not much grief on my part other than cold toes. 

Walking down the trail along Cochetopa Creek it was more mud and creek than trail but no snow so a win. 

Yup, long day. Lots of fun above 12000 ft

Pretty beat, not sleeping enough in town always catches up to me. But luckily there are a million places to camp so ticked away into the trees I'm happy. 

Day 62: Lake City Vortex

6/23: miles 0

Ah good intentions, well I did want to leave today but it just wasn't to be. A day of errands, relaxing and avoiding the tasks I should be working on. 

Plans changed a million times but once Linda offered to take us kayaking in the lake and to cook us dinner after a zero was inevitable. 

So collapsible kayaks are amazing, that would fit in my car no problem. New hobbies coming from every direction. 

You just can't deny this face

Dog heaven 

What a great day, I really like this little town.