Total trip miles: 604.3
I woke up prepared to layer up and face an icy morning. Except it wasn't icy cold at all, not toasty warm or anything but not bad. Bigfoot was still in his sleeping bag and so I headed off solo. I've mentioned that pretty soon it's snow and group hiking for probably most of Colorado for safety so this is really the last stretch for awhile where I can hike exactly how I want so I was happy to stretch my legs.
The day of course started with a muddy road walk. About 5 minutes into the morning my feet got wet and then just never dried. Meadows and roads out here inevitably lead to soggy feet.
A few miles into the route the trail turned away from the road and luckily I caught it before I headed too far in the wrong direction. Now I'm not sure if there was no real trail in this section or I just missed it because my GPS said I was pretty darn close when I checked but mostly I was just fighting with deadfall and occasionally had a nice solid elk trail to follow. It doesn't look like fire damage but I've heard a lot about beetle damage to trees in the Colorado area and there is a huge amount of dead trees out here. After a particularly nice obstacle course section I really did find myself on a somewhat more developed trail and happily sloshed my way up the hill. The trail had the happy bonus of Cookie Monsters footprints, other hiker footprints always make me feel better.
I turned a corner and found myself on a paved road, that was surprising. I see roads on the map all of the time but paved was unexpected. Even more exciting was the trash can and restroom. It really is the small things that make your day out here. I dried some gear and hung out for a bit, I hadn't planned on a break but I couldn't resist. Then it was back to the trail. Soon enough the morning got even slower, as the trail climbed I started to hit snow. Nothing too terrible but crossing snow always takes time.
Then it was trekking through a giant beautiful meadow and back to an old road and more snow. We were just talking the other day about how we all seem to say ominous a lot out here. But really it always seems to be the most appropriate word for the clouds. Of course there were some ominous clouds building but even more ominous was Colorado. Those mountains looming up at me are getting awfully close...
I had felt like I was walking super slowly all morning but I couldn't have been on too different a pace because I saw no one all morning. The fast folk are gone and I guess my group is lagging. I took a long lunch and had a failed attempt at a nap. Done stalling I hit the trail. Less than 20 minutes later I see 2 hikers behind me. I get super excited and drop my pack because I see a plaid shirt and trucker hat and think Funsize has caught up. No such luck, but I do spend the next few hours with Patches and the Rev. I last saw those speedy guys back in Cuba but they took a few days off for the trail party up in Chama. Now here they are speeding up the trail.
We even met two forest service trail crew who let us walk on a brand new (very short) section of trail. Which means just a little less road waking! We crossed Rio Vallecito which had apparently been a nasty ford earlier in the week. It was crotch deep on me but not too cold and I had good footing. Nonetheless I was glad to have other people around while I crossed.
I was having a great time until my shin started to twinge. I ignored it for a bit but when it didn't go away I told the guys I might see them up the trail and stopped and stretched for a bit. It helped but still hurts, here's to hoping I didn't give myself a full on shin splint because I was walking to fast on dirt roads.
I realize they are everywhere but just can't pass up bunny photo shoots
The rest of the evening was super pretty. A slow climb up and out, great views and amazingly nice trail. I was passing nice campsites and then it started to rain. I decided to just stop around 7 and call it a night. But then as I headed down the trail I saw Patches and the Rev. Tents up, a nice dinner and right around bedtime the rain came back. It's chilly and I'm glad I'm all tucked in. I have no idea where Bigfoot managed to get to today but the Rev said they passed the others last night setting up camp around 6:30. So I'm at least 3-5 miles ahead of them. There's apparently some snowy stretches tomorrow so I'm not sure on possible mileage but I'm only 44.7 miles from Colorado and 47.5 from Cumbres Pass and a 12 mile hitch to Chama. So in 2-3 days I'll probably see everyone else. Mostly I'm just hoping my shin is okay in the morning.