Total trip miles: 632.3
At about 4:45 something woke me up. Ugh rain, I closed up my tent door and tried to fall back asleep. The Rev and Patches started packing around 5:30, luckily now rain free. A little earlier than my usual but why not. Patches pointed out a coyote heading across the field and between that and the sunrise it was a pretty sweet start to the morning.
My shin felt better but not right so my plan for the day was to keep a very conservative pace and stretch constantly. Rest would be the best thing but I didn't have enough food to hang out in the woods for two extra days. We had been planning on a few days off in Chama to let snow melt and gather gear, now I have one more reason to take it easy for a few days.
About 4.5 miles into the morning I made it to Hopewell campground. Patches and the Rev were just leaving the picnic area. I took a break again loving the picnic table/faucet/bathroom combo. The trail doesn't actually go to where people camp and I debated the detour. I was secretly hoping for a fire and some stranger to offer me food in the cold. Campgrounds are usually pretty lucky that way, but I didn't feel like walking uphill and it's a Wednesday which doesn't exactly promise lots of car campers.
Then it was back to soggy meadow and forest walking. I have a sneaking suspicion my feet are going to be wet until Wyoming. I came to what I had expected to be trail, nope just an old road closed to vehicles. That's ok, it was actually pretty nice. As I climbed I stated to pass snow but on the road it was easy to bypass. Heading back down it was snow, mud and slush but not for too long and it was easy to navigate.
Nothing too thrilling just miles in pretty country. I decide to eat lunch and dry my tent in a forest of aspen. Of course it starts to rain. By the time I've packed it's already stopped raining but I'm grumpy and start hiking. My shin had felt almost 100% before lunch and on the descent to the Rio San Antonio it starts acting up again which puts my grumpiness through the roof. There are lots of sidetrails and I'm complaining to myself about too many river crossings when I check my GPS. Shoot I've walked a solid 10 minutes in the completely wrong direction. As I make my way back I find a perfectly good trail only my GPS tells me I'm still pretty wrong. I can feel how out of sorts this is putting me and I finally calm down and just walk. I put in some music and tried to make the best of it.
Turns out it was the perfect trail to cheer me up. Soon enough I was up on the canyon edge with wide open views and gloriously dry trail. The wind was whipping and I got to see a hawk coast right by me. What an improvement.
Even with the great trail my grumpiness was lingering. Down and then back up I ended up at Lower Lagunitas Campground. It was of course empty, it's over 28 miles on a dirt road from the highway. I wasn't expecting anyone. But I took advantage of the bathroom and iced my shin. The snow sure is handy. It was only 5 and I decided to head a bit further. My shin scares the bejesus out of me but I've been walking slow and icing and I'm so close to being able to take time off.
I had read that there was 3-4 miles of postholing ahead of me after the campground about a week earlier. I started up and was thrilled, the views were killer, my leg felt great and the trail had only a few patches of snow. I was feeling pretty smug and passed up a few possible campsites as I headed on. Big mistake, it would have been different if my leg was fine but there really was no need to get farther. But soon enough I was caught. Those few small patches of snow morphed into almost 100% snow cover. At first I was able to follow other people's steps. Your legs still get a bit scraped but not as dramatically as when you bust through yourself. At some point I lost the steps as people seemed to try every direction. I realized I was following elk tracks, totally useless. Then began an hour of me very very slowly postholing my way in the wrong direction trying to avoid downed trees and having mini meltdowns regularly. Every postholed a whole bunch in shorts and sneakers? It sucks. If you didn't know postholing is when you are walking on snow and it gives way below your foot. It can be very startling, obviously cold, and the snow can do a surprising amount of damage to legs. Plus things under the snow can hurt as well. I have lovely gaiters to protect my legs, only they are in Chama waiting for me. In a normal snow year people send their gear to Chama because that's the typical start of the snowy section. We get an early taste this year. And honestly it's kicking my butt. I felt like stopping and kissing the snowy road when I finally made it. I vetoed finding the actual trail when I saw all the footsteps on the road. It still has snow on it but looks easier to follow. So in 2.5 miles when the trail crosses the road again I'll rejoin the trail. I'm just hoping the deeper snow is done by then.
Today was a rough day for me. I never felt quite on point. The stress of a potential injury is taking over my thoughts instead of excitement about tomorrow. But hopefully a few days off will help the leg, there are quite a few hikers with shin splints. I'm no anomaly out here. Both Kramers and Maine Guy are back hiking and SOL is still having some issues but is pushing forward as well. So one day at a time. Regardless of my leg tomorrow I'm going to Colorado!! I'm only 19.5 miles from my hitch into town and I'm 16.7 miles from the border!