Sunday, June 21, 2015

Day 55: Elk trails are still the CDT right?

6/15: mile 885.3-894.4 
Miles: 9.1 (very little of today was actually on trail, my pedometer thinks 13 for what it's worth) 
Total trip miles: 745.7

It's funny that I thought we'd make it almost 15 miles today. I want to reach back in time and pat myself on the head, poor little delusional hiker. This country is tough and the trail is a bit crazy right now. My friends up ahead said they woke up super early and it was still a struggle to get 15 in a day which makes me feel a little better. 

Nightcrawler and I took a different tactic. We were so tired when we rolled into camp late that we decided no alarms. This section is stressful enough without being exhausted. 

Yeah trail isn't so easy to find out here 

Turns out we both slept badly, but we did sleep in a bit and didn't hike out until a little after 8. It was beautiful out and other than some postholing to start we even had a dirt trail for a bit. The patchy snow and postholing continued on and we were moving at glacial speeds. 

Stops to dry gear and snack and we were sadly only going a mile an hour. We started climbing and after more postholing we were met with a nasty looking traverse. Instead of trying to die crossing we decided to head straight up and avoid the snow by following the divide itself. Steep and rocky but totally doable. Even funnier was the giant cairn on top, we aren't on an official trail but I guess the divide counts as one out here. We followed the divide and went on the backside of the next mountain where there was an actual dirt trail instead of the snow filled traverse that was technically our trail. 

Giant cairn very much not on trail...

Rejoining the CDT it looked like the divide stayed pretty snow free so we continued up rather than fight snow on the trail. It was a good enough plan until we got to the top, we were cliffed out. The trail was quite a bit below us and we were facing all bad options to get down. This is supposedly a pick your own adventure hike right? So after looking around we decided to give the backside of the mountain a try (it worked so well last time). It would be a long ways around but we would essentially mirror the trail, just on the dry side of the ridge. 

No thanks, that is not a nice looking traverse

Elk trails are narrow and almost invisible but better than nothing

And then we spent a ridiculous number of hours walking a very short distance, and it was fantastic. Turns out the elk really like some pretty steep slopes and we very slowly used their trails to get across the mountains. It was steep and rocky but full of sun, great views and no snow! 


It felt like we walked through entirely different places, totally different rocks and terrain than what we've been seeing. We even found a perfect lunch spot. 

There was a little more rock climbing than I had hoped for but overall I'm so much more comfortable on dirt than scary snow traverses. We startled a herd of bighorn sheep which was awesome and a first for me. The last section was the hardest with the most unstable rock and by the time we were down we were both pretty exhausted. And after hours of hiking we had gone less than 8 miles, I would have guessed double by how tired I was.

One last look out from the dry side of the mountain 

Yeah still glad we didn't traverse that, no idea how we could have even safely gotten down

We collapsed on some nice almost dry ground and debated. Honestly I could have camped right there but it was still early and these low mileage days make getting to town rough. Plus it's not like we're relaxing, this stuff is kicking my butt. We decided to head on, it was a little after 5 and looking at the topo it looked like there were some flatter spots about 1.5-2 miles ahead and then the trail would be back on the divide which is steep and so far not so filled with possible campsites. So we had a goal, 2 miles. 

We didn't even make it that far. A little trail but mostly postholing and blowdowns. Complete with trudging knee to waist deep down a snowy hill. Nightcrawler voted to call it quits early and I was more than on board. 

Tomorrow should be just as ridiculous. We have the infamous knifes edge in 6 miles, yay? 

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