Day 39-43 Avoiding Snow
Day 39 June 9th Danger is Not My Middle Name
I was up super early. My alarm went off at 3:00 and I was on the trail by 20 after. I was hoping to make a lot of progress on frozen snow. And it started off fine. The night before was my worst campsite yet, but I slept just fine.
Transition from amazing stars to amazing sunrise is also pretty cool. But about a couple miles into my trek I had to make a slide down about 45 feet. To say I was apprehensive was an understatement. If it was slushy I probably wouldn’t have been so nervous but again this was about 4:00 in the morning and it was sheer ice. The bottom was pretty safe but there was a large boulder along the way. When I say slide, I literally had to slide on my butt down 45 feet of ice. This stuff I would have loved as a 20 year old, scared the crap out of me as a 45 year old.
I did my best to use my trekking poles to guide me while sliding down, but I ended up banging my shin a little bit and scratching my thumb. I definitely was a little shaken afterwards. I knew that the toughest part of the morning was coming up and I was having second thoughts about this being the right route for me.
I had an option to take an alternate route that would be less technical and frankly safer. Didn’t know if it’d be faster but I wasn’t too worried about that. I was apprehensive about going on a mountain edge top of ice.
So I jumped on the alternate route and navigated my way towards the river that would lead towards a large reservoir. The trail wasn’t well marked and I didn’t really have great navigation to help me get there but frankly I just needed to be right next to the river and I would be able to figure it out. From where I was to the reservoir was about ten or so miles.
The terrain wasn’t easy but it was not as technical or as dangerous as what I left behind. There’s still a ton of snow and a whole lot of tree blow downs. I was making pretty good progress but I knew that I needed to get to the other side of the river and I was trying to pay attention to find a good spot to do that.
I saw some spots to cross early on but then I didn’t see space on the other side of the river to actually hike. So the first time I saw an actual spot where I thought I might be able to cross I had to build up the courage to give it a chance. The river is flowing very rapidly and it’s awfully cold and it’s wider than normal because of all the snow melt. I’ve done a fair bit of river crossings both during this trip and previously so I thought I’d have it under control.
I stepped into the river and was quickly up to my waist and pulling me pretty strongly. I didn’t think I could make it across safely so I walked back out. I was cold and wet up to my waist but I wasn’t in any danger and it was warm enough outside and the sun was shining. But I was a little concerned about how I was going to cross the river.
Try the Reservoir
I decided to try to hike to the reservoir and then cross there hoping that the water near the reservoir would be calmer and there would be a shallow spot for me to make my way across.
The trail to the reservoir was filled with blowdowns some snow mud and all the kinds of fun stuff. When I got to the reservoir I found a spot which I thought was suitable for me to walk across. Well, I thought I saw at least 80% of the path being shallow enough for me to walk across. I wasn’t sure about the last 20%.
At this point I didn’t have any other options. I would have literally had to climb a mountain on the other side of the reservoir or cross right here. So I made sure all my electronics and gear and everything was in the safe and dry spot walked into the water. It went from waist high, to chest high, to oh my gosh I’m swimming very quickly.
I’ve never swam with my backpack on before, but it acts as a flotation device. I wasn’t worried about being pulled anywhere because it was in a reservoir but I did have to swim pretty hard to get to the shore. Once on the shore I was a bit concerned about my body temperature so it took off my shirt shoes and socks and did my best to dry off before throwing on some warmer clothes.
I don’t think there’s any real danger but it sure got the blood pumping. Everything was fine except I lost a water bottle. I feel bad about that because I don’t like polluting but I can survive with the two bottles I have.
I took a very long lunch break on the shore of the reservoir to let my clothes dry a little bit and to relax after what was a pretty stressful morning. After lunch I walked into a very small town called Platoro, Colorado. There’s a small RV campsite that has a bunkhouse and I got a bed there. I had a big dinner of pizza and ribs and watched most of the NBA game.
Tomorrow I’ll walk out on the Great Divide alternate trail. It won’t have the same awe-inspiring beauty as the San Juan mountains, but it will be a lot safer and faster. There’s a time and place for everything and obviously my time in the San Juans needs to come later.
Day 40 June 10th. This is more My Speed but I Know I’m Missing Something.
There was no reason to get out of bed early this morning. I was going to stick around the bunkhouse and wait for breakfast. Nick and KJ who run a cabin and RV place in a teeny little town showed me tremendous hospitality.
I normally would have split earlier but I felt a little bit obligated to stick around for breakfast. And I tried not to be rude, but I probably was. But at 8:00 Nick looked at me and said are you in a rush? And I sort of giggled and said well I’m just impatient. I don’t really have to be anywhere. Nick did his best to throw together some breakfast. Twenty-four years in the military has made me prompt. If breakfast is at 8:00, let’s eat at 8:00.
Either way I was out the door at about 8:30 a little bit aggravated with such late start but happy that I had a good night’s rest in an old military issue bunk bed and had some real food. Today was all road walks. It’s not my favorite but I also know that the other option isn’t an option. I didn’t see any other hikers, but I did see quite a few people in four wheelers, side by sides, and four-wheel drive pickup trucks. There were still plenty of good views but not the same seclusion that you get with hiking out a trail. It will be like this pretty much between now and Salida. And That’s okay.
Sending me Stuff
I’ve had a few people ask if they could send me something. While I could figure out a post office for you to send me something, I really don’t need anything. Most of my day to day consists of M&Ms, some sort of breakfast bar, macaroni and cheese, Fritos, and instant coffee. All stuff I can buy in just about any town. Or even a gas station.
There is an option at the bottom of the blog for you to tip the author. I’m not soliciting for you to give me money but if you do use that link I will find a way to provide trail magic to other hikers on the trail. Anything from buying a few rounds of beer to picking up at the tab at a restaurant. No obligation but if you are so inclined to please feel free and I’ll do my best to share the story of trail magic that you supported.
Of course, feel free to drive out to Colorado and find an intersection of the CDT where you can drop off a case of beer and it would be appreciated.
Day 41 June 11th Lots of Road Walking
Not an exciting day. I guess that’s what I get for deferring excitement. I’ll swap the excitement for just trying to burn through some miles. I used the less exciting hiking to catch up on podcasts and the listen to some tunes. I’ve also been listening to a book I’ve been putting off for years: How to Win Friends in Influence People. So far it feels a bit like common sense but l assume that 20 years of leadership and actually caring about people has formulated a method that’s pretty close to what’s described in the book.
I did about 25 miles to get into a town called Del Norte. It’s probably as good as any town in New Mexico. Maybe Silver City’s a little bit nicer.
But the first place I stopped was the local brewery. I had a terrific salad and a pizza and it was amazing. As I was enjoying my early dinner, I was watching the cars drive by. Literally Colorado is the most Colorado place ever. 80% of the cars driving by or either Subarus or SUVs with bike racks, camper vans, RVs, or large pickup trucks.
Del Norte caterers to bike packers. They’re like through hikers but with bicycles. I’m guessing bike packers are more well off than thru hikers because the hotel options were much nicer. You know it’s a nice hotel and then you have robes.
After dinner I took care of a few town chores. Did some laundry, did some grocery shopping, and figured out the rest of the week. The lower elevation and warmer temps had brought out the mosquitoes. I didn’t notice until it was too late. Time to bust out the deet. And when I get to a bigger town, I need to spray down my stuff with permethrin. It’s probably not most people’s favorite but I’ve seen it work.
Day 42 June 12th I Wasn’t All Bad
I slept great in my nice hotel room. Took my time getting up, my room was equipped with a coffee pot and some coffee. It was okay. About as good as you buy at Starbucks. There was a bakery right around the corner and I checked them out and they were terrific. I had a cinnamon roll and a cherry and cream cheese Danish.
I started hiking about 8:30 and knew that I was looking to do about a 25-mile day. Most of the day was gravel road, though I did get to do little side adventure through a park called Penitente Canyon. It was a pretty neat little park with mostly mountain bike trails, but I guess they had some rock climbing and of course a little bit of hiking trails. The Trail probably save me some time or is also nice to be hiking on a path instead of the road.
I got a little rain early in the morning but nothing to crazy. My lunch was nice and dry. I saw quite a few bike packers, probably seven or so. I’m a bit envious when I see them and I’m walking on gravel. They’re a bit funny though cuz they’ll talk about snow like they’ve actually experienced it. I usually get them to shut up about it when I say, yeah but at 12,000 feet, it gets a bit sketchy. I think they mostly top it at 10,000 and definitely don’t face the narrow trails hikers face.
I still haven’t exactly figured out how I’m getting to Salida. There is a large campsite about eight miles from where I ended tonight. I might try to see if anybody staying there is headed towards Salida in the next day or two and hitch a ride from them. Otherwise, the plan will be to walk towards a town called Saguche (pronounced sah-wach) and try to hitch a ride from there. I’m okay with getting the Salida early since there is a couple of hostels that are really affordable.
Alicia sent me the kids grades tonight. Proud of those dudes. I’m looking forward to celebrating with them this weekend.
Day 43 June 13th A Unique Day
I spent the night next to a creek that ran close to a dirt road and was next to a place called Hell’s Gate. It sounded more impressive than it looked. It was a colder night than I had expected and I slept in a bit to compensate.
I was a bit slow moving early on and that was in part due to the weather. One second it would be windy and overcast, the next it would be calm and sunny. Constant 15 degree swings. Jacket on, jacket off. Wind pants on, wind pants off.
I had a plan to hike across the National Forest. I was on a trail I could see on Google maps. I made it to the trail only to find that the trail was marked as closed. I considered ignoring the sign, but worried there might be a legit reason it was closed.
I had to backtrack a few miles to get out of the park via the other route. When I was a few miles outside the boundary and a ½ mile from the highway, I saw a truck loaded with lumber coming up behind me. I assume that work trucks won’t stop for hitchhikers, so I didn’t put out my thumb.
They pulled up right beside me and asked if I needed a lift. I said I was headed to Saguche and would love a ride. Three of the guys looked Amish and they were getting wood to sell as fence posts. I don’t know what fence posts go for, but it seemed like a lot of labor for that much wood. Super generous and friendly guys.
They dropped me off at a gas station and I figured I had an hour before I needed to find a place to stay, so I decided to try and hitch the rest out of the way to Salida tonight.
Maybe 20 minutes later a single guy stops and I put my pack in the back of his SUV atop a ladder and a mountain bike. The driver Roy is a lawyer who is coming back from visiting his friend in Del Norte, the town I was in two nights ago.
We stopped for sandwiches and he drove me all the way to Haydukes hostel in Salida. This is my first real night in a hiker hostel since I slept outside at the Toaster House.
It was an experience. Normal thru-hiker Talk: snow in Colorado, previous trails, do you know such and such? I was offered my first joint on the trail. I’d prefer my own space, but I get the appeal. It’s cheap and very social. Probably too social for me. One more way you can tell introverts from extroverts; when extroverts are away from people for a while, they don’t stop talking.
It will be odd to be off trail for six or seven days. I wonder if I’ll miss it?
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