The Continental Divide Trail: Colorado
Finally! We made it to Colorado. After the fire closures in Carson and Santa Fe National Forests, lots of hikers were forced to skip up to Chama, New Mexico or walk on the road around the closed segments. The bottleneck of hikers coming out of Chama was unbelievable. Also, we were all too early in the year for hiking in the San Juans, but because of the early snowmelt, we ended up in a perfect weather window.
South San Juans
Despite the early melt, there was still plenty of snow in the South San Juan Mountains at the end of May. We set out from Chama loaded down with ice axes, micro spikes, and six days of food to get us to Wolf Creek Pass. The snow started on our way from the trailhead and lasted through the night. Our days were full of long snowy traverses, glissading down steep passes, and sleeping in freezing temperatures. The snow was utterly terrifying for a few moments, and immeasurably fun the rest of the time. There is no denying that it made this stretch one of the most beautiful to date.
When we made it to Pagosa Springs, we were greeted with one of the coolest towns so far. Hot springs, great food, and amazing locals, all made this a great stop. I also heard from my brother while in town. He just happened to be passing through on this stretch and we tried to make plans to see each other. I kicked my own butt trying to hike and meet him, but unfortunately, he was stopped by the snow on Stony Pass. Even though we missed each other, we had some good stories to share. I had hiked far ahead of my crew and took a near-o on the trail, and he white-knuckled his way down Stony Pass trying to keep control of all 600 lbs. of his motorcycle. The hike itself was stunning, but I would love to come back and see more of the San Juans in the future. I hiked down Stony Pass and into Silverton for a much-needed day off with my hiking buddies.
After Silverton, it was only a few more days until Lake City. The hiking was pleasant, there was less snow, but still plenty of beauty, and I saw my first moose! Lake City could not have been more welcoming. We got a hitch into town in less than 10 minutes. Staying at the campground in town helped us save a bit of money, and they had everything we needed. We got all the chores done early (showers, laundry, and resupply) which left plenty of time for dinner and ice cream. After we got our treats, we enjoyed a nice evening in the park watching the sun set behind the mountains. In the morning, our camp hosts were sweet enough to take us back up to the trail.
Into the Trees
The stretch of trail from Lake City to Salida started with our first fourteener. We climbed San Luis Peak at 14,022 ft. on our second day out. It was an incredible experience, but a tough climb. Standing on the top was a reminder of why I love spending the summer like this. It was such a good reward for a solid day of climbing. The rest of the trail on this segment mellowed out. We dropped in elevation and stayed in the trees for the next several days. It was a nice change in scenery, but I started to miss the alpine views by the time we reached Monarch Pass. Our last day before heading in to Salida finally shoved us out above tree line and down along the divide to the highway and civilization.
Colorado So Far…
This state has been nothing like I expected. It has tested me much more than I thought it would. New Mexico hardly prepared me for how remote and exposed most of the trail through Colorado has been. I also never expected it to be so beautiful. I have seen a lot of Colorado before, but nothing as stunning as the terrain the CDT has taken me through. It has been amazing and exhilarating in every way. I can’t wait to see what else this state has in store!
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