Date- September 12, 2019
Elevation- 10,144 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 21.7 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 1624.8 miles
Weather/Temp- partly cloudy, snowy,40s,50s
Injuries- bad toenail
Pain level- low
Wildlife encounters- dead elk, pikas, marmots
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 5
I woke up late last night to the sound of very light and slow pattering on my tarp. I was too delirious with sleep for the sound to register in my brain. But, I recall briefly wondering if it was snowing before promptly passing back out.When I awoke in the faded light of dawn, it was cold. Not your average cold, but icy cold. I peaked out from under the tarp to see the forest covered in white. There was about a half inch of snow on everything.I gotta be honest with you. I wasn’t disappointed or upset. It was a gorgeous day, and this was obviously a light dusting that would be melted by noon. Nothing to be alarmed about… hopefully; although my water filter froze – which means it’s useless now.Due to the extreme cold, I didn’t get packed up and hiking until almost 8 am. As I began the hike (climbing higher and higher) – the snow got a little bit thicker. Then as the morning progressed and the sun exposed more of the mountains, the snow ceased to exist anywhere but in the shadows.
On the Colorado Trail
The trail, which was now both the CDT and the Colorado Trail (CT), was a dream. It was so beautifully maintained; every junction and turn was blazed with the insignia of both trails. So straight forward…so easy…no guessing. What a contrast! It was even graded nicely.As the day progressed, it warmed up and I didn’t see any other thru-hikers. I crested three passes before noon. At around 1 pm I stopped at a turn in the trail to have a light lunch. I ended up sitting and basking in the sun for nearly an hour. As I was getting close to hitting the trail again, two bow hunters came hiking by (also heading south on the trail).Their packs were loaded down with the meat of an elk they’d shot earlier that morning. I congratulated them on a successful hunt and asked for the tale of the kill. Long story short, they’d shot it several hours ago, about 5 miles back on the edge of a valley just below Searle Pass. I knew exactly where they were talking about. They must have been cleaning/packing up their kill while I was going up and over Searle less than two hours ago. They still had one more trip back to get the rest of the meat. I congratulated them again and we parted ways.
The rest of the 8’ish miles to Tennessee Pass were easy, fast, and uneventful. But… who did I find when I got there? None other than my good friend from the Appalachian Trail– “Coma!” If you’ve read my AT book, then the name is familiar. If not, then all you really need to know is that I hiked hundreds of miles of the AT with him, and we’ve been getting together with other AT friends every year to put on trail magic or just hang out.Coma has been living out of his Ford Bronco for 5 months and traveling the country while doing restorative carpentry work wherever he can find it along the way. Currently, he happens to be doing a job in Leadville. So he’s living there and exploring the surrounding mountains in his free time.Coma got me into Leadville where I checked into a local hostel and met up with Jetpack. And this is where things get sadly hilarious. One of the first things Jetpack said to me was, “I got an awesome video of this elk running away just below Searle Pass this morning!” I immediately put two and two together and asked to see the video. Sure as daylight, there was the elk and there was the pass in the video.
They Said, He Said, She Said
I regretfully informed Jetpack of my encounter with the hunters, as well as their account of where and when they shot their elk. It was looking as if her elk and their elk were one in the same. In fact, it seemed as though she might have even spooked the elk right into their cross-hairs, so to speak. There is no way to be 100% sure. However, the timing and location matched up almost perfectly, and there were no other elk visible in that area.
And SO it Goes
It was sad, but the crazy irony of the entire thing was too rich not to chuckle about. A sort of “butterfly effect” situation. Hiker sees beautiful elk and has magical encounter that is caught on film. Elk gets scared and runs away (as elk do). Unbeknownst to hiker, the elk runs straight into the sights of a hunter – as a direct result of its encounter with said hiker. Elk is now dead while hiker goes on with a pleasant and magical memory of elk. Second hiker comes along to encounter elk postmortem with hunters. Second hiker gathers story and information from hunters. Second hiker continues on and encounters first hiker. Second hiker gathers more story and information before connecting the dots. Illusions are shattered. Memories are reconstructed. Harshness of reality is realized. Overall… it’s somewhat humorous.We all went out for dinner and drinks at a small local joint called High Mountain Pie, and it was good. I think tomorrow is going to be a zero day, but we’ll see. All the towns have been so close together through this part of Colorado; I almost feel guilty for how much I’ve been enjoying myself…
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