Date- September 22, 2019
Location- Eddiesville Trailhead
Elevation- 10,322 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 27.2 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 1804.2 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 50s, 60s
Pain level- zero
Spirits/Morale- So close to N. Mexico!
Wildlife encounters- Garter snakes, ptarmigan, beavers
Days without shower- 3
Days without laundry- 3
It was another exceptionally cold night, but nowhere near as cold as it was the night before. Nevertheless, I was comfortably sandwiched between the giant log I was leaning against and the now cold fire ring. It was almost 9:15 am when I started hiking. I wasn’t worried about the late start because the terrain appeared to be fairly mild. A good chunk of the day’s miles were going to be on forest service roads.
I would say that after the last two below freezing nights, more than half the aspens have changed. Still, the weather seems to be holding out. The forecast for the next week (across the areas we will traverse) looks promising. Everything just needs to hold out for about ten more days, and then I’ll be clear and free in New Mexico.
I will embark on the beginning of the San Juans tomorrow. This mountain range has been haunting my dreams for years now… They are billed as the coup de gras of Colorado, and possibly the entire trail. I want to hike this range so badly – it hurts! On many years, both north-bounders and south-bounders don’t get to do them, or don’t do them. This is usually due to outrageous snow-pack or dangerous weather conditions. Some people simply skip them because there is an alternate that cuts them completely off (along with nearly 100 miles of trail). I can’t fathom skipping these mountains if weather and snow conditions are favorable.
In 2017, Schweppes missed them due to dangerous weather. He began them, then had to zero in Lake City for 5 days waiting for the weather to break. It did for a little bit, so he made a run for it only to have the weather turn again and force him back to the lower route called the “Creede Route.” There is a CDT saying: “Quitters go to Creede.” This is meant as a playful dig. In reality, sometimes you have to go to Creede because your life depends on it. However, if you’re just going to Creede because you’d rather cut miles than see one of the highlights of the entire trail… then you’re just quitting on yourself. There are a lot of thru- hikers who want to do the San Juans as part of their thru-hike but never get to. However, to skip it for no reason is an insult to their misfortune, in my humble opinion (for what it’s worth).
Anyhow, today was a fairly boring day again – albeit gorgeous. The vast majority of it was spent out in the open in Great Basin type terrain, with the other portion spent amongst the beautifully changing aspens.
The sun beat down relentlessly and uninterrupted, but was complemented nicely by the cool temperatures. If every day could be like this until New Mexico, I’ll feel like I’ve won the Lotto. I know it’s too much to ask for, but stranger things have happened…
The most exciting parts of the day came in the last 7 miles as the trail transitioned back to actual trail – before gradually climbing its way up a narrow valley along Cochetopa Creek. Then it started climbing onto a shelf overlooking said creek.
It was along this stretch that I found two garter snakes and a ptarmigan (wild chicken). I kept my hands to myself and let them all be.
In the early evening, as gray blue light filled the darkening valley, I nearly had a heart attack! While I was cutting across a narrow section of shelf above the creek, I heard what sounded like a gunshot to my left (in the direction of the creek). I nearly fell over as I jerked my head and body towards the sound. Instantly, I caught a glimpse of what appeared to be some kind of dark cannonball shaped object that splashed into the creek. I watched the spot a little longer when a beaver surfaced, and then another. Had I not seen them, I might have put two and two together; but I may be giving myself too much credit. I’ve heard beavers slap their tails before… However, I’ve always seen them on the surface immediately afterwards.
I finished up the last half mile to the remote trailhead in the dark. I could smell a fire for the entire half mile, and it was heartening. Three camp fires to enjoy for three nights in a row. What fortune!
I found my four hiking companions around the fire, plus Leap Frog and Sharkbait, and another couple named Animal and Townie. There was another Australian guy there named “Eli,” who was putting on some trail magic. Eli had just finished a northbound thru-hike of the CDT a few days ago and was doing trail magic for his friends (Animal and Townie) – along with whoever else happened to show up. He built the fire, brought soda and beer, and made hot cocoa with rum in it. I actually met Eli outside of Duboise in northern Wyoming. While I didn’t immediately recognize him, he recognized my shorts. It was a superbly wonderful ending to a long day!
It’s getting unbearably cold again… As I said yesterday, there are vault privys at this trailhead. Since there are two, I claimed one as my home for tonight. I rate it 4 stars for cleanliness. However, I’m deducting a star since it’s rather mundane and UN-unique as far as privys go. If it had a sky light, I’d give it 5 stars.
I want to try and do another 27 miles to the highway into Lake City tomorrow, but the terrain looks gnarly. I doubt I could reach the road with enough time to hitch, but I’m going to try nonetheless. Actually, getting up early will be the key. Either way, I’ll get my first taste of the San Juans tomorrow. It feels like the night before the first day of school!
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