Date- September 25, 2019
Location- side of trail
Elevation- 12,707 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 24.1 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 1,855.3 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 60s
Pain level- zero
Spirits/Morale- Fingers still crossed
Wildlife encounters- pikas, coyote, mule deer x 6
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 6
**Sorry for the delay in posts! A combination of the San Juans beating me down, a relentless hiking pace, and really poor reception and slow wifi allowed the blog posts to get behind! Hopefully that won’t happen again!”And so the brunt of the San Juans began, and the 117 mile push to Pagosa Springs kicked off. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day.Jetpack had chartered a shuttle for 7:30 am for us and Smiles. Swift, Toast, Shark Bait, and Leap Frog were planning to hitch out in the mid to late morning. That would usually be my strategy, but I wasn’t losing one more hour in the San Juans. I forced myself out early.The three of us were hiking by a few minutes after 8 am. I soon let Jetpack and Smiles cruise ahead as I settled into my comfortable position at the back of the pack.
Today’s introduction to the San Juans proper was very eye opening. This mountain range (or at least the part that the trail traverses) is utterly barren aside from scrub bushes. There is virtually nowhere to hide and nowhere to take shelter if shit hits the fan. This place is a death trap waiting to happen. It’s kind of exciting…The views were wide open and endless, but the mental stimulation was all up to you. Even with expansive and gorgeous views, the openness and uniformity of the immediate surroundings tended to leave you stuck in your own head – or at least it did for me.
Not Much to Look At
One thing I wasn’t expecting today was to see very much wildlife in the barren landscape. However, lo and behold… when I was just under 13k feet, a nearly snow white coyote crested the top of a rise 30 yards ahead and above me before pausing to take in my presence. For a moment I thought it was a gray fox, but it was too big. After only a brief few seconds it disappeared from the rise before I could get a picture. I took off sprinting to the top in hopes of getting a shot of it running away. When I got there, it was nowhere to be seen (despite there being almost nowhere for the creature to disappear). Wiley things…In the early mid afternoon I passed over the Colorado Trail high point at 13,271 ft. It wasn’t even the summit of a mountain – just a point where the trail gently crested what truly appeared to be nothing more than a hill.The day droned on across the rolling climbs as the sun set ahead of me for most of the afternoon and evening. The wind was gentle, but there was still a sharp bite to it. It’s not hard to imagine a little bit more wind causing a lot more misery.I had an idea of the location Jetpack and Smiles were aiming for. When I got there, it was devoid of life – aside from a family of 6 mule deer who watched me distrustfully.
There were no trees, but there were enough scrub bushes and flat spots that I was sure anyone would have thought it reasonable (semi sheltered camping) for this terrain, had they seen it. Alas, nobody was here and it was almost dark. I decided I’d just hike till I found them, thinking they must have discovered something better.I pushed another mile and crested another climb before finding them almost immediately. They had chosen a flat bowl on the exposed side of a mountain above 12k feet. I almost face-palmed.
Cold to Come
Granted, in their defense, it was a gorgeous location and evening – plus they did have tents. Either way, you were going to feel even the slightest change in weather conditions for better or worse (but probably worse). I decided to make due and threw down my sleeping pad on the open grass and bundled up in all my layers.I watched the last of the sunset as the stars tumbled out and the milky way shimmered into existence. The moon has been late to rise in the past few days. So, the stars have been getting an early and prolonged appearance – at least when I’m awake and looking at them.I’m looking forward to delving deeper into this mountain range tomorrow. In about 16 miles the CDT and the CT will diverge. I’m curious to see what the state of the trail becomes…