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Archive for August, 2011

Getting into Creede was so easy that I didn’t think much of getting out of Creede.  That is, until I tried hitching out for 45 minutes and everyone waved to me.  If you’re not going to pick me up, DONT WAVE!  I ended up calling Debbie from the Chamber of Commerce for a shuttle which I split with Justin and Andy.  She got us to right before that big hole that scared the daylights out of me the day before, which is to say, further than I thought that she would drop us.  Then came the mile and a half hike back to the trail, which did not thrill me too much, but luckily it wasn’t steep and the town was really fun and inviting.  At the junction with the CT, Justin, Andy, and I met a few older folks out for a day hike and we chatted with them for a few minutes before beginning segment 21.

The beginning of the new segment went like this: GO UP 1000 FT NOW!  Since we had all just filled our packs up with the resupply and had just eaten lunch in town, it was a great way to start the second half of the day.  The large amount of french fries sitting in my stomach seemed to find this amusing.  The trail shot up to a really pretty saddle and then swooped back down into the valley below, all above treeline still.  At least if the trail is going to go up and down that much without reaching the top of anything, the entire climb and descent has magnificent views in all directions.  The views make the complaining very trivial, although the thoughts still enter my mind, especially with a full food bag against my back.  Toward the bottom, I ran into three Oakies with extremely large, heavy packs moving at a pace that seemed to be less than half a mile an hour under pain.  The one in the back had a large rope resting under the top loader.  I chatted with them for a bit and walked behind them for five minutes or so while they described their agonies.

Me: So, are you guys going climbing?

Dude: NO! WHY does EVERYONE keep asking me that?!

Me: Well, you have a pretty big rope there.

Dude: We have three.  We take bear bagging very seriously, especially when I was a ranger at Philmont.

Me: Ah.  So,  you guys have gone backpacking before?

Dude: I have the most experience, being a ranger and all, as well as boy scouts.  The guy in the front has gone on a few trips and this is the middle guy’s first trip!

Me: Uh huh. How much are you guys doing of the CT?

Dude: Just segments 21-25.  We heard it has the best views.

Me: So, how are you going to use all three of those ropes to bear bag food above treeline?

Dude: We weren’t sure.

Middle Dude: He had us try to stay awake in shifts and watch it all night last night, but we fell asleep after throwing up from altitude sickness all afternoon.

They provided ample entertainment for about half an hour or so until I decided to move on.  I almost camped with them to see what else they had in their overstuffed 60 something pound packs, but I resisted and trudged up to the next saddle while they camped in the valley by a scattered bunch of trees, presumably so they could make some complex bear bag.  I found myself taking far too many pictures of the sweeping views that spanned miles as the sun began to set and I seemed to continually be walking up to various small saddles.  I played “find the pica” a few times and won each time.  That game is far easier than “find the woodpecker.”  The picas sound like dog squeak toys and look like overgrown mice.

As the sun started to set, I saw the pond I aimed for at the beginning of Snow Mesa.  It was the next water source after the creek that the Oakies camped by and I was running low on water and down to about 200ml…oops.  When I got there, the sun had set, but the moon lit the way as the dusk began to fade.  I set up my tent in the flattest place I could find which somehow still had an interesting array of grass climbs to sleep around.  I grabbed a liter of water from the pond, dip-cup style because it was too shallow for a whole nalgene, then went and cooked dinner.  I barely managed to eat half of it, then said screw it and covered it to place it near my food bag, which I left in the vestibule because there were no trees.

When I awoke, I found frost on the rain fly again and I took it off and set it up in the sun to dry while I ate breakfast and gathered up my stuff.  Justin and Andy were tented on the other side of the pond while an older guy and his ugly poodle were camping close-ish to me .  I ate the unfinished, cold couscous from the night before and snacked on some cashews until I packed everything up.  The older guy started to come over while I was stuffing my tent and began a conversation.  A few of his comments stuck out in my mind very clearly, his opening statement being, “You’re the fourth solo female thru-hiker I’ve seen on this trip!”  I only knew one ahead of me and one he could have mistaken for solo, but I didn’t question him.  He went on talking about how the next backpacking trip he went on, he would not go on the CT because there were too many thru-hikers.  A.) Dude, you shouldn’t have picked a popular spot, and B.) You started talking to me, not the other way around, all I did was wave in acknowledgement, sorry for disrupting your solitude.

The morning miles were nice and relaxing with the small ups and downs on the Snow Mesa and the San Juans shooting up in front of me.  I saw some sheep off in the distance to the left, but they were nowhere near the trail, but I could hear them baaaaahing.  On the way down to the road and the end of the segment, I found the loose gravel a pain.  I did some snowshoe skiing moves and managed not to eat shit somehow.  When I got to the road, I took a break seeing if I could yogi any beer or soda off of someone in the parking lot, yet no one was forthcoming.  Justin and Andy caught up and the three of us looked pathetic together, but still nothing.  Then a guy came trotting down and began talking to us.  He claimed to have thru-hiked last year and pulled something or another in his leg, so he was going to hitch to Durango and didn’t need his food.  He emptied his food bag contents out for our picking.  I took a few crystal light packets and Justin packed out the rest to my amazement considering it included four dinnesr, a large ziplock of Nutrigrain bars, and another large ziplock of cheese crackers.

I decided to walk 2.5 more miles to the stream to eat lunch since I got a late start, which I managed to do, just before the storm hit.  I snagged a liter of water and dashed into the tree groves to the side while impending doom swept over darkening the skies to a deep grey.  The thunder came in while I ate my lunch and put aquamira in the water.  Then came the lightning.  On and on it went.  The different waves of the storm lasted three hours!  When finally enough sky had cleared, I went above treeline to the small mesa and looked back at the storm as it moved away from me.  I stood and watched the lightning strike down and sideways until a rainbow formed while the sun shone ahead of me.

I threw on my iPod to get the last five miles or so, until I ran into more sheep!  Eeeesh!  This time, they ate the grass right next to the trail and a sheep dog decided I was not welcome and began growling at me.  I took off the headphones and tried to shoo it away, but it didn’t want to move.  After a few minutes, the shepperd came down and waved him away.  He was a really nice man from Bolivia trying to make enough money to put his third kid into medical school (two were almost done, but he didn’t have the money to put the third through).  He offered me a soda and let me sit on his couch for an hour while we chatted in Spanish and he fixed a transistor radio.  Then he walked up the hill with me for a bit so the sheep dogs wouldn’t bother me.

From there, I only had a mile and a half to the yurt which I had heard was open to hikers.  I got there in no time, grabbed some water from the stream not too far from it and headed inside to find Justin, Andy, Phil, Doug, John, and Sandy.  Phil, Doug, and John were old camp counselor buddies from Denver and Sandy was a 62 yr old woman hiking about 10 miles a day with her husband supporting her through the towns and whatnot.  We all had a blast eating dinner, playing the SET card game, and hanging out for a night.  All of us had apparently asked the Oakies if they were going climbing that day, which explained why they seemed so irritated at my question.  We definitely stayed up past hiker midnight.

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Segment 18 began with the last water at mile 1.7 and then the “wonderful” guidebook said that I would find no water for 21 miles until I reached Cochetopa Creek.  In my head, I planned on getting up early so I would have more time to do the long day, but when I awoke, I found my tent covered in frost and the air seemed like an icebox!  It seemed as if I had just stepped into a large refrigerated beer room, but no beer.  Managing to motivate myself to moving at 8am, I dutifully filled up all my water for the day and set out for the next creek to camp near.  Everything seemed to take longer due to having to warm my fingers up under my armpits after doing any menial morning task.

While getting water, I found Wooly and the Drake or TJ and Andrea, the two who had Sarah supporting them (the one who gave Gismo, Napper, and I trail magic beer at route 50 to Salida).  They were trying to do the whole trail in 24 days.  Continuing on, I found myself pausing in the sun to warm up and laughing because usually I pause in the shade to cool down.  After an unexpected sharp 300 foot increase that was not included in the elevation profile, I took a sun break to un-frost my rain fly and let it dry.  It took longer than normal because first the frost had to melt, then it had to dry.

I followed Cochetopa Creek for miles on the side of the ridge looking down at it snake its way through the valley.  When I came close to the end of the segment, where I planned a second break, mostly because my feet were overheating in my boots, I ran into three people going fishing.  It seemed as if the guy was taking the two women fishing and teaching them because they all had matchy matchy gear and they looked like they put on way too much make up for a fishing trip.

“Where did you hike from?” One asked.

“Today? Or in general?” I asked, not knowing what she meant.

“Oh, umm in general I guess,” she said.

“Denver.”

“WHOA!” she seemed astounded, “I thought the hike in to this creek was far!”

I think she was half a mile from the parking lot.  I just shrugged and continued on hoping to yogi some food from other fisherfolk.  I did find four more in a huge white truck, but they seemed also on a fishing tour type thing and seemed unsure of why anyone would want to hike there from Denver, much less further on.  After my feet dried off, I went onward to lunch, where Justin and Andy passed me sitting under a tree for shade.  The trail then made a long, but not very steep ascent to the saddle of San Luis Peak at 12,600ft.  Once again, I ended up becoming bored of the climb because it went on and on and on for so many miles, but did not really go up fast.  On a snack break, two women passed me with only day packs on going at a quick pace – so quick, they only really managed a “hi, how are you” without stopping.  My first reaction afterwards was to shake my head and think ohhh day hikers.  To keep myself from getting too bored of climbing, I took lots of pictures of the valley and wildflowers.

Then, I heard something behind me.  I stopped and got out-of-the-way because it sounded large and a forest ranger passed on horseback guiding two other horses with stuff loaded all over them.

“You see two girls pass you?” he asked.

“Yeah, about an hour ago or so.  They walked pretty fast and didn’t talk much,” I answered.

“Yup.  I got their stuff,” he grunted tossing his head to look at the overloaded horses.

I laughed, “Can I throw mine on there too?” I said jokingly.

He laughed, “I don’t think these horses could hold a soda more!”

Justin and Andy came up behind him and passed me too and the three of us met up at the “last” water.  I loaded up because I wanted to drycamp in the saddle and get up early to climb the last 1,400 ft to the summit of San Luis.  It was only a mile to the saddle, but with 3.5 liters of water, I was not to pleased to slug my way up there.  Especially when I found a running creek about half way through it.  Thanks for failing to mention that, creek guidebook.  When I reached the saddle, I saw most of Justin and Andy’s stuff in a hole and saw they had already started climbing the peak.  Since the sun shone brightly with hardly a cloud left in the sky, even at 6pm, it seemed like a good time to go up…if you had energy.  After back-to-back 20 mile days, I decided to set up my tent, cook dinner, and watch the sunset and the changing shadows cast by the sun.  They came back down eventually, just as I was thinking of trying to race up for the sunset with dinner food energy.  Having not carried up much water, they decided to hike to the next water, which shouldn’t be too far and we said bye temporarily.

In the morning, I had this bright idea of waking up at 4:30am and hiking up for the sunrise, but I reset my alarm because I was super tired and it was cold and windy out.  Around 5:15am, I heard people walking by my tent.  I managed to wake up enough to open the rain fly and lay there watching the sunrise, about half awake.  The wind still whipped about and I didn’t have any desire to leave my warm sleeping bag yet.  I think I managed to sit up and cook breakfast around 6am and began hiking by 6:40am.

The trail shot up very steeply on loose gravel, so loose that I was slipping around hiking up it.  Usually, I have issues going down it, but not up.  About half a mile in, the two guys I heard in the morning passed by on their way down and they commented on the wind at the top.  I hiked on, passing several false summits and took loads of pictures since I was on the highest thing around for a while.  After that steep part, the cairns ended and it was a small maze of herd paths up to the top.  I followed the one that followed the ridge the most closely until I saw a better one and switched to that one until I reached the top.  I had the summit to myself, the sun had warmed things up a bit and the wind had died.  It was super cool.  Then I laughed when I saw that it was 8am on the dot.  The guidebook claimed it would be a 4-5 hour round trip.  It took me an hour and twenty minutes to the top, with plenty of picture stops.  I spent about 10 minutes on top, then headed down, which took me just over an hour.  Thanks for the inaccurate time-table, guidebook.  At the bottom, I saw the two women “day hikers” and I stopped to chat with them.  They were actually forest rangers as well who were trying to reroute the San Luis peak trail away from the super unstable portion to the better part of the ridge.  I picked their brains for a bit and it was quite intriguing information.

When I got back to my tent, I packed everything up, threw on the ipod and headed out the last four miles of the segment.  The trail crossed two more saddles, each of which gave incredible views of San Luis and just how massive it really is.  This whole section stayed above treeline and the weather was on my side.

Getting to the pass, I sighed as I made a hard left down a trail to get to the town of Creede where my next resupply was.  I was not too keen on the idea of hiking a mile and a half down a trail to get to a mile and a half long dirt jeep road which would get me to a dirt forest service road into down.  The roads portion of which was 10 miles.  I was mentally preparing myself to walk to 10 miles into town because I doubted that I would catch a hitch and I knew Justin and Andy were ahead of me.

Then, right as I was almost done with the trail portion, I see a few jeeps coming down from the divide on the jeep road and I start running.  A thru-hiker running with a pack is just as awkward and uncomfortable as you can imagine, but can be done.  The last quarter-mile, I ran and managed to flag down the last jeep of a group of five.  Out of breath from running with a pack above 11,500ft, I asked if they had any room.  The driver, in a thick Texas accent laughed and said they didn’t, but they radioed ahead to friends of theirs that had the back seat open and they stopped ahead.

In the thick Texas accent the man said, “Just jump right there on the step up bar and hold on to the window here and we’ll take you to them.”

I obliged, albeit a bit unsure.  It was actually super fun until we had to go around this HUGE hole and I thought the jeep would roll over onto me and I prepared to jump and run while it rolled.  Luckily it didn’t and I stayed on, even with my pack hanging off.  Getting to the jeep, I jumped in and talked to a really nice retired couple from Minnesota who had more of a Texas accent.  They were up in Colorado for the summer and had joined the Texas/Kansas/Oklahoma jeep crew that also stayed at the same camp ground.  When we got to the forest service road, a radio call came in that two more hikers needed rides and I laughed, knowing that it was Justin and Andy.  Andy jumped in the back of the Kansas Jeep and had to sit up because an old dog couldn’t be moved too much in the back seat, and Justin jumped in the back with me and we both sat with our packs on our laps.

As we came into town, we got dropped off at the Post Office to grab our mail drops, sort through those, then we headed to the Tommy Knocker bar for beer and food.  After having our fill, we went to try to find a room to split, only to find that the whole town was booked except for two suites ranging in price from $135-$155.  As we passed the motel, we saw Cookie Monster, Hop-A-Long, and No Amp all waiting for a shuttle back to the trail and we chatted for a few minutes with them.  Then we went to the rafting place to see if we could buy a raft guide beer to tent in his or her yard or sleep on the floor, but all of them lived in South Fork, about twenty miles away.  The desk lady, JoAnn, helped us by trying to call around, but found nothing.  As we left, she drove by and said to go back a few blocks and find Nancy who said we could camp in her yard…or a friend of her’s yard who was in Denver.  So, that’s what we did.  The entire town of Creede was filled with the nicest people on the whole trail.  No matter where we went, there were nice and super helpful people.  They definitely should get the best trail town award.

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Sorry for the lack of updates; I have now finished and am back at sea level, but will finish the story over the next few days, so stay tuned!  From where I left off in Salida:

I had a very relaxing half-day in the awesome small town of Salida which included laundry at the hostel (which was a fantastic one!), a clean sleeping bag, beer and pizza at Amica’s Micro Brew, and a charged ipod.  An interesting bunch of people inhabited the hostel when I got there including a trail crew, a motorcycle enthusiast named Scott, two older hikers who were just about to start their second section of the CT, and a rather pretentious super skinny dude with the most complicated coffee-making process I have ever seen.  The two other thru-hiker’s I hitched in with, Cookie Monster and Hop-A-Long, had gone back to hike a few more miles that evening.

The next morning, I woke up early unintentionally and got up to eat breakfast and get back to the trail since I wanted to do a full day and thought the usual afternoon storm would roll in.  I was quite peacefully chatting with Scott, who had also not slept well, when the super skinny guy began about a 40 minute coffee-making excursion on the table.  I’m pretty sure I could have passed a course in rocket science before learning how he makes coffee.

I gathered my pack up and walked down to route 50 where I got a hitch from a older guy in a large truck who had apparently gone “drivin'” because he didn’t want to watch his younger roommates make “basic life mistakes”.  He didn’t care where he drove, so he drove me to the trailhead and we jammed to some Hank Williams.  I could not quite understand why a 50 or 60 something year old dude had younger roommates and it seemed like a sore subject, so I didn’t ask.  Almost immediately after being dropped off, three mountain bike racers passed me, flying by.

The first three miles of segment 15 were a dirt road walk, which at first bummed me out, but no cars passed at all after the first quarter-mile so I didn’t mind.  At the pond a quarter-mile in, I ran into Justin and Andy who had camped in the area after resupplying in Poncha Springs.  They told me of a guy who told them he believed the world would end in 2012 – but wilderness people would survive.  They hiked quicker than I did for a while and I felt the six-day food baby weighing my pack down significantly against my back which put me in an apathetic mood.  That didn’t bode too well for a slow, eight mile climb up to a super famous mountain bike trail which hit the CDT again and over to Marshall Pass.  Around mile five, I became super unmotivated and threw on the ipod which helped a bit.  The all too terrible guidebook mentioned for a few lines about just how steep the last half-mile before the top of the climb was and I was curious to see what they considered “one of the steepest grades on the Colorado Trail.”  I would love to throw one of them in the Adirondacks or New Hampshire.

The only thing really notable was a bright blue spider that I saw crawl across it.  The last part was steep for the CT standards, but not too bad, and it had awesome views of Shavano and Tabeguache Mountains.  Here’s the fun thing about climbs like these.  The sky looked perfectly fine and dandy while you’re hiking up through the trees and the small chunk above treeline, then you get to the top and see over the other side and all you have to say is, “shit.”  There’s the afternoon’s mountain thunderstorm over there.  And, of course, I had about three more miles above treeline.  Hmmm.  I kept the music on until I almost got run over by two mountain bikers, then I decided that was enough and I probably needed to listen for thunder anyway.  A little later, I saw the only shelter on the whole CT which was super pathetic and didn’t even have a floor, but I took a small snack break by it anyway.

A mountain bike racer passed me and I almost kept up with him for a third of a mile or so while he had to get on and off his bike to push it through parts.  Then I saw some lightening in the distance and hurried back down to the trees on the other side of the rocky bump where I soon came across Paul trying to cook on a fire in the misty rain that now engulfed all the views in a grey white mess.  He had stayed at the hostel in Salida for three days and left the day before I got there and gotten a ride to Monarch Pass (skipping the whole eight mile slow climb…so long you get bored “climbing” it) and taken a connector trail downhill to the CT.  I’m all for the hike your own hike mantra, but you have to actually be hiking it and not driving around it.  He also had a 64 pound pack and wanted to be boiling a liter to a liter and a half of water per night to cook.  I just raised my eyebrows and continued down to Marshall Pass where I found a campsite in some trees.

That night I had a really creepy dream about a vampire version of Cruela Deville.  It creeped me out so much that I didn’t manage to get hiking until almost 8am.  Then I had to deal with cows within the first five minutes of hiking.  Segment 16 wasn’t too notable except the thunderstorms that came in that afternoon and I found some nice tree outcroppings to hide in.  They kept me really dry, but I was bored and didn’t have much to do besides pick at the mosquito bite scabs and have a sing-a-long with me, myself, and trees.  I went from tree outcropping to tree outcropping between waves of the storms until they just went away and it became super sunny again.

I did get to see a mountain biker eat shit just from a rut because he tried to miss the cow pie in the middle of the trail.  He scrambled away before I could ask if he was ok though.  The “easy hiking” through Sargent’s Mesa at the end of the segment was not so easy because I had to look at my feet the whole time so I didn’t step in cow shit.  I had grabbed enough water to last me through the morning since there was an 11 mile dry section and I knew with the thunderstorms that I wouldn’t make Baldy Lake, so I went about a mile into Segment 17 and found a good flat area to camp.

Now, segment 17…talk about up and down! Through trees!  It seemed like I was back on the AT, but with a few more view outlooks because it just seemed to go up a few hundred feet, then down a few hundred etc.  I hit the “half mile” trail to Baldy Lake and went down for agua.  Then, as I continued, a new thing happened.  Dirt bikers.  REALLY?  Now horses and cows don’t even seem annoying.  They made huge muddy ruts in the trail where water puddled and ripped all the rocks out of the dry sections which made me almost twist my ankles a zillion times.  They always expect YOU to get out of THEIR way just because you can hear them, but of course they can’t hear you with their huge gas guzzling bikes.  I know you have beer in those packs…cough it up assholes!  Then you have to smell it for a few minutes afterwards…mountain fresh air? Nope!  ANNNNNNND, they never stop to tell you how many are coming after them…at least mountain bikers will yell that over their shoulder for a heads up.  Bleh!

But then, at the end of the day…trail magic came in droves.  And I pulled a 20 mile day which I was actually trying not to do this trip, but ended up with a few.  Near Lujan Pass, Apple had a massive trail magic tent set up with soda, snacks, water, bug spray, a tent to stay in with a stove, chairs, and one of the only trail register journals!  I snacked on some sun chips and an orange soda and read through the log.  Pretty interesting stuff!  I wanted to get just into segment 18 because in the beginning we would cross a stream which would be the last water source for 21 miles, so I figured it would be smart to get close to it.  On my way down the hill, I then saw an old guy sitting in a camp chair in the middle of the road with a t-shirt that said, “Inside every old man there is a young man wondering what the hell happened.”  I laughed and complimented his shirt and then he started chatting up a storm and tried to give me more food and basically anything.  I asked for some nail clippers which he happened to have and let me borrow and he sent me on with a fresh cucumber which he grew in his garden.

About a mile or so into segment 18, I found Justin and Andy again and camped near them.  We chatted, ate the cucumber, and drank the rest of the whiskey that we had between us.  After seeing the sunset, we all went to sleep at hiker midnight.

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Another trail update

Hello, readers!  Mandy asked that I let you know she has had no luck finding internet access in Silverton, where she currently is, nor in her last stop off the trail, in Creede.  She promises to post as soon as she can to relay her many stories.

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After looking around Buena Vista, horribly pronounced by Colorado Natives, and noticing that all the motels said, “No Vacancy” I looked somewhat puzzled.  Then a truck drove up and a guy got out.

“Hey,” he said, “you look like a hiker!  Need a ride up to the trail?”

Thinking I had nothing else to do, I said sure!  Nice guy, Scott, I think, who was heading further up the road to hike a small loop with his buddy.

I had already resigned myself to not really doing much that afternoon and somewhat wanted a shower and a bed for a night, but if motels have no vacancy, I knew it would be too expensive to stay.  I walked a grand total of maybe a quarter mile to a campsite by the creek.  Unfortunately, I could still hear the road, but I set up my tent and read two chapters of a terrible book which I have kept reading just to tell Tom I read it to the end and did not like it.  It got somewhat better around 240 pages in, but not fantastic.  It’s Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry.  Not a fan.

In the morning, I found myself pretty motivated and went the first 10 miles before lunch when I hit the 4×4 road up to Mt. Princeton.  It was far too late to try to hike it, but I sat there and ate lunch and prepared myself for a 5.7 mile road walk.  Luckily, I had enough iPod battery to just iPod it out and jam to some tunes.  I found myself getting more and more annoyed by the constant jeeps passing me coming down from the mountain.  It was not that I was mad because people were climbing it…I knew these guys weren’t climbing shit by how fat they were!  My favorite was a jeep that had some kind of skill attached to the front grill and had a probably close to 400 pound man driving it who got out and took a picture of the ranch sign below then waddled back in to the jeep to drive off.  Yeah…he climbed a 14er…right.

Irritated, I came upon Princeton Hot Springs three miles into the hike and saw commercialness at it’s peak!  I was particularly intrigued by a 400 foot waterlside into a hot spring pool (that seemed more like a super heated swimming pool) until I learned it was $15 to get in plus $2 for a towel.  Hmmm. Swarming with kids.  NO.  I marched on, walking by all the traffic that seemed to point and wave at me like I was in a zoo.  Jamming to tunes.  Then I spot a general store.  Bingo!  I stopped in and got myself a nice 24oz PBR to hike out and a Snapple to drink in the meantime.

Pleasantly sitting by the curb, drinking my Snapple, a couple came up to me and started chatting.  I was suspicious when the guy had a t-shirt on that said “Property of Jesus” but decided to humor them since they seemed nice.  This happened for five minutes before they started telling me about their pro-life views and how the guy’s mom had wanted him aborted yatta yatta yatta.  I raised my eyebrows.

“So, why did you stop at the store, just the Snapple?”

“Oh, no!  I stopped for beer!  The Snapple is because I wanted to sit and they said I couldn’t drink the beer here!”

Then they seemed less interested and went away.  I then continued the 2.5ish miles to the Chalk Creek Trailhead where I would finally get off the road to camp for the night.  Unfortunately, the last mile the mosquitoes decided to swarm me and I beat off as many as I could but they kept biting and biting!  I put on my bug balm but they didn’t seem to care too much and kept biting, so I kept walking swinging my hiking poles and hands at them.  I figured leaving the guts of their comrades on me would deter a few, but nope!

As soon as I crossed the creek, I found a spot to camp, set up my tent and sat in it drinking the PBR.  It never tasted so good!  I watched as tons of mosquitoes tried to get in and then I smashed them with great pleasure between the screen and the fly.

The mosquitoes were even bad in the morning!  I have never packed up so fast and scrambled out!  I went a little over 12 miles over not too difficult terrain.  The only people I passed were two groups on horseback…neither of which gave me trail magic despite not having to carry anything themselves.  The first group was three fat guys who seemed to have never seen a hiker before and took pictures because they didn’t seem to believe that anyone would want to hike almost 500 miles.  The second group came up and a guy was telling a pre-teen looking girl that the mountain lions only eat dead things, injured things, and little girls from Houston, Texas.  Ha! Sure buddy…

I found a good campsite a little past Squaw Creek and a little before the turn off for Mt. Shavano and Mt. Tabegauche.  I set up my tent just before the rain!  Yes!  I could not find any good bear branches, so I rigged something to at least get it away from the chipmunks and squirrels between two trees…although it only made it about 6 feet off the ground.

The next morning, I got up at 4am and left by 5am with my pack unloaded and filled with two liters of water, extra layers, a few bars, granola, and my camera.  Luckily my dying headlamp worked enough until dawn and I hiked up toward Mt. Shavano.  I had text message service in my tent and my mom had told me that it was 30% chance rain until 11am when it went up to 40% and at 1pm it would go up to 60%, so I got an early start.  The bit through the treeline didn’t seen too hard, but partly because I could see much besides trail trail trail and I really wasn’t thinking about much at 5am.  I took a break at treeline, which was at 12,200ft and saw two people ahead of me.  I began to close the gap toward the saddle, but never quite passed them.  The hiking up to the saddle and a little beyond wasn’t too bad, it was pretty much an uphill slog with super cool views of Salida and the surrounding mountains.  Then a bit past the saddle (which was at 13,400), it became a large pile of large rocks and herd paths split off everywhere.  I just picked the most direct and headed upward.  When I got closer to the other two, we began waving to each other.  Then, “ERRRRRRG” came from above and I knew it must be a false summit.  Surely, it was, but not a bad one.

On top, I got views for the first time on a 14er, albeit cloudy views.  I took pictures and ate a bar while chatting with the other two.  I really just wanted them to do Tabegauche because I wanted someone else there.  If the sky was clearer, I would have gone no problem, but I would feel far more comfortable with someone else there too.  They said they were not going to.  I sat for about 20 minutes enjoying the view until others came up.

Then a guy named Drew came up, followed by Rawd, and a young couple from Colorado Springs and I chatted with them.  We all discovered we were playing the “I’ll go if you go” game for Tabegauche peak which was 1 mile away — 600 ft down and 500 ft up.  When we realized we all badly wanted to go we decided if we were going to do it, we had to leave then, so we did.  Going down was a class 2 scramble that reminded me of New Hampshire, but less steep.  Herd paths zinged everywhere, but it was really follow the ridge to the saddle, then follow the ridge up.  We all made it over an up in about 40 minutes, which was good considering the ridiculously loose footing it was going up Tab.

After a five minute pow wow on top, we looked at the clouds, which had gotten a few shades darker grey and decided to move because the only real way back was up and over Shavano, the way we came.  Going back proved much tougher as we scrambled back up and over Shavano.  On the way down, we went slightly differently, but then merged back toward the main path finding a couple in the saddle still planning to continue up despite the darkening clouds.  Since there was no thunder, they deemed it ok despite it being 12:30 and our weather warning.  Once back to treeline, we slowed a bit and then split ways at the bottom where I saw Justin and Andy who had just done Shavano and were camping just before me, more toward the creek.

I went back to my tent, finished my book — terrible ending, and 15 minutes after I got in, the rain, thunder, and lightening came.  It was pretty intermittent, as in, storming for an hour, off for 15-20 minutes, then storming again.  I relaxed in my tent, while Justin and Andy decided to press on to get closer to the road to stay in Salida.  I decided that I only needed half a day in town and slept.  Right before sleeping, Gismo and Napper came by and chatted for a while, but pressed on three miles.

Quite unmotivated in the morning, I got a late start, almost 7:30am.  Mostly because I had a large hole in my favorite socks and I had to wear my other socks.  I went on and ended up finding Gismo and Napper at their campsite maybe a quarter packed up and I talked to them for quite a bit.  After I climbed the one climb of the day, a mere 700 feet (however, unmotivated), I stopped for a break after I saw a second bear run off.  I dried out my tent in the sun and Gismo and Napper passed me with a mountain biker.  The unsupported mountain bike race was already passing me…they started Monday and already 6 had passed me.

I caught back up to Gismo and Napper while two other bike racers passed us and chatted with them until the road to Salida.  At the bottom, we were chatting and jokingly, Gismo yogied us cold beer from Sarah and her two dogs, Bear and Lexi.  Nice!  Then, as I was trying to hitch out, Cookie Monster and Hop-a-long came out and hitched into town with me with a Texas Hippie.

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