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Posts Tagged ‘hunters’

As soon as I reached the top of the mesa, I found myself amazed at how suddenly flat the terrain became. Luckily, more of the climb than not had trees to shade us as we climbed during the heat of the day.

At the top of the mesa, we took a break in some shade leaning against our packs in different ways contemplating potential campsites location areas for later. We kept walking toward a water source which we knew would be half a mile off trail.

Me: E.D., do you remember this water source called “ojo de los indios”? It’s off trail quite a bit.

E.D.: Oooooooooh. And down. Very down.

Me: Good?

E.D.: Good, but down.

We headed in the direction of the water source, knowing that with the heat, none of us could skip it for the next source on trail. E.D. and I arrived at the side trail within a minute or two of each other and set our packs down to determine how much water we needed while we waited for The Darkness. Since the sun was setting, we grabbed headlamps while we stashed our packs so we only had to take water bottles down. After close to twenty minutes, we still didn’t see her, so we went down to grab some water.

E.D. was right. The trail was, in fact, half a mile off trail and down. We could see the cow troughs from above as we descended down to them. We had to go around one fence, then hop another, then hold bottles under a piece of PVC pipe feeding the cow troughs from the underground spring. It was dark as we had all of our bottles almost full. Then, we saw a headlamp and we “cooed” to find The Darkness coming down.

Eventually she wandered up with a smile on her face that screamed she had something interesting and potentially devious to tell us.

The Darkness: Guess what?!

E.D.: …what?

The Darkness: I talked to some Navajo ladies collecting piñon and they told me how to find them!

She held out a handful for us to see. Cue the “ooohs” and “aaaahs” as we contemplated how to find more the next day.

Sunrise.

We showed her how to get to the good water spot, then hiked back up to start cooking dinner. She finished getting water quickly and was back up to the top cooking with us in no time.

I convinced them to hike just a bit more at night because we were loosing daylight fast and needed to get some miles in so we didn’t run out of food. We got a few more miles in before finding a nice forested campsite for the evening.

In the morning, we awoke to a drastic change of weather. Instead of sweating buckets in tank tops, we now had on most of our layers, including puffys most of the morning. The CDT at this point mostly followed dirt four wheel drive roads and occasionally had bits of trail built in. We were coming up on the split in the trail where we could follow the official CDT around Mt. Taylor, or we could take the purple route over it.

While we thought about this, we noticed we sat on a large amount of piñon. Some hunters pulled up. Not only were they completely clad head to toe in camo, their ATV was clad in camo as well. We chatted and mentioned the piñon. The hunters showed us how to eat it by cracking it with your teeth. They also showed us the difference between old, rotten piñon and good piñon.

The Mt Taylor summit.

Despite the weather being cold, at least it wasn’t raining. We decided to hike up Mt. Taylor anyway because it would be the last time we’d hit 11,000 feet. We found a campsite near the top and summited in the morning in a cloud.

As soon as we dropped down about five hundred feet, we could see again. We cruised over to another mesa where we met back up with the official CDT and entered the world of piñon.

There was piñon everywhere. We set our packs down, collected, ate, and shared piñon for far too much time. We filled the Melanzana skirt pockets full. The piñon tasted deliciously fresh and we got fully distracted.

Piñon!

Whenever we tried to move further, we found richer, tastier piñon. It distracted us all morning until we realized that we had passed lunch just eating as much piñon as we possibly could.

Eventually we made it into Grants where we found a Crosby again!!

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**From September 2015**

Despite a very late start, we managed to get a few miles in before dark. Sometimes just getting back on trail, even a few miles helps immensely the next day. We found a pathetic looking shelter without a floor that we paused to see. It included quite a bit of graffiti, including a tag from Yogi and Worldwide.

We got distracted reading it all and ended up staying there instead of trying to reach a hunting cabin four miles further. Memphis played some comedy from his phone while we ate dinner. Then, I read theSkimm’s summary of the upcoming republican debate as a drinking game.

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My spoon 😦

In the morning, we passed the hunting cabin, which boasted several hunters clad head-to-toe in…you guessed it…cammo. This stretch had more mellow ups and downs full of aspens changing colors for the fall. With the Colorado Trail and the CDT combined, we had no trouble with navigation following the well-defined trail. We cruised, chatted, meandered, and admired the array of aspen leaf colors on the ground and on the trees.

One of those lunches, I went to make the classically old peanut butter tortilla when tragedy struck. My Sea to Summit titanium spoon BROKE in my peanut butter. I held up the handle and peered into the jar.

Memphis: What just happened?

Me: My spoon…

E.D.: In the peanut butter?

Me: I hate peanut butter.

Memphis: Is that titanium?

Me: Yes…

E.D.: You can use my spoon if you need it.

Memphis: You just broke a titanium spoon with peanut butter?

Me: I got this spoon in Daleville on the AT five years ago.

E.D.: Damn.

My favorite spoon was no more. It finished the Appalachian Trail with me. Then it survived a winter of the 46ers I had left to climb in the Adirondacks, it hiked the Colorado Trail with me, it went to New Zealand with me, the spoon survived three ski seasons stuffed into my jacket pocket, it hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, it survived a year of grad school in my backpack, and it went two thousand miles down the CDT.

I retrieved it from my peanut butter jar, licked it clean, and saw that it broke in a spot that neither duct tape nor superglue could fix. I immediately looked for cell service to send my trusty resupply Mother a picture, but none existed. I sadly put the spoon in my bag and thought about all of our times together.

The rolling hills.

The trail continued further through fields and more aspens until a bit before the Creede Cut-Off. On the Colorado Trail, I went into Creede and it was one of my favorite trail towns. This go-round, we would continue to Lake City instead.

Before the cut-off, we camped at the last water before San Luis Pass. Having already climbed San Luis on the Colorado Trail, I did not feel particularly inclined to do it again in interest of getting closer to the road into Lake City, knowing that would be a hard hitch. As per usual, Memphis got up the earliest and high tailed it uphill. It was cold that night and the tents stood rigid with frost. Stuffing a frosty tent into a stuff sack absolutely annihilates the comfort of one’s hands. I usually remedy this by putting my hands inside my puffy afterward.

After San Luis Pass, the trail winds around up and down the high ridges and contours around others passing large volcanic rock structures that always look like sand drip castles on the beach.

On one of the passes, I sat and laid out my tent still complete with frost in the sun and wind to dry while eating some lunch with my poor broken spoon. E.D. came up and did the same and we speculated about the whereabouts of Memphis when he popped up behind us.

Not a bad nap spot.

E.D.: What?

Me: Where’d you go?

Memphis: *smirking* San Luis Peak! My first 14er!

E.D.: Congrats!

Me: Whoa!

Memphis: Yeah! And Action, Shortstack, and Crosby are coming up!

We hadn’t seen Action or Shortstack since Dillon and we hadn’t seen Crosby since Lemhi Pass before Leadore, Idaho! We continued, aiming for the road into Lake City, when Action and Shortstack caught us and told us they were going to take the Creede Cut-Off. They did say that Crosby was planning on going the San Juan route. After catching up, standing, with our packs on, they speed toward the Cut-off and we continued toward the road.

We doubted we’d get a ride around 8pm as the sunset sunk below the ridge, however, we hit the road anyway.

Memphis: WOOHOO!!

E.D.: Something happened.

Me: A ride?

Memphis: BEER!

We hurried down to a wonderful cooler of cold beers. Thank you to the person who left some cold ones by the road!

The sunset going down to the road.

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Once we got off of the paved roads and the dirt roads, the CDT became its usual self of being a trail then disappearing, then reappearing, then disappearing. It liked to disappear right around dark and Guthook would just have a note that said, “follow cairns.” Easy enough, usually, in daylight. Tougher with headlamps, but do-able for a bit.

 

Sunset

The CDT hit some amazing ridgelines that offered stunning views and even more stunning sunsets and sunrises. The ridges all soared above treeline, except when we needed to get over to another ridge.

On one such ridgeline, we lost the trail in the dark. After having already lost it and found it several times, we decided to just camp and find it in the morning. According to Guthook and Gaia, we were on trail, but there was no tread. Classic. We were supposed to contour down to a saddle, which would be easier if we could see some tread in the daylight.

Conveniently, the top of that ridge had just enough internet to check the weather. Of course, the prediction: severe thunderstorms starting around noon the next day throughout the afternoon.

I checked the elevation profile on Guthook to see how exposed we’d be. Guthook showed a startlingly steep climb up and over Parkview mountain with about five miles totally exposed. Thrilling.

I switched to Ley’s maps to see the bigger area. He noted a forest service road as a “thunderstorm avoidance route” which was nine miles compared to five, but the dirt road would keep us between 10,000 and 10,600 and still below treeline. If the storm became bad, at least we would have somewhere to hunker down.

We had a solid eight miles or so to the junction which would place us there right before the thunderstorms would probably hit.

Ducking down for the road, we stopped and ate an early lunch while it wasn’t raining. Eating lunch in the rain is the worst. While we sat there and moved multiple bars into easy access places for the storm, an ATV roared up. Atop it sat a hunter completely in camo with a gun on his hip belt and a very large bow strapped to the back. He stopped to chat. The same general hunter/hiker conversation began.

Hunter: “See any elk recently?”

Me: “Not since Wyoming.”

Hunter: “You all have hiked here from Wyoming?!”

Me: “We started in Canada, actually.”

E.D.: “We’re thru-hiking the continental divide.”

Hunter: “So…where’d ya’ll park?”

Memphis: “We don’t have a car…we walked.”

Hunter: “From Canada…”

Memphis: “Yeah…”

Hunter: “So you parked in Canada?”

Memphis: “No…”

Hunter: “hmmph. Where ya going?”

Me: “Mexico.”

Hunter: Blank stare. “Huh.”

After lunch, we walked up the rough dirt road and within fifteen minutes, we had to scramble to throw on rain gear. The rain, which came quick and fast, shifted into hail almost as quickly. Thinking it would only last a few minutes then return to rain, we ducked under a conifer tree. A few minutes went by. The hail continued with equal voracity. Damn. We gave up cover and just walked in it, leaning forward and guarding our hands. The hail stings when it hits exposed skin.

 

Some of the hail.

The hail continued for upwards of half an hour while thunder boomed nearby and we caught occasional flashes of lightening when we weren’t staring at our feet to avoid hail to the face. The storm did let up on the hail, but the rain kept up for about five more hours. We had to keep moving to keep warm; if we stopped, we would become too cold. I kept reminding myself that it could be worse…we could be higher and more exposed through the lightening.

We got back to the trail and crossed a road. Memphis decided that we were camping early because it was his birthday. I came to the conclusion that trail birthdays on the CDT were cursed because of the storm that day and the thundersnow on Scallywag’s birthday.

 

The fog after the rain.

I didn’t particularly want to stop early because I wanted to get over Bowen Pass the next day before any more storms invariably came in to drench us, but it’s hard to argue with the birthday line and it did feel good to lay down.

The next morning, we did have to haul ass to get over to and up the pass with storms forming in the distance. It was a long climb, but not horrendously steep, so with some loud electronic music, it went quickly.

E.D. surged ahead and Memphis took awhile on the downhill. I accidentally scared the shit out of some day hikers who didn’t hear me approach until I said, “Hi” behind them in an attempt to pass.

I found E.D. chilling under a privy porch cooking ramen while it misted. The main storm had passed, but a bit continued now and then. After we called the hostel in Grand Lake, to let them know we’d be coming in a bit late, we trudged through the last few miles where we saw about 25 elk in two groups.

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The border demarcation

Hitting the Wyoming/Colorado border just before sunset, E.D., Memphis, and I ate dinner and celebrated with some Fireball.  We had completed Wyoming in just over three weeks with only one zero in our attempt to speed up and hopefully beat the snow through the San Juans.

The border itself only had a “Wyoming State Line” sign, but other hikers had delineated the border with rocks spelling out “WY” and “CO.”  This also roughly marked our halfway point, which was a scary thought.  We had begun to notice a distinct and steady decrease in daylight already as we headed further south and knew that it would continue the rest of the trip.

We may have hit the Fireball a little hard which decreased our desire to go too much further from the border.  Lucky for us, a great campsite appeared only about 100 ft into Colorado and we dry camped.

In the morning, we happily walked  further into Colorado on the lookout for Frost heading north. We found him not too far into the day and the four of us did the typical stand around and talk number with our packs on. Swapping beta for the next two hundred miles in either direction, we set off toward the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness.

 

Before reaching the wilderness though, we had to walk on some ATV trails on the first day of elk hunting season. I thanked myself for having a blaze orange hiker trash hat and bright orange backpack.

 

Most of the hunters were pretty friendly despite their loud, smelly ATVs.

 

Hunter: “Have you seen any elk lately?”

Me: “In Wyoming…”

Hunter: “My permit doesn’t go that far…and neither does this ATV trail…”

 

I wondered if he’d considered that the elk could probably hear his ATV.

 

Finally, we hit the wilderness boundary and magically, the number of hunters decreased drastically to almost none. Apparently, walking and packing out the rack and meat is too hard for most hunters.

 

As we looked at the wilderness boundary sign, we noticed that there was a mountain named “Big Agnes” and another spot called “Seedhouse.” Thus, we discovered the inspiration for the names of our tents!

 

The Mt. Zirkel Wilderness threw us up quickly toward 12,000 ft near Lost Ranger Peak, then had us stay high above 11,000 ft for quite a few miles. We had gotten a glimpse of the weather forecast part way up and the afternoon showed thunderstorms scheduled to roll in.

 

View from atop Lost Ranger Peak

Making it over Lost Ranger Peak with no storms, we had lunch and kept trucking trying to get over all the 11,000+ ft bumps, but alas, the first storm hit as we were popping over an 11,600 ft bump where there was no cover. Quickly throwing on poor rain gear, we kept going hoping for the best because going back wasn’t any better than going forward.

 

Memphis had gotten ahead of E.D. and I, and we had no idea where he was.

 

The first storm cleared relatively quickly, but others loomed on the horizon as threatening dark blobs of impending discomfort. We began to aim for Buffalo Pass, where we would exit the wilderness and we suspected a privy might exist.

 

About three miles from Buffalo Pass, storms began to merge together blocking out the sun. We found Memphis throwing on rain gear and we all looked warily at the sky. The thunder progressively got louder and the lightening flashes began to get brighter.

 

We were pretty accustomed to getting shit on by the sky, but this storm system seemed to be worse than usual. Needing to get lower, we sped up as we plunged down toward Buffalo Pass, fingers crossed for a privy.

 

About a mile away and the gap between the thunder and the lightening had shortened to about five seconds. E.D. had shot ahead and I began jogging, using my trekking poles to both propel myself forward and also prevent myself from face planting on the rocks.

 

Three second gap from flash to boom.

 

Two second gap.

 

PRIVY! E.D. peered out from the side of it, watching for us. I bee-lined for it and jumped under the covered, overhanging area. Some shelter is better than no shelter. Lightening kept lighting up the sky and the rain began to pour sideways. Memphis popped in and the three of us watched the storm from the privy while cooking dinner.

 

Eventually, the thunder and lightening eased up, but the rain continued in varying amounts and angles.

 

Near the end of our dinner, a large SUV pulled up into the parking lot and four Texans got out. They looked confused and began setting up their tent right next to their massive vehicle on the gravel. But…they didn’t know how to set it up. And…they did not seem too friendly. After an amusing twenty minutes of watching them fail to set up their tent, one walked over to us and scowled.

 

Texan: “What’re y’all doin’?”

Memphis: “Getting out of the storm…”

Texan: “Well, I drove 1,500 miles to get here”

We all exchanged glances.

Memphis: “I walked 2,000 miles…we’re just in the overhang eating dinner.”

Texan: “Well, ya can’t camp in a public shitter!”

 

Riiiight. The Texan subsequently went and took a very loud, twenty minute shit. We stood in the overhang and cleaned out our dinner pots and discussed options for dealing with the rest of the storm that seemed to be subsiding a bit. I took every opportunity to burp while the Texan occupied the privy. Memphis just fumed about.

 

We could all agree that we didn’t want to camp close to those idiots, so we waited for the rain to stop, then went toward the lake and found a spot to camp in the trees.

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