Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘moon’

**From September 2015**

While we all enjoyed the lunar eclipse and the stars, none of us had slept well. It was definitely a two caffeine packet type of day. The first of which occurred as soon as we all had walked sufficiently to warm ourselves up. We crossed a high plateau full of little pools of water.

Bye, Colorado Trail.

At the end of the plateau, the trail split. To the right: the Colorado Trail full of nicely groomed and maintained switchbacks which make for a very elegant photo. To the left: the CDT where the trail immediately becomes less trodden, signage goes away, and the trail goes straight down, not bothering with switchbacks. Alas, the CDT’s fling with the CT had ended and we were back to navigating again.

We came across a remote trailhead with a register. Axel was still ahead of us. We saw that Whistle, Scout, Guy-on-a-buffalo, Apache, and Wonderer were not too far ahead of us. Probably about four days ahead.

The San Juans were really too beautiful to put into words, so some of these posts will be shorter with more pictures, however, even the pictures don’t always give them the justice they deserve. Everywhere, we saw a view. Everywhere, new peaks arose. Everywhere, alpine flowers still held blossoms. Herds of elk roamed about. If we couldn’t see them, we heard them bugling at night.

We saw one of the best sunsets on trail from a crazy cool ridge that had a beautiful trail carved in it. After we snacked and watch the sun set, we meandered on top of the ridge to a saddle which we called home for a night.

No explanation needed.

The morning brought a cold climb up to a ridge with neat rock formations. One of which was labeled as “the window” on the map whereby Ley had a sketchy dotted line through it if you wanted an extra adventure.

The “window” from the south side.

We had along decent after the window to a stream which forced some noise out of each of us as we walked through. It was cold. On the other side, we found an amazing campsite with seats! Unfortunately, we found it around 10am and had to keep hiking away from its epicness.

For the next move through the San Juans, we had to cross an unassuming valley floor with knee high grasses and a trail that disappeared into them. This seemed completely normal until we reached a stream channel in the middle which did not look jumpable. We spent too much time analyzing how to get across this channel and all took slightly different routes. Memphis and ED went for the throwing of packs to the other side with running leaps after scouting close to a quarter mile of its length. I decided to watch Crosby try and cross without a pack to see how deep it actually was. He ferried his pack and my pack across and it was mid-thigh on him, so about waist deep for me. Brown cow water channel. At least we hit it in the morning where the sun could easily dry us off over the course of the day.

We began climbing back up to more ridgelines and started noticing thunder clouds forming. The weather forecast from lake city did not include thunderstorms. I managed to scan my weather app quickly from the top with the barest hint of 3G and glean that isolated afternoon thunderstorms had entered the forecast for the next two days. We escaped that day with only a few sprinkles and watched the rain pass over adjacent ridges.

One of many isolated storm pockets.

That night, we camped below 12,000 feet for the first time in three nights. We purposely chose a lower elevation for a change to see if we’d sleep a little better. Memphis wanted to stop early and have a fire and had found a potential campsite. It had plenty of room once we flung the horse shit out of the flat spots with our trekking poles.

Memphis started a fire and we sat around it to eat dinner. Crosby recited the longest poem I’ve ever heard someone recite. Some ghost stories occurred and I convinced everyone to get up at 4am and morning night hike to get more miles in before any potential thunderstorms. That way, if we did have to hunker down, we’d have already hiked enough miles to not run out of food.

It was a fun morning night hike several thousand feet uphill first thing. Through denser forest to shrubs, to ridgeline. We got to see the sunrise and have second breakfast while we watched it. That day, we got to hike the famous “knife’s edge,” which had some amazing trail construction and offered swift, gallant views.

The knife’s edge.

The trail dropped down to a valley shelf then up onto bare, gravel ridges that had sparse vegetation in the saddles. We watched various storms from the ridge pass over adjacent ridges, but only heard a little bit of thunder. None of us saw lightening and none of the storms passed over the ridges we walked.

Some of the ridges after the knife’s edge.

 

 

Read Full Post »

**From September 2015**

Naturally, we stood on the side of the road sipping beers trying to hitch a ride at dark. When cars came by, we hid the beers behind our backs. In twenty minutes, two cars passed. Both had Texas plates. A work van passed. The work van turned around. We turn, chug the rest of the beer, and shove the cans in our pack side pockets.

Guys: No one else is going to pick you guys up. Can you squish?

Memphis: Yup!

We had a good ride down to Lake City where the guys dropped us off and we found Axel who had gotten about five miles ahead of us from Salida. We dropped our packs and immediately went for food and beer. Showers could wait. For us at least.

When we got back to the hostel, Alix was there to take money and show us the ropes. We met Lucky and chilled around an indoor picnic table somewhat thinking of the chore order for the next day. ED hadn’t been feeling well, so she was finally planning on going to a clinic.

The next day, while we were making a laundry plan, Crosby caught up and walked into the hostel. He looked like he wanted to stay the night, but we weren’t looking for a zero until ED came back with giardia meds looking miserable and curled up in a ball on her bunk. We zeroed. Axel left, planning to hike eight miles to a yurt.

The zero day became a lazy laundry, chatting, wandering around town day and catching up on phone calls to the other world. We asked Alix if she’d be willing to drive us up to the pass the next morning if we tossed her some gas money and she agreed. We got some San Juan’s updates from Jeff who had decided to slow to ten miles a day with a book to finish his flip in Chama. He was still laying in his bed giving us the beta for the next section at 10am.

The next morning, Alix drove us out of Lake City and we hit the trail anew, ready for the San Juan loop that we had anxiously been awaiting for pretty much the entire trail. Big thanks to Alix! She also has a really cool blog here.

Just past the yurt looking down into the valley.

We hiked over toward the yurt for a lunch break since it had a water source nearby and who doesn’t want to check out a yurt? Memphis beat us there and we eventually caught up and checked it out. It was the same one I’d stayed in on the Colorado Trail four years before.

The trail then climbs to the high point for the Colorado Trail at 13,000 and change. This also began the 40 mile or so section above 12,000ft entirely. Nothing but sweet, beautiful ridges with solidly built trail. We had the Colorado Trail for just a bit more before it split off toward Durango and we went toward Wolf Creek Pass.

The nicely signed Colorado Trail which we were about to leave.

We camped fairly high that night in a hidden spot that Memphis and Crosby found as the sun had just finished setting. At first with the low light, I thought instantly, “oh shit, a moose” until I heard the sound of someone blowing up a Thermarest. All of us had begun to notice the shorter daylight marked by decreases in mileage and colder temperatures. The weather report we saw gave us a six day window of awesomeness—exactly what we needed.

Good morning, Mr. Moose.

In the morning, we woke up to Memphis deflating his pad as usual and we had another glorious day. It was nice having Crosby along to mix up the conversations a bit during breaks. We wanted to stop frequently because each high point brought about a different view and usually none of us had tired of the previous view.

Continuing past the dirt road which would eventually lead to Silverton, Crosby reminded us that we could watch a lunar eclipse tonight. We knew we had to get higher for a better, unobstructed view. Part way up the climb my stomach forced me to sit and eat before dinner. I’d gotten to the point where I couldn’t ignore my stomach anymore. I impatiently ate a cliff bar and some chocolate to fuel me up the last climb of the night. ED, Crosby, and Memphis passed me while I ate.

The iPhone’s attempt at capturing the lunar eclipse.

They had found a good spot on a ridge around 12,600ft where we could see the moon and the stars. We set about cooking dinner and waiting for the eclipse. The temperature began dropping and we put on layers sequentially. Even with the full moon, we could see a brilliant amount of stars and no light pollution. We watched almost the full eclipse when a few clouds blocked the last bit.

At that point, we gave up on hiking more and laid down in a line to cowboy camp and watch the shooting stars on the other side. We listened to some tunes and tried to pick out the constellations we all knew. Memphis strategically placed himself out of punching range so he could snore uninterrupted.

That night was cold. So cold, in fact, that we woke up with the sunrise completely covered in thick frost.

Shaking off the frost and watching the sunrise.

Read Full Post »

**From September 2015**

The wind howled that night even more than the people howled at the moon. As I attempted to sleepily chug some granola with coconut milk powder, I knew I’d have trouble getting out of the tent that morning. Gusts of wind hit my tent and all I just wanted was to pull my sleeping bag over my head. Eventually, my mind won and I put on almost all of my layers, packed up quickly, and started hiking. Impervious to the weather, Memphis headed off first as usual. E.D. poked her head out of her tent as I shivered stuffing my tent into my backpack.

9:30am – puffy still on.

New in the past few years, this stretch of trail stayed above treeline on a beautiful ridge for about 14 miles. I kept my puffy on as I hiked uphill, higher on the ridge. This ridge was by no means flat. They almost never are. This particular ridge had quite a few ups and downs. The trail shifted sides of the ridge a few times and did not duck far enough down to water for at least seven miles. I did not remove my puffy until 11am and never removed my trusty Melanzana.

The alternative to this ridgeline went over Tincup Pass on a dirt road and remained a route option for bad weather. With the amount of ATVs out and lack of thunderstorms in the foreseeable future, we had opted for the ridge.

CDT ridge walking.

Eventually, later in the day, we finally began descending in an epic plunge through trees and switchbacks. At the bottom, the dirt road from Tincup Pass linked back to the trail. Guthook showed some PUDs coming up which did not sound very exciting. However, Ley had mentioned a ghost town called St. Elmo down the dirt road the opposite way of Tincup Pass. About the same mileage without the PUDs, E.D. and I decided to explore.

Sometimes, walking down the dirt roads is a refreshing break because it requires less mental effort in navigation if the body or mind is tired. Plus, there’s a ghost town. That we’d hit at night. Perfect!

About four miles of wandering down the dirt road, we hit St. Elmo and it was, indeed, creepy. We had passed plenty of campsites on the way in with fires burning and cars pulled off to the side of the road, but no one in the “town” itself. The buildings had a stock, old feel to them and when we peered inside with headlamps, the wallpaper which was on only half on the walls moved in the breeze.

The town hosted several large signs dictating the illegality of camping within the “town” limits—not that anyone would sleep well there. We found an old sign that had lots of pictures of previous residents and a little information on who kept up the “town’s” current appearance.

It was too dark to take pictures of St. Elmo, but this was nearby at dawn.

We had to switch dirt roads in town and we had slight difficulties with this at night while simultaneously trying to not get freaked out. This road hosted some interesting cliffs and not nearly the camping opportunities that the previous road had. We ended up finding a side road toward a broken bridge to camp on. We went around the large stone blockades figuring that was for cars and not people on foot and camped. We did not notice the RV on the other side of the broken bridge until it’s generator came on mysteriously later.

We skedaddled just before dawn to try and catch Memphis, who would doubtless be confused. We jumped back on trail at the Hancock trailhead and went around a beautiful lake on the way to Chalk Creek Pass. We still hadn’t seen Memphis. We didn’t find him on the long descent down either where we’d usually catch him.

Right as we were about to head up to another ridge toward Monarch Pass, we thought we might pull a fast one on Memphis if we took a dirt road over to the main road and walked that up to Monarch Pass and beat him to town.

It worked. Right as we got to Monarch Pass, immediately after taking our headphones out a Subaru of two ultra runners playing Eddie Vedder pulled over and asked if we needed a ride into Salida. Why yes, yes please!

We found the hostel and a pizza place while we texted Memphis the plan. Halfway through a pizza, Inspector Gadget and Last on the Bus messaged us asking where we were and how long we’d be in town. They said they’d meet us tomorrow for breakfast. Memphis got to the hostel right as we had finished a pizza each and we began the laundry process.

Gadget and LB did find us in the morning as we found Axel, who we’d been following about a day or two behind for almost two thousand miles. In my resupply box, my Mom’s friend Kathy had included an amazing array of temporary tattoos. While we decided on a breakfast location, I convinced everyone in the immediate vicinity that they needed to put on a temporary tattoo. Then, we set a few aside with Gadget and LB to get Mellow Yellow one at their next stop. With thru-hikers, hostel guests, and hostel staff fully equipped with at least one temporary tattoo each, we created a breakfast plan.

Axel had contacted Karla, an amazing trail angel in South Fork, Colorado who was passing through the area. They had planned on breakfast at a specific restaurant, which I later learned was the only good breakfast place in town. While she drove in, LB, Gadget, E.D., Memphis, and I hopped in LB’s car and got on the table wait list, so they could roll right into a table, which turned into a fantastic time.

After breakfast, we went back to the hostel to pack up slowly. So slowly, in fact, we decided we needed lunch before heading to the trail. LB suggested we go to Midnight Pizza and Brewery, so we enjoyed two pizza locations in Salida. That was an awesome suggestion.

We did finally get back up to Monarch Pass that afternoon where we dallied more at the small store there because we searched the register to see how far ahead others had gotten from us in the meantime. Finally, we said goodbye to LB and Gadget and tried to get a few miles in before dark.

Read Full Post »

**From September 2015**

Eventually, we managed to extract ourselves from the vortex of Leadville and made our way back to the Trail with a ride from a former thru-hiker in a Subaru. She dropped us off at Tennessee Pass where we moved sluggishly down the trail and quickly encountered a cooler further distracting us from Mexico.

Once we extracted ourselves from the cooler, we proceeded along the trail. Eventually, we paused and ate the subs we packed out for dinner and debated about a campsite location. The three of us came up with an “ideal” spot and a “probably spot.” I then came to the dilemma of how much of the sub to eat. I ate half just fine and wanted more, but sometimes, the other half can be too much, especially going uphill. My stomach overruled my rational brain and I ate the other half.

About a quarter mile later I regretted that as we plugged away uphill. If I was sluggish before, I became more so. Memphis had shot ahead uphill like usual and E.D. was not too far ahead of me having the same problem. When we got to the top of the climb, I noticed E.D. had found a campsite and was ready to fall asleep to digest the subway. I wanted to go a little further, but a raindrop hit my face and it was dark, so we set up tents and figured we’d find Memphis in the morning. Just as we got tents up, it began to rain and it continued most of the night.

The aspens on the way down to Twin Lakes.

The next day, we eventually got high enough to send Memphis a text. He replied that he was almost to Twin Lakes and heard about a hiker cabin available for dirt cheap by the store that Yogi slammed in her town guide. I had skipped Twin Lakes on the Colorado Trail four years prior, so I was curious. Since the weather fell into the “less than ideal” category, we wanted to see if we could snag said cabin. We had camped at about 11,000 feet and the snow line in the morning only fell about five hundred feet above us.

Memphis got into town before the store closed, rented the cabin for $30 total for all three of us and told us the location before heading to the only restaurant in the nearby hotel. With the weather turning worse in the evening, we found the cabin most comfortable and it even came with a TV/DVD set up. We had a choice between three DVDs.

When the store opened in the morning they could not have been nicer. Don’t listen to Yogi on this one. They rocked.

Leaving Twin Lakes included an adventure of its own. Ley had a dotted route cutting off about a mile, but potentially went through some swampy stuff around one of the lakes. There was a longer route with a bridge and an easier graded trail up to the steeper stuff. Memphis chose the wet feet route, I chose the dry feet route, and E.D. delayed deciding by making a phone call.

On the way up toward Hope Pass, I ran into six older women who wanted to chat. They had known each other for awhile and several had on Melanzanas.

Hope Pass was marked by a cairn with prayer flags.

Hope Pass seemed to go on forever on an overstuffed stomach, however, the storms abated. Right before the pass, I could hear the wind howling, but didn’t quite grasp the extent until I stood on top of the pass clamping my hand on my head to keep possession of my hat. I did manage to take a few timed photos and hung out there until my face felt sufficiently battered by the wind.

Descending Hope Pass was the first time in a long time that my knees began hurting. The south side had a very steep grade. I had to stop and stretch the muscles around my knees a few times.

I ran into Memphis at a stream toward the bottom. There was an opportunity to see some historic building that he was very excited about and a dirt road alternate parallel to the trail.

I continued on the trail and eventually stopped to sit at the junction of the trail and the end of the dirt road alternate in a I-have-to-eat-now moment. Just as I finished chomping an unappetizing, but effective cliff bar, E.D. and Memphis appeared and wanted to camp early. I threw my pack on and we agreed to stop for the first decent campsite we saw.

Surprisingly, that was not far down the trail. It even boasted a fire pit and a stream. We all set up and Memphis immediately set about to make a fire for the early stop. We all cooked, chatted, and slept an extra hour or two that night.

Lake Ann Pass seemed like the top of the world.

In the morning, we charged uphill to Lake Ann Pass. It was another long, steady climb with nothing but rocks toward the end. We definitely had stopped at the best campsite on the way up, which made all of us pleased. Lake Ann Pass gave us a whole new valley of scenery to stare at in awe.

The rest of the day, we spent descending and meandering around in large aspen groves. We passed one strange individual. He was obviously a hunter and not very chatty, although not threatening under what appeared to be segments of an elk he had shot and compartmentalized in large bags on his external frame pack.

We wanted to get up toward Cottonwood Pass to better get across 14 miles above treeline the next morning. This meant that we had to climb 2,000 ft at the end of the day into the waning sunlight. We managed to finish the climb and find a not so great campsite right off the road. A large group of loud people came up to park and look at the brilliant array of stars. They howled at the moon.

Coming up to Cottonwood Pass and the view of the next day’s ridgeline.

Read Full Post »

I awoke suddenly.  I noticed all of my senses heightened and my body fully alert.  No thoughts crossed my mind.  I listened.  Munch, munch, munch.  I peered out my tent under my rain fly where I heard the sound of munching.  A large brownish black hoof stepped about three feet from my tent.  Then another.  Munch, munch, munch.  Bison.  Multiple bison.  Very close to my tent.

The bison seemed calm, so I stayed calm.  I laid there and listened, secretly hoping they would not accidentally step on my tent.  Maybe they just needed breakfast and breakfast happened to grow near the free campsite I occupied.  Munch, munch, munch.  I decided to look at the positive: at least I did not need to go to the bathroom first thing in the morning!  The bison munched and I listened.  Each time a hoof clomped down, I could feel the vibration in the ground.  My rain fly blends in fairly well with the pale grasses.  I hope they do not run into my tent.  Munch, munch, munch.

Eventually, after about half an hour of munching, the bison continued on their way.  From what I could gather, they munched their way north out of the small aspen grove.  I felt my body begin to relax as the munching grew fainter and I no longer felt the ground vibrate with their steps.

When I could hear them no longer, I got out of my tent cautiously and looked around.  I could not see any wildlife in the vicinity, so I began to make breakfast and a healthy amount of hot water for yerba mate.  I set up a chair in front of hippie TV, i.e. the Tetons, and sipped mate.  I had decided to camp in the national forest near Grand Teton National Park for two weeks to further enjoy the area and hopefully hike what I wanted to hike all year at grad school, but did not have the time to due to schoolwork.  To my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed lazy mornings drinking mate and watching the clouds change just as much as hiking.

As I sat there with mate and a good book, I watched as the clouds changed shapes and colors.  The clouds and the mountains played peek-a-boo all morning long.  The best part about sitting quietly and watching: the wildlife became accustomed to my presence and began to play, eat, run, and fly right in front of me.

One of the ground squirrels taking a look around.

One of the ground squirrels taking a look around.

Three ground squirrels lived near my campsite.  Two seemed to have some sort of dominance over the third, but the third had sneaky tendencies.  While one of the first two ground squirrels stood guard from a prime fallen log, the other ground squirrel nibbled at the ground or stood on its hind legs and used its forelegs to pull down a wild grass three times its size to eat the seeds on the top.  The sneaky ground squirrel took every available opportunity to sneak toward the other two ground squirrels and then hop away.

A female mountain bluebird flew in and startled the ground squirrels.  All four froze, eying each other for a few moments.  Deciding they could all eat peacefully, they began ignoring each other and carrying on with their business in close proximity.

Half an hour later, I heard the clear call of a red tail hawk in the distance, but coming closer.  All three ground squirrels immediately dove into their holes and I searched the skies.  I heard the call several more times before I located the hawk flying in gracefully above the aspens.

The next night, the temperature dropped into the upper 30s and I fell asleep with my hat on planning on waking up early in the morning.  The moon shown so brightly, that I could see just fine inside my tent without a head lamp.  However, I did not plan on waking up around 2:30am.  Grunt.  Munch, munch, munch.  Grunt.  Instantly alert, I laid in my sleeping bag listening.  My body did not feel the ground vibrate, and the munching seemed faint, but apparent.  The sounds came from the direction of my feet, so the bison munched to the west.  After careful listening, I decided to poke my head out and see how far away the bison munched.  They peacefully munched and grunted down in the sagebrush, about fifty feet or so away from my tent.  After the previous morning, that distance seemed oddly comforting.  Laying awake, I listened and heard quite a variety of bison noises that I had never heard before, all variations of grunts.

Hippie TV

Hippie TV

Read Full Post »