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Posts Tagged ‘San Juan Mountains’

**From October 2015**

Around dusk, we stumbled up to a campfire “cooey-ing” and receiving excited “cooey” responses. We knew we had found The Darkness. Dropping our packs haphazardly we each gave her a big hug and all spoke at the same time with different stories from the past 1,000 miles that she had gotten slightly behind us.

We set up tents and swapped story after story until the weather tried to snow and rain on us. We were glad to have her back, joking that the harem was reunited. Since Scallywag had taken the San Juan’s loop, he was about five to six days behind us and we needed a new bull elk. We decided Crosby was up to that task.

The weather decided not to improve in the morning, so while The Darkness stoked the fire back up, we poked around on maps and Memphis mentioned a tiny “town” called Platoro was where he had gotten off trail going nobo to flip. Taking some dirt roads over that way avoided quite a bit of above treeline in the sleet that started trying to dampen the fire. Plus, then we could catch up more since we had not exhausted our stories the previous night.

Meandering around on the dirt roads, we heard all new tales of hikers a few days behind us like the whereabouts of Lighthouse and Fun Size, Das Boots, and the Swiss Couple. The precipitation shifted switched between rain, sleet, and wisps of potential snow faster than most politicians can change positions. However, with good conversation, we stumbled into the “town” of Platoro, Colorado.

It looked creepy. Everything seemed closed. The weather added to the creepiness. Memphis started to meander away from the group looking for something.

The Darkness: Where’s Memphis going?

E.D.: Not sure.

Me: This is the point in the horror movie where we start getting picked off one by one…

Crosby: Follow?

We followed Memphis though someone’s lawn, whose windows had plywood covering them and we walked past a business of some sort, also with plywood in the windows and went toward an “open” business. It appeared to be a store, restaurant, cabin rental, and RV spot all in one. We looked longingly. We lingered. Memphis returned saying it would open in about half an hour. We wondered if we could linger on the porch out of the rain when a man approached us seemingly out of thin air, who we later learned was Michael.

Michael: You all look cold! Why don’t you come inside and warm up by the fire with tea and coffee until we open.

We gladly took him up on the offer, placed our packs on the porch, and went inside to hover as close as possible to a wood stove. Michael was incredibly hospitable and gracious opening early, putting an extra log on the fire, and letting us do a jigsaw puzzle until the kitchen could be ready again.

All of us scarfed down food as fast as they could crank it out of the kitchen. At that point in the hike, all of us needed to put on weight or at the very minimum, not lose more. The cold had been depleting our calories faster that we were able to replace them with trail food—food that we were all getting tired of.

Memphis disappeared for a bit and came back saying he got the “CDT” cabin for us all for the night because the weather tonight looked bleak. The single room cabin had three beds, an old TV, and a VCR. Naturally, all five of us fit perfectly and watched a George Clooney movie that night while the rain refused to let up. Right as we were trying to fall asleep, huge thunder claps kept us up just long enough to be thankful for the shelter.

We waited for the restaurant to open for breakfast and scarfed down even more food, while we attempted to motivate ourselves back out into the weather that had improved, but not greatly. After we reluctantly finished packing up and thoroughly talking Memphis into a cooler hat, Michael brought us back to the trail, while trying to give us jobs for the following summer.

Out into the misty, cold cloud drenched hills we climbed. We had to cross a large creek to jump back onto the CDT itself which Memphis skillfully hid from E.D. until we got to it.

Memphis: WHOA! This was raging when we had to cross it. This was why we bailed into Platoro.

We all looked at it and managed to rock hop across without our feet getting wet. What a difference snow melt could make.

The misty campsite.

Once we had climbed back up, we found a glorious campsite. Unfortunately, it was only lunchtime. As we all sat there, The Darkness scrambled around and got a small fire going while we ate. She was so excited for people after hiking alone for a week.

On top of the ridge.

It was one of those days where we all had to put on rain gear, then take it off twenty minutes later only to put it on twenty more minutes later. We hiked over one of the last 11,000 foot ridges and dropped down to a campsite by a marshy lake where The Darkness decided we needed more campfire time.

Pitching our tents, we set about helping her gather the driest wood we could find in a largely wet area. With the help of some heet, we had a fire going in no time.

The five us of sat around the fire that whole evening, well past dark talking until we hit hiker midnight (around 9pm) and fell asleep just as another rain shower passed through.

In the morning, we had to climb one more lower ridge and meander along it until we got to Cumbres Pass which we could take into Chama. The rain had ceased, but clouds passed through frequently adding a new texture to the hike. When we looked back at the last ridge over 11,000 feet, we saw the snow line. Had we camped higher, we would have woken up in snow. The top of this lower ridge had a thin layer of snow as well that melted quickly as we hurried south.

I hiked toward the road with Crosby and E.D. and the three of us caught The Darkness right before hitching. However, Memphis was nowhere in sight. We all thought he was in front of us, so we thought that he might have gotten lucky and found a ride. We threw our thumbs out while we tried to look for him coming down off the trail when we found him in the oddest way…

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**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.

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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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Hello everyone!

My blog has become significantly behind. The reason for this is, is that I’ve been pushing to beat the snow through the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado. The decreasing daylight made this a bit harder. I have managed to do that and am now down in New Mexico picking various spiky plants out of my feet, collecting piñon, and finding tarantulas. 

I will be back-blogging the adventure, so stay tuned!

Veggie

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