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Posts Tagged ‘Whistle’

Since we had woken up at 4am and hiked all day, we planned to stop at sunset again to allow ourselves to catch up on sleep again. We had seen another spot around 11,000 feet on the map and were aiming for that before we soared up to another set of ridgelines. At that point, 11,000 feet had begun to seem low.

All four of us hiked slightly different paces toward the end of the day and had spread out a bit before camp. About a mile before the spot we wanted to check out for campsites, I saw a trail split. Remembering that we no longer had the Colorado Trail with it’s signs, wide trail, and easy grades, I stopped and checked Guthook to make sure. A well trod path extended slightly to the right and a spur broke off the to left and looked distinctly less traveled. I knew we were supposed to stay contouring for a bit and the well traveled path looked like it went straight down into the valley. Sure enough, Guthook noted a junction and that we needed to stay left on the less noticeable trail.

I plodded along and found Crosby sitting on his pack by a water source reading a book. I sat for a bit and we found ED, but no Memphis. Continuing to the spot we thought about camping, we found good spots and set up. Still no Memphis.

E.D.: Do you think he took the wrong turn back there?

Me: Maybe, that was not an easy one to catch.

Crosby: Memphis would like sitting down at a fire if he did take the wrong turn. Let’s get one going.

Campfire

We set about doing so, got it going and began eating when we saw his blaze orange hunting vest draped over his pack. We “cooed” to get his attention and he beelined for the fire. He plopped down.

Memphis: I went down that horse trail back there. I went…down. About 1,000 feet down.

The sky changed colors as the sun went down over the ridge and we eventually migrated to our tents and I convinced everyone to get up early again to make the miles we needed to get to the road at a decent time. We had contacted Karla, per Karma’s recommendation, and given her a day that we should get to Wolf Creek Pass, but we hadn’t had any cell service to give a more accurate ETA.

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The other side of the sunset from the campfire.

In the morning, we all got up a little slower, but started hiking upward immediately again. We hiked along a ridge and crept up to the highest point left in this section and sat to watch the sunrise. The whole sky and tree cover below had an orange glow. It seemed magical. It got more magical when we noticed we had several bars of cell service and LTE.

Good morning!

Right as I was wondering if 6:15 am was too early to message Karla, she messaged me. We gave her an ETA at the pass and she said either she or Mark would be there and to keep her updated.

We also got an email from Frodo who was organizing a finishing party for Scout in Chama the following evening. She said she’d be willing to come get us from Pagosa Springs and drop us back off. We responded back with a “yes, please!”

Last but not least, I found texts from The Darkness. It read:

The Darkness: I’m Creede Cut-Offing for you all. See you somewhere around Wolf Creek Pass or Chama at the latest.

We texted back our plan while we let the sunrise warm us. The trail meandered down and all around smaller ridges, a few lakes, and then went tantalizingly close to the road, but not down to Wolf Creek Pass for several miles.

At the bottom of the pass, we found a cooler with sodas. We had one while we waited for Mark to pick us up. We did not have to wait long and Mark didn’t even seem to mind our smell! He knew we would want food first and suggested the Mexican restaurant in town. Karla met us there and we all ate plenty of delicious food.

They took us home and let us shower and helped us with laundry. It was such a nice change to be in a house instead of our go to cheap motels. It was topped off by sleeping in the man-cave and some a-mazing pancakes in the morning! It’d be hard to beat the trail magic from Karla and Mark.

Karla brought us over to Riff Raff Brewery where we found Axel and Let It Be having a beer. We joined while we waited for Frodo. After a group picture and big hugs from Karla, we all jumped in Benny, the van Frodo was using up and down the CDT.

Photo Credit: Axel

She brought us to a motel in Chama where we found Scout, Whistle (who we hadn’t seen since Lincoln, MT around mile 300), Guy-on-a-buffalo, Apache, and Wonderer. So much of Scout and Frodo’s family joined and it was a fantastically supportive group of people. We were later joined by Ridgerunner and K2 as well who had finished their flip a few days prior.

There was dinner, cake, root beer floats, and some beer. Scout and Frodo were so gracious to come get us, too. A lot of us stayed up late talking and were a little slow to move in the morning. We did eventually figure out rides for who needed to get where and were unsuccessful at convincing Whistle to take several zeros and wait for us.

When we got dropped off back at Wolf Creek Pass, we realized The Darkness had skipped town there and had gotten about 5-7 miles ahead of us. After some quick texting back and forth with a horrible picture of a dead creature on the side of the trail, we had a plan.

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**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.

 

 

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We did another ten miles or so from the cabin, but lazily, because we were tired, it was blazing hot, and because we spent two and a half hours on the cool porch.

Stopping to eat dinner near a ford, we became swarmed with flies. They weren’t biting, at least not much, but I couldn’t help thinking about how bad we also smelled and if there were more flies on us than the horse shit in the trail.

By the time we finished dinner, it was well after 7 and the heat had drained our energy. I did thoroughly enjoy a hearty dehydrated dinner…thanks Mom! There was also a nice, large campsite on the other side of the willows that could easily accommodate our five tents plus some. We decide to go for it.
At about 9:30pm as I was laying in bed reading Hondo, which The Darkness passed me, in walks three more thru hikers: Sleepwalker, Tortoise, and Hare (who we’re trying to rename Rabid). They camped with us that night, too.

The next morning, E.D tried to beat the heat and shot off before I was even out of my tent to pee. When I did wake up to the normal rustlings of Ziploc bags and stuff sacks, I got up and noticed either Tortoise or Hare snoring lightly. I could judge the volume of my own rustling if the snoring paused or not.
Not even a mile into the day, E.D and I found a lightweight Under Armor jacket. I checked the pockets. Jo’s credit card. Shit. Those two girls were a day ahead of us! Then I check the other pockets. Sunglasses. She’ll miss those, but she’ll be OK. A small device that neither E.D nor I could figure out. Then the last pocket held not one, but TWO lipsticks. Lipstick….really?!?! Are you trying to impress the bears? What the fuck. I’ll carry gear and a credit card forward, but lipstick?! And two of them…that had to be at least six ounces. Damn. E.D attached the jacket and it’s curious pocket contents to the outside of my pack and we trudged forward. Scallywag later informed us it was a smart phone tripod for selfies.
We followed a creek the whole way again the next day and I lost track of how many times we forded it or side streams. It was still hot. The trail meandered about and horse shit alternated with bear shit and the occasional moose shit.

When we finally caught up with E.D. at the Spotted Bear alternate junction, we felt our faces melt off through a burn area. We continued on the Spotted Bear alternate because we heard it was more scenic when we saw another cabin…with another great porch! We stopped and hung out eating a snack and waiting for The Darkness, Tortoise, Rabid, and Sleepwalker to catch up. Out of nowhere two hikers appeared from the river…it was two flippers, Wide Angle and Flip. We chatted with them, then they hiked north. We decided we needed dinner before we hiked more, so we cooked dinner. Patch showed up and told us about how he side tracked and went high up on the divide, then hiked on another six miles. Theeeeen, we just stayed, camping near the river which our maps warned could be double, waist deep fords. They looked between ankle and knee deep.
 Setting up my tent, I managed to smash my finger between a tent stake and the rock that I was using to pound it in and gave myself a blood blister. I popped and drained it while I watched a small river snake attempt to devour a fish considerably bigger than its mouth. That evening, we thoroughly enjoyed that porch talking and swapping stories until the inevitable “oh shit, it’s ten pm!” and it’s still light out.

The fords the next morning were cold and we all started the day with wet feet. We had to climb up out of the river valley over Switchback Pass and there was not great camping for another few miles, despite what Wide Angle said.

We ate lunch at Dean Lake, where Whistle skipped rocks and clouds began rolling in. Something had to break the heat. It looked like a storm was brewing.

Throwing on rain gear, we continued. Ten minutes later the rain gear was off because it only sprinkled and it was still too hot. We made it up and over the pass OK and plunged down the other side. Switchback Pass lived up to its name…and…at the bottom of the pass was another cabin with a porch. Attached to the door with a rock was a note saying something along the lines of:
“Dear forest men,

Thank you for the extra fuel you gave me. It was so nice to have hot soup last night.

Thanks, Kathleen”

Then underneath in someone else’s handwriting made to look similar was:

“PS: I owe you both BJs”

That seemed unfair, but it was funny.

Alas, we decided that we did actually need to do another five miles or so to set us up better for Benchmark. We knew we’d only find smaller campsites along the river bottom after the large cabin area, so we split into two groups. The Darkness, E.D, Scallywag and I stayed at one and the other for went two or three miles further.

Chinese Wall

They went further, but they got up later and we saw them picking up the next day. It was the day of the Chinese Wall! We hiked up for quite some time and finally saw it. We found a lunch spot in the shade of a tree. It was hot, but not melting hot…the first time in days.

Rabid was talking about needing electrolytes when The Darkness offered him a nuun tablet. Before she could explain it, he popped it into his mouth to a chorus of NO NO NO!!! He spit it back out of his mouth and it started to bubble and stared at us.

The Darkness: “You put that in a liter of water and let it fizz for a minute, then you drink it…”

Oops.

The Chinese Wall extended for miles. We walked underneath it, going up and down for about nine miles. Along the way, we met Melinda, a trail angel in Helena. She told us she saw the two girls about two hours previously. Narrowed the time gap from a day to two hours. Not too bad. I wanted to get rid of the damn lipstick.

We continued down to another river in order to get to within ten miles of Benchmark. Near the junction we wanted to camp at, we saw another cabin, and went up to see it. A few guys were there from the forest service, but they were jerks. We really just wanted to use the privy.

Dude: “it’s locked.”

E.D: “Do you have the key?”

Dude: “Yeah. #1 it #2?

….. We wouldn’t have walked up this extra little hill for #1 dumbass……

Dude: “If we left it unlocked, then we’d have to dig more holes.”

….. Wouldn’t you want to concentrate the use in a heavily used area……

We left. And dug catholes. Because three shits totally would have overflowed your privy. Right.

Zonked, we found a campsite in some trees and shared with a couple and their two large dogs. In the middle of the night, at 12:37 to be exact, there were some crashing sounds and the dogs started barking like crazy. Then more crashing sounds. We rolled over and went back to sleep. Thanks for scaring the bears, dogs!

We crossed a bridge over the river and all commented on it. We hadn’t seen a bridge in about 100 miles. The next morning, we ran into a group of overnight hikers and asked if they’d seen the two girls.

Dude: “Yeah, a looooong time ago.”

Me: “How far ago?”

Dude: “About four miles ago.”

Scallywag: “Oh, and hour and a half ago.”

Dude: *mouth opens… No words*
It was flat…easy to hold 3mph.
We rolled into Benchmark area and began walking toward the ranch which held packages for thru hikers when we heard Tortoise and Rabid yell from a cabin.
Gentleman named Bob: “Want a beer?”

Yes, please!!!

 

Bob’s cabin and hikers

We found out that Bob was 88 years old and a World War Two vet. He gave us a ride to and from the ranch to get our boxes. Whistle and Sleepwalker had managed a ride to and from Augusta (30 miles down a dirt forest service road) and said that they saw the two girls there and they asked if I would leave the jacket in the hiker box at Benchmark Ranch. I don’t think they quite understood the meaning of a hiker box, but I left a note on the back of their note there stating:
“Here’s your coat. Your new trail name is Hot Lips.” I hope she’s heard of Mash.

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The Darkness: “I’ll take the Moose Drool please.”Me: “I’ll take the Pigs Ass Porter please.”

Waitress: “That one’s fun to say! Can I get you two frosted mugs for those?”

Both: “Yes, please!”
Backing up, we had an easy ten miles into East Glacier with a well graded 2,000 foot climb. We had to cross through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation for three miles and the “trail” began what Ley referred to as the real CDT. It split off several times, was 4×4 track, went over several blowdowns, and became massive mud pits at points. Sometimes it was hard to tell the nuff apart from the horse shit.
As soon as we got into town, we went straight to the first restaurant and got burgers/veggie burgers and beer.
We checked out the other hostel and decided it was dark and less inviting. The Darkness resupplied at the store while I got my package from the post office and we spent a chunk of time ripping apart and making larger priority mail boxes to fit our ice axes. The post matter laughed and said he’d been doing it all week and had some good ideas.
Heading back to the other hostel, smartly named after food, Brownies, we saw two guys who looked liked overwhelmingly clean thru hikers. We approached. They were indeed thru hikers, one of which flipped up from New Mexico and the other of which was going sobo, but they had hiked together on the PCT. They were Fun Sized and Lighthouse.
Town chores began to take a long time – like showering 8 days of dirt off, doing laundry, packing the food bag, blogging, posting pictures, and chatting with Fun Sized and Lighthouse as well as two other flippers, Ridge Runner and K2. And hiker midnight is at 9!
Our plan *was* to get up, eat, and leave mid morning, but then Scallywag, E.D., and Patch rolled in and The Darkness and I decided to zero. That meant significantly more time for blogging and other chores. Later, another rolled in, Whistle, and it was quite a fun zero day.
The next morning after breakfast, The Darkness and I made our way out of town getting confused in the golf course exit, but did finally find the 4×4 track eventually. It was HOT and we came to several choices in the track over about three miles and had to pull out the guidebook to pick. We reentered the national park again and contoured the bottom of it for quite a ways. It looked as though for a few sections, the park service took a weed whacker and cut a foot wide path, then ran out of battery for a mile, then another chunk.
Treeboo caught up to us and we walked with him for a little bit. We decided to inquire about an interesting individual who we met previously who seemed to want to find himself in the wilderness.
The Darkness: “Did you meet John?”

Treeboo: “hahaha the guy in five fingers heel planting?”

The Darkness: “Did he have food?”

Treeboo: “Yeah, he got some from day hikers…”
Treeboo was a long distance runner too, so once we stopped for lunch, we never saw him again. Our food bags were massive with six days of food in them and we needed to eat them down a bit.
We continued heading toward Marias Pass and stopped at a pay campground for some water and a map break. Up walked a dirty individual who introduced himself as a section hiker going from Helena, MT to the Canadian border. Naturally, we asked for beta. For starters, he said the official CDT contoured a burned ridge for eight miles and was basically a pile of blowdowns for that amount of time. Translated: eight mile obstacle course of downed trees with no shade. An alternate trail followed a creek the whole way lower down. Great, cod creek…hot day…sounds fantastic…for tomorrow.
I was tired, so I packed about three liters of water and headed up the hill away from the pay campsite toward an area that looked flatish on the map. The Darkness wanted to go camp down by the creek on the alternate two miles later, so she did that and I found a nice, wooded flat spot above the pay campground. Why pay for camping???
In the morning, Scallywag, E.D, and Whistle walked up as I finished breakfast and said they camped immediately outside of the pay area, but walked back for the privy in the morning. Classic. They had also talked to the section hiker and wanted to take the wetter alternate. They headed on and I was about 15 minutes behind.
I found where the CDT split off to contour the ridge, but it wasn’t marked at all and the turn was not obvious for sobos. To have taken it, I would have needed to turn more than 90 degrees to my right.
The alternate was a well kept trail, probably because of equestrians. There was quite a lot of fresh horse shit in the trail. The first ford of the creek was a cold, refreshing easy start to day and almost reached my knees. I found The Darkness after the second ford putting her shoes back on in an attempt to keep her feet and growing blisters dry. I just plunged straight in with the winning combination of Teva sandals and Darn Tough socks each time.
We found the other three in some willows around mid morning snack time and by then I had lost track of the number of fords…I stopped counting at 8.
After the break, we continued in toward a forest service cabin that the section hiker told us about thinking it would be a cool place to eat lunch. Before getting there though, a horse startled me from the trees and I looked over to see an older gentleman with a cowboy hat, his daughter, and five horses.
Guy: “Where are you walking from?”

Me: “Today, or in general?”

Guy: “In general…?”

Me: “Canada.”

Guy: *looks pensive?* “Where are you going?”

Me: “Mexico.”

Guy: *Eyes bug out* “uh huh…”
We talk about a few other things and I said we wanted to eat lunch at the cabin and he said they were heading that way too.
Finding the cabin, we noted the brilliant orientation of the porch so that it became shady in the afternoon and the shade increased as the afternoon passed. The cabin was locked, so we enjoyed the porch. Then, the guy in the cowboy hat showed up.
Guy: “So…would y’all like some cold beer?”

Us: *Eyes bug out* “Yes, please!”
Out came cold Miller Lites and on a day when the sun melted us, they never tasted so good. The guy had an entire horse dedicated to coolers in the saddlebags! Now, that is smart traveling. We’ve been doing it wrong the whole time!
We had three route choices from the cabin for the next few miles, so we showed him the map and he instantly told us the middle, red route was the best of the three options which was also what Ley suggested too. Then the guy offered to pack the beer cans out too!!!

 

The well oriented shady porch

 

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