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Posts Tagged ‘Wonderer’

** From November 2015**

The post master, who understood thru hikers, found the weight of the boxes we’d received hilarious. ED went to go get her package from the motel and I quickly opened and packed the resupply box from my Mom. I had asked her to make something for each of us as a surprise, so I had to get them into my pack unnoticed. She had dutifully found a bottle of Fireball and rebottled it into plastic bottles for us. I threw the rest in my food bag and trod down the road to meet the others at McDonald’s where they were grazing and bumming free wifi.
We all opened the boxes and laughed that our friends knew us well. Patch sent a bottle of Gentleman’s Jack with a note to each of us! The part to all of us said that a friend had given it to him, but he had stopped drinking awhile back, didn’t want it to go to waste and thought hikers should enjoy it. We were very excited. We opened Karma’s box to find another sweet note, three bottles of champagne, dark chocolate espresso beans, and candy! Over lunch we wondered how we got so lucky to have such awesome friends and how we were going to divide up the weight of it all agreeing that those had to stay in glass bottles.

Lucky for us, the restaurant Cranberries sucked, so we weren’t tempted to stay super long. We called Teresa to confirm the shuttle from the CDTC for a pickup, booked plane tickets and bus tickets. I had to argue a bit with the airline, so I took a little longer. 

We meandered to the first water cache from the CDTC and camped there. We made a tiny little fire to sit around for dinner and some booze. Along with the champagne meant for the border, the Fireball, the Gentleman’s Jack, we had also saved the peppermint schnapps and the spiced rum from Bams.

In the morning we continued on the “trail,” which at this point had no trail and simply 12 white signs about every two tenths of a mile. I say white signs because all the blue CDT symbols faced north for the northbounders. Basically, we would get to one and the between the five of us, we could find the next one and pick our way over there.

As time went on, the plants got continually spikier and spikier. It was all about not running into the spiky plants.

For a change of pace, we also had perfect weather for the last stretch. No rain in sight. The mornings were cold, but doable and we could morning night hike and hike into the night.

The second day, I found two crickets mating. I obviously had to get down on the ground to take a ground level photo when Crosby came up behind me.

The crickets.

I heard snickering, then Crosby busted out into “Let’s get together” by Al Greene.

On the third day at lunch, The Darkness took on a new mission.

The Darkness: Wonderer, have you ever had fluff?

Wonderer: Fluff?

The Darkness: Marshmallow fluff.

Wonderer: No…

The Darkness: How about a fluffer nutter?

Wonderer looked more and more confused, but mostly skeptical.

The Darkness: Would you eat one if I made you one?

Wonderer: …ok?

The Darkness made a fluffer nutter and handed it to Wonderer. Wonderer took a bit and comtorted his face to show several emotions, then he held up the sandwich.

Wonderer: … America…

The fourth day, we found an abandoned car. Border patrol had already searched it and marked it abandoned two months prior. ED immediately searched it herself and produced a very scratched CD that went into her pack for later examination.

That night, we camped two miles from the Mexican Border. We were going to get picked up early, but up the road eleven miles and we wanted plenty of time at the border. We set up examining our booze supplies for the next morning when we saw an orange glow in the sky.

ED: Guys…what the hell is that?

Crosby: No idea.

We watched the mysterious orange glow to the west.

Me: It’s getting bigger…and closer…

ED: Should we do something?

Wonderer made a curious noise and watched.

The Darkness: What would we do? We are in the middle of the desert? You want to hop the border into Mexico?

We gathered closer together sipped some peppermint schnapps and watched. Eventually it seemed to dissipate and the best theory we had was aliens.

We awoke at 5am and started walking expecting to cruise into the border for sunrise. However, the CDT had one more surprise for us. It wanted us to embrace the brutality one last time because we couldn’t find enough of the signs in the dark.

All of a sudden the worst plants on the trail appeared in the form of grape sized burrs that stuck to everything and ripped at skin. ED yelled slews of profanity as she gathered the biggest collection stuck to her leggings. At one point, we plowed straight though them because we’d hit them any way we tried to go.

The border monument.

We showed up to the border right at sunrise and pulled out the rest of the booze. I pulled out the surprise from my Mom of homemade crowns and we all put them on as we began drinking just before 6:30 in the morning. We picked burrs off, blasted some music, and began taking pictures. We were pretty drunk by 7am. Big thanks to my Mom, Karma, Patch, and Bams for the good times and booze.

Before we left, we flew Scout’s superman kite he passed to us in Chama.

On the way back, we found Juan from the CDTC. He gave us some much needed Gatorade and threw us all in the car. We bounced around for several hours before hitting a paved road. Juan informed us that now, we had to put on seat belts. All of is had them on, he was the only one who didn’t.

Not too long afterward Border Patrol pulled us over with smiles on their faces very uncharacteristically. One cleared his throat.

Patrol #1: Is everyone American?

ED: Yes…errr…

Wonderer: No, I am Japanese.

Patrol #1: OK, passport please.

Wonderer: Can I get it from my pack in the back?

Patrol #1: Yes.

The wiff of backpacks comes out.

Patrol #2: Whew! What have you guys been doing.

The Darkness: We hiked here from Canada.

Patrol #2: OK. Yeah. You guys are good.

We got back to Lordsburg and Juan dropped us off at a Mexican restaurant. We had celebratory margaritas. We headed toward the Econolodge and it felt like we were just in town and not done. We did all the normal chores except resupplying. We replaced that with buying a pinata and candy from the dollar store for The Darkness’s birthday the following day. We made her a cake from  station pound cakes, ice cream sandwiches, and caramel candies.

The next afternoon we left Lordsburg together on the Greyhound.

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**From November 2015**

Silver City treated us well. We did not want to leave. To make matters worse, it was hot out and we were hungover. We decided that we should get lunch at a gas station partly out of town to eliminate the ability to further distract ourselves. At the gas station, however, we got another message. This time, it was from Karma.

Karma: When are you all getting into Lordsburg?

Me: We’re just leaving Silver City now. Should be there in three days.

Karma: Should I send something for you all to the post office or the store?

Me: Whoa! We’ll be at the PO anyway, so there?

Our hangovers suddenly seemed better with a combination of that and a small collection of locals trying to buy us food. We kept going, finding the trail again and stayed together as group that night. Wonderer picked our campsite and we all camped close enough together that we could discuss our shit show while laying comfortably in sleeping bags.

We weaved in and out of small forested sections, open fields, and found some interesting water sources. There was one in which we had to crawl under a fence, move the slime off, and then filter. The cows nearby eyed us suspiciously as we shared their water.

As the days grew increasingly shorter, so did our breaks. We had to night hike to get in the miles we wanted, it was usually just a question of morning night hiking or hiking into the night. We managed to keep lunch to under 30 minutes.

Water.

We had some skeptical water sources coming up and I carried a bit more just in case. The trail wound around some hills and went on and off old dirt roads past a few windmills and cow troughs.

We wanted to get into Lordsburg early so we could actually go in and out of the town. Figuring that we’d spend more time there at the end as we figured out bus tickets, we didn’t want to stay too long. To do so, we had to night hike. We had a spectacular sunset which gave way to New Mexico’s specialty: brilliant stars. We hiked well into the evening with headlamps looking for a windmill.

At the GPS location we had for it, it was no where in our headlamp beams. We searched and searched. At that point, we have up, camped in some low trees to avoid the wind. The morning came fast and the stars were still out when we left. I set out first.

The unidentified dead thing in the water source.

About a quarter mile later, I found the missing windmill. Something smelled weird. I went to check it. The closer I got, the worse it smelled. I peered in. There was a very dead and very bloated unidentifiable small animal that was most likely a rat or opossum. Reluctantly, I fished it out with a hiking pole and set it near. I decided I could make it the fourteen miles to Lordsburg on the half liter I had left, slightly dehydrate myself, then rehydrate in town. Before I left, I wrote a note on Guthook.

We kept meandering down a mix of old dirt roads and “trail” which really just included signs in the general direction we needed to find a way between.

Going into Lordsburg.


Of course, it tried to rain on us again and we had some rain gear on, rain gear off moments. The sunrise in the morning made it worth it though.

ED and I got to town first and went to pick up boxes. Crosby, The Darkness, and Wonderer were not far behind however. We were looking to see what we’d been sent from my Mom, Karma, and Patch.

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** From October 2015**

We walked out of Pie Town full and happy meandering along listening to podcasts. Right at the split between the route for the Black Hills and the Gila River route, we got a facebook message from Patch.
Patch: Where are you guys at? And where will you be in a week or so? I want to mail you guys something!

Me: We are just hitting the Gila alt. Will probably be in Lordsburg in a week. How are you and where are you?

Patch: Jesus, you guys are flying along. I’m doing well! I’m in Ghost Ranch. I took several days off with my Dad. Hoping to catch Das Boots and maybe Scally.

Now we were curious! For the next week, we pondered what it could be. We had several theories of interesting proportions going.

When we were pondering oneoo of the theories, we were all bushwhacking down toward Snow Lake when Wonderer dropped his phone in knee high grass somewhere. We all threw our packs down and fanned out trying to help him cover more ground to find it. Back and forth we went. Wonderer shooed us, taking a map from The Darkness and we started bushwhacking down when we heard a loud cry of joy. We looked up to see Wonderer grinning from ear to ear in a power stance holding his phone high above his head. We cheered from below in relief.


At Snow Lake, the cold started to set in. We wanted to get a few miles further down into the Gila canyon before we found a campsite. When we bailed into the privy south of Grants for that massive round of thunderstorms, this was where Whistle bailed out ahead of us and Scallywag had bailed back to Cuba behind us.

We put on shorts to save the leggings for later and walked past an ominous sign telling us to be prepared for a lack of trail, storm damage, and flooding. We got to the first crossing. The Gila River was a creamy dark color which obscured the bottom. The water rushed fast and the “trail” on the side was hit or miss. We used hiking poles to test the depths before getting in the icy water. The sun had already set out of the canyon and the shade added to the cold sinking into us. We began using the Crosby-o-meter to test for depth further than the banks of the river. Being 6’4” it was easier to tell how deep it was on him than us.

It was icy. It was rushing. Hiking poles necessary. And it was deep.


The shallowest crossing came up to my knees and I still couldn’t see the bottom. Most crossings reached mid thigh deep or more. Before each step, I’d plant a pole in the water to keep three points of contact with the unknown bottom at all times and my poles quivered from the water rushing at them. I started to not feel my feet anymore. Lucky for me, they seemed to know where to step anyway.

We found a great campsite that night. Everyone peeled off the wet layers as fast as possible in order to get into sleeping bags. I had to sit crossed legged for a while with my feet wedged in my knees to warm them up.

In the morning, we packed up and began walking as soon as it was light enough. We had discovered the difficulty of finding shallow crossings at night and decided to keep pushing as much as we could in the daylight. The ground and all the grasses were completely frost covered. The trail sometimes existed, other times it didn’t. At the minimum, we crossed the Gila once per third of a mile. My feet were already numb from the frost before even dipping into the icy water.

The Darkness, Crosby, and I walked without stopping. I ate to keep warm. At least warm enough. We all had several layers on and the cold seeping in from our feet and legs was rough. We paused to talk to some hunters and Wonderer caught up.

Wonderer: E.D. hiked up on the last trail. She said she was too cold and she’d take the higher routes over to Doc Campbell’s and meet us there.

We were grateful that she sent a message so we wouldn’t get caught up waiting and not seeing her. The four of us stuck together taking turns bushwhacking ahead and finding better crossings. The progress was epically slow. My feet were numb still and I was munching though food faster than normal to keep my metabolism going.

We took the shortest lunch break ever, then kept crossing. We knew we had to cross even if there was no trail because if we didn’t we’d run into a tall cliff wall. The canyon was beautiful beyond words, but with the extra waves of thunderstorms the past week, the water had risen significantly and as we got further down, it became harder and harder to find spots to cross below mid-thigh deep.

Wonderer watching The Darkness cross.

Eventually, toward dusk, we came to a crossing that none of us could agree on the best way to cross, so we went in slightly different places and watched each other. The Darkness chose a spot which looked awesome until the middle where it got expectantly deeper. Wonderer, Crosby, and I watched as her face change drastically as she went up higher than her waist getting the lady bits wet. But her feet held and she crossed to the bank.

She looked at all of us on the bank.

Me: Sooooo, next available campsite?

The Darkness: Yes.

None of us talked much as we had to cross a few more times before I found something that would work. Not ideal, but functional if we cleared a few dead branches and flood debris from the big flood in 2013. We made it work and made a campfire to boost morale as we ate dinner.

The morning brought a repeat of cold, frost, and icy water crossings still increasingly difficult to find suitable crossings. We had seen another trail heading steeply out of the canyon in a few miles to the higher routes that E.D. had hopped up to. We contemplated it until it started raining on us while thigh high deep in icy water with numb lower extremities. As we pulled out umbrellas and crossed again, we all looked at each other and knew we were bailing up and out. Once we found the trail, it was easy to follow. The link between the bottom of the Gila canyon and it was obviously not used much and very obscured.

Despite the rain, hiking up out of the canyon got our blood flowing and warmed up more than we had been in almost three days. We cruised along the top toward the west fork of the Gila River which we’d have to cross a few times before getting spit out at the Gila Cliff Dwellings. That was also cold. But there were only four crossings bringing our crossing total to 81 times on the middle fork and 4 on the west fork. Burrr.

The Gila Cliff Dwellings.

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**From October 2015**

We walked to the edge of Grants and tried to hitch back to the trail on the other side of the lava, thereby significantly decreasing our chances of getting struck by lightening. We waited. Saw a bunch of cops. Waited some more. Saw more cops. Still waited. We started doing magic tricks that ended with us smiling with our thumbs out. This elicited lots of smiles and waves, an offer of burritos, and an offer of the greener variety, but no rides.  Starting to become frustrated, we tried smiling with a $20 held up.  Nothing.

Crosby decided it was time to call the Mumms and ask if they had any time to drive us down. Luckily, they did and could meet us somewhere in an hour. We decided that we would rather eat for an hour than sit on the side of the road, so we inhabited a subway in the meantime.

Carol Mumm thought we were being very smart and told even more lightening lava stories. The extra time with her allowed us to hear more of her stories, and man, she is a good storyteller. We passed her some gas money and she went over where water was all the way to Pie Town to make sure we didn’t miss a key source.

As we walked, we saw an Arch, received a really delicious type of orange and cookies from a passing car, and a few high fives. It sporadically thunder stormed the rest of the afternoon. We knew we had to stealth camp that night and needed to get toward some trees. A split in the route came up with a water source on one and nothing on the other. The route with a windmill included an extra four miles or so.

The Darkness needed water, so she and Crosby went that way and neither E.D. nor I did, so we went the shorter way and agreed to see each other in Pie Town or before. E.D. and I walked until a little after sunset, found a fence lacking “no trespassing” signs, waited for no cars to pass, then hopped the fence to find a stealth site.

The mud.

Up at dawn, we jumped back over the fence quickly and resumed walking toward Pie Town. We had a few thunderstorms that day as we trudged through some of the thickest mud I’ve ever attempted to walk through. Each step would add a small new layer until each foot would have several pounds of mud attached. It felt like wearing platform shoes with lead weights. Whenever I’d start to feel frustrated, I’d pause and use my hiking pole or a nearby rock to scrape the rest of the mud off. This happened almost the entire day. Instead of getting frustrated, I decided that I would laugh each time I had to scrape a new platform shoe off. Eventually, it just became funny in it’s own right. Each passing shower or thunderstorm seemed to make the mud deeper and stickier.

Water source.

With no sign of The Darkness or Crosby, we decided to just bust some miles and make it to the Toaster House in Pie Town late that night. However, about four miles away and well after dark, we saw a mysterious light off in a field near a mysterious built contraption of unknown origins. I thought Inspector Gadget might be onto something with his alien theories. E.D. thought the light was watching us. We kept walking. The light moved. A mile later a large truck passed us, turned around and rolled down it’s windows.

Truck Dude: Are you…guys…ummm…ladies ok? It’s awful late to be out walking.

E.D.: We’re fine, thanks.

Truck Dude: [Looks at our packs] Oh no shit, more hikers! I thought you guys came through earlier in the year.

Me: That’s the northbounders. We started in Canada and are going to Mexico.

Truck Dude: Awesome, so you know where the Toaster House is, right?

E.D.: Yup. We’ll manage, thanks!

We booked it. The mysterious light in the field returned. We walked faster. The mud got thicker. Finally, we reached the edge of town, found Nita’s amazing oasis of the Toaster House, found somewhere to sleep and passed out.

In the morning, we fiddled with the wood stove and looked through the trail register commenting on all the people we knew. Some of Nita’s friends came by with boxes of food. We helped them unload the boxes and chatted with them for awhile.

When the post office opened, we took care of chores and went to eat lunch at a small place down the road that had a one room museum, a tiny little store, and one table for people to all sit at together. It was a nifty concept having only one table. We talked with the other folks eating there and struck up conversations that we would not have otherwise had the opportunity for if we had sat at different tables.

Thanks Nita!!!

Crosby showed up while The Darkness hit up the post office and ate with us too. Later in the afternoon, the four of us had the opportunity to meet Nita and she gave us an awesome tour of Pie Town. It was wonderful to hear her tell stories as well about her life, the Toaster House, the town, and stories of other hikers. Wonderer managed to make it in and catch up with us toward the end of the day, too.

We took our time leaving the next day, examining the weather reports closely from the wifi at the RV park next door. We seemed to be narrowly beating the snow down the state and needed to keep moving. Daylight still waned and the evening did not get any warmer.

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As we piled into the Travel Lodge, we dropped our packs, had a beer and went to stuff ourselves full of AYCE Asian medley food. We topped it off with a continuation of a TLC binge.

We hid from the rain in the motel room which was conveniently next to a Wal-Mart. At one point, we gave up on relying on our shells and bought $5 umbrellas. Life instantly became better.

While we looked at the bleak forecast of rain and thunderstorms on and off for days, we browsed the CDT facebook page for information . Patch had just posted very snowy pictures of Cumbres Pass. The rain suddenly looked better and better.

The Mumms came to the motel with our packages and wonderfully gave us a full water report for the upcoming windmills.

Easily Distracted picking up a tarantula.

In the morning, after breakfast and lunch and a slow meander, we left Grants headed toward the Bonita-Zuni Canyon to cross El Maipais. We found some more tarantulas, used the umbrellas on and off, and we had some entertaining conversations relating to absolutely nothing.

One conversation had gotten pretty in depth between The Darkness, E.D., and Crosby. So in depth, in fact, that they missed the left turn into the next canyon and kept walking.

Wonderer and I were about 200 feet behind them. We yelled. They kept walking. We “cooed.” They kept walking. Wonderer made high pitched noises. They kept walking. I pulled out my phone and called The Darkness.

The Darkness: Are you kidding me? You’re calling me?

Me: You’re going the wrong way.

They all stop.

The Darkness: Really?

Me: Turn around. Wonderer and I are at the turn.

The Darkness: Oh shit. Ok.

They walked toward us. When they got to us, we took the turn and found a good stealth spot for the evening.

The privy. Photo credit: Crosby

In the morning, we wandered toward El Maipais watching the increasing threats of thunderstorms from multiple directions. We got to the edge of the park at lunch, so we began eating lunch at the picnic table while we assessed the possibility of crossing the 7.5 miles of lava in increasingly inevitable thunderstorms. It began to rain. We moved into the privy. All five of us fit in the well-maintained privy. As the storm lightened, two park rangers opened the door and looked extremely confused.

E.D.: Oh sorry, we can hop out. We were hiding from the thunderstorm.

Ranger #1: We just need to clean it quickly.

We all bunched into the overhang outside of the privy and talked to the rangers about how to cross.

Ranger #2: Well that storm will hit you, probably half way across. That storm over the ridge may hit you, it may not. That storm way over there probably won’t hit you. But that main one there looks the biggest, will definitely hit you, and there could be another wave right behind it.

Ranger #1: Six park employees have been struck by lightening here. Two of which were in this parking lot actually.

Ranger #2: There is iron in the lava that attracts the lightening.

Great. Thunder cracked. The rangers left. We moved back into the privy. The rain got heavier than the first storm. Then the hail started. Marble sized hail pelted the ground and filled the increasingly large puddles everywhere. As Wonderer sat on the closed toilet seat eating a jar of jiffy spreadable cheesecake, we watched large lightening bolts hit the lava on the trail.

Wonderer: Why do Americans eat this?

Crosby: No one I know does…

Me: I’ve never seen it before…

The Darkness: Have you seen fluff yet?

E.D.: That looks interesting…

After multiple hours with all five of us in the privy and the weather not improving, we decided to hitch back to Grants. At a break in the storms with more pending, we managed to snag two rides into town and we all piled back into the Travel Lodge.

The Darkness turned on TLC to continue our marathon abilities. Being Sunday, the TLC marathon was sister wives, a worse show than normal. After five hours of sister wives, Wonderer finally spoke up.

Wonderer: What is the plot to this show?

The Darkness: There is no plot…it’s just their lives.

Wonderer: Hmmmm.

E.D.: Yeah…

In the morning, we plotted to wander out again to the other side of the lava to avoid the still present thunderstorms.

Between storms.

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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.

img_2564

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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