Sunday, May 26, 2013

Monday June 14, 2010
Camp 44: Rainbow Motel, South Fork, Colorado
Camp 45: Alder/Palisades Trail

A little catch up…after hiking out of Platoro we had a crazy series of hitches to get to Highway 160.  Because we were in the middle of nowhere and far from the actual CDT we had no idea how or when we would get back on track…but it’s all part of the journey!  The first hitch was about 40 miles in the back of a pick-up truck going entirely in the wrong direction.  We hadn’t studied a map and didn’t realize it at the time.  The man dropped us off at an intersection that was 12 miles from Monte Vista on a deserted old road with no cars. Awesome.  He assured us it got busier and we wouldn’t have a hard time catching a ride…wrong.  We walked a few miles in the warm desert scrub and out of the snowy mountains.  We passed by a house where a man and woman are on their porch.  I asked how far Monte Vista was and the man says he’s heading that way (yes!) so we hopped in the back of his truck.  He dropped us off at the intersection of Hwy 160 and a woman on her cell phone stopped to give us a lift in just a matter of minutes; despite the warning from her mother in law on the other end of the phone!  She took us to Del Norte which is where we luckily got another quick hitch into South Fork with a guy and his 5 year old son.  The little boy told us their life story on the way J  I was shocked at our hitching luck as it could have taken days to get to South Fork.  We got a room at the Rainbow Motel and then headed to the local “outfitter” to look for proper shoes for Eric.  No luck, no shoes in South Fork, Colorado.  So we decided to stop at a bar and have a few cold $1.75 PBR drafts before heading to the steakhouse next door.  These days, food comes way before shower on the priority list, even if they choose to seat us in the closed section of a restaurant!  I’m pretty sure we set a record on consumption with huge steaks, loaded baked potatoes and ice cream to fill in the cracks. We slept like it was our job, grabbed coffee and a burger AND a milkshake at the malt shop before heading out of town.  I may be over my quota for red meat but I can’t say I regret a single bite!  We pieced together some trails which, in theory, would take us to Creede.  So here we are, creating our own adventure, our own trail, our own hike.  It has been a beautiful, quiet walk today and it seems the storms are making their way out so hopefully it will be nice and sunny tomorrow.  What a fun town stop and a crazy turn of events these past few days.  

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Saturday June 12, 2010

Camp 43: cabin at Skyline Lodge in Platoro, Colorado

We woke to the sound of pelting rain and the occasional drop in the eyeball as the wind shook our single wall tarp tent.  We were both mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted.  Yesterday it seemed we couldn’t catch a break and I could only wonder what Mother Nature had in store for today.  Although extremely beautiful, rugged and unique; the southern San Juan’s proved unforgiving.  We both dreaded the stream crossing ahead…if one of us fell in the swift current we would face a large boulder or the dead tree that spanned the stream.  After packing up I took a look at the terrain to see if we could go off trail and stay high instead of crossing the stream at that particular spot.  It looked like a possibility so we decided to give it a shot.  We found an old use trail and were able to traverse the mountainside fairly easily.  We then made our way down to the river where it soon opened up into a wide beautiful canyon.  The grey sky had given way to blue and big puffy white clouds.  The river was wide, snaking through the canyon while waterfalls plummeted from the walls.  We looked up at the mountain that we had been on top of yesterday.  It was snow covered and a huge storm cloud still loomed above.  Things were looking up and we both breathed a sigh of relief.  We had made it down in one piece.  We still had to cross the river so we could catch the trail on the other side which would eventually lead to a reservoir.  It looked fairly easy and didn’t seem to be flowing as fast but it was wide and high.  Eric crossed first and I wasn’t far behind.  I watched as the water went above his knees and his rain pants created more drag than expected.  I was trying to stay upright and steadily making my way across as Eric scrambled up the bank.  I was so close but the water had risen to my hips and the swift current had me shaking.  I knew if I fell with full pack it would be tough to recover.  I inched my way closer and finally reached the edge.  Eric grabbed my pack and hoisted me up.  We exploded into laughter as I looked up and said, “huh, it looked a little easier than that!”  As always, it was a reminder to never let your guard down out here.  That’s when you get into trouble!  We pushed on to connect with a flat meandering trail that skirted the edge of the river.  It was nice to be mindlessly walking and chatting.  It almost seemed too easy!  We soon found ourselves at a trailhead with parked cars!  We looked at a map and a fisherman walked by and we started chatting.  He was fishing with his brothers so the three of them took us to nearby Sky Line Lodge in historic Platoro, Colorado.  Apparently it was once a bustling little town but now a simple lodge with cabins, a store and café.  Being a gateway to the San Juan Wilderness it brought in a lot of fisherman and hikers.  We thanked the guys and waved goodbye before making our way to the café to grab some warm food.  We sat in an exhausted daze as we finished our burgers and chatted with surrounding tables about the trail.  Everyone was extremely nice and had tons of questions about what in the heck we were doing!  After another beer we agreed to splurge on a cabin and hot shower and decide what to do tomorrow.  An employee gave us a ride to our cabin on his 4-wheeler so we wouldn’t have to walk! It seemed funny but my feet were thankful for the hospitality.  I just showered and did some sink laundry and I am just sitting here and it feels beyond amazing.  The wind is howling outside our door and the ominous sky promises another storm.  The locals say a cold front is moving through but it should clear in a couple days.  For now, all I know is I am inside, protected from the elements, warm and smelling of soap!  What a crazy trail so far and with each day Eric and I grow a little closer.  Sometimes I wonder how that can even be possible but with all of the craziness, the extreme highs and lows and never knowing what to expect, it makes us a stronger team.  We trust each other with our lives each and every day and push forward, knowing that anything can happen but together we will get through it.  It’s simply amazing to share that.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Friday June 11, 2010
Camp 42: by the river in the rain (sounds like a sad country song)

This morning we woke, snuggled in our sleeping bags with our down jackets tucked inside to provide extra warmth.  The chill of the air at 12,000 feet made it difficult to start the day too early.  Besides, we were at a bit of an impasse; none of our hiking options too safe or appealing.  We decided not to go back up the mountain to the CDT where the wind blasted us last night, where icy snow fields awaited…one after another on the north facing slope.  According to the maps and GPS we could take the Fish Lake trail out which would drop in elevation and is south facing.  In theory, this meant much less snow and ice.  We packed up and put sheet metal screws in Eric’s Brooks running shoes using nail clippers and tweezers.  A note on Brooks running shoes- not too helpful in snowy mountain conditions.  I guess that’s why they didn’t call them Brooks all terrain Gortex hiking boots.  We continued our adventure as we off-trailed across snow fields and streams to the supposed Fish Lake trail.  The trail was difficult to find and keep track of under the snow so we soon found ourselves 1.5 miles down the wrong canyon.  Plan B was to make it down the canyon to another trail but time after time we got ridged out and we found ourselves on a goat path staring thousands of feet straight down.  Eventually we stumbled onto another use trail, used mainly by elk I think, which in theory would lead us to the top of the mountain and down a canyon that would eventually connect back up to the Fish Lake Trail.  We followed the narrow, steep trail which skirted the canyon and once again, lost track of it in a snow field.  We managed to make our way to the top and found ourselves climbing up and over another “hill” with steep rocky drop-offs on both sides.  The spectacular 360-degree views of snow- capped peaks, steep rugged canyons, rocky ridge lines and grazing elk left me breathless.  We pushed forward, the elk stopping to stare, seemingly confused as to why we were there, but then again, so were we!  The GPS said the lake was just over the hill.  So we made it to the top and peered into an icy lake surrounded by fields of white.  A few stretches of the trail could be spotted switch-backing up to a narrow saddle blocked by a wall of snow at least 20 feet high.  There we sat, bewildered and hungry (oh yes, did I mention we are very low on food?) not knowing what to do.  We had spent 6.5 hours circumnavigating this mountain only to find the route we chose impassible.   I sat staring, humbled, with tears swimming in my eyes, out of both frustration and simply being scared, which takes a lot for me.  Thanks to Eric, I gathered myself and we tried to find a way down.  We slowly descended on a steep snow drift and climbed back up the other side of the canyon to the divide…back to the top of the very same mountain where we had almost been blown off the night before.  Again, we studied the CDT buried under snow, lacking the confidence to march forward so we decided to find another way.  While contemplating our next move it began to rain so we hurried back down the mountain.  The storm moved through quickly and we decided to backtrack past where we had camped the night before to yet another trail that would drop us into a different canyon along the river.  All afternoon we worked our way down into the canyon.  We inched our way across the fast moving river as another storm moved through.  This time it was accompanied by thunder, rain, snow and hail! How lucky are we?  The trail meandered along the banks of the river, fairly easy walking past the occasional wash-out and snow field.  All in all we were thrilled to just be moving in a direction.  At 7pm we realized that we had to cross the river again but this time at a narrow section of the canyon where the water blasted through a narrow chute.  Apparently I wasn’t thinking very clearly as I prepared to cross and Eric looked at me as if I was crazy and said, “There is no way!  If we fall, we are done!”  We laughed, not amused in the least, but we still laughed as the clouds moved in again, dark and ominous, as was my mood.   We made our way up the hill and set up camp just in time for the rain to come again.  We ate a cold dinner and Eric turned on the GPS to see that we had traveled 2.12 miles as the crow flies from where we camped last night.  Sigh.  We shake our heads as the rain pelts the tent harder and harder, we will deal with the trail and the river crossing tomorrow.  For now, it’s time for rest and perhaps dreams of kittens and rainbows and waterfalls made of whiskey.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Snow and mud and mud and snow

Thursday June 10, 2010
Camp 41: Where do we go from here?  12,000 feet

I am at a loss for words as to how our day has been.  We hiked through snow fields, mud and water.  At times we slid straight down the snow and overall it was slow, slow going.  At around 6pm the trail skirted the North side of the mountain at 12,000 feet with a snow drift blocking the way, seemingly impassible with the gear we had.  If we fell, it was a long straight drop, thousands of feet down into the canyon.  We made a decision to go high, hoping to find a way around.  Instead, we hiked to the top and were greeted by high winds.  It took my breath away, my eyes watered and each step took effort and concentration to simply stand up.  We couldn’t even risk getting close to the edge to scout out our options for fear that the gusts would send us over.  The adrenaline was rushing but it was all a little terrifying as we hovered behind a rock trying to make sense of the situation.  We sat there, wide eyed and out of breath as we made the painful decision to head back down the way we came before we lost our sunlight.  Back through the snow drifts and mud, punching through the snow, everything wet, temperature dropping fast…brutal circumstances.  We finally found a place to set up camp and quickly put dry clothes on.  In 11 hours of hiking we only made it about 7 trail miles- unbelievable.  It makes me want to cry! We are beat up and beyond exhausted.  Hopefully tomorrow will bring some clarity.  This is definitely a different trail and it’s only the beginning.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

South San Juans!

Wednesday June 9, 2010
Camp 40: Trail Lake

Our day began by crossing the marsh using downed trees.  We climbed 12,000 feet and the views were incredible with layers of snow-capped mountains.  From the ridge we could see for miles, below us the lakes were laced with ice, the snow fields stretched before us and the bluest sky you can imagine enveloped us.  The trail was very unforgiving today, those beautiful snow fields ensured cold, wet feet and we trudged through mud and water at snail pace.  Our trekking poles were a godsend as we punched through the snow and slid through the mud.  We are both exhausted but it was an exhilarating day.  These mountains are rugged and beautiful, so many new experiences.  I simply cannot wait to see how it all unfolds.  South San Juans!!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

One State Down!

Tuesday June 8, 2010
Camp 38: Chama Trails Inn
Camp 39: First Colorado camp!

We are camped directly on the trail tonight as we are walking through a section that is closed for logging due to beetle infestation.  There are trees down everywhere and hundreds of snags all around us.  It was tough finding a camping spot without a widow-maker looming above us so we settled for a place right on the trail.  Let’s see, yesterday we crossed over into Colorado!!!  It is very exciting to have hiked an entire state already.  We spent the morning listing our New Mexico favorites as we walked.  We made it to Cumbres Pass which is in Colorado but then we hitched back into Chama, New Mexico to resupply.  Chama is an old divided town, one end is very cute and historic and somewhat touristy with the old railroad running through.  There are several shops, an old saloon, a few hotels and very friendly locals.  The other end of town was right by the Interstate and the people were actually kind of rude.  We didn’t figure this out until too late when we had booked an expensive room across the street from a grocery store.  Our stay was strange and Eric caught a peeping Tom staring into our room from the alley…yuck.  On our way back to Cumbres Pass a lady drove us a mile to the “better” end of town but she had to get back to work and couldn’t take us any farther- funniest and shortest hitch ever!  We sat in Fosters Saloon and had a couple brews and then a stranger bought us a round.  We played pool, listened to the jukebox and then, in a bit of a fog, decided to make our way back to the trail.  After what felt like an eternity, a couple picked us up in their Jeep.  They were awesome, taking us back to the pass even though they weren’t heading that way.  We hopped out with a thank you, grateful for the generosity.  We hiked on and looked up to see a huge bear heading toward us on the trail.  She was grazing along and didn’t even know we were there until we stood and watched her for a good bit.  Eventually we yelled, “hey bear” and she looked up, startled, and bolted in the other direction.  We are definitely in a new state as the snow fields lay before us and the mountain streams are not in short supply.  Our view tonight is amazing and we had yet another awesome sunset and a lightning show!

hi: hanging out at the saloon, enjoying good beer and listening to Hey Jude with my love
lo: hmmm….not really

hi: great morning
lo: the state of the trail that we are on

New Mexico Favorites:

Breakfast: Pie Town apple pancakes and sausage with huevos rancheros in Deming being a close second

Lunch: Ella’s Café in Reserve

Dinner: steak and burger in Reserve

Dessert: Coconut Cream Pie in Pie Town

Camping Spot: sleeping out under the stars at City of Rocks State Park

Hitch:  Toughie in Reserve and Alice in the Gila (Silver City)

Funniest Hitch:  the 1 mile hitch in Chama

Towns: Reserve, Cuba and Pie Town

Highlights:  Gila Wilderness, lots of wildlife sightings, the diversity of the state, the kind people and our crazy off trail adventures!

Wildlife: A Wolf and Javelina

Best cold and much needed drink:  Ice cold Coke at Rockhound State Park

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sunday June 6, 2010
Camp 37:  Carson National Forest, North of Lagunitas

Last night we fell asleep to howling wolves and a lightning storm in the distant peaks.  Above us, a clear sky, amazing stars and bright planets, our tent illuminated with each strike of lightning.  Today started out smooth and we were actually on the CDT!  There were cairns and even CDT signs!  Avoiding private land, the trail meandered through beautiful Aspen groves, along spectacular ridges and into a canyon along a stream.  We could see for miles, wide open spaces and mountains in the distance.  We saw herds of elk and antelope grazing and we stumbled upon an elk calf lying right in the middle of the trail.  Apparently his mama sensed danger and he was hiding.  At first it didn’t look like he was breathing as he was very still, his eyes closed.  We knew things were going too easy and soon we dropped steeply to the stream and zigged when we should have zagged!  We took a trail along the stream heading NE when apparently the CDT went NW. Argh!  We followed an old road and had a berm “stylin” contest along the way.  We then followed another road which led to Lagunitas campground and eventually linked back up with a trail that skirted a ridge, giving views of the distant mountain ranges and deep green valleys.  Stunning.  The clouds built and loomed creating a spectacular sunset.  It was a crazy day with lots of ups and downs, but it was beautiful and filled with laughter, and out here, that’s all that matters.  My entire body aches as I lay here waiting for a warm dinner.  We have hereby created a team trail name, “lost before noon.”