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Archive for June, 2018

Lake City to Salida – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Lake City to Salida Hike Overview

The first section of trail out of Spring Creek Pass was very scenic and similar to the last stretch south of the pass. After San Luis Peak, the trail drops down and the high mountain scenery fades away. Low valleys, dirt roads, forest. Lots of climbing and no views to show for it. After about 70 miles of this, the trail finally climbs high again and hikers are rewarded with distant views once again. This too comes at a cost… dodge the mountain bikers. After about 150 miles of the CDT sharing trail with the Colorado trail, I saw my first, and 100th, bikers. Watch out for these guys, they’ll run you over!

Sunday June 17th – CDT Day 58

Got up when I felt like it, around 8am. Bad weather still loomed, and so did many of us hikers. I ate breakfast at the Chillin place next door and took my time.

Easy and I left the hostel late morning to hitch back up to spring creek pass. Almost immediately we had someone stop, but was only going a few miles up the road. Another person stopped and we took a shorter hitch to the outside edge of town at cinnamon pass. Along the way, he stopped and picked up sprinkler, who had been trying to hitch for 1.5 hours. sprinkler had seen a black bear run across the road earlier though. Cool!

After being dropped off at cinnamon pass, we immediately got another ride out to our destination at spring creek pass.

We reached the pass and started hiking around noon thirty. Dark clouds and rain drops were prevalent. The trail climbs up about 1500ft onto a mesa. This was a bitch right out of town with a heavy pack.

Now I walked on snow mesa, completely exposed. Low visibility due to the dark and fast moving clouds. Rain drops on and off. Fortunately, no thunder and Lightning.

To protect my stuff from the rain, I used a trash compactor bag as a pack liner, as well as a pack cover for the outside. First time really wearing my train jacket all trail. It was cool out, but I still didn’t want to wear rain pants. I just hiked in shorts as I’ve done this entire hike.

Walked the mesa for a few miles and then some ups and downs. Constant low clouds made for a cool hike but it was now cold and wet.

After 9+ miles I saw sprinkler and easy setting up camp next to two other tents. The trail climbs high right after this so there’s little chance of another good site like this. It was cold and my feet were soaking wet, so I too decided to make this camp home for the night. Turns out it’s mark and John, whom I hadn’t seen since Doc Campbell’s.

This evening there was a large group of big horn sheep just above camp. With my zoom lens I was able to get some shots, but nothing too good. Also saw them sparring, bashing heads together. That was pretty awesome.

We’re all hoping for good weather tomorrow so we can cover some miles. At least this should have helped the Colorado wildfires.

Miles – 10.3
Total Miles – 944.2 
Rain – yes
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – big horn sheep, marmot.

Monday June 18th – CDT Day 59

I woke up to the Sun on my tent this morning, a very welcome feeling. It was a bit breezy and cooler but hey, no rain!

Started hiking at 8. There were a couple bigger climbs this morning and then it was all downhill. I also had the option to bag San Luis peak, a 14 ER. However, I have plans to meet my buddy in Salida on Friday, and would like to get there Thursday, Early enough to do a couple of chores as well. So today, I hope to cover as many miles as possible and take advantage of the very long downhill section.

The first climb was a tough one. Very steep and first thing in the morning.

The second climb was tough too, but I started finding some very clear crystals along the trail. If it’s not some super pure form of quartz then I don’t know what it is. Grabbed a few of these to add to the collection.

Next I passed the intersection for the Creed cut off. Apparently a lot of people had to take this when the san Juans were closed. Glad I made it through.

After another climb I crested a pass. Here I could see San Luis peak. No snow on top. The trail stays high along the edges of the basin and makes its way to a saddle below San Luis peak.

I decided against climbing San Luis peak for a few reasons. I had already done a lot of climbing today and wasn’t in the mood for any more, and I wanted to cover more miles.

 

Now it was all downhill for most of the rest of the day. It’s a 15 plus mile stretch of no climbing, so I should be able to do this and more today, even though it’s already almost 1pm.

While hiking down the valley below San Luis peak I stumbled upon Dixie. We ended up hiking together for a while. Then we stumbled upon Easy, and we all took a break together.

The three of us hiked together after our break for a while until we reached a stream. I stayed behind to filter a couple liters.

Next was the La Garita wilderness. Here the trail follows a river and runs through a valley. Scenic, and a nice change of pace.

Eventually caught up with Easy again and we hiked together for about an hour and a half. He stopped to make camp where the trail started climbing up a dirt road, ending the 15 mi downhill section. However, I wanted to cover a few more miles and so I kept going.

Much of the rest of the evening was along a dirt road. I hiked until around 8:45pm, finding camp in the tree line alongside a huge open field. I cowboy camped tonight.

Hiked 31 miles today, which was 29.1 guthook miles. Gotta put it a few more big days to make my Thursday afternoon schedule.

Miles – 31.1
Total Miles – 975.3 
Rain – no
Sleep – cowboy camp
Animals – none

Tuesday June 19th – CDT Day 60

Woke up with the Sun shining on me around 6:15. Beautiful morning.

This morning’s hike follows a dirt road for several miles as it passes through the same very large Valley I entered last night. Easy hiking, but nothing super scenic.

Then the trail heads up pill and into a small Valley with a little stream. However, the were a ton of cows in the area and the water looked dirty. Also it wasn’t very deep, so I skipped this water source.

The trail heads up Hill along a dirt road. Not much to see here. I’m getting really thirsty now, running on about one liter all day. It’s now late morning and I’m about 12 miles in today.

Made it to the next water source after 1pm. Earl Grey was here as well. 16 miles so far today. It’s also been awhile since I’ve been this dehydrated. I drank over 2 liters of water and filtered two more to get me to the next source.

The trail crosses a paved highway and then follows Lujan creek rd uphill. Nothing much going on here, just a 1500ft climb with little to see.

The CDT leaves the road and becomes trail only for the rest of the day. It’s also the beginning of several miles of ups and downs along a series of wooded hill tops. Boring! And tiring.

Late this afternoon I hit the 1000 mile mark on the CDT. Woo-hoo! About one third of the way done now.

I made camp on a saddle just north of middle baldy. Lots of mosquitoes out here. Those bastards.

Miles – 28
Total Miles – 1003.3 
Rain – no
Sleep – cowboy camp
Animals – elk

Wednesday June 20th – CDT Day 61

Today’s hike continued where yesterday’s left off… Boring ups and downs along a ridge with no views. Lots of rocks to trip over and to hurt my feet. Lots of mosquitoes.

A couple of nice meadows along the way filled with colorful flowers and dandelions. 

Today was dry as well, one stream early afternoon. So I was thirsty all morning. Filtered my water and continued heading downhill when I should have made a turn uphill here. Went about 1.5 miles out of the way before realizing it, so about an hour lost here.

Heading up hill now, more ups and downs with little views. A few clearings in the trees offered some of the first distant views in a while. There were a couple of dirt bikes on trail here, pretty sure that’s not allowed.

After a steep climb up to Marshall pass, there were some better views along the ridge. A couple more miles to a snowmobile cabin now, where I’ll stay tonight.

When I reached the cabin, Easy was already there. I liked the rustic feel of the peeve, and preferred it over the yurt I stayed in before lake city. There was a marmot outside chewing on the cabin or something, making lots of noise.

Miles – 28
Total Miles – 1031.3 
Rain – no
Sleep – cabin
Animals – deer

Thursday June 21st – CDT Day 62

Slept great in the cabin. The outhouse was nice, no need to dig a hole this morning.

After leaving the cabin, there was lots of interesting rocks along the trail. Big flakes of mica and even solid rocks of it. Picked up a few samples for the collection.

After a 900ft climb, the tail reaches an exposed ridge. Finally, distant views again! Man the last 70 miles were rather boring.

There’s tons of mountain bikers on trail now. The CDT had been paralleling the Colorado trail for around 150 miles and today was the first time I had seen a biker. And there are about 100 of them today! One group of 4 were came flying around a blind corner on a mountainside and I had to dive out of the way. They didn’t slow down at all. People like this give bikers a bad name. Nice tights, bro… Haha.

Made it to monarch pass a little after noon. It took me an hour to get a hitch. Chuck, a local trail angel, was dropping off some hikers at the pass and picked me up on his way back down to Salida. He offered to take me, Easy and a few other hikers rafting on the Arkansas River that evening. Hell yeah!

Checked in at the simple lodge hostel, showered then went out for pizza with Earl Grey. Smashed a whole pizza then back to the hostel.

Left the hostel around 5 when Chuck picked us up then headed down to the river. He had 3 rafts, the kind you’d use on a commercial rafting trip. In fact, we had an actual guide on our raft, who pretty much took care of everything. I only had to contribute a few paddle strokes all night in between drinking beer. Great sunset and an awesome experience!

Miles – 12
Total Miles – 1043.3 
Rain – no
Sleep – cabin
Animals – deer

Friday June 22nd – CDT Day 63 (zero day)

Went to last with sprinkler and back to the hostel for laundry. Finally, the was a long wait.

I was excited to meet up with my friend Ryan today but unfortunately he has been sick and won’t be able to make it. Damn, that goes plans to prospect on mt antero today. At least we should be able to hang out when I get to Breckenridge.

Went to Safeway and picked up Italian sausage for dinner. Will cook back at the hostel with a couple other guys.

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 1043.3
Rain – no
Sleep – hostel
Animals – deer

Saturday June 23rd – CDT Day 64 (zero day)

Another zero day today. I’ve been having such a great time in town that I’ve been slacking on my log and need to finish that this morning so I can mail out my bounce box before the post office closes. This is becoming a common occurrence. 

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 1043.3 
Rain – no
Sleep – hostel
Animals – deer

Like what you see?

Pagosa Springs to Lake City – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Pagosa Springs to Lake City Hike Overview

Between Pagosa Springs and Lake City, the CDT passes through the San Juan mountains and the Weminuche wilderness, Colorado’s largest. It’s a tough section with rugged mountains, alpine lakes, lots of high trail and beautiful scenery. It’s much longer than the last section, but fortunately the trail was a bit dier and less snow which allowed for slightly easier travel. But still, very challenging!

Saturday June 9th – CDT Day 50

I had a couple of bananas and some banana bread at the motel continental breakfast. Then sprinkler and I went out for a real breakfast. We ate at the junction restaurant at the end of town. Pancakes and sausage, last hot meal for up to 7 days.

Sprinkler was taking other zero today so he went back to the hotel. Being at the end of town and across the street from the gas station, it seemed like a good place to start looking for a hitch up to the pass. I had a cardboard sign that said “wolf creek pass”. I got a ride after about 15 minutes from a fisherman heading up that way

After being dropped off, I joined Quiet (another hiker) in a conversation with a couple of motorcyclists at the pass. After about 20 minutes, I started hiking. It was roughly 10am.

The trail climbs for a while after leaving Wolf Creek pass. That is to be expected, it’s a pass after all. But damn, was it tiring with a pack of food and water.

I bumped into to hikers named Casper and button. As we were talking, a guy came down the trail southbound and mentioned that he just saw a bear about a mile down the trail.

The more I hiked today, the more the views improved. Only a couple of snow patches to cross as the trail reached the end of a Valley with a nice Lake. Trail climbs steeply above it to the top of a ridge. This was one of two big climbs today.

Now on the ridge, I felt like I was back on Trail between Chama and Pagosa Springs. Big views and felt like the top of the world. Forest fire smoke from the 416 fire in Durango could be seen on the horizon to the west.

I did my best to keep hiking although I was pretty distracted by the scenery. More ups and downs along Ridge lines, small passes and generally staying high.

I saw two more hikers, turtle and mangus. Stopped here for second lunch around 5pm. All have another 7.5 miles to go and another big climb ahead.

The trail goes downhill for a bit and then start the climb. Steady at first, sleeper later. Excellent views the rest of the evening. The trail is heading west, right into the sunset. The way the Ridgeline was illuminated by the Sun was magical.

As the trail started climbing up the switch backs, I was getting really tired. Only a few more miles. At the top, more incredible views. This is what I envisioned before hiking the CDT. Really awesome and words can’t describe it.

The trail dropped down a little bit before ascending the final High Point of the day. Cold and windy now with the sun setting behind the first fire smoke.

With the climbing done for today, all this left is to descent into a valley towards a stream, the first water source in a while. This will make a good place to camp.

I found a place to camp near the stream after 8:30pm. Long day, but I got my miles in. I’m hoping to trail remains snow free and relatively dry as it was today for the rest of the hike to Lake City. If not, it’s going to be rough and slow going like the last stretch.

Miles – 22.7
Total Miles – 855.5
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – marmot

Sunday June 10th – CDT Day 51

Woke up at 7am. Filtered water from the stream and took off.

Much of the morning and early afternoon was fairly boring trail. Lots of small ups and downs along hillside with little view of anything. There were some nice moments but just not as constant as other sections of trail. 

Sometime mid afternoon, the trail climbed up a Ridgeline and the views improved. About time. I ran into Mangus a couple times, and played leapfrog the rest of the day.

Smoke from the 416 fire in Durango was pretty thick now. I couldn’t even see it this morning, and now it has engulfed the sky and filled the valleys.

I must have forgotten to turn my GPS back on after first lunch, because the next time I went to turn it off it was already off. I have guthooks app miles I can use, I’ll just add another mile or two to that total since the app usually underestimates the total miles.

Next the trail traverses a hillside through a large basin.

Later in the afternoon I reached knife edge, a pointy ridge. The Ridge itself was not a challenge, but the steep slopes following it were more difficult. Had there been more snow, I would have used my micro spikes. There were a couple of snow patches on steep slopes that I was able to cross with no snow gear, not even trekking poles.

After the knife edge, I had another climb up over a Ridge. I stepped on some mud that looked fairly dry and sturdy, but it ended up being ankle deep. I got a bunch of mud inside my shoe, too. I was able to keep my feet dry the rest of the day up until this point.

I had another hour or so until I got to a pass below the final climb for today. I had planned on hiking to Squaw Creek, but it was another 3 miles and it was already 7. I certainly could have done it, I did something similar last night, but I was really hungry and exhausted. I decided to camp just below the pass near a small pond.

The miles here in Colorado are so much harder than New Mexico. I could hike all day and New Mexico and never feel this tired, even on a 30 mile day. Here, I have to really bust my ass to get 20 miles. Today I hiked 18.7 miles according to guthook, which would probably be 19.5 – 20 on my GPS.

Miles – 18.7
Total Miles – 871.2
Rain – no
Sleep – cowboy camp
Animals – marmots

Monday June 11th – CDT Day 52

Woke up at 6am to a 28°morning. My 20° quilt kept me toasty.

After leaving camp I finished the climb I intend on doing last night. I made a good call not pushing on because there were few campsites in the area I was hoping to camp when I passed by this morning.

Today had a lot of big climbs. It started with a 1100 ft descent to Squaw Creek. Then it was a 1700 ft climb.

Good views along much of the climb. I stopped for first lunch here along a creek. Actually, I had four lunches today. I’ve been hiking in 3 hours blocks, but today I decided to try 2 hour blocks, eating and drinking water each break.

Lots of willow bushes along the trail today. Just had me cursing quite a bit as they cut up my legs. I also went through a gauntlet of mosquitoes along a small Lake, possibly the thickest swarm I’ve ever encountered.

I took another break at the top of the pass. Oh man these climbs are getting to me. I leaned up against my backpack and admired the beautiful view, and wished I could stay here longer.

The trail climbs a little bit higher after leaving the pass. After reaching at High Point trail curves around a hillside and a view of a whole new landscape opens up. Lightly snow capped peaks lined the horizon. It’s a shame the forest fire smoke obscured the view, because it was stunning.

Now the trail drops down to 10400 ft over the next few miles. This is the lowest the trail will get on this entire stretch from Pagosa Springs to Lake city.

At first the trail stays high on a bit of a plateau with good distant views. Then it drops down to a meadow, where I stopped for another food break.

After leaving the meadow, there’s a short climb up a hill and then the trail followers a river Gorge downhill. There was a huge log jam along the river, looks like the product of an avalanche.

The River then dumps into a huge Meadow. The forest fire smoke created a thick haze that filled the valley and obscured sight of the mountains beyond. However, a distinct notch in the Ridgeline could be seen even from the other side of the meadow. It first I thought this was the pass I would be hiking to, but I would later find out the trail doesn’t actually go through this notch, but close to it.

I took another break at the end of the meadow before the trail starts to climb. Mangus was here too. We were both dreading the 2200 ft ascent that awaits us. Filtered water for tonight as well.

The hike up to the next pass wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating, but still very tiring. I think the extra breaks I took today helped.

I thought about camping before the pass, but I was feeling good enough to go over it and shoot for a saddle about a mile after. I’m glad I did because I was able to cover a couple more miles and after cresting the pass it was so beautiful. It was around 7pm now, which has been probably my favorite time of the day to hike. Even though I’d prefer to be in camp already!

Coming down from the pass, it was another mile or so to the saddle. I found a pretty decent campsite here, and decided to cowboy camp again.

Hiking through the mountains is such hard work. It still surprises me that I’m able to get up in the morning and do it all over again every day.

A few other things… I’ve yet to set any sign of bear in Colorado, but saw bear crap almost daily in New Mexico. I’ve only taken one ibuprofen so far and it was in town, not even in trail. That must be some thru hiker record. Many hikers call it vitamin I. OK quit rambling and get some sleep!

Miles – 24.6
Total Miles – 898.8
Rain – no
Sleep – cowboy camp
Animals – marmots

Tuesday June 12th – CDT Day 53

I was hiking by 6:55 this morning. I hiked about a quarter mile so I could get into the sunlight to eat my breakfast. Really hoping to put in some miles today.

Great views all day long, best of the hike so far. It started almost immediately after leaving camp. The trail goes through a large basin. Heading around a blind corner near the top I stumbled upon a bull elk. Antlers are starting to grow more this time of year.

At the top of the Pass, I could see Ute lake below. Lots of beautiful Mountains forming the backdrop. Good start to the day.

After passing Ute lake I filtered water from a small stream, ate and rinsed yesterday’s socks.

Next was the first of 4 big climbs today. Felt good on this one. Beautiful view from the top, didn’t think it could get much better but it does.

 


The view from the second pass was incredible. It was reminiscent of the wind River range. Closer to Nebo Creek, there was some interesting looking upheaval in one of the mountains. Going down Nebo Creek there was a lot of wading through willow bushes and wet ground.

The third pass was named Hunchback pass. I’ve hiked in this area of the San Juans in 2013, and came down Hunchback pass from the opposite direction. When we came down the pass last time, visibility was almost zero due to extreme fog and drizzling rain. I was looking forward to seeing what I missed last time but honestly, it wasn’t super spectacular. At least going up. Going down the pass towards bear town trailhead was beautiful though!

Before the 4th and final big climb of the day, I filtered 3L water from a stream. Then I began the arduous trek uphill. The first bit was steep. I can handle a steady up Hill Climb all day but past a certain angle it just kills me. And it was definitely past that angle.

I reached the top of the pass but not the climb. Now the tail is on a high, rolling, open mountaintop. Would be hard to describe without the pictures. It’s pretty barren, and really wet. I had been able to avoid wet feet all day but not anymore. There were just too many large wet fields to cross, and eventually I ended up just trudging through the water. Ugh, I hate wet feet.

The forest fire smoke was really thick and once again obscured what would have been some Pretty cool views. Still had a couple more miles to go but was getting worn out. I stopped for dinner a little before 7.

The rest of the evening was very scenic. I found a place to camp in a narrow Valley that had an awesome view of the sunset. Going to cowboy camp again. Saw a couple of elk this evening from camp.

I hiked for 13 hours today to cover 20.1 miles according to the guthook app. Did I mention how hard Colorado is? Holy crap. In New Mexico I could hike all day long and almost never get winded. I feel like half my day in Colorado I just want to keel over and die due to all the climbing. I was never very good at cardio and certainly don’t enjoy it. I’m wondering how long it will take for this to get easier.

Miles – 22.7
Total Miles – 921.5
Rain – no
Sleep – cowboy camp
Animals – marmots, elk

Wednesday June 13th – CDT Day 54

It was 22° when I woke up this morning. Since my shoes got wet only two hours before sunset, I had to put them in a plastic bag and warm them in my sleeping bag. It gets annoying having them in my sleeping bag the entire night, so I typically bring them in the bag an hour or two before I get up. They don’t get dry but at least they are warm when I put them on. Waiting for the Sun to hit my location before I get out of my sleeping bag.

Lots more climbing ahead today. The trail will reach its highest point at over 13000 ft, and several Peaks just below.

The day started with a small climb. More great mountain views.

The trail passes through stony pass. There’s a little traveled dirt road here to hitch to Silverton, or just walk the 10 miles to town. Some hikers resupplied here, but it’s another 35 miles to spring creek pass where I plan on hitching into Lake City. Moving on.

The trail follows a dirt road for about a quarter mile before splitting of as trail again. First road walk in Colorado, albeit a short one. This begins a climb out of a new valley. This valley had an empty feel to it. Hard to describe. The climb wasn’t too hard and soon enough I was at the top of the pass.

New pass, new views. Impressive scenery. Clouds building. Stopped at a small pond to filter water and eat.

More ups and downs, more clouds. One mountain had some interesting rocks that slowed me down, just as the skies were darkening to their breaking point. I heard an incredible roaring sound, then got hit with a 60 mph wind gust out of nowhere. Snow flakes followed, flying horizontally. I put on my rain jacket and put away the camera gear for a while.

I hiked for a while under the threat of rain but in the end I never got wet. The forest fire smoke was thick now and made it tough to tell if there were rain clouds overhead or not.

Passed a couple of lakes before another climb. It was steeper at first then leveled out to an easy pace the rest of the way up. I was listening to music and felt great at this moment, definitely thinking about town tomorrow now.

After cresting the pass it was a long decent into this valley. Massive views, this valley just felt enormous. The smoke was probably thicker here than anywhere else yet.

Filtered water again here at a steam, last water for a long time. Then the trail climbs up to an area with some dirt roads and a trailhead. I stopped here for food before pushing on.

It was 6pm now, and I began a 1000ft climb up a very steep dirt road. At the top of this climb is the highest point in the Colorado trail, which is also the CDT right now, at 13,271ft. Up here will be 20 miles for the day, but there will be few places to camp. And windy! Fortunately, I just discovered a yurt along the trail, but it’s another 8 miles from here. It’s going to take a herculean effort to reach that yurt before nightfall.

The steep road whooped my ass the whole way up. At the top was a super barren landscape, yet the highest on trail so far.

Now it was time to haul ass. I fast-walked everywhere that wasn’t steep uphill, and jogged on the downhill sections. I began to get tunnel vision, intensely concentrated on reaching that yurt before dark. This was the fastest pace I’ve maintained so far on the CDT.

Even with the smoke, there were some beautiful views along occasional Ridgelines. Coming down from one, I saw an elk.

I made it to the yurt aid 8:30pm, with little light to spare. I was completely exhausted, just spent from the day’s effort. I climbed a ladder to reach the platform the yurt sits on and saw turtle, yoda, and peppers. Inside was Baylor and crash, who were hiking the Colorado trail, already sleeping.

Ate dinner and slept on the floor inside the yurt. Didn’t want to use my inflatable air mattress on the metal wire bunk beds. Whew, long day! Not something I want to replicate any time soon.

Miles – 28.1
Total Miles – 949.6
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – yurt
Animals – marmots, elk

Thursday June 14th – CDT Day 55

I was the last to leave the yurt this morning at 8:30am. With only 8.5 miles to spring creek pass, there was no hurry for me.

Today’s hike was not that scenic. Large open areas, huge hills that had several false horizons as they were climbed and few mountain views.

Later, the trail drops down into forest land and eventually hits a door road. This road is followed all the way down to the pass, a paved highway. It took about 3 hours of hiking to get here.

As soon as I reached the road, two hikers were coming down to the pass, southbound. Before I had a chance to put my thumb out for a hitch, they offered a ride into Lake City. Absolutely!

It turns out that Mary and Clee, my ride into town, were related to Liminal, another hiker I’d met in Silver City. Small world! They have been following along the trail and assisting with rides and resupply. In fact, they knew many of the same hikers I met along the trail.

Mary and Clee were kind enough to take me out to lunch in town after I checked in at the ravens rest hostel. I had an awesome burger at the cannibal grill, probably the best yet on trail.

It turns out both Mary and Clee work for the fish and wildlife service, which spawned some interesting conversations. Clee had been stocking a lake with fish by plane some time ago, and when they looked back to see where the fish landed, he saw a man bailing water and fish out of his rowboat! Such a great story!

After a greatly appreciated ride from the pass and hot meal, I picked up my bounce box from the post office and settled in at the hostel. There were about 10 hikers here today.

Did laundry, started backing up photos, GoPro video and GPS tracks. Then sprinkler, earl gray and I went to Poker Alice for dinner. I got a 16″ meat lovers pizza, and had plenty to take with me for later.

Not much else was accomplished this evening. Some R and R was just what I needed after a tough hike in the san Juans.

Miles – 8.9
Total Miles – 958.5
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – hostel
Animals – deer

Friday June 15th – CDT Day 56 (zero day)

It felt great to sleep in a bed, even if it was a bunk bed. We went out to the bakery for breakfast… Good stuff. On the way back, We hit the county store to resupply for the next section to Salida.

Spent the rest of the day backing up photos and video, processing them and began updating my blog.

Everyone left the hostel and it was just Sprinkler and I. Weird for it to be so empty after being nearly full the day before, but I suppose this is what happens when the San Juans are closed due to fire.

Remnants of hurricane Bud are coming tomrrow, brining heavy rain all day, so I think I will take another zero. Also, I had plans to meet up with a friend in Salida, and having my zero day fall on a Friday would work better for my buddy than Thursday, so the extra zero here in Lake City isn’t really a problem.

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 958.5
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – hostel
Animals – rabbits

Saturday June 16th – CDT Day 57 (zero day)

Ate breakfast at the Chillin place next door. Grey skies, looks like rain already. Trying to finish my blog updates and everything I need with my bounce box so I can send it back today before 1pm. Buuuttt… that didn’t happen!

Ate lunch at the Cannibal Grill with Easy and Sprinkler. They left and as I continued to plug away on my laptop. Then, Forrest and Sequoia walked in! I thought they were far ahead of me, but they had taken some time off in Silverton. 

I should get back on trail tomorrow. Just gotta figure out how to get my bounce box sent out on Monday now in my absence. Ah, trail logistics.

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 958.5
Rain – no
Sleep – hostel
Animals – rabbits

Like what you see?

Chama to Pagosa Springs – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Chama to Pagosa Springs Hike Overview

This section has been the most difficult of the hike thusfar. More snow, highest elevation, most climbing, wettest, muddiest and all-around toughest hiking yet. But also, the most beautiful and impressive mountain scenery so far. Welcome to Colorado, snow and high mountains. Climb high, stay high! And that’s exactly what the trail does here. It follows the highest possible route without dropping down into valleys. That’s the spirit of the CDT, and this section is trial by fire. 

Monday June 4th – CDT Day 45

At breakfast at the Chama grill, then got a ride to the post office from Ralph, a local Trail angel. Set my bounce box to Lake City, sent home some gear, and returned the backpack I bought.

We squeezed 7 people I believe into Ralph’s pickup truck for the ride up to cumbress pass. We arrived at the pass around 9am and I started hiking shortly after. Not bad, more of an early start then I was expecting.

The trail start climbing immediately north of the pass. It was a good hike with increasingly good scenery. Before long the sound of the highway faded and only the sounds of nature remained.

The trail reaches a ridge that overlooks a valley below. Snow capped peaks can be seen in the distance. Woohoo, finally in the high mountains!

The trail continues to climb along the side of a mountain. Eventually it reaches a pass, the first real Mountain pass of the trip. Seems like a good place to stop for first lunch. I hate the remainder of a triple cheeseburger I had for lunch yesterday. I actually ordered two triple cheeseburger combo meals, trying my best to fatten up while in town.

After lunch, the trail continues to climb a long a Ridgeline. At this point it’s really starting to look like the CDT I was expecting. It felt really good to finally be here.

The trail continues to climb to today’s High Point at around 12200 ft. This is the highest point on trail to date. Once again, awesome views. My pace slowed for a while here as I took pictures and video.

Next the trail trends downhill slightly. It’s amazing that at this elevation there are such large open Meadows.

 

Next the trail passes dipping lakes. The first Lake was pretty scenic, with rocky cliff alongside the water. I stopped to filter water and eat second lunch.

The trail passes the other dipping Lakes and then begins an 800 ft climb. Around this point the trail became much more difficult. Patches of snow, lot of melt water making it nearly impossible to avoid getting my feet wet. This continued for the rest of the evening.

Now I’m traversing a shelf above a cirque. More snow here and very wet. I saw a Ptarmigan, marmots and pikas while hiking here. First of all three so far on the CDT.

I reached Trail Lake around 7:30, my goal for the day. I camped on a hill before the lake, no view of it. This was 22 miles by my GPS in roughly 20 miles on the guthook app.

I’m pretty tired today, going to blame this on the additional elevation. It’s 12000 ft here at Camp. Last week I did two 30 mi days back to back at 10,000 ft, but in my experience I don’t feel the effects of elevation until around 12000 feet. The next two hundred plus miles are going to be above 11 thousand feet, so I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Alright, bedtime. Time to try out my new 20 degree quilt.

Miles – 22
Total Miles – 777 
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry, tent
Animals – marmots, pika, Ptarmigan

Tuesday June 5th – CDT Day 46

Woke up with the sun on my tent a little after 6. Calm night, I was expecting it to be more windy up high up here and exposed. Got up in the middle of the night to pee and damn, the stars and milky way were bright!

After leaving camp, the trail climbs above trail lake. Someone else had camped here the night before, which I could see from my campsite.

Above trail lake is a pass at 12,320ft. Great view. It’s Rocky and wet.

I descend a little and cross a large snow field, then skirt the side of a hillside for a while.

The trail then passes through a large meadow. It’s really wet here too, lots of streams and ponds from the snow melt. 

Is been slow going today. Partly because of how beautiful it is, and also the terrain. Early season obstacles like snow, fields of water and mud make progress a real chore. There are few sections where I can cover ground quickly.

I had first lunch at blue lake. What an original name. Time to filter water too. Ugh I should be farther along today.

After lunch, I postholed through some patches of snow along blue lake. Fun stuff. Then the trail climbs above the lake and a small pond.

More scenic ponds, hillsides and valleys. Everywhere I went it was beautiful. There wasn’t a boring section of trail all day.

Next I had a big climb. I traversed a mountainside with a great view of the valley below, containing the Navajo River.

The climb continues up a ridge, with snow now becoming more plentiful. Patches of snow and large areas of water force reroutes, as has been the case all day. The switchbacks can get annoying, and since they’re often lost in the snow I’ve just been going straight uphill.

The trail reaches 12100ft and there’s an awesome view of a new set of mountains. Lots of snow up here.

Now the trail drops downhill along a huge slab of snow. Fortunately I can walk around it. I go straight downhill again, avoiding the intermittent switchbacks where I can. It’s wet and muddy if it’s not snow. Really stunning backdrop though! The pictures don’t do it justice. This is the valley containing the middle fork conejos river.

This area was beautiful, but also very tough going. Numerous snow fields to cross. I was postholing in the snow, and getting soaked walking through anywhere that wasn’t snow. It was also really Rocky again, making all non snow travel slow. I got my ass kicked hiking through here.

Before I could leave the worst of the snow behind, I had to cross a river, or cross the snow bridge over it. There were footprint over it all I followed suit. Success. Just as well, falling in would bad news.

I worked my way around a trail along the hillside of the valley, crossing many more streams and postholing through snow patches. Lots of mud too, deeper than you’d think.

I took second lunch at upper reaches of the valley. Man, I am really whooped now. Still almost 8 more guthook miles till I hit my 20. That’s not happening. I let my feet air out for the first time today. Good thing, they were wet, wrinkled and tender.

After lunch, another climb of about 900ft in 1.2 miles. Great views of the snowy mountainside I just traversed on the other side of the valley.

A new landscape reveals itself as I reached the pass. I worked my way across a shelf before going over another small pass.

Incredible scenery as I descend the pass. It’s really steep going down. After a while, the terrain really starts to fight back. Lots of steep snow to traverse, postholing in many places now since it’s early evening. There was also lots of mud, causing me to slip again. I was getting really tired and frustrated.

I made camp around 7pm. I found a spot high in the valley of the north fork conejos River. Another person is camped nearby, can’t see who.

Man I am tired. Today was beautiful but very hard. The terrain was an absolute nightmare. Type 2 fun all the way.

Miles – 19.6
Total Miles – 796.6
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry, tent
Animals – marmots, Ptarmigan

Wednesday June 6th – CDT Day 47

Once again, the Sun shining in my tent woke me up. A beautiful morning in the cirque. Today will be an adventure.

Sprinkler had camped nearby last night, as well as DG (delayed gratification) which I would later find out. All left camp before me.

After leaving camp, I crossed a small stream running under snow, one of many today. These are crossed by walking over a snow bridge. You never know if it will hold. The snow pack and the severity of the potential fall into the stream below varied greatly.

I hiked around a a hillside, wading through thick bushes. Otherwise, the trail was pretty manageable for the first couple miles.

It’s a steady climb to the top of a pass, one of many today. The trail stays high and encounters a lot of snow. For now, no postholing.

Next the trail skirts a steep hillside above Adams Fork Conejos River Valley. Had to cross several really steep slopes of snow. Did someone say death drop? Awesome views though.

This was a long valley, the only one of the day really. Near where the trail drops down and crosses the Adams Fork canejos river, there’s a huge amount of snow remaining alongside a section of River. Maybe 30 or 40 ft high. I crossed up stream.

I caught up with Sprinkler above the river  crossing. Nice hike up the rest of the Valley. I stopped for first lunch near the top.

Finished the climb up out of the valley. The trail had a pretty different feel the rest of the day now, it just stays high.

After the trail turns to the north Face of Summit peak, there was a massive snow field to cross. Fairly steep and a long way down. Amongst the most snow I’ve seen on Trail yet. At the end of the snow field is a partially frozen Blue Lake.

From here to Trail climbs up another Ridgeline leading to the Crux of today’s hike, the segment between Chama and Pagosa Springs, and the entire see CDT thus far. There’s and extremely deep slope of snow. The kind where you can’t see over the edge. Beyonce and frito head just turned away and decided to head back and look for a way down the valley. Sprinkler and DG were both here trying to figure out what to do. DG climbed the hill above looking for a way around, but no go. It’s either cross this super sketchy slope or turn around and spend basically the rest of the day working around it somehow by dropping down into the valley.

Sprinkler had full fledged crampons, and tackled it first. He disappeared over a line of sight edge as I was putting on my micro spikes. DG was just behind him. Everyone was tense. Sprinkler made it across, and DG went ahead of me. He had an ice axe, but no spikes or crampons. There’s a break in the snow halfway through, DG made it. Now my turn.This was the first time I used my Micro spikes, and although the snow was slushy, I appreciated the extra grip over my trail runners alone.

Once we all made it across, it was a good feeling. That was the steepest slope of snow I’ve ever crossed. We carried on, all at a somewhat similar pace now.

The trail then does some ups and downs through high alpine fields, Ridgelines and passes. Sprinkler, DG and I stopped to eat second lunch around 4pm. We all agreed on trying to reach Elwood pass at the very least tonight, and hopefully a few more miles. It was another 4.4 miles, according to guthook.

We made good progress through this next section. Some decent sections of trail that allowed for fast passage, finally. Occasional patches of snow, some big some small. Lots more mud and flooded fields. But still somehow faster than earlier today.

Once down at Elwood pass, we realized there wasn’t much here. I filtered water and ate dinner. Sprinkler one on first so he could get to camp and cook dinner there. DG took the road that paralled the ridge I’m going to take. With all the clouds today, he didn’t want to be up on that Ridgeline in case it got Windy. Very valid point, but I’m going to roll the dice.

I enjoyed the walk up on the Ridgeline. I saw three Elk in a field tonight, and another later on. I made it 2.8 miles past Elwood pass before finding a campsite around 8pm.

Beautiful sunset, but just be on the trees. No Clear view, bummer.

Today was a good day. 14.8 miles to wolf Creek past tomorrow, my ticket into Pagosa Springs. Really looking forward to that!

Miles – 20.5
Total Miles – 817.1
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry, tent
Animals – elk

Thursday June 7th – CDT Day 48

Up at 6:15am, hiking by 7. Cool and a little windy, Grey skies still.

This morning was a nice hike. The CDT stays high upon a Ridgeline. Mountains to the west had some snow.

Lack of water would be an issue today. There was no water since a couple miles past Elwood pass. I had 1.5L for the day, and already dehydrated a little this morning.

Saw a couple of deer in an opening along the Ridgeline. Haven’t seen many deer so far on the CDT, mostly elk.

The trail was completely different today. None of the big snow fields, snow capped peaks or wet trail of yesterday. Ok, a few wet spots, but my feet were dry all day. Even though the elevation was similar to the snow covered mountains of the last two days, the trail resembled a lower elevation ecosystem. This allowed for faster miles today.

The trail was skirting a steep mountainside when I found and interesting rock. A milky turquoise looking blob encased by a sedimentary conglomerate. I used another rock to break off the sedimentary part. I broke open the turquoise blob and exposed a crystal center. A geode! Cool find.

The trail follows many ridgelines today and generally is heading down to a low point just below 11k feet at silver pass. I ate first lunch here. Only lunch, actually. Going to do the last 8 miles to wolf creek pass in one go. Here I’ll hitch onto Pagosa springs to resupply.

After lunch, the trail climbs most of the rest of the day. Lots of downed trees in the forest sections. Lots. And the detours around them can be a pain… Over, under, around and any which way.

The trail passes above a water reservoir, then climbs a ridge that follows the border of the wolf creek ski area. Really windy, but also really great views all the way up and around Alberta peak.

I made it to wolf creek pass at 2pm. There was a state trooper at the pass checking semi trucks for something. I Googled the legalities of hitchhiking in Colorado and determined I was good in this instance. 150ft away from the trooper, I stuck my thumb out. A woman named Nancy stopped had just dropped off a hiker coming from Pagosa, and picked me up on her way back. Perfect, only took a few minutes.

In town, I got a motel room at the pinewood inn. I showered up then DG stopped by. We ate lunch at Kip’s cantina. Triple bacon cheese burger and chips… No problem. Sprinkler showed up and joined us. Turns out he’s staying two rooms down at the pinewood.

I had a double bed room at the motel, and DG split the room with me for the night. Later, sprinkler joined us for dinner and beers at the riff raff brewery. Good times.

Will do town stuff tomorrow… Laundry, food resupply, post office and packages, etc.

Miles – 15.7
Total Miles – 832.8 
Rain – no
Sleep – motel
Animals – elk, deer, marmot

Friday June 8th – CDT Day 49 (zero day)

The Continental breakfast selection at the motel was sparse, so I headed out on search of a real breakfast establishment. The Rose had a line out the door, so I went to the peak Cafe instead.

Got a lot done today, at least it felt that way. Had to make a couple calls to get a few things sorted back in the real world, hit up some local shops for a few things to send back to friends and family at home, went to the grocery store for food resupply to Lake City, and hit the post office. Had to mail back some Darn Tough socks for warranty, but they held up pretty well… the whole state of New Mexico basically.

Later I ate dinner with sprinkler and Alan at the Malt Shop. The 1lb “challenger” burger was no challenge at all.

Went back to the motel and finished packing my food. Hoping to do the next section in 6 days, but bringing food for 7

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 832.8
Rain – no
Sleep – motel
Animals – deer

Like what you see?

Ghost Ranch to Chama – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Ghost Ranch to Chama Hike Overview

This section of trail takes you to the border of Colorado. After leaving Ghost Ranch, the terrain quickly transitions into mesa, hills, meadows, and ridges running high above valleys below. Water is suddenly abundant. Relatively, of course. The trails stays high, near 10k feet for much of this section, with a high of 11k. Lots of Elk. With every mile passed, it’s looking less like New Mexico and more like Colorado. 

Sunday May 27th – CDT Day 37

Woke up around 6:30am to that same jackass playing the drum from the night before. Only this time, it was a single hit on the drum once every few seconds. At least this got me up for breakfast.

At the dining hall, it was bagels, hard boiled eggs, mixed fruit, packaged muffins and grits or something. A lot like a continental breakfast at a motel.

Hung out on the porch of the welcome center the rest of the morning and into the afternoon. I charged my phone, used wifi to do some internet things and ate food. Hikers came and went. I’ll be leaving later too, hoping the heat will die down a little.

I normally fluctuate between 32 and 34 size waist at home. The convertible pants I’m hiking in are size 32 waist, and they’ve been falling off for weeks now. This also means the hipbelt on my size large osprey exos 58 backpack cannot be tightened any more. The hipbelt is built in to the pack, not removable. I’ll need to buy the same pack in medium. I spent a while shopping online to find the best price for this discontinued item. Discontinued meaning, this is the 2017 model, replaced with the 2018 model. The new model has the hip belt pockets romoved. No deal (in Arnold Schwarzenegger voice).

I left ghost ranch around 4pm. New shoes now after exactly 650 miles. The Brooks Cascadia 12s are really working well for me, few blisters and no real foot issues.

The trail leaves the ranch via the box canyon trail, and there are spectacular views all around. A good way to end the desert landscape, as I believe it now transitions into more high mountains from here on out.

The Box Canyon Trail follows a small stream as it travels through the canyon. It’s a nice little desert oasis.

There’s an off shoot Canyon where the trail climbs out, very sleepy I might add. After this, the trail just keeps climbing and climbing. No more canyon, and back to the high desert. It’s hot and there’s some steeper climbs. At least they’re short-ish.

After the majority of the climbing is done, the trail joins a road and that is to be followed. This leads to dead end tank, which looked like a pretty good water source, despite being a cow pond, and yeso tank a little farther. Yeso was as nasty as it comes! I have a little over 2L left, I can make that last till late morning tomorrow when I get to the next good water source, maybe 7 miles more.

I found camp around 7:45pm. It’s along a dirt road, and had been used by car campers. It was the skeletons tied to the trees that caught my eye… Old animal bones tied up with barbed wire, boots, beer cans. Weird but funny. Some ambitious hiker should take this to the next level… skeleton wind chimes.

A beautiful sunset played out just beyond the trees. Looking forward to many more of these in Colorado!

Miles – 9.4
Total Miles – 659.8
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Monday May 28th – CDT Day 38

Started hiking around 8am, which has been my usual lately. Then hike til 8pm-ish. Hiking around 12 hours a day now.

The morning starts with a climb. First up a dirt road, then the trail splits off and climbs higher along the Ridgeline. Lots of elevation gain throughout the day. I had LTE for the first couple hours, then no more.

About 8 miles past last night’s camp and right before the junction with the main CDT, I reached Harris bear spring. I took my water from the pipe feeding the lower Trough. I ate first lunch while filtering water.

Now done with the ghost ranch alternate route, the landscape looks like the San Pedro parks wilderness area, but with more distant views. Large rolling Hills and open Meadows, patches of pine and Aspen trees. And of course, cows grazing here and there.

I found a couple more pieces of obsidian this morning. Then I found in Arrowhead made out of obsidian. Pretty cool, never found an artifact like that before.

The trail is still climbing. Lots of downed trees in the 2 mile stretch before upper canjilon lake. Saw an elk in this area.

The trail continues to climb up along canjilon creek. Some small patch of snow still exist along the creek and in tickets of trees. I stopped to filter water again early evening. Carrying 3L.

Above canjilon creek is a large open park. I saw about 5 more elk and a coyote as I passed through. I was considering camping here based on the map, but now here in person, I don’t see anywhere and want to camp.

I pushed on over the high point for today, 10,433ft. I was looking for campsites at this point but being picky. I do this to myself looking for the perfect campsite. However, I must say it’s a great technique for getting in extra miles in the evening. I didn’t stop until about 8:30 pm. Wanted to get in a lot of miles over the next couple days so I don’t get into town so late on Thursday, making it a lighter day.

Full moon and coyotes howling. Off to bed.

Miles – 29.7
Total Miles – 689.5
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry, tent
Animals – elk, coyote

Tuesday May 29th – CDT Day 39

I slept pretty decent last night, rested up for another big day.

This mornings hike was much like yesterday. Ups and downs, forest, occasional view of a field.

Mid morning, I passed sequoia. Unfortunately camel had to bail yesterday due to sickness. He was able to hitch to Chama from the upper canjilon lake area. If it hadn’t been memorial day, there probably wouldn’t have been anyone up there.

This mornings water source was the Rio Vallecitos. Nice flowing creek with knee deep water, some pools with trout. Ate first lunch here as well.

More forest, small fields. I kept busy by looking at the ground for rocks. Every day I have a couple to add to the collection. I have at least a pound of rocks on me now, haha. I’ll send them and the others in my bounce box home when I get to Chama.

Late afternoon I passed hopewell lake and hwy 64. Man made Lake, but still very scenic.

After hwy 64, the trail passes through a couple of meadows, and starts climbing up hill. It’s on a dirt road for quite a while.

This evening I passed Cracker. I hadn’t seen him since Doc Campbell’s! Glad to see he’s still on trail and doing well. We chatted for a while and sequoia showed up as well. We all wanted to get in another mile or two tonight, and I was the first to leave as I intended on 4 more.

Nice hike this evening. Some more rolling Hills and larger fields. I saw two elk along the tree line just before dark.

Around 8:15 pm I found camp in the tree line at the top of a saddle. A 30 mile day, whew. Feet are tired at the end of the day but in the morning I’m good to go.

Wow, so I was laying in my tent writing in my journal when I got buzzed by two planes! Didn’t get a chance to poke my head out and get a glimpse, but they were super low and very loud. Pretty cool!

Miles – 30.6
Total Miles – 720.1
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry, tent
Animals – elk

Wednesday May 30th – CDT Day 40

Woke up to scattered clouds, which has not been typical of New Mexico. Lots of mosquitoes too, just like last night.

Not long after leaving camp, I saw 2 elk. I’ve lost track how many I’ve seen total now.

A few more miles of forest and meadows, and the trail reaches a ravine with a small stream. I followed it to the valley floor and pulled 3L, ate some food. Nice little place to stop.

Next, the trail climbs very steeply up to a ridge above the Rio San Antonio. As the trail begins heading northwest, the Valley really opens up. Great view, definitely starting to resemble Colorado now.

Back into the forest, I was getting attacked by mosquitoes. I have no bug spray, didn’t think I’d need it this soon. Black flies are out too. Instead free been using Adobe of my Dr Bronners magic soap. It’s peppermint scented, which I believe keeps bugs away. It definitely seems to work.

Next I passed through the lagunitas lakes area. It’s a bunch of smaller lakes and ponds on this shelf, with a few campgrounds alongside. There were actually several people out here. A guy driving his truck up to one of the campgrounds slowed down as he passed and waved his fist, in a “I know you’re hiking the CDT, kick some ass” fashion. I did the same, and laughed a little.

The trail then climbs a ridge and skirts the side of the steep slopes. Big views. I can get used to this.

Then the trail drops back down into the forest for a good while. The way the light shines through the trees is calming. I still haven’t mastered forest photos though.

After the forest the trail winds up high above a valley again. The east fork Rio Brazos flows here. Snow can be senn on the mountains to the north, although much less than in years past. It’s a low snow year in Colorado.

Storm clouds are Brewing all around, but I’ve avoided rain all day so far. Typical weather for Colorado in the summer, and I’m only about 12 miles from the border now.

The trail then drops down to a saddle where a forest road weeds. It’s a scenic overlook, and a trailhead for the Cruces Basin wilderness. I sat on a log here and ate second lunch. Nobody drove by. I don’t think there are any trails in this wilderness, so I’m pretty sure nobody visit it. Like most of New Mexico. The only non-CDT hikers I saw in the entire state we’re in the Gila, between little bear Canyon and Jordan Hot Springs. It just feels like us CDT hikers have the entire state to ourselves.

After traversing a rocky Ridgeline for a while, it’s downhill towards a stream. My next water source, and hopeful campsite location.

The skies were looking pretty dark all around now. I made it to the stream around 6pm and found a nice campsite alongside it. I set up my tent first in case it rained, but it never did. This was the earliest I’ve gotten to camp in a long time, I can’t remember anything earlier actually.

I soaked my feet in the steam, which was ice cold. Filtered water, cleaned up, ate and relaxed next to the sound of flowing water. As I sat up from dinner, I scared off an elk that was hanging out about 100ft behind my tent.

This is my last night in New Mexico. Hard to believe! I’ll save the reflections for tomorrow. I’m off to bed.

Miles – 23.2
Total Miles – 743.3
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry, tent
Animals – elk

Thursday May 31st – CDT Day 41

Last night was cold. One pair of socks were frozen, the other I brought in the tent, but were still wet this morning. Not used to this after so long in the desert. I just packed up all my things as quick as possible so I could get moving and generate some heat.

Saw 2 more elk this morning as I broke down camp. Walked Through the large clearing just below camp and from there the trail starts climbing again. Not all that much to see this morning really. Dirt roads, forests with a lot of downed trees to step over. This morning was really all about reaching the Border of Colorado as soon as possible, so I had more time in Chama.

I made it to the underwhelming state line around 11am. It’s just a barbed wire fence along a hillside, with a sign saying entering Rio Grande National Forest. Still, a big milestone. I’ve hiked 750 miles through New Mexico to get here!

After crossing the barbed wire fence and walking a few yards to the Treeline, I was presented with a big sweeping view of Colorado. Below I could see Highway 17 and cumbres pass, now only 3 miles away. There’s a train that runs up and down cumbres pass that had just left as well, with a big black plume of smoke giving away its location.

When I reached cumbres pass, I began the arduous task of hitchhiking. There wasn’t a whole lot of traffic, but in reality I was lucky with maybe the 7th or so car stopping for me. All in all it took maybe 20 minutes.

Hitchhiking is a new experience for me, and I’ve always heard you meet a lot of interesting characters in the process. This was definitely the case! Really interesting guy, works 54 days a year preparing taxes on the east coast and then drives around the country having fun for the rest of the year.

After being dropped off at the Y Motel, I walked to the post office to retrieve my bounce box. It didn’t reach the motel, the post office just held it in general delivery. Huh. At least I got it.

It was an hour walk to the post office and back, and since I don’t only eaten breakfast and a light snack I was pretty damn hungry at this point. I stopped in to the High Country Restaurant for lunch. Good food and great service!

Back at the hotel, I had a wicked food coma and a bit of a headache. I rested for a while before starting to backup all my pictures and GoPro video onto my laptop. Then I went to hang out with some other hikers in another room, and headed up to the Chama Grill for dinner.

Miles – 12
Total Miles – 755.5
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – elk

Friday June 1st – CDT Day 42 (zero day)

Walked up to the RV park across the street and did laundry this morning. Ate breakfast at the Chama Grill. 

Spent much of the afternoon working on my blog and some online logistics. My backpack never arrived, and the tracking number showed it still had not left Georgia. I called the company I purchased it from and they said they shipped it on the 29th. It’s in the post office’s hands now.

I bought my food for the stretch to Pagosa Springs from the store across the street, and picked up a DiGiorno pizza for dinner. My room at the motel has an oven, so why not? Later I hung out with Bugs, Shawn, Katie & Becca. We played this game when the dice are pigs and the way the pigs lay after rolled determines how many points you get. And drank whiskey. 

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 755.5
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – none

Saturday June 2nd – CDT Day 43 (zero day)

This morning I woke up and worked on my blog for a while. 

Ralph, a local trail angel, was giving hikers rides to Cumbress Pass, and gave a few of us rides to the post office on his way. I decided to check and see if my package was at the post office, even though the tracking number said it hasn’t arrived yet from Albuquerque, its last stop at 3am. Sure enough, they had it! 

It was now around 11am. There’s no way I could get back on trail today as planned, since I still had so much to do. Most importantly, mail back my old backpack, 40 degree sleeping bag, etc. Post office closes at noon today, so I’ll have to wait until 8am Monday. It sucks that I am being pushed back 2 extra days, but on the other hand, there is supposed to be a big storm tomorrow, so I’ll avoid being caught out in that. Also, 2 more days for snow to melt in the mountains, making for easier passage. 

Ralph picked us up on his way back down from Cumbress Pass, and took us back to the motel. I reluctantly paid for two more nights.

I walked up to the barber shop to get a haircut, but it was closed. Oh well, maybe in Pagosa Springs. 

Early evening, I was hanging out on the motel patio with Sprinkler. A couple of non-CDT hikers were hanging out in a room nearby, on a fishing trip. They offered us some beer which we gladly accepted. 

With our livers primed, Sprinkler and I headed up to the saloon across the street for beers and dinner. Good food, good times.

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 755.5
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – none

Sunday June 3rd – CDT Day 44

Woke up today to dark clouds and rain, just as forecasted. I ate breakfast at Finas Diner with Music then came back to my motel room to get ready for tomorrow.

I started fooling around with my new backpack, moving over straps and little customizations added in the past. I noticed the hip belt wasn’t really any smaller than my old backpack, and checked the tag… LARGE! Wtf, I ordered a medium to replace my old large! Ugh, they sent me the wrong size.

I contacted the company I bought it from, Going Gear in Smyrna, GA. Even though they were closed today, I was lucky and got ahold of someone there who was able to send me an RMA label. I had the motel print it out for me and I’ll return it tomorrow morning on my way out of town. But, I wasted two full days sitting around waiting on this package. Had to pay for two more days of hotel, food, etc. More importantly, it set me back two full days. The bright side is, I avoided a major storm and had two more days for snow to melt out in the high mountains. 

I spent the rest of the day getting my food together and other little chores. Ready to get out of town and hit the trail again. 

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 755.5
Rain – yes
Sleep – hotel
Animals – none

Like what you see?

Cuba to Ghost Ranch – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Cuba to Ghost Ranch Hike Overview

After leaving Cuba, the trail heads up a dirt road into the San Pedro Parks Wilderness. This is the first time you really feel like you’re getting close to Colorado, with alpine meadows and “parks”. However, it’s short lived. Before long it’s back down into the desert again. Here, the trail crosses the Rio Chama and approaches Ghost Ranch. Most CDT hikers take the Ghost Ranch alternate route, but you can skip it by staying high on a mesa above this area. Ghost Ranch offers some beautiful scenery and is a great way to end your desert experience in New Mexico.

Thursday May 24th – CDT Day 34

Packed up and ready to hit the trail. Rebels roost has a scale on the front porch for weighing backpacks, and mine weighed in at 22lbs without food and water. 38lbs with food and 3L of water.

I stopped at Priscillianos again for breakfast. I was stuffed, and ready for the big climb up to San Pedro Parks. Started hiking around 9:30am.

The first few miles are along Los Pinos Rd. After passing all the homes, the pavement ends and becomes a dirt road. Steady climb all morning to the Los Pinos trailhead.

The landscape was a lot greener here than anywhere else in New Mexico so far. The was actual soil, not sand, providing a more “Colorado look” to it. Pine tree forests, a small creek and green grass. A pleasant change!

The trail climbs 2000ft in 3 miles. Not super steep, and the hike up wasn’t as bad as I anticipated.

After the big climb for the day, the landscape turns into rolling hills, open grassy meadows and pine forests. These are the San Pedro “parks”. Nice hiking through here. I saw my first patches of snow on the CDT here, albeit very small.

I noticed a lot of interesting rocks in this area. Not sure what they are, but some red, yellow /orange and amber colored stones that I haven’t seen before. Snagged a couple to take with.

The San Pedro peaks were marked on my map at 10, 600ft which is the high point of this wilderness area. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a big view from the “summit”, just a little higher than the surrounding meadows and trees.

North of the high point, the trail is riddled with downed trees. Still, I made good time through here.

I found camp along the trail in a small meadow. It was around 7:30 now, pretty early to be camping for me, lately. While settling up my tent, about 5 elk came crashing through the forest and through the edge of the field. Shortly after, a hiker named Charlie passed through, trying to get in a few more miles tonight.

Back to the desert later tomorrow. Once last stretch of desert to ghost ranch, then it’s mountains for a while.

Miles – 23
Total Miles – 612.6
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – elk

Friday May 25th – CDT Day 35

Heard some elk (assuming) again walking around near the edge of the meadow in the middle of the night. Around 6:30am, a couple of cows wandered into the meadow, and began to graze about 30ft from my tent.

Not long after leaving camp, I had to crap. Normally I wouldn’t write about this, but this is funny. I couldn’t find soft ground to dig a hole, then noticed a soft patch of dirt around an old tree stump. A ton of Ants started stirring as I dug my hole, apparently tight into the middle of an ant hill. Well, I gotta go now so, here’s a gift for the queen! Haha.

The trail continues downhill for a while. Occasional breaks in the trees provide decent views. I saw a couple of deer in the woods, first deer in quite a while.

I stopped at a small stream to filter water. Backflushed my water filter for only the second time since I started the CDT, and wow, what a difference. Filtering speed increased massively.

The next section of trail was an easy walk through some open pine forests. Not much to see really. I did spot another couple of deer as the landscape began to transition back to desert rather than the high alpine forests of the day prior.

After crossing hwy 96, views of mesa Alta were quick to impress. The steep rock faces were an array of colors unlike anything I’d seen on trail yet.

It was about a 1000ft climb up the top of the mesa. I knocked out a good portion of it before stopping for first lunch. Two guys passed going southbound, hiking a section of the CDT from hope wells to Cuba. I got to thinking, other than the Gila, I don’t think I’ve seen any other hikers yet who weren’t thru hiking the CDT or a section of it.

After lunch, I resumed my l climb. It was much harder after the break and really dragged on. In all fairness, it was much steeper here and it was getting really hot. Still, I was disappointed in my slow pace.

Once on top of the mesa, I hiked over to Fuentes spring. Good water here conning from a pipe feeding a trough. Then, it was another steep climb over a ridge.

Now it’s mostly downhill for the rest of the day. The trail dumps into a dirt road which I followed for a while. Then a trail splits of the road and heads downhill again, through the Rio Chama wilderness.

Lots of switchbacks heading down into canada gurule. Apparently canada means canyon in Spanish. It has that squiggly line over the n which I don’t know how to type, never had to haha. Once I reached the creek, I stopped for second lunch.

Awesome hike through canada gurule. Small stream, but very lush and scenic little canyon. Lots of great camping along the stream, but like always, I’m not ready to camp when I find a good campsite.

When the canyon opens up, there’s incredible views of colorful cliffs everywhere in the distance. I can tell this is going to be a special place. Just a few more miles to the Rio Chama.

Once at the bridge over the Rio Chama, I was immediately grateful for it. This was a serious river, not something a sane person would get in and Ford. First such river along the CDT.

Now it’s a road walk to ghost ranch. However it’s a very scenic road walk along the Rio chama, and it’s beautiful. The setting sun illuminated the river valley with a magical feel. I was not expecting this area to be as impressive at it was!

I turned the corner on the road and came across Sally and Linda at the entrance to a camping area. This was a drive in camping area, but not a designated pay campground. They asked if I was hiking the CDT, and when I said yes they offered to let me camp with them for the night. Sounds good, I’m tired!

I set up my tent among about 12 others in the area and joined their large group (20+). They were very welcoming and generous, offering water, beer and food. I happily accepted a couple of gourmet burgers, stuffed with green Chile. Yum!

Sally gave me a root that keeps snakes away, I forget the name. I couldn’t help but laugh when she said it also attracts bears!

No campfire due to the stage II fire restrictions, but a good night nonetheless. They had been camping here for many years, and will be rafting down to river tomorrow. 

Miles – 25.6
Total Miles – 638.2
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

Saturday May 26th – CDT Day 36

Knowing today was a short day, I didn’t rush in the morning. I seldom do. Never was a morning person, probably never will be. It was overcast, and would be all day long.

Nobody I recognized from the night before was up and about in camp, so I left without saying goodbye. Later while road walking, Sally and Linda drove by and I could thank them again for the hospitality.

The road walk along the Rio Chama was very scenic. Sucks it was a road though, with lots of memorial day weekend traffic.

After a few miles, the road veers away from the river, but still excellent scenery. I found several interesting stones along the way. My rock collection is growing! I’m a dork, I know. Gotta do something while staring at the ground all day.

I missed a turn and had a slightly longer road walk along hwy 84, a fairly busy paved highway. No biggie. I then came across the turn for ghost ranch, which goes through an abandoned building on the guthook app. Something like a conservation center and nature walk. Hmm, abandoned building, just like back home in Detroit. I think I’ll take lunch here. Also, had 4G LTE.

After leaving conservation center thing, it’s a crawl under a barbed wire fence then following a footpath into the desert. The steep and colorful mesas provide a stunning backdrop. Later this footpath merges with the actual CDT alternate that apparently was just a couple hundred feet beyond the abandoned building. Ah well, cool lunch spot anyways.

The trail is kinda hard to follow through this section. I ended up just hiking cross country here for a while. I could see a bunch of buildings of in the distance so I just headed that way. Eventually the network of dirt roads led to the ghost ranch welcome center. Out on front on the porch was about 8 other hikers I recognized and a few more I didn’t.

I paid for a tent site, and tickets dinner & breakfast. Then I grabbed an ice cream cookie and a powerade from the snack shop, and returned to tung porch. Many of the hikers started clearing out. A haze could be seen building in the distance. I could later smell it, the distinct smell of forest fire smoke.

I set up my tent, showered and did half my laundry. Should have just done it all then but was rushing to get to dinner. It’s cafeteria style, and I heard they ran out of food last night!

As it turns out, the dining hall was dead this evening. I believe there was a wedding last night. I ate with a couple hikers outside. Very peaceful here.

I picked up my resupply box from the welcome center after dinner. Alright, new shoes! And of course, a bunch of food. I spent the rest of the evening on the porch of the welcome center, charging batteries, packaging my food, etc. The forest fire smoke from earlier had passed. The way the sunset illuminates the mesa behind the welcome center is just amazing.

After finishing my laundry, I headed to my tent. It was dark but wasn’t quiet hours yet, and some guy in a nearby campsite was taking advantage by beating a drum. Very amaturely I might add, and luckily he wasn’t at it too long.

Miles – 12.2
Total Miles – 650.4
Rain – no
Sleep – Frontcountry , tent
Animals – none

Like what you see?

Grants to Cuba – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Grants to Cuba Hike Overview

This next section of the CDT is a bit of a rollercoaster ride. After leaving Grants, the trail climbs to the highest point in New Mexico along the CDT at 11,300ft on the summit of Mt. Taylor. This is an alternate route, but almost everyone does it. Then the trail heads back down into the lowlands and is rather uninteresting for quite a stretch. Just when you’re thinking the best is over, bam! You find yourself on the edge of a high mesa with an awesome view. It’s then a 2 day hike through some of the most interesting desert landscapes I’ve  ever hiked through. The section of trail south of Cuba might be my favorite desert hike of all time!

Friday May 18th – CDT Day 28

I was up to 12:30am last night updating my blog(an 8 hour endeavour), so I slept in this morning and got later start than I wanted. I stopped by the post office to mail my bounce box and a post card, and started hiking out of town around 10:30am. A truck recognized me as a CDT hiker and offered a ride to the Mt Taylor trailhead, which would have saved about 5 miles of toad walking, but I said no thanks.

South of the trailhead, I passed a prison. Some prisoners were working outside of the walls, under the watchful eye of a guard. They waved, I waved back.

At the trailhead, I had a 1000ft climb ahead of me. I knocked it out without too much trouble and soon found myself on top of a mesa. Great view of Grants below, and Mt Taylor in the distance. I hiked over to a shade tree and took first lunch.

While under the tree, Nugget passed. Hadn’t seen him since like day 4. Then two more hikers passed… Cardboard and Sandy Cheeks, first time we’d met.

I had noticed that there was a spot in the same location on all my pictures, so I decided it was time to check it out. Nothing on the filter or the lens. I removed the lens and examined the sensor and found a speck of dust… I blew it off and viola! Good to go. Nothing like a speck of dust ruining every single picture.

The hike across the mesa was cool. Flat, easy and views of Mt Taylor. Eventually the trail enters woodlands and the view disappears. This began a long stretch of relatively boring hiking. Time to put on some music. This continued for a couple hours.

I took second lunch around 4:30pm, only about 1.5 miles from the Mt Taylor alternate junction. You could hike right past Mt Taylor, as the official CDT route does, but why? Isn’t that why we’re out here? I laughed at the thought of the purist hiker I encountered in El Malpais, knowing he’s going to skip it for the sake of hiking the official route.

At gooseberry spring, I saw flower man, cardboard and sandy cheeks. The water was in a trough, and was the clearest trough water yet. Nice. I filtered 3L and moved on.

I headed up hill towards the summit of Mt Taylor, with about 3 miles and 2500ft Elevation Gain remaining. I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d actually summit it tonight, since it was 6:15pm now. I hiked on and left my plans open to the moment.

 

After passing through some aspens, the trees thin out and the trail followed an exposed ridge. Looking back the way I came was some of the most beautiful scenery I had seen so far on the CDT. The sun was setting and a magical haze engulfed the lowlands. This motivated me to move on towards the summit. However, I was getting pretty tired. If I climb the summit, it will be like 25 miles and about 6000ft elevating gain today. This with a fully loaded pack that is resting on my shoulders more than it should, due to weight loss. As mentioned before, my hipbelt cannot be closed any tighter now.

I decided the remedy is to stop for third lunch and water. Good call. Plus, I got to soak in the awesome Vista just a little longer.

The rest of the hike to the summit was just as tiring, but there were amazing views around every corner. I felt a bit rushed due to the setting sun, but this also provided superior views that would not have been available any other time of the day. Breathtaking!

After a bunch of switchbacks and false summits, I finally reached the real summit. Woo-hoo, 11,301ft… highest on trail yet. This is the highest point the CDT gets in New Mexico. I had it to myself, but the sun was setting fast. It was really cold now, and I was forced to drop my pack and put on my fleece hood. I snapped some pictures and video, then headed downhill.

The trail wanders through thick forest along a series of switchbacks before reaching the saddle I saw on the map. Sandy cheeks and Cardboard were here, and I asked if I could join. It’s a nice large flat area with some pretection from the wind, perfect.

This is the coldest evening yet. I shivered profusely while doing camp chores and eating, hurrying up so I could get in my sleeping bag asap. This was the first night I closed the vestibule on my tent for extra warmth, and the first night I had to add clothes to the inside of my sleeping bag to keep my feet warm. And I’m a warm sleeper!

Looong day, I’m out.

Miles – 23.8
Total Miles – 489 (start at 475.5 end 499.3)
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – horny toads

Saturday May 19th – CDT Day 29

Very cold night. No surprise since I camped at 11,000ft. Thankfully it was calm with no wind whatsoever. I slept much better with my new thermarest neoair inflatable sleeping pad. The sun hit my tent around 7am so that’s when I got moving. On the trail around 8:30am.

Awesome views this morning. The trail skirts the mountainside as it traverses downhill towards a saddle below La Mosca lookout.

From the saddle, it’s an good climb up to the lookout tower. Unlike Mangas mountain Lookout, this tower was not manned and the top level was locked. Still, great view. I had 4g lte here(AT&T), which I assumed was due to the large cell phone towers next to the lookout. Cardboard and sandy cheeks were here too, but left long before I. Nobody on the CDT lingers long at cool places, always consumed with covering miles.

More good views coming down from the lookout, but they quickly fade. Just like my cell signal. Those towers weren’t AT&T at all… Not surprising. Now it’s more dirt roads again, with an occasional field or meadow thrown in.

This morning dragged on. Miles were slow and my motivation to walk mundane dirt roads was low. My pack is still really heavy and the weight sitting on my shoulders was annoying. I took a few snack breaks, further slowing my pace.

I took first lunch at American Spring. Good clear cold water. While I was sitting down here, a man and his family came over the hill and saw me. “Are we on your land”? I told him it’s public land. He was out here to do some target shooting. I moved on, back to more dirt roads.

If you can’t tell, I’m getting tired of road walking. I’ve been thinking back on my walk through New Mexico and trying to put a percentage to road VS trail. So far, it’s easily been 50% road walking when you count a dirt road of any kind. It’s probably more like 60% or even higher. There’s been some nice parts of the state but myself and many other hikers are ready for Colorado.

Eventually I hit a trail to follow. However, it passes through a non-descript forest with little to see. I was really dragging still, when I came across Sequoia sitting under a tree. I sat down next to her and we caught up on the last week or so. I hadn’t seen her or camel since Pie Town. Good to see a familiar face out here.

Camel was farther up trail and waiting for her at the next Water source, so it was time to move. I was in much better spirits now. Roads, trails, it didn’t matter.

After hiking a short while, we saw someone on an ATV and some campers in a clearing. The woman in the ATV asked if sequoia was sequoia, as camel was back at the campers waiting for her. We followed her back and saw a few other hikers leaving, as well as pony whisperer sitting with camel. What we have here is some trail angels set up to sort CDT hikers this weekend. Unexpected and well timed!

A woman named Glenda ran up to me, greeted me by name and gave me a big hug. There were chairs for us, and she promptly got us some iced tea and made us sandwiches. Her husband Eddie was also here, letting us know we can refill our water and they’d take our trash. Eddie had even heard my story already about the poor experience I’d had at the sands motel.

I spent a while catching up with camel and sequoia while simultaneously sharing stores with Glenda and Eddie. Their whole reason for being out here was really touching. While camping out here last year a CDT hiker passed by, and camped nearby. They kept seeing him and thought, what the heck is this guy doing out here? So they asked, and discovered the CDT. They were so inspired by our stories and the magnitude of the challenge that they decided they wanted to help out as many CDT hikers as they could. So they came back out here this year to camp for the weekend with that intention.

I often forget how doing something like the CDT provides inspiration to others, but it does. And knowing that motivates me to keep going on days like today where I really wasn’t feeling super motivated. It wad hard to leave and go back on trail, but this show of generosity and kindness lifted my spirits more than food and water ever could have.

Not far up tail, camel and sequoia were sitting under a tree. Camel had shin splints and asked if I knew how to wrap tape for that. I gave him the KT tape strips I had, but had no instructions on how to wrap for anything other than knee or ankle. Sequoia walked back to the campers to ask if the had Ace tape. Looks like they’re stopping here for the night. I was only at about 15 miles for the day, so I pressed on with my goal of 20. It was already 6pm now.

The rest of the evening was a nice walk though large open fields and spotty patches of trees. I saw many jackrabbits, and of course, cows. I ate dinner in one of the fields so I didn’t have to eat in the dark at camp later.

I hiked until 8:30pm, just barely light left when I found a suitable spot along the dirt road I was walking. Nothing else to do now except rest.

Miles – 26.8
Total Miles – 515.8
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Sunday May 20th – CDT Day 29

I feel asleep fast night while writing in my journal (on my phone) which I use to update my log when I get into town. I didn’t wake up for a few hours, when the wind picked up. I got out of the tent and laid rocks over the stakes for piece of mind. Even with the wind, I slept much better on the inflatable air mattress than the foam one.

It was still pretty windy when I broke camp. This always makes putting the tent away a pain. It was cooler than normal too. Weather changing? It’s been so consistent in New Mexico.

More road walking this morning. It’s the same field over and over again for the most part. There are occasionally some rocky chasms or canyons, not sure about the correct terminology. Didn’t bother to explore further. I want to cover miles today. However, I wasn’t doing a vet good job at it. I took several breaks to eat, etc.

Today’s water source is Los Indios spring. I arrived around noon, surprised that it was located in such a beautiful canyon. It’s a ways off trail, but worth it. And necessary! Not many other options. The trail hugs some cliff walls down into a canyon, where a little oasis exists. Lightfoot and pony whisperer here, so we caught up on trail gossip for a bit.

I stayed way too long at the spring, about an hour and 45 minutes. I ate lunch, hydrated, and cleaned my socks. Camel and sequoia showed up as well. When I left, I passed a hiker I’d never met, an Asian guy named sematape. Not sure on the spelling, or if that’s his real name or trail name. I didn’t see anyone else all day, until I made camp.

The rest of the day was almost all trail, not roads, and well maintained at that. Trees and branches recently trimmed and well marked. Am I actually on the CDT? It’s not usually like this in New Mexico.

About 2 hours after leaving Los Indios spring, the trail reaches the edge of the Mesa I’ve been walking on. You’d never know you’re up on the mesa until this point. Pretty nice view, especially after the last day and a half coming down from Mt Taylor. I ate again here and soaked in the scenery.

Next it’s a 4.2 mile hike along the same flat top mesa before reaching the point at which the trail heads down. Same ‘ol scenery in this section.

 

The top of the mesa is roughly 2000ft above the wash I camped in late this evening, so the views here were excellent. It’s steep at the top heading down, but really not too bad after the first section. It was slow going because the scenery was so damn spectacular! I began the decent at 6pm, so the setting sun created great lighting. Lots of good photos.

The landscape below consisted of buttes, mesas, canyons, and just about everything you can imagine in a high desert setting. Some of the best scenery yet. The kind you don’t want to rush through, but then you remember your a thru hiker. Damn.

Down off the mesa, the sun was setting fast. I wanted to camp early but was having a tough time finding a flat spot out of the wind. Lots of cool canyons and great scenery in every direction.

 

Around 8:30pm I came across a large wash, marked “Canada de Las lomitas” on my map, in arroyo Chico. Carpenter and creeper were camped here, so I headed down a ways out of sight. It was less windy here but still occasional wind gusts even down in the wash. I decided to cowboy camp tonight, the first time I’ve ever done so. Way to celebrate day 30 on the CDT.

Miles – 24.8
Total Miles – 540.6
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, cowboy camping
Animals – rabbits, large green lizard /iguana

Monday May 21st – CDT Day 31

It was a little windy last night, and a bunch of sand got all over me and my stuff while cowboy camping in the wash. Otherwise, it was a good night.

Now that it was daylight, I could get a good look at the terrain. Spectacular! Beautiful high desert landscape with lots of interesting features.

The first few miles were in a lowland with impressive mesas and sandstone cliffs. Then the trail climbs a little into an area that looked like a mixture of the bandlands and Utah. Weird formations, interesting rocks and geology.

Next the trail climbs in elevation and runs along the edge of a cliff. Great views of the desert below. Lots of prominent landscape features for the skyline. Dare I say New Mexico’s monument Valley? Sure had my attention.

The trail then drops down off the high point for a while and enters an area with hoodoos, badlands and colorful rocks. I made terrible time through this stretch, just too much to see. I veered off trail often to check out anything that caught my eye. And there was a lot!

I ate first lunch under an enormous wall of hoodoos and pillars. I noticed a lot of clouds building in the distance, but this was day 31 and still only a few sprinkles of rain. Not too worried.

After lunch, lots more distractios to slow my pace. But hey, this is why I’m out here hiking the CDT. Most hikers just fly by anything interesting, but I like to explore, take pictures and video. The clouds continued to build, and looked like rain in the distance. Probably nothing to be worried about.

The trail today generally stayed high on a ridge or mesa, so big views were common today. Finally! Over every hill or pass was another great photo op.

The skies were very dark now and continued to overtake any remaining blue. Rain looked inevitable at some point. It was very windy too, which was getting old.

After a few hours of threatening rain, it finally reached me. I took shelter under a rock overhang, which seemed to be a popular hang out spot for cows. They even managed to shit right along the very edge of the overhang, where it meets the wall. There really wasn’t any good place to set down my things. Just then, the rain picked up and turned into hail. I got fairly wet as the wind was blowing right into the overhang.

When the rain let up, I moved on. The Trujillo family water cache was at the next road, a short walk away. Pony Whisperer was here too, only person I’d see all day. Before I could refill my water, the rain returned. Nowhere to take shelter around here except a few scrawny juniper trees. That’s what I did for a few minutes until it passed. Then I ate second lunch and stocked up of h20.

After the water cache, the landscape continued to impress. Pony Whisperer kept hiking as my pace once again slowed to a crawl. Today’s hike has been one of the best desert hikes I’ve done anywhere.

After climbing up to another Ridgeline, the trail follows a dirt road for a while. The fine dirt turned to mud, which stuck to my shoes and made waking a pain. I heard some coyotes bowling pretty close by, but never saw them.

Then the trail goes over deadmans pass. This too was a cool area. High up above the desert below, colorful rocks and cliffs. The tail skirts the edge for quite a while.

More interesting canyons and cliffs this evening. The sky was still very dark and I was certain another round of rain was coming. I wanted to make a few more miles though, so I stopped quickly for dinner.

Shortly after, I saw pony whisperer who had just made camp. About 2 more miles for me. However, I made it barely 1 mile before it started raining. It didn’t look like it was going to let up soon either.

I sheltered under a juniper for a while, debating on what to do. I saw a flat spot nearby, so I decided to set up the tent there. I got the tent up, put my pork in the vestibule and sat in the tent, pretty soaked myself. I set up my air mattress, sleeping bag and took off my wet clothes.

After only a few minutes of being out of the rain, a wild gust ripped one of my tent stakes out of the sandy ground. Then another. Crap! I had my camera gear, dry clothes and sleeping bag in here and certainly didn’t want to see them get wet.

I had no choice but to get out asap and fix the tent. This meant going barefoot, no time for shoes. The ground was wet, muddy and surprisingly cold. I grabbed some heavy rocks to weigh down the stairs so they didn’t pull out of the soft sand again. The rain died down but the wind remained. I hope the tent makes it through the night.

Miles – 23.8
Total Miles – 564.4
Rain – yes, and hail
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – rabbits, prairie dogs

Tuesday May 22nd – CDT Day 32

Winds died Down and the tent held through the night. My hiking clothes were still wet, so I hung them up at dry in the tree right after waking up. It was funny seeing my footsteps in the mud this morning. Last night was not so funny though.

Blues skies, sunshine and less windy… For now. New Mexico is a windy state. At least, my experience on the CDT has been that way.

After leaving camp, I finished hiking up to the Ridgeline I intended to camp along last night, before the rain. It’s called La Ventana mesa. Great views, but nowhere to camp. It would have likely been even windier last night up here anyways.

Ups and downs along La Ventana mesa. To the east, the terrain drops sharply and offers big views. To the west, a gentler slope with often interesting sandstone formations.

The clouds were building by early – mid morning and the threat of rain returned. I stopped to prepare, emptying my backpack to line it with a compactor bag. I had a pack cover as well, which I apparently left on the ground here. More on that later.

I hiked some more and took first lunch. The skies were improving, Rain not looking imminent. Mountains across the valley reminded me that I’ll be wet for a while in Colorado soon enough.

This afternoons water source was jones spring I believe. Its located at located at the end of a narrow and lush canyon, with an over hanging ledge for shade. However, the local rancher didn’t want hikers hanging out here, spooking his livestock. I took my water and moved on.

The trail then passes through a long stretch of lowlands and a cow pasture before approaching mesa Portales.

Very cool hike along the base of the mesa. Colorful and strange rock formations kept me busy. Every corner turned was something new. Then the trail climbs up to the top of mesa Portales. This was a bit of a scramble at times but fun and awesome views the whole way up.

On top of mesa Portales, just incredible views. What else can I say! Great hiking up here.

I took second lunch under a juniper tree. The wind was picking up though as it does daily… Maybe 40+ mph wind gusts now. I also found my first piece of obsidian up here.

I tried to hurry down the mesa, with Cuba only a few miles away now. The trail down had some cool little canyons and views near the top, which dwindled with the drop in elevation.

Down on the valley floor, it was back into cow fields. Nothing left to do but knock out miles. I found another piece of obsidian on the road leading out to hwy 197.

It was a 4 mile road walk down 197 before reaching the main strip, hwy 550. I used this time to call my dad since I had cell service, but no lte.

I ate dinner at Mel’s drive thru chicken and BBQ. Mmm town food! Then the final walk over to rebels roost.

Rebels roost had a few hikers sitting on the porch when I arrived. I paid for 2 nights in advance, knowing tomorrow will be a full zero day. Time to shower! This must be the most anticipated part of reaching town for most hikers.

It was a good night sitting around on the porch swapping stories with the other hikers.

Miles – 25.2
Total Miles – 589.6
Rain – no
Sleep – hostel
Animals – rabbits, prairie dogs

Wednesday May 23rd – CDT Day 33 (zero day)

A bed always feels good after a few days in the wilderness, but somehow I always manage poor sleep my first night back in civilization. I was hot, sore and did a lot of tossing and turning.

Went out to breakfast with five star, pony whisperer, camel and sequoia. Priscillianos had big portions, perfect for us human garbage disposals.

Back at rebels roost, I was feeling super tired and was getting a headache. I laid down for an hour and a half or so, and that helped. My lower back was really sore though. I hurt it in December doing deadlifts, and i was just getting some recurring stiffness. I never feel this stuff while hiking, only on zero days. Weird.

Called my dad and got my resupply situated for Chama. This is where most hikers are sending snow gear. Recent reports of snow levels convinced me to pass on sending the ice axe, but I am getting my micro spikes. Also, a 20°sleeping bag (I use quilts these days actually), puffy jacket and warm hat.

Later, Vince (owner of rebels roost) was kind enough to give me a ride into town to hit up the grocery store, and get more food from Mel’s drive through.

Back at the roost, hikers were heading out to get in a few miles before dark. I spent the rest of the evening getting my gear ready for the morning. Awesome sunset tonight.

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 589.6
Rain – no
Sleep – hostel
Animals – none

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