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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?

2 Responses

  1. Glenda Stephens

    Hello Famous,

    It is Glenda from Mt. Taylor.

    I just love your pictures and stories. Wishing you great days on the trail. Thanks for sharing and God Bless you and keep you safe!

    XOXOXO Glenda

     

    June 18, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    • SeekingLost
      SeekingLost

      Hi Glenda! Great to hear from you and thanks again for the food, water and great conversation. That stretch of trail in between Mt Taylor and the beautiful mesas and desert south of Cuba dragged on and your support through that section really lifted my spirits! Thanks again for all that you do for us CDT hikers!

       

      June 22, 2018 at 8:42 pm

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