Trip Report CDT: Colorado pt3

Through the San Juans
Mountain range

I have breakfast at the bakery and then head to hiker hut. The pastor from yesterday drops by to leave leftover French toast he made. A few moments after I finish my slice a woman pokes her head into the building and asks where all the hikers are. It's only me in there but she invites me to her house for eggs and coffee! Svetlana owns the house next to the hiker hut and she invites me in like a guest of honour. We chat about our travels as she cooks me scrambled eggs with spinach. I eventually head back to the hut and hope to take the free shuttle they run back to the trail at noon. 16 hikers end up showing up for the shuttle and we all manage to squeeze into two Tacomas.

Mountain range

I hit the trail running and leave all the CTers behind as the San Juan Mountain greet me in. There is a large plume of smoke rising in the distance, a tell tale sign of wild fire. There was no information about it in town so I hope it will not affect my hike. In the evening I pass a hiker and her dog camped alongside the trail. Immediately I know who it is, Wander, a blind CDT hiker I have been hearing about the whole hike. I chat with her briefly and make her aware of the smoke off in the distance.

Mountain range

The weather is perfect as I flow up and down the San Juans. I run across a large bull moose on trail and we cautiously side step around each other. My eyes are on the horizon keep tracking of the plume of smoke from the wildfire but thankfully the trail takes me away from it. My time on the CT ends as the CDT and CT finally part ways and instantly I'm thrust back on rough track and constantly disappearing or overgrown trail.

The Window

I have a big climb in the morning and meet two hunters at the crest. One hunter tries to convince me I'm lost and I can't convince him otherwise. A new plume of smoke is visible in the distance now as another wildfire is playing amongst the valleys. The hiking is tough but the views are rewarding with every saddle and meandering descent. I continually run into pairs of hunters out in the field.

Mountain range

I cross two section hikers going NOBO: Sand Pig and Sloth. They mention that Coop, a CDT hiker I met in Lima, was just ahead of me. I push harder and hope to catch him in town. Just before reaching the highway I come across a CDTer hiker, Pond Bear, who I'd shuttled with to Crazy Cook. There is a brief bout of rain and very close lightening strike but it lifts as I reach the road. Within five minutes I get a hitch into Pagosa Springs with a local, Ralph.

Mountain range

I get dropped off at McDonald's then resupply, not at Walmart this time, at City Market. Hitching out seems like it will be tough but after twenty minutes or so a nice girl, Hope, doubles back to pick me up. She drives back into the mountains which at this point are covered in rain. After a big hug from Hope I continue on trail into the storm. Despite the weather I feel great and manage to do 13mi(21km) into dusk. I run into herds of cows in the mountains at night, the rain stops and finally find a decent spot to camp on a saddle.

Mountain range

It rains all night but stops about half an hour before wake up. It's nice not to be rained upon first thing but my tent is still sopping wet. The sky near clears and I climb in and out of valleys covered in fog. My morale begins to dip as the rain comes back and the temperature begins to drop. The final pass I crest is covered in fresh snow fall from the passing clouds and I camp at +12000ft(3659m).

Ridge walking in fog

My final day! I wake up and it starts to rain. Everything is icy cold and there is a thin dusting of snow on the ground. The tread is very rocky and slippery but I don't let that impede my mileage. I have the idea of a warm hotel room waiting for me in Chama.

San Juan in the distance

The terrain mellows out around mid-morning and the weather thins out. I complete my miles before noon and reach Cumbres Pass once again. It seems surreal and doesn't really sink in. All this time, effort, suffering, pleasure, food, climbing and hiking with nothing more than nod of acceptance. What a thing to have accomplished and I'm not entirely sure of my motivations but I did it! The final trick is getting down the valley into Chama, I try hitching but there is no traffic. I repeatedly call a trail angels number and after six tries they pick up and come and get me and that's the end of my time of the CDT.

Cumbres Pass signage

If you are interested in my post trip retrospective of what went well and what went wrong the click down below to read on.

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