Ute Lake(926.8) to Stoney Pass(945.9) 19.1 Miles
Total Miles: 1019.9
Elevation: 12,500 feet
I did stay warmer last night than yesterday, but not by much. I’m not sure I’ll keep cowboy camping when I’m above 11,000 feet. I’d rather stay warm in my tent than shiver beneath the stars. Since I only had to hike 19 miles today I slept in a little. Eventually I had to dig a hole so I finally got out of my sleeping bag at 6:15. I was hiking by 7:00. Once again it didn’t take long before I had to stop and start taking layers off.
Early morning view of Ute Lake
Today’s hike had me frustrated very early on. I’m rather tired of walking through the thickets of willow. I got a small tear in my puffy, a rip in my pants, and a hip belt pocket on my pack is now damaged. That is not to mention the scraps and cuts on my arms and legs. The trail went through very dense willow for most of the morning. I climbed uphill and downhill through it. It is very time consuming and really slows me down. I did get to see another moose though. I guess these guys love the willows. I ended up seeing 3 today.
I haven’t said how I felt in my last few blog posts, but I’ve been disappointed with the San Juan mountains so far. I’ve hiked through some incredible scenery in my hiking career so I thought that maybe I was jaded. I had very high expectations for this section and so far they haven’t been met. Don’t get me wrong, the last few days have been great, but they haven’t been exceptional. The Kings Canyon part of the Pacific Crest Trail was way more impressive. Well, today that all changed. Around mile five, I rounded a corner and my jaw dropped. I thought to myself, “Now that’s more like it”. It was a good thing I wasn’t trying to make miles today, because I kept stopping to take pictures and breaks. I really stopped and smelled the roses. All of a sudden the willow thickets weren’t bothering me. I had several steep climbs, but I was relishing the workout. Plus, I knew that I would be rewarded with an awesome view at the top. I will let my pictures from today do the rest of the talking.
This is when the day changed
This is what I call a talus field
Willow thicket. I swear there is a trail in there
More willow, but also a cool mountain
Things are really picking up now
Panoramic point of view
Nice trail maintenance. Notice all the flat rocks laid out to form an easy walking surface
Beetle kill. These trees are referred to as The Standing Dead. The entire forest is full of them
Is this real life?
Definitely beating my expectations now
Real or Fantasy
Today was full of small stream crossings. I struggled to keep my shoes dry
The trail joined up with the Colorado Trail. The two trails coincide for the next several hundred miles
Random giant snow bank. It was taller than me
Same time every day the smoke blows in
Super cool panorama of the smoke and clear skies
I’m obsessed with this picture
Towards the end of the day I was able to get cell phone service. I called my administrative assistant to put in an emergency food order. I’m going faster than planned and just noticed I was cutting in close on my next food drop. The next location is UPS only and that takes longer than priority mail from the post office. I’m sure this box is going to cost my an arm and a leg for shipping. I was able to get 2 blogs posted as well. The big news of the day came in the form of a text from Seth in Telluride. He informed me that officials had decided to close the entire San Juan National Forest. That was more than a little concerning for me, since that is where I’m currently hiking. I checked the CDTC website and they have issued a major trail closure. The trail is now closed from Cumbres Pass(mile840) to Stoney Pass(mile945.9). Whew, by the hair on my chinny chin chin, I made it through. I am currently camped at the end of the closure. There is another closure a few hundred miles ahead of me, but as of right now it is only affecting an alternate route. I wasn’t planning on taking that alternate, so I should be ok. I hope they manage to get the 416 fire under control soon and I hope that it hasn’t burned down any of the threatened neighborhoods.
Mangas caught up with Turtle this morning. They hiked together most of the day. Turtle made it to where I am camped around dark. Mangas is camped a few miles south of me. His wife, Julie, will be here at 8am with our food drops. I did this section 1.5 days faster than planned, so I don’t actually need anymore food. She will take my trash, ice ax, microspikes, and waterproof socks though. I’m super excited to be getting rid of the extra gear. I can’t wait for my pack weight to be back to normal.
Photo shoot with a cute marmot. He kept running into his hole, but would come back out immediately and stand on his hind legs. We did this 5 or 6 times before I got bored and moved on
“Every adversity contains, at the same time, a seed of equivalent opportunity!”