Spring Creek Pass(978.9) to Cochetopa Creek(1001.6) 22.7 Miles
Turtle and I decided not to set an alarm for this morning. I didn’t wake up until 7:30. These long days and early mornings have really caught up to me. After not getting much sleep in the yurt I was exhausted. I waited for Turtle to pack up and then we went for breakfast. The hitch out of town was easy. We got a ride right away. Lake City was a great town stop. Everybody was really friendly. I didn’t start hiking until 10 o’clock. I was a little stressed out by this. I only brought enough food for four days and the next resupply point is 101 miles away. I was pretty sure that I didn’t have enough time to hike a 25 mile day, especially with the elevation gain in front of me. I just decided to do my best and not stress about it. The weather forecast for the next few days doesn’t look to promising. I expected it to start raining at any moment, but I got lucky all day. I don’t think my luck will hold tomorrow though.
We started the day off with a 1,300 foot climb over 2 miles. As usual my pack is loaded with food for the next section, but without my ice ax and microspikes it didn’t feel too bad. Turtle got a fifteen minute head start on me, but I caught up to him before the end of the climb. My legs felt well rested and I’m finally readjusted to the altitude.
View of several 14ers from the top of Snow Mesa
The climb took us to the top of a mesa. I enjoyed walking on the flat top instead of immediately going back downhill. We stayed on the mesa for several miles. I could see the rain clouds building around us and was resigned to walking in the rain today. Our goal was to hike at least 18 miles. At mile 18 the trail drops below 11,000 feet for almost 40 miles. With the approaching storms we were looking forward to being at a lower elevation. Lightening, thunder, and heavy rains at 12,000 feet are no joke. I could see another hiker ahead of us and it didn’t take me very long to catch up. I always have a moment of uncertainty when approaching another hiker from behind. I never know how to declare my presence. I banged my trekking poles on every rock that I passed hoping she would hear me, but that didn’t work. I eventually called out a greeting of, “good morning”. Pegasus didn’t even flinch, so I’m guessing she had heard me banging my poles. We had met briefly in town yesterday and exchanged some pleasantries before I hiked past.
I have been struggling to readjust my expectations for my daily mileage. I had only planned on hiking 15-17 miles per day in Colorado. I have easily been hiking twenties. The Basin really helped with my endurance and confidence to hike bigger miles. The flip flop gave the snow a chance to melt. My new expectations are 20-25 miles per day. I really expected to struggle today. I had a full resupply and what I like to think of as town legs. Town legs are how I usually feel the first day hiking out of town. I feel sluggish and it seems to take a day to readjust go hiking again. I didn’t feel any of that today. That might have been due to the increased pressure of getting a late start and the threat of rain. I banged out the first 7.5 miles today in 3 hours. I stopped to take a quick snack break and Turtle caught up just before I started hiking again. As we were talking it began to sleet. We both hurriedly our on our rain jackets. Of course as soon as we did this it stopped raining immediately. The wind had picked up so I kept the jacket on for warmth. As I hiked out the wind calmed down and the sun came back out. You gotta love mountain weather.
Rain in the distance
As I continued to hike I could see it raining in the direction I was hiking in. There was even thunder echoing off of the surrounding mountains. When the lightening started I got a little nervous. I’m not really sure how to handle lightening above tree line at 12,000 feet. Lucky for me I didn’t have to figure it out today. The storm stayed in the distance.
Storms all around, but I stayed in the clear
The theme of today was long and steep climbs, followed by short and steep descents. The hardest one of the day was about 1,200 feet of gain over 1.5 miles. I felt like I wasn’t even moving. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and hoping it would end soon. It took me almost an hour to make it to the top. That is way off of my typical hiking speed. I’m hoping to do better next time I have to climb something that steep.
Yikes. That was a tough one
I find difficult climbs like this very rewarding. They get my blood pumping and I get an amazing feeling of self satisfaction when it is done. It’s a good thing I enjoy it, because today was full of them.
The wildflowers are really starting to pop. I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks hold. I’m seeing more every day.
A nice sampling
Speaking of seeing more, I met more hikers today than any other day on trail. I saw a few in town yesterday, but didn’t really get a chance to talk to most of them. Due to the San Juan National Forest being closed most of the people I ran into today had to hike an alternate. That alternate had them skipping a lot of miles. I met Freaky, Smokey, Brightside, 2 Aussies, Pegasus, Earl Grey, Famous, and a couple named Bud and Fret. I knew the names Bud and Fret, but couldn’t place why I knew them. As we were talking it came back to me, they hiked almost all of Washington State on the PCT with Outro. Such a small hiking world! I also forgot to mention in yesterday’s blog that I ran into my friend Peppers from the PCT. I’m excited to be meeting new people.
Since the weather is supposed to be rotten tomorrow I plan on getting an early start. There is nothing worse than having to pack up camp in the rain, unless it is setting up in the rain. The elevation profile looks super easy tomorrow and I’m hoping to hike a monster mileage day. If the promised rain does materialize hiking big miles should be easier. I take less breaks when it is raining. It isn’t much food standing around in a down pour.
“The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.”
– Steve Maraboli