The Colorado Trail: Day 6
Today was my most challenging and possibly most rewarding day on the Colorado Trail so far. It was challenging for a few different reasons (weather, elevation, exhaustion, climbs) but rewarding in that, despite the challenges, I was still able to get my 25 mile goal and I was able to see what may have been the prettiest views of the trail that I've found so far. The sunset tonight was just otherworldly.
But I woke to cold weather, and was welcomed into the day with rain. I was short on water last night so before breakfast I had to scurry down a hillside to a small stream and collect water just as rains started back up. It had been raining off and on all through the night (a theme that would continue into the day) and I wasn’t excited to get up early and start the hike for the day, but I knew that if I didn’t then it would make getting the shuttle into Lake City tomorrow a challenge. So I filtered water, had tea and breakfast, broke camp, and started on my way. I’m grateful that the rain abated just a minute or two while I broke camp, but the cold air still made it challenging.
Within an hour of starting the hike today the rains began again. They never reached the point of being too intense, but they were heavy at times in the morning, and I spent several hours taking shelter under my umbrella (among my favorite pieces of trail equipment now) while I slowly hiked along. My pace was slowed by the rain down to about 2.2 miles per hour when I’m normally closer to 3.3-3.5 miles per hour, (I love having my Garmin GPS watch to be able to track these stats) but I was still making progress slowly but surely. The high elevation also contributed to a slowing of my pace. Most of the day I was above 12,000 feet, and even crossed the high point of the CT at 13,271 feet in the afternoon. But in between morning and evening the trail just went up and down and up and down and up and down. Yesterday was a heavier climb, but it all came at once. Today was just a roller coaster from start to finish.
Around noon the rain started to clear, but through the afternoon it was quite frustrating because it would go from blue sky clearings to rain and back again within 10-15 minutes. When the sun was out it was too hot for my rain gear, but when the rain fell I’d have to put it back on. So for awhile there I was dropping pack and redressing or undressing up to 5 times per hour. It was quite frustrating.
One thing that I could have bet you this morning was that in this weather and elevation, today was going to be my first trial day that didn’t involve swimming, but I’ll be damned if there wasn’t a blue sky clearing right as I reached a small pond that feeds into Cataract Lake, and keeping a promise that I made to myself, I stripped down and went for a short swim. As always, it was worth while. Funny enough however, literally ten minutes later I was back in my rain gear as storms hit again.
I had lunch beside a stream and met another hiker who I found to be fairly ego-inflated and unpleasant to be around. I'll spare his name, but he represented what I hate most about thru hiking—the “you better be warned” attitude. I’ll maybe write about that more later, but in short it’s about saying to others who are headed the opposite direction that they won’t be able to do what’s ahead. In this case I kind of confronted him about it and told him that he’s probably right and I should just give up now and go back home to Arizona. I think that he caught my drift and left me alone after a bit as he went on his way.
Anyways, after talking with him for too long, I filtered water and started my climb to the high point of the trail where it was beautiful but cold as all hell, especially with the wind I was dealing with. But the wind be damned, because as I walked the last five miles of my day along this ridge line, the sunset left me floored. Even though I needed to be on my way to get my 25 mile goal for the day, I stopped over and over again to take pictures. I didn’t even know that such a beautiful view could exist, and it went on like that for more than an hour.
Just after sunset I reached my 25 miles, found a flat place to cook dinner, set tent, and started writing this. I need to get to sleep because I have about 10 miles to make before the 12:30 shuttle into town tomorrow, and I really don’t want to miss that because I’ve been told that that the hitch to Lake City can be challenging. Once there, I’m toying with the idea of staying for two days to post these journals, go through photos, and generally get some R&R. Oh—and I think I’m going to do something that I haven’t done in probably a year... I might eat a pizza!
Will write again tomorrow.
Ps—there is either a deer or a moose just outside my tent right now stomping around. Welcome to living in the wild.