Day 55 – 20 miles (831 miles from Mexico)

As I was watching the light fade away last night I spied something in the meadow below, bear! My heart racing, I started calling out “Hey Bear” so it knew I was here…I watched and waited for it to dart away, but the shape started moving forward and I could see it wasn’t a bear, but a moose! Cool!!

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I slept a lot yesterday, what with my 6 miles and all, and it poured almost ALL DAY. In the early morning light I could see a lot of that rain was snow, oh joy. New snow in June.

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I had several plans for the day and my plans had plans. But really who can plan on the CDT? What I had for the day were vague ideas of what I would do if certain conditions existed…and back up ideas. Plans on the CDT are for suckers.

So I would hike up to Carson Pass and let the day decide if I would be sking to Spring Creek Pass, or if I would be turning around, or if I would go up and over Carson Pass into Lake City. What I had figured out last night was if I did have to walk into Lake City, that I could piece together a lower route the bypassed some of the up-coming high sections to reach some snow-free walking. Overall I’m over the snow…but if I could have one last hurrah with an epic ski today and tomorrow, well that would be pretty killer. (I have since learned that Mark Trails went north out of Creede, slipped and fell about 200′ trying to self arrest with his ice axe, tore most of the skin off both hands, and walked two days out of the forest to finally get to an ER in Gunnison. This is part of why I want to be done with the snow.)

I was packed up and hiking by 6am. I had camped farther from tree line than I thought I would, but that’s because I never got out of my tarp yesterday to move on. The trail/jeep track went up right away and was climbing to reach the 12,000+ feet back up to the Divide. Here I come!
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I was surprised that snow level was so high…hovering around 12,000′ even with the new snow. I could see brilliant blue above! And I could also see dark ominous clouds above too. Which would win out? I would not be skiing the Divide with heavy thunderclouds overhead. No thank you. I would not be skiing the Divide with strong winds or snow. I would not be skiing the Divide with no visibility, not alone anyway. I would be skiing the Divide with nice clear blue skies and views, give me views!

Huffing and puffing I climbed to where the oxygen is much less, I took lots of 30 second breaks to let my breathing catch up with me, and soon determined it was time for the skis. The last mile or so I made my way around an old mine to reach the pass at over 12,300′ (mines at 12,000???? I know, crazy, right?)

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Success, or at least part of it, now what would it be day?

Ugg, it started to snow, the clouds coming over the mountains looked angry, visibility was dropping. I guess it would be up and over and walking into Lake City. Ok, lets do it.

Luckily I was skiing this part in the cold morning because I could see wet slide activity around me on the north side of the pass. When the going got sleep I inched my way down by sidestepping down with my skis. I still had my skins on since there was a fair amount of ice among the drifts of new snow, but one of the skis kept picking up huge clumps of snow.

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Finally I made it down to dirt and flung off the skis to have a break on the sunny side of the pass. The clouds for now were hovering over where I had been standing just a short while ago, I made the right decision!

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Or not…at least not the right decision in taking off the skis right away. I ended up postholing a bit more on the road, it probably would have been worth it to leave them on, but i’m done. I’m really done with all this snow. I wasn’t kidding.

The road was GORGEOUS and walked through glistening aspen trees, towering peaks with snow that looked so picturesque (just don’t try to travel through it) and water everywhere.
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I walked past Carson, an old mining ghost town, that explained the mine up on the pass! I guess up to 500 miners lived up here in the early 1900s and got a lot of gold and silver out of the mountains too…until the cold and snow made going on unbearable. Now it sits empty in one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

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Walking down the road. Whats wrong with road walks?

Then I meet women who actually talk to me! So many people hardly look in my direction, but they talk to me! And I meet Annette and Lori, two women from Lake City who just happen to know Lucky, my PCT Hostel-owner friend, and are just about the friendliest people I’ve met in a long time. When I mention I want to spend my birthday in Lake City, they say “Party!” Cake and food and such are mentioned and we agree that we’ll celebrate. So wonderful to meet these two on the trail (road)!

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Then I’m hiking again, I have about 12 miles to go, and I’m energized by our encounter. I fly by huge mansions that probably only get used a week out of the year, by run-down guest cottages, by views that take my breath away, and as I was moving over for yet another car to buzz by me down the dirt road, it pulls over…Lucky!

He was out skiing this morning and was driving back to town. What a great day, I definitely made the right decision coming down this way. He offers to take my pack and I happily throw it in the back of his truck. I would slack-pack into town (hike without my pack), and it would be grand.

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And after a few more hours I’m in town! What a pretty little place this is, all tucked in a canyon, the river is a deep clear blue, the mountains are rugged, yet decked out in their spring green. Lovely.

I see the hostel, but first I see Annette and Lori at the cafe next door. Annette offers to buy me something and I emerge with a chicken salad sandwich and rootbeer. Thanks Annette!!!!! I learn more about my trail angels and Lake City as I wolf down my sandwich, and soon after toddle over to the hostel.

Behind Lucky’s house is everything a hiker could want. REST!

Shower, food, drying out the gear, more food, beer, hikers! There are 5 of us here today, Karma, Lt Dan (& Lt Dan’s girlfriend here for a visit), Handy Andy, and myself. There are gobs of hikers on their way in today, some friends of Handy Andy I don’t know, and Bearclaw & Dirtmonger with a crew on their way up to Canada to flip…yep, a lot of hikers are flipping up to hike south…and it’s Dirtmonger’s birthday same day as mine, so PARTY!

It’s going to be a fun few days off.

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