The trail traversed several grassy ridges, always staying above 12,000 feet. We passed several small lakes and ponds, blue jewels set in the green meadows. Soft, golden sunlight occasionally broke through the fog, but the high peaks remained shrouded in clouds.
Leaving the Continental Divide Trail behind, we climbed onto the Divide one more time before descending into the Elk Creek Canyon. Red and creamy white paintbrush dotted the grassy hillside along with a variety of other wildflowers. Two dark holes in the steep canyon wall gave silent testimony to historical silver mining operations in the area.
For two days we have seen no other hikers. Descending into the popular Elk Creek Canyon, hikers were everywhere. We passed solo hikers, couples, families, and a large Boy Scout troop.
Spruce, fir, pine, and aspen populated the damp forest next to the creek. Lush green moss carpeted the forest floor. Tall purple, white, and yellow wildflowers lined sections of trail. Decaying nurse logs gave life to baby trees and a variety of other green plants.
We pulled on raingear as the clouds again unleashed heir torrents. Water oozed from our shoes as we squished down the muddy trail. The rain finally slowed to a drizzle as we crossed the tracks for the tourist railroad that runs between Durango and Silverton.
We enjoyed occasional backward glances at the beautiful river valley as we began our climb to Molas Pass. My father met us at the pass, whisking us away for a Mexican dinner in Silverton and a warm, dry place to sleep for the night.