Thursday, June 12, 2014

Day 3: Cochetopa Creek to Cow Camp at Mile 1022

Frost blanketed the meadow. Our shoes, saturated from two days of snow travel, were frozen solid. Unable to open the shoes wide enough to jam our feet in, we waited for the sun to work its magic. And after two days of stormy weather and gray skies, waking to sunshine and blue sky felt magical indeed. We welcomed the warmer hiking weather, quickly peeling off our extra layers.

Rounding a bend, four packs lay strewn across the trail in an impromptu backcountry yard sale. Off in the distance we spotted the hikers, relaxing near the creek. We hiked on, enjoying the irony: our first human sighting in two full days of hiking and the humans remained more distant than the elk. 

Following the creek downstream, we descended into the rolling, grassy hills of Colorado cow country. The beauty of these alpine ranches could easily convert this California vegetarian to a Colorado rancher. 

Colorful wildflowers poked out from the swampy meadows. Large yellow butterflies and smaller orange butterflies with delicately scalloped wings flitted from flower to flower. A hummingbird with wings beating furiously swooped in and dive bombed my shirt, apparently mistaking me for a large magenta flower. Wings screeching, the hummingbird swooped in multiple times before finally flying away in search of a more welcoming flower. 

We reached the site of the Cochetopa Creek Bridge by mid afternoon. But the creek, swollen with snowmelt, had washed the bridge away. Reluctant to soak our newly dried shoes, we put on Crocs with microspikes strapped on to hopefully keep our Crocs attached in the fast moving current. 

We waded into the icy water, following along where the bridge had once been. But the bottom dropped away steeply, and the water was clearly going to be over our waists. We retreated and followed an abandoned beaver dam across a wider section of the river. Sierra almost toppled over with the force of the fast moving current, but steadied herself and pushed on through the thigh deep water.

We climbed onto a sandbar, relieved that the worst was over. But as we continued across the sandbar to the opposite bank, I realized the thick, murky sand was sucking me in. Sinking almost to my knees, I struggled against the sand before finally pulling my feet out and finding more stable footing. 

The afternoon took us through beautiful aspen groves lined with deep purple wild irises and back into the rolling hills of cow country. Purple lupine and bright red paintbrush dotted the grassy hills. Dark clouds gathered all afternoon, and just as it was time to find camp it began to rain. We quickly took shelter underneath some trees and set up a hasty camp. Signs of cattle are everywhere, but for now we are happy to have found someplace to call home for the night. 


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