Sunday, July 13, 2014

Day 34: Ridge Above Luna Lake to Trail Creek Camp

A party of six stags, grazed in the meadow. They eyed us suspiciously as we approached on the trail, then bounded away over the ridge. 

The trail crunched over several frozen snowfields and passed through marshy meadows filled with wildflowers on its way to the shoulder of Lost Ranger Peak, our high point for the day. Beautiful golden aster filled the meadows.  As we descended we met Gutsy and Odometer from South Carolina, section hiking southbound on the CDT. 

Several inches of water pooled in the trail, and large quantities of standing water covered the surrounding meadow. Dry feet no longer an option, we waded on in. 

A loud warning cry sounded across the meadow. A large herd of elk looked up as they sensed a human presence. Almost as one, the large herd thundered across the meadow out of sight. 

Hearing a faint mewling cry, I looked up to see a lone straggler, a young elk left far behind the herd. The young elk trotted across the meadow crying for its mother and the security of the herd. The young elk disappeared into the trees. Then three female elk loped into view. We hurried away to avoid spooking the elk before they found the young one. 

Less than a mile later, the herd thundered across the trail in front of us. 

We descended past North Lake into a ghostly forest of burned trees, barked scorched off by the flames.  Most of the trees were standing skeletons, while others littered the forest floor.  The discarded carcass of a coyote lay next to the trail. The coyote's body had been ripped open by a larger predator, probably a mountain lion. 

We left the Mount Zirkel Wilderness, spending the afternoon at lower elevations.  No longer did we see glacier lilies, sulphur paintbrush, golden aster and other alpine wildflowers. Now bright red paintbrush, purple lupine, and showy columbine lined the trails.  Temperatures are rising, and we were reluctant to put on rain jackets even in the pouring rain. 

A mother pheasant clucked protectively, pacing back and forth on a log. Noticing the nearby grass moving, I saw two fist-sized fluff balls dart across the trail, baby pheasants. 

We found camp above Trail Creek along the combined CDT and Wyoming Trail. Although still in Colorado, we are only about 12 miles away from the Wyoming border. 


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