Monday, June 15, 2015

Day 5: Wire Gate to Lower Taylor Mountain

A thick, wet fog descended in the night. Condensation dripped from our tent. Dew blanketed the meadow, saturating my pants as I walked through the knee-high grass to retrieve our food bags. 

By the time we reached Red Rock Pass on the Continent Divide, the fog had lifted, leaving blue sky dotted with rain-saturated gray clouds. A dark red truck roared past as we crossed the dirt road, leaving a cloud of dust in his wake. A few hundred feet later, red brake lights flashed, white back up lights blinked on, as the truck made its way back up the road to us. 

"You ladies okay?  Anything you need?" The driver called out the passenger window. I surveyed his clean, empty truck, quickly surmising that he did not have fresh pancakes dripping with syrup or an espresso machine stashed under the seat before answering, "No thanks, we're fine."  "Where are you headed?"  He queried. "We're hiking the CDT." I replied. "Lots of bears in this valley," he cautioned. "Do you have bear spray?"  Thinking about the bear tracks, claw marks, and scat I had seen, I motioned to the can in my side pack pocket, then pointed out that Sierra had her own can too. We exchanged a few more pleasantries, before the red truck disappeared in a swirl of dust and we headed into the dense forest. 

Steep red rock cliffs and pinnacles lined the Hell Roaring Creek canyon. We stopped for lunch, lying on the wooden plank bridge over the creek, the roar of the water lulling me almost to sleep. A quick dip in the frigid water shocked me awake, ready for the hike ahead. 

"Follow Posts," with sinking heart I read much later that afternoon. I know what that means. And so we play the CDT's version of connect the dots, walking cross country from post to post. The only visible tracks are elk, although ground squirrels have dug a series of tunnels criss-crossing the meadow. Some of the signs are labeled "Trail," providing beacons of false hope. There is no trail here. 

Eventually a trail emerged, albeit one pressed down by elk, not humans. Occasionally the elk veer off the designated CDT route, creating new paths and making it difficult to determine which way to go. And then, suddenly, real trail appears, one apparently built by humans, not elk. 

Dark clouds gathered as we hiked, and we heard thunder rumbling over the next ridge, moving ever closer. We had hoped to make it over Taylor Mountain before camping for the night, but with a thunderstorm closing in, it was no longer safe. We took shelter in a rocky campsite tucked in a grove of trees just as the hail began, pea-sized balls that sounded like gunshots as they pelted our tent. Blinding flashes of lightning were followed by roars of thunder. We are hunkered in now, prepared for a long, stormy night. 

No comments:

Post a Comment