Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Day 42: Trout Lake to Valley Above La Vaca Creek

A narrow sliver of sunlight pierced the dark grey veil of clouds that shrouded our little valley. The mountains came alive, basking in the light and warmth. The still pond near our camp reflected the soft glow of the mountains and the golden sunflowers that lined its shores. Nearby, elk called to one another as they grazed. 

We climbed back up to the CDT, and continued climbing to the ridge. We would climb high and stay high for much of the day, enjoying incredible views and fields of wildflowers on every ridge. 

The constant threat of thunderstorms changes how we view the landscape. We still appreciate the incredible beauty, but we are constantly scanning for terrain features that might shelter us from a storm, gauging how far it is to the nearest gully or small stand of trees. And we are frequently too hot, climbing ridges in layers of rain gear. 

We did not see any other hikers all day. Then, rounding a corner a pack train approached, with a solitary packer, a string of loaded animals, and a handful of clients experiencing the mountains by horseback. 

We finally descended from the alpine ridges, following the North Fork of Los Pinos River into a beautiful, lush, green valley. Deer grazed by the many branches of the river. Three backpackers greeted us on the other side, inviting us to join them at their camp in the trees if we did not find anything up the trail. We hiked on slowly, distracted by the wild strawberries that lined the trail. 

Reaching a higher valley with multiple campsites, we decided to make an early camp, knowing that campsites might be scarce as we continued to climb. The rain resumed shortly after we climbed into the tent. Through the rain I heard something large crunching near our tent. Two eyes reflected back at me when I peered outside with a headlamp. The deer stared back at me a moment, then returned to grazing loudly. 

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