Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Day 43: La Vaca Creek to Colorado Trail Junction

I watched the first light as it slowly worked its way down the mountain. The warm light touched the meadow, melting the morning frost. But it could not reach our little camp, tucked away in the trees on the fringe of the meadow, and the morning was chilly. We lingered in our sleeping bags for warmth. 

When we finally started climbing up the trail, we met our first thru-hiker of the summer, Hippie Longstocking. She is at the back of the pack heading northbound, although she decided to flip and hike this section southbound to join friends. She has hiked all over, and we really enjoyed talking with her. 

We continued climbing to a small lake below The Window, a rectangular shaped notch in the rocky ridge. There we encountered a large group of young people, their REI dome tents plunked down right next to the trail, partially obscuring the view of the lake and nearby mountains. Most of the campers were just emerging from their tents, although it was late morning. One young man lumbered down to the stream and dunked his food encrusted metal fork and spoon in the water. He grunted an unintelligible response to our greeting as we passed. Most of the group just ignored us or talked about us as though we weren't there. "I think they're photographers," one boy asserted knowingly, as I attempted to take a photograph of the lake and The Window that did not include any the herd of people milling about or their large, colorful tents. 

The Window was incredible, as were the surrounding mountains. We enjoyed lunch on the rocky cliffs on the ridge, with spectacular views of the rugged mountains and the lush green meadows below. We spent the rest of the day meandering past gorgeous, flower-filled high alpine meadows and clear blue lakes.

And then we reached the junction of the CDT and the Colorado Trail. In some ways, this is the end of the journey. We already hiked the remaining 40 miles when we hiked the Colorado Trail in 2013. But we plan to finish our CDT journey where we started at Spring Creek Pass, so after a brief celebration, we continued up the trail. 

We camped high on the mesa, grateful for a clear night. Without a moon in the sky (it would rise later on the night), the sky looked like a planetarium, with unobstructed, 360 degree views of bright stars set against a dark sky.


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