Thursday, July 28, 2016

Day 44: Colorado Trail Junction to Abandoned Mine

The pale, glowing half moon lit the night sky. I shivered in my down cocoon, watching. Outside, a frost formed on the meadow. 

The sun reached our meadow as we packed up. Even so, we hiked out wearing all our warm clothes, toes still numb. But we still enjoyed the beauty as the first golden sunlight bathed the nearby mountains, which were reflected in a nearby pond. 

After the solitude of the New Mexico CDT, overlapping with the super popular Colorado Trail is a real adjustment.  Now the trail is clearly marked, willows neatly cut back from the trail. Numerous footprints of hikers and horses are imprinted into the hard dried mud. Giant rock cairns are visible from one ridge to the next over a mile away, like signal fires of old. The rock cairns suggest a high stakes Jenga game, as each rock precariously balanced on another to create a stable whole. 

And then there are the other hikers. Lots of hikers.  Men, women, young, old, human, canine. Even bikers, who seemed to spend a lot of time hiking, pushing their bikes up steep, rocky hills. Some hikers had towering packs that would give Cheryl Strayed's "Monster" a run for its money and others mimicked the fast and light style of ultralight long distance thru hikers. We were meeting hikers frequently now, due in part to the fact that we are hiking northbound on the CDT and most Colorado Trail hikers head southbound. By the end of the day, we would see more hikers than during all the rest of this summer's hike combined. 

"Baaaa!"  The protests of hundreds of sheep met our ears as we rounded a be d in the trail. An efficient sheep dog sprinted across the hillside, herding the sheep down to a grazed area near the shepherd's camp. 

We watched the clouds gather as we ate lunch by a small alpine lake (12,817 ft). All afternoon, the clouds threatened. We watched the rain on nearby ridges. Strong winds and a few spots of rain had us scurrying for our jackets only to remove them less than an hour later when the sun came out. 

More and more bikes came tearing down the trail (or slogging up the climbs). One rider, who had stopped to filter water at a creek), explained that they were part of a Colorado Trail bike race. Similar to the Tour Divide, riders are times using the tracking feature on a Spot device, which he had lashed to his bike frame. Headlamp strapped to his helmet, he planned to ride on to Silverton that night. 

Although we started passing the tents of camping Colorado Trail hikers by 3:00 in the afternoon, we hiked on. By early evening, we reached the final climb to the high point on the Colorado Trail (which is not the highest point on the CDT as the CDT climbs over 14,000 feet on the top of Gray's Peak farther north in Colorado) and a dilemma. If we continued, we would have to either camp above 13,000 feet or continue hiking in the dark for eight more miles to a safe camp.  With clouds still threatening, we chose to stop early, and found a flat, rocky camp at an old mining site. 

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