Sunday, September 13, 2015

Colorado Trail - Part Four, Finale

Day 27 (21 miles, CT 323.4, Seg 18-19):

And we're off! Fresh out of the gate from our unplanned rest/resupply in Gunnison. We saw all of our favorite people today. :) Our day off brought us back together with Team Tokyo + Waterboy. They told us NedtheFed (their fourth companion) was in front of them by about a day. We walked with them most of the day and caught up on all the trail 'gossip'... where they had last seen other hikers, who dropped out, interesting hitches, who had the better trail magic experience so far, etc. I love trail gossip, I love trail culture, I love the TRAIL. ❤️

It was an easy walk, with rolling flat terrain + people to walk and talk with = the miles went by fast.


Team Tokyo + Waterboy & Yu Yu at horse trailer shelter in Segment 18

First signs of fall hit the Aspen trees!

In the afternoon we are passed by Team Canada!! Allen, their trusty weekend driver/Keymaster's boyfriend was shuttling them to their campsite. Excited to see them again, we caught up briefly before heading on to our own campsite for the night. Yu Yu especially enjoyed catching up... While we weren't looking he had snatched a giant piece of cheese from their stash and began a valiant effort to swallow it whole. Pulling it from his joules it was already spoiled and thus divided up between both Maesa & Yu Yu. Spoiled naughty dogs.
Yu Yu's second trail name 'Bear Dog' was born. It sums up the scavenger persona as well as the short front legs, and bear looking gaits he has. 

Day 28 (14.1 miles, CT 337.5, Seg 19-20):

We found everyone! Ran into NedtheFed & Team Texas in the am. At lunch we took a group photo in case we didn't all see each other again. Unfortunately NedtheFed decided to bow out at this point due to his foot and waited at the beginning of Segment 20 for a hitch out. It was a pleasure to meet him and hear his trail stories and trials!

Us, Team Canada, NedtheFed, & Team Texas, Segment 20 Trailhead 

Segment 20 begins our trek through the San Juans. We began our ascent up towards San Luis saddle in a thunderstorm. 

Up the valley we go!

Once out of the rain we were stopped in our tracks by our first moose (bull)! He surprised us by walking across the trail about 20 feet ahead. We leashed the dogs and waited for him to mosey along. About 30 minutes later he was down by the stream munching away and far enough from us to feel comfortable passing.

Mr. Moose

Peter pointing at the moose after we had passed. You cannot really see the moose but this shot sums up the total devastation of the trees from beetles. 

We camp just below the saddle with Abby, Team Texas & Team Canada. They are set to summit San Luis Peak in the am. As much as we wanted to join it would not be best for the puppies, but we are excited to return and summit next summer! 

One of my favorite campsites of the trip!

Looking up at the pass

Day 29 (5.1 miles, CT 342.6, finished Segment 20):

Beautiful short hike to the San Luis Pass & Creede resupply intersection.

On the saddle in am, the other teams just came down from their summit

Hike on!

Peter & the moon!

Views, just can't stop taking pictures


Once we reached the intersection, Team Texas & I said goodbye and began the hike into Creede. Peter set up his tent on the pass and rested with the dogs (didn't want them to walk extra and Peter could still feel his shin splints). 

Before leaving we called Debbie (tel 719-850-8715), a known shuttle driver for the Creede resupply, but unfortunately she was out of town that morning. 

*For thru hikers - Peter got service with Verizon on top of the last uphill before coming down onto the pass/intersection.

So we were set to walk/hitch... And boy was it a walk! We first walked the mile on the side trail, then walked another mile and a half on a jeep road and we saw no one. Anywhere. Then we estimated we walked at least another 4-5 miles on County Rd 304 that leads to Creede before being picked up by Ron - a Creede local and our savior! 

* For thru hikers - if you too end up walking this: at around 5 miles into your walk County Rd 503 meets with another County Rd (I think it's 502 or 504). This is where the Creede historic mining loop connects, so after this point we started to see cars coming from both directions. Even though it was a Tuesday there was a good amount of traffic... But then again it took us another couple of miles to get picked up and it was from a local... Lol.

Ron dropped us off in front of Kips for lunch. Alex, James and I ordered and conquered. In true thru hiker style you order the most protein packed, unhealthy deliciousness and then you consume it at a rapid rate. It was awesome. We then separated so I could run all the errands and get our resupply box.

*Thru hikers - I suggest sending your boxes to the Creede Chamber of Commerce/ Tourist building:
904 S. Main St
Creede, CO 81130
It's open longer hours than the post office and has beautiful clean bathrooms, a place to hang out and unpack/repack your stuff inside and out (great picnic tables outside). AND the nicest most helpful lady in the world. I forget her name but would like to say thank you!!
*Also - A friend sent via UPS for us and they initially said that there is no such address - just push it through, because there is such address!

I said goodbye to Team Texas (they ran out of time to finish the trail so they were done... For now!) and went to meet Debbie for a ride back up to the jeep Rd. On our way back up we saw a female moose hanging out in the ponds. A short while later we were at Debbie's drop off point (she drops you off with about a .5 mile walk left on jeep Rd, then you have the mile trail again after that).

Back up to Peter, Maesa & Yu Yu I went! We were planning on packing up and hiking more, but because of the long walk into Creede I didn't get back till 5:30pm and thunderstorms were closing in. So we set up camp on the middle of the exposed pass and prayed for no direct lightning strikes. ;)

Day 30 (17.4 miles, CT 360, all of Seg 21- 22):

And up we go and up we stay! Ever since San Luis saddle we have been high (11,000-12,000ft and 13,000ft is in our near future). Views for miles. 

Soaking it in, I love the San Juans already!


 
Tried out the timer picture taker, propped the iPhone 6 Plus on my pack

Yu Yu break 

We got to Snow Mesa (high alpine tundra  mesa top) and I was amazed. I have never been on a high altitude plain before. It was weird to be on something so flat but so high up you feel like your in the clouds. Close enough to them to see their every shift and pattern. The storms were all around us (and eventually right on top of us). It was spectacular.

 
Near the end of the mesa the weather caught up to us. Just as we began a descent into Spring Creek Pass we were again in rain/hail/lightning. Once on the pass the sun peaked through and we took a break to use the restroom and take off our rain gear. When I came out of the restroom Peter was chatting with a couple who had stopped on the pass. They ended up giving us the gift of beers and laughter for a good two hours. Gary & Susie were unbelievably generous and hilarious. We were blessed to meet them. Funny enough they were also from Lubbock, Texas - Peter sings a song he made up about Lubbock, Texas (he has no idea why he used that town, it just rhymed in lyrics he made up for a popular song). Weird right? I believe in fate and although we create our own paths, I think there's still a plan for each and every one of us.

That evening after we left Gary & Susie we hiked a few miles into Segment 22 and had the most beautiful alpine glow.

Just another evening on the CT

Day 31 (16.3 miles, CT 376.3, Seg 22 - 23):

More mesa top walking plus storms everywhere. Not too much rain fell but it was cold and overcast. The clouds sometime came over a ridge and straight hit you in the face. Mist showers, I called them. Tough walking today for some reason. We were just off, somedays it happens! We met a couple at the CO Trail Yurt (mile 8.7 above marshy field with water). They were very nice and even gave us a couple of sodas to go with our lunch. They had met a lot of hikers over the last couple of days and we found out later even gave some fellow hikers steaks for dinner (the Yurt had a stove). Just sprinkling trail magic everywhere :) Thanks Eric & ?? (Sorry I didn't remember the girls name!)

After the Yurt we began climbing to the highest point on the CT. Views were incredible

Climbing

Yu Yu says - "come on guys let's go this way towards the dark cloud of doom!"

Clouds rolled out as we got higher!

My father's single word of advice before starting was to always step around the rocks never on top of them... Hahaha... Sorry dad, sometimes it was inevitable

Maesa and her rainbow

We made it! I had to get higher than the highest point 

Yu Yu looking down onto Carson Saddle historic mining area and the end of Seg 22, beginning of Seg 23

A small distance into Segment 23 we set up camp. We decided if we are to get into the big miles we need to get up earlier, so the alarm is set and the pop tarts (not oatmeal - too much time!) are ready.

Day 32 (19.5 miles, CT 395.8, Seg 23 - 24):

Woke up early to the dogs growling a little at something in the distance. We began our walk and immediately came upon not one, not two, but six moose!!

I tried to get a picture of all 6 - see if you can find them! :)

The first two bulls we saw close to the trail

Some snow just before the top of the pass

This was the nicest part of the day (and as you can see in the pictures it was already overcast). Just after this we went up and over a pass (where we had a couple of coyotes running around parking/howling at us/each other) and into the worst weather day we have had since starting. Above 12,000ft all day, it was freezing, pelting, sideways rain & hail. At one point we passed someone taking refuge in a tent - it was Team Breck!! Julie & Ryan had the right idea, Peter wanted desperately to squeeze in their tent with them and warm up. I, being the evil slave driver (so says Peter anyway :) ) pushed everyone on. If you keep walking, you stay warm!

Peter had me take a picture of him with the Cuba Gulch sign for his friend Cleve

This was pretty much what the whole day was like, it finally cleared up a bit so I could see Peter in front of me

We crossed Stony Pass and waved at a sheep herder and his dog (sheep all along the ridge and valley floor). Up and over and up and over, we kept on. It began to downpour as we neared our campsite for the night. It was so miserable. Thank goodness for our tent - it warmed up quickly with all windows zipped up and everyone inside, we slept comfortably! *I will go into our equipment more in a post-pack blog.

Day 33 (13.4 miles, CT 409.2, Segment 24):

It was down pouring until about 10:30am. We finally emerged from our tent and started hiking a little after 11. We were so gung-ho to get a move on that we missed a turn and went up and over into the high mountain Eldorado Lake. It was beautiful... But ended up a mile out of our way... ha...

Maesa loves the snow

Eldorado Lake

Yay we went the wrong way!

This was an amazingly beautiful hike going down through Elk Creek, we circled the area in our book to come revisit.

Peter exploring mining cave

"I love hiking in the right direction!"

Following dad

Lots of waterfalls 

When we got to the bottom of the valley we crossed the Silverton-Durango railway and the Animas River. Then switchbacks back up to Molas Lake Campground (yay switchbacks at the end of the day! Did I say yay!?!).

Maesa that is not the best place to rest

The yellow Animas River - thanks EPA!

Arriving at the Molas Lake Campground was supposed to be a bit of relief for us from the elements & for our bodies. We were getting ourselves excited for showers and ice cream (a rumor... A nasty rumor). Instead we arrived, it immediately began to rain again, our resupply package had not arrived, there wasn't any ice cream, showers were $5 for 4 MINUTES, & our campsite was $30 (we split between Julie & Ryan, so $15 - we had some better sites on the free trail). Shrug of the shoulders and quick hello to Abby and her friend, we passed out early from exhaustion... with a hint of disappointment (but still smiling, always smiling!!! :) )

Day 34 (19.5 miles, CT 428.7, Seg 24-25):

Hiked out of Molas with Team Breck & Abby. Beautiful segment, we hiked hard to get in the miles as we left a little late from campground. Lots of chanterelles along the way. Some awesome waterfalls at Cascade Creek. We are getting excited to finish, pushing hard till the end!


Cascade Creek

Beautiful sunset views, we hiked until dark 

*Thru hikers - campsites indicated in data book after mile 17.3 are not great. Overgrown, far from flat, or just enough room for a bivy - just a warning. If we had more time in the day we would have pushed to Celebration Lake - just before the lake and at the lake there are tons a great campsites. We slept on a slant just before the saddle at 19.1.

Day 35 (23.8 miles, CT 452.5, Seg 25-27):

Heads down, chugging on! Nice day, not much written down for today except for Maesa flushing out some grouse and more chanterelles. Hiked until dark again, ended up camping with Julie & Ryan @ a much more comfortable campsite than previous night :)

Yu Yu on top of Blackhawk Pass

Lizard Peak in far background

Massive chanterelle find!

Day 36 (18.6 miles, CT 471.1, Segment 27-28):

Another beautiful day. We met a couple on Indian Ridge that left Team Breck & us a couple of last-night-celebration Mexican Logger beers at the Kennebec Trailhead. We have met so many amazingly generous & wonderful people on this trip! 

Thanks Phil & Bridget!!

This was the only picture from the day. I think I was very excited about finishing, and less about taking pictures :)

The last night we made camp with Abby, Julie & Ryan. Passing around the beers, we reminisced about the trail and feasted on all of our remaining food. It was the perfect night, with a sky full of stars.

Day 37 (13.5 miles, CT 484.6, FINISHED Segment 28):

WE MADE IT!!!!! 13.5 miles done before noon! We stopped only to get pictures at Gudy's Rest... I would like to take this moment to thank the most important person, who spent her life dedicated to the trail... and even though some ascents  seemed longer and steeper than written and some mileage data appeared off (hahaha oh the days we cursed the data book), we would like thank Gudy for everything. In the words of Ryan... "Oh Gudy..."


The crew on Gudy's rest!

Maesa relaxing before the last four miles of her journey 

As Peter RAN the last mile, the rest of us happily trotted the finish :)

Does Yu Yu know he is done? @ Durango Terminus 


We felt so privileged to finish with these fine people. We only knew each other a short time but it was a pleasure to walk and get to know Abby, Julie & Ryan. Thank you guys for everything! Mental support, sharing food, fun and small cars. Team Colorado finish together!!!

Later that day:

For the potential thru hikers reading this, follow up in Durango -

We stayed at the Days End (it was interesting, cheap, and they allowed dogs). After clean up and round one food (subway across street) we headed the mile and a half into town.

We went straight to Carvers to get our free Colorado Trail Nut Brown Ale for finishing the trail! 

Peter & Abby

They had great food and great beer! They are also Colorado's second oldest microbrewery according to a couple we met on the trail a few days back - I got a free sticker for that piece of knowledge!

Buff ended up finishing at around the same time we did and came out to the brewery - we got another group picture with the amazing Buff!




And roll the credits.......

We have thanked a lot of people, but our final thank you is to our parents (Yu Yu and Maesa's grandparents ;)). We both try our parent's patience and nerves as we put them on edge by doing ridiculous things. Both sets of parents helped us tremendously.

To Peter's parents, Janice & Greg - thank you so much for the REI gift cards (which not only feed us (love those backpacking meals!) but outfitted us for our journey) and many phone chats along the way (and many, many other things!)

To my parents, Lynnell & Stuart, thank you so much for all the advice (haha, but no seriously, thank you always for the advice), and the shoes that got me the 500 miles. Thank you for always caring. I'm sorry I'm the crazy child (well kinda sorry... Okay not very sorry ;) ). 

We love you all very much!! 

My shoes post hike 


Much Love to Everyone,
Onward & Upward ALWAYS,

Yu Yu, Maesa, Peter & Alyse