17 mi ::
516 mi ::
Cloudy, cold, afternoon rain and snow
We’re up early to take advantage of the hostel kitchen for breakfast with hot coffee, toast, cereal, and brownies made by some other guests. Then we take off on small roads and trails through the ranch to our forest road. The road soon becomes a trail along a creek. The presence of flowing water is almost magical after so many days of hiking from one meager water source to the next.
At the top of our climb is the San Pedro Park Wilderness Area, a plateau of forests and meadows at an elevation over 10,000 feet. There is an icy wind, and we have to dress warmly even in the sun.
I feel energized and keep getting ahead of Ann. At one point I wander onto a side trail after skirting a blowdown. It doesn’t take too long for me to figure out what happened, but Ann is way ahead of me when I get back to the trail. I blow my whistle and walk fast to catch up with her.
Ann is bewildered when I catch up. She thought she heard my whistle, but didn’t know what to do. We discuss it, and come up with a simple system. One long blow, repeated if necessary, means ‘Here I am’. Three short blows means ‘Stay there, I’m coming’. Long-short-long is reserved as a distress call. We have no idea if the system will work, but it’s comforting to reach an understanding.
The high meadows are marshy and our feet get wet. The icy winds persist. When we stop for a meal there’s a light snow flurry. All this is such a contrast to where we’ve been, the novelty is almost worth the discomfort.
We descend the high mesa in thick, musty woods, recently snowpacked. At one point Ann sees a pair of dogs on the trail, but no owners come. She points them out to me as they disappear into the trees. I see grey figures with bushy tails, perhaps a bit of black on the end. We wonder if there’s any chance we’ve just seen wolves.
The descent is long, with some rain showers. I see my first deer of the trip at the trailhead, and there are many elk about. By the time we reach the bottom there are only cows, but a welcome stream. We’ve been holding off dinner for water, so now we make camp and eat in the dark.