16 mi ::
838 mi ::
34,400 steps ::
I manage to get on the trail by 5:45 am. It feels good to start the climb up to Snow Mesa in the cold morning air. I don’t feel the sun until I clamber onto the mesa top an hour later. From here I can look back on the Rio Grande Pyramid, and scan much of my route up to here. Further north is the great huddled fang of Uncompaghre Peak.
The mesa offers gentle, pleasant walking for several miles. Then I climb up over the La Garita ridge and go down into the valleys on the north side. I meet two more Colorado Trail (CT) hikers who have been on the trail from Marshall Pass, my next resupply. They warn me of scarce water ahead. They also say there are two CDT hikers a day ahead of me.
Around 10 am the snow flurries begin. There isn’t any lightning yet, so I continue hopping over ridges from valley to valley until I reach San Luis Pass for lunch. Now the heavens are beginning to rumble. The fantasy I’d been harboring of a few showers followed by clear skies that would allow me to climb the fourteener disintegrate. I figure I’ll camp around here then attempt the climb early tomorrow. While I huddle under a bush chewing my gorp and watching the flying snow, I contemplate going over one more ridge to get closer to the peak.
The storm seems to let up a bit, so I go for it. The ridge is eerily quiet. There is no wind, just singing birds. Then the rumbles begin again as I descend. I meet two day hikers returning from the peak looking tired and happy.
I have the whole afternoon to kill, so I spend some time scouting for a good campsite. I drop the pack, go half a mile up the trail and explore around in the trees there before I find it. It’s a flat area near Spring Creek, surrounded by trees with lots of old logs and rocks to sit on. All I have to do is go back for the pack.
My next use for spare time is to wash my horrible smelling socks. It has now stopped snowing, but the thunder has only increased. On my way to the creek I meet a man on horseback leading a second pack horse. We talk a little. He’s scouting out the trail for a guided trip coming up. At the moment he’s also looking for a place to camp and graze his “ponies”. He heads down the forested hillside towards some meadows below. I warn him not to drink from the creek until I’ve finished my washing.
I wash my socks and feet in the creek right where it emerges from the snowfield. It takes about ten minutes of scrubbing each sock to make them tolerable to be around again.
When I’m done I follow the horse tracks down the hill to the horseman’s camp. It’s so different from mine. He has a huge tarp around his saddle and sleeping bag, his only shelter. He has a bag of grain and a cooler full of food, from which he gives me a ham & cheese sandwich and a snickers bar. As I munch we talk and sit through snow flurries until I figure I’d better go check my camp. Jim invites me to come camp with him, and even offers to let me ride his mare bareback up to the pass. I decline both offers regretfully. My mind is set on getting up that mountain early tomorrow. I feel like I should do something for him. I have some dried apples and bananas that Ann made on me, so I give him a sample of them before leaving.