Day 50Leaving Chama late in the afternoon was a start of the nero out of town. The morning was full of eating and wandering up town to the post office. 4 people rarely get a hitch so we walked to the outskirts of town. Stopping at the post office then moving slowly to the bar as the sky looked a bit threatening. We got drinks, apps, played two rounds of dart, I played and won a round of pull versus a worker at the bar, and as we were about to leave an older rancher stole me to slow dance with him. The only two people dancing in the room full of men and a few hikers. I was yelled at a few times by him for my dance moves. Please I’m a hiker never been a dancer. We wandered out of the bar and began hitching. A woman offered to clean out her car then bring us as an older man not drinking at the bar scooped us up in his pick up truck. Nightwatch rode in the cab as us three rode out of town in the back of a pick up winding up to the pass. As he dropped us off, we walked over the railroad tracks and began the typical uphill climb out of town. Pack is extra heavy with snowshoes, ice axe, gaiters, rain pants, and 6 days of food. We wandered a few miles out of town encountering no snow and we set up near a stream crossing. First night with a two person tent… It’s a big step and quite the change for me. It was a warm evening as we drifted to bed with the sound of gunshots from the campground below. Second night camping in Colorado.
Started an uphill climb as I moaned about the lack of snow and having to carry snowshoes. If I only knew… We wandered up and up through various terrain. Small snowy parts we were able to go quickly climb over as other spots were slow going and a bit terrifying. I said the words “I don’t like this” too many times. As we climbed above tree line, the views became epic. I saw waterfalls all around me, bright green grass and trees, and lots of snowy peaks. It was a tough and beautiful day. I snowshoed for the first time as well today. Feels very strange and find it ironic that I’ve wanted to go snowshoeing for years yet the first time is with a huge pack. We got off trail again as usual having to do a big steep climb out. We got hailed on then it began to rain. Paperweight and I hid under a few trees as I got too chilly. I struggled today, but pushed on. Parts of the trail was a river as well so soaked feet all day long. We made it to the campsite finding Nightwatch had been there waiting for hours. We cooked a double dinner and finished just in time before it started to sprinkle. Masshole and Stumy came back south on the trail telling us they bailed on the high route because it was to sketchy. This made me freaked out and worried since they are strong hikers. They exclaimed they are hikers not mountaineers. With that information I went to bed worried about what awaited us.
The morning started with an uphill climb from the lake that we camped at. It was stunning climb with running water along the way. It was a challenge walking on the snow with only a little bit of postholing since the snow was still frozen. Today was a much better day with lots of hiking and brakes. We came across a huge marmot with a face stuffed with grass. It did not storm at all today. We were able to just hike along. A few spots in the trees were sketchy for me as I looked down at a valley way down below. I’m getting a bit more comfortable in the snow. Epic views along the way. I enjoyed snowshoeing a bit more rather than postholing in the afternoon. We moved down from the higher elevation and onto the low route. We found a nice spot to camp then set up and cooked right before dinner. I got yelled at for getting rice juice in the tent and so began the rules for the tent.
We packed up right before it started to sleet then turned into rain. We ran into Bambi who started the same day as us and took off two weeks to let the snow melt. We cruised downhill on the snow towards a river crossing. We searched a bit as Bambi climbed down from the trail on the other side to tell us to go up stream. The crossing was so chilly that my feet were numb for half a mile. We walked along the side of the river for miles sometimes on solid ground and then on snow at times. He even cut me a steep in the snow at one time that I appreciated. We came to the Middle Fork River crossing finding no safe way to cross so four of us continued walking on together bushwhacking up and down slopes and over dead trees. It wasn’t much fun and tricky maneuvering. We finally dipped down into a meadow where we came to the Middle Fork River looking for a safe place to cross. The cold snow melt water came almost all the way to my ass as I struggled across the rushing water. One of the strongest if not strongest crossing ever for me. The four of us took a nice break in the sun snacking and happy to have made it across. We began a walk along the river and upward out of the valley. I struggled again heading uphill with the gaining elevation. We came out of the trees to an opening looking up at the mountain we would be climbing. It looked a bit terrifying as we made our way in a clearing closer and closer to our climb. A few stream crossings then a lunch break as Paperweight and I began the climb. We climbed over large snow piles and into an opening where an avalanche had occurred recently. We were able to cross the river and begin climbing up through the trees. As we came to an opening, we could see for miles. As the snow got slick, I put on my microspikes to make myself feel more comfortable. Again, I did not feel very safe. We came to a bunch of rocks melted from the sun and found Bambi sitting there. He had tried it and found it to be too sketchy ahead so he turned back. This freaked me out as we attempted the pass ourselves. You are looking down knowing a slide without a self arrest would end in death. I followed behind Paperweight as he kept me calm as I moved slowly. We made it past where he bailed to see more snow ahead. We moved along as storm clouds were threatening and the wind became fierce. My hat almost blew off my head at multiple times. We did a few more sketchy passes then would did in and out of small trees. As the sky grew darker, I got more afraid. We came to a long snow field with a steep drop when Paperweight finally said he did not want to go on. Way past his comfort level so I slowly turned around and we discussed our options in the trees. We could try to dip down into the valley glissading and hugging the view trees or go back where we came from. The weather gave us little time to decide so we turned around quickly having to go back over all the sketchy spots again. I felt so unsure of what would happen. We passed the avalanche area as thunder and lightning rumbled we hid in the trees. We saw lightning strike a tree on the other ridge debating the future of our thru hike. This would begin days of worry and confusion for me. A thru hike is so continuous and simple logistically. Expect the unexpected. When you do not feel safe, hiking is not fun. I do not like shaking during every snowy step and feeling so anxious. You can not enjoy the view either. We continued downhill in the rain as my feet and hands were both numb. He pulled out his sleep socks which I slipped onto my hands during the downhill. We hurried to the river ducking into the trees to camp. What a challenging day having to turn around for the first time ever during a thru hike. What will be?
Woke up to frozen shoes along with everything else. We were hidden in the trees so we moved everything into the sun. It has been a confusing few hours not knowing where our adventure will take us now. We began the walk along the Middle Fork River towards the trailhead. It was nice as the sun came out. So many thoughts rushed through my head wondering if we should of kept pushing on even though I was terrified for my life. We made it to the trailhead to find only one set of tire tracks in and out for the season. But the privy was really nice. We began the gravel walk down the mountain towards the small town of Platoro. A truck came our way with Nightwatch inside. Tony recused us! He drove us down into town as I chatted with him and the guys rode on the tailgate. Nightwatch made it down to another trailhead during the storm and his adventure sounded terrifying. Tony is an awesome guy who said something I liked…Only three times I kill something 1 I’m going to eat it 2 it’s going to eat me 3 it’s going to kill something I want to eat. Thank you so much for the ride into the small town of Platoro. The three of us are a home cooked meal at the restaurant before talking to people who lived there about leaving town. Suddenly, Tony showed up with Chocolate Chipmunk who also bailed, but a different way having to bushwhack down then back up the mountain alongside a cliff. The four of us began trying to hitch the 22 miles on the gravel road to a main highway. It took almost two hours for two vehicles who were camping together stopped. I rode wth the woman and dog and the other three road with the man. They were heading towards Pagosa Springs so we got dropped back in Chama, NM. It took about an hour and a half to get back into town. We booked a room again at the Y, showered and began drinking before heading to the Saloon to think about our plans. The owner bought us all a beer again as we ate another delicious meal. Options? I don’t want to think.
We ate breakfast at Fina’s for the fourth time. I just want to get out of New Mexico. Our plan was to get to Durango airport to rent a car. So we did laundry then began hitching. Jeanie rescued us and was in her 70s with lots of stories. She was only going to drive us part way but if the boys would unload some fencing at her home in Dulce she would take us all the way. It ended up being quite an adventuring as she drove us on a dirt road for 3 miles to her property. She lives in the canyon in a neat home that she showed of. I hope to visit her again. We made it to Pagosa Springs which was full of tourists everywhere and overwhelming. We tried to rent a car there, but none were available. As we began the walk to the outskirts of town, the woman who gave me the ride out of Platoro showed up and drove us even farther out of town. We tried to hitch to Durnago having no luck and quitting after an hour. We ate at McDonalds and made a cardboard sign saying “hikers to Durango.” As we stood on the side of the road it took ten minutes this time for a guy to give us a ride all the way to the airport. It was an over an hour drive as we suddenly found out no cars available for two days due to a festival. So we ended up paying $60 for a taxi into downtown to spend two nights with Smiles who hiked the CDT a few years back and met Nightwatch on the PCT. it was after 9:00 pm by the time we got there and she took us to the grocery store. It was a long day of hitching, but ended up at a beautiful home in Durango sharing a pull out couch.
Today was a zero day in Durango and I also turned 30 years old. Nightwatch and Chocolate Chipmunk cooked up bacon and eggs as I toasted bagels so we could all eat breakfast sandwiches. A delicious meal then Smiles dropped us off in downtown for a day of exploring. It was a nice relaxing day still not knowing what we were doing. Included gear shops, a brewery, little shops, music in the park, and dinner. I got a desert at dinner and they sang to me. I also bought myself carrot cake at the grocery for the evenings. We all played cards together drinking beers late into the evening. Not a bad start to my 30s but I would of liked to be on trail. Maybe next year. Day 57
The morning game plan came quickly as Chocolate Chipmunk decided to head up to Wyoming to do the Basin. Paperweight and I agreed to join her. We ended up at the airport and in a car after our first Uber ride. We pilled in and headed back to Pagosa Springs. Grabbed our mail drops, went shopping, and mailed all the snow gear to Creede. We dropped Nightwatch off at Wold Creek Pass and began the drive North to Wyoming to hike non snow covered mountains. I rode in the backseat the entire time enjoying the roads we took avoiding the main highways and even doing side roads then through small mountain towns. We drove close to the border and onto a gravel road. We arrived at a free campsite around 10 pm in Irish Canyon. Quickly fell asleep getting ready for hiking the basin in the morning.