Day 66Another delicious home cooked breakfast thanks to Chipmunks’s dad. We all packed up and began the drive back towards Platoro and the trailhead where we bailed. I rode in the backseat getting to cuddle with Jessie their dog on my lap. The ride was nice then we turned onto a dirt road. Her mom was anxious as a steep cliff was to our right as we hoped no cars would be coming down. We only met two others cars on this part. It was a slow going ride and took a few hours, but we made it just as the thunder clouds were rolling in. I can’t lie we were all a little scared about what the snow conditions would be like. We gave it 10 days and would soon find out. As we said farewell to her parents, her mom asked if we wanted to wait out the storm, but we declined wanting to push some miles. It sprinkled a bit and thundered then let up. All of the streams that were overflowing had improved and a lot less snow covered the mountain tops. It was easy walking as the thunder cleared out and the sun was shining again. Three times I have hiked this section. Wow! We walked through the meadow staring up at the mountain before us. It was fun finding the small ford even easier and the climb up was not over huge snow banks as the actual path was visible. We were making good time so we pushed on up to the point where I had put on my microspikes finding all the snow melted. 10 days was all it took. As we all climbed our way up this pass a second time, we kept saying how happy we were and glad of our decision making. We came to some snow passes, but they were much shorter and less terrifying. I did use my microspikes and plan to purchase some crampons this winter for upcoming adventures. I also would like to take a winter mountaineering course to feel more comfortable. We curved around the pass under blue skies loving the views and not uncontrollably shaking this time. I still avoided one of the long scary passes by going around which was slow, but the safest beat. We pushed on finding not much of a trail and lots of hard snow so we began dipping down towards the stream where we planned to camp. My toes cramped up on the downhill as I had to yank off my shoes to massage my feet. Need to stay hydrated and likely the higher elevations again had an effect. We found our way to the stream finding a campsite a little ways up. Today was one of the best days ever on trail. There were crazy moments, but nothing like before. We are content in our decision making and now just need to keep hiking strong to make it to Canada before it gets too cold. I slept very well tonight in the beautiful San Juans.
The morning climb warmed me up quickly reminding me that we aren’t in the desert anymore. Lush green plants, flowing water, wildflowers representing each color of the rainbow, and views for miles in every direction once you climb above tree line. We met Lemonade who is from Florida and doing a section of the trail this year. We continued an uphill climb and had to do a few snowy traverses. They still really freak me out. I hate falling and in this case you’d slid down snow and into sharp rocks along the way. I took my time as usual and Paperweight made sure to make good steps for me. We came across Chipmunk looking at her map and considering how to cross the upcoming cornice. She wanted to go down then climb back up. No thanks! As I was preparing to conquer it, I hear cries to realize a large herd of elk were down below. Strange sounds! I left first from the break stop and with careful steps I maneuvered my way down the cornice. I found my way to a set of rocks cleared from snow and did a little butt sitting to get safely back to the trail. They came up behind me and asked how I got down as I pointed to my spot. It felt good to be on solid ground again as they slowly joined me. The next traverse was even more scary as Paperweight led the way for all of us. Phew! The rest of the day was less terrifying and absolutely beautiful. We cruised along flowers and bees buzzing and chatted the time away. We ended up complimenting how nice the trail was to find ourselves on a dirt road. Somehow we missed a turn and had to road walk back to where the trail crossed again. We took a nice lunch break in the shade airing out our toes as Chipmunk caught up. She also missed a turn somewhere and had to walk the road. We continued on cruising at close to 3 mph. This would not of been happening 10 days ago. The afternoon miles went quickly until we came to what looked like an animal trail nope just the CDT. Careful stepping with one foot in front of the other as rocks slid under my feet. It was stressful, but Paperweight reassured me as I wondered how this trail was even made or how it could be maintained. We made it across at a slow pace then zoomed downhill to a campsite. I could hear water to the left of the campsite so I simply headed towards it. I wandered my way to a gushing waterfall. It was tough finding a way down to it as I slowly slid to the bottom filling up bottles then climbing back out. I may be the only human this year to drink from this source. I continued back towards the campsite on various paths and heard CC chatting. She joined us as did two thru hikers we had never met, Phil and Julia! New people and instant friends. A solid and beautiful day on trail.
I did not sleep well last night as my body slid to the tent wall since we camped on a slope. I was exhausted and sore with about ten miles to get to the road. Paperweight felt good and he walked off ahead as I said see you at the road. I struggled along barely moving it felt like. You climb upward looking at a ski resort and busy road in the distance. I just wanted to get to the road, but the trail continued up passing ski boundary markings. I assumed we would head right up to the ski mountain, but we had to climb up a bit more of another mountain then all the way down to the road. Some of the uphill included careful stepping to avoid a rock slide down the mountain. I took careful steps also admiring all the wild flowers. I found myself nearing the road going downhill as lots of day hikers climbed up. Of course I chatted with a few and even pet a 5 month old puppy. I zipped down quickly to the road and the trail sign as people took pictures then went off into their car. I looked for chipmunk and Paperweight seeing no one. I realized they must of already go a ride. So time to solo hitch. The first group of 5 cars grove by and then another saw me, slowed down, and rescued me driving me to town. He works as a ranger and we chatted about his experiences and mine exploring various national parks by foot. It was a good hitch. I made it from Wolf Creek Pass into South Fork to find the two of them at the hotel. Wolf Creek Lodge turned out to be one of the best stays so far. Clean rooms, comfy beds, and a great deal. Most hikers choose to go into Pagosa Springs, but we had already seen it and were underwhelmed by all the people. We all showered then borrowed the bikes that the town purchased for hikers to use. We rode about a mile through the town to do laundry then back to the malt shop. We all ordered a burger and got a free ice cream on the owner. Very hiker friendly town. Then a quick stop to grocery shop and a visit to the liquor store. We relaxed for a while in the room watching dumb tv before walking down the road to the Mexican Restaurant. Lemonade joined us as well. Delicious meal with great company. The business also gives free desert to thru hikers as well. Highly recommend the small town of South Fork. Everyone had a nice buzz! Those two margaritas were amazing! We all cruised back to the hotel to lounge in the soft bed and drifted to sleep full, clean, and happy!