The San Juans- South Fork to Lake City

Day 69

We all slept in until 8am in the most comfortable bed so far on trail. We borrowed the bikes and did a run to the post office then a food truck nearby. I had a delicious meal to give me strength for the hike out of town. Around 11, the three of us were hitching and within ten minutes we were riding back to Wolf Creek Pass. Lots of tourists taking photos at the sign so we took a few too then crossed the busy road avoiding the semis and huge RVs. I have 7 days of food in my pack along with an ice axe and microspikes. It takes some effort to throw it on my back. We began the first uphill climb into the San Juans. Epic views and wildflowers galore. We entered the Weminuche Wilderness which I’m told is one of the most beautiful places in the country. The first day sure did impress me! The trail was nicely maintained heading up and down various mountains onward to the next one in sight. Small ponds and lakes surrounded by rock boulders of varying size. At the higher elevations, marmots ran gracefully on the rocks as the pika squeak on top of rocks. Dark clouds loomed most of the afternoon. As we began the last big climb of the day, the thunder was booming so CC, PW, and I hid under some pine trees. They both cooked dinner as we stayed dry waiting out the storm. I left first continuing uphill and out of the trees to the beautiful views above tree line where I could see the trail for miles. As j reached the top and began descending the sun shone through the clouds giving me a special moment that took my breath away. I cruised along talking to the marmots and pikas with a huge smile and a full heart. These are the days I love. Little snow on the trail and cruising above tree line. I headed down where I found a campsite somewhat sheltered in the trees and began to cook dinner. They showed up a little later as we all set up camp. What a great day and we had hiked 15.2 miles out of town. I fell asleep warm next to Paperweight as we were both eager to see what tomorrow would bring. 

This may be my favorite picture ever! The beauty after a storm! ❤️

Day 70

Another beautiful morning hike walking above the tree line most of the time before dipping down to climb back up. Lots of marmot, pika, and elk everywhere. We spent most of the day staring up at the sky waiting for a storm to strike. We put in some good miles before the cold rain and thunder storm hit. We jumped over a huge snow drift and into the trees. We waited an hour shivering next to each other getting slightly wet as hail bounced down as well. So cold for the end of June! We had to keep moving knowing we couldn’t sleep here. The sky is tricky to decipher and we are usually wrong. We began the ridge walk along the actual divide as the clouds grew darker. Chipmunk emerged from a side trail where she had been hiding during the thunder. We zoomed as fast as we could along the rocky terrain having to get over this section. The rain turned to hail that bounced off of us. Painful! We walked in the storm for a while before deciding it was too risky so we bailed down the side of the ridge towards a patch of trees. The three of us huddled together as hail and snow turned the ground into a wet and messy slush. We debated our options and decided to call it for the day. We found flat terrain a little ways away and set up our tents on top of the hail. So glad I’m using a blow up sleeping pad this year and sharing a tent. I changed into dry clothes and got into my sleeping bag quickly. We were both too cold to cook so we just smacked and cuddled to keep warm. What a wild day in the San Juans. Today is the last day of June… Let’s hope that July is warmer. Day 71

It continued to rain as we cuddled in our tight quarters in our two person tent. The sky looked horrible so we did not get out for a long time. We drifted back to sleep for a bit then snacked the morning hours away. I think it was after 10:30 when we finally emerged to sun coming out. We packed up our wet tent as the hail and snow had melted. We climbed back up to the trail rubbing against wet bushes as I tried to warm up. We were lucky as the sun graced us with her presence for even tough to do a tricky section. The views were unreal as we switchbacked up a trail that I didn’t notice was even there. We turned the corner to see the famous knifes edge staring at us with still a few snowy passes. I waited for PW to catch up as I began getting nervous. He does a wonderful job calming me down. It was careful stepping and we crossed the first two passes easily. The next one had no prints in the snow and it looked like going down off the trail onto the loose rocks would be the best bet. I made it down a little ways before a panic attack set in and I felt like I would fall down the rocks to the bottom. He took his time and slowly made it back to the trail. I tried so hard to keep going, but I was so fearful as my hiking poles slid out of my hand. I tried to calm down and he said encouraging words, but I was frozen on the rocks. He took off his pack and came back for me. He hugged me, took my pack, and slowly led me to safety. What would I do without him? Maybe I would of quit a long time ago back before we bailed to Platoro. The next few passes were easy as well as I reminded him I don’t do well on rocks. I should of just pushed through the snow. We made it safety as it began to storm again. It was a cold rain where I couldn’t get warm at all. We pushed on wanting to get back to tree line. We passed two tents in an open field, but went into the trees around 5 calling it a day after doing under 10 miles for the day. We set up in the rain and crawled in. It was wonderful to put on dry warm clothes and snack in the safety of the tent. Today was a scary and short day. I’ve only had one panic attack in my life and this was the second. I hope it won’t happen again, but I had a feeling…. We went to bed very early as the rain finally stopped for the day. 

Knifes edge! Pictures don’t do it justice.storm coming after we finished the edge

I survived today with a little help!

Day 72

Today we were able to put in the miles. It was not raining when we started, but I was chilly. After a bit of the uphill I took off a layer. We had a short break in the sun before the clouds passed over and we hurried on. Water is flowing meaning waterfalls cascading down form the rocks. I could see Chipmunk over a mile ahead of me around a curve. Everything is blooming and the colors are stunning. Snow piles also dot the landscape. We took a snack break to dry out everything while we could. After our long drying break, we began to pack up as the rain cloud came overhead. So we put on all our rain gear again and headed down towards a meadow. The meadows are wet and we headed towards a raging river. By following the trail you come to water chest deep and no way to cross. We saw other footprints leading to a spot where you can jump across. I made it and quickly realized my phone was gone. I ran back finding in a few feet on the shore. I would of likely jumped in the deep water to search for it. Remember to secure your phone and waterproof cases are essential. We walked in the rain viewing elk in the distance. This was followed by an uphill where the rain eventually let up. You view a notch in the rocks called the window that we hoped the trail would climb through. It did not, but the rock formations were spectacular. We had planned to camp with Chipmunk at a lake, but we realized the trail did not go down to to it. No time for side trips. We continued uphill as I was exhausted and a few minutes later we found her in a patch of trees drying out her things. We found a spot nearby where we quickly set up our dry tent and then cooked a warm meal. It got very cold quickly as the sun was setting. At least tonight our sleeping bags and tent are dry so it was time for bed. During the night there was a lightning storm, but I slept right through it.  Day 73

The morning miles were easy and luckily dry again. The San Juans are unbelievable between the wildlife, wildflowers, and the high mountains I couldn’t ask for more. The trail is slow going, snow passes still await us, and the sky always is threatening, but we continue only . There was a steep climb up to a pass then down to a tiny parking lot and road. We crossed a road hearing dirt bikes and ATVs zipping around. Paperweight shouted for me to look down the road where a huge moose was running away. All I saw was its behind and I’ll agree that it was a moose. Still hoping to see one closer up. We continued on passing a stream and then climbing upward. We passed an old building off the trail that can be used in case of a storm. One snowy traverse and we met the sign for the Colorado Trail. The next few miles sure did impress being above tree line with epic views. Many sections of the trail is a stream or muddy due to all the rain and snow melt. So your feet are always soggy and stinky. Our snack, water break, and feet drying was cut short as dark clouds came. We were able to cover another hour of great walking. It was windy, but snow covered some of the lakes and the hiking part was easy. Still walking on snow many times and I am getting more comfortable with it. The sky was threatening and hail fell as we quickly put on rain gear. Chipmunk was waiting for us as she showed us a route to bail down to tree line as small bits of thunder boomed. It looked like a small storm and I really didn’t want to bail, but they both were scared. The CDT would stay above tree line for another 8 or so miles. We began bailing on a steep downhill as the storm passed over. We were over a mile down as the sky was bright blue and sun shone. I knew this was a mistake. It was later in the day and neither of them will ever camp above tree line. We found a campsite in trees and debated what to do. If we stopped for the day then we would certainly be above tree line tomorrow afternoon. We all ate then planned to do quite a few more miles. I was annoyed! I wished we would of just waited ten minutes for the storm to pass. This is the problem that comes with hiking with people and sharing a tent. You have to compromise. I would of kept going if I was alone… I began the stupid steep climb back up to the trail swearing to myself. We joined the CDT again and the sun was shining bright. It was tough hiking with beautiful views. I was exhausted. We joined a one lane dirt road being careful not to get hit by a few trucks on it. There top speed was 5 mph since it was such a bad road. We had more climbing and I was crawling. We were close to 25 miles already on the day. I stayed behind as they busted it up the hills and onto the divide. I stopped for a water break and snack alone knowing I could tent safely in the meadow. I took my time and headed up the pass alone as the sun began to set. From 7-8:39 is the best time of the day to hike. The animals are about and the sky explodes with beautiful colors. Actually hiking the divide is stunning! I met up with the two of them waiting at a junction for me where we would drop down from the divide and trail to a campsite in the trees. Again, I would of camped in the open. We hiked for almost another hour having to put on our headlamps and find a spot in the trees. The sky was clear and the stars were shining. No time to cook again just snacking since it was so cold I quickly climbed into the tent. I wished to be sleeping on the divide under the stars, but I compromised. It was a clear night with no rain or thunderstorms. I was exhausted and slept well.

Day 74

Chipmunk was gone by the time we got out of the tent in hopes of getting over the high pass before the storm. I was still disappointed to be in the trees not on the ridge for the morning hours. The trail wandered around in the forest before crossing a stream and joining a multi use trail. Many dirt bikes have ride it lately making it slippery and annoying to hike. We then began a steep uphill climb to reconnect to the divide. I had an awful headache. We saw some elk and heard coyotes howling in the distance. Even though it wasn’t the official trail it was pretty. We reconnected to the trail and met some divide bike riders. Those guys are crazy since they ride on the edge of cliffs on loose rock. I wouldn’t do that! We connected to a road which would led to the next big pass. We hurried along as the clouds were building and it was around noon. We decided to check out an old log building near a mining site for lunch. Within ten minutes of arriving the storm came roaring in. This old building has lots of holes in the roof and a few marmots likely live here as well. We both cooked food and watched the storm move in through the old window or hole in the log walls. As it started to pour, it was tough to find a dry spot as I decided to lay down under my polycro. It was quite he storm and we spent about two hours hunkered down. I was chilly and the sky was looking better so we took our change. We later found out Chipmunk was up there during the worst part and it even hailed on her. The trail continued on the steep rocky road as I quickly warmed up. Just kept watching the dark sky! We joined a trail again switch backing up higher and higher well above 13,000 feet. We found the highest point of the Colorado Trail and continued walking the ridge line hoping for no lightning strikes. I forget to mention Happy 4th of July! Third year in a row of living in the mountains during this holiday. What more could a girl ask for? The clouds broke up and the views were stunning! I’d say it was better then any fireworks display! We cruised along walking super fast to get lower in elevation. We dipped down and headed back into the woods where we set up camp alongside Chipmunk. There is a yurt that can be rented across the meadow from us and one of their dogs ran over and got some love from us. The dog tried to get into her tent. I thought we had a new pet, but then owner called her back. Tomorrow morning we will get into town and we just survived the San Juans! This section of trail was by far the most challenging so far. From the long food carry, steep climbs, intense daily storms, but the beauty was unbelievable. I will be back to play around some more in the San Juans!

Day 75

This morning we had a quick climb up from our campsite and some easy walking before hitting a two lane dirt road. I like making phone calls home on the way into town because town life is always so busy with chores. I caught up with dad as he told me mom was having a root canal. Ew! The hiking was easy, but my shoulder hurt and I just wanted to see the paved road. I made it a few minutes behind PW and we waited for CC for ten minutes or so before attempting to hitch. We survived the San Juans and the section across the road looks beautiful as well. We got a hitch from a kind girl who had just resupplied her two friends who are hiking the Colorado Trail. She was so friendly and dropped us off at a little outfitter in the town of Lake City. We headed to Poker Alice a busy restaurant with a cool story behind Alice’s life. We ordered a pitcher of Colorado Native and a huge pizza with every meat possible on it. It was a long wait, but well worth it. There was quite a bit of excitement as a marmot had taken a ride into town in the engine of a truck. Everyone was rushing to get a photo of the scared little guy as animal control. We left before the creature was caught and headed to Raven’s Rest Hostel. It is owned by Lucky who is from Ireland and runs a clean hostel. Really cool guy! We all showered at the same time since there were three showers then grabbed the bikes and rode to the laundry mat. We also did some grocery shopping at a pricy little store. I like this town a lot. Nice people with lots of history relating to the gold rush. We relaxed in the afternoon and headed to a little restaurant down the road. A laid back day with plans to head out in the morning. We all slept in a room with four bunks meaning eight beds with drowsy hikers and a few town employees. Day 76

We went back to Poker Alice for the $6.99 all you can eat breakfast. You pick three items to start then can go back for the same three or a different three. We spent a long time hanging out here before heading back to the hostel where our bags were already packed and we could get a free ride out of town. To our surprise Nightwatch was there and we decided to zero to catch up. So we spent most of the morning and early afternoon on a couch relaxing as I blogged about New Mexico. It was an easy day and Phil and Julian showed up as well. So we knew about the large cheese pizza and pitcher of beer for $15.99 at Poker Alice’s. So the six of us went back to the restaurant and ordered three pizzas and three pitchers to start. Again, it is a long wait so we got to drinking the three pitchers before they got too warm. The pizza was delicious and we ended up buying two more pitchers as well. Phil bought a bottle of whiskey as well for us to sip on so it was a wild night. We went back to the hostel dropping off a few left over slices and walking to the nice town park. We played on the swings, slide, and the spinning thing was a little much. The boys fooled around on the slack line and I thought one of them would end their trip that way. Luckily, we all made it back to our bunks around 11:00pm as I quickly fell asleep.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s