Monday, November 20, 2017

Day 17: The Salida Zero

September 10: I took another day off the trail. I wandered around town, where I discovered that I had arrived in the midst of the Salida Fiber Festival and you could buy every type of yarn imaginable--and probably types you hadn't imagined.

I will! I will!

For lunch, I walked to the other side of town where I met Ping hiking into town. He had just come off the trail that afternoon but his hitch only took him to the main highway through town rather than into the downtown core located maybe half a mile away. He was close enough that he figured it would be faster and easier to walk into town than try to hitch the last bit of the way. I didn't blame him! I gave him directions to the hostel, and we continued on our way.

I wound up eating lunch at 50 Burger Shakes and Beer, mostly because it looked interesting and gave me a nice walk around town. Great burger! I can't tell you about the beer, though, because I didn't have any. After lunch, I pulled out my guidebook and started planning the next section of the hike. Most people resupply at Lake City, about 100 miles further along the trail, but I did some math and decided that if I carried a few extra days of food, I could push on all the way to Silverton. It would mean a heavier pack to begin with, but getting into town, resupplying, then getting back to the trail would probably cost me at least a day, and I was anxious to finish the trail before any snow storms hit the trail.

I toyed around with the idea of resupplying in Lake City and skipping Silverton--Lake City was closer to the middle of what I had left of the trail so I could even my pack weight out more, but Silverton was a lot closer to the trail than Lake City and that ultimately sealed it for me. I'd rather hitch 6 miles into a town than 17 miles. And if I had trouble hitchhiking a ride (not like I was familiar with these roads), I could walk 6 miles into town in a couple of hours if it came down to it. Not that I planned to do that, but at least it was an option.

I happened to arrive in town during the great Salida Fiber Festival! Weee! =)

I figured the distance to Silverton would take 9 days to complete. Maybe carrying 10 days of food--just in case it took longer than expected. Although if I was running behind schedule, I could still go into Lake City and resupply early if needed. But I really didn't want to resupply more often than I absolutely had to.

With my plan of action, I headed back to the hostel. Along the way, I saw a deer wandering at the edge of town and walk behind a business. I followed it, putting out my camera and taking photos, and it seemed to make itself at home in a "nest" of sorts it had at the back of the building. The deer looked at me wearily, but didn't seem to bothered by my presence. After taking all the photos I wanted, I continued back to the hostel.

There I found Ping, freshly washed and cleaned and we chatted for a bit, and I told him about my learning Polish which was why I was carrying a small Polish flag. (I waved it around in the room for effect.) And he said that he had been hiking with a girl from Poland, but she had already left town.

What?! I missed a Polish-speaking person?! Nooo!!!! I was very sad about this.

Ping eventually headed downstairs, and I started emptying out my pack so I could fill it with all the groceries I'd be buying at Safeway when Ping returned and said that the Polish girl was back and downstairs right now. Really?! A real-life Polish-speaking person?! Just downstairs?

So I headed downstairs, where I saw a young girl and nobody else and assumed she must be the Polish one.

"Dzień dobry!" I said. "Mówisz po polsku? Tak?" Hello! You speak Polish? Yes?

Yep, she was the one. =) She introduced herself as Monika, and we chatted for a while--including in English when I had trouble forming a thought in Polish. She'd been in the country all summer working at a Boy Scout camp and had a little time before she had to return to Poland which she wanted to spend hiking the Colorado Trail. She was hiking in the opposite direction as I was, though--the proverbial two ships passing in the night. I jokingly tried to convince her to switch directions and hike back to Durango with me (I need to practice my Polish, I implored!), but she wasn't having any of that.

Monika poses with my Polish flag. =)
I also joked that she must have all sorts of people wanting to talk Polish with her. There's not of a lot of you Polish people out here--the supply of Polish-speaking people is limited! "You're the first," she told me. "Most people hear my accent and always want to know where I'm from, but nobody ever wants to speak Polish! Except you...."

Other people from the hostel trickled in and as part of a larger group none of which spoke any Polish at all, we started speaking exclusively in English. Which didn't interest me so much and I decided that was a good time to head to the grocery store.

The rest of the day (and evening) was uneventful, and nothing else of particular note happened. Back at the hostel I repacked all of my groceries in ZipLock bags and figured out how to fit a week-and-a-half of food into my pack. It was going to be miserably heavy my first few days back on the trail! I wrestled with whether or not I should send my big, fancy camera ahead to Silverton or just mail it home. With this much food, my pack would be setting new records for how much weight was in it. And it's not like I used the camera very often. I only pulled it out when there was wildlife I couldn't get too close to (be it birds, deer or--I still hoped--bears and moose) or for the occasional astrophotography session (which didn't happen often since most night I was either camped in the woods with little view of the sky or it was overcast and cloudy and stars weren't out). It would have been an easy thing to send home. I got great photos of pika, deer, squirrels, chipmunks and even the Milky Way. It was a good showing, and it was tempting to mail it home at this point. I didn't really need it anymore.

But what if I saw a bear?! Or a moose?! I'd be kicking myself if I didn't have the camera with me. Even when I went to sleep, I was still undecided about what to do with the camera. When I went to the post office, I picked up an extra box so I'd have the option to mail it ahead (or home). But I was torn about what to do with it.

The Arkansas River runs through the downtown area.
Home, home on the range....

This deer seems to have made a little "nest" for himself in town!
That's Monika on the right--who you've already met. Ping is in the middle. I forget the name of the woman on the left, but she was in town for the fiber festival and seemed immensely interested in all the hikers and bikers staying at the hostel who were doing the Colorado Trail and Continental Divide Trail. (Both Ping and Monika were hiking the Colorado Trail, but there were other hikers and bikers in the hostel, and some of the hikers were doing the CDT.)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Day 16: And into Salida!

September 9: I woke up to another clear and sunny morning and hit the trail by 7:00. I hiked quickly with minimal breaks trying to cover 13.4 miles to Highway 50 as quickly as possible. If all went well, I'd get there before the afternoon thunderstorms started and hitch a ride into the town of Salida to resupply safe and dry. That was my plan!

The day's hike was uneventful. Ominous clouds started rolling in late in the morning and for the last mile or so, I heard thunder rolling around the mountains. A couple of drop of rain threatened me, and I picked up my pace, but the rain held off and I reached the trailhead just before 2:00 in the afternoon.

The town of Salida--which I kept mispronouncing like the Spanish word for "salida" (salida translates to exit, in Spanish) and every local would tell me that I was pronouncing it incorrectly. "You're not from around here, are you? It's sa-LIE-da," they'd tell me. After the tenth time of this happening, I knew it was sa-LIE-da, but I'd still say sa-LEE-da out of my bad Spanish habits! I'd have to stop and think about the correct way to say the name of the town.

But I digress.... I reached the trailhead, stuck out my thumb and waited for a ride. Salida was about 15 miles away and I had absolutely no intention of walking!

Within a couple of minutes, though, the rain had finally caught up with me. I pulled out my umbrella, rested my pack down by my feet where both it and myself would be under the protection of the umbrella, and continued to wait for a ride.

I'd never hitchhiked in the rain, and I wondered if it would improve my chances of a ride (oh, look at that poor, wet hiker--let's pick him up!) or decrease my chances of a ride (oh, look at that ugly, wet rat--I don't want that in my car!)

I have no idea what this teepee-like thing is for!

Car after car passed by me, and I counted them. Five, six, seven.... A couple of motorcycles passed by as well, and I waved to them. I didn't expect a ride from a motorcycle, so I didn't count them. The rain came down harder. 32, 33, 34....

After about 20 minutes and 50 cars, a large SUV pulled over. A couple of tourists from another part of the state. They cleared a small area for me in the backseat and said that they could only take me as far as Poncha Springs--just a few miles short of Salida. Not quite to my destination, but I would take it. At least it was getting me closer!

They dropped me off at a corner in Poncha Springs, and I was happy to be out of the rain and even had a little sun to brighten my day. The rain had only been in the mountains. Lower down, where I was now, there were no clouds or rain.

I stuck out my thumb and tried hitching another ride, and this time it only took 12 cars and a couple of minutes to get a ride.

A woman who introduced herself as Mave (I could be butchering the spelling of that--it's an unusual name and I hadn't asked how she spelled it!) pulled over. The car looked like it would fall apart if it tried to go over a speed bump, but I found myself enjoying it. I imagined she had all sorts of horror stories about it breaking down, but the kind of stories that you'd enjoy telling for the rest of your life. The ride probably lasted all of about five minutes, but I really enjoyed her upbeat attitude and was a little disappointed when we reached our destination so quickly.

But we made it to Salida without any breakdowns, and Mave dropped me off by the hostel where I checked in for two nights. I was planning to take a zero day!

First thing I did was take a shower and do some laundry to feel a little more human again. Then I picked up my laptop and spent most of the rest of the day online catching up with work, only going out long enough to grab dinner at a Mexican restaurant.

Life was good!

Moonset in the morning!

A snake sighting! My second one of the trail! =)

Highway 50 down below! And my route into Salida!
Highway 50, and the trailhead from which I'd hitchhike into Salida
Angry-looking clouds!
But sunny in Salida! =)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Day 15: Lunch at Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort

September 8: The rain eventually stopped during the night and by morning, the sky was clear and sunny. My tarp was largely dry, and I took it down for a bit more headroom while eating breakfast and getting ready.

About 6:15 in the morning, while eating breakfast, I noticed a vehicle pulling into the parking lot--an early-morning hiker, I assumed--and I watched it circle around the parking lot before stopping in front of the restroom. It seemed like an unusual place to stop, though, because there weren't actually parking spaces in front of the bathrooms. The car idled at that location for a few minutes, not actually shutting down. I couldn't really see it very well, though, with all of the trees and bushes blocking much of the view, and it suddenly occurred to me that maybe the powers-that-be were doing a maintenance visit and restocking the restrooms with toilet paper! Or maybe it was just someone who really needed to go and happened to know about this outhouse as they were driving by the trailhead. (You can't see it from the main road, so if that was the case, it had to be someone familiar enough with the area to know it was located here.)

But that seemed less likely to me. Why would someone be driving around out here unless they were planning for an early-morning hike? But whoever it was clearly wasn't planning to stay here or they'd have parked the car properly. In any case, a few minutes later, the car drove away and it was just me and a couple of squirrels once again.

I continued eating breakfast, brushed my teeth, changed into my hiking clothes for the day and packed up camp. I left my stash of toilet paper at the top of my pack--just in case those restrooms hadn't been restocked, I was prepared!

I wandered over to do my thing, yanked the door handle--and nothing happened. It was locked! I was floored. It wasn't locked the evening before when I had taken a look, and it wasn't locked when that car arrived and spent a few minutes idling here and I suddenly realized that they hadn't restocked the toilet paper in the restrooms--they had closed it for the season!

"You f***kers!" I shouted into the air. Couldn't they have waited just one extra hour to do my thing? I was pissed! (No pun intended.) To be denied my rightful throne! I didn't want to squat like a commoner.

"I'm in here!" someone shouted in an alarmed voice from inside. "Do you mind?"

Ooops..... I guess the bathrooms weren't locked for the season after all. I was a bit embarrassed about my anger. I didn't mean to hurl curses at an innocent person sitting on a toilet.

"Sorry about that!" I replied. "I thought they had locked the restrooms up for the season!"

There still weren't any cars in the parking lot so I have no idea where this person came from. He must have been hiker like me, perhaps hiking in from the other direction. I noticed the large, loud car when it drove through the parking lot, but I didn't notice a small, quiet hiker heading into the restrooms.

With the sudden realization that the restroom was locked only because someone was in it, I figured the women's side was probably unoccupied and available. It's not like there was a line of women waiting to use it. Anyhow, there was no real reason to distinguish between the men's and women's rooms. They were identical in every way.

So I did my thing in the women's room and was finally ready to start the day's hike. I never saw or officially met the hiker that had been using the men's room, and we were both probably happy about that. =)

The morning's hike was largely uneventful with a slow and steady 1,000-ft climb up then a slow and steady 2,000-ft drop. The last few miles of the morning were on roads. First a gravel road which wasn't so bad, but it turned to asphalt by Frontier Ranch and became a relatively busy road as I walked the last mile into Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort--a narrow, curvy road with no shoulders to walk on. Not cool!

I was excited about the resort, though. Civilization! I didn't plan on spending the night there, but I could still enjoy a real lunch at a real restaurant with real chairs and a table. There was also a general store I could check out. Maybe get an ice cream or something.

I first stopped at the restaurant where I was seated at an outdoor patio. I had doubts if this was a good idea or not. By now, ominous clouds had started rolling in and it looked like it might rain. But at the same time, being trapped indoors with my hiker smell didn't seem like a great idea either. Hopefully the rain would hold off--at least until I finished lunch.

I ordered a burger with fries--and while waiting, I tried to get on my phone to give updates about my progress to everyone, but I couldn't get a signal strong enough to work. In civilization, and my phone didn't work! But then I checked if wi-fi was available, and it was.

I got on the Internet and checked email, sent out messages, and made a couple of calls using Skype. Life was good! Until I checked the weather forecast and saw that it was supposed to rain for much of the afternoon. Not really a surprise, but still disappointing.

Lunch was served and it was most excellent, and afterwards I spent another hour catching up on messages and emails online. I heard thunder cracking in the distance and a few spits of rain that scared a couple of tables to get up and go inside, but I waited it out not planning to leave my location unless it really started raining. Which it didn't!

Lunch, fit for a king! =)

Eventually, though, I had to go. I had miles to do! I paid the bill, used the restroom (flush toilets this time!) and decided that there was nothing in the general store I needed and skipped it. Lunch had been filling enough.

The trail left the resort on a relatively busy highway before following some smaller dirt roads again before heading into the woods.

About an hour later, a light, steady drizzle began, and--for the first time on this hike--I pulled out my umbrella. I had covered a decent distance and decided that I'd fill up with water at the first available spot then set up camp at the next location where I could camp. My topo maps showed a seasonal water source ahead that I had ever expectation would be available--all of the other seasonal water sources I had passed so far on the trail had been running well. Maybe I could fill up with water there and camp nearby.

Except, of course, the one time I really wanted to actually use a seasonal water source, it was dry as a desert. Actually, that's not true. It was a muddy mess, but there was absolutely no water to be had. Which was even more annoying since it was actually raining at the time. I trudged onward in search of water.

The next reliable water source was several miles away, but I hoped I might pass a small creek or stream that didn't show up on my map. It's happened often enough that it's not an unreasonable expectation.

So much trail, so little water....

But mile after mile passed with no sign of water and I started thinking about setting up camp without water. I could harvest water off my tarp. Except--for the moment, at least--it was just a light drizzle. It would take all night to get enough water at this rate. I really needed it to rain harder if I wanted to harvest rainwater. Which it might do, but if it didn't, I'd be severely short of water until the next day.

I trudged ever onward. I wound up hiking for about two hours in the rain before reaching the reliable water source listed on my maps (Brown Creek) and the nearby campsite. It had been a long day--I covered a whopping 23 miles (which is even more surprising given the two-hour break I took at the Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort). I arrived at about 7:00, just as darkness started to creep into the forest.

I quickly set up my tarp for the night and dived under it and changed into my dry camp clothes. Nothing feels more wonderful than dry clothes at the end of a long, wet day!

Of course, almost the minute I got under the tarp, the rain stopped. I left the tarp up thinking it might start raining again at any time, but it never rained a drop after I dived under my tarp. It's as if nature hates me, and nature wanted to make sure I knew it.

Cottonwood Creek

The long road walk into Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort begins! It begins on a gravel road, which wasn't so bad.
The trail passes through Frontier Ranch. =)
With the cutest building ever to fit a porta-potty into. =)

After Frontier Ranch, however, the road walk became asphalt.
Then it became a (relatively) busy road with no shoulders to walk on. It felt a little dangerous walking along this section!
Although, admittedly, the views looking down towards Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort were fabulous! =)
It might have been nice to spend a night here! But I had a feeling that a room here would likely have been out of my budget.... Still, lunch was great! =)
The trail followed this road out from the resort.
Loved this mailbox! =)
Chalk Cliffs
Chalk Creek
The trail goes over this bridge over Chalk Creek
I liked the idea of camping in a place called "Bootleg Campsite," but it was off trail and hadn't started raining yet and I was still hoping to get more miles in. So I skipped it and stayed on the trail.

You know it's raining when you see my umbrella in photos! I usually framed photos so the umbrella wasn't in it, but sometimes I'd take the photo with the umbrella in it intentionally to remind me later that it was raining when I hiked an area.
Campsite for the night!