Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Day 18: Other thru-hikers!

September 11: I woke and packed up for the trail. I headed over to the post office where I mailed my laptop ahead to Silverton, then to the edge of Salida where I stood around trying to hitch a ride back to the trail. It was a terrible place to hitchhike since there was no real place for a car to pull over to pick me up, but I didn't see any better alternatives either and considered walking further up the road closer to Poncha Springs, but I really didn't want to walk when it wasn't going to count towards my hiking so I gave it a shot.

And, as I suspected, car after car passed me by. I stood next to an intersection, hoping that maybe if someone were willing to pick me up, they could turn off onto the less busy street, but that didn't happen. Instead, what happened was that a car about to pull out from the less busy street opened a window and said to hop in--which is exactly what I did. It took about 50 missed cars and 15 or 20 minutes, but I had my ride!

To Poncha Springs, at least, just a few miles down the road. I just couldn't seem to get a direct ride between Salida and the trail! I had the same problem when I got off the trail two days earlier!

But I was still happy for the ride to Poncha Springs. Now a larger proportion of cars would be heading in the direction I wanted to get to, and--more importantly--it was a much easier place for a car to pull over to give a ride.

It only took about five minutes when the tenth vehicle pulled over. There were already four people in the vehicle--but the two in back made room for me after I threw my pack in the back and we made introductions. The driver was Bushwacker--a thru-hiker himself! I had seen him signed into registers--dated the same day I arrived. I knew he wasn't far ahead of me, but I never seemed to quite catch up to him and this was the first time I met him. But I was a little confused about why he was driving a car if he was thru-hiking the trail, which is when I learned that the passenger was his wife who was not thru-hiking the trail. She picked him up off the trail and would drive the car after dropping him off.

The other two people in the back were also thru-hikers: Unbreakable and 2nd Lunch. I hadn't seen them in any registers and didn't have any idea of their presence on the trail until I met them. All three were headed southbound on the Colorado Trail, and all three were doing the Collegiate East route, and all three were returning to the same trailhead I had to go to. It was perfect!

From left to right, Bushwacker, Unbreakable, and 2nd Lunch
as we all head off from the trailhead on Highway 50.

Bushwacker was from Florida, concerned about his house there as Hurricane Irma bore down on Florida (his house survived) and had completed the Florida Trail multiple times, so we swapped war stories about our adventures on the Florida Trail. 2nd Lunch was from New Mexico, which I've driven through but that's about it. And Unbreakable said she was from Seattle. Really?! Another Seattlite?! So we talked a bit about exactly where in the Seattle area we lived.

Eventually, we arrived at the trailhead and I charged ahead wanting to get all the miles I could in while the day was nice.

While walking along the trail, I thought about their trailnames, thinking that Unbreakable probably had an interesting story to it. Probably fell off a cliff but came out without a scratch type of thing. But it also reminded of me the TV show on Netflix with the same name and it suddenly dawned on me that Unbreakable (the person) had a striking resemblance to the main character of that show (Kimmy Schmidt) with her narrow frame and long, red hair. Surely that couldn't be a coincidence!

Later, while taking a break, the three caught up with me again and I had a chance to ask her about her trailname, and she confirmed that it was after the character in the TV show. Ha! I love it when I can figure stuff like this out! =) She told me that while thru-hiking the PCT the year before, six different people suggested a trailname based on that character, which she resisted at first not wanting a trailname with a pop-culture reference, but her resemblance to Kimmy was too close to resist it forever. (And "Kimmy Schmidt" is a terrible trail name--because it sounds more like a real name. You can't have a trail name that sounds like a real name!) She's also been told that her personality resembles the character on the show, but I'd have to take her word for that. I didn't know her well enough to make that comparison.

The three other hikers took a rest, and I finished my break and pushed ever onward, steadily climbing about 3,000 feet to the high point of the day. The trail climbed slowly and gradually--right up to the very last part that turned annoyingly steep and difficult--but the view from the top was absolutely jaw-dropping. The trail climbed above tree line just before the pass with views of the steep, ragged peaks and ridges lining the horizon. The only thing marring the view was that almost all of the trees as far as the eye could see were dead. Not burned or charred from a wildfire, but just brown and dead. I'd heard about a beetle infestation that was killing vast forests in this area, but this was the first time I really noticed it, and it was shocking and sad to see. At least a wildfire somehow seems suited to the environment. They can be eyesores, but wildfires are essential to a healthy forest, and even a burned forest flowering with plants can still be healthy, but this forest was sick. It was palpably sick.

The views from the top of the pass were spectacular! Despite the massive forest of dead trees.

I rested at the top to admire the grand views, while trying not too think too much about the trees, and waited for the other three hikers to arrive. I rather enjoyed having company on the trail.

This point also marked the end of the Collegiate Loop. The Colorado Trail had merged back down to a single trail, and the Continental Divide Trail thru-hikers would be sharing the same path as me again.

I pushed on again, eventually reaching the Marshall Pass trailhead near dusk and called it quits. It looked like it might rain, so I set up my tarp. A day hikers passed by who I chatted with for a minute or so before he continued on towards the parking lot.

Not more than five minutes later, though, he came running back towards me.

"I just saw a bear!" he exclaimed. "Be sure to hang your food bag!"

A bear?! I missed a BEAR?!!! If only I had walked just another minute or two, I could have whipped out my camera with a zoom lens and got a photo of a BEAR!!!

The hiker said he had tried to take a photo of it (with his lame point-n-shoot camera), but it ran away scared when he tried to get a photo. I was terribly upset to have been so close to a bear but missed it. So unfair!

"Anyhow, I just wanted to make sure you knew that there was a bear in the area so you'd know to hang your food bag," he explained. (I suspect he really just wanted to brag about seeing a BEAR!!!! And I can't blame him for that!)

"Ah, right. Okay, thanks!" I told him, failing to mention that I had absolutely no intention of hanging my food bag. =) I wasn't too worried about the bear attacking me for my food bag for a couple of reasons.

First, the guy just said that the bear ran away scared just because he tried to take a photo of a bear. That's a good sign of a healthy, wild bear. He hasn't lost his fear of people--and it's the bear that's lost its fear of people that are problems. This bear won't come anywhere near me during the night.

And second, there are always bears nearby! The only thing that makes tonight different than other nights is that there was a visual confirmation of a bear. Just because there's not a visual confirmation doesn't mean that there are no bears nearby, though. I always assume there are bears nearby! Every night I've spent on the trail so far--I've assumed that there was a bear nearby. I have no proof of it, but I know they're out there. They're always out there.

But I didn't see any reason to belittle the hiker's warning, so I just thanked him for the warning and continued to set up camp.

I actually took this photo of the trailhead the next morning at sunrise, but if only I had walked a minute or two more, I might have seen a bear from here. Argh!

A short while later, Bushwacker, 2nd Lunch and Unbreakable arrived and I said there was plenty of space for more if they wanted to camp nearby, but they decided to look for another site nearby. I told them about the bear sighting (Keep your eyes open! You might see something wonderful!)

About 20 minutes later, it started sprinkling a bit--not enough to really get wet, but enough that had I not set up my tarp already, I'd frantically be trying to get it up before the downpour started. Then Unbreakable came back and said that they had found a cabin and were spending the night there. A cabin?! A person at the trailhead had told them about the nearby cabin, which apparently is primarily for people on snowmobiles to rent during the winter months, but that it was open for hikers to use and included a stove that they were lighting up for warmth and light. Unbreakable came back to tell me in case I wanted to join them--she thought it would be cruel to enjoy the comfortable cabin without at least telling me about it.

She's right too--it would have been cruel not to tell me, and I appreciated the fact that she did. But I was already so settled. I had my tarp up, I was in my sleeping bag, gear thrown all about. It would take me 20 minutes to tear it all town and carry it to the cabin.

It was tempting, though. Sleep in a cabin, with nice company of other thru-hikers. I was comfortable in my sleeping bag reading my book, though, and decided to stay put, but I thanked her for letting me know. But I was a little envious too. If only I hadn't stopped when I did! If only I walked a minute or two longer and saw the bear! If only I waited until the others arrived before setting up my camp! If only.... *sigh*

Bushwacker crossing Fosses Creek

Starting to get above tree line....
The top of the pass is near! But dang, this last bit was steep!
Unbreakable makes to the top of the pass--and she looks exhausted!
The top of the pass is also where the two paths of the Colorado Trail merge back into one. (And the CDT joins us again for another visit!)
The massive death of the forest was disheartening to see, but I found it odd that it only seemed to affect the larger, older trees. The smaller, younger ones didn't seem affected by the beetle infestation.
You'll never guess what that structure on the left is....
It's a shelter! The only AT-style shelter on the entire trail! =)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So cool you ran into Bushwhacker! We loved hiking with him. :)
Pink Panther