Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Day 45: Soggy meadows

June 4: There were a few sprinkles during the night, but not a big deal. My bigger worry about being invaded by worms never came to pass, for which I was very grateful. Splits, however, reported that a mouse got into his tortillas during the night which seemed to surprise and disappoint him--as if he expected better from the camp mice. =)

Immediately out of the starting gate, blowdowns got in the way and slowed us down. In one case, it hid a necessary turn which led Splits and I in the wrong direction for a few minutes. The blowdowns weren't PNT-style bad, but they were a definite annoyance.

But they also didn't last more than a half hour or so before we were through them all and climbing ever higher along the trail. Once we ascended above 10,000 feet, we started seeing patches of snow. None of it was particularly problematic, but it concerned me. After passing over the 11,000-foot Mount Taylor with virtually no snow at all on the trail, I had hoped there wouldn't be any snow below 11,000 feet--and here we were already seeing it barely above 10,000 feet. It didn't bode well for Colorado where the trail often stayed above 10,000 feet for days at a time.

But, like I said, the snow wasn't problematic at this point, so I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

What was more of a problem was that the meadows the trail passed through were absolutely flooded with standing water. Comments on Guthook often reported knee-deep snow through this area just a week or two earlier. That wasn't the case now, but it apparently all melted into standing water that was a couple of inches deep. It was impossible to walk through without getting one's feet wet in freezing cold water.

An inch or two of standing water on the trail was common in the meadows, and a huge annoyance!

Additionally, a crack started forming between the Shoo-goo I had applied to my shoes and the surface of the shoe. It wasn't coming apart--not yet, at least--but small cracks often turn into large cracks quite rapidly. I hoped it would hold at least long enough for me to reach Chama where I planned to replace them.

After the trail peaked, it descended a few thousand feet until it crossed a highway. I stopped for a lunch break next to a creek--the last water source of the day. I wound up stopping for 2.5 hours, even going so far as to cook a dinner for lunch so I wouldn't have to carry water to cook dinner later.

Eventually I continued onward, pushing myself beyond my original goal looking for a "great" campsite. I never did find a great campsite, however, and eventually settled for a decent one a short way past Highway 97. Despite my two-and-a-half hour lunch break, I still managed to complete 21.1 miles by 6:00pm and called it quits relatively early. I didn't immediately set up my tarp, hoping it wouldn't be necessary, but finally set it up an hour later when dark clouds and thunder rolled in. Evenstar showed up just before then, telling me that she was about to call it quits herself if she didn't find my camp soon. Splits continued on somewhere ahead of us and I kind of figured we'd never see him again. Evenstar and I tended to be the slowest people on the trail. Hikers constantly ask about each other's start dates and invariably, we're always the slowest.

Well, to be fair, I deliberately moderated my pace, not in any rush to reach the snow in Colorado. But we had only met about two people with start dates before us.

But all-in-all, it was a pleasant but relatively uneventful day.

Above 10,000 feet, we started seeing patches of snow, but Guthook comments suggested that it was considerably worse just a week or two earlier with reports of people postholing up to their knees.

There were some wonderful views from the higher elevations!

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