Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Day 55: Into the snow!

June 14: I woke up early to hit the wi-fi connection at the Visitor Center one last time before leaving town, then still had time to go back to sleep for a bit before really waking up for the day.

Evenstar texted me that she was borrowing one of the free bikes from the Visitor Center to take her package(s) to the post office and that she'd take mine as well. I didn't receive the text immediately, however, and by the time I noticed it, she had already left for the post office before I realized she had left. Anyhow, there was a bit of confusion involved, and I thought we had decided that we'd just handle our own packages until she knocked on the door of my room to pick up my package. She had backtracked to pick it up. But I was totally not ready and hastily packed a box for her to take to the post office for me.

Evenstar is ready for our ride to the trailhead at Cumbres Pass! We needed to squeeze three people into the backseat which is why she has her pack on her lap. We all had to do that to fit in.

Later, while packing my pack for the trail, I realized that I missed a few items in my haste to pack a box and give it to Evenstar which is how I would end up hiking with completely unnecessary items like the cord for my laptop.

Anyhow, after Evenstar took my box, I headed over to the room that Wi-fi, Goose and Skunkbear were sharing to do my cooking there. They had a kitchenette just like Evenstar so it didn't really matter which location I could whip up my French toast breakfast.

Skunkbear had the idea to get a cantaloupe for the breakfast, and she seemed worried that I'd take offense at her initiative but I thought it was a brilliant addition to the meal. Evenstar later came back with orange juice as well.

And I got busy cooking. I had picked up about two dozen eggs and a loaf of bread and got to work turning them into French toast, soon followed by bacon and sausage.

Goose had already left that morning to hitch a ride into Pagosa Springs and pick up a maildrop with his ice axe and micro spikes so he missed out, but that was just as well because it turned out that he was a vegan and couldn't eat anything I was making. I guess he could have eaten some of the cantaloupe and drank the orange juice, but neither of those was even my idea. He planned to hitch back into town here and get back on the trail tomorrow. Wi-fi's leg was still hurting him a bit so he planned to take at least one more zero day and see how it felt then.

The breakfast turned out well, and after our main core of people (Skunkbear, Evenstar, Wi-fi and myself--basically everyone who shared the room with the kitchenette and Evenstar and myself) had eaten all we could, we had to round up a couple of more people to help finish off the leftovers.

Afterwards, another hiker named Lunar gave Evenstar, Skunkbear, Splits and myself a ride to the post office then onward to the trailhead back at Cumbres Pass. Lunar had a vehicle since he was doing sections of the trail that he had missed last year due to the pandemic. Evenstar and I didn't have anything new to mail at the post office, but we didn't mind waiting for Splits or Skunkbear.

I didn't realize it at the time, but Cumbres Pass would be the last time I'd see Evenstar on the trail. Here, she's signing into the register at the trailhead.

Back at the trailhead, the four of us started hiking. The trail climbed steadily higher and higher, eventually surpassing 12,000 feet (3568 m) in elevation--our highest point so far along the trail. There was some minor postholing through snow and soggy meadows to stomp through, but nothing super bad. Not yet, at least!

For the first time, I started seeing marmots on the trail. And not just one or two of them, but it seemed like I saw at least a dozen of them at the higher elevations. They were everywhere! There was also a lot of smoke on the horizons--probably from those same fires still burning in Southern Arizona.

I hiked with Splits for much of the afternoon. Evenstar and Skunkbear followed somewhere behind us, but I expected they'd catch up at some point. Well, at least Evenstar I figured would catch up. I'd never hiked with Skunkbear and didn't know how strong of a hiker she was or how late she planned to hike. Maybe she'd catch up. Maybe not.

Looking back down toward Cumbres Pass

Late in the afternoon, I started keeping my eyes open for a place to camp. My maps showed a lake ahead and I figured I'd aim for that which would make for about a 12 or 13-mile day. Not too bad considering we didn't start hiking until around noon. Splits had passed me on the trail saying that he planned to camp at Three Lakes, but I never saw him when I went by and have no idea what happened to him or where he went.

I wound up setting up camp near a dry spot on the ground near a lake, and near sunset Skunkbear caught up and passed me. I asked her about Evenstar, wondering how much longer it would be before Evenstar caught up with me, but she reported that Evenstar probably wouldn't make it that far. She had been struggling with the elevation and was going to camp a mile or two back.

Skunkbear also reported that she wasn't feeling too great with the high altitude either and intended to hike a few more miles to a point where the trail descended several hundred feet. So I wound up camping alone.

I was a little sad about this development. I was sure I'd be camping with Evenstar. Not only did that not happen, I lost track of Splits completely and Skunkbear wanted to camp at a lower elevation. I knew there would be days when I would have to camp by myself--and I figured the second half of the trail I'd be sick of camping by myself--but I was a little disappointed to find myself in that situation tonight.

I also didn't know it at the time, but I'd never see Evenstar on the trail again. At this point, I was still optimistic that she'd catch up and we'd continue our journey together. I met her my second day on the trail--53 days ago. Nearly two months earlier! We hadn't hiked together the whole time, but we were never more than a day or so apart from each other on the trail and even when we weren't hiking together, we still kept in touch with text messages when we could get cell phone signals. I knew our time hiking together would eventually come to an end. She started the trail with the intention of getting off by July 17th, so I knew she wasn't going to do the entire trail this year, but I figured we still had a whole month of hiking together left! On and off. 

So I was sure that she'd catch up with me on the trail--she always had before! And if not, she'd catch up to me when I took a zero day in the next trail town. Or somewhere... but no... she never caught up with me again. I would have been even more sad if I had realized then that our time together on the trail had come to an end, so maybe it was merciful that I hadn't yet realized this. I hadn't even said goodbye!

But anyhow, just like that, she was gone--never to be my hiking companion again. =( (Well, maybe someday, on some other trail, but on the CDT... nope.)

So I set up camp alone. At such a high elevation, I bundled up with some extra layer of clothes and did my usual camp chores of cooking dinner and writing in my journal before retiring for the evening. Thus ended my 55th day on the trail....

Just little patches of snow on the trail... so far!

Splits poses with the snow. Notice all the smoke and haze on the horizon?

Oh! NOW you tell us that this is a dangerous trail in a font that looks like a ransom note.

The views from 12,000 feet were awesome! Despite the smoke and haze.

The worst of the snow was near the end of the day's hiking. There was some real postholing here. *nodding* But still.... not super bad!

By this point, I started looking for a place to camp. Maybe near those lakes up ahead?

I'm not really sure why I was so focused on camping near a "water source." Water was everywhere! The meadows were just flooded with it!

Goodbye, warm sun! It's gonna get cold tonight! *nodding*

1 comment:

Lou Catozzi (PI Joe) said...

I doubt I'll ever hike the entire CDT but the stretch from Chama to Lake City or Creede would be a great section hike. That's probably one of the most scenic areas of the southern half of the trail.