Monday, March 21, 2022

Day 69: The Mirror Lake Alternate

June 28: It was a miserable night--cold and wet. By morning, the rain had stopped and it was partly cloudy. Most of the hail on the ground had melted, but not all of it. The surrounding mountains looked like they were covered with a fresh, light layer of snow, but I assumed it was more hail that hadn't melted at the higher elevation. Later in the day, when I caught up with other hikers who had camped at higher elevations, they reported that it was actual snow rather than just hail.

There was a bit of snow heading up to higher elevations!

It took me a bit longer to eat breakfast and break up camp, dealing with all the water intrusion problems and all, but I still got on the trail and hiking by 7:00am. I didn't want to linger too long since weather forecasts predicted on-and-off rain all day. I wanted to take advantage of the nicer weather at the moment while I could!

It was less than a half-hour later when I reached Cramps. I could tell that he had broken down camp and he appeared to be fiddling with something in his pack and I wished him a good morning at which point I realized that I had caught him with his pants down. Literally. He was doing a poop. Oops! Sorry about that. I'll continue on.... He told me later that he realized he was taking a risk by doing the poop so close to the trail along an exposed area but had figured the likelihood of anyone passing that early in the morning was near zero. Yeah, well... 'Twas a risk that did not pay off! =)

I pushed onward, rising in elevation and up to the light layer of snow. After going over the first pass, the trail descended back below the snow level, and when I reached a large bridge crossing a creek, I decided to stop and lay out my groundsheet and tarp to dry out in the sun while it was available. It wasn't long before another hiker arrived, Reality Check, who I had heard about but hadn't met until now. She stopped to dry out gear as well. Then Cramps soon arrived and joined the fun drying out gear as well.

The scenery was absolutely gorgeous!

Outlaw also passed by, but he either didn't have any gear that needed drying or else didn't want to dry it then and only stopped for a couple of minutes to chat before continuing onward.

After about 15 minutes, my gear had largely dried and I packed up and headed out again. A couple of minutes later, I reached a gravel road and a decision: to take the Mirror Lake Alternate or stay on the main red-line CDT?

I decided to take the Mirror Lake Alternate. It was the low-level route, and given the chance of rain and storms later in the afternoon, I didn't want to be stuck on a high, exposed ridge. The views, allegedly, weren't as nice on the alternate, but--for me--safety is more important than a good view. Everyone else I talked to planned to stay on the main CDT, however, so it looked like I'd be hiking the alternate alone.

My path followed a gravel road over a 12,000-foot pass (and this is considered the "low" route!) before descending steeply down to Mirror Lake. The views were actually quite nice most of the way, and my biggest complaint was the dozens and dozens of ATVers that went by. Holy cow! Where did they all come from?! The people driving them were plenty fine and friendly, but the noise they created was a huge annoyance. Several of them stopped to chat and were shocked when they learned I had walked here from the Mexican border.

This gravel road was hugely popular with ATVers.

A bit past Mirror Lake, the route finally returned to a proper trail and the ATVs were no longer such a nuisance. Technically, there were still allowed even on the trail I followed, but motorized vehicles weren't allowed to be wider than about 30 inches or something which the ATVs didn't qualify for. Motorized bikes would have been allowed on the trail, but nobody seemed to be riding those--just the wide ATVs that couldn't go down this trail. I had peace and quiet again.

The trail climbed steeply again, heading toward another 12,000-or-so foot pass before descending yet again. This might have been the low-level route, but it certainly wasn't an easy route! By the time I reached the pass, dark clouds had swooped in and a thunderstorm seemed imminent. I picked up my pace. The trail leveled off near the top, but I wanted to start descending, and I was a little annoyed that the trail continued to stay so high for so long! I could feel little spits of rain in the air, just trying to wring moisture out of the air. I wanted to camp somewhere lower and better protected from the elements, so I pushed onward.

Finally the trail started descending, but then I ran into another obstacle in the form of blowdowns--a massively difficult blowdown with trees piled on top of other trees. My progress slowed to a crawl down the slope.

However, I noticed the trail switchbacked down the steep slope and by going off trail and directly down the hillside, I could reduce the amount of blowdowns I had to pass over. In some cases, the switchbacks were so tight and the trees so long, they often blocked the trail twice! The same tree, if I followed the trail, I'd have to climb over the same tree twice! Screw that.... I'll just cut down the hillside and not cross over the tree at all!

But it was still painfully slow and annoying. Fortunately, it didn't last more than about 15 minutes before I got through the worst of it and could continue hiking at a slightly fast pace since I could feel it sprinkling ever so lightly. It was only about 4:00 in the afternoon--a bit early to stop--but I didn't care. I wanted to set up camp and jump under my tarp while I was still mostly dry. I had already completed about 17 miles which was sufficient.

The trail reached Sanford Creek, where I filled up with water, then I followed the trail downstream until I found a good place to set up camp. Knowing rain was in the forecast, I paid close attention to where I could use trees to set up my tarp and make sure water wouldn't drain under the tarp, eventually settling on a slight slope just a couple of feet off the trail. It wasn't a designated campsite, but that didn't matter to me. What did matter was that I felt protected from the elements and that I shouldn't suffer from water intrusion problems.

Setting up camp!

Within a half hour of setting up camp, it started to rain in earnest, but I was warm and dry under my tarp and didn't care at that point. =)

Another hour or two later, I was surprised when Skunkbear passed by my camp! I hadn't seen her since leaving Creede, and I would have sworn up and down that she had been somewhere ahead of me. There had been a brief lull in the rain when she passed by so she stopped a few minutes to chat and catch up, but she decided to push on a bit further to find a "nicer" place to camp. I couldn't blame her on that point. I had set up camp in a very unconventional location, on a bit of a slope, and I hadn't picked a location suitable for multiple people. I was just thinking about myself! As far as I had known, I was the only hiker on this alternate. But I was a bit sad to see her go. It would have been nice to have company during the night.

And that was that for the day. I read my Kindle, watched some Netflix, and just relaxed. Since I had set up camp at 4:00pm, I had plenty of time to rest and relax. It was kind of exhilarating to have so much time just to relax. =)

The boardwalks were slippery as snot! Definitely had to be careful walking across these. *nodding*

Mirror Lake

This is the view looking back toward Mirror Lake while nearing the second big pass on the Mirror Lake Alternate. The main CDT route largely followed the ridgeline of the mountains in the background.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Loving the beard.

di and her guy