For those of you that would like to follow my journey and have a rough idea of where I’ll be I’ve posted my planned dates of arrival here on this fancy spreadsheet, which took me a better part of the day to do. I’ve also given the postal addresses of the various towns I’ll be visiting so if you’d like to send me a letter (or package), I know I’ll love it! The addresses in bold are the places I’ll be picking up my package anyway so I’ll be going to the post office. The places not in bold, please let me know I need to check the post office. Bear in mind these are estimates, and pretty conservative estimates so I might be a few days earlier or later than planned, depending on snow conditions, and my condition!
Today we made it into creede at a pretty good hour to catch breakfast at MJs. Not massively impressive but not bad. Our plan was to leave in the afternoon after we’d done our resupply. We met some other hikers in the store who told us rooms were going for $120 which confirmed or idea to hike out that day. After we resupplied, we hung out in the local park area helping AJ fix the zipper on his sleeping bag. Not an easy task without the right tools but we got there in the end and I stitched up the end so the zipper won’t come off.
Today we had a road walk pretty much the whole way into town. We decided to stop a few miles out of town and hike in early the next morning to avoid paying for a motel room. The hike started pretty hairy as there wasn’t much of a shoulder on the road and we often had to walk in the bushes on the side if a car came along. After a while we noticed some railway tracks that looked very unused and that followed the road pretty closely. We decided to duck off the road and see how long we could go on the tracks. Turns out it was a great idea. Most places the tracks we overgrown so it was pretty flat walking and the tracks followed the Rio Grande river pretty much exactly. It was beautiful scenery. It also felt quite hobo like to be following the tracks through the countryside.
There’s AJ behind me and party saver in front of me.
After a few miles we came to this little beach alongside the river so we stopped for a lunch that turned into an afternoon nap and afternoon coffee. It was hard to leave but we wanted to get a bit closer to town. On the way we got asked by our first mosquitos. It was dreadful, I was saying them away in dozens and my legs got covered in bites. Thankfully I have numerous anti itch creams cos that was awful! Next store I’m getting insect repellant. I don’t care how heavy it is.
Unfortunately the railway tracks ended about 4 miles from town so we climbed up a little mesa, set up camp and watched the sun set on another beautiful day in Colorado.
Also, for those that have been hiking with me, I have trail runners now and have sent the boots on. I couldn’t face a road walk in boots!
Our lift back to the trail was pretty uneventful. Someone saw us walking to the edge of town with our sign and offered to pick us up. He was a far safer driver and took no risks. We got back into the route and had 8 miles of road ahead of us. Not great but it went really quickly and we soon found ourselves on South Fork. As a reward we stopped for Mexican food and got given a free plate of nachos just for being hikers.
As we were leaving town we passed a liquor store so we picked up a beer each and looked for a spot to camp. AJ volunteered to get us all water while we found a pace to stealth camp. 10 mile day. 18 miles to the next town!
This is a short post but we planned to spend a zero day in Pagosa, Doug and Gretchen were heading back to Santa Fe where they live but generously agreed to let us spend another night in their house. I can’t believe the kindness and generosity of the people we meet on the trail. Gretchen drive us arrive town so we could do our resupply and even took the guys to a pot shop so they could check it out. It is legal here! Crazy!
That day we went shopping and I bought some trail runners, sending my boots on. We won’t be going through the snow because of AJ’s knee and I couldn’t face walking along a road in boots.
That afternoon we went for lunch at Kips, along main Street and ran into some other hikers. Then more hikers joined and soon it was happy hour. It was great to meet so many other hikers that we stayed well into the afternoon, until it was too late to hike out. So we hitched to the store, bought some frozen pizza and headed back to the house. What an amazing place Pagosa Springs is. I wish I had more photos of the town.
Tomorrow we will hike out!
The 15 miles into town went quickly. We were on first road and it was completely snow free and all downhill! The 3 of us walked side by side, chatting and listening to podcasts. Mid morning we stopped for an early lunch, we had so much food since we decided to come off the divide.
Around midday we came to the road to hitch into Pagosa Springs. The guys absolutely love hitchhiking and the feeling is quite exciting. Until you’re still standing there for 30 minutes and no one has showed any signs of slowing down. Finally a massive bakkie (pick up) stops, and it’s fully loaded but the driver jumps out all enthusiastically offering to make room for us. We managed to squeeze our packs in the back and hop in.
Then the adventure begins. After he starts driving all 3 of us notice the tick. It’s on his leg, his arm or his jaw. The tick. He’s a meth head. On his way across Colorado to meet a girl. We check our seat belts, look at each other and grip whatever it is we can grip. We give him driving instructions the whole way down, watch the turn, speed limit changed, car in front is slowing down, hairpin bend coming up. All the time he talks. Incessantly. None stop. Our knuckles turn white. We see the edge of town. “you can leave us here” is the quick cry. We hop out as fast as we can. We’re far from where we want to be in town but so happy to be out of that bakkie.
To settle our nerves, we head to a brewery. This place named Kips. We’re standing outside the door waiting to be seated when this woman rushes over to us asking if we’re hiking the CDT. Yes, we reply. Immediately she invites us to stay with her and her partner because the two of them are thinking of doing the CDT and want some advice. We agree to come over after we’ve had something to eat.
After lunch we headed to the house of Gretchen and Doug and have a lovely evening chatting with them and enjoying the finest beer Pagosa had to offer. We chat about the divide and they tell us about their hike through Nepal. All in all it was a fantastic start to our time in Pagosa.
This morning was extremely cold and since party saver and I decided we weren’t going to get back on the divide, instead we’d hike to meet up with AJ again, we didn’t need to get up to early. I woke up to completely frozen boots so we gave them time for the sun to hit them and thaw them out a bit.
We finally did get up, after some coffee and waiting for the sun to warm us. We headed out, towards the nearest civilisation but realised soon we wouldn’t go far without crossing the river. The level was slightly lower because it was morning and there was less snow melt filling the river, however the river was still raging! We walked for quite a while trying to find a good spot to cross. The river was doing everything it could to say don’t cross, but we had to. It was either cross or go back. There was no way we were going back. In the end party saver managed to cross so I joined him along the river. He’d found a small rock bank that was less submerged than the river bed. I started across and immediately felt the current trying to pull me in. The water was thigh deep and flowing faster than was safe. Every step felt like it was going to knock me to the water. Pole, pole, step, step. Pole, pole, step step. Stop. Pole, pole, step, step. Party saver was yelling advice to me from the other side but I couldn’t hear him over my breathing and the roar of the river. Pole, pole, step, step, pole, pole, step, step. Half way there. My heart is pounding, the site still looks so far away. Pole, pole, step, step, pole, pole, step step. The current is stronger, the water is up to my hips now. The shore is half a metre away. There’s a deep dip before the shore, party saver grabs my arms and next thing I’m standing on the shore. My whole body is shaking. I can’t feel my legs. Shivering from the adrenaline, we both made our way further in shore where we took a few minutes to decompress and calm down.
After crossing the river we finally found a snow free trail and giddy with happiness we headed off towards the town, where we hoped to surprise AJ as he passed through.
After a 10 mile hike we finally made it into town and ordered some great but over priced food and amazing coffee. While we were eating we were chatting about meeting up with AJ. While chatting a guy overheard us and mentioned he’d seen a hiker in town the day before. When we showed him a picture of AJ, he confirmed that AJ was ahead of us. Damn! How could we catch up with him now. Party saver tried to get him on the radio (the two of them carry radios to communicate!!!) We couldn’t get hold of him and the guy, his name is bill, offered to drive us up the pass till we meet AJ. We jumped at the opportunity and he pulled his bakkie (pick up) up the to restaurant and we hopped in.
Bill was a character! He’d also brought his chihuahua along for the ride! He kept us entertained with stories and seemed far more interested in chatting than on watching the road. Party saver and I sat gribbing seats as we whirled around the sharp corners. Eventually we started to hit snow. The first batch of snow bill revved himself through. The second batch caught his back tyre. This was when we found out we were in a 2wd bakkie. The back tyres just kept spinning, digging themselves deeper and deeper into the mud. Nothing we could do would help. Bill eventfully dug such a deep hole that the bakkie had twisted sideways and was hanging off the road. Time to call for help.
The 3 of us and this ridiculous dog started hiking up the pass to find phone reception at the top. Now I should mention bill is 70, and he’s trying to do this walk at 11 000ft with a chihuahua. This poor dog could barely keep up with us. I thought old bill would have a heart attack the higher we got. After 2.25 miles of hiking we reached the pass, got reception and managed to call for help. We then had to walk 2.25 miles back. At this stage I picked the poor runt dog up and carried him back down.
We finally made it back to the bakkie and after a few minutes help arrived. A big Chevy with a front and back winch. His friends ragged and teased him but got him back on the road. At this point AJ got through on the radio and we were able to tell him to stop walking and wait for us. Back up the pass we went. Third time lucky.
6 miles later we came across AJ. Party saver and I were so tired, we just set up our tents, cooked food and fell asleep. Or tried to. The wind howled all night and we got hardly any sleep. Consolation – only 15 miles to town!
This morning started off beautifully. It wasn’t cold, we had clear blue skies and we were feeling optimistic about doing 15 miles. First up we had a huge climb to contend with. It’s incredible how difficult the altitude makes climbing. We were reaching 12 000ft and every breath was laboured! Yesterday I’d been feeling ill altitude sickness but thankfully today it was all better and didn’t come back.
The hiking today was exhausting. Most of the trail was under snow which made for really slow going. Thankfully it’s quite easy to navigate, following ridges or contouring along the side of a mountain. When we couldn’t see the trail we at least knew which way to walk.
We had lunch around 13:30 and had only done 9 miles. Both of us were pretty tired so when we looked at the map and saw their was a lower alternate route to avoid snow and lightning we both jumped at the opportunity. It would be so nice to see a bit of trail instead of walking constantly on melting snow!
This has been a high snow year but we never expected that even the lower alternate route would still be completely covered in snow! I don’t think we gained anything expect for coming lower and now having to go back up. We also had a scary moment when we realised we had to cross a river but the river was a raging torrent! There was no way we could cross it so we had to hike up above this cliff face so we could follow the river from above, then look for a way down and see if we could find a safer crossing. It was terrifying walking through snowy forest without the slightest idea if you’ll find a better spot to cross. Eventually we managed to get back down to the river and are camped in clearing near the river. Crossing it will be tomorrow’s problem.
This morning saw us saying goodbye to AJ as he’s going to hike in the road. It’s now just Party saver and myself on the way to Wolf Creek Pass.
We were told that it’s crazy snowy and that groups were only making about 10 miles a day so we’ve packed food for 7 days to cover 69 miles. Today however we were pleasantly surprised with the conditions. There is still a lot of snow but there are also sections that are snow free and we can hike reasonably well in those sections. Today we did a 15 mile day and got into camp at 5:30! Plenty of time to do some more but decided against it because that would mean we’d have to camp at about 12 000 ft. As it is we’re camped at 11 400ft!
The scenery so far has been exceptional! The views go on forever!
We were met with afternoon hailstorms and had to seek refuge under some very small trees and wait it out. Party saver had an umbrella and I tried to squeeze under it with him. Here’s the video!
On Friday morning I awoke to the knowledge that I only had 10 miles into town. I got up really early and thought even if I do a mile an hour I’ll still get into town for lunch! Off I set and boy was it tough! The first was completely snow covered and it was so disorientating trying to navigate in the trees!I literally had to walk with my phone with the maps and GPS in my hand! Eventually I emerged from the forest with only 12% battery remaining and had about a mile and a half of a ridge walk left until the highway where o could hitch in. As I was walking along the ridge a storm started coming in and I could hear thunder. There was no way I was going back so I just had to walk faster. Thankfully I was off the ridge when the storm hit but now it was hailing and I was trying to get a ride into town. Who would pick up a soaking wet hiker in a thunder and haul storm?! The first truck (bakkie) went whizzing passed and I hung my head in dispair. About 100m down the road he slammed on brakes and came reversing up, offered me a ride if I’d sit in the back. Hell yeah! I leaned against the cab and was pretty well protected from the weather. As we got lower the sun came out and it turned into a very pleasant ride!
When I arrived in town I went to find WiFi to find everyone else and find out why the others hadn’t caught up to me. Well I found out that nuthatch has broken her leg while crossing a river about 30 miles from the highway. She had to be rescued by helicopter and was in Santa Fe awaiting surgery! Party saver was still on the trail, he wasn’t allowed to go with her and no word from AJ. I was alone in town. Cold wet and alone. It was definitely a low moment. I went and got myself some food (I found vegan burgers at the Box Car Cafe so that cheered me up. They also didn’t mind me and my wet stuff spread out everywhere!)
Eventually I got hold of AJ who was 8 miles out of town and decided he’d hike in to meet up with me. He’d only expected me in town the next day. He’d decided to just walk the road into Chama but it wasn’t very far so he’d been taking his time to arrive at the same time as we were expected.
When he arrived he told me that Party Saver was also going to try get into town tonight. He was doing a 34 mile day to get in. He got to the road around 9pm I think but couldn’t get a ride in at that time so he was asking AJ to find him a ride. Well we were eating in the pub that night and staying asking around if anyone would be willing to go up there for $20. We later realised a pub is probably not the best place to find a ride. That’s when we meet Karen. This fantastic alcoholic hells angel hippie! She managed to arrange for two separate people to go up there to fetch Party Saver, just in case one person fell through! Eventually at about 10:30 Party Saver joined us! Then there were 3! Tomorrow Nuthatch would hopefully be joining us too.
On Saturday Nuthatch managed to get a ride from the hospital to the motel we were staying at. She arranged for a ride out to some trail angels on Tuesday so we were going to hang out in Chama until she left. When she arrived, she had no pain medication so AJ and I volunteered to hitch to the nearest town with a pharmacy, Pagosa Springs, CO. I made a massive sign but as AJ and I left the motel a couple saw us and recognised us from the day before. They stopped to chat to us and when they saw our sign they offered to drive us to Pagosa. They had nothing else to do that day! We had a fantastic car ride with them, RL and Joanne and they generously drove us from place to place until we had everything we needed. We were quite grateful because Pagosa is very spread out. I managed to get new hiking poles, I broke mine moving a widow maker off the trail, and we got the medication for Nuthatch. Success!
We actually had a lot of fun hitching around Chama. The locals knew that hikers needed to get from one side of town to the other and were very willing to give us a ride if they saw us
We chilled out and relaxed at the motel until Tuesday when Nuthatch left and then decided to hitch to the trail, camp nearby and hike out in the morning. We came fully equipped with beer and food and got another ride from a friendly local who felt sorry for us standing in the sun! He went out of his way to drop us off at the pass, before turning around, we’re certain, to go enjoy happy hour at the pub.
Tomorrow AJ will be walking back to town to complete his continuous footprints before taking the road to Pagosa Springs and Party Saver and I will take the trail into the mountains and up to the divide.