Sooooo, just to summarise: we have travelled by Greyhound Bus (always an experience!) from Pagosa Springs in the South of Colorado to Dillon Lakes/Silverthorn in the middle of Colorado and started walking SOUTH on the CDT from there back towards Pagosa Springs to give the snow in the San Juan Mountains some more time to melt.
So after 3 days of following the trail SOUTH, we are now in Leadville – as the name suggests, this is an old mining town full of charm. However, just as in Silver City (New Mexico) we are sharing the town with hordes of bikers! This time we are witnessing a stage of an “Across the Rockies” road bike event. Staying in a lovely lush hostel with lots and lots of bikers!
The last three days have been easy in terms of trail finding as we are now on the same route as the “Colorado Trail” which is very VERY well marked and made. Still some snow as soon as we get above approx 10,500 feet and in the forests (of which there has been quite a lot – lodgepole pine). It’s been warmer, which means that instead of slipping around on top of the old snow, we post-hole into it – sometimes up to our hips which is very amusing to the onlooker. But the longest we’ve been thus entertained has been one morning (South of Copper Mountain) so it’s been ok.
But a lower elevation we are walking through lush green aspen and fresh flowers. Still very cold and night and ice on the tent most mornings. Because of that, our routine has changes quite a bit and we no longer get up early (it is just too cold) but tend to wait till the sun hits the tent at about 7:00. Instead we hike later – it is light till 20:45 (which, given that we are approaching the longest day of the year is still a pretty short day if one is – as we are – used to long Scottish summer days with hardly any darkness!).
Met fellow CDT hikers Ellie and Mike who have been going North , bypassing the San Juan’s. Very nice talking to nutters like ourselves. Happy trails to them!
Heading off tomorrow towards Salida, our next stop. Weather still unsettled and we’ve had some form of rain every day since leaving Silverthorn.
The last 65 miles of the trail took us into spectacular high mountain scenery at between 12000 and 12600 feet. Finally we are in what us Europeans would understand to be the Rocky Mountains (though technically the next stretch is called the San Juans)!
The downside is that this high up, spring is only just thinking about springing and there is still a lot of old snow (which we gingerly tip-toed along for many miles) and fallen trees (which we sprackled and clambered over as best we could). These impediments meant that we only progressed about 15 miles per day (as supposed to our “normal” 20 mile days) and that it was rather hard going. After 4 days of struggling among spectacular scenery (well, except maybe the last day which was really all about fallen trees and gratuitous slippy snow slopes amongst the spruce forrests), we made it to Wolf Creek Pass and got a lift (from an RV!!) into Pagosa Springs in the evening.
We are now in Colorado which means that for dinner that night we had vegetarian choices other than bean burrito or vegetable tostada (hurra!) AND we could have a wine and a beer respectively with our greek salad and houmous platter (licensed restaurants are rather few and far between in rural New Mexico!). The hotel had a jacuzzi and the town has a wonderfull natural hot spring spa pool with over 20 small basins to sit in, right next to the roaring San Juan river!
Yesterday, our first rest day, it rained all nighte and rained and rained untill 14:00. All of this would have fallen as snow on the hills where the trail is!
The next section of the trail is higher, longer and reputedly tougher. Because of the snows, we have therefore come up with a plan to “flip-flop” about 300 trail miles ahead to a place called Silverthorn and walk South from there, back to Pagosa Springs. This will hopefully allow spring to progress on the hills and will mean less old snow when we finally get to the San Juan mountains! That plan needs fleshed out, but we know that dear old Greyhound can take us from Durango (next town over) to our destination. Will report back when we get somewhere! For now the hot springs beckon again!
Ghost Ranch and its beautiful sandstone cliffs was our last look at the desert. Since then, we have been in cool green aspen, pine and spruce forest and rolling alpine meadows. Depending on altitude, spring is only just beginning to think about springing ! Some meadows are already busy with blue iris, yellow lilies, purple lupins, red columbines and indigo delphiniums – as well as the less exotic (to the European eye) dandelion. A few hundred feet higher, the snow has only just gone and the flowers are not out yet. The omnipresent lizards have been replaced by stripy chipmunks. Still lots of humming birds around though and lots of ravens (caw caw!)
It has been easy walking (with tricky navigations since there are many old and new trails up here). We are told that the weather we are having is unusal for this time of year: it has been thundering (sometimes for hours) and raining out of static clouds (no winds!) every day for a couple of weeks now. Above 10 000 feet (3300 m), the nights have been very cold indeed with lots of condensation and frost on the tent (inner!).
Two days ago in the afternoon, we crossed the state border into Colorado (with fellow hikers Ted and Richard, who joined up with us again in Ghost Rhanch). We made a celebratory fire at our campsite that night and Ted burnt his last New Mexico maps. We’ve come 650 miles (1080 km) since the border!
Chama, where we are now, is in New Mexico again – we had to hitch-hike from a pass on the road in Colorado back into New Mexico! Chama’s main attraction is a narrow gauge steam train and we are in a charming 1930’s hotel next to the “station” and can hear the train hooting! Lots of knick-knack shops, nice cafees and very friendly people!
The next section is appartently quite snowy. A few other hikers have already opted to walk on the road to the next resupply town rather than flogg trough the snows. Mary-Joy, our supporting trail-witch in Montrose,CO (I’m sure she’d rather be called that, than being called a “trail-angel”) has sent us ice axes and bigger boots as well as some extra clothes. So we are now in a position to go and have a look at how much snow there is. It’s only 65 miles to the next resupply town – there will be hot springs there! Great incentive to plod on!
Brian is away to try and find somewhere in Chama where he can download photos from the last section.
We are in sunny Durango , CO and aim to start walking late on the 23rd April Thursday. We have had a great and interesting time so far- hot pools in Glenwood Springs CO, deep snow in Montrose CO, meeting the Martin family, a red rock canyon walk near Grand Junction CO with Mary Joy (with big horn sheep and lambs), a day in Mesa Verde Nat Park CO (fantastic Anasazi cliff dwellings in high canyon country). Brian lost half a tooth in Mesa Verde and has had some emergency dental treatment from a friendly practise here in Durango. Looking forward to starting our walk!