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[cdt-l] Travailles of the northbounder

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>Does anyone have the low-down on bug conditions in the New Mexico high
country during spring?  if you dig, tell us northbounding wanna-be's more
about post-holing
>in the southern San Juans. What time of year was this? Did conditions
>improve as you retreated from the Divide, or did the snow just get warmer?
>What about snow shoes for the truly stubborn?


On my trek along the Everett Ruess Trail (1700 miles, May-Sept '01) I followed
the CDT from Old Horse Springs, NM (south of Pie Town) north to a point just
south of Independence Pass.  As far as I could tell by trail registers (and
more revealingly, footprints) I was the first person to cross the San Juans
that summer.  I left Chama on June 15th, the same day that it snowed more than
2 inches in San Juan towns like Silverton and Lake City.  At times the
post-holing was very frustrating.  But those times were just small snippets in
a long string of astoundingly beautiful, serene and lonely hiking.  Along the
divide the hiking was actually the easiest.  Because the ridgetops were
soaking in sun all day the snow there was either non-existent or windblown and
hard-easy to walk on.  The most difficult sections were lower down, where you
would get into north facing gullies or steep pine forests.  In these areas the
snow was often sugary and unconsolidated leaving you cursing and sweating, up
to your waste in pine needles and dirty snow.

Actually Now that I'm thinking about it, at times the snow really facilitated
my hiking.  After Blue Lake in the San Juans there are some huge accents and
decents into and out of numerous drainages.  (I'd be more detailed about where
but my notes/maps are at home, and I, unfortunatly, am at work.)  I had my dog
with me and on the decents rather that switchbacking for 1500 vertical (which
you would have to do later in the summer) we would just glissade effortlessly
to the canyon floor.  This happened countless times.  At only one time did I
find the snow to be a dangerous or scary impediment to my route (the knife
edge! Wow, that WAS hairball.  More about that at www.trailjournals.com/ert[1])
All in all the plusses of an early entrance into the San Juans, for me, were
much greater than the negatives.  Who can argue with 125 miles of Weminuche
Wilderness virtually all to yourself.  It was the highlite of my trip.

PS Mosquitoes were a no show in New Mexico.  In fact, I slept in an open-air
Moss Heptawing tarp for over 100 days of trail and was never bothered by
mosquitos for more than a hour or two at sundown (the Highline trail north of
TinCup/Monarch Pass was one place I remember to be somewhat bad).  In New
Mexico in the desert south of Cuba there were some mean little gnats
(no-see-ums) that were annoying.  They had a strange attraction to the ankle

Hope that helps a bit


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  1. http://www.trailjournals.com/ert
  2. http://g.msn.com/8HMPENUS/2728