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[CDT-L] Colorado 1997 (part 2)

August 2 - campsite on Cochetopa Creek - 13.4 miles, total 22.8 miles

Ginny: Lunch break near a stock pond along Van Tassell Gulch - tired but
happy.  Jim's feet are badly blistered.  We're not hungry but need to
get rid of the excess food I overpacked.  The two campers last night
were two women out doing the whole Colorado Trail.  They are taking
their time and have met a lot of other CT hikers, including several
former AT hikers.  They have had a lot of rain this past week and were
happy to be doing a short day to meet friends today.

The hike has been beautiful along the edge of Cochetopa Park - miles and
miles of open meadows covered with grass, rabbit bush, wildflowers and
cows.  Cochetopa Dome to the north and Sawtooth to the west dominate,
although there were occasional glimpses of snowy peaks farther south and
north.  To the south are rolling hills covered with aspen, firs and
spruce.  We had a close encounter with an unhappy herd of cows at
Monchego Creek. We must have scared them - they bawled for ten minutes
after we passed them.  We saw one deer and one chipmunk, no other
wildlife except occasional birds and lots of flies and mosquitos.  The
clouds moved in by 11:00, but no rain so far (12:15).  We'll get water
here and keep on climbing.  Today has been mostly little ups and downs
(200' up and 200' down), but still we puff and pant.  So far today has
all been on old roads - occasionally used evidently.  We ran into two
jeeps on the trail today.  One was driven by an older couple who were
sectioning the Colorado Trail.  They rapidly lost interest in us when
they found out we were hiking the CDT rather than the Colorado Trail. =20

Later: campsite on a bench above Cochetopa Creek.  Very dark clouds and
occasional sprinkles.  We moved our gear into the tent, but not
ourselves yet.  The hike along Cochetopa Creek was lovely.  There were
lots of beaver dams and lodges.  We saw a couple of fishermen too.  We
stopped for a long overdue water break and saw a moose in the willows
below us.  We stared at each other for quite a while before Jim and I
moved on and let him get back to feeding.  We stopped a little earlier
than we had planned, but Jim and I were both tired and ready for a cold
bath.  It was wonderful.  So far the trail has been good and easy to
follow.  There are few trail markers - about one per mile - but the
guidebook description is good enough to follow.  The occasional markers
are mostly reassurance, especially when the map and the trail do not
agree.  We ran into one section yesterday where the maps lied outright.=20
It was obvious where the trail went (we were following a dirt road at
the time.)  Jim Wolf's description called for a bushwhack and he merely
mentioned that we should ignore the new logging roads through the
section.  The new guidebook told us to follow the road, so we did as it
was easier than trying to bushwhack through new growth, and fortunately
it worked.

Jim: Alarm at 0500 again, but we didn't get up until 0645.  Just can't
seem to get in sync with my electronic rooster so I may have to reset
it.  Breakfast, pump water, pack and out at 0815.  Finally met the
neighbors - Nancy and Twigg (?). They are thruhiking the Colorado Trail
- slowly - about 7 mile per day average - they're in no hurry.  We
crossed Cochetopa Park - more up and down than yesterday and lots of
road walking (all dirt roads).  Lunch at Van Tassel Gulch (and contrary
to the latest, up-to-date "Official" guidebook - it's NOT dry).  A long
climb over the ridge then down into Cochetopa Creek where we saw lots of
beaver dams and a moose.  I expected elk, but the moose came as a
surprise.  Camped at 10100 ft. on a bench above the creek.  Total 13.3
miles for the day.  It started raining right after we finished dinner so
we were in the tent early again.  Hung the food again - we're still
below treeline.  This was my day for problems - no energy, hard to
breathe, headache, slow.  I may have to start on the Diamox tomorrow.  I
hope not, but we climb to 12000+ ft. tomorrow. =20

**Blazing is different here - only at turns or junctions or across long
stretches of meadow are there posts or cairns.  And that's the Colorado
Trail markings.  We've only seen a couple CDT markers. There are miles
long stretches with no indication whatever as to which trail we are on.
Good map and compass skills are an absolute necessity. =20

**Water - because something's labelled a creek, draw, gulch, whatever
doesn't mean there's water there.  There are long stretches without
water so we pump as much as we can every chance we get.  We're each
carrying 2 quarts.  Because of the altitude we try to drink every chance
we get.  Every time we stop for breath, which is often, we get out the
water bottles.

August 3 - campsite on Cochetopa Creek - 10.5 miles - total 33.2 miles

Ginny: It ended up raining on us after all just as we were finishing up
dinner.  We took the pudding into the tent and waited for it to stop.=20
When it did, we bearbagged the food and went to bed about 8:00.  It
rained for several hours more, gently but persistently.  When we awoke
it was cloudy, but dry, fortunately.  Still we ended up doing a short
day.  It began to rain while we were having lunch.  There was thunder
but not too close. Still, the idea of climbing above treeline didn't
appeal, especially when we found a pretty little campsite in a spruce
grove, nearly dry because it was protected by the trees.  We're next to
a lovely meadow, and look out on an interesting craggy rock with some
nearby basalt columns (like Devil's Postpile) and what may be a grizzly
cave in a snowfield across the way.  There were lots of flowers today:
two kinds of gentians, monkshood, elephant head, etc.  The sun came out
while we were setting up camp so we spread all our stuff out to dry.=20
The tent was almost dry in just a few minutes.  I feel a little wimpy
for stopping early, but the site was a good one and we still have a good
climb up to the Divide.  Besides, it's better to camp low - well 11,500
isn't exactly low, but it's not as high as we were planning to go.=20
Except for our breathing and slowness the altitude isn't hurting us too
badly.  No appetite though, which means we'll end up with way too much
food.  No animals today, though we passed dozens of beaver dams and
lodges.  We saw moose and deer tracks all over.  Lots of people.  There
was a family on horseback that carried a little black and white dog in
one of the saddle bags.  Another group was out fishing and camping, and
we passed a group of tents in the rain.  This may be a wilderness, but
it isn't a solitary one.  We passed a trailhead on a jeep road that had
six or seven cars.  All day we have followed the trail above Cochetopa
Creek.  It's a long one.  We forded it once, but mostly stayed well back
from it.  All the creeks are lined with dense willow, making access
difficult.   It's a beautiful peaceful day.

Jim: Up at 0700, on the trail at 0830.  We seem to be particularly slow
about getting out in the morning.  It rained again last night so I'm
carrying a wet tent again.  Lots of beaver dams in the 4 miles to the
Eddiesville trailhead.  Watched a couple of beaver working in one of the
ponds and took some pictures, but I don't expect much of them - they
were too far away.  Continued along the Cochetopa - met and passed a
group that was headed upstream to do some fishing.  Then we stopped for
lunch on top of  "their" campsite at the entrance to Diablo Canyon.=20
They were some put out about it until they found out that we weren't
staying.  Then the horse group showed up - not friendly at all.  We
intended to go to the headwaters of the Cochetopa, right up under San
Luis Pass,  but we got waylaid by this beautiful campsite and some
sunshine to dry out our gear - and what I still believe was a grizzly
den in the snowpack about 500 ft. up the other side of the creek.  I
could feel the power even from where we were camped.   We definitely
hung the food tonight.  Ginny took a couple pictures of Organ Mt before
the clouds finally closed in and it started to rain again.  10.5 miles
for the day, campsite at 11500 ft. =20

August 4 - campsite near Mineral Creek Trail junction - 11.8 miles -
Total 45.1

Ginny: Lunch at San Luis Pass.  It rained, gently, all night from 6 PM
to about 7:30 am.  We got up just as it stopped, but had clouds and
occasional drips all morning.  Still it was a good morning.  Despite
mist and fog, the views are spectacular.  We've gone over three saddles,
each with a different view. Kick ass climbs though.  We're slow.   We
face another 900' climb this afternoon and are in no hurry to move,
despite the rain.  Beautiful flowers are everywhere.  We saw our first
Columbine at 12,000', yellow and pink paintbrush, tiny alpine flowers,
larkspur, monkshood, elephant heads, white, purple and yellow daisies,
asters, sunflowers, clover, etc.

	Later:  Rain forced us off and chased us 800' up a saddle.  A few
sprinkles, nothing serious.  Several more saddles led us from one
glacial cirque to the next.  Beautiful but exhausting.  We finally
called it a day at 12 miles on a lovely ledge overlooking West Mineral
Creek Basin.  There's water from a snowfield just above us and lots of
deer and elk tracks across the meadow.  Big bad black clouds are moving
in again.  But all day we=EDve alternated sunshine and showers.  It never
got too bad. I would have liked more sunshine, especially for the
views.  We couldn't see very far with the moisture in the air.  We saw
what looked like a herd of deer across the way this morning, and a grey
grouse and a beautiful brown and white moth, some marmots, a pica, and
lots of ground squirrels.  We met two groups going the other way and saw
a couple of four-wheelers at San Luis Pass and a helicopter that buzzed
our campsite last night.  Not quite a solitary experience, but
wilderness enough.  We had no trouble following the trail, though the
tracks fade out on the really alpine terrain.  There are posts across
the open areas and clear tread through the trees.  We reluctantly passed
up a lovely campsite three miles back near a beaver pond.  It was in the
spruce, under some awesome cliffs, but too early in the day. There was
so much beauty.  At one point I was so filled with joy and gratitude and
awe that I started to cry.  Jim hugged me and shared the feelings -
though not the tears.  It is so magnificent!

Jim: A long day - 11.8 miles - and I'm slower than I think I should be.=20
The grades aren't that bad - if this were 6000 ft. lower we would
probably cruise. But it's not - and we're not.  It was cloudy most of
the day, with occasional thunderstorms.  Hadn't planned on this - I
expected the late afternoon thunderstorms, but the 24 hour rains have
come as a surprise.  I think they've also surprised some native
Coloradans.  The terrain changed drastically at San Luis Pass.  In the
Cochetopa the terrain was somewhat relatable to some of the Eastern
trails.  But at San Luis Pass we entered the high country very suddenly
and nothing in my previous experience compares to this - not even the
Whites.  It's beautiful, it's wonderful, it's awesome and it's a little
scary.  Finally camped just under the Divide in a small cirque at 12500
ft. It has a small stream that's fed by the snowpack.  It also came with
a built-in thunderstorm that dropped a lightning strike on the ridge
about 100 yards from the tent.  That'll start your heart - or stop it!!
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To:            James Lofton <n5yyx@etsc.net>
Cc:            cdt-l@server2.iqsc.com