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[CDT-L] Colorado - 1997 (part 3)

August 5 - Lake City - Bed and Breakfast - 8.4 miles - Total 53.3 miles

Ginny: A short day into Lake City.  Last night it began to rain just as
we finished dinner.  It turned into a real thunder boomer.  One hit the
ridge about 100 yards away.  Scared me!  It didn't last long - but was
intense while it lasted.  The fact that we were so close to the ridge
and above treeline didn't help.  We woke up to dense fog/cloud and
decided to move on rather than cook breakfast in the cold and damp.  I
have no idea what the terrain was like at first.  We climbed from our
campsite at 12,500' up an open grassy ridge to about 13,100'.  It wasn't
easy finding the posts in the fog.  We were even more worried about
losing each other.  Ten yards was out of sight, so we hiked close
together. We climbed for a couple of miles, then went around a glacial
cirque, then out on to the open mesa. The fog lifted and we could see
miles and miles of rolling grasslands.  We noticed a herd of elk off in
the distance, but they ran off at the sound of my voice.  We finally had
breakfast - a few cookies - at about 9:30 as we sat near a big pond and
tried to figure out where the trail goes.  It was rather obscure through
there. In the really high alpine environment, the trail disappears. 
When the posts are sparse, it can get difficult, even with good
directions in the guidebook.  (And the guidebook told us to take a
bearing of 290 degrees  - which would have led us off in the wrong
direction and up a steep hill besides) We followed the posts instead,
and just hoped that the stock driveway and the trail were still the same
through there.  The old stock driveway has posts marking the sides as
well as the middle of a wide corridor - sometimes it coincides with the
CDT, sometimes not.)  The sun came out for a few minutes at about 11:00,
just before we dropped off the edge of the mesa.  Actually, we descended
a barren rocky draw for a short way, then finished the descent through a
lovely spruce forest.  We reached the highway at Spring Creek Pass and
immediately got a ride with a very nice family from Texas.  Bernie Adair
had been an engineer with Hewlett Packard, out with his daughter,
son-in-law and two granddaughters.  We decided to stay the night at a
nice B&B, the Cinnamon Inn, so the afternoon was spent eating lunch,
going to the post office, doing laundry, emptying our packs and
reorganizing things, shipping back 12 lbs. of stuff (we aren't eating as
much as expected.  We carried too much food for the first part of the
trip. I hate forcing myself to eat just to lighten my load - and Jim
won't eat if he's not hungry.)  The owner of the B&B will drive us up
the mountain in the morning, so we should be able to get a decent start
in the morning.  We're both exhausted.  I want a shower and bed, then
maybe dinner later - if we get hungry again.  Right now it doesn't
interest me much, but we'll see how I feel after the shower.  (Turned
out the shower attachment didn't work, so I reluctantly took a long
soaking bath. I was so dirty, I hated to sit in a tub in my own dirt. 
Instead I took two baths - one to get the top layer off and another to
feel clean.)   Lake City is a nice small town - touristy but not too
bad.  The setting helps - nestled in the mountains the way it is. We had
a few small rain showers as we wandered around but nothing heavy. 
Mostly it was just cloudy.   

Jim: I re-learned a lesson today - don't trust someone else's
directions.  The "Official" guidebook directions would have put us
someplace in Never-Never Land.  If we'd blindly followed the guidebook,
we'd still be out there on Snow Mesa trying to find the trail.  Gotta
know how to read a map - and use some common sense.  There was a
tremendous contrast in coming off the Mesa after 2 days above treeline
and descending into the trees again.  Grey skies have become the norm -
and a wet tent has become my constant companion - sunshine is the
exception.  We skipped breakfast, grabbed some cookies during a water
break, and got to the road by noon - just in time to stick out my thumb
and get a ride all the way into Lake City.  Then we got to do the
walking tour of Lake City for the rest of the day - lunch, post office,
laundry, back to the post office, grocery, dinner, outfitters (for
fuel), etc.  We got in bed late - and, as usual, didn't sleep well.  We
never sleep well in town - why do we bother?  

 August 6 - Headwaters of Ruby Creek - 13.1 miles - Total 66.4 miles

Ginny: We ended up last night with a bad Mexican dinner, late to bed and
unable to sleep.  Too soon, morning broke - bright and beautiful.  We
enjoyed a good breakfast with Kathy and Larry (our hosts), two couples
from Texas (most of the tourists in Colorado are either Texans or
French), Kathy's son Tolan and his friend, just back from 5 weeks in
Ecuador.  Larry played the piano while we ate breakfast, including a
lovely "San Juan Suite" that he composed.  He then drove us back up to
the trail (about 20 miles) and we started hiking at 10:00.  It is a
lovely drive, with incredible views at the pullouts.  We stopped at a
couple of viewpoints both coming and going to Spring Creek Pass. 
Beautiful mountains all around.  The weather was beautiful - cool and
sunny with clouds building up and passing by.  

We climbed out of Spring Creek Pass and could look back to see Snow
Mesa's rim (where we hiked yesterday), and ahead to today's hike along
the Divide, and clear to the Rio Grande Pyramid to the south which we'll
hike past next week.  There was an interesting formation called Bristol
Head - which does remind of pictures of England's coast.  There were
snowy mountains in all directions.  Uncompahgre is very dramatic, and
Red Cloud and Red Mountain distinctive in their coloring.   Sunshine is
another fourteener, and pretty distinctive too.  The snow doesn't cover
the mountains, it streaks them.  Up close they are just scattered
patches of snow, but from afar, they look pretty dramatic. We spent the
first 9 miles today on the Jarosa Mesa, following a jeep road over
rolling green hills.  After the first mile or two there were few trees
except for a lovely grove near Buck Creek at mile 10.  It would have
been a good place to camp, but we needed to make more miles, so on we
went.  As lovely as the morning and noontime was, the afternoon
deteriorated.  It began to rain at about 2:00, just as we passed a herd
of sheep.  Their shepherd was in a small mobile hut up the hill.  He
came out and waved at us as we passed by.  At first it just spit at us,
then it became a steady rain, then the clouds moved in and we were
totally socked in.  Water is pretty scarce along this section, so we had
to bushwhack to a creek that was off the trail.  We turned off the trail
too soon, so climbed back up and crossed a knife edge with sheer drops
on both sides, then eventually found the right valley. It seems to be
quite dramatic under snowy cliffs, from the occasional glimpses we get
through the clouds.  We had to drop a couple of hundred feet in
elevation to find a flat spot.  By that time, we were soaked and
freezing, so we threw up the tent and crawled in.  It took us a long
time to warm up.  Two hours later, we're still socked in, so we're
having lunch for dinner instead of trying to cook (gorp, granola bars
and cookies).  With luck, morning will be better.  My ankle is killing
me.  I have some sort of bruise on the bone, and the boot rubs against
it.  Otherwise we're okay.  We hiked about 13 miles, despite our late
start.  No wildlife except birds, though Jim saw a deer in the trees. 
We met a forestry person looking for a hidden spring.  He kept passing
us on the dirt road, stopping the truck and wandering off into the
brush, and returning to the road to try again.  He never found the
spring.  We met five people on horseback.  They really tore up the
trail.  It is so muddy, they were slipping and sliding and sinking 6-8"
deep.  The ATV that ignored the "Trail closed to motorized Vehicles"
sign just after we left the jeep road, did even more damage.  That was
recent, today or yesterday.  The only hikers we saw were some guys
camped at the trailhead at Spring Creek Pass.

	I feel pretty good.  The weather is a pain, but endurable especially
since the sunny hours are so glorious.  My ankle is a serious concern. 
I don't want to stop hiking, but by the end of the day my left ankle was
in agony.  I can't hike like that.  Especially since, by trying to
compensate for the problem and hike with my foot in certain positions
that prevent the rubbing, I could screw up the rest of my body.  We may
end up drastically shortening the hike, which I would hate. [NB: I found
a way to wrap my ankle with an ace bandage above the bone so that the
boot stopped rubbing against the bruise.  It didn't get rid of the
problem entirely, but it sure helped.]

	Jim just keeps on smiling.  He bears his own aches and pains better
than I do, agrees to cookies for dinner with a grin, and is a great
companion all around.  A better partner can't be found.  When we lay in
our sleeping bags shivering and trying to warm up, I was looking for
distractions, so I thought, "Okay, I'll sing to myself".  The only song
I could come up with was, "On a clear day, you can see forever . . ." 
Given the dense fog outside, we both had to laugh.  

Jim: The morning was just great - it was clear and we could see
mountains all around us - including the Rio Grande Pyramid.  We probably
should have camped at Big Buck Creek - it started raining on us a couple
miles earlier - but we got into the thruhiker "gotta make miles" mode
and kept going.  Unfortunately, the trail headed up above treeline and
there wasn't much in the way of camping up there.  By the time we got to
Ruby Creek, we were a little too close to hypothermia for comfort.  We
had to drop 300 ft. off the ridge to find a place to camp - and we were
still at 12500.  It took us a couple hours to warm up - and that's not
happiness.  The tent was only a little wet after we spent yesterday
afternoon trying to dry it out, but it'll be wet again in the morning -
the fog rolled in as soon as the rain stopped. The sleeping bags are
also coming apart at the seams - and they're not very effective.  I
guess I shouldn't be surprised - they're the same bags that made the AT
thruhike in 92 and they've been in constant use since then.  

**Water II - there are no "good" water sources here.  Almost all the
streams are born in snowpack - and I have yet to see snowpack here that
isn't RED.  Don't eat RED snow.  In addition, even the local literature
makes no pretense that the local water sources might not be contaminated
by at least Giardia if not other, nastier livestock.  And given the
proliferation of cattle and sheep, only a fool would depend on bleach or
iodine.    A good water filter is a necessity.

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