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[CDT-L] Colorado - 1997 (part 4)

August 7 - Meadow near Pole Creek - 14.9 miles - total 81.3 

Ginny: The fog was still there when we awoke, though the sun tried to
burn through from time to time.  We cooked breakfast at the door of our
tent, still wrapped in our sleeping bags, then made the long slow climb
back up to the trail.  As we came over a rise, the clouds cleared and we
had a fantastic view of the valley below, with Lake San Cristobal,
Sunshine, Red Cloud, Red Mountain, Handies Peak and many others.  That
view came with us up the climb, just getting better and better the
higher we rose.  Clouds still filled the valley to one side, but on the
other side was mostly sunshine.  There was a lot of climbing for a while
along the Divide, over promontories, down to saddles, then back up
again.  We detoured around one snowfield and ended up slipping and
sliding in mud and loose rock instead.  Coming down the final knob we
entered a different world.  All of a sudden there were jeeps, ATVs, and
dirt bikes everywhere.  This was Carson, a deserted old mining town,
with mostly just a few wooden walls and scars from the mines remaining. 
Only one building still had four walls, sort of, and no roof.  But it is
very accessible if you have four wheel drive.  Four wheeling is very
popular around here, it seems.  We also ran into a trail crew working on
the Colorado Trail.  There were about 20 people out for a week, digging
side hill and putting in culverts.  We ate lunch there with them, then
followed the dirt roads out of town.  We met 3 Colorado Trail thruhikers
at a road junction.  We had been following their footsteps our first few
days, but they got off in Creede for a day or two.  They stopped soon
after we met them to camp somewhere on Lost Trail Creek as they had done
a 20 mile day already (it was 2:30 or so then.)  We saw three more
backpackers wandering in the willows below us (trying to follow the
stock driveway or Jim Wolf's route?) And then three more who caught up
to us at the pass between Lost Trail and Pole Creeks.  They stopped to
camp there, so we never saw them again either.  Lots of people.  We also
spoke with a forester, Roberto Garcia, who was very interesting.  He and
Jim discussed the possibility of seeing grizzly bears (remote - but not
impossible).  We climbed gently for four miles along one creek (Lost
Trail) then descended gently for four more along another (Pole Creek). 
Total for the day was about 15 miles.  We're exhausted.  We had mostly
sunshine, though it clouded up and sprinkled from time to time.  It
stayed cool all day though - I never did put on a short sleeved shirt, I
just wore my long underwear all day.  We finally collapsed shortly after
the CDT separated from the Colorado Trail.  Up to now they have
coincided and maintenance and marking have been primarily done by the
Colorado Trail people.  The turn was not marked at all.  If the
directions in the guide book hadn't been good, we might have wandered
quite a while before realizing that the sharp turn to the right we
passed was not just a stray horse track, but the CDT.  There were two
important unmarked junctions there.  It's not the Shenandoahs, that's
for sure.  The first half mile or so across a meadow and up a hill
weren't marked at all either.  Again - the guidebook saved us. I hope
this isn't an indication of things to come.  We had three wet foot
stream crossings this afternoon - one was knee deep.  I'm glad we
brought Tevas.  We're camped in some trees below the meadow at the top
of the hill.  Lots of evidence that cows use this place as a campsite
too. Coyotes are yipping up the hill.  I'm cold and tired - so

Jim: When we got to Carson Pass, some of the trail crew were friendly -
and some of them lost interest as soon as they found out we were hiking
the CDT rather than the Colorado Trail.  We ran into this attitude
several times and it was very noticeable.  One of the crew was an AT
thruhiker - Grey Owl, '91.  He'd also hiked the Colorado Trail in '92
and very obviously had been thinking about the PCT.  Another one was
sectioning the Colorado part of the CDT.  The 3 CT thruhikers that we
met a little later didn't show a lot of interest in the CDT either.  I
owe the forest service person some pictures - he's the only person I ran
into in Colorado who has any belief in the possibility of grizzlies in
the San Juans.  Everyone else thinks the last grizzly was killed a long
time ago.  The last couple miles today was pretty tough - it was all
down hill after Lost Trail Creek Pass, but the trail was torn up by
horses on the northern (Lost Trail Creek) side of the pass and by dirt
bikes on the Pole Creek side.  Our campsite was at 11300 ft. and wasn't
particularly comfortable - too many humps, lumps and cow patties.  We
even moved the tent to get away from some of the lumps - to no avail -
we simply found a new set of lumps.  

**Sunscreen - Doesn't matter how well you tan - take it and use it. 
Take a look at some mountaineering books - look at the pictures - those
people aren't sporting zinc oxide on their lips, ears and noses just to
be fashionable.  The sun is a whole lot more intense when the altitude
is over 12000 ft.  Ginny and I both got sunburned.  And sunburned lips
are no fun at all.  

August 8 - Campsite near Beartown Road - @ 18.0 miles - total 99.3

Ginny: We are having lunch by the ruins of an old cabin and mine at
Stony Pass - another jeep road across the mountains. The sun is shining
but the wind blows cold.  We have beautiful views of rocky Canby
Mountain and a slew of snowy mountains to the southeast.  The morning
was interesting.  We woke to a thick coating of frost on everything.  We
dallied, waiting for the sun to warm and dry things up, but the bench we
were on was protected too well.  We should have been out on the meadow,
after all.  We left about 8:45, and wound our way on good pack trail up
the west fork of Pole Creek.  At the head was a huge herd of elk (about
60).  We saw them before they saw us, but when they did, they panicked,
running back and forth across a snowfield.  Finally the herd split, with
half going uphill and half downhill.  At the pass, we had a choice of
following the official route down the other side, then back 600 feet up
to the ridge again, with pretty iffy trail, or just following along the
Divide as Jim Wolf recommends.  It turned out that the Divide route was
very easy. We followed a good game trail, most recently used by a herd
of sheep.  We had some climbing, but not too much.  It was one of the
easiest shortcuts I've been on. A word about the trail: posts are far
apart and none say CDT, even at junctions.  A lot of the trail has been
very very wet and muddy and sometimes very eroded.  Six inches wide and
twelve inches deep.  On the other hand, this first half has been easier
to follow than I expected.  The "Official" guide book keeps talking
about faint trail and no trail and bushwhacking, yet usually there has
been pretty good treadway, or cairns or posts on alpine terrain with no
obvious tread.

	Later, same day: After having said that, we managed to lose the trail. 
It made this into a very long day.  Both guidebooks are very vague and
we couldn't place ourselves in the description, so we made matters worse
by going the wrong way down a stream, realized we had descended too far,
turned around and found the trail not 100 yards from where we originally
lost it. Even when we found it, we couldn't be sure we were on the right
trail as there are several stock and game trails in the area.  That was
the trouble with the guidebook description, it said, "Ignore the posts
and cairns, ignore the treadway, ignore the obvious route, look for
eroded patches and obscure trails."  Right.  We heard a herd of
frightened sheep in the rocks being threatened by some coyotes. We
couldn't see them, and couldn't see or hear any sign of a shepherd.  
It took about an hour or more to get found again.  Aside from a few
brief sprinkles, the day stayed sunny but cool.  We walked along the
Divide for 3.5 miles with incredible views in all directions. We saw a
herd of something in a meadow across the way - could have been deer or
elk or sheep. And there was one lone deer as we descended to Bear Creek
below Humpback Pass.  We thought about camping at one of the many ponds
up on the Divide, but with the clouds, we worried about thunderstorms. 
Plus the swampy ground makes it harder to find good campsites.  There is
a lot of that with the snow still melting.  We crossed several snow
patches.  There are lots and lots and lots of flowers: waist high
larkspur, pink and yellow paintbrush, marsh marigolds, columbine,
harebells, etc.  I like the tiny alpine flowers too.  There are some
pretty pink and white ones. I hurt all over from too many miles.  We may
have saved a few miles this morning, but we lost them when we were
wandering around looking for the trail.  It was a pretty area though. 
Our campsite is near a major trailhead, with a jeep road up to Kite
Lake, and several trails in the area.   We are pretty close to the road,
but no one is passing by tonight. There are cars parked above us
though.  This is the last pass with road access until we reach Wolf
Creek Pass - I won't miss the jeeps and ATVs a bit.  There have been
more of those than I expected.  They're not obnoxious, but they're
there.  I was expecting more of a solitary wilderness experience. 
Though not as crowded as the AT, there are more people out here than I

Jim:   Stony Pass was a circus - a constant stream of tourists in their
rented 4-wheel drives.  I'm glad we didn't stay too long.  Actually,
there were some hikers up there too, but we didn't see them - I think we
missed them while we were "lost".  OK, so we got lost - we both had a
brain cramp at the same time and took a left turn instead of a right
turn.  It wouldn't have happened if we'd paid attention to the map - and
the guidebook.  But we weren't paying attention so we paid the price - a
couple extra non-productive and unwanted miles. On the other hand, it
kept us off the ridge long enough for the thunderstorm to pass through
before we went back up to the highest point in sight.  We also got to
listen to the coyotes killing the stray sheep - another lesson in life
and death.  Ginny wanted all the blame for this one - but she can't have
it.  I was as much responsible for that wrong turn as she was - and
maybe more so.  After all - it's always the male's fault, isn't it?? 
That's one of the Rules.  Again the last couple miles were downhill -
steep downhill.  But we were pushing hard to get off the ridgeline, so
we got in at dusk - cold, wet and tired.  And the water source when we
got there was a pond - a green pond. But it didn't matter - after 18+
miles nothing mattered except food and sleep.
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