Day 38 6/6/17 11 miles
Another great day on trail. Queen B and I ate a rather substantial breakfast in town and did a few last minute errands before what could potentially be a 6 day stretch in the mountains. We got back on trail at Wolf Creek Pass and it’s only something like 85 miles to Silverton, but super difficult, snowy, mountainous miles. In the last section I didn’t anticipate it being such a slow pace through the mountains and didn’t have enough food so I brought enough for 6 days through this stretch. I think I’ll be alright, but my pack is wicked heavy. We hitched back up from Pagosa to the Pass and got a ride from Yianna, a former Olympic kayaker. Once we got back on trail we seemed to be right in the middle of the herd. We met like 8 or 9 other hikers today which is so rare for the CDT but pretty great because we haven’t seen many people this whole trail. The terrain was nice today, snow covered scenic mountains all day, or half a day since that’s pretty much all we did. We’re camping in this killer spot up over 12,000 feet looking over a whole range of mountains with 6 others tonight; Spirit, Bones, Lunchbox, Dos Egg Rolls, Prophet and Pei Mei who I first met on the PCT in ’15. I also hiked with Garbelly and Critter earlier today, I met Garbelly in Northern California on the PCT in ’15. I only talked to him briefly then because he was in the middle of back to back 45’s or something crazy like that. It’s cool to run into somebody in the middle of nowhere that I already know because I met them somewhere else in the middle of nowhere. Happens to me all the time. This is by far the most people I’ve seen together on trail all season. It’s good to go through such a difficult section with a crowd though, safety in numbers or something like that. So many hikers on trail So many hikers at camp
Day 39 6/7 19 miles
Even at such a high elevation and on rocky uneven ground, I slept so good last night. I don’t want to jinx it but I’ve been getting great nights of sleep for the last month now. Right away this morning Queen B and I bombed up a pass and then the trail was quite pleasant for awhile. For the first few miles we walked over ridges where the snow hadn’t accumulated or had blown away and it was very relaxing. This wouldn’t last. Around 10:30 we got to this steep mountain with lots of snow. There looked to be about 3-4 options to go over or around it and along with the 6 others we camped with last night we all went like 4 different ways. QB, Lunchbox, and I contoured along the side of the mountain for awhile and when we found a good spot, climbed straight up toward the rocky summit. This involved about a 100 yard hand over hand scramble through the snow. It wasn’t easy, but it seemed to me like the best option because every other way looked like I would have to cross over a beefy cornice. The guys that took the other routes all made it through and seemed happy with their decisions. I wore microspikes for pretty much the rest of the day because we walked through lots of snow and had a few sections where we had to contour around these gigantic snow bowls. All day we leap frogged with the guys we camped with last night and when they stopped to camp up on a saddle, Queen B and I pressed on for a few more miles. We crossed through another huge bowl and climbed up towards a burn area where we found some flat dry ground with some pines nearby. Hoping for another sleepy night.
Day 40 6/8 Est 20 miles
Well the CDT got the best of me today. The first half dozen miles were really nice, we walked along snow covered ridges and through a couple large bowls. Around 11 am we climbed steeply up to the beginning of the ‘Knife’s Edge.’ Once on the other side of it the trail contoured along a super steep slope that went down about 800 feet to a sheer cliff. I estimated a 60 plus degree angle but who knows. The weather was warm and the sun had been beating on the snow for a few hours now making it extra soft. Queen B and I took about an hour up there trying to figure out if it was safe enough to cross or if there was another way around this obstacle. She was more game to try it than I was but after I took a few steps onto the snow I decided the risk wasn’t worth the reward and I made the call to figure something else out. Hikers that came before us made it across safely and I sure hope everyone behind us does too but today was not my day. It would have been nice and we probably would have been ok, but there was a small chance that one of us could slip or the snow could give out and I wasn’t willing to take that chance. I hated making that call. We then followed up a tough decision with a bad one. At first we thought maybe we could take a take a trail waaaayyyy around the obstacle but that wasn’t the case. The other day we were able to follow a river to a valley that eventually turned into a road that brought us to a town. Stubbornly we assumed we could do that again and our maps made it look plausible. We dropped steeply from the Divide to a creek that we followed down to a larger river that we walked alongside for miles. There was a trail there but eventually we got cliffed out. The river was raging and even if we could have got across it, there were steep unpassable cliffs on either side. We tried to consider all our options and figured our safest bet was to return up to the Divide and then backtrack 20+ miles to the Creede cutoff route and then another 24 miles into the town of Creede. We had to cut our losses and this was another agonizing decision. There’s a chance we may have been able to go up and around a peak and possibly find another trail that could get us out. Right now we’ve got enough food to get us to Creede if we simply backtrack but if we take a chance on a trail and it doesn’t pan out, we would only be compounding mistakes and might really get ourselves into trouble. So we walked back the way we came and found a spot to camp about half mile from where we left the trail for the creek. I’m not happy with the way things went today but I know they could be worse. I know for a fact tomorrow won’t be easy and all of today’s extracurricular activity cost us lots of time. Even with all that, I don’t regret my decision to not cross the Knife’s Edge. I thought the trail became too dangerous and I’d have been doing an injustice to all the people who tell me to ‘be safe out there.’ I don’t want to fall off any cliffs and I would most definitely regret dying. QB walking across a gigantic bowlwalking across a ridge in the morning The dastardly knife’s edge, it was scarier than this picture portrays. I swear!
Day 41 6/9 16 miles
Today was humbling. The consequences of yesterday’s decision to turn around will last a few days. All day long we backtracked miles we’ve already covered and they seemed more difficult and snowier than before. There was truth to this, because it was warmer today the snow was softer and that made it harder to walk through whereas a couple days ago we could more easily skim across the surface. It was still a really good day. I wasn’t thrilled to be retreating but I soon realized my only choice was to enjoy myself, I was out here walking over and around incredible mountains all day long and living in the woods like a dirty wild animal. And it was a beautiful day. In the evening we found a spot to camp in a wide open valley saving a big climb for the morning. We’re at 12,000 feet, there’s huge mountains in every direction, the sun just set and the almost full moon appeared above a peak. The plan is to backtrack about 5 more miles south on the official CDT and turn left onto the Creede cutoff and continue north on a lower route through the San Juans.
Day 42 6/10 23 miles
Today was productive. We started off climbing a couple miles until we were just below the rocky summit of a 12,800 foot mountain. It was harrowing getting around this thing 3 days ago but now the wind was absolutely ripping and QB and I were having trouble keeping our balance as we walked the ridge up to the peak. We dropped down a little and took cover beside a rock until the wind died down some. When we felt the time was right we followed the trail around the back of the peak across loose rock and contoured across a sheet of ice at a steep angle. It was scary. After we got across the back of this mountain we took a lower but much longer route than the other day to contour across the snowy bowl on the frontside of it. Once we had that behind us the rest of the trail until the Creede cutoff was open ridgeline and very nice. Dropping off the CDT to the Creede route was no picnic. The first few miles were steep downhill and had lots of obstacles; downed trees from a burn and beetlekill and 3 or 4 fast moving creeks we had to cross. Eventually though the trail got really nice. After lunch we cruised for about 15 mostly uphill but pleasant miles until we found a good spot on the edge of a meadow to camp.
Day 43 6/11 10 miles
This morning we walked an easy 10 miles downhill and got into the town of Creede, CO. Immediately stuffed my face with a couple chili covered cheeseburgers and plate of French fries. QB and I are taking the rest of the day off for some much needed rest and also to regroup and come up with a plan for the near future. We planned on being in Silverton right now and halfway around the high route but things change. The course of the rest of my life has now been forever altered. Just kidding, but seriously. During the last few days I spent a good amount of time going over in my head the decision to turn back at the Knife’s Edge. I’m not crazy about redoing the miles and I regret having followed a river to a dead end but if I had to do it over I still wouldn’t go across. I’m not sure exactly of my next move but besides eating a bunch of food and doing town chores, I’ll probably be carrying on north to Canada from here. Stay tuned for more updates and feel free to follow me on insta for more pictures @endlesspsummer
-Endless P.S. All My Love!!!
Love it Chris, stay safe, make good decisions you’ll be alright your in God’s hands. I’m envious!!
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sounds as if you made a wise decision! You’re a seasoned hiker and recognize the risks and plan accordingly. Like they say, “better to be safe, than sorry!”
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Thank you, and thanks for reading