Had a slow morning, hung out a little tooo late last night. Eventually got everything packed up and walked to the far side of town to hitch out. Called mom to update her on the San Juan’s situation. Planning on swapping out some gear in Pagosa Springs and getting more clothes sent out. Hitched a ride with a guy that just completed the AT Sobo. Solid eight months on the trail for the guy. Got dropped off at the trailhead and anxiously head out to catch up to DM. Had a nice climb back to the top. Passed by the biggest waterfall yet. My feet got soaked instantly. Caught up with a crew of ten people and took a break with em. Continued on and started post holing bad. Found the trail and kept climbing to over 12k feet. I walked over the ridge and caught the real San Juan’s off in the distance. It was unbelievably beautiful. Massive snow topped mountains off in the distance completely surrounding me. Had a couple fun glisades down steep slopes. Post holing kept getting worse and shattered my pace to nothing. It was killer tiring and smashed up my shins pretty bad. My left knee was bleeding and turned purple from how cold I got.
Had Double Magic wake me up, to keep hiking with him. He really surprised me on his pace. He hikes at a 2-2.5mph. With him being the first one to complete the PCT, I thought he’d be faster. Hiking at a slower pace helps out my knees and feet. Neither of them get as tired. We climbed out of a canyon to some great cliff views. I didn’t expect to see green grass covering the mountain tops. Also the rocks shot out of the ground in groupings by the trees. Accidentally got lost and followed the road up to Mogote Ridge. I thought about taking that way, but didn’t know if I would have enough water. On the way up the ridge I saw a bobcat or a mountain lion. I could only see her for ten seconds and she was about fifty feet away. Turned out the ridge was an awesome detour to take. Took a lunch break and didn’t see DM the rest of the day. Tons of elevation today which got me all the way up over 10k feet. Near the top, snow was melting from every direction. My feet became frozen as night fell. I quickly set up and swapped out the cold wet socks for some dry ones. Took over an hour to thaw out my feet. Once they warmed up, I was able to get some sleep.
Bright and early start. Carried enough water to make it 21 miles to Ghost Ranch. Started off going straight up and back down the other side. The trail dropped into an amazing canyon. No one could oh drew it up any better. After an early lunch break at ten, I made it to the Rio Chama. The current was dangerous fast, thankfully there was a bridge to get across. Followed the road just north of the river to Ghost Ranch. Cashed all in on the dinner buffet, which included pork chops, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and carrot cake. Are so much I could barely move. Thirty hikers were there at one time and ate pounds and pounds of food. After dinner they weren’t too happy with us. It’s probably their biggest group of hikes ever and it overwhelmed them. You should know better when hikers burn 5000-6000 calories each day. Bought an ice axe and a water filter for the San Juan’s. I need to make sure my gear will not be the problem when I go thru. Hung out on the porch as Double Magic showed up. It was crazy to see him again after eleven months. I met him at 1410 on the Pct. Chatted briefly but kept in touch ever since. He also talked to me about continuing 700 miles into Canada. That one is called the Great Divide Trail. I am planning on it, but it’s all going to come down to the snow in the San Juan’s. We didn’t want to pay $25 to camp, so I grabbed four liters of water and left after 8pm. Headed a couple miles out to get off their property. It was a blast catching up with Double Magic. With going the same direction on both of the trails last year(Pct &AT), we meet quite a few of the same people. Found a decent flat section and posted up for the night.
Slept in super late. Woke up to the four siblings hiking past my campsite. Didn’t get going till ten. With loads of food I wasn’t worried about running out and getting to Ghost Ranch to early. Walked by a beautiful stream till I reached my highest point. The water flowed from all the peaks around making the trail feel like bogs. Every step I sunk down, but it felt like a spring and shot me back up. Definitely an odd feeling, sadly the pressure shooting back up didn’t keep my feet dry. Got lost for a mile and took the wrong route. Looked like the route, but it turned out the trail went thru the stream and up the other side. It wasn’t a horrible detour, I ran into a beautiful elk posing next to a hundred foot pine tree. The dry pines reminded me of the PCT. That smell is so vivid. Caught up with the four siblings and took a break with em. After a solid break, I smashed out some good miles. I hung out at a creek and filtered water for two hours… My filter was so trash, it filtered less than a litter. Ran into Porchlight and Colorado Feather and hung out with em for a bit. Kept rolling till I made it to Fuertes Spring. I also caught up to the four siblings. Posted up for the night at the spring knowing tomorrow will be a solid day.
Woke up at 9 and hung out till 11. It was a cloudy day, so we opted to head out later and wait for it to warm up. Also it might help with getting a view from the top of Mt. Taylor. On the way up, walked thru some snow, which turned into icicles on the pine trees. The snow added a new dynamic to the 11,300 foot obstacle. When I made it to the top, I knew I had to build a snowman. I got the biggest bottom layer started and rolled him a ways down of the mountain. Getting him back up was becoming a struggle. For I made Samson too big. Twigg helped get him standing upright by the summit. I started the midsection as Twigg perfected the head and details. My temp was cooling down, which meant it was time to go. Went thru some good sized drifts on the way down. Finally came upon American Spring and filled up some water. There was a real nice fire place next to the spring. Hot food was clutch to keep us going the rest the day. From here its nothing but downhill to Cuba (70 miles). The snow turned into rain and made the clay road super sloppy. So much for light shoes , when you have two pounds of clay hanging off your shoes. Accidentally got lost and led into bushwacking to the trail. Made it a half dozen miles after getting back on trail. The day was coming to an end, so we posted up at the murky water tank.
Woke up relatively early to catch an amazing breakfast at the Holiday Inn. With some possible afternoon showers, Numbers and Jazzy wanted to get an early start. I had some errands to run before heading out. Left town around eleven. I saw a massive dark cloud coming directly at me. I figured I’d call Twigg and see if he wanted to take another day off. He was already a couple miles ahead of me. On the road walk out of Grant’s, I passed by a state pen. Realized that’s why I passed by a sign that said, ” Please don’t pick up hitchhikers.” By now the deathlike clouds had me surrounded. A quarter mile from me I saw a white streaks falling to the ground. I thought it was going to pummel me with rain. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Hail swept in so fast, I didn’t have rain gear on or a place to take shelter. The hail stopped after I was able to get my rain gear. The thunder and rain took its place. Finished the road walk and headed up Mount Taylor. Kept a solid pace to keep my body temp up. After a couple miles the trail leveled out and the rain went away. Caught some views looking back down at the town. Clouds started rolling on so I posted up at the next spring. Since rain was in the forecast all night, I figured I should try to fully set up my rain fly. It wasn’t hard to set up at all. For the first time in over a year and over 5,500 miles, I finally set my tent up correctly. Yet it still didn’t keep the rain out. I should of sealed the seams before hiking again this year and didn’t get to it. Mostly leaked thru my zipper, which was where my head laid. Wished my sister a Happy Birthday before passing out.
Woke up @ 5am to make it into PieTown. The Toaster House was there, which is a hiker/biker hostel. Getting there wouldn’t be the easiest. 26 miles to town with no water in between. Took a couple breaks taking down my tent. The poles were freezing my hands instantly. Didn’t care much about the order, I just threw everything in my pack to start hiking. Kept up my pace to keep up my body temp. The morning stayed cool till I made it half way to town. Took a nap and elevated my feet once I got to the road. Limped into Top of the World store three miles before town. Took my second break to relax the legs and to fill up water. Bought some popcorn and chatted with the couple inside before continuing to Pie Town. Was startled with all the people hanging outside the Toaster House. After an hour of chaos, I became use to noise again in my life. There was about 28 of us including the Warrior Expeditions. Found out, Pie Town had was having a dinner for the vets and the hikers were welcome. Ate a pound of food. Went back to the house, had a couple beers and hung out the rest of the night.
Today was a laid back thirty-two miles. The gradual drop in elevation made the day go smooth. Updated the water reports for hikers behind me. Passed by a guy from Slovenia. Chatted with him at the next water source. Felt awesome meeting people from everywhere. Went thru a couple really dry sections which turned into burned sections. Posted up just before the rain at Rincon Well. Chilly chilly night, which is suppose to feel like 29 degrees.
Cold chilly morning washing up. Packed up quick and hit the trail. Saw a group of elk and a pair of coyotes on my never ending road walk. Couple of the scarce cars stopped by and asked if I had water. Didn’t want to carry any more weight. I was getting low on water, but knew I could make it 4 more miles on nothing. Made it to a small stream running down the mountain and filled up. There was plenty of cow tracks and poop upstream. I now had no other choice and partially regretted not taking a liter or two. Kept gaining elevation a couple more miles and took a break at the top. Took a brief nap before heading down in the wrong direction. Had to bush wack to get back up 1,000 feet to find the trail. After a quarter mile I dropped all the way back down go back down. Kept winding thru the trees before coming to a murky cattle pond. Filtering water gradually keeps taking longer and longer, with all the cattle water. Smashed out four more miles and found a hawk feather. Partially caught the sunset, and set up my tent in the dark. Hard night of setting up my tent with the temps feeling like 29 degrees.
The rain wasn’t to shabby. Just my rain fly and ground cloth was moist. I said farewell to Michael and got on the trail before 6:30. I had a nice half mile dry section to warm up before dipping in and out of the river about 80 times for the rest of the day. Couple miles in I saw a half dozen elk. Think they saw my orange shirts and booked it outa there. I followed their tracks up the narrow canyon for a couple miles. Just before Snow Lake, my last stream I crossed was exciting. I was going thru a wind tunnel that blew me around like a ragdoll. The steam had a decent current to it and was going in the opposite direction. Felt like I was going to get body slammed, slowly but surely my tree trunk thighs got me thru it. It took me to 2:30 in the afternoon to go 13 miles. Between slippery river rocks, what felt like quick sand, and over correcting the direction of the trail, it took forever to reach Snow Lake. Washed clothes in the spigot and cameled up on water. Stretched and elevated my legs for ten minutes, has lunch and got back on trail after an hour. Carried out two liters of water for 23.4 miles. Climbed up a dry valley which turned into a burner of climb to see nothing but grassland with mountains far far off in the distance. Kept hiking to make it into the trees for some windbreak. Came upon what looked like to be the party place in the summer and posted up early. My legs were tired and the more I hear about the snowy San Juan’s, the more excuses I seem to come up with.