Day 25: Good Morning Critters – San Luis Pass to Spring Creek TH 15 miles

This was an early morning wake-up as we are headed to Lake City for resupply. We were on the trail at 5am with headlamps fully engaged. However, there was a bright full moon that was still shining bright and helped illuminate the narrow strip of dust and dirt. It was another morning that was difficult to leave the confines of my warm goose-down quilt but once I was moving, the morning couldn’t have been better! There was a lot of chirping going on and I finally narrowed it down to a family of grouse. Mamma was warning the babies that the giants with packs were coming and everyone went different directions. They were fairly young as their feathers reminded me of what I have stuffed in my puffy jacket. Sorry grouse! The problem with grouse is even when you take a photo of them, they blend into the scenery. I’m sure that’s the way God designed them. But this amazing weasel put on quite a show for us. First of all, the fact that this is the second weasel we’ve seen is quite incredible! He popped his head out of the pile of rocks and then moved over and sunned himself. He must’ve never seen upright turtles before and had no care that both Triple-Z and I were watching his every movement. After a bit of time, he ran off and we both looked at each other in astonishment! Today was a climbing day. We had four passes to climb over and a ridiculous descent! But the caveat was that every turn we took, there was magic. The beavers were at it again building a three-tier pond with waterfalls providing a haven for birds, deers and whatever else could use this body of water. We sat watching a deer come down to drink while birds playing along the banks searching for worms. We could’ve stayed all day waiting for the elusive moose but we needed to get a move on. We made it up and over our fourth pass and reached the summit which was 12800′. As I looked around, it was something like the Grand Canyon with these beautiful mesa’s overlooking this glaciated carved canyon. The thing I find so interesting in Colorado is all the colors of rocks and minerals. I’m not sure what the chalky white is but it could be sulfur, ash or as one of the locals mentioned, arsenic. I’m definitely not a geologist but all I can say is WOW! It just keeps getting more stunning daily.Once we crested the summit, we had shale fields to navigate through. Even amongst the rock, there is life sprouting. This is some kind of thistle of sorts with very thorny leaves and lavender flowers. It’s about the only thing that I could find that was thriving besides the Pikas (overgrown hamsters) and tons of marmots! We hurried off and made our way to the tundra like plateau. We could see a bank of clouds headed our way and were hoping to escape the certain wrath of rain and hail. We walked three to four miles on this plateau that kept going and going… and going! And the rain was inescapable. The best part was that we had already scored a ride and all we needed to do was get off this mountain top. Triple-Z was in the race of her life not wanting to miss our ride to Lake City. I hung back with “No Beta” aka Will, who was the one getting the ride and figured they wouldn’t leave till he showed up. And so Will and I made our way down in the rain and arrived a few minutes after my hiking partner. Lucky for me, Will’s ride was still waiting. The five of us, the driver, Will and his girlfriend Sage, Triple-Z and I crammed into a Subaru with all our wet packs and drove ever so slowly to Lake City. It was a stinky car but a free ride! The Silver Spur Hotel is our home off the trail for two days. Oh glorious running water, flush toilets, clean linens and darn good food! Fried Catfish and Hush Puppies are the goings on around these parts. I’m in!

If we live by the spirit, let’s also walk by the spirit.

Galatians 5:25

Day 24: Of Mice and Woman – La Garita to San Luis Pass 19 miles

What a surprise I had this morning. I had packed up most my gear and went out to do my morning ritual. Dig a hole, fill the hole and cover the hole. When I made it back to my tent, I had an uninvited guest inside. The tiniest little mouse huddled inside my little temporary home. I freaked out of course! It’s one thing when they are outside your tent, in the vestibule but it’s all together different when they sneak in when you’re doing your business. Triple-Z gives me her hiking stick as both of mine are being used to hold up my tent. With my shiny headlamp and a hiking pole, I’m thinking that little mouse will follow my cue and flee for his life! Well, if I was a mouse and someone is coming at me with, what appears to be a shisk- kabob and a bright light, that’s nowhere I want to go. So as I’m horrified, and the mouse is pooping his pants, Triple-Z is rolling on the ground cracking up! No help at all. This is comedy relief at 5:30am. This goes on way too long and we finally decide its time to pack up the tent and shake the mouse out. So one by one, I remove my stakes and the itsy bitsy mouse runs out the front door. Problem solved and we are finally on our way. This morning was a bit brighter than usual as we had a full moon to light up the path. The most amazing clouds that covered the moon from time to time, but still quite beautiful as we started our early morning walk. The sun came up, as it usually does, and illuminated the mountains with an aspen glow. We were blessed with all sorts of beauty!The last few days we have been immersed in cow country but that is going to be well behind us. We stopped at the pit toilets just because you have too when they present themselves. There were four deer grazing across the path and seemed to have no care that we were there. I think they knew what was in store for us and were laughing in their syndical deer way, your climb begins. Triple-Z led the way and within a few hours we were at our first pass. It was slow and steady and fortunately, I think, because we get up so darn early, it was cool and we managed to get to the saddle before noon. The climb was pretty gradual as the climbs typically around these parts, are butt busting. Once at the first pass we met another thru-hiker who was hiking to his high school reunion. That’s just plain crazy in my book, but he thought this would be a great way to get into shape and show up a bit leaner. I’d say so! He’ll be the talk of the reunion and he’s 60! He continued north and a Triple-Z and I headed south, over San Luis Peak Saddle 12588′. It was a challenging day but we still managed to get in the miles and both Triple-Z and I are feeling really strong! We both commented on the fact that the next week or so will be our biggest climbs yet. The profile map of this trail is a bit intimidating but once you start, one step at a time, your mind and body tend to follow. We are truly getting into the most beautiful sections of this trail. The San Juan Mountains are the masterpiece of Colorado and they are right around the corner!

Tomorrow we plan to resupply in Lake City. We will spend one night in town and thank you George for finding us a room! Lake City is a one-horse town and rooms are hard to come by. I am very fortunate in the fact I have an amazing husband who supports my adventures and truly, is totally involved. Whenever something goes array, sunglasses break, KT tape needs replacing, Fleece Gloves are required or I forget something that would be really useful on the trail, George is the one person that I can rely on to get me through the next hurdle. I hope all of you who are following this have a George in your life! I love you sweetheart. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:35

Day 23: Trail Legs & Tailwinds – Cochetopa Pass to La Garita Wilderness 20 miles + 2 extra credit miles

There’s a saying in the backpacking world and it’s “trail legs.” Some people are born with them while I have to work for them. It usually takes me three weeks and overnight my legs start chiming at a different pace. Today was the day. Even Triple-Z who was evidentially born with hers was behind me! I just figured she was taking it easy but she noticed a bounce in my step. Good thing since I took us off course on a two mile rabbit chase, ugh! The only consolation prize was that the trail was fairly flat and it was still early in the morning. Extra credit miles are just a nice way of saying, I missed a turn! Today was another day of road walking which was through prairies, plains and cow fields. It was actually very pretty and reminded me of Wyoming or Montana with the wide open spaces where you can see forever. The weather has been spectacular, not too hot and not too cold. The clouds have moved in to make for beautiful skies with little sprinkles here and there, just enough to cool us off! Thank you all for praying for the change of weather. Our good Lord is hearing your prayers and blessing us with brilliant days on the trail. Gathering water has been a topic of conversation between Triple-Z and I. With my last bout of Guardia two years ago, we have decided to double attack our purification in cow country. We have been using Aqua Mira which is basically bleach and kills 99.9 % of all water borne creepy crud. After we use that which typically takes 20 minutes, yet we decided to up it to a 35 minute process. The more time to kill stuff, the better! Then we use Triple-Z’s Sawyer Squeeze, which we believe, gets out the other .01% that the Aqua Mira doesn’t kill. So far, so good. No belly aches and all of our food is digesting properly. As we were getting in our last few miles of the day, we were experiencing huge gusts of winds. Typically we’ve had crosswinds or worse yet headwinds, but God was pushing us to camp with this incredible tailwind. When you are on that last climb and suddenly you have someone pushing you up the final leg, that is God! I was at the end of my trail legs for the day and was praying for a little extra strength. Then lo and behold, this tailwind shows up! It was from heaven above. I mentioned before I feel like I am transported from one place to another, that’s what I’m talking about. God loves us so much that when we think we are done, when we have nothing left in our tank, He picks us up and finishes it off for us. That’s our amazing, incredible, magnificent God that we serve! But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

Day 22: Rainbows & Trash Day – Baldy Lake to Cochetopa Pass 19 miles

Can I just say that this was an absolutely perfect day. Some of you may remember my failed attempt of hiking the CT a couple of years ago. I had some bad cow water and that was the end of my trek. It’s interesting when you come back as some parts of this trail are etched in my mind, while other parts that I hiked I can barely remember. Like today. We left camp and hiked up to this expansive plateau as the sun was coming up, and I’m thinking, I’ve never been here before?!?! It was so glorious. The sky was painted all colors and the grasses were lush and green. Triple-Z accounts it to the fact that it was a different time of the day. Mornings on the trail have become my most favorite time of the day. It’s hard to describe what I see in the mornings but it is as close to heaven as I can imagine. As we hiked through the plateau, we had a little climb. Well of course, everyday we climb! It started to lightly sprinkle and as we came around the corner, there she was. The rainbow that had promised us that the rain was just to get my attention, but not going to stay. It reminded me of Gods great sense of humor. He just wanted me to truly appreciate this perfect weather we have had since we left Mt Princeton. This morning was ideal lick. After admiring Gods perfect wake up, we headed down to Razor Creek which is loaded with birds, chipmunks and squirrels. Then Triple-Z stops suddenly which always means that something is up ahead and we see two bucks with huge racks on their heads! My husband, the hunter, always says that I see more wildlife than he does. I think he’s right. Colorado is loaded with wildlife and big game. Today was another milestone for us as we passed the 300 mile marker. We have been averaging 100 miles a week which isn’t record breaking but it gets the job done, and we are enjoying every minute of it. Well maybe not every moment but pretty close to it. Today the miles were fairly easy, with only a few slight climbs and a lot of downhill. That sounds all fine and dandy but I’m sure we will be making up the elevation that we lost today.Trash day, hmm what’s that all about? Well I’ve found the silver lining to walking the roads. Today we walked close to six or seven miles on hard packed dirt roads. Being it’s Sunday, there were people leaving to go back home. I saw this big toy hauler coming down the road and wondered, this could be my lucky day! Triple-Z and I have been hauling our trash since Mt Princeton with nowhere to dispose of it properly. So I flagged down the nice couple who were very happy to off-load our trash in the bed of their truck. Yeah, we just each lost one pound of trash. So road walking has its perks, and that ended our most perfect day.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

1 Peter 5:10

Day 21: Waterless Stretch – Jay Creek Road to Baldy Lake 15 miles

The hunt for water begins. Yesterday we had a twelve mile stretch without water which is doable. But today is over 20 miles and that can get tricky. We dried camp the night before and had less than a liter to get to Seven Tank Creek. In the early morning, I drink less. It’s cool and I’m usually not sweating as much. We had all intentions of heading to the tank which is a watering hole for cows but with all the rain we had last week, the creek was flowing and we filled up for the next waterless section. This means cameling up which entails drinking as much as you can and hopefully your body stores it like a camel.

I drank a liter, and carried two plus liters. We headed up the last known creek and were back into cow territory. These cows were a bit more docile as they were busy munching away at there grassy fields. This Momma and Calf were hanging next to the trail when I came around the bend. She moved ever so slightly, lifted her tail and evacuated her bladder, right in front of me! I was thinking, she’d be a great thru-hiker as we are always peeing in the woods.

Teach them early to void themselves whenever a human is around. Well, I got my picture and off I went.

Today wasn’t a tough day. It was fairly easy going but a lot of road walking. Triple-Z and I commiserated that road walking is no fun! It’s not that we are truly on a highway. It’s hard packed dirt with little scenic value and when you walk like that for miles, it’s just tedious. This was another work day as we call them. You have to take the long walks in order to get the rewards of the tall peaks and expansive vistas.

On the plateaus you can see forever. Triple-Z has an app on her phone called Peak Finder so when we get to a place like this, she whips it out, and we try to guess the peaks. It’s always amazes me when we recognize the mountains that we hiked over the day before or a week earlier. These mountains tops are usually 11000-14000′ tall and they stay in our view for quite some time.

We had a variety of terrain today from the open fields, to meadows, to the aspen groves and just plain dirt with an assortment of rocks, boulders and pebbles just to add to the mix. The interesting thing about this trail is if you don’t like what you’re walking through, don’t worry because it’s gonna change in a matter of a few miles! Both Triple-Z and I are trying to get more miles in to play catch-up but we are pretty darn exhausted by 4pm. Today we stopped at Baldy Lake turnoff.

So we don’t have water for another twelve miles and I’m down to half liter and Triple-Z is completely out. So after we hiked our 15 miles, we set up camp and proceed off trail down 250′ rocky trail for 1/2 mile to get water. And then climb back up to camp. Needless to say, I’m in my tent laying on my back as I finish up. Just another day on the trail, without rain!

As a deer longs for streams of water, so do I long for you, God. Psalm 42:1

Day 19: More Cows and Grouse- Sand Creek to Fooses Creek 16 miles

There is nothing more wonderful than waking up to a dry tent! We have evaded the constant borage of rain showers, thunderstorms and constant dampness. All is good in my world now. We hit the trail early and watched the sunrise behind our backs. The trail was clear and made for easy miles even if they were uphill.

I have found the trick to slowing Triple-Z down. Load her pack with tons of food. She is a much slighter person than I and even though I have the same eight days of food that she has, 15 plus extra pounds is much harder on her than I. Don’t get me wrong because it’s killing me too. I spend all this time lightening my gear and then I add 15 pounds of food. That’s wrong on many scales!

As I wobble down the trail, with my not-so-lightening speed, I encounter a family of grouse. They are oversized chickens, brown in color and tend to scurry away as soon as they see me. This is the third time I’m snuck up on them but before I can get my camera out of my pocket, they run and hide. The cows are still hanging with us. I’m starting to recognize a pattern between the Mommas and her Calves. When they are very small, they hang out underneath her always ready to trip her if she moves too fast. As they become toddlers, they hang out within eye shot but not too close, checking out the greener pastures on the other side. Once they are teenager cows, they are meandering all over the place, high and low. So I guess they are much like my family! It is so fun to watch them play in the open lands, no mind to us hikers at all.

Around noon, we came down a desert-like section of desert flowers, dust and sage. Then I saw it, Monarch Pass -Highway 50. All I need to do is head west and I betcha I could be home in a couple of days. I called my husband and he reminded me that he was picking me up in Durango! So hiking I continued to do.

Today was a workday, not a whole lot of scenery. We had a long dusty road walk, in the heat. I know girl, what do you want? Sunshine on your shoulders or raindrops overhead? I think I’ll stick to blue skies, thank you Lord.

Day 20: Wild Flowers- Foose Creek to Jay Creek Road 16 miles

As we packed up to hit the trail this morning, the stars were shining. We must be far enough off the grid that we are seeing all the shiniest stars. The problem is I have a tiny pin light for a headlamp so I’m glued to Triple-Z as I muddle up the trail till daylight hits. We’ve decided 5am is too early and 5:30am will be our new start time. Thank the Lord!

But once the sun came up, oh my goodness, we were walking through a flower garden that only our creator could possibly design! It was like nothing I’ve ever seen. There were flowers as far as the eye could see and as tall as me. There were times where you have to slice your way through the bouquets of colors!

Let alone we had flowers that were out of this world, we were climbing back up to the Continental Divide. Back up to 12000′ and it has been nothing but climbing since yesterday! We had somehow descended below 9000′ so we had a lot of makeup to do. The last big push was loose shale and I’m guessing about 20-25% grade. It was all I could do to get me and my behemoth pack to the top.

Once back on the ridge line, there were mountains in every direction. These huge majestic mountains are truly one of the biggest draw for me. Backpacking is tough business. There are times when I am so weak, cold and tired and I know the only strength that I have left is my faith in the Lord. He never fails to get me where I need to be, never leaves me to fend for myself, Jesus just picks me up and transports me to my next home. There are so many times I wonder how I even managed because there is no way that this 5’7″ woman can do what God has me do!

We give all the glory to God above! He is the one who keeps us healthy and truly fit enough to do this. Today was a special day. We had unending views from mountain top to ridge lines. We saw deer that were the healthiest and strongest I have ever seen. There were marmots and picas that would run around like children. Birds and hummingbirds that would fly overhead greeting us as we walked down the trail. It was the best day on the trail yet! I keep on hearing, wait it gets better. I find it hard to believe that anything can top what we saw today!

Now to Him who is able to do unmeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

Day 18: Half-Way There – Mt Princeton to Sand Creek – 13 miles

This was a bittersweet day. We had to say goodbye to all our friends at Mt Princeton. When you spend three days at a place, you start recognizing people. I try to make a habit of remembering peoples names, especially ones that go the extra mile! From the time I called Corrine at the front desk to extend our stay, the service was exceptional. Isaiah checked us in early, and Steve gave us a ride to our suite on the river, being we had no car, four resupply boxes and backpacks! Once squared away with all our provisions, Christopher and Cody took care of us at the Hot Springs Pool and Spa while Sue and Liz were our waitresses for our daily lunch. Each day we had the same amazing people who became our friends. When we got a ride back to the trail, Steve reminded us that we really didn’t have to go, but to send a postcard to let him know we made it safe down the trail. However, the mountains are calling and we must go, for at this rate, we will never make it to Durango! Something about the first day out after a few days off. As Triple-Z corrected me, we had one Nero and two zeros! Nero being we hiked a few trail miles, where zeros there are no trail miles hiked. Don’t get me wrong because while we were at Mt Princeton, we walked everywhere and most likely did at least one mile a day, but it wasn’t on the trail, so it doesn’t count! As we took off this morning our packs were loaded to the brim. Both me and Triple-Z had a hard time moving up the hills and felt like turtles with all the weight on our backs! Our food and water weighed close to 15 pounds plus all our worldly possessions so I’m sure we tipped the scales at 30 or more pounds! Needless to say, we were moving as fast as a three-toed sloth, which evidentially isn’t very fast! Lucky for us the weather was accommodating and we only had a few sprinkles. This section of trail is much different from the past 200 miles. We have entered Cowtown! By noon, we met our first cows on the trail. They were quite polite and moved off the trail but not with lightning speed. I think they are always a bit slow and never seem to be in a hurry for anything at all. The terrain was fairly flat with just a few little hiccups going up and down but honestly, this was a perfect re-entry day because like the cows, I wasn’t into moving very fast either. The most exciting part of the day is that once at camp, we have trekked half-way! Depending on if you are following Guthook, the app that highlights the CT and tells you everything you need to know about finding water, ideal camping spots or just fun facts, it calls the creek that we are camping at Halfway. At first I didn’t get it (yes I am truly a blonde) but then I put it together and realized we are halfway from Waterton and Durango! If I had a bottle of champagne or a shot of tequila, I’d be celebrating, but all I have is tea so that’ll have to suffice.

Great news, I think we have escaped the wrath of a certain weather pattern, and I am nice and dry in my tent! That’s a huge praise as any of you who have been following me, the rain has been the topic of my blog! Oh, one last thing, we finally saw horses on the trail! I have seen leftovers from horses, if you get my drift, but not the real deal. I’m thinking a moose may be in my future after all!

But he said to me, “My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Zero Day plus 2: Mt Princeton Hot Springs 0 miles

I had no idea that this glorious time at Mt Princeton would be so relaxing. I did nothing, nada, badda-bing! It wasn’t like anything I have experienced in the past two and a half weeks. Wake up whenever my eyes open, lounge around for an hour or two, walk over for pool time, lounge some more, hang out in the hot springs, talk with the staff, eat lunch, wander over to the juice bar, drink, more pool time and back to the room to chill for the night. Then laugh as the rain comes crashing down! And that it did! Rain, thunder and lightning. And more rain! Today reality set back in. I had to get my backpack back in order, pack up my 8 1/2 days of food, and somehow someway shove everything back in my bag. Tomorrow I’ll be back getting dirty, feeling the earth under my feet and praying for sunshine on my shoulders! I must say this was one of the best respites I have experienced. With the healing waters of the hot springs, the pampered days of rest and relaxation, and quality sleep, I am ready to finish the final 250 plus miles. Tomorrow will be my last cooked meal that isn’t dehydrated for the next 16 days. I’ll be eating something fresh and savory. Anything but oatmeal! My hubby sent me a picture of the produce from our garden that I planted back in April. All I can think of now is tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers and zucchini. Oh what I would do for a vegetable omelette! In case you are not a backpacker, one of the forbidden things on the trail is talking about all the foods we miss! But it always comes back to… all the food we miss! Maybe I’ll wander into a garden on the trail. Oh I can only dream.

Life begins once Jesus becomes the reason you live it.

Day 17: Mt Princeton Here We Come – Dry Creek to Resort 4 miles

I survived the onslaught of rain! Today is the day both Triple-Z and I have been dreaming of. Mt Princeton Hot Springs Resort is a swanky place with European sheets, Goose-down pillows, Creekside Rooms and yes, a Hot Springs, both natural and poolside. Life is good. All we need to do is walk there.

The skies cleared up and made for a great trek off the mountain. It seems that all the hikers had the same idea, get up early, get to town and dry off! Triple-Z and I had a conversation about the storms that keep coming. We made an unilateral decision that we should stay at the resort until the sun returns! And so it will be.

The road walk went through private property and the owner of these lands takes a lot of pride in their property. The dirt roads were currently graded, the road was pristine and it made for a wonderful morning walk. Within two hours, we had reserved a third night at Mt Princeton. It appears that this weather system plans to change course by Wednesday so we are digging our heels in and waiting it out. Don’t feel bad for us, we’ll suffer through it 😀

My Princeton is just up the mountain from Buena Vista. It was originally built in the mid 1800’s for the over 50 mines that were operating at full capacity. With all the miners, South Park & Pacific Railroad developed a line through the canyon and constructed the Alpine Tunnel, the highest and most expensive tunnel ever built in its time. During 1879-2018, this resort has changed many owners but has stood the test of time. It truly is a gem in the mountains with healing waters. I need some healing so here we are through Wednesday. First things first, hamburgers and onion rings! Not my go-to meal but on the trail, I can eat whatever my heart contents. Based on my body weight, amount of miles hiked per day, I am burning 3500-4500 calories a day! And hence another reason I love to backpack!

There’s nothing in my backpack food that tastes better than this! So now the relaxation begins. Pool time, lounging in bed, reading, blogging and posting. Thank you Lord for loving me so much, that I earned a few days of rest, not just one.

Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28