Monday, October 5, 2009

Colorado Trail 8 - North Pass to Spring Creek Pass (Finish!)

I finished the Colorado Trail this weekend, and my weather luck completely ran out:



This one is right at San Luis Pass - yes I'm talking under the din of wind:



I've never seen a storm move in this quickly before. On Saturday, it was blue sky and t-shirt hiking:



As I was setting up camp under the full moon, a large wave of fish-scale clouds passed, followed immediately by the storm. In five minutes the moon was covered and it started snowing. By morning, the trail was filled in, and it was slow going all day. It was still great to be out, and I had only one "Come on, really?" moment. In the Mineral Creek basin I stopped to filter some water and have lunch. It was simply dumping snow, and there was significant accumulation on my backpack in the time it took me to fill my water bottles. The stove wouldn't work. I was sitting there eating uncooked ramen, and starting to get cold.

Things quickly got better, but most of the day looked like this:



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On Saturday I saw the best land-management sign ever:



At least it's honest: "We don't have any money to maintain this road anymore, but hey dirt bikes go ahead because we also don't have any money to keep them out." Of course, this sign is immediately adjacent to this wonderfully well-maintained Forest Service road:



It's all about priorities, isn't it?

A short while later I saw this even more direct sign:



The forest is closed? Entirely? To me, this says, "We don't know what the heck is going on behind this sign, but from here it looks pretty bad, so please just stay away."

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The intense weather reminded me of the Fremont Party and the deaths sustained in the La Garita mountains. From the valley, the mountains look rolling and relatively peaceful. Once in them, however, there are high ridges running all over the place. The ridges all look the same, and in a whiteout it would be very easy to get lost. I had the benefit of the extremely well-marked Colorado Trail - Fremont did not.

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I tried to think about how I felt about finishing the CT as I approached Spring Creek Pass, but all I came up with at the time was how glad I was to be getting out of the 40 mph wind and stinging snow. Now that I'm warm and indoors, however, I have a few things to say about the experience. I will organize these into three posts, one for the trail, one for gear, and one for thoughts.

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