mile 834.1 to 849.3: 15.2 miles
Total miles: 732
Despite planning to wake-up at 5am to start hiking by 6, we woke up at 5:45. I looked at Garrett as to say, “I thought you said you’d wake me at 5am!” but I didn’t mind the extra sleep, even though I had already had a solid ten hours. It was cold, too! My shoes stayed warm in the bottom of my bag, and Garrett’s didn’t freeze despite being left outside. The day was off to a good start, and we left camp only a half hour after Mouse and Shadow by 6:50.
The trail was easy to begin as we climbed up to the base of a bowl. The CDT cut across the bowl to the west and then turned back east, so we just put our microspikes on and marched up the snow chute to the easterly part of the trail to save a half mile or so. We could see Mouse and Shadow in front of us, and we finally caught up to them on a traverse across a snow slope. We had had a few other traverses that morning, but the snow was firm and made for easier passage than the day before.
After we caught them, there were no more steep snow crossings, and we followed a muddy path for awhile chatting. As we came down a hill you could hear thunder ring out, so we started to look for a quicker way down. We decided to cut across another bowl to cut off a bit of a horseshoe pattern the trail did, and happened onto the Crater Lake Trail which dropped down to a forest service road and got us into the trees even quicker. It was a relief to be walking on solid dirt road as ice pellets fell down from the sky, and it felt like a small victory when we arrived at Elwood Pass ten miles into our day in time for a quick lunch.
It had to be quick, as ice pellets continued to come down from the sky. We continued on and the trail gently angled down for the next five miles in southern facing slopes, meaning little to no snow. We could see lighting in the distance, and it kept snowing/ice pelleting off and on. We saw a campsite icon on our map near a stream a mile further, and all decided to try and make it there to camp. When we arrived it was snowing harder than it had all day. There was a stream, but no visible camping. The others went on around the corner, but Garrett spotted something up the hill just as we were about to follow. It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t even decent, but it would do to get us out of the quickly accumulating snow.
We threw up our tent and jumped in a little after 4pm, then went to work peeling our wet rain gear off and putting our warm clothes on. I’ve never worn my rain gear for three days straight before, but Colorado has proved it necessary. Not to protect from rain, but from the wind and cold. We split our last dinner, teriyaki rice, and put the last of our olive oil in it to bulk up the calorie count. We each had a tortilla with the meal, and that helped round it out. We had chocolate for desert, too- so it really wasn’t meager at all! Tomorrow it is about 9 miles into town, and we are going to do our best to make it there. Hopefully the trail won’t be too hard to follow tomorrow with the few fresh inches of snow that came down this afternoon.