CDT Day 44: out of the woods

mile 849.3 to Wolf Creek Pass: 12.5 miles

Total miles: 744.5

Despite the snow yesterday, we woke up to shoes that were not frozen! Yes, they were wet. Yes, they were cold. But no, they were not frozen solid. We’ll take that over frozen shoes any day. Looking ahead at the map it looked like we wouldn’t be traversing the north side of any slopes (snowier than the south side), so we hoped for an easy passage into Wolf Creek Pass. Our expectations were accurate regarding our path, we mostly stayed on the south side of the mountains. We only had on traverse where we felt it necessary to bring out our ice axes, and we made a few miles easily. As we dropped lower in elevation we entered more trees, which meant deep patches of snow where the sun doesn’t shine often, and our old friends: blowdowns. We shimmied under logs and climbed over more, and post-holed off and on for the rest of the morning. We had been seeing Country Mouse and Shadow from a distance all morning, they had been close enough at one point to help explain the way across that one snowy traverse after they had crossed and we had just arrived, but we finally caught up to them with only a handful of miles left to the road.

We chatted and were enthusiastic about being close to the road by lunch time. We had been planning on taking an alternate route using a jeep road to drop down to a reservoir, and Ben following a road a couple miles out to Wolf Creek Pass where we were planning to hitch to town. We thought the route looked good, because it avoided a few steep north facing slopes in the Wolf Creek Pass ski area. A half mile before the jeep road, we started to hit heavy snow completely obstructing the trail. We managed over some of them, but then we hit one with an unusually high bank, about 5 feet tall, on a steep slope; so it was difficult to climb over or get around. We could see the reservoir, and more importantly saw footsteps leading down trough the trees. We decided to start bushwhacking down to the reservoir early, instead of dealing with more snow drifts.

The bushwhack down went relatively well, and we were soon at the shore of the reservoir. Unfortunately, so was more snow, and we slowly picked through tight brush and downed trees for an excruciatingly slow half mile before finally popping out on the road; the glorious, snow-and-downed-tree-free road. I had been looking forward to eating my Bobo’s Maple Pecan Oat bar for lunch (at nearly 400 calories it was more appealing than the picked over trail mix in my pocket, the only other food I had left); but, it was nowhere to be found. I grumbled about it, and Garrett shared an inferior Nature Valley Pecan bar at 190 measly calories. I was grateful, but grumbled about losing my bar a bit, but felt immediately better once food hit my stomach; there is a chance I was a tad bit hangry!

The next last couple miles on road flew by, and I chatted with Mouse about her life off of the trail. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s rare to meet other women on the trail, and even rarer to be able to actually have a long conversation! We also haven’t met that many married couples who long distance hike together, so it’s been fun to spend time with Mouse and Shadow this past week. We made it to a Wolf Creek Pass and said our temporary goodbyes, they were hiring east to South Fork and us west to Pagosa Springs. They got picked up in a few minutes, and fortunately we only had to wait another ten minutes or so before we were offered a ride. It was about a 25 minute ride into town, and we had a good conversation with Dan and Cyndee who picked us up (thanks again!).

They dropped us off at the First Inn, and we quickly settled in. A couple hours later we were cleaned-up, had our laundry done, and headed out to the local brewery for dinner. We definitely are going to take a few days off to let this snow melt, but how and where we’re going to spend it remains to be determined. We decided it best to just relax, and deal with those details tomorrow!