- The Colorado trail is a helluva trail. 5/5 stars
- About 75 miles to go
- I turned off the 10-min tracking interval on my SPOT device as my batteries do not last 1.5 months as PCT friends had led me to believe
I left monarch mountain lodge with a heavy pack full of 6 days of food and some sleep deprivation (I forgot Coca-Cola has caffeine in it).
The first half of the morning was pretty great! It started to turn south and go downhill as I got to Marshall pass (literally and figuratively). The sky turned ominous, and the sun decided it needed a vacation. Marshall pass also marks the end of the Collegiate peaks. There is then 70-or-so miles between the Collegiates and the San Juans. I think it’s fair to call this 70-mile stretch “complete misery.”
Complete misery is relatively flat — you mostly hike from one mesa to another. The mesas are surrounded by trees and cows, so there’s no views (except the cows). Every time you approach a cow, it shouts out a moo of despair, which is quickly confirmed by another cow somewhere in the vicinity. The entire mesa erupts in a cacophony (cacowphony?) of disgruntled, gutteral cow dissatisfaction.
If that’s not enough, complete misery also has long-ass water carries. Loaded with a heavy food supply, I also had to collect enough water to make it through some 22-mile stretches. Ooof my pack was heavy.
When you do finally get to the next water source, drained of energy, you inevitably find a cow pooping directly in what you intend to drink. And suddenly you have to force down that feeling that maybe you’re okay with slaughtering and eating just that one cow.
I remembered all of this from 2014 — what I didn’t remember was that there were also dirt bikes zooming up and down the trail, loosing rocks, and generally turning single track into fairly unpleasant hiking.
As day 2 turned into day 3 of complete misery, I began to question if I even enjoyed hiking after all. In 2014, I definitely thought that hitching into Gunnison and throwing in the towel sounded appealing. But then, something miraculous happened — the sun came back and the rain abated. The moos of despair continued, but the trail began to climb. And climb.
Before long, I found myself at a real mountain pass, liberated from misery and about to enter the San Juans!
My first day in the San Juans had awe-inspiring weather and breathtaking views. I quickly climbed to 13,000 feet and found myself in the middle of a hail storm. The alpine cheerleading squad (pikas) cheered me on — “eeee! Eee!” (you got this), to which I similarly responded “eee!!” (You’re so cute!!). A few more miles in and the sun returned while I frolicked along a 12,000 foot mesa surrounded on all sides by glorious mountains and sublime views (no cows). I finally made it the 29 miles in to my camp site and pitched my tarp figuring the clouds just might have something planned.
And boy do the clouds know how to make plans out here! At around 3 in the morning my tarp collapsed on me due to the immense weight of the season’s first snow. Shaking the snow off, I re-anchored the stakes and got a couple more hours of sleep before setting out.
What a glorious morning! The San Juans were dressed to the 10s in the fresh flurry! The clouds were playing in the valleys, riding convective currents to create rolling mists, and the sun decided to shine on — making the world sparkle! Dayumn! While the Sierra have a humble majesty to them, the San Juans have a raw intensity that just does not quit.
Pass after pass, I found startling peaks and landscapes that no camera can ever do justice. As my day continued, the sun played nicely and the clouds decided to go hatch plans somewhere else, as there was not a cloud in the sky. 33 miles in I got to camp, with just enough food to get me to my resupply in the morning.
Hello from molas lake!