Colorado Trail: Final thoughts & pictures (LONG)
From Salida to Junction Trailhead in Durango we definitely went through some of the most beautiful sections of Colorado that I have seen. Wandering around the San Juan Mountains is always magical and this time the experience was also challenging due to the weather.
Day 11, the day Andy had been talking up the entire trip, the section that everyone I met on the trail and in town absolutely raved about was the day we were faced with system rain from about 10am till we made camp that night. Fortunately we were able to sneak in San Louis a 14er whose summit was just 1 ¼ miles off the trail. On the way down the hail came and we were in and out of cold rain all day. Mid-day while passing through one of the Mineral Creek Basins Andy made the call to set up shelter. It was pouring down rain and probably about 40 degrees, too cold to keep moving especially considering the terrain we still faced. About an hour later, after a nice nap, the rain had stopped but the clouds were still hanging amongst the mountains. A couple climbs later the rain started up again, I got a bloody nose and both of us lost most of the dexterity in our fingers from the cold wet gloves that covered our hands. We put on every piece of clothing and kept moving. When we finally moved onto Snow Mesa, a 3+ mile, flat expanse of land at roughly 11k feet that reminded me of the Quiditch tournament in a Harry Potter movie, the sun peaked out and we had roughly 10 minutes of evening light and the tiniest bit of warmth spread across my face. We continued the flat trek to the edge where we snapped a picture and then dropped down the trail and found a semi flat campsite. A long, challenging day left us both a bit exhausted and hungry. (this is the last day I got any pictures- battery died)
Day 13 was our last town stop till we arrived in Durango. It was sunny when we popped up onto the highway so we laid out our gear for 10 minutes to finally dry things out. We arrived in Silverton after hitching a ride from Molas Pass, called Emily and Ernst and walked down to the Runner’s Roost. In a short 3 hours these two had us showered, clothes washed, fed, packs restocked and back on the trail. Ernst made a fabulous pasta with veggies and tofu which Andy and I devoured. As we got ready to leave I suggested a coffee stop in town, instead Emily made me the best soy mocha; I savored every drop. We were back on the trail just after 3 dancing and laughing, only 74 miles to go and what was the weather doing – pouring once again. We had to laugh at the irony of leaving the comfort and company of Emily & Ernst for the muddy, puddle jumping. Fortunately the time and miles passed quickly and we set up camp just below the ridge of the Continental Divide.
The next day, Day 14, we were up and hiked the remaining few miles to the ridge just in time for a great sunrise. The second to last day, we needed to put in a long 38 miles to get across Indian Ridge and reach Kennebec Pass, our last campsite for the trip. The day was long and we somehow found a few more topics of conversation to help us cover the miles and time between snacks. Both on our last few bars and hungry the two hours between snacks were tough, we were hopeful for some trail magic, but it never found us. The best part of the day was coming up on Indian Ridge in the sun. We were probably a couple of weeks late for the flowers, but the remnants were pretty. In these last few miles we experienced all of the weather we’d been through the last 2 weeks. It started sunny, then three different storms rolled over the ridge. At one point I couldn’t see Andy for all of the fog. The Thunder rolled through and finally the rain came down. Just before we dropped off the ridge we came across a thru-hiking couple and a bit of evening light. We snapped pictures of each other in the flowers and moved on to set up camp.
The Last Day
The next morning, excited to be finishing the trail we broke camp easily and stopped once to strip the extra sleeping clothes after it warmed up. We pretty much motored the rest of the way and probably ran about 10 of the last 21 miles, our packs were super light and we were motivated by the lack of food. In the last mile of the day Andy encouraged me on, hooting and hollering. It was just the two of us running that last stretch, not moving fast, just jogging along laughing and … DOH! Down I went, scrapping my knee, shoulder and elbow and jamming my right ring finger. Andy called me a dope and I told him to pick me up. We ran around the corner and the Junction Creek Trailhead awaited our arrival. We asked a couple of mountain bikers to take our picture and we unlaced our shoes for the last time. 483 miles under our own power, visions of the last couple of days flashed through my mind and I let it all hit as we figured out what was next.
We caught a ride into town from a couple that had also just come off hiking a couple of segments. Straight to the grocery store for a great feed, then hit the payphones to make the calls – We’d finished! I left a message for Dale, our host in Durango. I called the parents, sister, Matt; Andy called Mom and Beth his friend in Durango.
We decided to walk town while we waited to call Dale again, but on our trek that way Dale came around the corner, he’d been looking for us. Back to his place for showers and laundry; it was great to share stories with Dale. Dale and three friends were the first to connect the trail, running Durango to Denver arriving just in time for the Trail dedication ceremony. I called Ernst as he was working in Durango that day (international master hairdresser) to invite him to dinner and our margarita celebration. He told me to get down to the salon; he had an appointment for me. What a treat to be pampered after 2 weeks on the trail! Ernst cut and colored my hair before we met the rest of the crew for dinner. Dale and his wife MaryBeth, Emily, Ernst and Bernard (their 3 month old), John Pearch and James Varner (who were in town for the Epic 50k) all joined us for or mini celebration, some spicy Mexican food and tasty margaritas. After dinner we walked through town and found the Baskins Robbins, buy one sundae get the second free. Andy and I each got a 3 scoop sundae, and then Andy proceeded to talk the next single girl that walked in to buy a 2 scoop sundae so he could have another (he split the cost with her).
Durango to Denver
The next morning Dale dropped us at the Greyhound station after a stop for hot chocolate and breakfast snacks. 12 long hours later we arrived in Denver. The trip was complete and we were again in search of food.