August 20, 2010
Today’s Miles: 8.2
Total Miles: 279.2
Breakfast Elevation: 9,760 ft
Dinner Elevation: 9,880 ft
High Point: 7,083 ft
I sleep late this morning, knowing that it will only be half a day’s hike to town.
The sun is shining through the trees as I break camp, so I take a few moments to dry out my tent. The camping area at Squaw Creek is riddled with black ants, and I entertain myself by turning over rocks and logs to get a peak at how many ants scatter beneath them.
I hike for less than a quarter mile and come to a field with the cows that I heard last night.
I meet a man with his young son and a friendly, unleashed dog. He asks about the terrain ahead. I mention the cows around the corner, for fear that the dog may take an interest in them.
The path intersects the “Angel of Shavano” trailhead. A nearby route goes up Mount Shavano, another fourteener. The trailhead is named for an annual occurrence each spring, when the remaining snow on the face of the mountain takes on the shape of an angel from afar. Legend says that the angel represents an Indian Princess, who prayed to stop a severe drought that ended in sacrifice.
Eventually I’m within view of Highway 50 that leads to Salida.
It’s about a 1,000 foot descent to the road.
My right foot hurts for every step of the way, but the day is beautiful.
The grassy areas of The Colorado Trail are filled with hundreds or thousands of these little grasshopper sort of bugs. They’re always leaping around my feet, making a repeated clicking sound that drowns my ears. This is often the only sound I hear.
Eventually I reach the highway, and it has a lot of traffic. The location of the trailhead has me at a disadvantage for hitchhiking – the vehicles going toward Salida are cruising downhill from Monarch Pass at a significant speed, so nobody wants to stop.
After almost an hour I finally get a ride, and walk from the main highway into town, looking for the post office. I’m in the midst of a suburban neighborhood that hasn’t been built too recently, and it feels good on a lazy summer day. A man on a bicycle rides up to me, curious to hear about my hike. He coincidentally just retired from the post office last week, so he’s used to seeing hikers around town. I’m not sure of my exact whereabouts, and he gives me good directions to the post office and downtown.
Before I even get there, who do I see but Carol and Richard walking down the street. They’re the Continental Divide Trail hikers that I first met at the Leadville hostel, and then again in the small “town” of Twin Lakes.
They stayed here in Salida at the hostel last night. We do a bit of catching up there on the sidewalk, and they give me the low down on the conditions and general scene over at the hostel.
The Salida Simple Hostel has a perfect location in the middle of town. I meet one of the owners and get checked in immediately. The front room is sort of a living room with couches and books, and behind that is a dining room with a huge picnic-bench-style table. Beyond that is a kitchen with an adjacent laundry/bathroom, then a storage room for packs and sorting gear, and finally a back porch. The bunk rooms and second bathroom are upstairs.
All the other guests today are working as part a local trail crew, here in town for their days off – except for one – a fellow Colorado Trail hiker with the trail name of “Potter.” He’s a few years younger than me, and looks just like Harry Potter!
After taking care of some of the standard town chores (Shower, laundry), I take a walk out to the highway for a Pizza Hut dinner. The walk is over a mile, and my right foot is still in incredible pain. I eat a whole pan pizza, and walk back to town through a peaceful neighborhood. People are having summer gatherings and parties and meals on their front porches. All wave and say hello as I walk by with a heavy food coma, and a limp from my foot.
Back at the hostel I use a computer for the first time in a little while, and wander upstairs to pass out in a bunk.
NEXT (DAY 21) —>