August 27, 2010
Today’s Miles: 20.3
Total Miles: 373.5
Breakfast Elevation: 9,900 ft
Dinner Elevation: 11,920 ft
High Point: 14,014 ft
I’m up and moving before the dawn.
The trail continues along Cochetopa Creek, undulating through brushy fields and patches of trees.
It’s a cold morning, and I’m wearing nearly everything I have.
The sun gradually begins to warm things up.
The moon intermittently sinks below the treetops as my horizon varies, and then it’s gone for good.
The trailhead at Eddiesville marks the beginning of Segment 20.
From here through Segment 28 is supposed to be the best part of The Colorado Trail.
I take a break and warm myself in the morning sun. There’s a register box for the La Garita Wilderness area. As expected, I see entries from Potter and Richard and Carol, but nothing of Ole and Meadow Bruiser. Gil is absent as well.
It’s immediately apparent that the path will go on following Cochetopa Creek up a rising sort of valley or canyon. The mountains gradually close in, and I gain over 2,000 feet in eight miles.
The above photo shows the saddle below San Luis Peak, a fourteener that I hope to tackle this afternoon (Provided that the weather holds out. San Luis is the last 14er within practical range of the Colorado Trail, and one of the easier ones to get to from it. It’s only a 2.5 mile detour and 1,500 feet of elevation gain.
The peak is above, as viewed from the saddle. There’s dark clouds and plenty of wind, but I opt to go for it anyway.
The path soon fades and the air grows thin. It’s a slow approach and a true “talus slog,” as I would say in the company of some particular friends… it’s one of our favorite little hiking phrases.
The rocky perspective below strikes me as similar to the climb up Mount Katahdin, at the end of the Appalachian Trail.
The most amazing thing about this 14er is that there’s no people – not a single one.
The mountain is all mine.
Once I’m down to the saddle and back on the trail, I find find myself contouring along the head of a basin.
The peak looks much more dramatic and prominent from this side.
The scenery through this section from San Luis Peak to San Luis Pass is spectacular, and I’m enjoying each and every step of the way. I haven’t seen another human being today.
I turn a corner, and suddenly there’s a four-legged beast in front of me. My first impression is that it’s a mule – somebody’s riding a stock mule up here. It seems startled and runs away.
I spot another in the distance, along with a baby, and it’s only then that I realize it’s a female moose. I never expected to see a moose in Colorado.
The light does some beautiful things this evening as I climb out of a second tranquil basin.
A breeze brushes the grasses, and and I’m having a great time.
…and this is what hiking is all about.
At San Luis Pass I turn off the trail and begin down a dirt road that leads into the town of Creede.
It’s supposedly very difficult to find a ride down this road. The plan this morning was that I would try to score a ride if I arrived early enough, guessing that late afternoon would be the best timing with day-trippers heading back to civilization.
It’s almost sunset as I approach the trailhead parking area, so I choose to spend another night in the mountains. I pick out a great campsite close to a creek.
The evening is breezy and chilly at 12,000 feet. It’s a fitting end to a great day with a steaming pot of Spanish rice, and my regular dose of Vitamin I.
I’m extremely happy and satisfied to be here, on the verge of my next miniature goal – Creede. It was only a matter of days ago that I thought this was impossible, that the things I’ve seen today would have to wait for another day… if ever. The potentially elusive “someday” is steadily rolling undertow.