August 3, 2010
Today’s Miles: 14.8
Total Miles: 45
Breakfast Elevation: 7,780 ft
Dinner Elevation: 9,360 ft
High Point: 9,360 ft
The night’s dreams have a negative vibe, and I wake late and unmotivated because of it. The incessant chatter of a red squirrel gets me out of the tent, and I take my time going about the morning routine.
I spot a coyote (Or maybe a fox), tramping through the brush at a distance.
Some much needed sun shines on this wet corner of the forest, and I don’t hit the trail until ten o’clock in the morning.
The first miles through the woods are uneventful, save for a few passing mountain bikers. These are the only people I’ll see until the end of the day.
A stile! This stepladder is designed to allow foot traffic to pass over a fence bordering open range for livestock. I hadn’t hiked over one of these for a long time, and it gives me a small joy to revisit this quirky aspect of backpacking.
Buffalo Creek is a small, swiftly flowing stream.
A long break here is just what the doctor ordered. I bathe in the cool water, and its freshness does me a world of good. It feels great.
The roar of the stream masks the sound of approaching thunder.
As I move on down the trail, it appears that a storm will be on top of me very soon.
That sky doesn’t look very promising.
There’s a low rumbling thunder for a while from all directions, and eventually the rain begins.
A flash of light before my eyes, and I count the seconds.
Not too bad, but I’m traversing a wooded ridge line, and the trail doesn’t look like it’s going to dip below the ridge any time soon.
Four seconds. Hmm.
I pass a sign that reads RIFLE RANGE NEAR – STAY ON TRAIL.
Great. So if the lightning gets any closer and I have to scurry off of this ridge, then I risk getting shot! Awesome.
The storm eventually subsides without striking me down.
I cross a forest service road and enter the Lost Creek Wilderness. A lone deer observes my passing.
The character of the trail changes, as mountain bikes aren’t permitted in the designated wilderness area. There are more rocks and roots to step on, muddy creeks to negotiate and rock-hop, and no tire tracks.
I follow at least one set of fresh, distinct footprints ahead of me, about a size eleven.
The damp forest in the wilderness has an overbearing, secretive quality.
The clouded sky and muted light make it downright spooky.
And then I come upon the most spectacular stand of aspen trees that I’ve ever seen.
It stretches for a considerable distance, and I silently continue through the forest.
When it’s almost time to begin looking for campsites, I turn a corner and there’s Moondancer and Captain Jack, all set up for the night. I hadn’t seen them since the first afternoon at Waterton Canyon, so we catch up for a few moments. They say there’s two other hikers close behind, also headed for Durango. They must have passed me early this morning when I was sleeping.
I go on farther up the trail, and make my own camp for the night. The evening’s intermittent rain ceases, and the sun pierces the clouds for a brief moment before sunset.
I relax contentedly for an unhurried dinner, basking underneath a dry sky.