August 4, 2010
Today’s Miles: 27
Total Miles: 72
Breakfast Elevation: 9,360 ft
Dinner Elevation: 10,080 ft
High Point: 10,880 ft
I’m out of my tent at 7am and on the trail by 7:30. It’s my earliest start-time of the hike so far.
Moondancer and Captain Jack pass my camp as I enjoy a summer sausage salami for breakfast, and it’s not long before I catch up with them. Within the first mile I also meet the other two hikers they’d spoken of, Ole and Meadow Bruiser. They’re a couple that met on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2008.
The trail opens into a wide, long meadow.
“She isn’t bruising this one up too much,” Ole says.
I rest on this log for a nice, pleasant break.
Those mounds of dirt are actually super-sized anthills. In the time I linger to grab this photo, they’re already swarming my feet.
The air grows warm, as the sun-exposed meadow seems to go on forever. White puffy clouds already rise like columns of steam up from the horizon.
It’s an idyllic setting with butterflies, birds, and bugs hovering among the grasses and flowers on this green summer morning. It truly feels like summer, stirring memories of having the entire season off from school to play.
But the meadow is long, and after a while I just want a change of scenery. I hold a quick, steady pace to get beyond it, leaving the others behind.
Well here’s that change of scenery. See the mountain range on the horizon?
That’s my first view of the Great Continental Divide!
The trail dips through Long Gulch, and climbs another green, fully forested ridge – officially entering “Segment 5.”
I stop for a quick replenishment of my water supply. It’s a good thing that I do so at this time, because the afternoon storms quickly catch up with me. It’s not even 1pm yet.
The thunder, lightning, and temperature drop arrive yet again.
I’m well below the ridge line, so there’s little fear of a lightning strike.
Next the rain comes.
Hmmmm, wait a second here, this is hail!
It stings until I get my rain gear on.
Pure adventurous fun as I hike onward through the storm.
It gives way to a light drizzle by the time I draw in on Rock Creek. The trail descends through grassy pastureland, sparsely decorated with stands of aspen.
I turn a corner, and there’s two big black cows standing right on the trail. I have to herd them out of the way, but they follow the trail before me, leading the way. Looks like I have two new hiking partners!
They keep a seemingly uncomfortable and brisk pace (For a fat cow!) as I herd them before me. I’m talking to them and laughing out loud at the situation, soaked after the storm in the wet outdoor nowhere-land. It’s hilarious. They’re so stupid that they don’t realize that all they have to do is step off the trail so we can end this little circus, and go separate ways.
…Or am I the silly one, with the self-imposed restriction of staying on the trail? Hmmm.
When Rock Creek comes into view, they finally cut away from the path and make straight for the water.
Almost an hour later, two men on horseback approach me from the far end of the trail, across a meadow.
I step aside, and one asks, “Seen any cows around?”
Have I ever. Genuine rancher cowboys. Cool.
In the next small valley I discover a lone tent. It’s set up almost directly on the trail.
“Hello there!” I call out, and what do you know, the tent can speak. It’s a talking tent. I gather that it’s hiking from Denver to Durango, and started at Waterton Canyon the same day as me, only two hours earlier.
“I’m just trying to hole up out of this rain,” the tent says, “How does it look out there now?”
“Cloudy. Rainy. Gray.”
“I mean, does it look like it’s clearing up at all?”
“No, not really.”
A little while later, this patch above actually does clear up.
Though things don’t look so promising on the horizon.
The trail climbs a grassy hilliside, and the views get better and better.
Climbing even higher along the ridge that goes on toward Kenosha pass, the valley of South Park comes into view.
It ends abruptly with the stark and dominant, cloud enshrouded Continental Divide.
The view gives way to yet another grove of aspen. It’s nearing 7pm and growing very dark. A steady, cold rain settles in for the night.
I desperately begin to seek out a campsite – almost any flat spot will do. I find a place among the roots of a cluster of pine trees that offer a slight degree of shelter, and speedily set up camp in the rain.
The dark, chilly atmosphere deepens. I debate on whether or not to go through the process of cooking a hot meal, eating, and washing the pot in the steady rain.
Oh why not, it’s not too unpleasant. Hot, steamy mac & cheese and tuna does this body good after a 27-mile day.