Buena Vista to Lake City

Day 12
It was a relaxed morning in a pretty comfortable bed, with a toilet near by, and running water steps away. What else could a hiker ask for. We left the room at about 8:20 and managed to secure a ride with three younger guys who were headed the same way as us to go fishing for the day. They got us up to the top of the pass just before 9am and we started hiking immediately. We really didn’t have any specific goals as far as mileage for the day and just wanted to get in a full day of hiking to get closer to Salida. The was filled with exposed ridge walking above 11k and all the way up to 12,800 feet. Thankfully other then the very strong wind the weather cooperated with our plans. We managed to get in 21.3 miles even with a late start and a day where we were either climbing a pass or walking on talus fields. Around 5 pm we came to an area with a lot of camping options. We discussed for a minute or two what we wanted to do and how much if any further we wanted to go. We decided that we would go alittle further since it was still early. Of course we found no more campsites or flat ground even till 7:30. Two more mountain passes later and finally something flat. Thank god. We set up camp, ate a late dinner and quickly retreated to bed. Tomorrow we may or may not push all the way to Salida. The lure of town and food is getting the best of both of us.  
Day 13
We woke up absolutely shattered from the day before. Too many miles walking over too many passes and climbing ridge lines. On the bright side we woke up with a lovely gradual downhill stretch before we would have to do our next pass. On the way to our next pass we camp to a trailhead that had a large banner for the Colorado Trail Association stretched between trees. First thought went straight to maybe they are doing trail magic! Maybe they have food and soda!! Turns out that they were actually setting up to build a new section of trail. Awesome! I’m super grateful for the hard work of these volunteers and the hard work they are putting forward to making this already beautiful trail even better. After chatting for a few minutes it was on to the next climb over a pass. At least this one was a short climb and wasn’t too steep. Once on top of the pass it was all downhill to highway. Once getting to highway 50 we were able to secure a ride to Salida after a few minutes with a very nice couple who was up in the mountains from Denver to do some mountain biking. First priority after securing a room was a shower, then laundry, then order some food to be delivered while laundry was being done. Salida was a surprise of a city, I have driven through before but never spent more then a few minutes in the town. It was very cute, and had a great little downtown area. I would certainly visit again. Back to the trail and on to Lake City. 
Day 14
The morning was a bit hectic with a trip to the post office for a box that Snakebite was having forwarded from a post office in Montana and then a trip to the store to resupply depending on the amount of food in the box. Well turns out the USPS is a bit incompetent and sent the box back to Arizona where it was originally mailed from. This meant we had to do a full resupply at the store. Blah!!! We could have done this yesterday while we were sitting around!!! Stupid post office. We went to Safeway and bought all the things and spent all the money we didn’t want to spend. We went back to the motel that we had walked a half mile from and packed our bags and went about our business trying to get a hitch. After about twenty minutes of standing on the side of a busy road in front of a gas station looking like homeless people with a sigh for Monarch Pass written in sharpie on our Tyvek ground sheet we finally had a taker. We arrived at monarch pass, used the bathroom, drank a soda, and ate a bag of chips and then began hiking at 12:30. Good grief, such a late start. The skies immediately began looking gloomy, then threatening. We hiked quickly on some exposed ridge lines to out run the rain that was bearing down on us. Luckily we actually had a small shelter next to the trail coming up for us to hide in. Of course most of the rain missed us and we were just sitting under the small shelter stuffing our faces like little pigs. It was about 2:30 when we arrived at the shelter, to my absolute shock people already had tents set up. Do these people even hike? Are they planning to finish before September? WTF. We continued down the trail and came to a trailhead with a vault toilet and a few camping areas. We used the bathroom, and then hid out from another shower that was falling outside. We decided what the hell let’s just camp here. After walking around the area I got a weird feeling, just one of those strange I don’t want to be here or belong here feelings. So we continued. Then the rain really began to fall. Shit. Setting up a tent in the rain is one of my least favorite things to do. It’s right up there with taking a tent down in the rain. Oh well. We found a flat piece of ground alittle ways down the trail and said enough is enough with the rain. We have 90 miles to get to Lake City and plan to be in town in 4 days. Shouldn’t be too much trouble as long as the weather doesn’t get too bad. I hate hiking in the rain. 
Day 15
The clouds began the clear away and the rain from the night before and the very early morning hours had disappeared. It was 5:30 in the morning, way earlier then I like to get up. I tried to shake off the sleep me be productive before the monsoon storms made a return. The morning started off cool then progressed to sunny and warm. At about 9am I found a nice sunny spot to pull my tent and sleeping bag out of my pack and let them dry out. The tent was soaked and the foot box of my sleeping bag was rather damp as well. I used this time to also eat as much as I could, I’m always starving. It needed to be a big mileage day, in fact all the days into Lake City need to be more then 20 miles to give us a shorter day the last day into town. After drying things out and doing a few more miles we stopped to get water from a small creek. The clouds were slowly beginning to appear, it was just before 11am. In the span on 15-20 minutes while filtering water and drinking a liter the clouds had begun to build into thunderheads. Wow that was fast!! We hiked. Few miles up hill through some open fields and could see the sky darkening ahead of us. The sound of thunder was everywhere. We stopped at the edge of the woods and put our rain gear on. The thunder was intensifying all around us. We found a nice bushy blue spruce and tucked ourselves under it as the rain began to fall. We decided to use our Tyvek ground sheet as another layer of water proofing over us. Then came the pea sized hail and lightning. It was a good decision to tuck under the tree for a bit. Once the thunderstorm moved away we decided to continue hiking. The sky was still dark and ominous but we had to get more miles in. We hiked for about the next 5 hours in steady rain with thunder all around us, thankfully we were in the trees the whole time and not exposed. Towards the tail end of our soggy day I looked ahead in an open meadow and spied a small herd of Elk!! Finally a fucking Elk!! They took off as soon as they saw us, but at least we saw some. This pattern of stormy weather is supposed to continue the rest of the week, goody. Thankfully today the rain was absent while breaking down the tent and had disappeared while we made camp. However as I write this I can hear more thunder in the distance. In all we did 23.7 miles today. Tomorrow we will try for about the same. 
Day 16
It was a beautiful sunny morning, I think Mother Nature was trying to trick us into thinking the weather would be good all day. Today the elevation gain and loss looked to be in our favor for a bigger day again, as long as the weather held out. Most of our climbing would come right away with a series of three or four small hills and then a lot of flat to gradual climbs and descents. We slowly knocked out the small climbs while warming up our legs, all the while looking for a nice sunny spot to dry the tent out from all the condensation that had accumulated on it over night while camped near a small creek. The morning went just as planned, the miles came pretty easy, the tent and gear was dried out again, I even had enough phone service to check the weather and chat briefly with my sister. The forecast was saying more thunder storms for the day. Blah. After our drying, eating, and phone break we began a nice down hill stretch to a highway. At the highway we caught up to another hiker who’s wife had met him at the road to resupply him and I believe take him into town to get cleaned up. Such luxuries. On the bright side they had extra Gatorade and gave us each one. Woooohooo score!! We drank the gatorades quickly and chatted for a few minutes before deciding to keep getting miles in before the storms began. The clouds began to build and the rumble of thunder could be heard again in the distance. For a while it seemed like all the storms were passing just out of reach of us and that we might get lucky. Our luck soon ended and we were running for cover in the trees to stay dry. We tucked under a spruce and draped the ground sheet over ourselves again. As we scurried for safety a huge lightning bolt hit a near by ridge line, the thunder was almost instantaneous. That was a close one. We waited for the storm to pass and continued to hike through open meadows watching storms in the distance. Once more we tucked under a giant pine to stay dry but this time the lightning stayed a comfortable distance away. We continued after this short break and walked some small roads towards yet another storm headed our way. This time I hiked ahead and simply looked for the first nice, flat, and sheltered spot I could find. It was 5:30 and we had given up on the storms today. We had done exactly 24 miles and had the energy and day light to continue on. We simply didn’t want to chance our luck and have to set up a tent in a downpour. I found a very nice spot and got everything set up before the rains began, they were short lived but oh well. Were dry tonight, our gear is dry, and our spirits are higher then yesterday. It’s 40 miles to the road that leads into Lake City, we’re hoping to bag San Luis Peak before we head in since it’s right next to the trail. Hopefully the weather will allow it. 
Day 17
It was another beautiful sunny morning, we had set alarms to wake up at 3:40am in hopes of getting a stupid early start to be able to climb San Luis Peak. That idea ended quickly as I was far too sleepy and wouldn’t get up. We ended up leaving camp at a much more reasonable 7:15am instead. As we got going the skies soon were covered with a layer of clouds, not threatening clouds but still worrisome. The clouds kept the temperatures down during the morning making the humid air alittle more tolerable with out the baking sun. During our morning we saw a lone coyote in a nearby field. It was the first one we had seen on the CT. The miles started to pile up and eventually the sun came out to play. We were lucking out with the weather today. Storm after storm would build and pass by us and drop rain in the distance. Maybe this was the day we could hike all day and not have to run for cover. We began a slow and steady climb after lunch that would take us to the shoulder of San Luis Peak. On the way up we passed more Monks Hood wildflowers then I have ever seen in my life. We were following a stream the whole time that was perfect moose habitat. I was keeping my eyes open and my hopes high of seeing one even if it was during the heat of the day, when the moose are least active and usually bedded down. Chance would have it that I looked over at the perfect time and in a shady area about 50 feet off the trail I spied two moose!! I quickly got Snakebites attention and she was thrilled to see them. She seems to have been obsessed with seeing some moose. I always love seeing the animal that looks like all the animal kingdoms spare parts put into one. It was one bull moose and a cow. I’m always surprised at how small the moose in Colorado are compared to in Alaska. In Colorado we have a subspecies of moose called the Shiras Moose which are much much smaller then the Alaskan Moose subspecies. We stayed and watched them for a couple minutes. The cow moose was very focused on us while the bull got up from its resting place and seemed to care little about us as it ate some willow leaves. We continued up the slow climb till we got above 12k, this seems to be the area where Snakebite begins to struggle with the lack of oxygen. We slowly made our way over the saddle and started down. Clouds began to build again and this time it looked like they were coming for us. We found a small stream and a flat spot near it and decided not to press our luck, plus we were both very tired. We had a very curious doe Mule Deer near our tent site that had no problem coming to within a few feet of our camp. Today was the day of animals finally. We did exactly 24 miles today, leaving us alittle over 16 miles into town tomorrow. We really can’t wait till town, we’ve worked up quite a stink with the rain and humidity this section. I can’t wait to shower and do laundry. 
Day 18
The day started in an uncomfortable way, my tent had been pitched on a slope and didn’t lend its self to the most comfortable nights sleep. It’s town day!!! We had 16.6 miles to do before getting to the highway that leads into Lake City. The weather started off absolutely flawless, blue skies, hardly a breeze. We past and chatted with a few day hikers on our way down the trail. They were headed up to climb San Luis Peak, I hope the weather held for them because it changed rather quickly. The flawless blue skies held out until about 10am, then the clouds came back again and the skies quickly looked threatening again. I look forward to the day when I don’t have to worry about thunderstorms. We had 4 climbs to do this morning before getting to the road. The first was short and not very steep, the second was very steep and medium in length, the third was steep and short, and the fourth was gradual and longer in length. It wasn’t until the final climb that we had to get the rain gear out. At least it held out till we were almost done climbing. I couldn’t help think today while taking in the scenery how perfect the habitat was for Grizzly Bears. It’s sad to me that they were wiped out in the state of Colorado and that I will likely never see one here. We spent a good chunk of the late morning and early afternoon walking on top of Snow Mesa, a huge flat plateau, before heading down to the road. The Mesa was easy hiking but unnerving as we were having to constantly monitor the thunderstorms that were surrounding us on the treeless Mesa. Without taking much time for breaks we were across the Mesa and headed towards the highway. I very light rain had begun to fall while we attempted to hitch into town. By the time we had secured a hitch it was a full on downpour. As luck would have it we secured a ride with two other hikers from a young couple that were also hiking the trail but we’re taking a break and doing trail magic. Thank god, absolute perfect timing. We were all taken to the Ravens Rest Hostel. It’s an amazing little hostel near he center of town that is owned by a former thru hiker. It’s a very nice little place and honestly one of the better hostels I’ve stayed in. The best part of staying in hostels on trail is getting to share stories and conversation with other people of a like mind. After showering, doing laundry, and buying food it was time to relax. 7pm and it was time to eat everything in front of me, drink a beer or two, and talk about experiences on trail, past hikes, and future hikes. It’s great to have the company of other hikers around us, we thought we would experience this more on the CT. I guess we will enjoy the time we have around them and continue down the trail tomorrow. 


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