Colorado Trail Part 4
LightHeart Gear owner Judy Gross is currently thruhiking the Colorado Trail, sleeping in her LightHeart tents and seeing some fantastic views! Here's the fourth, and last, chapter of her personal account of life on the trail:
Saturday, August 27th, 2016:
Cowsh!topa Hells (Cochetopa Hills)
After having a few days off the trail, Sparky and I got a ride with a Trail Angel off the list from the Colorado Trail Foundation website and got back to Highway 114 about 5pm. The drive back to the trail went through rain and sunshine, so we had no idea what the weather would be when we got to the trail. A light drizzle greeted us so we donned our rain gear and headed off. We hiked 3 miles and found a great campsite, perfectly flat, but the rain continued off and on all night. The next morning saw us on the cow sh!topa roads. The next 20 miles are basically all flat dirt roads throughBureau of Land Management (BLM) grazing lands. The cows (black angus) are everywhere, and so they poop everywhere. You cannot take 2 steps without landing in cow sh!t. And yes, while I was keeping my eyes on one nasty looking intact bull to make sure he didn't get any closer (they are not scared off by the hikers), I managed to step in a fresh deposit left by a cow. YUK! Fortunately, the weather remained very overcast, cloudy and cool because the area is devoid of any trees. It's also at a lower elevation – about 9,000-10,000 ft, so there is plenty of oxygen and we cruised along doing 12 miles by lunch.
Around 3pm, thunder and lightning struck off in the distance and rain started pouring on top of us forcing us to quickly find a very inadequate camping spot. We set up housekeeping and crawled into our tents. Two hours later as the rain stopped we packed up and moved a few miles down the trail till we found a really nice flat area. Shortly after we got all set up again, it began to rain and continued all night long, although it was just a soft pitter patter on the tent and I slept like a baby.
Just knowing the next day involved a lot of climbing can make you dread the hike! The morning was cool and cloudy though which helped with the hike. As the trail continued along Cowsh!topacreek, it ascends up to San Luis Mountain, a 14,000 footer. At the next trail head, we met several men that had tried to climb San Luis the day before but were chased off by the thunder and lightning. This morning, the mountain tops were covered in snow. We had 30 miles to go to get to Spring Creek Pass and into Lake City. As we climbed and climbed (and huffed and puffed), Sparky suggested we do three 10 mile days rather than two 15 mile days. It was 11:30 am and we had done about 10 miles. There was just no way I could sit around twiddling my thumbs all afternoon in camp when I could be hiking! Even if it was all uphill. So on we climbed, up over 1000 ft of elevation, towards San Luis pass which would be our 15 mile mark. We found a great campsite a mile short of the pass and stopped for the night. Kickapoo ended up spending the night with us at the site, so we had 2 LightHeart SoLong 6 tents and a LightHeart Solo tent standing tall. It drizzled on us again, but the sky cleared up, the stars were sparkling diamonds, and the temperature dropped below freezing. Instead of condensation in my tent I had frost. My EE quilt was not warm enough and I spent an uncomfortable night. The next morning was cold and clear, and even though the day started with a 500 ft climb, I had my down jacket on. As typical for the weather here, one minute it was cold, the next boiling hot as the sun came up. After another 1000 ft climb, (up to almost 13,000 ft) the sky started to cloud over again. One more climb of over 500 ft and we finally approached Snow Mesa. And, apropos for Snow Mesa, we had a blizzard as we made our way across. Looking back towards San Luis Pass, the snow was much heavier, and the hikers that have come into Lake City since then have all commented about how much snow was up top. The weather continues to get colder, rainier with more snow.
As a side note, I seem to have developed some sort of allergic reaction to something (a new Burts Bees lip balm I bought?) as my lips are swollen and tingling. They are sun and wind burned, but I've never had this sort of reaction before. I also have no appetite still, and just walking around town I can get short of breath, so I'm heading home from Lake City. I'm sick of the multi-use trails aka the eroded cow sh!t covered trails. Many of the trails that are designated wilderness (ie. No bikes/ dirt bikes ) have been destroyed by dirt bikes (you can see obvious bike tread marks). Things back at LightHeart Gear are calling me home and so after a wonderful zero day in Lake City, I'm getting a ride to Gunison where I'm renting a car to drive back to Denver this afternoon. It's hard. Sitting around listening to everyone plan their next section of trail, and the weather is beautiful this morning (isn't it always?).
My tail and trail is now done. I will not hike in Colorado again.