Day 27, 7/3
Mileage: 366.1 – 380.3
I wake up freezing cold in the yurt. I think it might be colder in here than outside. Brian gets up and starts a fire in the wood stove- umm, yeah, luxury to the max. Thanks Brian. I put my warm clothes on in my sleeping bag and eat my breakfast before finally braving the cold and getting up. We pack up eventually, say goodbye to good ol’ yurty, and start walking. A half mile up the trail I realize I left my pack cover at the yurt. Shit. I throw my pack off and run back to get it. I’m totally making this mile count towards my mileage, I think to myself as I huff and puff my way up the hill to the yurt.
Today we’re ascending up to above 12,000 feet. Sounds do able, right? The difference between today and all the other days is that once we ascend up to 12,000 feet, we don’t come down for 33 miles. This means we’re walking above tree line, camping above tree line, and braving any storm that might come our way, above tree line.
At some point in the day we hit the high point of the Colorado Trail at an elevation of 13,271 feet. Squat and I take pictures and a video, including our favorite type of picture- jumping pics. The sky is beautiful and I’m feeling lucky that the weather is so good. We continue on, walking up and down and up and down about 1,000 feet each way, multiple times. We catch up to Bibbs and take a short lunch break together, but we continue on pretty quickly because we know our weather luck may not last and we still have a 13,000 ft. pass to walk over. At the bottom of the hill, just as we start walking up again, I catch Brian. We look at the map together, discussing possibilities of where we might camp, squat filters water, then we head up the hill towards our last tower of the day.
When I crest the top I realize my legs must be in really good shape. It didn’t seem that hard to me, and it went by fast, and considering that that was our 4th fairly difficult climb of the day, I feel pretty good. Squat and I eat our burritos at the top and I comment that “it’s not everyday you get to eat a burrito at 13,000 feet”. It’s true, and I feel rather fortunate. Bibbs is going farther than us today, so we hug and say goodbye, anticipating not seeing each other until Durango. She really has been an awesome hiking partner and a really fun friend to spend the last week with. We’ll miss her.
When we finish our lunch we head down the other side of the pass and a mile and a half later there’s Bibbs, sitting there in the grass. She’s staring at a lake below us, Cataract Lake, where Squat and I had decided to camp.
“It’s too pretty”, she says. “I can’t pass this up, I’m camping here tonight.
We all make our way down to set up camp by the lake. Of course we don’t actually follow the trail down to the lake because it seems faster to go straight down, so pretty soon I’m bushwhacking through giant brush that’s almost as tall as I am. Next thing I know the ground is soggy, and when I finally push my way through the bushes and step out into the field, I’m in a giant marshy area. There’s no way my feet are staying dry through this. With each step my feet sink about 6 inches into the muddy water. We squish and squash our way across the marshy field, slowly making our way around the lake until we get to dry ground.
“Awww shite. Looks like we have to cross the lake”, I say as we come upon the lake with no way around but through.
Into the lake we go. The three of us step into the water, shoes and clothes and all, and start walking across the lake in about 2 foot deep water. The mud is like quicksand in the bottom. It’s slimy and nasty and I sink into the mud close to a foot with each step. All the sudden I take a step and sink to my waste.
“Your pack, your pack!” Bibbs yells at me and tries to help me up, as I scramble in the mud trying to get out of the hole into which I’ve fallen. Miraculously my pack isn’t wet. That’s really all I care about. I’m wet and filthy up to my waste, but I’m laughing the rest of the way across the lake and up onto shore. We all decide that we’re glad we didn’t take the trail down. This way was so much more adventurous, right?
Squat and I set up camp and make dinner and I try to clean myself up a bit, and then the rain starts. It’s real windy by this lake, real, real windy. The wind is trying to blow us over. We retreat back into the confines and comfort of our home and try to fall asleep under the pelting rains and fierce winds. I’m a little nervous- we’re quite exposed and if lightening comes, then what? Oh well, nothin we can do now. What can you do? Sleep is my best option, I decide.