CDT 2021: Day 128, South Fork Spanish Creek to Cherry Creek

Take us out of this gloom

A gloomy view of Spanish Peaks

When I think of hiking on a cold and wet day, the Appalachian Trail always comes to mind. Rain fell so often on my 2017 thru-hike I got trench foot.


Many days on that hike ended when I quickly set up my tent, then dove in to change into dry clothes. The worst part came the next morning. That's when I would have to put back on my wet clothes.

DateWednesday, August 18, 2021
WeatherRain and drizzle in the morning, then fog; temperatures from low-40s to mid-50s
Trail ConditionsLong climbs and descents, with a few places the trail was difficult to find
Today's Miles14.4
Trip Miles1862.6

Hiking in Western states hasn't often been like that. I remember a few cold and rainy days, but I mostly think of the PCT and now the CDT with dry weather. When rain has fallen, it hasn't been all day long. And low humidity in the west has usually helped make conditions pleasant again in a short time.

That's not what happened today. Rain began falling at 1:15 a.m. and continued until 6 a.m. Although I was hopeful that would be the end of precipitation for the day, it wasn't. Rain didn't fall all day, but I never saw the sun.

In short, this was a cold, damp, and gloomy day.

Beginning a wet climb on the High Lakes Trail

The other hikers we camped with last night remained in their tents as Top O' and I packed and prepared to leave. If they hoped the weather would clear, I'm sure they were soon disappointed.

We were the only ones to leave camp at 7:45 a.m. Rain wasn't falling then, but the trees and shrubs were so wet it hardly mattered.

At the end of the day yesterday, just before finding a campsite, we turned to begin hiking on the High Lakes Trail. Our departure from there this morning immediately started a long and sometimes breathtakingly steep climb. The trail took us up 2,000 feet in the next 2.7 miles.

Misty Spanish Peaks

We were still hiking in the Spanish Peaks, the area that received rave reviews from the southbound hikers I met several days ago. While the views yesterday were disappointingly diminished by smoke, I could still see what they talked about.

That wasn't the case today. All possible views were shrouded in a thick layer of clouds. Visibility was so limited that, at best, I could only see dark silhouettes of the nearest mountains. Views of distant mountain peaks were impossible.

Top O' walks ahead between some trees

The morning remained cold and damp, but at least no more rain fell in the first hours of our walk. This wasn't obvious at first because droplets continued to fall from the trees.

Top O' uses his umbrella

Rain returned by mid-morning, though it never fell for extended periods and was never heavy. When it didn't fall, a mist lingered in the air to ensure nothing dried.

Second Lower Falls Creek Lake

Our pace on the climb was ponderous. The trail's steepness and the miserable weather slowed us to barely one mile an hour. We finally reached the top shortly after 10 a.m.

A small lake with a mouthful of a name – Second Lower Falls Creek Lake – appeared shortly past the top.

Top O' sits against a large rock to eat a snack

I lost track of Top O' on the climb and almost walked past him later. Walking with my head down in one of the brief showers, I was startled to see him sitting in the protection of a large rock outcropping and eating a snack. He was as disgusted with the weather as I was.

The trail is wet and the sky is moody

The day didn't lack scenic beauty, but the views were moody. Admittedly, I didn't have much appreciation for them because I mostly focused my attention on the footpath. I was determined only to complete the miles we hoped to walk today.

The trail stayed close to 9,000 feet in elevation for about three miles before dropping to 7,700 feet at North Fork Spanish Creek. Another grueling climb started from there, regaining nearly all the lost elevation in the next 1.2 miles.

I received a text message from Polecat late in the day when I had a short period of cell service. He was touching base with me and said he planned to meet us on the trail tomorrow.

Polecat mentioned that he met several hikers I knew, including Tumbleweed, Two Taps, Paddles, and Sprout.

A southbound hiker named Delta

Top O' and I never saw the hikers we camped with last night. They must have been slowed at least as much by the weather and terrain as we were. The only hiker we saw all day was Delta, who was hiking southbound.

The trail rounds a knob in the fog

Though the dampness lingered through the day, the rain stopped in the afternoon.

Top O' and I found a large log to sit on while preparing our dinner. It didn't seem like a grizzly bear would be as foolish as us to wander about on such a dreary day, but we still took our standard mealtime precautions.

Finding a place to pitch our tents after we resumed walking was more difficult than we hoped. Visibility was by now barely a quarter-mile.

We had trouble finding a flat spot that also wasn't completely exposed. Finally, we were able to find a site at 8 p.m. It was located near Red Knob and Saint Joe Creek, and next to Cherry Creek.

I was glad that we had already eaten dinner. Now all that was necessary to do when we stopped was set up our tents, hang our food bags, and then crawl into our tents to put on dry clothes.

Tomorrow will not be fun when I have to put back on those wet, cold clothes.

Dear Mr. Fantasy play us a tune
Something to make us all happy
Do anything, take us out of this gloom,
Sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.