Heavy rain fell overnight. That wasn't surprising, based on how the sky looked when I went to bed. I must have selected a good spot for pitching my tent because the site drained well. I was able to stay dry.
|Date||Sunday, May 23, 2021|
|Weather||Variable cloudiness and windy with brief periods of freezing rain; temperatures from the mid-40s to low-60s|
|Trail Conditions||Small patches of snow and sometimes muddy; long climbs and descents|
The first part of our plan for getting to Chama started when Sasquatch left after breakfast to hitchhike into town. Zigzag and I were to wait at Hopewell Lake until Sasquatch picked up his car and returned to pick us up.
Soon after Sasquatch left, Zigzag approached me while we laid out our gear to dry in the sun. He told me he intended to quit the trail and go home. This news was both a shock and not a shock.
It was unexpected because Zigzag had not given any hints of wanting to quit. Still, I wasn't surprised because I knew he was having difficulty acclimating to the elevation. He said he didn't sleep well last night because he had trouble breathing.
We were at 9,800 feet. Most of the next several weeks will require us to be at least that high and often much higher. I completely understood his unease about continuing.
Zigzag also expressed other concerns but tried to make it clear he wasn't unhappy about hiking with me. I told him I enjoyed the nearly six weeks we spent together and was grateful he had been willing to join me.
When I had a chance to absorb Zigzag's unexpected news, several thoughts began to race through my mind. Should I get off the trail too and go home to wait out the snow in Colorado? Or should I just go into Chama as planned and figure out things from there?
The first idea to pop into my head was to walk to the highway. The trail left our campsite to go along Hopewell Lake and then to the highway where Sasquatch was trying to hitch. This was just seven-tenths of a mile away. It seemed helpful for when I returned to the trail if I completed that section now. I could simply get dropped off at the highway when I come back and start walking.
I had time to do this because Sasquatch needed at least a couple of hours to pick up his car and return, and that was assuming he got a ride to Chama right away.
When I arrived at the highway at 9:30 a.m., I saw Sasquatch standing by the side of the road. He had been trying to hitchhike for two hours and no one had stopped to pick him up. He said only a couple of cars and a truck had driven by.
I explained to him about Zigzag’s decision to quit and why I had walked to the highway. Sasquatch had an excellent suggestion. He lives in the Denver area and said he could take Zigzag there, where it would be easier to get a flight home.
I knew Zigzag would like that idea, and he did when we returned to the picnic pavilion by the lake.
That settled only some of our problems. There was still a matter of getting to Chama. Cell service was sketchy, but we were able to reach Doggone and Taxilady. They said they would be here later this morning and could take us back to Chama.
Now all that was left for me was to figure out what to do after I was ready to resume my hike.
If there was ever a "the trail provides" moment, it was what happened next. Just moments after we settled our plan to get Zigzag home, No Keys, Top O', and OldTimer walked up to the picnic pavilion.
Instantly, I realized this was my opportunity to continue hiking with guys I was compatible with. I already knew them well enough to know I liked them. They were close enough to my age that I could probably hike about to their pace.
I asked them if they minded me joining them, and without hesitation, they said, "Let’s go!"
I grabbed my gear but realized there wasn't enough water in my water bottle to get me far up the trail. Sasquatch had some to give me. Then I said a quick goodbye to Zigzag and Sasquatch as I hurried down the trail to catch up with No Keys, Top O', and OldTimer.
All of this happened before there was time to explain to the guys that Zigzag had just quit. I had to do that while walking with them.
Then I realized I wasn't wearing my gaiters and stopped to put them on. I wasn't wearing them because I thought I was going into town today.
Everything happened so fast, I needed a few miles of walking to begin to process it.
The first 4.8 miles of the trail from the highway made a gradual climb of about 800 feet. We went up a gap between the twin peaks of Jawbone Mountain. Beyond that, the trail topped out at above 10,500 feet.
Piles of snow appeared on the trail again, just as they had the last couple of days at similar elevations.
We stopped for lunch after we went over the top of the climb. I was trying to re-organize my pack after my sudden departure when the rest of the group was finished eating. They left before I did, so I hiked alone in the afternoon.
One of the first things I did after lunch was slip and fall to my knees in mud. The nearby snow came in handy because I used some to clean off the mud.
The trail remained above 10,000 feet for about 10 miles. During that stretch, freezing rain fell twice and the wind picked up. I stopped to put on my rain gear each time because the sky looked stormy. The precipitation didn't stay for long and twice more I had to stop to take off my rain gear.
The trail was much like yesterday, with mixed stands of trees interspersed between ranges of grass. The terrain was gradually transitioning from an arid desert to rugged mountains.
Snow reappeared every time there was a forested section. In one, I slipped and fell again, this time landing with my hip on a snow-covered rock. I was in pain for only a moment or two.
After cursing the snow, picking myself up, and brushing off the snow, I was back to walking with only a little soreness. Fire Hazard and Spider Monkey passed me soon after that.
Although I was only hit with a couple of short showers of frozen rain, there was plenty of precipitation in the area. I could often see it fall in the distance as I walked across grassy stretches of trail. Dark clouds and falling rain were usually visible in one or two directions at any given time.
I didn't expect to have any cell reception because there wasn't a nearby town or highway. When I saw a long open view, however, I decided to try my phone anyway. The signal was surprisingly good, and I called Kim to update her on today's events. As always, she was encouraging and optimistic.
After the trail dropped to 9,480 feet and crossed Rio San Antonio, it made a tight switchback and began another climb. This one went up the side of the canyon formed by the narrow river.
By now, the time was just past 6 p.m. Some of the clouds appeared to be breaking up, but that depended on which direction I looked. In other directions, rainfall and storm clouds could still be seen.
OldTimer, Top O', and No Keys had discussed possibly stopping at Lagunitas Campground, but at this point, I was still at least two hours away from there. I began to wonder if would get there before dark. Then for a moment, I questioned whether I could keep pace with those guys. After that, I decided to just keep going and see what happened.
After going nearly two miles in a gradual climb from Rio San Antonio, the trail was back to above 10,000 feet. The wind was extremely gusty at the canyon rim until the trail left it and crossed to where a side canyon connected to Lagunitas Creek Canyon.
After descending to a stream flowing through the middle of the small canyon, I stopped to collect water. I wanted to get some now because I remained unsure when or where I would be stopping for the night. The campsite might be in a dry section of trail or a storm might pass through. Either way, getting water now despite my slow filter could save me trouble later.
On the climb out of the side canyon, I saw what looked like intense rainfall on a distant ridge. I soon realized this may have just been an optical illusion caused by the angle of the sun hitting the rain. Still, whether it was a strong storm or a lighting effect, there was a good chance of more rain falling on me.
Once I got to the top of the climb, I followed the trail along the rim of Lagunitas Creek Canyon. The time was now past 7 p.m. and I was still an hour away from reaching Lagunitas Campground. I could get there with minutes to spare before sundown, but I wasn't looking forward to it.
Then after walking less than a half-mile more, a flash of color caught the corner of my eye. I turned and looked to the left, where I saw a cluster of tents standing among aspen trees. They belonged to Top O', OldTimer, No Keys, Fire Hazard, and Spider Monkey. I almost walked past them.
It was a tight squeeze for me, but I found room to pitch my tent with them.
The night ended with bursts of distant lightning but no thunder. The storms remained far away.
This had been a day of unexpected changes. They happened quickly. I was pleased to still be on the trail, but I had some disappointment. I felt in my sudden departure I failed to adequately thank Zigzag for hiking 600 miles with me. It had been an enjoyable time.
As I walked alone today, I reflected on what had just transpired. I thought about how I impulsively jumped without hesitation at an opportunity to join No Keys, Top O', and OldTimer. That reinforced how much I want to keep going to Canada.
I realize now I would have regretted losing my chance to hike with these guys if I hadn't taken it. We are less than two days from crossing into Colorado.
You say, "Yes," I say, "No"
You say, "Stop," and I say, "Go, go, go"
You say, "Goodbye," and I say, "Hello"
I don't know why you say, "Goodbye," I say, "Hello"
I don't know why you say, "Goodbye," I say, "Hello"