CDT 2021: Day 63, Hwy 70/Encampment to Huston Park Wilderness

Now we all gotta play the three card trick

Top O' and OldTimer

Although I never asked, I wondered if maybe OldTimer had decided to take a zero day in Encampment to give Top O' and me a chance to catch up. If so, that was alright with me. I tried to talk No Keys and him into joining us when we were in Chama.

After Top O' and I left Chama to follow the lower route into Colorado, OT and No Keys attempted to cross the high route in the San Juans. They soon realized that way was too dangerous and difficult. No Keys got off the trail, and OT ended up flipping to Wyoming at about the same time we did.

OT hiked several more miles than us in Wyoming. Because he had better luck than we did in getting there, he arrived a day or two before us. He then started walking from a spot farther north than we did.

DateMonday, June 14, 2021
WeatherClear and hot, with temperatures reaching near 80
Trail ConditionsMostly well-marked trail with snow and blowdowns
Today's Miles13.4
Trip Miles860.5

I was unsure at first if OT intended to hike with us. When he arrived this morning at our motel, he said he was ready to attempt a hitch back to the trailhead at Battle Pass. I didn't hear him say he would wait for us there.

He was gone before we finished packing and left our room. Someone picked him up immediately after he stuck out his thumb.

We had the same kind of luck. A man driving to work stopped seconds after we walked to the road. To make room for the two of us, he had to move an air compressor from the cab to the back of his truck.

Once again, it seemed like the residents here were happy to help hikers.

OT waits for us at Battle Pass

When Top O' and I arrived at the pass just before 8 a.m., OT was still there. He had waited for us.

And like that, we were now a team of three.

Snow on the climb from Battle Pass

We began an immediate climb after leaving the trailhead. The first six-tenths of a mile went up 220 feet.

A foot or more of snow covered most of the trail. Though this didn't make the climb too troublesome, I slipped and fell once.

Entering Huston Park Wilderness

After walking for about 30 minutes, we entered Huston Park Wilderness. Part of Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, this wilderness area covers 30,588 acres. The CDT crosses it for about 12 miles.

We entered the wilderness area in a gap between Red Mountain and Doane Peak (not to be confused with the Doane Peak in Grand Teton National Park). We would remain between 9,350 feet and 10,550 feet in elevation the rest of the day.

Long Park

In the 1980s, conservation advocates worked with Wyoming's congressman and senators to protect some of the lands eyed for timber and mineral extraction. Using provisions of the Wilderness Act of 1964, the Wyoming Wilderness Act was passed in 1984. It set aside more than 880,000 acres for protection, including Huston Park.

The wilderness area was named to honor Al Huston, a rancher, prospector, and hunting guide who lived in the Sierra Madre in the second half of the 1800s.

Once I remembered that large meadows in the Rocky Mountains are often called parks, I could see why "park" was added to the area's name. We walked through a string of these.

The first was called Long Park. The ground was saturated with snowmelt, which made it impossible to keep my feet dry.

OldTime leaps across the North Fork Encampment River

Small streams ran through Long Park. One was North Fork Encampment River, and this spot was the river's source. It only took a short hop to reach the other side.

This stream connects downstream with the main branch of the Encampment River, which runs for 44.7 miles before flowing into the North Platte River.

Top O' and OldTimer walk across a park

We were still readjusting to the altitude and didn't push hard on this section of the trail. We made regular stops to take short breaks. Some were to collect and filter water, and others were just for a rest or to figure out the best route around water.

Water was so plentiful that we never needed to carry more than a liter.

A snowbridge over a stream

One of our water stops was where a stream flowed from underneath a large patch of snow. It didn't appear that livestock ever grazed up here, and the water was pure and cold.

Top O' and OldTimer walk through a section of patchy snow

Temperatures in the last day or two had turned much warmer. We were both the beneficiaries and victims of that. The snow was melting quickly now, but that caused water to flow everywhere. I felt at times I was walking on a wet sponge.

A view of Big Agnes and other mountains

Late in the morning, I fell behind OT and Top O' when I stopped to take photos of a mountain view. From my vantagepoint, I could see Mt. Zirkel (12,188 feet). To the right of it were Big Agnes Mountain (12,054 feet), Buck Mountain (11,381 feet), and Little Agnes Mountain (11,499 feet). They stood in Mt. Zirkel Wilderness, between 18 and 22 miles away. All of the peaks had snow from about 10,000 feet and above.

Farther to the right and partially obscured by trees was Lost Ranger Peak. This mountain was about 31 miles away and is 11,949 feet above sea level. I was most interested in seeing the snow on that mountain because the CDT goes over and near the top of it. We will have to climb it in a couple of days.

When I left my photo spot, the trail made an easy descent. I put in my earbuds and listened to a podcast as I walked. I cruised down the trail until suddenly, I was jolted from my podcast by a growl coming from a clump of trees.

I snapped my head to the left to see what made the sound. It was Top O' playing a practical joke. He and OT had stopped for lunch, and I failed to see them sitting in the shade as I walked by.

Nope

We ran into our first and only northbound hiker of the day after lunch. It was Nope, who has completed many thru-hikes. I met him briefly in New Mexico, and to be sure, he was a memorable character. He was dressed in what appeared to be a woman's pink tennis outfit.

Nope is deafened and relies on lip-reading to understand what others are saying. He told us he intended to hike a yo-yo. In other words, after he reaches the Canadian border, Nope will turn around and hike back to New Mexico.

A flat section of trail

After exchanging information about the trail ahead, we left Nope and followed the trail over a flat and rocky section. The temperature was now at the highest of the day at around 80°F. There were still patches of snow here and there, but the ground wasn't as saturated as before.

A view of Bears Ears Peak

I stopped again when I got a view of Bears Ears Peak. It was 28 miles away in Colorado.

I thought at first this was Rabbit Ears, another mountain with a rock formation that looks like ears. Although we won't be walking to Bears Ears, the trail will take us to Rabbit Ears Pass. That is where we will leave the trail and go into Steamboat Springs for our next resupply stop. We expect to be there later this week.

OldTimer and Top O'

Crossing this plateau-like section was easy. Soon, however, the trail began a long descent.

The trail makes a long descent

We dropped 1,000 feet in under two miles. This part of the trail was on a southern exposure and was free of snow.

Dale Creek

On the way down, the trail passed Dale Creek. The narrow stream was gushing with water, and I stopped there to collect and filter some more.

A steep climb in Huston Park Wilderness

At the bottom of the long descent, the trail began the first of two steep ups and downs. As if that wasn't tiring enough at the end of the day, we also began to find several downed trees lying across the trail.

A view of Hog Park Reservoir

We could see Hog Park Reservoir from the top of the second up and down. The lake was just outside the boundary of the wilderness area. It's too bad the trail didn't go near it because the forest service operates a campground there.

We decided to stop at 6 p.m. at a spot near the wilderness area's southern boundary. Several dead trees stood here, which isn't usually a wise place to pitch a tent. We knew this but decided to camp there anyway. After looking over the place carefully, we thought the trees would fall away from our tents if an unexpected storm whipped up.

Assuming we aren't crushed in the night by a falling tree, we will enter Colorado tomorrow morning.

Don't you remember the place
Where we hid the ace?
Yeah not thick but slick
Now we all gotta play the three card trick

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