There was no longer any doubt in my mind that Top O' and I made the right decision to follow the Great Divide and Elwood Pass alternates. By now, we heard about too many hikers who were forced to turn back while attempting to cross the mountains out of Cumbres Pass.
Some hikers reported needing to self-arrest (prevent themselves from sliding down the mountain) at least once in the snow. One told of doing that several times. Experienced hikers said walking across the snow-covered mountains to Wolf Creek Pass had left them shaken.
|Date||Sunday, May 30, 2021|
|Weather||Clear sky with temperatures from upper-30s to near 80|
The problem now was that we couldn't go much farther without running into a lot more snow. Going north through Colorado, the trail would soon take us above 12,000 feet. Heavy snow still covered every mountain above 11,000 feet, and the trail rarely went below 10,000 feet.
Both of us felt like we have already walked through enough snow for one hike. If we continued north, we would be doing that all day long every day for two to three more weeks.
We didn't come here for that kind of hiking. As I like to say, "I signed up for hiking, not mountaineering."
With this in mind, Top O' and I got on our phones Sunday morning to find the best way to flip up to Wyoming. We wanted to make our way to the vicinity of South Pass City, Atlantic City, or Lander, then start hiking south. There was no snow in that part of Wyoming.
Going any farther north than that would soon put us in more snow. If we went south instead, we could walk 200 snow-free miles before the trail made the first climb above 10,000 feet. We're hoping most of the snow will be gone by the time we get there.
It took us the better part of the day to figure out a workable plan. The logistics turned out to be much more complicated than on my PCT hike when I flipped twice to avoid snow.
I rented a car each time I flipped in 2019, but that was out of the question this time. There were no rental car companies in Wyoming to drop off a car less than 100 miles away from where we were going.
We settled on a plan that pieced together a car shuttle and four bus routes. The shuttle was needed because no bus lines ran out of Pagosa Springs. For that matter, no bus lines went to Lander, so we'll need to hitchhike out of Rawlins to get to the trail.
This wasn't an ideal way to go, but there was one welcomed feature. Our plan included a layover at Captain and Gilligan's house. When I texted Gilligan to accept her invitation to stay there, she told me Just Awesome was also there. I had been hoping to catch up to him, and now I could.
After being stuck on our phones most of the day sorting through bus schedules, we were ready for a dinner break. Appropriately enough, The Break Room Brewing Company was within walking distance, so we went there.
After we returned to our motel, I chatted via text with Baguette. She told me she left the trail because of a foot injury and had gone up to the Denver area with Sunshine. She was now unsure what to do next, but she was thinking of flipping to Wyoming.
|Date||Monday, May 31, 2021|
|Weather||Rain in the afternoon and evening; temperatures from low-40s to low-60s|
The first stage of our flipping plan commenced the next morning. Top O' and I hired a shuttle driver to take us to Alamosa. As I said, no buses ran from Pagosa Springs. Going to Alamosa allowed us to take a bus from there to Pueblo, then take two more before we got close to Captain and Gilligan's house.
Unfortunately, the bus left Alamosa at 5:30 in the morning. That meant we needed to stay there overnight before getting on the bus.
Our driver picked us up promptly at 11 a.m. and dropped us off at our motel in Alamosa at 12:45 p.m. That left the rest of the day to kill. We discovered that wasn't easy to do in this town on Memorial Day. We walked a few blocks to the downtown business area but found almost no businesses were open.
Square Peg Brewerks was open, so we went there for a beer. Then we discovered Purple Pig Pizza was across the street and was also open. A light rain began to fall as we walked there for dinner.
By the time we finished our meal, the rain had turned into a heavy thunderstorm, which dropped the temperature noticeably colder. We didn't have our rain gear with us, so we called a cab.
Later that night, Baguette and I continued the conversation we started yesterday. She told me trying to figure out how to flip to Wyoming had left her feeling frazzled. She was also worried about her injury, which wasn't healing as fast as she hoped.
That's when we hit upon an idea to help her. Maybe Gilligan and Captain had room for one more hiker. It was too late at night to ask them, but I told Baguette I would find out in the morning and let her know. In the meantime, Baguette said she would try to find a doctor to look at her injured foot.
|Date||Tuesday, June 1, 2021|
|Weather||Partly cloudy; temperatures from low-40s to around 70|
The next day of our long trip to Wyoming started at 5:30 a.m. when we boarded a bus to Pueblo on a statewide bus line called Bustang. Top O' and I were the only passengers leaving Alamosa, but two more passengers boarded at the next stop.
One was a man with an amputated leg. He had an emotional support dog with him that looked like it was the one needing emotional support. It was the most nervous, skittish dog I have ever seen.
The route from Alamosa to Pueblo didn't go near mountains, but we saw them from the bus windows, including Pikes Peak. I couldn't say for sure, but it seemed like yesterday's storm dumped more snow on them.
I sent a text message to Gilligan and Captain to see if Baguette could also stay with them. They said she was more than welcome, though they had run out of beds. If she didn't mind sleeping on a couch, she could come.
At the last stop before Pueblo, a man boarded who wanted everyone on the bus to know Joe Biden was trying to take away our guns. To be sure we knew that, he continued to rant about it most of the way to Pueblo.
After the bus pulled into Pueblo and the door opened, we heard a man on the street curb yelling something unintelligible. It didn't seem his tirade was directed at anyone in particular.
“Welcome to Pueblo,” the driver said to us while rolling his eyes.
We found a fast-food restaurant for a late morning meal, then walked about the town to fill the time before our next bus. That led us to Brues Alehouse Brewing Co., which was in a building that at one time was Pueblo's police station and jail.
We boarded a Greyhound bus at 2:45 p.m. to take us to downtown Denver, where we transferred to another Bustang bus. It dropped us off at a park-and-ride stop in Loveland. Captain picked us up shortly after he picked up Baguette.
We had a 30-minute ride to Gilligan and Captain's house in Longmont. Just Awesome was also there. It was just like being on the PCT again with my tramily friends.
We enjoyed a spaghetti dinner, then stayed at the dinner table talking late into the evening.
|Date||Wednesday, June 2, 2021|
|Weather||Clear sky; temperatures from upper-40s to upper-70s|
The next morning was spent relaxing. Gilligan told us we could take her car, so JA drove Top O' and me in the afternoon to the REI store in Boulder.
The shoes I bought in Albuquerque had less than 350 miles on them. They were probably good for about 100 more miles, but I decided to take this opportunity to replace them. It would be easier to do that now than in Wyoming. Unfortunately, the Boulder REI store didn't have the shoes I wanted in my size. A nearby running shoe store didn't either.
We checked with Gilligan and she said she didn't mind, so Just Awesome drove us to REI's Denver flagship store. It had the shoes I wanted in my size.
We stopped at a grocery store on the way back to Longmont to pick up some food for dinner. That led to an alarming moment later in the evening.
Gilligan said she thought their dog Miles had eaten a chicken bone. We all searched in the yard and house but couldn't find any remnants of a bone. Gilligan remained worried the rest of the night.
When we woke up Thursday morning, we found a note from Gilligan. "Doggy deathwatch is canceled," she wrote. Gilligan said she took another look in the backyard and found a chicken bone, so Miles didn’t swallow it after all.
Baguette decided the best thing for her to do was go home to allow time for her foot to heal. She bought a ticket to fly home the next day.
Top O' and I bought Greyhound bus tickets to Rawlins. We'll also leave the next day.
JA went for a walk to test out his injured leg, and when he returned he said the leg felt good. He planned to stay another week to make sure it heals, which will also give more time for the snow to melt in the San Juans. He will then go back to Chama to resume his hike.
The day ended with dinner, cookies, and board games.
|Date||Friday, June 4, 2021|
|Weather||Clear sky; temperatures from upper-40s to upper-80s|
Baguette left early Friday morning for the Denver airport. A doctor told her she should wait until her foot was pain-free for four to five days, and she hopes that will be within a week or so.
Gilligan drove Top O' and me to the bus stop in Fort Collins later in the morning. After we thanked her and said our goodbyes, we thought we had only a short wait for the Greyhound to Rawlins, Wyoming. The bus was two hours and 20 minutes late.
We didn't yet have a motel room reserved in Rawlins for the night, so I went online to take care of that during our ride. That's when I discovered most of the motels had no vacancies or were surprisingly expensive.
Then I read some positive comments from hikers in the Guthook app about a small motel called the Brickyard Inn. I was able to reserve the last room there.
The bus stop in Rawlins was at a truck stop on Interstate 80. We had a two-mile walk from there to get to the motel. For half of a mile along the way, we followed the CDT.
We knew we were on the trail when we went through a railroad underpass. Posters of local sights made by school students were hung on the walls of the underpass, and one included a message of encouragement for hikers.
We were hungry when we arrived at the motel at 7:45 p.m., so we asked the desk clerk if he had a suggestion for dinner. He told us about a steak house, but the average tab there was $50 per person. We were kind enough to not burst out laughing at his suggestion. I don't know what he thought thru-hikers typically eat, but it's definitely not $50 steak dinners.
We chose instead a restaurant called Buck's Sports Grill. From the looks of the decor, the primary sport of interest around here was hunting.
At last, after nearly a week off, we were back on the trail. Admittedly, we only walked a half-mile of it through Rawlins. We will add more miles tomorrow, though just how much remains to be seen. We plan to hitchhike to Landers, South Pass City, or Atlantic City. Where we wind up depends on how successful we are at getting a ride.