Wednesday, August 19th, 2020
The smoke from the wildfires was finally showing itself. Colorado was experiencing record breaking wildfires this year. The Pine Gulch Fire which started July 31st would break the record as the largest wildfire in the state’s history, covering 139,000 acres. The Cameron Peak Fire would follow it on August 13th. It would later take the lead in the history books covering a total of 208,900 acres. It was very unfortunate.
Not only was it starting to get smoky, but it was also a very cold morning. We were glad we didn’t hike further to camp on the saddle. It was cold enough as is! Before crossing the saddle, we would walk through a labyrinth of bushes. The smoke prevented us from seeing too far out in the distance, but the views were still stunning! Especially after climbing over San Luis Pass.
I met a few section hikers and peak baggers climbing to the San Luis summit. My vision had been following the steep trail all the way up to the top. I was relieved when I found out the Colorado Trail wasn’t heading that way. Just for laughs, after Frisbee met me at the top, I pointed up and told him that that was where we were heading. He gave me a look of dread before it turned into relief. During his ascent, he was thinking the same thing I was.
The views were incredible! I laughed when I startled a pika on the trail. He panicked and ran right over my feet. We crossed the Continental Divide before reaching a high point. This stretch was mesmerizing and the views were only going to get better!
We passed a beaver dam before making our last big climb for the day. It was getting super smoky! After reaching the top, I waited for Frisbee to catch up. While waiting, I ran into a couple of familiar faces. We briefly spoke to a pair of older section hikers two days prior. They were driving around, tackling a section at a time, and were pretty surprised to see me.
“You guys are making good time!”
He told me the hike up was “a son-of-a-bitch” and he was glad it was over. Frisbee and I were fortunately heading downhill the remainder of the day.
We hiked through short stretches of boulder fields before reaching Snow Mesa. I felt like we were on a different planet. This wide open space was just as stunning as the mountains we just hiked through! There was plenty of water too. We passed a few more day hikers and section hikers before reaching a massive boulder field. We were climbing down this one and I tried to imagine how many thousands of pikas lived there. I would make out tiny bursts of movement throughout the rubble. They were everywhere!
It was a steep down to the parking lot below. We were planning on hitching into Lake City, but it was getting late and our odds of doing so successfully were pretty slim. Most of the people passing through were Texans lugging Side-by-Sides back to town.
As we dug through our packs in the parking lot to get our wallets ready for town, I caught a glimpse of a familiar van out of the corner of my eye. I pointed Frisbee’s gaze in the same direction, and we couldn’t believe it! It was Dr. Thunder’s van! He was in the process of tidying up the place when we peeked inside. It was great to see him! He had already leveled the van with a rock for the night, so we weren’t trying to bother him for a ride. We said hello and told him we were trying to hitch but would likely be back. We were right.
All the Texans were rushing into town to get some beers and grub. Helping out some homeless-looking people on the side of the road wasn’t in their agenda. We held out our thumbs and only received several thumbs up and the occasional peace sign in return. Back to the van we went.
Dr. Thunder made us hot dogs, and gave us sodas and chips. This guy is a true trail angel! We decided to cowboy camp in a nearby ditch. We made it to mile 357.8 and would enjoy the pleasures of town later. Thunder said he would drive us there in the morning. Just as we were tucking inside our bivies, we heard familiar voices above us. Filter and Bang showed up and spotted Thunder’s van. It was pretty nice to see the crew again.
20.6 miles (33.2 km)
Jump Ahead to The Colorado Trail: Part 19
Jump Back to The Colorado Trail: Part 17
Start from the Beginning: The Colorado Trail: Part 1