Day 21 of the Colorado Trail

August 10

16.7 miles

I got up around 6:15. It was another cold morning, so I snacked in my sleeping bag. I packed up and went out to the rocks to check out the sunrise. It was as equally as unimpressive as the sunset. (For all of the romantic notions that people might have about seeing the stars and gorgeous sunrises and sunsets in our lengthy time outside, that very rarely happens on an excursion such as this. Most of the time, I am camped in the trees with no views to be seen, the weather is much more cloudy and rainy than sunny, and I can’t stay up long enough to see if the stars are out…)
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I was on the trail by 7:31. My energy was low, and the miles dragged on. It didn’t help that there were no great views (which always boost my energy). I just put my head to the ground and plugged away. My happiest moments came when I saw a scavenger bird hanging out in the meadow bushes, and a marmot playing in the remnants of a log cabin.
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The difference between how I had felt yesterday and how I felt today was extreme.

In the afternoon, I saw a lone mountain biker. He asked how I was. “Fine,” I said. He laughed. In actuality, I didn’t feel fine. I felt extremely tired. It was a hot day and the heat always sucks the energy out of me. I imagined reaching Baldy Lake and relaxing for a bit along its shore. Then, I discovered that it was a half mile off the trail! Extra miles!
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I tried to cover 10 miles before noon. At 11:45, I found a big pine tree on the top of a hill near the end of segment 16 to eat lunch under. It was windy and dark clouds were approaching yet again. I was very chilly.
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The “trailhead” was completely unrecognizable! Someone would have needed to have driven in with an off-road jeep if they wanted to start the next section! (It was also irritating that the mile points and landmarks in section 16 in my guidebook were way off! We rely on those points to keep track of where we are.)

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At 3:30, I finally made it to the Baldy Lake turn-off, after having walked nearly 17 long, tedious miles. I planned to drop my pack and get some water (it was the only water available in a very long stretch), and continue on for another 3.6 miles. Then I saw several men! My first instinct was one of fear. I wouldn’t be able to drop off my pack as I had hoped…! But as I went over to them, they turned out to be very friendly! One of them even offered to help me take my pack off (when I declined, he realized that I had done this many times on my own!). They offered the son to watch my pack (he was going to stay and nap) while we all went down the half mile long hill to collect water. Wonderful! I took out two of my collecting bags, my filter, my 2 platypus bags, and one of my hiking poles. But it was too cumbersome to carry like that. One of the guys offered to let me put my filter in his pack. On the way down, I instantly turned into a chatty girl! Sometimes, I just need a little company and the opportunity to express my female energy to put me in a better mood!
The hike today had been a very rocky one and taking steps on and around them was hard. The bottom of my right foot was hurting.
At the bottom of the hill, Mel introduced himself. He was very nice. They walked around the lake to collect their water while I took the most direct route to the water. But my collecting bags didn’t work so well in the shallow, stagnant water. I tried to step out onto a rock where the water was deeper, but my foot slipped off and got totally submerged. I cursed loudly and the two men looked over at me. I had imagined that the lake would be blue and beautiful, but it turned out to be green. It was taking a very long time to collect and filter the water, repeating again, and again. But the pump that the men were using was taking even longer. (If this was a race…)
I climbed back up the hill with all my things and now full water bags. It wasn’t easy to carry! It had smelled like cow down by the water, so I wanted to put iodine tablets in my water for extra measure. By the time I got to the top of the climb, it started raining! The son had set his tent-up and was inside. I quickly found the iodine tablets, but couldn’t open them! And when I did get an individual packet opened, the tablet disintegrated into powder! They were too old! I did the best I could and then put everything away as the rain fell harder! I got out my rain jacket and rain pants and went to stand under the pine trees. This time, there were no dry spots underneath them! The rain quickly turned to hail. And the size of the hail grew larger! All I could do was stand there and get pelted. I was freezing cold!! I had wanted to pack up and continue hiking, but was now forced into a holding pattern. I realized that I didn’t even have a chance to put my camera into a ziplock bag! I hoped it was okay. Hail covered the ground, our packs, and the kid’s tent. Then, it switched back to rain. Lightning and thunder followed. The kid emerged from his tent, brushed off some of the hail off the tent, checked on the packs, and asked me if I wanted a jacket. He also said he had a sleeping bag. I told him I was okay. When the rain slowed a bit, I went over to my pack and dug my fleece jacket out and then returned to the trees to try to find a dry space. I failed. I was so, so cold.
Mel and Dave came back and wanted to know where I went. Dave’s son pointed to me in the woods. I remained where I was for awhile and then made my way over to them. They were trying to decide if they should move or camp here for the night. I voted to move in order to keep warm. The weather had a different plan, however. The storm was not letting up. It continued to lightning and thunder. We were in the middle of a swirling weather pattern. It would have been stupid to climb even higher. Mel said it was a plains storm. He was cool as a cucumber- very calm and in control. Dave brought out his flask of whiskey. “This is what I brought it for!”. He took a swig, passed it to his son (who said, “I’m not 21 yet. Can I still have some?), then to Mel. Mel looked at me, “Wendy?”. I took a sip. He saw enough flat ground for their tents and invited me to stay with them. My first camping company on the hike! I didn’t want to camp on the hail and several inch-high plants (the bottom of my tent is mesh!), so I decided to go back up to the intersection where I remembered seeing a patch of dirt. Mel said he would help me set up after he got his tent set up. “Just give a call over.” John, the son, came up to see if I needed help, and again I told him I was fine. Then it started raining again! My gear was getting wet! I hurried to put everything in the tent.
I was so cold that I was shivering! I changed into my long johns and dry socks. My toes hurt from being too cold. I didn’t want to cook dinner in the rain, so I just got in my sleeping bag and slowly tried to warm up. The rain kept coming down.
A bit later, Mel walked up to my tent. “Wendy? Are you awake?”
“Yes.”
“I brought your water bottle up here and set it against this log. And I have some wine. Do you have something to put it in?”.
“I only have my pot,” I said.
“Well, wine in a pot is still good!” he said. I searched for my pot while he stood outside, rain falling down on him. He said he hoped to see me in the morning and that I should come down and have breakfast with them.
I ate some goldfish crackers with my wine. It was delicious! How fortunate was I to meet these nice people to keep me company through the storm and have wine brought to my tent in the rain? I felt happy. I snacked on chips, a peppermint paddy, and chocolate covered gogis. Yum! The wine didn’t give me a buzz (I only had a tiny bit). The rain finally slowed enough for me to get out and pee and brush my teeth. I kept my food with me inside my tent.

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