25 miles (!)
I started walking around 7:10. The first few miles were pleasant and I was making good time. I even saw several cute bunnies!
I disagreed with Apple’s comment about there being nothing to see in this segment… It was largely flat, went through forested sections and many, many miles of open fields and plains, but there was beauty within these landscapes, too! (And it wasn’t all on roads like that other guy had said…)
I made my way around a hairpin turn in a dirt road and eventually entered the Colorado plains… an environment I had not yet been in. I was in the middle of a vast expanse with mountains all around in the distance. I thought one of the peaks might be San Luis (the other 14,000+ mountain that I wanted to climb). The day was growing warmer and warmer.
All of a sudden, I came across some grazing cows- a sight that made me laugh!
There were 2 groups of them resting under some trees away from the trail.
There was rarely a chance to get any shade in this plains section, so when I found a tree, I took a break underneath it. But I couldn’t rest for long because I had a lot of miles still ahead of me!
As I walked along on the dirt path that lead to a road, I saw a car stop and stay there. They seemed to be watching me. It seemed strange, but as I got closer, I began thinking that maybe there were waiting for me. Maybe they wanted to give me a drink, or a ride, or let me sit in their car for a minute to get a break from the sun beating down. But then, they took off! I guess not… Oh, well!
Several cars passed me as I walked along the dusty road, but no one took notice of me. The miles began to wear on me. I continued to walk and walk. Up ahead, the road curved. I saw some parked trailers, but no one seemed to be around. That seemed to be the start of segment 19.
A short ways into this segment, a car came towards me on the trail! I was completely shocked! On most of the trail, no vehicles of any type were allowed, much less cars! It was the first time I had experienced something like this! But then the young driver gave me a friendly wave, and I felt all right.
I passed another trailer which seemed to have been abandoned (quite eerie), but I had been dying to take my pack off and give my shoulders a break, so I stopped near it. Then, I continued on.
I came to one intersection where I couldn’t figure out which path to take, so I decided to cut through the middle and keep my eye on both! It, perhaps, wasn’t the smartest idea, because the ground was rough, but I figured out both paths lead to the same place! Up ahead, I saw a figure. It looked like a person, at first, and I instantly felt disappointed because my guidebook had said that it was likely we wouldn’t see anyone in this segment! (While I had come across very few hikers out here, there wasn’t a day that had gone by that I hadn’t seen a human being). I also didn’t want it to be the old grumpy guy that the woman I had met on Monarch Pass told me about! The person looked like he was stopped and just standing on the trail. Then, it looked like he was strangely moving from one side of the path to the other! Maybe it wasn’t a person after all. Maybe it was an animal! A cow, perhaps?
I continued on, keeping my eye out for the cow. As I reached the top of a climb, I came to another herd of them! And then realized that I hadn’t passed a lone cow on the part of the trail where I had seen the animal. Hmmm…
I walked on, and at some point, spotted the figure again! It was swaying from side to side! And then it stopped and seemed to be looking back at me! I looked for the fenced-in spring in the middle of another herd of cows, but didn’t see it. And as I walked, I did a good job of keeping my own pace, and not rushing to catch the figure ahead. I found a nice tree to sit under and eat a light lunch, and then moved on. Finally, the figure was in striking distance! It was an older man whose backpack and himself were swaying from side to side! I had never seen anything like it! He was definitely losing a lot of energy!
It had been awhile since I last took a break, so I took my pack off and then decided to make my move. As I passed him, he was slowly inching toward the left side of the trail. He commented on how hard it was to climb in the heat. I reminded him that the creek was only just a little over a mile away. He said he was hiking the CDT from Wyoming. (How could he hike that far with a pack like that?!) He was wearing white sun gloves on his hands. He told me he would see me down at the water.
I hiked on as fast as I could. I came to a gate that I had to unhook to get through, and as I was undoing it, the whole thing sprang out of the ground with tremendous energy and landed into a twisted, jagged, crumpled, barbed mess!! OMG! I tried to pick it up and it cut my hand. I wished someone were around to help me out! I wasn’t strong enough to hook it back up with the bottom planted into the ground, so I just left it with the top hooked and hoped the old man would fix it!
The landscape opened up and I could see the pond that was 0.2 miles away. It took much longer to get there than I had hoped, though! I first had to make it down a steep, sandy downhill. Then, I found the little path to the creek! Hooray! I saw a black SUV parked there, but no one seemed to be around. I changed into my crocs and took my water bottles and filter down to the water.
After I finished with that job, I waded in the water for the first time on this hike! I also decided to shave my legs, because a part of me had been hoping that my “friend” from home was going to come find me somewhere in this segment! Long before I started this hike, when I mentioned that I was hiking to Durango, he told me that every year, he takes a vacation where he flies to San Francisco and then drives to Denver, stopping in Durango along the way. He told me that he would leave something for me in Durango (like a treasure hunt!) and that made me excited to start my hike. In one of his texts, he told me when he would be in the area and asked how someone could reach me. I fantasized about him driving to one of the trailheads and maybe hiking a mile or so to meet me, possibly with a warm coffee and and a breakfast sandwich! Every day, I checked to see when I would be at certain trailheads, and wondered if his rented car would be able to make it up the dirt roads. But, I had had no reception in these segments, so there was no plan…
I looked up and saw the old man, at a distance, staring at me! I hoped he wasn’t going to come hang out with me. Luckily, he continued on. I found it strange that he didn’t stop for water! This was the first source we had come to in a long time! And it was almost 90 degrees!
As I continued on, I thought about my plan for the next day. I really wanted to climb San Luis peak to get another 14,000+ footer in, but timing was everything…I would either have to take a really short day (adding another day to my schedule), skip it altogether, or reach it in the early afternoon when storms were most likely.
I passed through a field and saw a man in a skirt coming towards me! We warily passed each other before turning back to talk. He was hiking the CDT to Wyoming. (So far, the CDT hikers I had met were very strange and anti-social. Perhaps from being alone so much?) He wanted to tell me where I could get water next. I told him I didn’t need any- that I had just filled up at the creek. “There are beaver dams all over up there,” he said. Oh, well, I shrugged. I had already drunk some of it… “Well if you’re good, I’m good,” he responded, and off he went!
Up ahead, I saw the old man taking a break in a meadow alongside the trail. As I got closer, I saw him sit down, scooch up against his pack and put the straps on! I almost couldn’t believe it!! If you have to sit down to be able to put your pack on, you’ve got a big problem! Wow! This was almost like a character in a book! As I passed him, he called out, “Hey speedster!” I asked him if he had gotten water at the creek. He said no, he stopped for a minute “but I saw you.” He commented on how fast I hiked. “Watch how quickly I can hike away from you!” I thought to myself as I moved on.
I kept pressing on, even though I was feeling very tired. My goal now was to get to the end of segment 19 or 1.3 miles into segment 20 in order to get as close as I could to San Luis. I crossed the creek on some logs and climbed up to the ridge. Sometime later, a man on a horse approached me. I stepped aside to let him pass and he thanked me. He asked me if I had seen the trailers and told me they were theirs. He was headed back to them tonight while the rest of the party was staying behind. He said he had better get going, as he had 6 or 7 miles to go. (I calculated backwards and told him it was more like 10 or 11…) I had already hiked 20 miles and had taken an hour long break at the creek! It had been a long day and I still had 4 or 5 miles to go (on my own legs and not a horse’s!). The scenery was definitely perfect for horse-riding! It’s just what you might picture!
I finally made it to the end of segment 19! I felt incredibly exhausted. I could see tents set-up, and a trailer. There was an open tent with coolers and food on a table, and it looked like trail magic to me! I wondered if the horse people would welcome me to camp with them and share their delicious food with me! But no one was around… 😦
I walked on, and sat on a rock on the corner of the road and ate another power bar. I had to muster up enough energy to hike 1.3 more miles. I walked down a dirt road and turned right. I saw an upscale car in the trailhead parking lot and went up to read the trail register. I saw that there were 3 or 4 thru-hiker couples a few days ahead of me! I was starting to catch up! I crossed a little creek and a man with two boys came towards me. The man had a gun with him, which was scary to me. Then a single file line of horses approached! I stepped aside. The lead man was not so friendly (if people only knew how the slightest bit of positive energy greatly affects others- particularly those who are down…!). The woman was nicer. She commented, “Gorgeous day isn’t it?”. They were lucky because they were headed towards a beautiful sunset (as well as good food!). I was just plain tired and out of energy. The next 2 people didn’t acknowledge me, either, but the last rider, who was young and cute, smiled at me! That really helped!
I kept on my way, passing a ranch and more grazing cows. I was looking for the gate that marked 1.3 miles! I noticed some pine trees off to my right and went to check them out to see if I could camp there. I found a flat area and decided to stop there for the night! It was 6:30pm! Not bad! I set my tent up, cooked dinner, and went to sleep. No animals bothered me.