CDT Day 79: Colorado to almost Lost Ranger Peak – Hello Colorado Camp to Really Really Ridiculously Cold Camp
Miles hiked: 23.1
Total miles: 1414.1
The passing cold front peaked today. The weather was way better than yesterday, however. Really cold and dry versus cold and wet. Still, it was a little bit too wintery for my taste when we made contact with the season’s first snow. The day also featured an interesting culture exchange and abundant berries. Those things I don’t mind one bit.
We picked up where we left off the night before, walking along a dirt road in a cloud. My thermometer said it was somewhere in the 20s, but it wasn’t actively raining so I was happy. A few logs hosted a thin layer of snow, confirming my suspicion that a little bit fell last night. A hardy herd of sheep were hanging out up there too, but we left them to drop down to lower meadows.
We smelled the campfire before we saw it. Such a comforting aroma, a promise of warmth. Spice had a hankering for hot tea (still piecing together her cook kit after her pack was stolen) so we turned off trail towards the massive tarp canopy and canvas tent. Jeff was a willing and gracious host to us, letting us boil water on the stove and warm our feet at the fire. Hunters, as it turns out, know how to camp in style. Although I don’t agree with the end goal one bit, I gained a new appreciation for his passion, which pulls him back to the mountains every year for a month at a time. It wasn’t as much about the kill as I expected. Just a pretty normal dude living in the woods with his buddies for a little while. And the extravagance was fascinating.
The sun poked through the clouds in short bursts as we continued up a valley, past a few trailheads packed with other hunters, either camping or getting ready to camp. Occasionally I could see snow up high on the surrounding peaks when the clouds shifted. I knew we were going up there soon. C’mon Sun, you can do it! Melt that snow.
We gorged on an unexpected abundance of thimble berries as we began our big climb to 12,000ft. Then, taking advantage of a clearing sky, laid out all of our soaked gear to dry out. Between a saturated tent and damp quilt, I think I lost a few pounds of water weight off of my back. I stayed to get some chores done when Spice left to finish the climb.
By the time I reached the top, the sky was clear and the sun was just about to dip behind a distant ridge. I crunched across a snowy meadow, glowing orange in the evening light. By no fault of my own I had timed the sunset perfectly. I turned right at a junction towards a snowy peak. I could see the trail snake up and disappear over the summit. I didn’t want to go up there at this time of day. I didn’t want to camp in snow with my deflating sleeping pad.
I was thrilled to find Spice waiting not at the top of this peak, but just a bit further along the flat ridge leading up to it. She was frozen and agreed to camp rather than continue hiking. So we found a snow free spot, protected from the wind by a stand of trees. It’s cold outside, so cold, and it will likely be the coldest night we’ve had on trail so far. Time to put our gear to the test! Crunchberry and Rooster were just a little bit ahead of us. I hope they’re warm wherever they are.