CDT Day 106: Quemado Creek to Creede Cutoff Junction – Wyoming in Colorado Camp to Hoof San Juan Camp
Miles hiked: 23.3
Total miles: 1852.3
Most of the day was spent crawling back into the mountains. I had some solo time in the morning that I really enjoyed for being able to sink into my senses and let my mind run with them unfiltered. In the afternoon, we returned to a mountain wonderland. A big pass and a few saddles. Bowls to traverse and views for days. It was just the beginning, but I think that we’re finally in the San Juans.
The night was really freaking cold, despite being tucked in the aspen. I slept warm in just about all my layers, but my nose nearly froze off, poking like a snorkel to the fresh air. Understandably, it was hard to get going. I was out a while after Spice and a few minutes after Rooster chugged by, around 8:10am.
The sun was warm though, and the hills gentle, so the walking was sublime. Being behind the pack, I strolled without urgency as the trail took me down into a sunny valley, then through a portal of shimmering aspen. Gold in the sky. Gold on the ground. I felt the season distinctly in the air climbing up and around a lump on the dirt road. Yes, the sun was warm, but the chill of fall, perhaps winter, was in the air, painted in grays and yellows on the hillsides and in the valleys. I could see it. I could feel it. I could smell it.
I turned on to trail up the wide valley that hosts the Cochetopa Creek. I found Spice taking a tea break in the cold shade for some reason, and joined her, ready to get out of my own head. We walked from there, surprising Rooster at a surprisingly wet crossing of the Cochetopa. My hands quickly became numb when I washed my socks.
Bald slopes of the high country came back into view for the first time in days at the head of the valley. We kept on going, headed that way. A big hunting camp at a trailhead with a toilet, then a mile further to a creek for lunch. We were all wondering where the heck Crunchberry was by now and we found him backtracking to meet up. He had had a confusing morning, thinking that Spice and I were ahead of him. Shhhh, Crunch, it’s alright now. We’re here.
Lunch, then more valley walking. It was just Spice and in by the time we got climbing up to the high saddle of the day. Views opened, shrubbery diminished, wind increased. Cool basalt cliffs rose from the mounds of loose rock. One mountain in particular looked as if it had a pipe organ for a summit.
On top, on the shoulder of San Luis Peak, 1,500ft below the 14,000ft summit. Spice saw the specks of the dudes far down the other side on a sweeping traverse around a massive bowl. They couldn’t hear us, too windy. Unknown peaks and ridges layered in front of us, waves of evening shadows. Then it was our turn to traverse. I threw on a layer, then dropped off the saddle.
The walking was good, the space was incredible. Just a rad spot to find oneself immersed. Up to another saddle, then down and around another basin. We caught the dudes getting water at an icy stream, then continued with them for one last climb, into the dark.
Headlamps out on the top. Down to another saddle. This one hosted a very important junction. Take a right, and in 10 miles, walk into the town of Creede. 27 miles further an your back on the CDT having skipped 90 miles of San Juan mountains. This is a viable choice for early season when snow still covers much of these mountains, making travel through them dangerous. It also makes sense if bad weather is coming. Neither of those were true of our current situation. I was juiced. The San Juans have been my pipe dream for the better part of a year now. Always so far away. Always too far to hope for good conditions. Always a dream that would probably never come true. But now I was here, and the weather looked good, except for a dusting of snow maybe tomorrow. It’s go time.
But that was enough hiking for the day and it was getting cold. We all found some willows to tuck ourselves between and set up for the night. Spice and I cowboy, hoping the weather doesn’t show up early despite the clouds above. The moon is bright and so is my outlook. Back in the mountains. The grand finale.