CDT Day 109: Spring Creek Pass to somewhere on the Divide– Wagon Wheel Cabin Camp to High Camp
Miles hiked: 13.3
Total miles: 1880
With the forecast still looking good, SpiceRack and I said goodbye to friends and dogs to begin our push through the heart of the San Juans. Our packs are as heavy as they’ve been since Glacier, but that just means we get to eat as much as we want for the first few days. 120 miles riding high on the Divide. Here we go!
Town sleep, not great. Too hot, too many dogs throwing up. I finally gave up trying to snooze around 7:30am, everyone else was up shortly thereafter. I packed up then took a short stroll through town to the hostel to drop some stuff in the hiker box. It was 19°F outside, but sunny. A beautiful walk through some amazing trees. I chatted with Crunch and Roost until Spice came by with the car to pick me up and go resupply.
This store had everything we needed, a little expensive, but it’s a small town. I thought I had bought way too much food when I hefted my food bag, but Spice definitely had more. Apparently she was hungry on the last section and didn’t want a repeat. We were going to be hiking further, and higher and colder. Do I have enough food? Well, I sure didn’t want to carry any more.
We drove back to the cabin where we completed the pack up by eating all of the leftover things we couldn’t finish yesterday. Pasta, Thai noodles, beans, chips, salsa, cereal. The breakfast of champions. And then it was time to go. Spice gave an emotional farewell to Tango who seemed to know what was going on, then we loaded in the car once more.
We stopped on the edge of town to visit the Arted* Packer Massacre memorial sight. A gruesome and fascinating piece of history. Cannibalism, that’s all I’ll say. And then, even though it was out of her way and she had two squirmy kids to keep happy, Clarissa saved us a hitch and drove us back to Spring Creek Pass. Crunch and Roost were just starting up the trail as we unloaded our packs and said our goodbyes. Big thanks Clarissa, Vienna, Logan, and Maggie! It was great meeting y’all.
We were hiking around noon, up a dirt road after Spice repacked her bag to make it less ridiculously top heavy. But we still felt crushed into the earth under the weight of six days of food. We took a break three miles in, then an hour later, protected from the wind by a dense patch of leafless willows. The sun was out, but the wind was blowing, and at this altitude the wind wins. Twice, hunters drove by in rugged vehicles, interrupting our rest, but we still managed to eat a bunch and warm up.
I stayed a little after Spice, then followed her up to a wide, grassy ridge of lumps along the Divide. I found her again at some nasty water, but then we found some good stuff less than a mile later. A sheet of ice covered the trail for 50ft, a reminder to bundle up when the sun goes down.
A few switchbacks put us on the ridge again, this time for good. The shadows were long, but the wind calm. Nothing blocked the view back to Snow Mesa and San Luis Peak. Mountains that I’m sure we’ll get to meet soon extended into the distance across a wide valley.
The sunlight turned orange on a steep, rocky climb that brought us above 13,000ft. I put on my evening layers at the top for the final cruise to camp. We couldn’t beat the darkness to make it to lower elevations tonight, so we picked a spot on a saddle, as protected from the wind as we could find on a grassy hump. Still over 13k feet, I think this will easily be our highest camp on the CDT. And to be able to do it in mid-October in the San Juans, that just shows how fortunate we are with the weather. It is super cold though. After a dinner of cold beans, I fall asleep thinking about the heat of the Basin in Wyoming. 94°F doesn’t sound so bad now.
*Letters in Mr. Packers first name may or may not be accurate.