CDT Day 113: the Knife Edge to Creede Cutoff Junction – Toot Toot Cliff Camp to Cozy Ridge Camp
Miles hiked: 22
Total miles: 1969.7
Our last full day in the San Juans was pretty sweet. All the classic highlights were present, ridgewalking, endless views, a sunny lunch, and epic sunset. By days end however, SpiceRack and I were still talking about town and the comforts it provides. These mountains have been great, more than I hoped for and with way better weather than we had any right to expect for mid-October, but they have been tough. Draining. I feel like these mountains have taken just as much from me as they have given. A fair trade, but I need a recharge, bigly.
Camping worked out on the Knife Edge. No problems whatsoever. It was actually one of the more peaceful nights of rest that we’ve had in a while. We woke up before sunrise to enjoy the views in the daylight. As expected, not as dangerous feeling, but cool nonetheless. I was hiking again a little after Spice, a little after 8am.
The highlight of the morning came on quickly and unexpectedly. A big sunny traverse around a bowl put us on a rocky ridge. The earth fell away, so once again I felt surrounded by air, minimally connected to the ground. This is a gross exaggeration, but it gets the point across. The wind was calm so all I had to do was enjoy the crunch along the ridge, stopping frequently for the same mountain panorama taken from a slightly different vantage. This stretch brought me back to some one of my favorite stretches of trail in the Beaverheads of Montana. It was too bad it had to end, but also a good thing because I had to hike.
Spice and I took a short recharge in a warm meadow, then pushed on through some more great stuff. Traverse, cliff, ridge, views. All words I’ve used too much already. All words that apply here too. Up and over a saddle or two, then we were at a creek. Lunch. Rooster was just packing up to leave when we got there. I was glad he was able to see Spice in person to corroborate her existence on this route to placate Crunch, who was growing hilariously suspicious of her absence. While lounging in the sun, we tried to guess the temperature. We overshot. It was only 49°F, but it felt like a luxurious 60 after the bone chilling wind and subfreezing nights. I scraped on my way-too-crusty socks then got going a half hour behind Spice.
I caught up to her way too soon after a super confusing junction. Good trail to the right. Maybe a trail to the left. In true CDT fashion, it took the left. I felt fortunate to see the split at all. Spice had chosen the other trail. When I found her, she was picking her way across a slope of boulders after finishing a ‘shwack back to the CDT up a horrendously steep slope. Bonus climb! Classic CDT. We filled up on water at the next creek, then hit the highlight of the afternoon.
Long switchbacks up an open slope of brown grass. You’ve heard this story before. But these ones were longer and the grass was browner. The sun sat low, threatening to set for good within the next hour, which created that familiar and wonderful affect of silhouetted ridgelines folding to the horizon. Only this time, these ridgelines were recognizable pieces of home. The jags of the Grenadier Range had the privilege of itching the sky at the top, and other numerous summits filled in the ocean below. The Rio Grande Pyramid of course was an easy one to point out. A little bit of haze coming from somewhere made this scene even better.
We chased one another uphill through the golden hour, topping out on the high shoulder of one mountain before dropping a hundred feet to the connecting ridge to another. We made it to that sharp ridge right at sunset. Air again surrounded me on most sides. Air filled with glowing mountains. Spice and I sat in the moment, drinking it in, understanding that it rarely gets this good. Understanding our privilege at being here, so many sunsets seen already, so many to go. I was immensely happy to be there with her. She sees a magic in every sunset that I would miss if I were solo. It’s a wavelength that my brain doesn’t pick up. Yep, this was the right time in the right place with the right person. We said goodbye to the sun, layered up, then got going to the only place we could, down.
Dusk turned to dark. Mountains turned to hills. Rock turned to sand. A few gentle climbs by headlamp deposited us on a sharp ridge at the junction where the Creede Route rejoins the CDT. The wind was blowing, but we found a quiet place tucked into some mini trees on soft ground. Couscous for dinner. Sleep for the weary. A great day again, but damn, I’m tirzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…