CDT Day 121: Olguin Mesa to Canjilon Creek – Flyby Camp to Last Coldest Day Camp
Miles hiked: 28
Total miles: 2112.9
The best stove to have is a friend that carries a stove. And we needed it today. When we checked in Chama, the forecast was calling for some brutally cold conditions today, with up to 4 inches of snow along the Divide. Clearly, the weather knows no borders and this portion of trail is still above 8,000ft. Even though we’re out of the big snow danger, cold and wet can still happen. And it did, though not quite as intensely as predicted.
The snow didn’t start coming down until SpiceRack and I were nearly packed up this morning. It was light at first, but by 7:45am it was coming down hard and sticking. Soon we were making brown tracks along the dirt road. Not long after there was no more dirt to be seen. It was easy at first to stay warm, but gradually I slipped from a comfortable temperature to really freaking cold. The trail trended gently downhill for many miles. No effort needed. No heat generated. Though we were protected from the wind for the most part by tall trees, by the time we reached highway 64, I was blowing hot breath into my fists to warm numb fingers. I spied a pit toilet across the road at a picnic area, and when Spice suggested taking a tea break inside it, I enthusiastically agreed.
The first privy was graffitied with too much hate speech for our comfort, but the next was clean and not offensive smelling. Spice brewed up a pot of warm tea, and we nibbled dark chocolate while savoring the revitalizing liquid and blowing steam from our noses. I wouldn’t say that I was much warmer by the time we left, but unexpectedly the sun was shining brightly though snow still sparkled in the air. Could it be clearing up already. If that was the case, we got off way easier than expected.
Sure enough, the weather continued to clear. I started hiking in all my jackets, but shed all of them within the next half hour. The trail kept us on a downhill trajectory through more meadows and wintery aspen. We skipped Rock Creek, and pushed through beautiful stuff to a bigger creek full of big cows. This was the spot for lunch, so that’s what we did.
The first half of the day was all down. The second half was all up. Easy up though, dipping through stands of tall ponderosa pine and bare aspen. The weather was totally clear now so the aromas of warm forest permeated the air in the sunny parts. Sunset eventually came on as we approached the top of a ridge. Close to 10,000ft with no sun and crossing through meadows, meant that the temperature plummeted shortly thereafter. My beard was frozen and my knees stiff by the time we made camp, tucked into some trees. My thermometer claimed it to be 10°F, and I think I believe it. Despite the cold, it will be a warm night. And the weather was so much better today than it could have been, that 10°F doesn’t seem so bad. Dry, no snow. Walking 28 miles in a day might never seem easy, but it might definitely seem harder. The snow is already fading into a beautiful memory.