DAY 42: COLD BUTTS

14.2 miles hiked
683.6 total miles

I am the first out of my tent in the morning and I notice small flakes of snow falling from dark clouds above. Uhoh. But soon the clouds clear, and we climb up and then down, and soon there’s a large snowfield covering the trail. Candyman, Ddubs and I break out our ice axes and glissade down the slope. Funnnn! (Except I can’t feel my butt at the end.) The remainder of the day is slow going with lots each of postholing through snow, slipping on mud, and bushwhacking. Up, down, up, down in elevation. New Mexico did not prepare my lungs. But god, the views! I am happy to be back in the San Juans.

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DAY 41: TUNDRA MUSH

17.5 miles hiked
669.4 total miles

We press on and up in the morning, still not much snow. The views increase in glory and height. The snow does not. So we take a 2 hour lunch break, yardsale-style (pictured). Immediately after lunch, the snow cover increases. A lot. We spend the rest of the day intermittently postholing through snow drifts. Cold night air and sharp winds descends early. I set up my tarp on top of old cow shit and spongy tundra, between beetlekill hazard trees and snow banks. My feet are very cold. The San Juans are no joke.

DAY 38: SLOPE DOPED

18 miles hiked
636.2 total miles

Today we cross the border into Colorado. I am exhausted in the morning because I slept on a sloped surface, too sloped. I woke up all night. Maybe part of it had to do with hiking 30 miles yesterday. Either way, some caffeine does the trick and the afternoon is full of the promise of Colorado (a new state!) and entering into the infamous San Juan Mountains. The San Juans are my old tromping grounds, where I grew up camping, fishing, hiking, and backpacking with my family. They were my escape from the mundaneness of small town New Mexico. As I cross the border, I think (and write) that I have once more escaped the entrapment of the Land of Enchantment, though this time there is a twinge of sadness at leaving a rediscovered beauty. Upon arriving to Cumbres Pass, we stick out our thumbs and the first car that passes pulls over! We are living the town life in Chama in no time.

DAY 37: FIRST 30

30 miles hiked
618.2 total miles

Ddubs, Gallant, and I decide we want to hike 30 miles today. We knock off 15 by lunch. A few miles after lunch, I meet up with Ddubs, and we are concerned because Gallant is nowhere to be found. Later, we cook dinner and wait around at a campground for him. 5 miles left. We leave eventually, because otherwise we’ll have to hike in the dark. Down the road, a camper says he saw Gallant pass by earlier. How did we miss him? I hope he has set up camp where we had all agreed to end the day. 3 miles later, we find Gallant with camp set up, 2 miles shy of 30. He has started a fire, because he saw 2 bears. Sometime I don’t follow his logic. I tell him I am pressing on 2 more miles. I scramble off to an exposed campsite at some 11,000ft. Ddubs convinces him to press on too. They put the fire out, and show up in the dark to my windy perch on the mountainside. We all pass the fuck out.

DAY 36: I AM A THIRD GRADER

25 miles hiked
588.2 total miles

The morning starts off shaky. There are trails and two track forest service roads leading everywhere, and I get off-trail more than once. I also trip over a branch and fall flat on my face. This is enough to throw me into temper tantrum territory. “I am a child, a third grader,” I think to myself. The afternoon is much better. We meet some new hikers and leap frog them, all of us settling down together for the night in a large meadow at the top of a long climb.

DAY 35: SNOWMONGERING

19.2 miles hiked
563.2 total miles

In the morning we slog away from Ghost Ranch. The sun is shining, the ground wet from yesterday’s rain. We follow a creek in a narrow canyon. After a couple miles, as per the beta, we exit at a blue painted coffee tin. Then we go fup (fucking up), ascending red rock canyons until we have a view of Ghost Ranch over a thousand feet below. Soon, the desert is gone. Bye bye, New Mexico. By the end of the day, we are walking through pine, aspen, and huge meadows, with expansive views on either side. I get some cell service, and people on the interwebz are freaking out about the snow in the San Juan Mountains. They are snowmongering, like fearmongering. No matter, we’ll just have to see the snowpack for ourselves. Colorado here we come.

Confessions of a Lazy Thru Hiker

I haven’t done an audio blog in over two weeks. Returning to the San Juans, the mountains of my youth, was overwhelming. They’ve changed (thanks, global weirding) in ways I was not expecting. All of the trees are dead (warmer winters, etc have led to explosive populations of spruce budworm) and the same fire that is threatening my family’s cabin in Hermosa, CO has shed massive amounts of smoke over our afternoons. Also, the San Juans are just plain hard to hike through! Lots of ups and downs at high elevation. So, instead of audio blogs, I present to you a photo and accompanying blurb for each day through these mountains of indescribable beauty. Photos, more than words, will do more justice anyway.