Cow Country

Day 21  was a long day.  After starting out clear, there was walking through multiple bouts of rain. Golden found a can of peaches along road and, forgetting green egg fiasco, ate them. We’ll see how that goes… Later that day she saw that someone had dumped some trail mix into the road’s cattle guard ditch and spent several minutes working on a plan to fish it out before being convinced to move on. I believe she needs to consider packing more food.

That’s right though, we were getting into cattle country, mostly rolling land that had been leased out for grazing. The travel was a bit easier, and we covered 22 miles that day; over 300 total.

Day 22 was clear in the morning.  As mentioned, we got into cow country yesterday, with much more of it today.  Rolling hills, going through gates on a regular basis, plenty of cow pies all over.   I wasn’t in a big rush to drink water from creek surrounded by cow crap, but was starting to run low. Then a huge bit of trail “magic.” At around three miles into the day’s hike through a long stretch with no shade is a silver dome and a horse trailer. They were set up by a trail angel called Apple. The horse trailer was set up for sheltered sleeping and the dome had coolers full of ice cold pop, Gatorade and water. Coffee and a gas stove to heat water was there too. Quite the treat. I dumped out the cow poop water I already had and filled up with clean stuff.

White Pine by Apple's Trail Magic
White Pine by Apple’s Trail Magic

Just after lunch we were at the start of a 2 1/2 mile long open valley when the afternoon thunderstorm decided to unload on us. There was some fear about lightening but I stated there was no way the lightning would bypass the mountaintops and strike us. I actually told Golden, a former lifeguard, that she was more likely to fall in the nearby creek and drown than be hit by lightning.  Amazing how when you say something with confidence, people will believe it. Tough stretch for Golden as she is afraid not only of being killed by lightning, but also being trampled by cows, and we had to split a herd to get up the valley. Even had to walk around a dead cow. Luckily, it didn’t appear to have been hit by lightning, or I’d have lost all credibility. 

Walking into a thunderstorm
Walking into a thunderstorm

At the end of the valley, the bridge over the Cochetopa Creek was out and I got to use my sandals I’ve carried for 300 miles. Creek crossings are just one area that the trail is amazingly well designed and maintained. After crossing literally dozens of creeks and streams of all sizes, mostly swelled by snowmelt, this was the first crossing that I had to get my feet wet.

We ended up walking 20 miles and cows and cow pies were with us nearly the whole way. It was even in the La Garita Wilderness area, which was a sad surprise. However considering the steepness of the trail, I have a new respect for a cow’s balance and hiking ability. We eventually got clear of the cow area and camped in a beautiful spot about 26 miles from lake city. I was able to make my water last till then. I only had to worry about elk and beaver poop again.

The Family is set to break up, however. White Pine is shooting to climb a 14,000 ft mountain in the morning (San Luis Peak), then head into Creede for a resupply. Golden and Wildflower are ready to walk some huge miles in an effort the get to Lake City for their own resupply as they are nearly out of food. There just haven’t been enough canned goods lying along the road to fulfill their needs. Just before the big breakup though, we received our Second trail magic in one day.

As we walked by one of the trail’s access points, we met a woman who was cutting her thru hike attempt short. Her family was picking her up and we stopped to chat.  Suddenly they began pulling her unused trail food and insisting we take it. There was enough for everyone to make it to Lake City without huge miles or swinging into Creede.  Happily, the Family would stay together a while longer. Yet another 20 mile day.

The Family on the Continental Divide
The Family on the Continental Divide

7/13 started clear and cold. Long walk up a beautiful valley. Got an early start due to much of the day being above tree line and the recent daily thunderstorms. The three previous big mileage days have taken their toll on me and I’m dragging a bit from the get go. The morning consists of just one hill, but it’s over 7 miles long and tops out near 13,000 feet. Before the day is over we will have dropped and climbed three more times. The hills are killing me and I feel I may be holding the others back. Gets me wondering about The Family staying together. I enjoy the company immensely but may need to hike at a slower pace. Will see how things go as we approach town, but I’m thinking I may be better off setting off on my own after Lake City.

As I struggle up to the Continental Divide, I mention that when people over 55 die walking to the fridge, it’s no longer considered medically untimely. Golden nicely tells me I have a long time before I need to worry about that. I mention that I’m 56. She asked that her last statement be stricken from the record.

After 15 tough miles, we are in camp early where I did a little laundry and wash up in the creek; then it began to hail. Don’t think the clothes will be dry in the morning.