The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) is a United States National Scenic Trail running 3,100 miles (5,000 km) between Mexico and Canada. It follows the Continental Divide of the Americas along the Rocky Mountains and traverses five U.S. states — Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
Luckily the last two days into Salida really made up for the rainstorm. We spent an hour and a half drying our sodden tent and clothes and liners and sleeping bag on Monday.
The weather really turned it on for us. Warm, sunny, slight breeze. Some intense climbs (we still did 24miles on Monday!) But some spectacular views. On the way down to Monarch pass we walked some of the most stunning trail so far. Big views, of big mountains, with sunshine and flowers and puffy little clouds. Days like this are what hiking was made for. Colorado is really turning it on for us.
It rained on us for 12 hours on Sunday whilst we were hiking. We even stopped for an hour and a half lunch, during which it continued to rain. It rained as we climbed a mountain, it rained as we ate. It rained as we walked down a mountain. It stopped raining long enough for us to start pitching our tent, but then restarted immediately, just to ensure our entire tent became as wet as possible whilst we were pitching it. Then, it rained right on until midnight. It's just as well everyone knows bears don't go out in the rain, because we cooked in our vestibule and ate in our tent. Then we slept with our food. Because I think we might have floated away if we got out to hang up our ursack.
Here's a photo of the cloud we hiked right through at the top of the mountain. That was pretty cool.
We are now on our way out from Creede and up to Salida. There are a few thunderstorms forecast so hopefully we don't get too soggy and sorry for ourselves. The climb out of Creede is no joke. We climbed for 15 miles with only one small 3/4mile descent around mile 11. It was a very long day of climbing.
On the way out, we walked past some beautiful old mining ruins. They were quirky and cool, and helped break up the (very) steep section of climb right at the start!
The Sawtooth trail is... Well, "trail" is a strong term to use for the attached photo. If anyone can find the trail in that photo let me know. We certainly couldn't find it. Added to which, the fire obviously cooked all the roots so the soil had no stability. You would climb over a log, which was on the way around another 3 logs and as you stepped on the ground the dirt would give way below your feet. It was 3 miles (4.8kms) of very slow going and very hard work.
Well, after the San Juan NF was closed just before we could get in there, we managed to sneak through the Creede cutoff. This meant we got to go over a 12800ft pass that is on the official CDT route, but we turned North along the Sawtooth trail into the Weiminuche wilderness soon after that. The pass was pretty hard work, and the views were pretty good at first but became increasingly smoky. The San Juans remained hidden from view for us, which was a little sad. We definitely want to try and get back and hike the San Juans if we can at some point.
Day 3 really stepped up the terrain. There were much bigger snow fields, a traverse where we even got our ice axes out, and steeper mountains.
We got lucky and hit the big snow fields on the North side of Summit Peak (mile 848 I think) just before midday and it was perfect snow. A postholed step here or there, but generally the snow was just soft enough to kick in a decent step but hard enough that you weren't sinking into it or postholing. It's pretty exhausting walking still, but we still enjoyed it. We hit a really sketchy traverse almost immediately after which caused a bit of a collective adrenaline rush. We ended up using our ice axes for that crossing and I was deeply glad we had them. They add a whole extra level of security, and every step I was glad to have it to hold onto.
The last 12 miles down to wolf creek pass had SO MANY fallen trees. A friend we were hiking with, 5 Star, counted 177 dead fall trees across the trail. It was so bad at times we were climbing over downed trees on the trail that went around the other downed trees. We were even crawling on the ground at points to make it through. Crawling with a pack on is not fun, just for the record. But, we made it to Pagosa Springs and enjoyed a day off.
We have bad news, though. The NFS has closed the San Juan NF, including the Weiminuche wilderness, which is where the next section of trail travels. We are hoping to make it through today to the Sawtooth trail, and we will head up to Creede from there. The irony of taking the Creede cut off for fires instead of high snow is not lost on us. Hopefully one day we can get back and hike this section of trail. In the meantime, I hope all the fire fighters out there are doing ok.
Well, here we are. Finally in some serious Mountains.
We were both a bit nervous coming into this section (I was much worse than Bourbon, no surprises there!) . There was a huge altitude gain, new gear (we both carried an ice axe and micro spikes in) and the element of "the unknown snow". Reports ranged from "it was worse than the bootheel, we thought we might die at least 12 times" to "there no snow, it isn't that bad".
I can report both these statements are somewhat true. Days one and two we did a respectable 16 and 21 miles respectively. Which says more than it doesn't about the snow conditions- if there was any more snow there is no way we could have done a 21 mile day. There were a few blowdowns (trees fallen across the trail) but because we mostly stayed above treeline it wasn't too bad. We camped beside Dipping lakes the first night (very buggy at the more southern lake but beautiful at the northern one).
Mostly we just walked or postholed over short patches of snow and generally felt pretty breathless because of the altitude. We also just enjoyed the heck out of the views. It is so pretty up there!
We are almost at the New Mexico/Colorado border (!!!) But we have been thwarted by an entire day of thunderstorms. We got in an early start (hiking by 5:50am!) And managed to knock out a fair few miles before the weather kicked in.
There were a few moments there where the storm was right on top of us. When we saw lightning flash without any delay before the boom and crack of the noise, it made us both feel astonishingly fragile as mere human beings out in the elements.
We even took forest road 87 rather than walking right up on the ridge, so that we were less exposed. It's cold up at 11000ft even normally, let alone when it hails and rains on you and the wind blows. We dodged rain and thunder from forest patch to forest patch and managed to pitch our tyvek ground sheet a few times for shelter when the storm really kicked up. By some miracle, we made it to our goal (10miles south of Cumbres pass) at 2:55pm, pitched our tent and climbed in right before the heaviest part of the storm set in.
It was cool being in the tent during all the hail, but also pretty frightening when the storm is happening right on top of you! It has definitely made me much more nervous for Colorado! Wish us luck!