San Luis Pass (812) to Van Tassen Gulch (834.2)
I’m on trail at 6am. Constantly looking behind me to see if Thermometer is anywhere to be seen. I can’t see him. I crest yet another 12000ft plus pass and cross several patches of snow. A curious moose is near the trail. It’s the first one I’ve seen in Colorado, though I’ve been seeing a lot of their droppings lately. It’s rather small and rather skinny, it’s rib bones clearly visible. Kind of like myself at the moment. It runs off down the trail, only to reappear again.
Moose are more dangerous than bears. I’ve always give them a lot of space. I’m always prepared to drop my pack and run if I need to. Fortunately this one turns away from me and runs away from the trail. It pleases me to see wild animals on the trail.
I descend from the pass. The snowfields continue. It’s slow going. I’m back to less than 1mph pace. I see a moving dot in the distance. The dot is wearing snowshoes and making the same slow speed as me. It’s Thermometer.
I catch him before the second pass. His pack is huge. It hits the ground with a thud when he takes it off. We talk a bit. His English has improved a lot since the PCT last year. We both started the PCT on the same day. I first met him walking the wrong direction down the PCT, pointing to the trail and asking if it was the trail. We met many other times during the desert section. At one time we ended up in a bar at Big Bear drinking beer. When I mentioned this to him it finally clicked, he remembered me.
After cresting the second pass it was all downhill. 20 plus miles. And mostly snow free. The first 6 miles took 6 hours but the next 6 hours of the day promised faster hiking. From 12000 to 10000 feet I descended on a snow free trail. I felt such joy. It felt like I’d been hiking in snow forever.
I followed this gentle valley for about 15 lovely miles. Part way down the valley the CDT joins the CT, or Colorado Trail. One of the best Alpine Trails in North America.
There was one deep river crossing, Cochetopa Creek. It was waist deep and flowing quite fast but still safe to cross. I did get throughly soaked. I considered making camp early to dry off but I was filled with loads of energy. I didn’t want to stop. I continued till about 6pm then made dinner next to the creek. I didn’t want to stop hiking. After dinner I packed up to start hiking another hour or so. Thermometer turned up. He said he was very tired. I told him the next section might not have a lot of water. He told me he was carrying 4 litres. I’m impressed with how much his English has improved.
We climb a hill. Thermometer falls off the pace. At the top I find a flat field surrounded by green leafed Aspen trees. The birds are calling as I set up my tent. The sky puts on a brief display of pink and red then the lights fade. I’m so glad with my decision not to go back to the San Juans. Mentally I’m back in the CDT.