Thursday, September 26, 2013
Day 101 - Moo!
The first cry was tentative, almost plaintive. Then followed by a deep, bass one. A comical one, with a high reedy buzz at the upper register, like a kazoo. A goaty, ragged one joined in.
We started with a fluffy auburn steer mooing at us, and soon, every cow was mooing at us as we walked along the Cochetopa Valley. My recall of the cow dialect is rusty, but I think the calls translated to "INTRUDER!".
What could I do, but moo back?
So, there we were, a couple hundred cows and me, all mooing at each other.
I haven't seen cows in a long, long time. Since WY, maybe. I felt bad for spooking them, not for anything I was doing, but for just being there. The valley was lovely, green, warm, sunny, with a scenic creek flowing down the center. Everything a cow (and a hiker) could need.
As we exited the valley, past the cows, we came across several men on horseback, with the obligatory very intelligent, very curious, very fluffy herding dog. The gent in front had a rugged Wilford Brimley air about him. He quizzed us about the location of the cattle, and if they were high up by Van Tassen Gulch. Nope, no cows, but some large cow patties. We apologized for spooking the cows. He chuckled. Made a crack about wishing he had more horses with him so he could put us on payroll and help him round up cows.
The cattlemen went on their way, touching their gloved hands to their hat brims. And then we were alone on the trail again, walking down the Cochetopa Valley. Truly one of the most beautiful days on the trail to date. The sky was perfect, all blue from horizon to horizon.
We had a long climb out of the valley, from 9,500' up to 12,600'. The climb began gradually, gently graded in the trees, then steepened on a tall bald. As we ascended, the wind blew harder and harder, the temperature dropped, and we saw snow at the top of the pass. The snow was left over from two days ago, from that unforgettable nighttime snowstorm where we narrowly missed being crushed by falling trees.
The snow was rapidly melting, with only one set of fresh prints going our direction. Based on the trail register, my guess was Cedric Martin, The French Guy, who passed when we bailed to Gunnison.
The wind was incredibly strong at the top of the pass, so strong I was nearly knocked off balance while walking. I was actively shifting my weight into the wind, and nearly toppled a few times when the wind let up briefly. We were racing the sun, knowing the temperature would drop rapidly once the 7pm sunset came around.
We traversed an icy bowl, the snowiest section of trail for the day. Drifts were 18" at the deepest point, but I could tell some had already melted. Around 6:15pm, we reached San Luis Pass, a local min at just below 12,000' We decided to camp, since we had no guarantee of finding any other kind of tree cover if we continued to ascend the ridge. The wind was absolutely gusting. We went to a low spot on the pass, but still, the wind gusted. We pitched and jumped inside, but still it sounded like a haunted pirate ship.
A few menacing clouds late in the day, but hope the weather holds.
Spring Creek Pass tomorrow! I'm excited to see Snow Mesa. I've seen the photos from other Sobos.
Mileage: 21mi from near Cochetopa Creek to San Luis Pass