Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Day 85 - Patrick, Boulder and the moose family

Countdown to Patrick! We had 21mi to get to Silverthorne by 5pm. May not sounds like a lot, but given our difficulties with terrain, altitude and route finding, this was going to be a tall order. We had another early morning, rising and packing in the dark. I'm dreading NM, which is supposed to hit the 20s at night. This morning was freezing, and everything was wet from last night's downpour. Plus, in a bit of comedy, we couldn't open our food.

We've switched to "cooking" by rehydrating meals in watertight tupperware containers. They're tight, a little too tight. We made pudding and couscous last night, but couldn't pry the lids off due to the change in altitude creating air pressure differences. With our upper bodies becoming wispy with underuse (our legs get all the exercise), we feebly tugged on the lids for over a half hour las night like a pair of T. Rexes. We even tried warming the lids with our body heat, but no dice. We'd have to wait to the sun rose a bit, and we dropped in altitude.

We literally ran down the switchbacks in the dark. We both kept our headlamps on and were hyper vigilant for approaching cars. I liked to imagine that we looked like a little jeep, our two headlamps bouncing side by side down the dirt road.

At the bottom of the road, in the valley, we ran into a pair of bow hunters. They were in search of moose. They started off before we did, but we quickly passed them on the trail. We were courteously quiet, wanting to be respectful of them as well. We got a few miles ahead in the beautiful valley basin.

Gangles was ahead, and I nearly barreled into her when she stopped in her tracks. We were miles ahead of the hunters, and just 50' behind a female moose. As we watched, two more moose emerged: a baby moose, and a young bull with small antlers. We had just been remarking on how this valley must be moose heaven, with all the succulent ground plants and gushing creek. And here they were, in anthropomorphic style, a nuclear moose family. The moose were surprisingly bold, probably unaware that they were food for humans. They watched us, and we watched them.

I know that many people use the outdoors for completely valid reasons. I've never disrupted a hunter's trip before, but we felt a connection with these moose. Gangles felt bad that the hunters were just a few miles behind us. She clacked her poles together to try to give the moose a head start. They just stared at us, chewing on plants. I didn't know what else to do. I whispered, "be safe", and hoped the hunters wouldn't get this far.

We climbed steeply out of the valley, and back on to the Divide. At the crest, the trail running South appears to just go off the cliff. J. Ley notes that this does indeed appear to be a cliff, but keep going, and switchbacks will emerge. Leap of faith, I tiptoed forward, my nerves electric with fear the whole time. I finally found a narrow ledge of trail, not more than 6" wide, and eroding in parts. Sweating, I minced down the side of the mountain, contouring on its West flank. On the other side, I stopped dead in my tracks. On the trail was a beautiful pair of wild horses, one bay and one white. Neither of these animals showed any fear either, and while we cautiously skirted around them, they placidly ate grass.

We descended into another valley, then began the next climb to Ptarmigan Pass, only 8mi from Silverthorne. The route finding was confusing. There was a new trail, an old trail, and criss-crossing game trails. I lost the trail a few times, and ended up hiking behind Gangles though I had started with a considerable lead. We would our way to the Pass, and as we crested, we saw a metropolis of buildings sprawling around an enormous lake. With urgency, we pushed on, down the pass, then back up on the divide, following rock cairns all the way. The skies darkened at the customary 12pm time, so we threw our ponchos on and just kept hiking.

We passed a beautiful lookout point, just a few miles up from the town. I imagined that it was *the* lookout hike in town, for first dates, marriage proposals, a romantic little spot. But less romantic in the pouring rain, so we admired for a moment, rain sloshing into shoes, then we ran.

The transition from the woods and Grand Ptarmigan Peak into Silverthorne was jarring. We were on a 12,000' bald and three miles later, we were on a paved road passing satellite dishes on lawns.

We told Patrick we would be in Silverthorne, and thought it would be easy to meet up. Silverthorne turned out to be a town built up around outlet malls and distant skiing. The town was all chain restaurants and motels. So, we ended this section of trail how all good backpacking trips end, under the awning of a La Quinta waiting for a 21-year old college boy to pick us up.

In Boulder for a zero. Living the life of a University of Colorado senior. Pizza and Monday Night Football in the man cave. Just another day on the CDT.

Mileage: 21mi from Jones Pass to Silverthorne


  1. I hope you guys aren't in the flood zone! It has been raining here in Rawlins since Monday and hasn't stopped since...but I wanted to say thanks for the books! I just finished reading "Geek Love" it was very interesting...a little strange but a page turner!

    1. Great to hear from you! How's life in Rawlins? Sorry to hear that you're getting hit by the rain, too. Hope Wayne is doing alright in Casper. The book is strange, isn't it? Haven't read it in a long time, but thought you'd like something offbeat. How's your Etsy coming along? I really do think your stuff is great! Take care, say hello to Wayne, and stay dry