Thursday, September 19, 2013

Day 94 - Are you ok?

I don't know if it is a good sign or a bad sign that everyone in a vehicle passing us on the trail today has asked "Are you ok?"

Let's be real, the answer is "No.". We are not ok. We are cold, wet, and walking through thunderstorms on the Divide. But we're going to get to Mexico, come hell or high water. And at this rate, we may see both.

Colorado continues to pitch a perfect game--rain every day since we've been in the state. More than rain, it has usually been thunder and lightning.

I set the alarm clock for 5am, and woke to pouring rain. I hit snooze, and decided to wait it out. Every 30m, I checked, and it was still pouring. Finally at 7am, we decided to make a break for it as the rain let up for a moment.

We went to say goodbye to Brenda and Gerry. They have been so nice and so hospitable. Throughout the day, I half expected Brenda to pull alongside us on a dirt bike offering us pot roast.

The rain went in and out all day. We kept our ponchos on as we climbed 5 passes: Tin Cup, Cumberland, Cumberland II, Cumberland III and Chalk Creek.

On the way up to Cumberland, near the trailhead to St. Elmo, we met a really nice pair of people: Sandy Schultz and Giv Mattingly. They're longtime neighbors who live in St. Elmo. They offered us a hot shower, but since we had sun, we thought we better press on. Sandy and Giv mentioned a USFS crew near the top of the pass. One of the guys on the crew had a girlfirend who was hiking Nobo. Of course, Gangles and I spent the entire climb speculating on who that might be.

When we neared the top of the pass, we met Lorenzo. Turns out his girlfriend Ann is hiking Nobo. And Ann's trail name is Burrito. We met Burrito and Free Radical just North of Brooks Lake Lodge. Of course we remembered her! She was just about the cleanest, freshest hiker I've ever seen. I know this isn't true, but I still remember her in pearls, a twinset, and a perfect blonde bob. Nice to chat with Lorenzo and the USFS crew. Burrito is maybe a week away from the border, so good luck to her, and congrats!

Just after we crossed Cumberland III, we descended to the East side of the Alpine Tunnel. Back in the day, the Alpine Tunnel went under the mountain to move mining supplies. The tunnel eventually started to fill with ground water, so it was closed off at both ends. The trail descends to the East side, then follows a decommissioned railroad bed to Hancock. This 2mi on the railroad bed is about the smoothest part of the entire section, with no more than a 3 degree grade. It was like walking in a museum, with informational signs about local history. Oddly enough, we did see a pair of perfectly ripe peaches, but passed them up. Seemed sketchy to eat random found fruit.

I also saw two marmot-shaped rocks in the middle of the trail: one brown and one snow white. As I approached, I realized the brown rock had little hands, and was not a marmot-shaped rock, it was a marmot. The white rock was indeed a rock, just one resembling a marmot. I imagined that the brown one was a marmot Pygmalion, who had been carving his marble Galatea. Pygmalion dove into his nook as I approached. I realized, I am completely losing my grip on reality, superimposing Greek myths on marmots and rocks. The rain is taking a toll.

On the way up our last pass of the day, it began to rain in earnest. And hidden in the trees, I saw a glimmer of something unusual, man made. It was a grey plastic lock box with a hand written note on top. Trail magic! Soda and treat cache from Liv, a CDT '11! Thanks Liv! Clutch cache.

We had to leave the shelter of the trees to get over Chalk Creek Pass. The rain and hail were relatively light, but as we approached the past, the wind began gusting over us. We were pelted by rain and hail, alternately soaking and stinging us. When we got to the top, we ran down, sliding on the wet grass. Wet grass must be the inspiration for the Slip N' Slide.

We were soaked to the bone, and Gangles' teeth were chattering. We had harbored hope of making it to Hwy 50, but it was too late in the day. As the sun set, we pitched in the first flat spot we found. Shortly afterwards, the rain really set in. I can hear it pounding against the tent now.

We weren't planning on taking a day in Salida, but I think we must--we'll need to dry out and regain our sanity.

Mileage: 20mi from Mirror Lake to somewhere near Ross Lake Reservoir

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