Lake City to Molas Pass
Day 27 | July 21, 2018
We spent the morning sitting at a real table, eating leftovers, and working on a crossword puzzle. In retrospect, this scene doesn't sound very exciting, but in the moment it felt like luxury. Thru-hiking takes me away from the ordinary comforts of home and when I return I feel a much stronger joy for the simple moments I so often take for granted.
We left the Ravens Rest and let our slow morning seep into a slow afternoon at the Confluence Café. I savored my cup of non-instant coffee and continued to work on my crossword. It doesn’t matter that I’ve never actually finished an entire puzzle, it’s just a nice way to pass the time.
It didn’t take long to get a ride back to trail.
We were picked up by a young man named Steven. Steven is a student going to school in Nashville and is spending his summer in Lake City working as a mountain guide. Steven loves picking up hikers and swapping stories from the trail. I could tell that he’s got a bit of the thru-hiking bug and that when he’s ready will set out for his long journey.
The trail took us up a gentle climb along a dirt road. The sky was big above us and the San Juan Mountains stood tall around us. Looking up in every direction seemed to be a entirely different weather system. To the right, patchy white clouds. Behind me, blue skies. To the left, ominous grey clouds. And, in front of me darker clouds hovered over mountain tops.
We preemptively covered our packs and put on our rain coats. It wasn’t too long after that the rain started to fall and sporadic lightning bolts cast spotlights throughout the sky.
We hiked for seven miles and decided it was time to hunker down. We picked a spot that was lower down between two hills and set up camp. The surrounding area became eerily quiet as we watched a storm start to shift our way.
Crickle, crackle, BOOM! Huge bolts of lightening lit up the sky and thunder roared and echoed in all directions. I listened to the wind whip against the tent and the rain came in waves falling heavilyy for a moment and then slipping to a slight patter. I couldn’t resist my urge to see what was going on so I stuck my head out of the rainfly. I felt the cold wind brush against my face as I peered out into the darkness. I watched as bolts of light flash in the sky all around; this may be the biggest Colorado lightening storm I’ve seen. I stuck my head back inside the warm tent, zipped up the rainfly, and cracked open a cold beer that I was grateful to have packed out (thanks Tim, thanks Dad!).
Day 28 | July 22, 2018
There was a quiet and calm stillness the morning after the storm. I woke up to the sun shining into the tent and when I poked my head out I was excited to see blue skies.
Our first stop of the morning would be to fill up water and check out the famous backcountry yurt, built by donations and volunteers for backcountry use throughout all four season.
Once our water was filtered and snacks were consumed we started our ascent to the highest point on the Colorado Trail.
By mid afternoon scattered clouds started to fill in the sky and we could see storms in the distance. The sky grew dark at the summit of the high point and when Cosmo spotted lightning he knew it was time for us to leave.
We descended into a colorful canyon of red and golden rocks, multicolored wildflowers and the greenest of grasses.
The trail followed a dirt road and just when I thought we might be deep in the backcountry of the San Juans, I heard loud country music and a revving engine. Before I knew it three four wheelers came driving down a mountain to our right. <sigh>
All day we hiked up steep climbs over mountain passes and down into the next canyon, over and over. Up and down and up and down.
By the early evening we had decided to set a goal of making it to a lake for camp. When we were just 2 miles away dark clouds closed in and rain fell fast. Cosmo and I had our eyes fixed on the mountain in front of us and we watched as a lightening bolt struck from the sky.
We knew we needed to get low but we were so close to the top of the climb. We waited a couple minutes for the storm to blow over and when we thought we had a window we took it.
We made it up and over safely, drenched from rain but otherwise safe. The sky started to lighten and even show a little bit of blue. The light from the storm and the shining sun created the biggest double rainbow I have ever seen!
We passed a couple with two llamas.
And finally made it to the lake.
Day 29 | July 23, 2018
IThis morning we treated ourselves to a leisurely start to the day. We drank coffee and ate breakfast by the lake, chatting with folks as they hiked by.
In the distance I kept hearing what sounded like people yelling. I wasn’t sure if it was folks down in the canyon, a big camping party perhaps. Or, maybe I was just mistaking the sound of the wind for people’s voices. The sound would fade at times, and then get louder. Soon, I was sure it was a group of inconsiderate campers. I walked over to a hill nearby so I could get a better look and what I saw were white specks in the mountainside, thousands of white specks.
“Cosmo!” I yelled. “Come over here!”
“Really?...” he replied, unsure that my holler would be for something worth getting up for.
“Yes.” I said with confidence.
Cosmo came over to join me. He focused his gaze on the mountainside and his eyes grew bigger as he exclaimed, “Wow. A herd of sheep!”
We packed up our camp at around 11am and followed the trail right through the middle of the herd. As we got closer I had no doubts that what I heard at the campsite was the sound of a thousand “Baa’s”.
After leaving the sheep we ran into the two hiking llamas, Joffey and Junior.
That afternoon, after crossing Stony Pass, we entered the Weminuche Wilderness. We headed towards big jagged mountain peaks and watched as major weather systems closed in around us.
We came to a trail juncture where the Continental Divide Trail and The Colorado Trail diverge. Of course, I continued along the CT southbound but, I couldn’t help feeling intrigued about the idea of another Mexico to Canada route...
We headed down, down, down, following the Animas Creek.
Today’s hike felt more like being in The Sierra than being in Colorado. The forest was full of vibrant colors, the scent of pine, and the sound of rushing water as it cascading down the canyon.
After descending nearly 2,000 feet we climbed right back up towards Molas Lake. We stopped when we found a big open campsite complete with views of the jagged peaks we just left.
Day 30 | July 24, 2018
This morning we hiked into Molas Lake Campground and then hitched into Silverton, CO for breakfast. While Cosmo and I were enjoying eating real food, my good friend Howie showed up and we all ate breakfast together. Howie drove Cosmo and I back to Molas Lake.
We picked up our last resupply boxes, packed our bags, and just as we were ready to hike, like clockwork, an afternoon storm rolled in.
We put our rain covers over our packs and decided to head back out. It’s bittersweet to be so close to the end. Part of me is ready for a warm shower, a real bed, and the comfort of my kitties and home. Another part of me doesn’t want this to ever end. We have hiked over 500 miles in the past month and I feel stronger than ever!
The further away from town we hiked the more epic the scenery became. It feels as though the trail as changed. The red streaked mountain tops and maroon colored clay trail bring about a southwest vibe.
I can tell this section is going to be the highlight of this trip.
Just below a mountain pass I found a spot off trail that provided panoramic views of all the colorful mountains and valleys. We decided to call this spot home for the night.