Miles Hiked: 11.5
Total Milage: 626.1
Location: Elk Horn Lodge, Chama NM
This morning I woke up around 5am. It was still rainy and wet outside. I was absolutely dreading leaving my sleeping bag. I laid in it until around 6:30a. waiting for my friends to wake up. When it was clear my friends were not going to wake up any time soon I packed up anyways. When I was about to leave a little after 7am, they finally woke up to say good bye. They didn’t want to leave camp either.
The first thing I did was cross a gushing river. It was so fast and deep I was a little scared and worried about doing it alone but I made it across. Originally I tried to cross on a large fat log. It was so slippery I ended up changing my mind and fording the river. I really didn’t want to get all wet and cold first thing in the morning. However, later on I would realize that didn’t matter.
I continued hiking uphill through the wet forest until I came out into some more alpine meadows. The rain was making everything really pretty until it just kept getting colder and eventually turned to snow. The snow kept coming down harder and harder until it was accumulating and blowing sideways. Eventually I couldn’t even see the trail. I pulled out my map on my phone and saw that I could follow a forest service road to a campground that the trail crosses through. I started walking up the muddy road slipping left and right. I was jealous of my friends who decided to stay in their sleeping bags a little longer. I also hoped that they didn’t leave at all because the weather was so awful. The whole time I was trudging up the muddy road in the snow storm I was getting colder and colder. I realized I didn’t have the gear I needed to deal with active heavy wet snow. I wish I had gloves, my rain pants, and a pair of pants. All of which I had waiting for me in the next town in a box. I was considering bailing off at the next road crossing or setting up camp at the campground in 10 miles. I knew that if I kept hiking past the highway the snow situation was only going to get worse because the trail kept going higher up in elevation.
When I finally made it to the campground, it was closed but I ran to the first pit toilet I saw to see if I could shelter inside. It was open! I stayed inside trying to warm up for a while while making a decision about what to do. When I finally decided to keep hiking through the rest of the campground I got a message from Free Fall on my In Reach Satellite phone. They were a couple miles behind me also road walking because they couldn’t see the trail. I was excited they did leave camp! I let them know I would wait for them in the pit toilet. About two hours after I got there, 12 Pack, Jenga, and Free Fall all arrived soaking wet, miserable, and cold just like me. They all wanted to either bail at the highway or stay the night at the campground. We knew we couldn’t keep hiking up the mountain if the blizzard was still going on.
It was yet another situation we were in where we had to make a difficult decision. Luckily Free Fall had cell service to help us figure out what other hikers decided to do and how far we were from a town. After discussing all of our options, our friend Revolt who hiked with us earlier in the trail offered to come pick us up. He lives in the first trail town we will hike to in Colorado! It turns out we weren’t the only hikers who had to call someone to come bail them off the trail.
While we were waiting for Revolt, we made lunch in the pit toilet. Hot ramen noodles gave everyone a little bit of relief from the cold. When we finally saw Revolt I was so happy! He picked us up in his Jeep and drove us to Chama. He said he was already thinking about us today when he saw the storm up by his home and heard the storm warnings. He left almost immediately after we called him.
It was about an hour drive to Chama. We found a hotel for the night and got dinner with Revolt at a bar called Fosters. The rest of the night I spent relaxing in bed and doing some chores including drying out all of my things.
When we got to town there were a ton of hikers that we haven’t met before. All of them were waiting for the snow in Colorado to melt out and for more gear to arrive. The conditions ahead seem pretty gnarly at the moment. We know of only one single hiker who has made it past Pagosa Springs, Colorado.
– Early Bird