Day 92: Chama Round 2

Miles Hiked: 21.2

Total Milage: 1538.3

Location: Chama, New Mexico

This morning the three of us woke up around 5:30am and started hiking around 6:15. The sunrise was so pretty. The day started off with a gentle climb up a plateau. After that we walked through some green alpine meadows with lots of rocks and lakes dispersed intermittently. The sky was hazy with some smoke but we did know where it was coming from. It seemed like the smoke obstructed all the UV rays from warming us up for a while. We all hiked together for most of the day and took breaks together as well.

There was hardly any elevation gain at all today. Knowing that I had to climb less than 3k feet over 21 mile felt so relaxing. In fact it was so relaxing that I didn’t want to do any climbing at all just because I knew we were so close to being done hiking for a while. We dropped down in to a valley by Dipping Lake and then climbed another plateau. Once we got to the edge of the Plateau there was a beautiful view of the San Juan’s. I could see a waterfall gushing down a cliff side in the distance. There was a rock bicycle with a sign for the San Juan Wilderness so we all took turn getting pictures with it and hung out for a break. There were some cute marmots hanging out around us as well. The clouds started to collect and turn dark. I could tell it was going to storm and I wanted to get off the exposed part before that happened. I walked across a field and hail started to slowly fall from the sky here and there. It was probably the biggest hail I have ever seen. I stopped to pick a piece up and it was the size of a paint ball. Luckily none was hitting me yet but I could tell this storm was going to be a particularly bad one so I picked up my pace. I still hopped I’m the storm would end up blowing to the east of me but that’s not what happened.

The hail continued to increase, luckily most of the pieces ended up getting smaller than the initial ones. 12 pack was right behind me as we went over our final mountain pass in Colorado, Jenga was not in sight. Right when we got to the spot where 12 pack and I turned around about a month and a half ago, the storm started to let loose. Of course Colorado saved the worst storm for our last ten miles of the whole state. Luckily I had already put on my rain pants and jacket so I could just keep walking until it was unsafe to do so. As we were crossing some exposed scree section on the side of the mountain, a giant crack of lightning flashed directly in front of 12 pack. It was so bright and blinding. We both screamed and his trekking poles flew in the air as we turned around and ran as fast as we could back to a small patch of a couple trees we had seen about 0.1 south of us.

The storm continued to get worse and worse but luckily we were slightly under shelter. 12 pack and I stood in the trees watching the lightning hit the ridges all around us. The view we could see in the distance slowly disappeared as the storm continued. It did not look like it would stop any time soon. Because we were on a very angled slope, we could not set up a tent. The only thing we could do was stand under the trees and watch. Eventually we both started to get really cold. 12 pack was shivering because he didn’t have rain pants like I did. The storm was still going on but it seemed like we might be endangering ourselves by letting our body temperature drop so low while we were waiting for it to pass. When it let up the slightest bit we decided to continue walking. Even if we could only make it to the next patch of trees, at least we could generate some body heat momentarily to buy us more time to wait. Luckily we were able to continue walking all the way to the highway as the storm moved a little but further away but it was still raging nearby. We just got really lucky with the weather window we had and the location we were walking in.

Eventually we reached the spot where we spent two nights camping in the snow. This time everything was incredibly green and there were flowers everywhere. It was a bizarre to be back at such a pivotal point in our hike. We noticed that the hail had accumulated very dramatically in the area. It felt like I was stepping on two inch layers of dip and dot ice cream balls at some points, and other points the hail was floating in puddles of water.

The sun came out as we started to descend a little bit more towards Cumbres Pass. I saw cows and cow poop for what I think is the first time in Colorado. We could hear the train blowing it’s whistle all the way to the highway. We fantasized about getting to ride it to town. When we got to the highway we took some pictures by the Cumbres Pass sign and started hitching to town. My parents were supposed to meet us there today and I was so excited! We had this planned out for a month now and I couldn’t wait to see them. They got us all a Cabin to share for the night. Before they got there I grabbed a drink from the store, showered, and got a lot of my town chores done. About three hours later they arrived with Jenga in tow who they picked up from the pass. I was so happy to see them.

We spent some quality time together for the rest of the night and got some pizza at “Local”. I’m so happy to be with my family and spend a few days off with them.

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

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