Dyer and Riches: CDT Thru-Hikers

Monarch Pass

June 22, 2000—Day 52, 862 Miles—Monarch Pass, Colorado— The name sounded appealing. The Cochetopa Hills. A chance to relax and stroll after the rigours of the South San Juans and Weminuche Wilderness. And it was my birthday on this section too, so the stage was set for a gentle five days.

We were wrong. Only in Colorado would these monsters be called hills. They were still three times bigger than any mountain in my native land. And it was in the Cochetopa Hills that we encountered two new adversaries: rain and mosquitoes.

I guess we shouldn't complain. A full fifty days on the trail without ever having to hike in the rain has been a pleasant surprise and we were prepared: our fancy new rain gear kept us dry and comfortable. I spent the night of my birthday huddled in the tent slurping lumpy jello and reading cards from home as torrential rain lashed the fragile structure and thunder rumbled overhead.

So we grumbled and dealt with the rain, but the mosquitoes caught us unawares. We had decided against buying bug repellent in Lake City, since we could barely afford a loaf of bread in that tourist-trap town, and it was a decision we came to regret. By the first day we were cursing, by the third day we were screaming and flailing, and by the fifth we were broken men, shambling amid clouds of the bloodsuckers. Still, at least we covered the ground fast—the mosquitoes made it too unpleasant to stop for more than a moment.

At the end of this section we also finally got to meet the legendary Sarah and Adrianne, and another Brit hiker, Rob of Loxley, whose tracks and exploits we have been following throughout New Mexico. They were kind enough to let us bunk in their room at the Monarch Lodge, and we swapped stories long into the night. It was great to finally meet our GORP compatriots. The women are gone again now—no rest day for them—and we hope we can catch them despite their phenomenal pace!

Okay, the mosquito bites have subsided and the whining is over. The scenery has been awesome and the forested slopes of the Cochetopas make a beautiful contrast to the bare peaks to the north and south. It has been a privilege to lose a couple of pints of blood in such a setting. We are hitching into Salida now to arm ourselves with some chemical weapons for the next stretch. Next stop: Leadville, where this whole crazy scheme began.


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