Heidenreich & Gass: CDT Thru-Hikers

Trail Dispatch: Week 7

June 7, 2000—Day 46—Pagosa Springs, Colorado —We arrived in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, after coming 68 miles from Chama, New Mexico. It is incredible how things can change by crossing a state line—the mountains just rise up in Colorado, and we are on a bona fide trail!

It has been quite different to be postholeing through snowbanks, having our shoes be absolutely drenched from runoff and caked in layers of thick mud. It has felt almost like being on another planet while up on the ridges and looking out into the whitecaps and watching massive cumulus clouds build on the eastern horizon. Our daily mileage has slowed from 3 mph to 2 mph, except when a thunderstorm is threatening. Then we do 5+ mph to get down from the ridge—nearly puking, hyperventilating, and tumbling down the scree slopes beats getting struck by lightning any day. Once we are safely in the trees the lightning often seems to loose interest, that is, until we venture out again. It's a big game of meteorological tag.

When we're not being chased by thunderstorms, we lollygag, chasing the yeller-bellied marmots across snowfields and trying to lure them into our trek to Canada. Other than that, we're just strolling (sometimes more like plodding) in the sun.

We had a special treat one night when we stumbled across an unlocked cabin fully stocked with firewood, matresses, and chili con carne. Not entirely guiltlessly, we played Goldylocks for a day—luckily the three bears never came home. It was an incredible experience to sit still for an entire 24 hours—the first time since Hachita, New Mexico.

In the register in the cabin we read about another thru-hiker who is about ten days ahead of us. Although it is an extremely low snow year it is surprising to find another hiker who is even earlier than us. We have heard statistics from the Forest Service that anywhere from fifteen to eighty percent of the average amount of snow fell this year. To some it even seemed questionable as to whether we would need our ice axes, though we decided we would rather lug the extra weight than be caught without them.

Again, we have found ourselves amidst trail angels in Pagosa Springs, and indeed we thought we had died and gone to heaven, where there's a wonderful kitchen, hot showers, and trail talk with one of the few fellow hikers we have met.


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