Yesterday had been stormy as I set up camp. That has often been the pattern out her on the Colorado Trail. Skies are clear and robin egg blue until around lunch, and then you thunderheads begin to build over the passes as you hike into the afternoon. It is usually around 1PM-2PM that the thunderstorms will start rumbling.
When I awoke this morning though, I could feel a moist heaviness in the air that indicated rain. Looking out of the shelter I saw the leaden grey skies interspersed with darker grey clouds hanging low. A front must have moved in over night.
As I finished packing my backpack I made sure my rain gear was at the top of the pack and my umbrella was stashed under my front shoulder strap. Rain was no fun on this trail. Down pours are often hard and sudden, and the rain itself is stingingly cold. Getting too cold too quickly can be dangerous, and in some situations cause hypothermia. I am more careful since I typically backpack alone.
Today was probably the most uneventful day on the trail. I don’t use the word boring because I enjoy every day I’m out here, but there were blocks of time that I escaped into my own head and nothing in my surroundings drew out my attention for long.
Water was scarce in Sections 16 and 17. The trail traveled up along the Continental Divide, so I would have to drop down off the divide if I needed more water than I could carry. Dropping down a half mile to a mile to get water from a lower drainage area was not something I would do unless absolutely necessary, and I did not think I would need to do that in these sections.
The hiking was fairly easy, crossing old dirt service roads and rolling fields along the divide. My first water source after a moderate climb was Tank Seven. I had breakfast, drank a liter of water, and walked out carrying two liters. Unless I stopped at Baldy Lake a half mile off the trail, my next questionable water source would be Razor Creek about 15 miles away. Two liters would take me 15 miles as long as there was no steep climbing.
Notes in Guthook indicated a Vietnam Memorial had been placed in Sargent’s Mesa not far from the trail. I really wanted to see the memorial, but I was distracted by the rain as I unknowingly hiked across it with my head down to avoid the icy droplets. Heading up the dirt road at the end of the mesa, that I did not realize was Sargent’s Mesa at the time, I ran into an older couple with lost looks on their faces.
They were coming towards me on the road, and the woman asked me if I knew where the Vietnam Memorial was. “What?! That was Sargent’s Mesa?” I said. The woman was small, and I could tell she was cold in her light nylon windbreaker. Temperatures were falling, and it had been raining for a few minutes. Her husband stood studying me from under his Vietnam ball cap. She asked what I knew he was wondering.
“Where are you going?” she said studying my backpack. I explained the trail and then turned to look back out across the mesa. Far in the distance I could see a tiny grey stock tank, and to the right what might have been a monument. They could follow the road around the field and back out to the granite stone, or cut straight across the mesa. They both looked cold.
Lowering his head, the older man began walking directly towards the monument. Before he got more than a few steps, I spoke up. “Thank you for your service Sir.” He turned towards me for a moment, and paused before nodding and then turning to resume his walk back towards the monument. His wife smiled up at me and turned to follow him across the field. He was moving with purpose and she quickly jogged to catch up.
It grew colder as the sun slowly dropped into the afternoon sky, and I shivered beneath my umbrella. I had on my wind shirt and rain jacket and was dry, but could still feel the cold seeping into my skin.
It began to clear around 6PM, and I picked up my pace as I headed for Razor Creek and hopefully water. I still had a quarter of a liter, but that was only because I had been rationing what was left for the last couple of hours. I was also tired and hungry. Rainy, cold days always seemed to suck away my energy as my body worked harder to keep me warm.
I was ready to make camp for the night.
Razor Creek should be just ahead I thought as I strode from the trees into a long meadow. Looking ahead I saw a ragged dry trench carving it’s way down the hill. I sighed in exasperation since I would need to keep walking until I found water. It was already pretty late, so I would probably be night hiking.
Just to be certain, I turned and began walking up the dry creek. About 50 yards up I found a seep with a small trickle of water. It was a small flow but it was clean and clear. I pulled out my scoop (the bottom third of a Smart Water bottle), and began scooping and pouring until I had two liters. There was nowhere to camp here, so I walked about .2 miles down the hill until I found the camping sites mentioned in my Databook.
Two mountain bikers that had passed me earlier were setting up camp. They appeared to have found the only clear area that did not serve double duty as a cow bed filled with manure. This meant I was stuck with a cow bed. Yuck
Creepy guy walked up as I was making dinner. He was looking for water, and I told him he would have to go back to the seep. He did not look happy. I only call him Creepy guy because for 4 or 5 nights he always seemed to camp where I camped. He was also not very friendly.
That was not what made him a little creepy though. Every day he passed me walking much faster than me. At some point he always seemed to fall behind me, and I NEVER saw him when I passed him. Then as I was setting up camp for the night he would suddenly appear just before dark and camp somewhere nearby.
I ate dinner quickly as it grew dark, climbed atop my bed of manure, and laid out my Gerber next to me before quickly falling asleep.