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Colorado Trail Day 28 – My Ranch Home | Average Hiker

Colorado trail emblem

The cows quieted down around midnight. Suddenly, the coyotes started yipping and singing, at which point the cows got all worked up again. For the rest the night the cows constantly let out loud mournful calls. I’m assuming they were warning their brethren about the coyotes.

Some of the cows were even kind enough to come stand outside my shelter and make sure I was properly warned. Yelling at them that I was fine did not reassure them. I finally gave up on sleep at around 4AM and began slowly packing up.

The morning was FROSTY! I would need to get some warmer gloves and another hat in Creede. My Kora Beanie was great in cool Fall weather, but once it dropped down to freezing temperatures I needed a hat with a liner, and more than Gore liners for my hands. Thank goodness the wind had stopped!

Hiking Early Morning before Saguache Park Road
Colorado Trail Emblem on Post by Trail

As I started down the dirt track I marveled at the the skyline in the distance. This was beautiful country, but the winters must be brutal. If it was this cold now, and the wind constantly scoured the plains like it had yesterday, I understood why there were few people, and cows that constantly appeared to be in shock.

Heading down the valley, I had not gone far when I saw “Mysterious” shelter in the edge of the next stand of trees. On the other side of the trees was what appeared to be a very large campsite with 2 mountain bikers. It looked like a small tarp city.

Swinging left onto Saguache Park Road, a well used dirt road, I began a gradual climb up towards the mountains. About a half mile in I passed over Monchego Creek. As with many creeks in these last few sections, it was frequented by my cow friends.

Their water sources always looked as if they did a poop dance up and down the banks until they had a proper manure pit. I’ve had to drink out of these “tanks” on a few occasions when I was on the CDT in New Mexico. I would rather go thirsty for a little while until I get to something slightly more clear than cow pattie brown.

Cow Near Cochetopa Creek

Hiking was moderate, and the day crisp and clear as I wove my way along numerous dirt roads and tracks. A cold front had pushed out any remaining weather, and there was no smoke. Passing through Aspen Groves and large Spruce forests, I marveled that country so beautiful could seem so desolate and remote. It spoke to the extremes of this land.

Eddiesville Trailhead was my target for lunch, largely because my Databook said it had a pit toilet. It’s the little things that matter out here. It was also a large trailhead, and they sometimes had visitors with spare food. My standards are not as “elevated” when hiking.

Weaving my way up through the valley towards the trailhead I spotted what appeared to be tiny buildings in the distance. Was that the trailhead? The trail swung away from the buildings, to the right, and as I came through a cattle gate I saw several large tents and the top of the pit toilet. Yes!

There were some older guys and a half naked fella hanging out in chairs at the trailhead. Things are always so peaceful and almost mundane until I return to the world of humans.

One of the older men said something to the young guy as I walked towards them, and the younger man began dressing. Odd. Walking up, I waved and quickly made my way across the dirt parking lot to the pit toilets. I had hoped to take a break in the parking lot and eat lunch, but I was just going to move on a bit.

Looking Back to Valley On Way to San Luis Pass
View Over Valley with Small Ranch
Hiking Through Cow Country with Bad Water

Exiting the pit toilet all heads turned. I raised my hand casually as I turned, and headed down the dirt road immediately to my left. It’s always good to appear nonchalant – unprey like.

A livestock area was at the end of the road on the other side of Stewart Creek. I climbed up onto a boulder and ate a giant bag of powdered milk and cereal. I was going to begin doing a little more climbing and the carbs and grain would power me up the hill. I kept an eye on the trailhead while I ate, perched like a big wary cat upon my rock.

I began my climb up into La Garita Wilderness, leaving the parking area, and swung back around to my left where I saw the buildings I had seen earlier. Looking through a wire fence, I drew closer and saw my dream home.

The buildings were part of a small ranch, probably for visiting cowboys. There was a good sized herd of cattle down the valley. It was absolutely beautiful here and living here would have been a dream, albeit a very cold dream in the winter season. I stood and stared for about 10 minutes before slowly letting out a long sigh and turning to hike up the valley.

Rounding a corner, I saw two horses and riders heading towards me. A large border collie ran out ahead to greet me. He was a happy guy and paid no attention to the rider calling him back. That was fine as long as he did not try to herd me. My brother’s border collie used to nip my ankles if I did not go where she wanted.

I moved far off the trail and chatted with them briefly as they passed. Horses are prickly animals. Having owned a quarter horse, I know even the most well trained horse can sometimes spook for only reasons they understand. They have their own invisible demons.

Eddiesville Trail Head on Colorado Trail
Ranch Near Eddiesville Trailhead Where I want to Live

The hike up through the basin leading to San Luis Pass was beautiful. The large granite boulders littering the meadow ahead of me made me glance up at the rock fields on either side of me warily. Hopefully, I would hear any rocks plummeting down the mountains and have time to move. What were the odds?

Cochetopa Creek ran up the middle of the basin, and it was known for it’s moose sightings. I was hoping to see a few moose before arriving at the first saddle before the Pass. Moose are some of my favorite animals, even if they are only a notch above the cow. They appear to be slightly more intelligent, and I love their long awkward gangly limbs that can propel them at amazing speeds when needed.

I also love that female moose have attitudes. Don’t mess with Mama Moose, considered even more aggressive than Mama Grizzly. From first hand experience – just head towards a tight group of trees as quickly as possible, and hope you are not being chased by a very skinny moose.

Trail Past Ranch Near Eddiesville
Large Granite Block on Trail Near San Luis Pass
Starting Up Valley after Eddiesville Trailhead

I decided to stop just a few miles below the first saddle, and found a small flat spot behind some trees not too far off the trail. The clearing was at such an angle that you could not see it unless looking for it, but you had the advantage of a clear view of the trail from your camping spot.

As I cooked dinner I watched several hikers walk quietly past my camp, clearly looking for a camping spot in the waning light. The last hiker to pass was “Mysterious.” He was moving slowly as he slid up the trail swinging his head from side to side. I wonder what he was looking for? I stayed quiet as he passed.

I glanced up as I climbed into my Altaplex. There were 3 dead trees leaning over my tarp-tent. I paused studying them, and then began shivering as I looked down at my quilt. If this was a free-standing tent I would have just moved it, but it was a tarp-tent and they are a PIA to move after you set them up.

As I climbed into my shelter I turned so that my head was at the end that would not be crushed if the trees fell. There was zero wind, and they were leaning against each other. What were the odds…

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Ellie Thomas

I've hiked thousands of miles and still love the unknown of the journeys. Trails hiked include the AT, PCT, CDT, CT, AZT, NET, BMT White Mountains, and numerous blue-blazed trails around the country.