Elevation at camp: 11250 feet
Squirrel and I ended up getting up and out of camp before anyone else was awake. I was about 15 minutes after Squirrel in fact. I didn’t have big mileage goals today, so I just let myself wake up naturally, which happened at 5:30 am. That’s about the time the sky changes color with the rising sun.
Since I left after Squirrel I got to hike alone for the first 6 miles, which I haven’t had in ages. It felt great. I came across a group of 4 guys I hadn’t met yet who had camped ahead of us. The timing was bad because I had been hoping to have my visit to the loo near their camp, and there was no tree cover for miles. I had polite but uncomfortable conversation before I excused myself. I would have to go a while before I was our of their eye sight, and I have no idea if they are fast hikers who might sneak up on me doing the deed. It became ever more urgent as I raced along, no place suitable for a proper LNT (leave no trace) duty for a few miles. I began to sweat when finally I saw a snow drift that had receded from the mountain side up a valley. I squeezed my way on up and took care of business while still wearing my pack because there was no time left. Everything worked out in the nick of time and I took care of everything using full LNT principles. I felt so much better.
Hiking was wonderful after that as I dropped in elevation only to know I would have to climb up over 13000 feet later. It was beautiful though, watching snow melting away, grass appearing greener, flowers in bloom all around. It is a different world below 12000 feet, a different season. We even saw a bear cub running through a meadow today. I got video, but can’t seem to upload it to my blog. We cautiously proceeded knowing mom could be anywhere close by.
At about 6 miles I ran into Squirrel taking a break at the bottom of our big climb for the day. I decided it was time to start wearing shorts again and to ditch my waterproof socks for more comfortable wool. Not only was the environment around us changing, but our heavy duty winter stuff just isn’t necessary anymore. Pretty soon we can send a lot of it home, saving many pounds off our backs.
We cruised along comfortably today, miles so much easier without fields of snow. It is the day we officially hiked out of the San Juans. The day we earned a self pat on the back. We did something that less than half of the people attempting the CDT even tried to do. A lot of people took lower routes, some decided to head up to Canada and finish the trail southbound, others quit. Only a small number of us can say we hiked the San Juans in the snow and never even thought of going another way. I feel accomplished, strong, capable, proud and humbled. Those mountains are serious, the snow was serious, the elevation, the storms, the postholing…the views. It was single handedly the most challenging and rewarding hiking of my life, and there is still more CDT left! There is still more Colorado. The San Juans are merely a rite of passage and I feel great having passed. It was worth the fear and frustration for the exhilaration and accomplishment.
Dinner: mac and cheese with tuna, salsa and extra cheese.
Sorry, not a lot of pictures today.