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CDT CO Section 8

Day 21: Headwaters of East Fork Piedra River

The walking was much drier and smoother today, and my cough, though still extant, seems to be improving somewhat.

I woke up with the birds before 6 again, wishing I could sleep more and knowing I shouldn’t, feeling a bit sore from the lumpy and slightly tilted ground. As usual, I started hiking at 7:30.

For the most part, the trail stayed high on the ridges and mountaintops, where rocks were many and trees were small and clustered in patches. For the most part, the only large wildlife up there is marmots, pikas, chipmunks, and swallows gliding on the cold breezes that varied across place and time.

As for the trail, it was still frequently an annoyingly deep channel filled with rocks, but there were probably only a couple dozen or fewer blowdowns the whole day. There was much less water in the trail and in general. In fact, I had to plan where to do my midday water stop. But the biggest threats to my pace were a few long, steep climbs. One just before dinner was more than a mile long, and took well over an hour. The last half mile took more than half an hour of continuous slogging straight uphill despite being completely clear of obstacles.

Another difficulty of hiking the exposed high elevations is finding a good place to stop. My morning snack break was easy. There was a shady rock under a small tree in a bushy overgrown area before the day’s first big climb. (The only other person I saw all day was an older hiker who passed me while I was breaking here. I saw him on the ridge above as I was climbing and a half mile ahead at first, but he lost me for good after my next stop.) But once I was way up there, it was impossible to find shade for a break.

I managed to find a cluster of trees to serve as a sufficient windbreak and provide minimal privacy for an emergency bathroom break, but given that I didn’t see anyone at all after 10am, I could have had privacy enough right out in the open.

But there was no similar enclave available for lunch. I ended up on the ground in a tiny shadow under a short tangled tree. Clouds came in and gave me a bit of real shade right when I left from lunch.

My water collection break required me to drop my pack in dirt on a hillside to climb down the hill to a little stream, and there was no shade to sit in while it filtered (despite the taller trees in the saddle) because the sun was so high.

I took a break on a rock on a steep hillside before the last massive climb of the day just to get the calories to push through it. And then I ate supper on a rock pile on the edge of the ridge top above a snowbank with some shade and not enough wind protection. Sure, the view was great, but it was hard to find places to set my stuff around me. The snowbank was useful though: it chilled the second beer I took from Brendan while I cooked, and that made quite the lovely dinner treat.

From there, it was basically all downhill until I stopped early at the bottom of the valley, setting up camp in a copse of trees on a small knoll surrounded by three lakes as the sunset. It was a magical wild setting right out of the dream world from Sword & Sworcery EP.

Tomorrow, I’ll take a shorter day. Not because I want to force myself to hike longer the following days, but because there is an upcoming obstacle that I’ll describe in a future post.

Trail miles: 16.3

Distance to Silverton: 63.3 miles

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