Back on trail, today was the first day of a planned six day stretch from Pagosa Springs (Wolf Creek Pass) to Silverton (Stony Pass).
We went for breakfast again at The Rose, and slowly packed up and cleaned up our Air B&B. We made our way to the north end of town, to the outfitter Ski and Bow Rack. I picked up a new flexible water bottle to replace the one I’d lost. Patches got a phone number of a trail angel from the desk clerk, and was able to get a ride up to the trailhead for four of us; the K2s opted to try hitching out. (We agreed that we’d all actually wait at the trailhead this time so we wouldn’t lose anyone.)
Our drivers to the trailhead were Janna and JD, who were only too happy to give us a ride to the trailhead — it got them off their couch. While we were doing introductions, Mr. Freeze, from the back row of the SUV, and with her Swiss accent and road noise, was misunderstood by Jana as being “Meet the Freak”.
It only took about half an hour to get back to the trailhead, and we were again hiking shortly after noon. The trail started off with a steep climb up the north side of Wolf Creek Pass, which quickly afforded a view of the mountains to the south that I’d hiked down two days ago.
After an hour and a quarter, I’d hiked about 2.5 miles, which wasn’t too bad a pace, but it felt like a much harder climb than it turned out to be. We stopped at the border to the Weminuche Wilderness of the Rio Grande National Forest for a break. While we were there, several day hikers passed us, returning to the trailhead.
A while later, I realized that I hadn’t properly adjusted my pack after getting it fixed at the tailor. I readjusted it, which pulled the load forward. This made it a lot easier to hike — it no longer felt like my pack was trying to pull me backwards — though it didn’t reduce the weight I was carrying.
Although there was less snow than in the prior section, there was still a substantial amount today. The trail took me past a number of lakes that were still clogged up with snow. There were a few places that required some tricky navigating, and a long traverse of a snowfield interspersed with rocks and creeks where the trail was completely hidden from view. The rest of the group was ahead of me, and it was only by luck of a few glimpses of them ahead that I was able to pick out a quick route through the snow.
At least a couple of places on the snow traverse went over creeks flowing under the snow. The snow seemed thick enough it wasn’t a problem, but eventually fragile snow bridges are going to become a hazard.
But, the snow is melting, and each day that goes by, there should be less of it to worry about.
With the cold I had, the uphills felt very exhausting today, and it was incredibly difficult to maintain a good pace. I’d suggested camping at Archuleta Lake, which was slightly off-trail and looked like it would have flat areas for camping from the maps. However, I was quite relieved to find everyone had stopped about half a mile short, up on a hill just beyond the outlet to Spotted Lake.
Stopping at quarter after six gave me plenty of sunlight to set up my tent, get water, and cook dinner. While I was in town, I researched cooking pasta at high elevation, and this time, armed with a not-nearly-empty fuel canister that was able to boil water better, as well as cooking with a little more water, I was able to produce macaroni and cheese that was actually edible.
Patches and Mr. Freeze packed out the wine we had bought in Pagosa Springs but didn’t drink. It was shared, though I didn’t have much because of my cold, and Patches drank perhaps too much. There was none left by the end of the evening.
Nearing sunset, we got a nice surprise: Dog Bite and Plus One arrived. A bit earlier, we’d heard them when they whistled at us, but the mountains reflected the sound and we thought it was coming from a different direction, so we thought it was some kind of animal, and opt people. We hadn’t been expecting them, but after their side trip to South Fork and Creede, they skipped up to Wolf Creek Pass to catch up with us. (Though that said, they intend to mostly do their own thing, and won’t necessarily be staying with us.)
Plus One revealed that Muenster Cheese, whom we’d had over one evening while we were in Albuquerque, had a positive covid test result. So now it seemed likely that both Plus One and I had gotten covid. For me, that would certainly explain the sore throat, cold-like symptoms, and difficulty breathing. (This was quite frustrating for me, since this is possibly the third time I’ve gotten covid since December, though each time, the symptoms seem to have gotten less severe.)
It was windy for about an hour after sunset, and cool as well. Surprisingly, there was cell service at our campsite, and the weather forecast suggested it wouldn’t freeze overnight. This would be great for melting snow, but not so great if we had to hike over any of the melting snow. I’ll find out tomorrow just how accurate that forecast was.