Day 47: Return to the Cow Pastures
Friday, June 17, 2022 10:03 pm
Location: Campsite 1019.2 (649.5 miles)

Another long day of hiking took me through cow pastures and rain as I made my way to Salida.

It was a bit cool this morning, though nice and sunny, and I left camp around 7:30, continuing up and over a hill on a dirt road. It quickly became clear that the trail on the new side of the hill became cow pasture, which also explained why there was so much cow poop on yesterday’s side of the hill.

The Trail Through Pastures
The Trail Through Pastures

The trail through the pasture was relatively gentle, and made for quick hiking. Passing a cattle guard, a yellow reflective indicator had “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner” written on it.

Later, passing over a bridge over a small creek, I met a new hiker, Ducky. She had a cool straw hat, except that the brim on the back had been cropped, to keep it from getting in the way of her pack.

I also saw a truck and camper parked a bit down a side road branching off from the trails dirt road. Later, three trucks towing ATVs passed by; there must be a semi-popular campground or off-road access point there.

After about two hours and 5.5 miles, I stopped for a break under a tree. Soccer Mom passed, and mentioned the weather forecast called for rain, so he was trying to get as far as he could before then.

It had been warmer this morning, with a few thin wisps of clouds. Now, there were a couple of large fluffy clouds coming from the south. One of them blocked the sun, so it got a little cooler, and it was really nice out with a light breeze. It was perfect hiking weather.

As I hiked on and the morning ran out, the cloud cover gradually increased, with some fairly dark clouds forming overhead.

I hurried on, nearing the ends of the cow pastures, hoping to get under tree cover before it started raining. The trail cut a wide switchback around a creek, but I happened to spot a small log place over the creek, making it very easy to cross. A short scramble up an embankment put me back on the trail and cut off about a quarter mile of trail.

The clouds continued growing and darkening, and. I heard thunder. Expecting rain, I stopped briefly to put my pack cover on.

The road continued, passing through a gate with a sign, “Closed to thru traffic”. Someone crossed out “closed” and “traffic” with a sharpie and wrote “open” and “hikers” above.

Soon, the air began to smell of rain, and the clouds overhead darkened. I stopped for a break while I still could, before the rain started, which it did only a few minutes later.

It was a light drizzle, so I put on my rain jacket, and continued eating my snacks. I finished as the rain began to pick up a little, and continued my hike uphill. Only a few more minutes later, though, the rain stopped and the sun came out, making it far too warm to continue hiking in my rain jacket, so, off it came.

The trail eventually became a trail again, diverting from the roads it had been following since yesterday afternoon. Its new path, though, once was a road; there was a clearly road-width path through the woods, with a pair of parallel ruts where vehicles had once driven. Half the road was clear; the other half had trees growing; it could easily have been double-track if trail maintainers had kept the whole path clear.

After another few miles, I reached a creek that flowed through a culvert underneath the trail. Low on water, I collected and filtered water, while a light drizzle started.

The drizzle was intermittent, which was fortunate; the last thing I wanted to do while I sat idle filtering water was more water falling on me.

I left the creek just as Ducky arrived, and headed towards the first highway roadwalk in Colorado, a few tenths of a mile along CO-114. On the way there, a few cracks of thunder filled the sky, and the rain became noticeably colder — some of it was hail. I put my rain jacket on more to stay warm, rather than to keep the rain (and hail) off.

The rain came in bands; when it stopped raining on me for a few minutes, I could see it still raining ahead of and behind me.

After about half a mile walking alongside the highway, the trail turned away at the middle of a hairpin turn. The rain stopped shortly after, and I took advantage of the lull in the rain to take another snack break.

As I finished my break, Ducky arrived, and we continued hiking the rest of the day together. It turned out that Ducky, from Utah, had also hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2018, starting a little earlier than me and finishing a little after. The next couple of hours, we compared notes and exchanged stories of our time on the PCT.

We found a nice, sheltered, and unexpected campsite after a little more than 21 miles, nestled in some pines, with a nice soft bed of pine needles. At just before 6 pm, it felt good to stop with still two and a half hours to sunset, plenty of time to cook dinner without feeling rushed (or cold because the sun has already dipped behind mountains).

It felt great to hike two 21-mile days back-to-back, but the next couple of days are likely to be shorter. I’m planning for two roughly 18 mile days and then a short day in to Salida.