We started our day pleased that we had managed to get back to the trail before dark the previous evening. Our ride mentioned the miles of cow pastures ahead and the less than desirable water sources in the area. We moved on hoping our 1.5 L each would get us to a clean source.
Around noon, we noticed a truck parked in the distance and dreamed about the possibility of trail magic. As we approached, we realized our dreams were coming true! CT Hiker Gummy Bear had chairs set up waiting on us with cold Gatorades, chips, and plenty of water to get us past the shitty (literally) water sources.
After a nice break, we walked on taking a brief stop to pop the poles and rainfly and dodge the afternoon storm. Our last challenge of the day was crossing a cow infested creek, our first ford on the Colorado Trail. It took some time and skill, but eventually we found a safe spot to get across though the water was rushing above my knee.
We began our day a little later than usual with a big climb ahead. We entered La Garita Wilderness Area and left the cows behind.
It took us all day and most of our energy to climb to the top of the pass. When we finally made it, we were next to the spur trail for the summit of San Luis Peak and had incredible mountain views in all directions.
We walked a couple miles down the trail, but decided we didn’t need to push too hard since we did a big day the day before. We found a perfect campsite next to a stream with amazing views and decided to call it a short day.
We started our day with 4 back to back climbs, pass after pass. 500 ft up and over, then 1000 up and over, then 400 up and over, then 1200 up and over. Though we definitely had our work cut out for us, the challenge was worth the reward.
We were thrilled that the weather cooperated all day and were blown away by the interesting rock formations, cliffs, mesas, and mountain views as far as the eye can see. We even saw dozens of my favorite mountain dwellers – marmots!!
We woke knowing we had another big day of climbing ahead of us. Today we would reach the Colorado Trail high point. The first few miles were pretty relaxed. As we walked, we heard strange noises in the distance that sounded like a cow was being attacked by a pack of wolves. We stared at the mountain ahead unable to figure out what we were hearing. Suddenly, I realized the rocks I was staring at were moving. Ha, those aren’t rocks, they’re sheep!!
We hit the trail early still enjoying the views in all directions. At about 10 am, we noticed menacing clouds approaching and debated whether we should continue waking up a ridge or stay down below and wait it out. We made a quick decision to pop the rainfly and poles and were sure glad we did. The wind threatened to push over our little structure that was getting pummeled with hail, rain, and ice. The storm raged on for nearly three hours, then the sun emerged as if nothing had happened. We were happy, as usual, with our decision to stay dry and warm.
We finally walked on still in awe of our surroundings. In the late afternoon, we came to a creek and stopped to get some water. We could see a few sheep poking their head around a corner, retreating as they saw us. Suddenly, a beautiful white shepherd dog spotted us and shyly approached. Her tag read “Sheep Protection Dog. Leave Me Near Sheep.”
We woke up just shy of 20 miles away from Silverton. We had walked nearly 2 weeks without a shower or clean laundry. Even though this was my favorite section of the Colorado Trail thus far, I was still dreaming of town, showers, and the hostel room that awaited me.
It was a gorgeous morning still up near 12,000 ft on a ridge. We approached a slot canyon and prepared for the nearly 10 mile descent.
We took a break near an old miners cabin then continued down. The afternoon brought rain, and we were glad to be going down the mountain. We stopped walking around 6 just two miles from the highway to Silverton. We pitched the tent near a huge pine tree that was practically dry underneath and happily made dinner protected from the rain by the branches.
We walked a brisk 2 miles to the highway the next morning and caught a ride fairly easily. All of our town dreams came true in Silverton, an historic miner town and outdoor lover’s paradise.
This section was truly some of my favorite hiking to date. Somehow the Colorado Trail only gets prettier the further south you travel. 410 miles down, 75 to go! Last stop Durango!