Day 5 — San Luis

Wednesday, July 1 — Miles 331.6-343.0 + 9 miles off trail (20.4 miles for the day)

Last night was the coldest night we’ve experienced so far (the consequence of camping close to a creek). I shivered in my sleeping bag for most of the night, finally falling asleep as the sun began to rise.

We come to after 8 (what bad hikers we are!) and it’s nearly 10 by the time we truly start hiking. Our planned mileage is lower today, but most of them will be spent climbing towards San Luis peak, a 14er that our trail passes by.

As good as we felt yesterday, today feels the opposite—as if my arrogance at being good hikers came back to bite me. My baby toe is a swollen blistered angry mess, and that tiny little sucker seems to be derailing my entire body. Isaac, thankfully, is feeling decently well, and he quickly adopts the role of chief motivator for the day.

We wind our way up the valley, adjacent to the Cochetopa Creek, which has been our guide for two days now, approaching San Luis. The mileage is steep, but the views make up for it. It feels so good to be above the world, savoring the majesty around us. Again, I’m struck by a feeling of being small and insignificant, and I feel inspired but also a little afraid—exposed.

By midday we’ve reached our saddle at 12,600 feet, just a mile and a half shy of the San Luis summit. If we had more time (and a little more stamina) we’d try to top that puppy.

Time being what it is, we absorb the view for a brief moment and then traipse down the other side. We spend the rest of the afternoon winding down one mountain and then back up toward San Luis pass. This second climb is just as steep, but we take it in stride.

San Luis peak is the big guy on the left (we crossed the saddle just below it)

By mid afternoon, we reach San Luis pass and the end of our official trail miles for the day (p11 miles). We hang a left on a side trail that will take us down towards Creede, our first town visit of the trip.

We’ve arranged for a trail angel (volunteer) to pick us up tomorrow morning at 11am around 7 miles outside of town. We plan to hike to the pickup point and camp there for the night. This sounds all well and good, but when we reach the point, it’s not even 5pm yet and the sounds of town are calling (beds…showers…food and drink… need I say more?).

With no cell service to call our angel, we entertain the idea of hitchhiking into town. There seem to be a few adventurers out on this mountain road—how hard can it be? We take off down the road, and it turns out hitching is, actually, hard.

A few dune buggy type vehicles pass us, but no one has room for two smelly hikers. One passerby stops and says they’re on their way to pick up friends with a flat tire; they can take us that far. Yes! But it turns out we only make it a mile before the switch is made.

We keep walking down, down, down the pass road. At one point we take a wrong turn, but some friendly teenagers on four wheelers correct us and we get back on the right road (following some illegal trespassing and a river fording).

Long story short, we end up having to walk the whole way into Creede. Those 7 miles were steep and uncomfortable, but we did happen upon some awesome mining/ ghost town structures. This puts our total mileage of 20 for the day, and we mostly laugh at our foolishness and poor planning.

We hobble into town just before 8 and quickly secure a room at the quaint Aspen Inn on Main Street (their last available room!). Then we hop over to the local tavern for beer and bbq and some excellent conversations with local residents.

Then we shower and fall into the most comfortable bed of our lives, thankful for such a happy ending to the day.

Isaac’s haiku of the day:

Who’s there? Samantha?

A headlamp illuminates.

Only what’s before you.

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