Well, I guess we were overdue for some bad weather, and when it arrived it didn’t disappoint!
As we neared the end of our 22 mile roadwalk into Creede, the wind gusted stronger and stronger, stirring up dust devils which whirled across the road from the mining spoil heaps. A rumble of thunder heralded our arrival at our motel. But what a welcome we got there! After we had to take a week off trail in Grants, New Mexico, to allow my foot to recover, we thought we’d been totally left behind by all the folk with whom we started hiking this trail, and doubted we would see them again. But thanks to some of them taking rest days, and us going via Creede instead of hiking the San Juan mountains, we found familiar faces waiting for us in Creede – the Aussies Medic and Bourbon, FiveStar who we last met around Pie Town, and Marty McFly who we hadn’t seen since the Gila River. It was great to catch up over a meal then beers on the motel porch.
The next morning we had breakfast with Kathleen, who set off from the Mexican border the same day as us and who we hiked with around Silver City, before bad blisters forced her off the trail. It was lovely to see her again!
After breakfast, in bright sunshine but with thunder rumbling in the distance, we set off up the narrow canyon behind Creede, which was completely worked over and reshaped by silver mining in the late 19th / early 20th century. Lots of the old mine buildings are still there, along with railways and the remains of aerial runways – but sadly no open portals! It was still a really interesting walk though, as we climbed steeply up past the workings, through forests and up above the treeline. Once above the treeline the mountain views were spectacular, with dark clouds and smoky haze from distant forest fires giving a strange mellow light.
By the time we pitched our tent for the night, the route we had been forced into following by the San Juan closure had once again joined the official route of the CDT – it felt good to be back on our intended route!
The next morning, as we packed up our tent, we met more folks coming down the trail who we thought we’d never see again – Maps and Coach (two more Aussies) and Obtuse, who had managed to get through the San Juans before the area was closed due to fire risk. We hiked on together, but as steady drizzle set in, everyone retreated inside their waterproof jackets and hiked at their own pace – until the rain stopped in the afternoon. I was walking past a patch of woodland, bringing up the rear as usual, when Neil called me over – and everyone was there from the night before, plus the three we’d met that morning, plus two more hikers! We’d never seen so many hikers together on a trail. After a few more miles we all ended up camping at the same spot, a total of nine tents and a hammock. Dinner was a very sociable affair until a sudden shower sent us scurrying for our tents!
We knew that rain had been forecast for that day, so when it amounted to no more than some drizzly showers we thought we’d got away with it. But no … the next day a few short sharp showers turned out to be just a preamble to the main event. The sky turned black and it absolutely hammered it down. Rain seeped through waterproof clothing, leaving us wet and cold. The trail turned into a rushing stream, or deep boggy puddles where it was flat; it became pointless trying to avoid stepping in the water as our feet were soaked anyway. After a few miles of this, with numb hands and feet, we decided to call it a day and put up our tent. We stripped off all our wet clothing, threw it in the end of the tent, mopped out the tent as best we could and climbed into our sleeping bags to warm up. And it was only 3.30pm!
As we settled down to sleep at 8pm, nervously checking the tent inner for signs of more water coming in, the rain was still hammering down. We only hoped the next day would be better!
So when the alarm went off at 5.30am as usual, and it was all quiet outside, we were hugely relieved. Taking a deep breath we put on all our wet clothing (grim!) then our waterproofs, and quickly packed up our soggy tent. Setting off at a brisk pace to warm up, we found everyone else had camped about half a mile further on. After a couple of hours of hiking, with the sun shining in a clear blue sky, we finally warmed up and our clothes dried out. When we came to a sunny clearing in the forest, we quickly spread out our tent and sleeping bags to dry.
Since then we have enjoyed some great hiking in lovely weather – clear and sunny, with a cold wind at times. The trail has been hard work, with steep rocky ascents and descents, but the views have been amazing. As usual we have rushed the last few miles to where the trail meets the road, and arrived in town with a long list of things to do (sorting our gear, forwarding our equipment boxes, laundry, shopping …) when all we really want to do is shower, eat and rest. But we are loving this trail, for all its challenges. I just hope we can maintain the self discipline and determination required to keep pushing out those miles for the next three months!