The Road North


Day 45: June 7, 2019

Destination: Great Divide Alternate Mile 22.2

Today’s Miles: 22.2

Start Location: CDT Mile 792.4 (Cumbres Pass/Chama)

Trip Miles: 686.7


First, I want to make a correction. Previously, I mentioned that I had shaved and left only a handlebar mustache.

I thought that’s what a handlebar was anyway. Turns out, what I gave myself was a fu man chu. I didn’t realize this, but someone wrote me and pointed it out. I’m actually excited because I like that name even better! I haven’t had time to google it yet, but now I’m interested in the origins of that mustache and the name for it. Anyway - I still have the fu man chu and I’m enjoying it because it’s fun.


I didn’t hear my alarm this morning and slept later than intended. The Chama Trails Inn is so nice that I think my body doesn’t want to leave! I stayed up late getting caught up on my journal and prepped for today, so I probably needed the sleep.


I walked down to the diner to see if any hikers were there. I’d already eaten my breakfast in my room and no one was there, so I went out to the parking lot to try and hitch a ride. Cumbres Pass is 12 miles from my hotel, so I definitely wasn’t going to walk there.


It took me about 20 minutes, but a guy finally pulled over in his truck and told me he could take me downtown, but that he was going to the train station so he had to stop there. I thanked him and hopped in. That would get me two miles closer and maybe a hitch from downtown would be easier.


Womp! It wasn’t. It took me about 45-50 minutes to get a ride. At one point a guy came out of the cafe across the street and told me that he might be able to take me later, but he was inside working on some things. I think he felt bad that I had been standing there so long. I thanked him and kept trying. Finally, a lady approached me. She knew exactly what I was doing and offered me a lift. Yay!

Her name was Jean and she was taking her two huskies out to play at a trailhead just past Cumbres Pass. She said they were rescue dogs. They were beautiful and I petted Chami, who was a little needy, on the drive up the road. Jean and her husband were from New Hampshire, but retired in Chama. I really enjoyed chatting with her on the short drive, and definitely appreciated the ride. It did take me a while to get a ride, but it never frustrates me really. Things always manage to work out, and I honestly don’t blame people for not wanting to pick me up. They don’t know me, they might not know anything about hikers or the trail, and, well, I’m just not that pretty!


The first part of the Great Divide Alternate just continues on the highway (CO17) where Jean dropped me off. I wasn’t looking forward to that, but it ended up being ok. The shoulder was wide and had good tread, and the scenery around the road was gorgeous. I saw about two dozen deer along the road, and some kind of animal that looked like a super furry, tannish, marmot-sized animal. I really don’t know what it was! It looked like a blond marmot with lots of high volume hair. If the cacti are Joe Pesci, these things are Marilyn Monroe.

The route turned off the highway onto a forest service road. There was a little community at this junction. It was small and looked like a summer location where people had their camps they might come to. I took a break, took my shoes off, and had some lunch. My shoulders were sore. The extra weight of my snowshoes is noticeable, especially when I have a full food bag. I can’t wait until I don’t need them!


I kept walking on the forest service road. It cut back through a valley beside a river. Much of the land was fenced off, but not all of it. It was absolutely stunning! I got excited. I was a little worried that in taking this route I might not have the best scenery, but this valley was lush and beautiful and made my head explode a little. Across the river was a lush mountain range, dark green with fir trees and bright green with new foliage on the deciduous aspen trees, not to mention the accent white of their trunks. On my other side was a mountain range that had more of a sandstone, reddish mesa look to it, speckled with green but still noticeably different. I’d love to know the geologic reason for these two different mountain types forming on each side of a valley.

I saw more deer and lots of birds. There were some camping spots and peoples’ homes and vacation camps along the way. Around mile 19, I started to get really tired. I wanted to walk farther, but I started looking for a place to camp. I had grabbed water already from the river a while back. One of the challenges with this section is there aren’t really any notes in Guthook on water, or much else. I could see the river for most of this forest road, but often it was fenced off with barbed wire, so I couldn’t always access it. Likewise, camping was restricted, and even if I wanted to stealth camp, sometimes the land beside the road was two steep. Other times, barbed wire fences lined both sides of the road.


Finally, as I was walking I saw two ladies flying a kite. I walked by their parked car and heard a voice call my name. It was Mouse, and she had set her tent up by the road where the parking sign was. Apparently we could tent there. I was happy to see her and feeling tired, so I stopped there and set up my tent by the road. I normally would never do this, but this area has a number of camp sites and seemed ok.


We chatted for a bit and I retired to my tent after eating. Tomorrow I will pass through Platoro, and then start climbing to over 11000 feet. I’m not sure I will get that high tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if there is snow up that high on the forest road. I would imagine there will be.

I had a great weather day - nothing more than a few random sprinkles! It was the best weather day I have had in a long time, and not once did I hear thunder or have to post hole - Hooraaaaaay! I’m looking forward to more walking in the valley tomorrow!

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