Day 45: Long Day, Postholing to End

We chose to road walk this morning rather than sticking on the official CDT. When I say road walk it is almost the same as the trail as it is still only a dirt two track climbing over the same hills as the CDT but it has the advantage that the gradients are a little more consistent and we can walk side by side.

The miles this morning passed easily and we had gotten to a point in our latest book where we are both eager to find out what happens to Brother Fish so we put that on for a while. Our path are traveling along the top of the ridges and although it does not show in the photos we are now surrounded by snow capped mountains. Colorado is not far away and we feel like “our” mountains are calling us.  They are large and impressive and we are eager to be home.

After we spend the morning getting our feet soaked in fairly constant snow melt streams and boggy fields the afternoon finds us back on top of a dry Mesa with no water to be seen. It is always amazing how quickly the environment and climate changes in the mountains. We once again sit in the dry fine dust and eat our lunch.

We decide to leave the alternate route and join the main route for the last section into Cumbres pass. A decision that we come to regret soon after we make it.

We spend an hour climbing the hill to reach the trail. When we get to where the trail should be all we can find is snow with an odd scattering of old foot prints and a set of cross country ski tracks.  Using the GPS we eventually start to see more tracks but not nearly as many as there should be given the number of hikers that are ahead of us .  Yeti comments that we might have a problem and she thinks most of the other hikers must have detoured around this section of trail. We spend the next hour Postholing up the snow and trying to stay where the trail should be, until we reach a road. The road is still covered in a foot of snow but much easier to navigate as well as now heading downhill. We decend for awhile losing altitude and snow. We start to hope that we are out of the snow for today.

The trail leaves the road and goes back onto a single track descending steeply. We once again lose the trail as it is heavy with snow and we are back to sliding, postholing and GPS work to find the trail. Many times Yeti and I take a step only to have the snow give way under our feet. We find our legs buried up to the hip with no solid ground underneath. You try to scramble out of the hole but many times it becomes a process of laying on the snow and sliding along to try and find some solid pack.

The worst part about the postholing is the downed trees hiding under the snow. Several times I go down to feel branches make deep scratches in my legs. I hear Yeti go down with a crack as her leg slides under a log and her shin takes the full force of her weight.

The navigation is hard but then Yeti discovers a set of old tracks that we soon realise have followed the trail almost exactly. We don’t know who it was but we are very greatful for their navigation skills. Following their lead, we emerge at the bottom of the hill 4 hours after we first entered the snow. We are very tied but mostly in one piece. We can go no further and even though we know it will be wet in the morning we set up in the valley bottom next to the stream.

Just before we got to the bottom, at about 7pm, we met a couple doing the Northern New Mexico loop. They were planing on hiking up the trail through all the snow we had just come down through. We did not envy them. They at least had our tracks to follow but we still wonder for the next few days how their evening hike went.