Gray's Peak

by Gillian Larson | posted: July 7, 2018
Shyla on the ridge to Gray's Peak

This day’s section of trail was one I had been concerned about ever since I first started planning this ride, as it crosses over the highest point on the CDT, Gray’s Peak, which is one of Colorado’s "fourteeners."

no trail, just ridgeline to follow

I hit the trail pretty early and by late morning I had reached the northernmost point where the CT and the CDT share a tread. As a result, the trail itself essentially disappeared; the CT is well-maintained, but hikers often call the CDT the "Constantly Disappearing Trail," and that proved true here.

mountain goats!

I was just supposed to follow spine of a ridgeline for several miles. This resulted in wonderful views, even if not much trail.

rocky and very narrow

On the advice of some horse packers that I met in northern New Mexico who said that they had ridden this portion of trail a couple of years earlier, I left the CDT to follow dirt roads through the town of Montezuma (although “town” is a generous word for a place with no paved roads and nothing but a few residences). I followed this road out of town to another forest service road and back onto CDT, as soon as I regained the trail, I realized they probably meant for me to avoid this instead. It was extremely narrow, only inches wide at times, and nothing but rock; it would have been safest to crawl on all fours if you were a hiker. I tried to turn around after coming down a steep shale ridge, but Shyla couldn’t go back up the shale, as we were in a low point of a saddle between two peaks, so our only choice was to continue going down the slope. Shyla and I slid our way down the scree to the base of the peak and regained the trail. Over 45 minutes, we dropped about 2000 feet in elevation. From all the scree and sliding, the back of Shyla’s pasterns had all the hair scraped off, and I felt terrible about taking her into an area where we certainly shouldn’t have ventured, but I was grateful that she trusted me enough to follow me down the mountain to better ground and that our only wounds were superficial.

That's where we're heading

From there I walked Shyla down to meet mom, who had been having an equally difficult time on her end. I had hoped she could drive up the access road to the Gray's Peak trailhead, but it turned out to be a horribly rocky, steep, eroded road that was almost impossible for the truck and trailer to go up. About halfway up the hill, she found an intersection and was able to park the trailer and unhitch, continuing only with the camper, and she managed to find a place to camp. She rode Takoda up the road since she couldn't bring in him the trailer, and set-up a highline for the horses for the night. Overall, it was a much harder day on all of us than we had bargained for, but sometimes you get days like that, and I was just grateful we were all safe.


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