While my mother traversed the same long dirt road in reverse this morning, I rode out from Stewart Creek with both horses. My mother was concerned that she would have trouble getting back up the long steep climb out of Stewart Creek with another 1000 lbs. in the trailer if she had one of the horses, so I just led Takoda while riding Shyla. It also turned out to be a good thing not to have a horse in the trailer, as she ended up having a lot of chores to do on the road, including meeting up with a mobile RV repairman to try to get the solar panels on the camper functioning correctly. We are having trouble keeping the batteries in the camper charged and often have to run the generator (and even sometimes can’t get the generator started because the batteries have become too low), so she took advantage of not having a horse to try to get that problem solved. It is really difficult to get mechanical issues taken care of because we are a moving target; if any parts have to be ordered, we often aren’t around in the same area by the time they would arrive! And it’s not like we can make an appointment at a later date; if we have a problem, we need to get it solved immediately, which is not always possible for other people to achieve. She also faced a long roundabout drive, which is one of the ironic things about the trail sometimes; I am often on a much more direct path, while the roads do not go in a straight line parallel to the trail, and she had to go back to the 114, then either north to Gunnison and around to Lake City further west then south to our trailhead, or south to Sagauche and Del Norte and then west to South Fork and north up to the campsite. Essentially, it was a big circle that she would have to complete either clockwise or counter-clockwise; either way, it was a long day.
Meanwhile, I was looking forward to this section; it was one of my favorite parts from the CT in 2017, so I knew I was in for some beautiful trail. During the first 9 miles we climbed along a creek to San Luis Peak, where we crossed just below the summit; a couple of downfalls along creek that were challenging, but we successfully maneuvered over them. After the peak is where the views started as we kept cresting ridges and then dropping down a little before cresting again and getting a whole new panoramic view. It all makes for very enjoyable day with a constantly changing panoramic view. Towards the end of the day, about 6-7 miles before Spring Creek Pass, we traversed along Snow Mesa, which is very flat and exposed, so it was quite windy there. A little before 7pm I dropped off the mesa and descended to Spring Creek Pass and followed the road a short ways to the corrals where we would take a rest day.
Spring Creek Pass Corrals, not far from where the CDT crosses the highway at Spring Creek Pass south of Lake City and north of Creede, is where I met my mother at the end of the day. I am going to take a rest day here tomorrow, the 23rd, then begin my packing section through the San Juan mountains. And I got really lucky, as just yesterday the forest service lifted the fire closure on this part of the CDT! The huge fire raging in Durango, in the southwestern portion of the San Juan forest, meant that the entire forest was closed to everyone, and hikers on the CDT had been forced to take an alternate through a different area that was shorter and not as scenic. But because I have been riding southbound from Leadville and had earlier jumped over this part to go further north, now I am in the perfect position at the right time, and I will to be able to complete this section, which is famous as one of the most beautiful parts of Colorado.
The corrals (essentially some old cattle gathering pens with a loading chute) were huge and full of grass for the horses to graze on; we fortified a section of fence that a tree had fallen on and damaged, and then the horses had the run of one of the pens, with lots of space to relax in over the next day. I got one more night in the camper before I would be sleeping in my tent for almost a week, as my mother would depart in the morning while I stayed at the corrals for another day before heading out into the San Juan mountains. My mother would be taking Bombshelter to Lobo Overlook above Wolf Creek Pass, where we had left Tuna Can a couple weeks ago; she would leave Bombshelter there for me to pick up when I finished this packing section, and she would drive Tuna Can to Idaho to leave it at my grandparents’ house until we need it again when I get to Montana and she has to go back to L.A. to begin teaching in the fall semester. It is ironic that when we have two people, we only need one truck and trailer rig, but when I am on my own, I need two! She will be boarding the dogs at a kennel in Pagosa Springs, dropping them there on her way out of Wolf Creek Pass, as she would be flying back to Denver on July 1st and rejoining me again on the trail so that we could travel from Leadville area, picking up from our previous furthermost northward point. Lots of logistical details to work out on this trip!