Take a Trek

Day 25: Dr. No

Stewart Creek Trail to Spring Creek Pass
Day: 20.2 Miles
Trip: 364.6 Miles

A drizzle of rain seeps through the trees, as I squish my tent into the same stuff sack that it gets squished into every morning. Diptop and Sprout are already on the trail, grinding out a five-mile climb to the top of San Luis Pass. “I wonder if we’ll get some sun today,” I mumble out loud, while hoisting my pack. My shoes, socks, and shorts are drenched from trudging through the rain and mud yesterday afternoon. I’m cold and hungry, frustrated by the onslaught of precipitation that I’ve endured in these mountains. “Maybe were just getting it over now, so we can have a nice sunny day,” Bastard Sherpa replies. I’m not sure about the accuracy of his weather forecast, but my soggy friend has made a valid point regardless. My attitude is making me more miserable than the weather.

The saddle of San Luis Pass is covered in fog, making it impossible to see where I’ve come from. Walking through these clouds, as groggy as I am, it seems possible that I’m still living out the discombobulated dreams of last night.

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San Luis Pass is Dreamy

Slowly, reluctantly, a single ray of light pierces through the overcast. It’s a glorious moment, one that we’ve craved, since yesterday afternoon. In rejoice, we bask in the sudden warmth of sunlight and marvel over a breathtaking spectacle: One by one, the clouds that engulf us disperse and unveil a masterpiece, San Luis Pass.

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Unveiling San Luis Pass

I round a bend in the trail and discover Bastard Sherpa, shirtless and drying out his gangly chest hair in the sun. Marmots have draped themselves over rocks, and rodents are scurrying up and down embankments. Frivolousness has returned to the mountains.

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Marmot Friend

The trail meanders through the ridges and peaks around San Luis Pass, for nearly ten miles. It’s been five days since we resupplied in Salida, an experience that feels like it happened in a different lifetime. Everyone is running low on food, trying to ration a dwindling supply of energy bars, raisins, and peanuts. “These climbs are a lot harder, when you’re running low on calories,” Sprout exclaims, leaning on her trekking poles, from the side of the trail. A few days ago, taking a break never would have been considered. “I want lasagna,” I reply, trudging past her.

I’ve stopped on a bald summit to dry out my gear. Laying in the grass, with a cool breeze curling around my toes, I’m captivated by a mountain range that runs up the middle of North America, a place that can turn from majestic to violent in a matter of seconds. For the first time since leaving The Collegiate West Wilderness, I’m hiking on the crest of The Continent Divide.

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Resting on the Divide

With several miles of exposed ridge left to traverse, before the trail descends towards Spring Creek Pass, I make my lunch break a short and brisk one. Two of the four summits that I’ve crossed, thus far, have greeted me with rain and hail. If I’m going to walk through a shit storm, I’d rather do it sooner than later.

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Lunch with Sprout, Bastard Sherpa, and Diptop

Coming to a legitimate road crossing, for the first time in five days, is strangely stimulating. The smooth blacktop, yellow pinstripes, and metal boxes that whiz back and forth have become foreign subjects of interest. A mind calibrated to the logistics of nature is easily distracted. In the morning, I’ll hitch a ride to Lake City, seventeen miles west from here. The nearby trail-town has a hostel, and I’ll spend my day lounging, while I graze on an assortment of carbohydrates and fresh produce. Tomorrow is going to be an amazing day.

The trailhead at Spring Creek Pass rests next to a small, public campground. I’m walking through the parking lot adjacent to this area, looking for a water source and a flat place to pitch my tent, trying not to think about the pancakes I’m going to sniff out tomorrow, when a large Sports utility vehicle stops in front of me. “Are you on the CT? Thru-hiking?” a vibrant woman with wavy hair asks, from the drivers seat of her monster truck. I confirm the accusation, and she gets out of the vehicle. A younger version of the vibrant, wavy-haired woman follows her, along with a gangly, bearded, wide-eyed man. “I’m Zippy, this is Pippy, and that’s Hobbit!” I’m in the land of make believe, and these are my make-believe acquaintances. “We’re going to Creede for the night, if you want a ride.” I thank her, and decline the offer. Creede is in the opposite direction of Lake City, the town I want to go to. “Well, do you want some water?” I say no. “We have extra food. Do you need any food?” I say no. I need a grocery store, or a buffet, not a snack. Pippy approaches me. “Want a banana, Cliff Bar, or some trail mix?” She asks, while holding out all three. I have no idea why these people are so content on giving me things. I accept the banana, thanking her. She laughs, everyone is laughing. I take the Cliff Bar and trail mix, as well, and everyone laughs again. We’re all laughing, the four of us, in this random parking lot, in this random place, a land of make believe. The three of them are from Hawaii, Zippy explains, hiking the Colorado Trail with a rental car. I’m so tired, exhausted, I can’t make sense of her story. They offer me a few more things that I say no to, before I wish them farewell and walk away.

I’m heading towards a water source, on the other side of the road, when the monster truck stops next to me for a second time. Zippy leans through the window sill, and I ask her if she wants her banana peel back. “No! Your name is Dr. No!” A roar of laughter erupts from the Hawaiian trio, as Zippy hastily rolls up her window and drives away.