Whisper

June 30, 2017

It’s official! Joon trail name is Whisper. It was suggested to her several weeks ago by Treeman. It is the perfect name for her because when one hikes in front or behind her, she can be heard whispering stories that are playing out in her head. The other names in the running were TripleB, which stands for Big Black Bird. This name was also suggested by Treeman. The other name was more of a sound that Ravens make than a name. It was a clicking sound. For those that remember the movie The God’s Must Be Crazy, it was the sound of the main characters African language. Catwater came up with this long time ago early on in New Mexico. Now the hard part for me is to remember to call her Whisper!

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Bling’s Blog Salida

Bling’s Blog
Lake City to Salida
June 30, 2017

This section has been my favorite since entering Colorado.,  Up until now, ever since we entered Colorado, we have been trudging through snow which is hard work. Everyday we were having to traverse across many steep snow slopes. There were times we would go straight down vertical slopes. Because of the snow, we were able to only go fourteen miles a day. On the second day of this section, we dropped out of the high San Juan Mountains. Finally, we were able to stretch out our legs and make some miles. The land has changed completely. We now are hiking in grassy, rolling hills. We even have hiked through some huge Aspen tree groves. We are beginning to hike faster now and are doing twenty miles days again. We have not been able to do since New Mexico. I am looking forward  to reaching Salida because we are going to take time off and rest.

Into Salida

Salida ()
Day 68 – 6/28/17
Miles – 12.8
Total miles – 962.3

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It’s a town day! Hooray! Move, move, move! Well it really was not like that. We had a slow start. When we did get going, we started with a climb, not a big one, that would come later. We moved quickly to the top and headed down to the next saddle. After walking through a thick pine forest, the trail dropped down to a parking lot. We took a short break then started the 1000′ climb around a mountain. The climb was well graded and we made good time reaching the top, a open shoulder of the mountain. We took a quick break out of the wind. The next 5 miles was a level and we covered the distance easily and soon we were hiking down toward Monarch Pass. We know we are getting close to civilization when day hikers are spotted. On the way down we bumped into a German couple, Skipper and Walkabout, who we have not seen since Cuba, New Mexico. They are rehiking a section they had to miss because of an emergency tooth infection Skipper had. After having her tooth pulled and the infection cleared up, they are back on the trail.
My dad is meeting us here and taken us to Salida for a few days. The tricky part is that we did not know when we would get here and they did not know when they would get to Salida. We came in around 1:30 and got sandwiches and drinks. Rabinath bought the kids double scoops of ice cream! That was a real treat for them because their parents only ever by them a single scoop. Then we waited. Rabinath went out in the parking lot looking for someone heading down to Salida for a ride. After a short ten minutes, he had a ride to town. There is no cell service here at the pass, so Papa Raven set off the Spot device to tell his dad were here. The store attendee, told us the only location for cell service is at the top of the mountain. The only way to get there is to pay for a gondola ride. After waiting for several hours, Papa Raven, decided to take a ride to the top to make a phone call. As Joon, Bling, and Papa Raven rode the tram car up, grandpa Bob arrived. Oh well!  The kids and he walked around the building at the top and then headed back down. Back at the bottom of the mountain, Mama Raven and dad sat talking and waiting for our return. Once down, we load up the car and headed to Salida. We will resupply here before heading back up the mountain, after a day or so off.

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A Bit of Rain

Jeep track (17_123 R)
Day 67 – 6/27/17
Miles – 21.3
Total miles – 949.5

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It sprinkled over night, not much, but enough to wake us. When we woke in the morning, the outside of the tent had already dried. When we poked our heads out of the tent in the morning, the sky was a mix of clouds and blue sky. We decided to pack for rain just in case. Packing for rain means we line the inside of our backpacks with a large trash bag so everything inside stays dry. Also, we put our rain jackets and pack covers in a quick access location when it does decide to rain. As we headed out, a cold wind blew. However, it did not last long. We had only gone a few miles before we were taking off our down coats. Rabinath and Joon hiked for a long time side by side together, talking as they went along. We are sure Joon was telling him all about home and her cats Ollie and Oggie she misses so much. Papa Raven had Mama Ravens mp3 player in his pocket after charging it. He set it on top of a pack and that was the last it was seen. The player is not a big deal, but the micro SD card is. It had all of her Louis L’Amour and Tolkien books, podcasts and her favorite hiking music. We do not have a backup of any of it except on our computer at home. It is a major loss for her. It is a little item, but it is used and enjoyed so much, especially toward the end of a day when she is tired. She listens to something on her player and in no time, it is time to set up camp for the night. Listening to a bed time story, also helps her get to sleep in the evenings. Mama Raven is sad but she says she will survive her lost!
Most of the hiking today was on ridges and wide open meadows. Since we are trying to get as closer to Salida as possible, we kept our breaks short. As the morning progressed, the clouds got darker and they moved very fast. We could see it raining at different places around us. About lunch time, we stopped with a few sprinkles falling on us, therefore we put the packs under some trees for protection and ate a snack with our umbrellas over us. The clouds were moving fast enough that we could see when the rain would end and move on. As we were getting to Sargent Meadow, another cloud past by, raining on us. Sargent Meadow has a Korean war memorial in it. There are no roads to it, no trails, you just have to know where it is. As we past through the meadow we never saw it. Rabinath took more time to find it. When he was there, he said a veteran stopped by out of no where to visit it. As the day was ending, we pushed on to close the gap between us and Monarch Pass. We stopped short of our goal because there would have been no place to camp if we kept going. We have 12.8 miles to go. My dad will pick us up tomorrow afternoon at the summit store. We are all excited for town day!!!

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More Ridges

Just past Mt Baldy (16_118)
Day 66 – 6/26/17
Miles – 20.0
Total miles 928.2

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Once again, no one wanted to wake up. We really are physically tired and need a rest. For a month now, we have been working hard and we are tired. We have a zero planned in Salida, our first in quite a while. We have taken neros, which are half days, but no days completely free from hiking. Who knows, we might even take a second day off in Salida. We packed and left camp, heading .8 miles to a spring. We are completely out of water. In fact, other than cooking water, we were out last night. We all are wanting a big drink of water. It did not take long for us to get to where the spring should be, but we could not find it. However, there was water, it might not be spring water, but it was cold and delicious any ways, so we filled up.
We have had problems filtering water. We started the trip with a Sawyer micro filter and a water bag, which we used for gravity water filtering. The biggest problem we had with then system was finding a place to hang the bag high enough so it would work. The higher it hangs, the more efficient it works. There are not many big trees on the trail, and often times the ones we do come across are not big and strong enough to support a heavy bag of water. This system was also slow. For four of us, a large amount of water is needed to be filtered.  We stopped using it when the water bag fell from a tree limb and popped like a balloon when it hit the ground. A number of thru hikers are using Aqua Marina, which is a chlorine that you add to water. It takes a while for it to work and there can be a mild taste. At Over Easy’s house, we tried a blind taste and could not pick it out. When our water bag broke, Treeman let us borrow his SteriPen. When the pens first came out years ago, we tried them without much luck, and we have heard from others that they had problems. Nonetheless, Treeman really likes it and has good luck with his. We borrowed his for nearly two weeks, it worked really well and best of all it was fast. Just what we need. SteriPen uses UV light to sterilize anything in the water. If organisms cannot reproduce, they cannot infect you. When Papa Raven went to the store to replace my water bag with OverEasy in Durango, he decided to get a SteriPen instead. We have been using it for several weeks now and it is working just fine. If the water source has a lot of particular matter, we will prefilter it through a bandanna. What we have learned about SteriPens is they do work very well, but they are delicate. They can not handle drops and bangs.  In handling it, we treat it extremely careful. It is an expensive item to replace. In fact, shortly after returning Treeman’s SteriPen to him, it fell from his top backpack pocket to soft grass on the ground, and never worked again. He is now having to use his back up filter, the Sawyer Squeeze. It is slow and hard work to use, but inexpensive and effective.
Today’s trail climbed 1,500′ to the low 11,000′. Next, we spent the rest of the day hiking along ridges, climbing and falling hundreds of feet. It is not the easiest hiking. Sometimes the trail builders brought us straight up the mountain, which is always hard work. Toward evening, we filled up on water and then hiked another few miles more to a flat summit to camp. We have been enjoying the company of Rabinath, who is from Amsterdam, Holland. He is the same age of Mama and Papa Raven, which is not very common on the trail. Most CDT hikers seem to be very young and fast. Rabinath is a very gentle soul with a great sense of humor. It has been a pleasure to hike with him. We have been blessed with wonderful hiking friends along the way. We still miss our Auntie Raven (Catwater), who is now back on the trail but too far ahead to catch up. Of course there was Quicksilver who has lived up to his name and is long gone, and Treeman, who provided us with much smiles and laughter along the most difficult section of the entire CDT. Tonight, we are camped in a good position to make Monarch Pass the day after tomorrow and then a rest day!

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No Snow

Lost Creek (15_055)
Day 65 – 6/25/17
Miles – 22.7
Total miles – 908.2

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Today was the first day we did not walk through any snow since the day into Ghost Ranch. That was 26 days ago; a long time to be dealing with snow.
We had a great nights sleep. We were camped on a layer of soft dry grass with no lumps. During the last week or so, we have been sleeping on very hard lumpy patches of grass that require strategic placement of the body to avoid. A nearby river, lulled us to sleep. We slept long and hard and no one wanted to get moving. Nonetheless, the trail was calling, and we must listen to it. The mornings hike down the valley was easy in the cool morning air. We moved quickly with only a few stops to remove layers of clothing as the day warmed up. It was a pretty, meadow valley with a river meandering like a snake through it. Wild flowers were in full bloom. In the deeper portions of the valley frost coated the vegetation. During one small stream crossing, the limbs hanging over the water were completely encased in ice. Up higher, were we had stayed the night, did not freeze as it did lower down the valley. We passed by a picturesque cattle ranch towards the bottom of the valley with old barns and ranch house. At one point, we did have to cross the main river flowing down the valley. There was no bridge, so off came our shoes. The water was cold yet somewhat refreshing. It took a good part of the morning to reach the location where we sadly departed the valley. The Ravens thoroughly enjoyed their hike of the beautiful and mellow valley. Next, we had to climb up an Aspen filled hill to a small gap. As we started our next down, we hiked through a large stand of Aspens. It was been a long time since we hiked through trees. We hiked East toward a low set of mountains. When we got to our next water source, a steam, we saw Rabinath, a thru hiker we had not seen since Ghost Ranch. It is always good to run into an old friend. The water source had a great deal of particulate matter in it, thus we only got enough water to cook dinner. The five of us hiked about a mile, until we found a good place to camp and then stopped for the night. Today’s hiking was perfect! If this section remains this easy, we will reach Salida a little early.

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A Big Down, Finally

Along  Cochetopa Creek (13_092)
Day 64 – 6/24/17
Miles – 18.7
Total miles – 885.5

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We got early sun this morning on that open grasses knoll. Even so we did not want to get moving, but we did. The first thing we needed to do was a climb. In fact climbs and drops were the order of the day. We had about five of them a one was about 1,100′ climb. In many cases the trail builders decided that switchbacks were too much trouble, so they would make the trail go straight up. When that happens, we go up very slowly. We saw a small herd of elk after topping out on our first climb. Since we were silhouetted against the sky, the elk easily saw us and quickly run off. The day progressed quickly, and we continued to climb and drop over the green and treeless mountain ridges. In the afternoon, we finally worked our way up the last climb of the day, where we finally got to enjoy a long, but gentle big down. The trail goes 16 miles down a valley and we drop 3,000′. It was good to let the legs go and just walk.

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Not Well

Near a small lake (12_052)
Day 63 – 6/23/17
Miles – 5.3
Total miles – 866.8

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The Ravens slept well in a soft warm bed. Our packs were filled and almost ready to go before bed last night. We woke a little later than normal, 6:30 and ate the blueberry, cream cheese frosting rolls we were given last night at the Hawaiian restaurant. They were amazingly delicious! Then we were faced with a problem. Should we go to the medical clinic or not? Mama Raven has been having a problem with her nasal passages. Mucus is constantly draining down her throat and she can not clear it.  It is an old problem she has had, but it has recently become worse with breathing issues, and intense headaches. It really causes problems when she is climbing. We have gone to several specialists with various tests and procedures performed back home with no solutions. She has seen general practitioners, ENTs, gastrointestinal doctors. The last one she visited said she has developed a habit of clearing her throat and needs physical therapy. Mama Raven gave up for a cure to her ailment. Now in the tiny community of Lake City, we have decided to go to yet another doctor. I talked to Hugh, the owner of North Face Lodge and he offered to drive us to the clinic, which opens at 9:30. He also said that the kids could stay in the room after the 11:00 checkout time if we needed to.  He has the room rented for tonight, but he wants to help us out.  Hugh drove Mama Raven and Papa Raven over to the clinic. Since we were walk-ins with no appointment, we needed to be fitted in between other appointments. Eventually, we saw the doctor after 1.5 hours. She ordered an x-ray of Mama Raven’s nasal passages. No physician we have seen in the past as recommended one of these before. After the ex-ray was completed, we found out, five of the six sinus cavities visible on the ex-ray are completely impacted with crude. It is suspected she has an old sinus infection that never cleared up and now has a new infection on top of that one.  For the next two weeks, she is to take a strong antibiotics, probiotics, two different nasal sprays, and a nasal wash. The doctor is unsure if this will clear it up completely because it is an infection she has had so long (two years). Another ex-ray is suppose to be taken in two weeks, preferably by an ENT doctor. We probably can get an ex-ray taken but most likely it will not be by a specialist. At noon time,  Hugh picked us up and took us back to the room. We loaded our packs into his truck. Next, we walked to a nearby grocery store for some last minute items for the upcoming trail and for the nasal supplies required for Mama Raven.  They did not have probiotics, so Hugh gave us some of his own till we get to Salida, our next food drop. One more quick stop was made at the  bakery for some lunch items and we were ready to get back to the trail. If the town was not booked for tomorrows big cross country race, we would have stayed another night, Mama Raven was not feeling well and just wanted to sleep. Hugh dropped us off at Spring Creek Pass, where he picked us up yesterday afternoon. We can not say thank you enough to Hugh and the North Face Lodge for all his help to us. He went above and beyond what most people would do for some tired and dirty hikers. After we said our good byes, we sat on the ground in the trail head parking area and ate lunch before heading up the steep trail out of the valley. We ate, feeling good from the kindness we have received in Lake City and hoping Mama Ravens health issues are finally going to be addressed.
The hike from Spring Creek Pass is 2 miles of up and in Mama Raven’s condition it was very slow. Once on top, we crossed beautiful Snow Mesa, a very flat treeless area with gentle, green rolling hills, little lakes, and lots of wind. At the far side, we stopped early for the night. There was a big climb ahead, and, with the way Mama Raven’s was feeling, it would be better to let her get some extra sleep. Thus, we found a flat location, somewhat protected from the wind, and set camp. I hope she is feeling somewhat better tomorrow.

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Lake City

Lake City (11_172)
Day 62 – 6/22/17
Miles – 11.3
Total miles – 861.5

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Being right on the edge of a ridge, the wind blew all night. Surprisingly it was a warm night, warm for 12,400′. It did not even freeze. We are not far from Spring Creek Pass and we should get there in the early afternoon. We are concerned about getting a room. The town of Lake City puts on a 50 mile run that is on Saturday. The town will be packed with very few rooms available. For a good part of yesterday, we have been seeing markers for the race.
We set out crossing beautiful green rolling hills. This is really pretty country with wide open views. Just before our last big drop, we stopped to see if we could get a room for the night. I called most of the places in town and all were booked or did not answer. Finally, we found a room at the North Face Lodge. The owner also agreed to come up to the pass to pick us up. We arranged 1:30 as the pickup time. We had 7 miles to hike in 3.5 hours. After a quick bite to eat, we headed off at a brisk pace. We got to Spring Creek Pass at 12:45. Our ride arrived on time and we loaded into his truck and headed the 17 miles to town.
We have a very nice room and we arranged to use their washer to do our laundry. Everyone got showers. Bling and Papa Raven went to the PO and the grocery. We meet up with Inbar at the PO. We have not seen him since Ghost Ranch. He got into town yesterday, and was heading out this evening.
We had dinner at a Hawaiian place. It was very good and it was a nice change from burgers and French fries. The owner gave us two huge blueberry cinnamon rolls for breakfast.
Since the race is Saturday, there is no hope for a room tomorrow night, therefore we will head back to the trail tomorrow. It is 6 days to Salida, our next town.

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A Good Day of Hiking

On the edge of a cliff (11_059)
Day 61 – 6/21/17
Miles – 18.9
Total miles – 850.2

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Last night was a hard night for Papa Raven. We think it was the altitude, we camped at over 12,500′. He woke up around 1:00 and never got back to sleep. With each breath, he struggled to get enough oxygen. Whatever the reasons, all his restless moving kept waking Mama Raven, so she did not get a good nights rest either. Being up for so long, we heard rain sprinkles on us twice during the night.
When dawn finally came, we ate, packed up, and started hiking. We needed to cover 15 miles and any extra to reach Lake City sooner. We had a set of large mountains we needed to climb up and hike over. Snowfields dotted the areas, but we did not have the massive snowfields like we have had in the past few sections. The trail went over 13,000′ in a number of places. The highest was in the late afternoon were wet crossed the high point for the Colorado Trail at 13,258′. That is higher then the highest point on the PCT. When the trail turned East, we started to lose the snow. We went go miles on solid trail. This was a real treat. It makes hiking so simple. Looking beyond Lake City, there is even less snow. Finally, we are leaving most of the snow behind. Again, we are camped on a grassy ridge, right on the edge of a cliff.  We are camping high tonight a bit over 12,400′.  Papa Raven hopes he does not have a problem with the altitude.  It is another beautiful location.
We only have 11 miles to go to get to the road. It should not take long.

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Short Day

West Pole Creek Trail Junction (10_034)
Day 60 – 6/20/17
Miles – 7.9
Total miles – 831.3

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It was very nice being in a room and sleeping on a bed, especially in one of the nicer hotels, we still get up at 5:30-6:00. Around 7:00, we went to a cafe for breakfast. We had banana pancakes and French toast. Being well stuffed from breakfast, we returned to our room and finished packing. Papa Raven arranged with the owner to leave our backpacks until early afternoon so we could walk about the town. He also contacted Jan at the hostel about a ride back to the trail. She said she could take us but, due to problems with her truck, she could not go the last 5 miles which are the most rugged and steepest section. We agreed to meet at 1:30. To intake as much calories as possible, we had lunch at a famous local BBQ place (it was recently featured on the Food Network). Next, the kids had ice cream, and stopped by a candy store. Jan, our ride, was sitting there when we got to the hostel so we loaded up and of we went. The kids enjoyed riding in the back of the truck. All to soon we came to the one lane dirt road that would take us back to the pass. We unloaded the truck and put on our packs and we started the dreaded 5 mile, 2,600′ climb to Stony Pass. On the way up, only a few vehicles passed us going up. Two quads stopped to offer us a ride, but we would not fit. Three jeeps went by, but no ride there. We ended up walking the whole way up. It took about two and a half hours.
As we were resting on the CDT after the climb a Pika came across the road and moved up near us. It then ran between Bling’s legs. Next, it came up to his pack and pulled on his hip belt. It ran up to Mama Raven’s leg and pressed is nose to her leg. It did the same thing on Bling’s shoe. Tiring of us it finally left. That was something we had never seen.
The trail from the pass was not very hard, but we did get wet feet from all the runoff. We climbed up into grass covered mountain and rolled along some ridges. Mama Raven called a halt to the days hiking at the base of a climb. We all agreed it was time time to set up camp. It was windy, however the kids had fun pretending their tent was a kite.

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Silverton

Silverton ()
Day 59 – 6/19/17
Miles – 5.7
Total miles – 823.4

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We were in no hurry to get up, we just had three miles to get to the road to Silverton. Once we began hiking, we headed over green hills with snow here and there. It only took a few hours to reach the road. The hard part, was to find a way down the mountain to Silverton. The hostel in Silverton has a shuttle but we need a phone connection to contact them. As we started walking down, Papa Raven was able to get a spotty connection on Mama Ravens phone. She has an older flip phone and it has a much better antenna than smartphones. Papa Raven sent a text to the hostel asking for a ride but he was not sure if it sent. He keep trying to get a better connection and he was able to make a call. He left a message. A short time later, we received a text telling us that they were on their way. This made us happy to know we had a ride down the mountain. So we sat down to wait. About two hours later we decided to start walking down, just for something  to do. In all the time we were up there, we saw three vehicles heading down the mountain. After an hour of walking, a Jeep was coming down the road. We hitched a ride from them. They were coming over the pass from Creede and were having an adventure getting here over rough 4×4 roads. We were very grateful for the ride. We had them drop us off at one end of town, then we started calling hotels to find a room. Being a tourist town, the hostel and a number of the hotels were filled. Finally, we found an available room at the Teller House. A wonderful hotel built in the late 1800’s. We really liked the room. It was actually a step back in time. It was a pricey room however, but we needed a place to stay for the night. As the kids showered, Papa Raven went over to the Post Office for our box. We will be heading back up to Stony Pass tomorrow and then on to Lake City.

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Sad Partings

A trail junction (09_041)
Day 58 – 6/18/17
Miles – 14.7
Total miles – 817.7

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We are going to Silverton tomorrow. There are two ways to get there. The first is at a trail junction with the Colorado Trail, in 12.2 miles. The second is a dirt road crossing in about 18 miles at Stony Pass. The problem with the first one is that we would have to hike 14 more to a highway and then go into town. Then we would have to hike the same 14 miles to get to the CDT. The problem with the second is that Stony Pass is 29 miles from town, a long hitch on a road that is not traveled often. We have been trying to decide which way to go and we have chosen Stony Pass. We are going to take our chances with a hitch.
This will be the last day we see Treeman and QuickSilver. Perhaps we will bump into them up the trail, but both are strong hikers. Faster than we are. Both are not going to Silverton, they are going to Lake City. To make it before their food runs out, they have to hike 15 miles a day for the next two days. We are very sad to see them go. They have been great company with many laughs for all. Their hearts are huge. We have experienced and navigated the toughest sections the CDT has to offer together. Many people skip these sections. Together we succeeded. Thank you! Joon will miss her new friends. Who would of thought a gentle giant from Germany and an ex marine officer would become so important to her. Bling has enjoyed hiking out in front with you helping to scout a route through the snow. He too will miss his friends. Mama Raven took her last picture this morning of the three of them standing side by side, trying to figure out what is the best way to go. Tears rolled down her face. You will be missed. Everyday we hiked with you was filled with trail magic!!!
Today’s hiking was harder and easier then the past weeks. We have much less snow, but we have much more runoff. In many places, the trail is a stream with melt water, or we have to hike through very marshy areas. Finding our way through can be difficult. One of the things that is most painful are the willows. They can be anywhere from 2′-10′ high. They overgrow the trail and cover hillsides. When we walk through them, their branches cut and scrap our legs. We try to avoid then but sometimes we cannot. Today we needed to cross a stream and our only choose was to plow our way through about 50′ of them. It took 20 minutes to do this.
For the most part today’s walking was not hard. We did have one very steep up that took a lot of time, which was up to Hatchback Pass.  There also was one river crossing that was so wide we took off our shoes to do?
We only have 3.7 miles to get to Stony Pass and then we need to get a ride down. I hope it all goes smoothly.

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Back to the Snow 😵

Near Ute Lake (07_100)
Day 57 – 6/17/17
Miles – 16.1
Total miles – 803.0

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Because we were at a lower elevation, we had a nice warm night. It probably got down to the low forties. Compared to all the freezing nights, it was warm. We started out the day by hiking along the side of the reservoir and then up Weminuch valley. The trail was steep in places but beautiful. Wild flowers abounded. A big river flowing down rocks.  After we entered the valley, everything leveled out. We quickly reached the Weminuch Pass, then a mile farther, we connected with the CDT.
Getting to the CDT was a gain of 1000′ feet, now the CDT climbed another 1300′ feet. Oh joy!  At some point, a set of switchbacks was made that our maps did not show. The switchbacks really helped. We did not encounter snow until about 11,500′, which is really good. The problem with the snow we did have to go through was, it was very soft like a slushy or slurpee. Water was flowing out everywhere turning the trails into raging creeks. The adjacent meadows were marsh lands. This is the biggest melt we have seen so far. After reaching the pass, we started the normal routine, down to a saddle, up to a pass, and then down again. Towards the end of the day, we were heading down to the next low point with patches of snow and marshy areas all about when it dawned on us that there would be no place to camp farther down the valley. All the land would be a wet , mushy, marsh. We started to scout around for a suitable camp site and found room for all four tents on a hill with no snow on it. No easy task. We camped very early tonight, but we are still in a good location to get to Silverton in two days.

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A Snow Vacation

Rio Grande Reservoir ()
Day 56 – 6/16/17
Miles – 15.3
Total miles – 786.9

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We were blessed with another cold night.  We woke as the sun rose and we just lay there. The hiking has been so hard and exhausting.  We are very tried and we just do not want to get going. After a few  extra minutes of rest we start packing. Just before we left, we saw some other hikers coming over the Knifes Edge.  We wonder who they are? The hike up to the CDT was not hard.  We headed toward a low saddle where two hikers came up from Trout Lake. They were  Red Cross and Napoleon. To the South, we saw three tents, who belonged to Moist, Mack and Apa.  As we climbed up, the hikers who just crossed the Knifes Edge came into view. It was Big Sauc, Sherpa, Wolf Man, Dumpling and Moose, the most amazing dog ever!  It was kinda crazy, we see no other hikers for days and this morning we see ten.
Once we left the ridge, we headed toward a North facing traverse, with lots of sun bowls. That was the last thing we wanted to do. Instead, we climbed up a narrow, vertical but snowless strip of land on the left side of the mountain. Slowly we made it to the top where there were grasses with great views in all directions. As the morning went on, we worked our way west until we found ourselves with a clear view of miles of trail. It wrapped around a bowl, staying high (that means in the snow), until it crosses over a pass. We started looking for alternatives to avoid the snow and we found an unlikely option. We could hike the CDT into the bowl below and then take the Squaw Trail down to Rio Grande Reservoir. Next, we could take the Weminuche Trail back to the CDT. We would cut off about 16 miles of snow covered trail and instead walk about 14 miles of snow free trail. We could cover the distance much faster and we could have dry feet for the first time in quite a while. All agreed it sounded to good to pass up. Mama Raven said we would be taking a little vacation from all the snow. Just as we dropped down to the Squaw Trail, Bling looks across the valley and saw two moose. They watched us for several minutes and then run into the trees. Treeman said that moose was the one animal he wanted to see more than any other on the CDT. He got his wish. The hike down the valley was very easy because it is flat/slightly down hill and we could make very good time walking it. QuickSilver, Treeman, and Bling, who were in front, saw another moose near the trail. Around 6:00, we reached the bottom, a campground with water, bathrooms, and trash cans. We all rested on some benches trying to decided what to do: hike on for several miles or get a camp site. Getting a camp site won out. We decided it was the proper thing to do while we are on vacation.
Tomorrow we will hike 4.5 miles back to the CDT and then on up into the snow. Everyone enjoyed a vacation from the snow and we are looking forward to leaving it North of Lake City.

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Quick Silver, Treeman, Red Cross, and Napoleon

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Hard Ending

Trout Lake (05_175 0)
Day 55 – 6/15/17
Miles – 12.5
Total miles – 771.6

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The wind let up sometime during the night and the temperature dropped to freezing. We were all warn in our tents. It is amazing that a sleeping bag filled with feathers and made of such thin fabric that all the feathers inside can be seen and the tent we have is made of the lightest materials possible can keep us nice and cozy.  All I know is it works! As normal, we woke a little before dawn, but we did not want to get going because it was so cold outside the tents. Finally,  the sun rose and it’s rays of light beat down on our tent. It was time to hike. We hiked up to a small gap on the ridge and looked out on three miles of North facing slopes with sun bowls. Sun bowls are a way snow melts. Think of a rectangle where each corner is high. The side of the rectangle droop in the middle the same way a string does when held loosely at both ends. And the middle of the rectangle is a deep hole. You do not want to step in the middle because it is hard to walk. The edges are OK to step on when the snow is soft because they crush down and give you a pad to walk on. But when they are frozen hard, like this morning, you aim for the corners. With three miles of sun bowls, out came the crampons, which are a rubber slipper that fits over your shoe with spikes at the bottom to help grip the slippery edges of the sun bowls. It was slow going, but we worked our way across the two valleys and up onto a ridge. Now came the fun part of the day, more than 6 miles of trail with very little snow on it. First we worked our way north, then West, and finally North again. It was good to hike fast and everyone enjoyed it. In fact, everyone’s spirits were running high.  QuickSilver took off and we did not see him again until late in the day. When we were on the last northern leg, the dreaded snow began to cover more and more of the trail. We finally came over a ridge to join up with QuickSilver and saw below us a basin full of snow. We decide to drop into the basin, walk across is length where the snow was more level, and then climb up the ridge on the far side. The ridge we climbed was called the Knifes Edge. We worked our way up the slope and out on top. I noticed that we never crossed the trail. We looked on the backside, a North facing mountain side, and saw a very steep slope covered in snow and rock outcrops. It did not look good, in fact it looked scary.  I pointed out that we had not seen, nor crossed the trail so this must not be the correct location. We look back along the Knifes Edge and saw what might be the trail up hill from us, so we headed for it. About half way up, Bling climbed up a steep rocky and scree pile to find the trail above us. One at a time, we climb up to the trail. The rocks were loose and they kept falling down on the one waiting their turn to climb up QuickSilver had a problem crossing some slippery scree, but once he regained his feet, he was OK. Mama Raven’s crossing was slow with the unsteady footing. Once we were all on the trail, we hiked over to the edge and took a look. What we saw was yet another steep traverse across a wide basin.  First we walked down a dirty ramp. When this ran out, Treeman headed out into the snow. Being late in the day, the sun bowls were very soft and he was able to make very sturdy foot steps. QuickSilver went next, then Joon and Bling, and finally Mama Raven and myself. Mama Raven is not confident at these traverses, so Papa Raven stays behind her, in case she slips and falls. The snow field dropped hundreds of feet below us, but the soft snow gave us good footing. We crossed the snowy wall and and angled down toward the valley below. Once again, we all made it down safely. Mama Raven’s one comment was she is really tired of being scared to death. Being so late in the day, we worked our way up on to a shelf and found a place to camp. We are all very tired. Treeman surprised us by delivering mint fudge to our tent.

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More Trail Than Snow

A ridge (05_050 0)
Day 54 – 6/14/17
Miles – 14.5
Total miles – 759.1

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As predicted, it was a cold night. Everyone’s shoes froze during the night and Bling’s and Mama Ravens shoes were inside the tent. The shoelaces were frozen in loops and swirls. It looked like modern art sculptures. We had to force the feet onto the shoes. To stay warm,  we put on all our warm clothes before exiting the tents. We quickly packed up, filtered some water, and headed out. We had been camped up in a high bowl and we climbed up one side and rolled out on top. For miles, we followed ridges working our way to the west. Most of this was on trail with patches of snow. As the miles past, we found our selves heading toward a large mountain. It’s rear face covered in snow and rock. Below was a large bowl mostly snow covered. We consulted our maps and found that the trail worked is way up the north side and then switchbacks up a large steep snowbank. This meant kicking foot holds on long traverses. It would be an exhausting and scary job.  Bling and Treeman came up with a different plan. If we crossed the bowl to the left, we could climb an area devoid of snow then work our way over a narrow snow bank and get on top of the ridge, where there was no snow. Next, we could walk the ridge as we made our way to the top. This was a much safer path, but longer. That’s what we decided to do. Before we started our steep climb, we ate lunch at the base of  the bowl. The ramp was steep but we quickly made our way up. We had no problem with snow. Then we hiked to the top of the ridge and up we went. As we were climbing, we decided to traverse on the south face and wrap around to the west side of the mountain. We did hit some snow and a large section with a great deal of loose scree that made walking tricky. After topping out, we started a long down. This begins a section of about 20 miles of easy ups and downs that range from 100′ to about 600′. For once, we had some relax hiking. As the day ended, we found the only place to camp was an exposed ridge with only a few small trees to slow the wind. Right now, our tent is constantly rattling. I hope it will let up soon so we can get some sleep.

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So Tired

Near Atchuleta Lake (4_100)
Day 53 – 6/13/17
Miles – 10.0
Total miles – 744.6

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We got up early, loaded the truck, and headed out. We pulled into Walmart and I got out to look for sun glasses. Everyone else headed over to Subway for breakfast. I found a pair of glasses that would work and joined them. We loaded back in the truck and ate as we drove. I contacted Treeman and told him we should be there around 9:30. And that is when we made it to the pass. There was a biting cold wind blowing, so we walked up the trail a bit too find QuickSilver and Treeman waiting for us in a sheltered location. Soon we were on the trail headed North. Over Easy joined us for a little ways. It was great to see Over Easy again. Thanks for all your help and tell Sunny Side Up we missed seeing her.  We hope we will see her in Leadville.
Mama Raven is nervous about this upcoming section because it is suppose to be as difficult as the last one. We will have to wait and see. We walked up away from Wolf Creek Pass on clear tail with only patches of snow. Mama and Papa Raven, and Treeman, had problems with the altitude, we could not catch our breath. We are nearly at 11,000′ in elevation.  In the beginning, we hiked on actual trail, but all good things have to come to an end. For us, that occurred when the trail went to the north side of the mountain. At least it was not a steep traverse, instead we walked out flat ramps then dropped down to another one. This went on for a while. Next, we had to round a series of ridges heading north, away from the high snow covered mountains towards snow free mountains. At least on the south side with less snow. By this time, the snow had softened up and traversing became easier. In fact, Bling wanted to lead one traverse. It gave him an idea how tiring it is to kick foot holds. By the end of the day, we started hitting more long sections of trail. However, everyone was tired from hiking in the snow most of the day. We passed several good camping places trying to get closer to tomorrows big up. We will be doing it first thing in the morning. The cold wind never let up and I know it will freeze tonight. As I write this, I have on four layers. It is time to get into the sleeping bag.

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South Fork and Durango

South Fork and Durango
Day 51 and 52 – 6/11/17 and 6/12/17
Miles 12.4
Total miles – 734.6
6/11/17
Everyone woke this morning with the excitement of a town day: showers, laundry, real food, soft bed with a pillow, toilet, water faucet . . .  the greatest joys of a thru hiker. We also were hoping for an easier day of hiking than the past few days. The day started with trail, but it did not stay that way for very long.  We quickly got to the north side of the mountain and into snow. We also were treated with frigid wind. We did not have far to go, just 12 miles to Wolf Creek Pass, however just like that past days, hiking was very slow due to snow. We ended up on a ridge above Wolf Creek Ski Resort. At one point, Treeman had to cut foot holes straight up a cliff side.  He made a ladder in the snow twenty to twenty-five feet high. One by one, we cautiously climbed up. After all safely up, we decided to cut down into the valley instead of traversing around it. That way we could get out of the snow faster. Bling and Joon had fun pretending they were skiing as they went down. At the bottom of the valley, there was a big river crossing with no way across.  Papa Raven and Treeman made a bridge from some falling trees that were not too big to move. The new bridge worked perfectly as we went across. We reached the road to Wolf Creek Pass. Now we had to hike one mile up the busy highway to the trail junction. As we walked along the road, there were many bicycles heading the same direction. When we got to the pass we found out that this was the first leg of the five day Ride the Rockies race. The worst part was that they were all spending the night in Pagosa Springs, right where we needed to go. There would not be a room available anywhere. Treeman and Quick Silver were heading the other direction to South Fork, which is a smaller town, to resupply. Treeman had lined up a ride for the two of them.  He talked to Karla and she agreed to take us down to South Fork too. Despite this special offer, we still needed to get to Pagosa Springs because that is were our resupply box was. After explaining this to Karla, she said she could take us to Pagosa tomorrow morning. She had to go to Durango and Pagosa was on the way.  So down we went to South Fork and had a quiet evening in a wonderful hotel.
We have two friends, Sunny Side Up and Over Easy who we meet on the PCT in 2015. They live in Durango. They were hoping to meet us in Pagosa. I contacted them and found out that Over Easy was returning home from a wedding and he would be driving through South Fork tonight. We arranged to have dinner. Quick Silver, Over Easy, and all The Ravens went to a nice Mexican Restaurant. Over Easy invited us to his house for tomorrow night. I talked with Karla and she was OK with it. So it was all arranged. Karla would drive us to Durango tomorrow, with a quick stop in Pagosa Springs to pick up our boxes.

Mama’s Ravens thoughts on Chama to Wolf Creek Pass
I wish I was a great writer to put in words my thoughts on this section. It is a jumble of emotions when I try to analyze what it was like. These past five days were the most exhausting and terrifying hiking we have ever done. A mountain climber I am not, and that is the skills that were needed in this area. Nonetheless, with no technical skill we all survived! Everyday we faced tough snow conditions that were relentlessly, physically demanding. The steep traverses across vertical cliff sides were just as hard but with the added element of fear. Each step taken, was potential of a horrible accident of slipping and fallen to the bottom of the ravine. My fears were magnified, with Bling and Joon. I was as much afraid for myself as I was for them. However, my two children were having the time of their lives despite my concerns. They both are natural born mountain goats. Despite the difficulties, there were many events I will cherish forever:  Quicksilver delivering a different fudge each evening to our tents. Treeman and Papa Raven making river crossings passable for Joon with large rocks and logs. After completing a terrifying traverse, looking back at what we had accomplished with amazement. Joon giving me words of encouragement that all will be OK!  Bling taking the lead with Quicksilver and Treeman at scouting the trail through the snow. The evening sunsets and the snow capped mountains that surrounded us after our hard days work. All our efforts were rewarded grandly.

6/12/17
Karla picked us up around 11:00 and with a few stops we were at OverEasy’s house around 1:30. Karla, thank you for all your help. You made are complicated commute, effortless!! OverEasy opened his house to us, showers, laundry, runs to the grocery store and outfitters. We kept busy all afternoon. In the evening, we went to an amazing burrito place for dinner where Mama Raven said she had the best fish tacos she has ever had.  She also said we are going to have to move to Durango just so she can eat and savor their fish tacos regularly. After dinner, we walked up and down the old downtown, looking in all the shops and ending the evening at an ice cream store. We all really enjoyed our evening. It was a nice change of pace to our usual routine. When we returned home, we finished packing. Tomorrow morning OverEasy will drive us back up to Wolf Creek Pass. Treeman and Quick Silver will meet us there. We will be delayed a bit, I lost my sun glasses today and we need to stop at Walmart and pick up another pair.

Porcupine

Stream (03_051)
Day 50 – 6/10/17
Miles – 17.0
Total miles – 722.2

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The wind blew all night. Of the three groups, we had the most protection by a stand of pine trees. Treeman on the other hand, had his tent rattling all night. He did not sleep well.
Everyone packed up and we headed up the valley. With hard snow to walk on, we tried to avoid only needed to avoid the soggy ground. Soon we neared the head of the valley. Someone came up with a short cut off up a 600′ side gully that was filled with frozen snow. This way, we would get to the flat top much faster. We put on our Microspikes and started up. The gully was very steep but our crampons held us firm as we ascended. It was not easy, nor fast. Once on top, we hiked along a grassy bench with amazing views all around. It was good to hike on real trail without any snow for a change. As the morning went on, we hiked on more and more trail. However in one section we had a very steep snow covered traverse that was a bit scary and included a climb down a rock out cropping, however all made it through safely. It was not a long section, however it took along time to accomplish. We crossed a ridge and had a great view North. Most of the mountains had very little snow on them, with the exception of the mountains off to the west.
Toward the end of the day, Joon, Mama and Papa Raven caught up with Bling. He asked us what animal was hiding in a small stand of trees. He showed us the animal and it was a huge porcupine.  Before we got there, it was walking next to the trail trying to avoid Bling. As we watched it, it began to climb a tree. Soon it was easier to see it.
With so much trail to walk on, we covered a good distance. This also lined us up to get into Pagosa Springs tomorrow. The last few days of hiking has worn us out and a zero in town is well deserved.

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