Rio Vallecitos (29_194 R)
Day 40 – 5/31/17
Miles – 20.3
Total miles – 611.4
We woke to thin high clouds, which muted the sun. They stayed with us all day. In fact, they got bigger and more threatening as the day went on. We left camp a little before 7:00 and headed down a dirt road. We past through stands of Aspen trees and wide open green fields. It was beautiful. This continued for most of the morning, but as the time went on, we kept getting higher in elevation. With the gain in altitude, came snow. First, it was a patch here and there. By the time we reached the high point of the day, 10,500′, there was about 50% snow coverage. Since we were hiking though a large open meadow, walking on snow avoided the thousands of little pools of water and mud we normally would have been sludging through. Snow bridges allowed us to easily cross over wide creeks and rivers. However, the one negative of the day was the ominous looking thunderheads forming all around us. There were two thunderstorms booming loudly on two sides of us, one to the Northeast and the other to the West. The one to the west was our biggest concern. Once we got to the high point for the day, we quickly headed down, but the rain and hail caught up with us. On went the rain gear and out came the umbrellas. Joon still gets nervous with thunder and lightening, but not as severe as on the PCT hike. She has learned to drown out the noise with her music or audio book, which is Lord of the Rings.
As we were hiking down, we came upon a marked cut off for the CDT, but this trail was not on any of our maps. It looked new, it was well graded and free from pooling water. It looked much better then the dirt road, which was now a stream of water and mud. Do we take it and not know where it would take us? We opted for the new trail. In the end, it was the right choice. Our feet stayed dryer and we did not have as much climbing. When we took the new CDT trail, we lost Treeman. He was ahead of us and we were uncertain if he had taken the road or the trail. In the end, we found out that he had taken the new trail also, but we had some how passed him.
Around 6:00 p.m. we got to Rio Vallecitos, a large river with fast moving rapids. Normally there was a bridge across, but it was washed away this year. However, there was a large log that crossed the river. Quicksilver, who was camped underneath a large Pine tree, had attempted to cross it shortly after it had rained and found it to be very slippery. Additionally, he tried to cross the river with out the log. He said the current was too strong for him. If a man twelve years of military service can’t make it across, The Ravens and Treeman certainly do not have a chance to succeed. Nonetheless, we took a look at the log and found that a good bit of it had dried but the section over the largest rapid was still wet. Most of the way across the wide river, the downed log still had bark on which provided a non slip material for our feet. The far end of the log was the part over the roughest and most dangerous part of the river. The log’s bark was missing in this section. The exposed sap wood was extremely slippery because it was wet from the rain and water splashing on it from the river’s rapids. Cautiously, we inched our way across the log, but we too found it too dangerous. We decided to stop here for the night with Quicksilver, in the hopes that the water level will drop overnight and the log would dry out overnight. If it still is not safe in the morning, we will walk up stream to a Buddhist Ranch to cross the river up higher and then cross-country up to the trail. This is where Nuthatch and Party Saver went to cross. Until the morning, The Ravens, Treeman and Quicksilver camped underneath a massive pine tree that was so thick with branches and pine needles that we would be kept dry if it rained overnight.