I had to hike 10 miles to Spring Creek Pass by noon to catch the shuttle for Lake City and my resupply box, so was again was up and out of camp well before daylight to allow plenty of time. I had a short climb to a saddle to start the day, and enjoyed hiking through the frosted alpine willows in the early morning. I then crossed a rockslide trail to Snow Mesa. The scenery was pretty incredible in all directions, and the sun rose over a nearby peak as I reached a little lake. Right as the sun rose I was startled, then enchanted, to hear the chorus of countless unseen coyotes howling away. I had never heard this before, and had no idea they howled at sunrise. I experienced many special moments on the Colorado Trail, but none like this, and I had it all to myself.
Snow Mesa is huge and literally goes on for miles. I was excited and honesty a bit intimidated as I slowly walked closer and closer to the San Juan mountains. The Collegiates were hard but seemed to follow a predictable pattern. It had been more than 30 years since I last hiked in the San Juans, and there was just something wild and mysterious about them.
Other than the few hours I spent away when I resupplied at Monarch, I’d been on-trail for going on 12 straight days. I was unshaven and had worn the same clothes almost the entire time. I thought of my friend Jeff who’d seen me in such a state too often during some past hard years. But now there was a smile and a light in my eyes; I was truly overjoyed to be here.
I reached Spring Creek Pass early and tried unsuccessfully to hitch a ride to Lake City rather than wait. Some other hikers eventually got picked up, which left just enough room on the shuttle for the rest of us. I ended up taking a covered campsite in town at the River Fork campground instead of the hostel. Lake City was kind to me that first night when some other diners paid for my cheeseburger at Packers after I changed tables to accommodate their larger party. The sign out front celebrated my most feared childhood nemesis, the cannibal Alferd Packer, by depicting him as another famous Packer wearing the #4 and carrying a skull for his football.