I kept my habit of leaving camp before daylight, and could see peaks behind and a crescent moon above a scenic beaver pond I passed by just before sunrise. I dreaded the long descent ahead as I knew that meant a big climb would soon follow. At the bottom of the drainage the trail crosses the Animas River and the train tracks for the Durango to Silverton Narrow Gage. More than 30 years earlier I had taken the train with my friend Bill for a backpacking trip into the Chicago Basin.
The climb up towards Molas Pass gains about 2000 feet in elevation. After the challenges of descending along Elk Creek the day before, I was surprised how kindly graded the trail was today. I had a nice chat with another CT hiker called Danimal on the way up; we joked that our trail names Lone Wolf & Danimal could comprise the title of a bad “B” movie knock off of Alien vs Predator. After about 10 miles for the morning I reached Molas Lake and unintentionally took the long way around to the campground store to pick up my resupply box. The cashier inside was very friendly as she retrieved my box; I heard they had been inundated with hiker boxes this summer. I purchased a couple sodas, an ice cream bar, and a microwave burrito, and she invited me use to use their power strip on the picnic table outside.
Another hiker around my age was already at the table charging his devices and welcomed me to join him. My portable battery takes a long time to charge, which thankfully gave us some time to get acquainted. Lots of friendly hikers stopped by to charge up and chat while some hitched to Silverton to resupply. I noticed that Kinnikinnick seemed to know most everyone already. The picnic table became a pop-up hiker pantry exchange as we left the food we’d become tired of and happily picked up the discarded delicacies of others. Kinnikinnick and I didn’t have a lot in common outside of the trail, but we hit it off well, and were even coincidentally both carrying niche Xmid tents. We decided to hike to camp together that afternoon.
Not long after getting back on trail we came across a trail magic canopy hosted by a prior CT hiker called Tink and her husband. It was Tink’s birthday and they had celebrated a year earlier at the same site. We were joined by Toyota and Sunshine, who I had met earlier, then a fun trio of hikers called Flame, Waves, & Gadget. Kinnikinnick and I hiked on for about 5 more miles as we discovered we keep a similar pace. Despite a bit of wildfire haze, the naturally landscaped hillsides we hiked past were right out of a painting. We camped well above a pair of small lakes that were too pretty to disturb with a campsite. I didn’t get a picture but I’m sure the scene of our side by side Xmid 1p & 2P tents above the lakes would have made their designer Dan Durston proud.