CT Days 36-37: Indian Trail Ridge & Durango!

I had seen the trail markers as I hiked into camp the night before, but hadn’t put it together that Silverton Ultra runners would be passing just a few feet from my campsite in the wee hours of the morning. I used that as my excuse to sleep in a bit, and it was already daylight before I got out of camp. I had heard lots of warnings to beware of storms on Indian Trail Ridge, but I was just 5 miles from the start of the climb and the skies were filled with wildfire haze rather than storm clouds. The Colorado Trail had shown me an impressive collection of mushrooms, but I had never seen anything like the odd yellow cauliflower-looking mushroom I passed on the way to the ridge. The wind was blowing hard across trail as I reached the rockslide switchbacks; I would hike into the wind up one switchback, then the wind would help push me up the next. Yep, this would the wrong place to be during in a thunderstorm. Another hiker shared with me the encouraging news that we could now count the remaining climbs to Durango on one hand.

As I descended the rocky and sometimes sketchy trail down the other side, I was surprised to pass a large group of day hikers climbing up. They seemed excited despite their challenging climb; they turned out to be members of the North American Rock Garden Society on an annual outing to view their favorite plants in a natural setting. The haze only slightly detracted from the view of the San Juan mountains and Taylor Lake.

I reached my ideal campsite at a creek crossing ahead of the next climb, after about 16 miles for the day. I was the first one into camp and took a few minutes to sit on the bridge to enjoy a cup of coffee I had been craving; I had given up my morning coffee routine to get out of camp earlier. I had a nice visit with Gadget, Waves and Flame as they hiked over the bridge towards the next climb. A nice couple of hikers called Coozy and Butters were next into camp, and I was happy to see Kinnikinnick not long after. The large campsite was soon filled with happy hikers celebrating their last night on trail. I met Tacos and Juicy Fruit for the first time, and Lightning Rod, Trout, Puff, and Nightcrawler made it into camp later that night.

We had about 14 miles left the next morning, and I was looking forward to starting the last day with Kinnikinnick. Tacos was first on the trail, and Juicy Fruit charged past us as we made our last big climb. Kinnikinnick and I leap frogged after sharing the climb up. Butters and Coozy caught up and we had joyful last mile to the Durango terminus. Then came Flame, Waves, and Gadget, with Kinnikinnick not far behind. I was happy to have cell service to share the moment with my son Erik after all he had done to help me realize my dream.

Our group of seven had a surprisingly easy hitch to town for the customary celebration meal at Carvers. Kinnikinnick and I shared a room he’d reserved, although I went out again for pizza, Mexican food, and finally a milk shake to satisfy all my cravings. The monsoon rains had washed out I-70, making my plan to take the Bustang to pick up my truck impractical. Thankfully Butters and Coozy were happy to drop me in Buena Vista, and they even picked up some bikepackers at Spring Creek Pass along the way who were hitching to resupply in Lake City. After a fun ride to BV, I extended the adventure just a bit longer when I got a hitch from a salty raft guide named Rocket to Leadville and my truck.

The last days on trail were the best days, and in the end I didn’t feel like a Lone Wolf at all.

8 Comments

  1. Jaunting Jan says:

    What date did you finish? Thanks again for sharing your experience. What a wonderful adventure and you truly earned your trail name.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Larry Haines says:

      Thanks for checking it out Jan! Finished Aug 8, 2021, definitely the adventure of a lifetime. Best wishes for your hike!!

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      1. Jaunting Jan says:

        If you would have had a crystal ball would you have pushed back your starting date of your last 300 miles to miss more of the monsoons? I know it’s a tough balance if you want to avoid serious snow, wildfires and monsoons while catching the peak wildflower blooms.

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      2. Larry Haines says:

        That:s a tough call. If it would have been much later, a couple really low water souces probably would have been dry. I found that getting up early and clearing as many ridges as possible by early afternoon helped mitigate the monsoon, but I did still get caught in a couple bad storms. Given that last year was more stormy than normal, I think I’d still go around the same time. I hadn’t planned on for all the wildflowers but they were pretty!

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      3. Jaunting Jan says:

        That helps. Thankfully I’m an early bird and enjoy hiking to the sun. I’m a slow hiker though and need more hours to get in my miles. When I hiked the JMT I found some of the lightning storms disruptive to my pace especially the days they started in the morning and continued every couple hours all day long. My body doesn’t like all those extended breaks especially when it’s cold. I had to set up my tent and warm up in my sleeping bag a couple times while it snowed. That’s a major PIA to repack and get up over the next pass. But oh well it comes with it’s rewards and the challenges are all part of the journey.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Larry Haines says:

        Looking at your page, pretty cool Jan! I’ll have to check out some of your adventures. And I love Jester’s podcast!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Cherryl says:

    That’s a gorgeous walk in nature✨

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for checking it out!

      Liked by 1 person

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