Home on Vacation 3

Day 3 – Engineer Pass

We researched the San Juan trails using Latitude 40 maps. They really are the best for this area. They include all trailheads in easy to spot yellow Ts, they are topographic with easily discernible elevations in feet, they are waterproof for the mid afternoon Colorado rainstorms, and they have all of the current trails listed with difficulty ratings. I love them. Thank you Latitude 40. We geared up and got out late as per norm. When we got to Pinkerton Springs, I let the couple go walk the dog while I divvied up the food between us. Each got a can good (I know, a terrible weight for the overnight and all day backpacking trip), each got a bag of trail snacks (cranberry granola, nuts and chocolates, and dried apples), Robert took the Pastrami and cheese, I took the tortillas, Tara took the drink mixes and excess sundries (dogfood, TP, extra ziplocs), and everyone got two emergency energy bars. The dog, Scottie, was the only one who got off Scottie-Free with the weight. He made up for it by running ahead and back to the group and in circles and all over the place. That dog was downright loopy. He must have climbed the mountain 3 times more than all of us together. And he still had energy.

We went straight up about 11,000 feet to Engineer Pass. We stood marveling at the height and magnanimity of it all. We ate Lunch/Dinner and kept going. At the mesa past Coal Creek Pass Trail going toward Jura Knob we settled in for the night. We still had almost an hour left of light, but we were not sure how long we would be on the ridge and Robert could not take another step. He was experiencing the first signs of Altitude Sickness. We did not know this yet. When the temperature dropped steadily at 11,600 feet after sunset, we all realized we should have brought the warmer sleeping bags. It probably would not have been so bad if the weather was not as rainy all day. Nobody got much sleep that night. Everytime the wind blew the grass ruffled against my tent fly, making me think some predatory wild animal was rummaging around outside. We hung the food 10 ft high on a 3ft branch extension 50 ft from camp and downwind to deter bears from entering our sleeping quarters. This still did not prevent me from seeing the need to gather thick long sticks and things to throw. That might have been more for the sake of coyotes that howled until dawn. The only worry that we had little on our person to prevent was the lightning and thunder. It looked as beautiful as dangerous from our vantage.

Before morning Robert puked, Tara cried, and I paced the meadow wondering what we were going to do tomorrow. Earlier in the day Robert talked about never turning back. I was of the same opinion, however, argued the point of it being necessary not to limit your options. Robert was hard headed and stated his case. It was valid, but immediate experience would persuade him otherwise.

Day 4 – Coal Creek and Silverton

We turned our train around and dropped down about a hundred feet. Robert sucked Propel packages dry for the electrolytes and pumped himself full of vitamin C tablets we thankfully had the foresight enough to bring. He was feeling much better. Coal Creek made a nice loop back to the trailhead, so we took it. It was a partial compromise. We turned back, but we still got to see new things.

This was the first time my pack was the exact right weight ever. Maybe my concern for the other two overshadowed my own discomfort. I don’t know. The second day I took a load off Robert on account of his sickness. It still did not feel to shabby. It must be the new tent weighing in at just over a pound and a half total. Surprisingly, Tara still had a full skin of water. I halved it with her when we got under the timberline.

Coal Creek loses a cut trail for a quarter mile. People put up rock markers to tell you where to go. Figuring that out was fun. Trying to figure out if they hike chainsaws up the hill for trail maintenance or whether they helicopter them to the top and hike down was fun also.

We hit the road after a short drizzle of rain. I hitchhiked back to the car from a guy with a back brace. Enviously, he listened to our adventure. When I told him Robert had Altitude Sickness he goes, “Oh really? Where is he from?” “Houston.” We both laughed. I guess coming from sea level to close to 12g in less than a week would do it. The rest of our planned route would have taken him higher. We were going to walk along the ridge of the Colorado trail and then down to Molas Lake.

I picked them up and suggested we go to Silverton. We were right next to it anyway. We got some BBQ, did a little shopping, Scottie bit a kid, and we left. He was a little grumpy. It was time for all of us to go home.

next – the river!

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