Total Miles: 588.9
Settled into a gentle curve in the Arkansas River, the town of Salida is beautiful little place even in the swell of a global pandemic. Our day off yesterday gave us a chance to run some errands in the downtown area where old brick buildings that harken back to days long since past lead right to the river, where whitewater kayakers play in the rapids.
The local outfitter was our main stop, where I was able to replace my hiking shorts with a pair that wouldn’t continually be sliding down. Even the hips I didn’t think I had have apparently shrunk. Perhaps the bigger win was the list of local trail angels that the good folks at Salida Mountain Sports shared with us. You’d think that getting a ride the 20 miles back up to the trail wouldn’t be a problem, but the coronavirus has complicated even that, effectively rendering options like Uber or Lyft as dead ends. Down the list Ace went, making calls to trail angels asking if anyone might be able to help until finally we got a yes. Stan would be there to pick us up in the morning.
A retiree from Boulder who’d relocated to the area five years earlier, Stan was a jovial guy who’d only started offering to help hikers after hearing that his neighbor had been doing the same. By his own admission, once he’d started he’d gotten hooked on the chance not only to help but to meet people from all over the world who’d come to hike in the area. Planning to day hike north on the CDT himself this morning, it was a perfect fit.
Waving goodbye to Stan and setting out, the 24 hours of rest in the oxygen rich air of a town far below the divide had done their job—we felt refreshed, even with a 5-day resupply now on our backs. Helping matters was a trail that was suddenly oddly gentle, modestly sweeping up and down only increments of elevation leaving us with the feeling of effortlessly strolling the miles away. The weather was ideal yet again, and combined with the gradient it meant that we wouldn’t be alone. Minutes after shoving off, the first gaggle of mountain bikers came through, followed by others, and others, until it was habit to step aside upon hearing their wheels churn the dusty, gritty trail behind us.
The dustiness was in part because of the dry weather this summer, but was also a testament to just how popular this stretch of trail has been with our two-wheeled friends. As pleasant as the first half of the day was, the second half revealed a trail that, although just as gentle, had been heavily rutted and eroded as a result of so much bicycle traffic. A powdery dust bowl between rocks and bike ruts is the only way to describe what we spent the afternoon walking on, ensuring that our clean, just-out-of-town look would be very short-lived.
With only a few miles remaining, we stopped to make our usual early dinner when we felt the telltale sprinkles that have grown wearily familiar. One sprinkle became two, and the avalanche followed soon thereafter. Riding out the tantrum of rain and hail under a tarp, we finally decided we could wait no longer to keep moving. As if displeased with that decision, the skies opened even further, letting loose what they could. The effect on the exceptionally dusty trail was striking and immediate, as we watched it transform into a small river of chocolate milk, the soil being too dry to absorb any of the deluge it was being subjected to.
It continued like that for perhaps another half hour before taking a break, only to repeat the cycle just as we were about to setup camp for the night, complicating our usual evening routine. An unfortunate end to an otherwise pleasant day of walking.
Latitude/Longitude: 38.30763, -106.33504