Between Tall Peaks

July 14, 2020

Destination: Baldy Lake Today's Miles: 11

Start Location: Tank Seven Creek Trip Miles: 284.40

Night went fast with no additional rain but the tent was still wet and did not dry much before packing up. It is amazing how much weight those tiny water droplets add up to.

While packing up we heard voices and glimpses of activity down by the creek but not close enough for conversation.

Heading towards the trail we saw a man just mounting his bike heading back in the direction of Marshall Pass. On the trail we immediately crossed Tank Seven Creek and saw four women breaking camp. Three were bent over a pack heavily engaged in conversation and the fourth was taking down a tent. I don’t think they noticed us - at least there was no acknowledgement if they did.

The trail followed the creek for a couple of miles gradually terracing up several times before breaking out into a large meadow. Remnants of an old cabin appeared ahead along the far tree line, the trail gradually winding us in that direction. It was quite pleasant and not overly strenuous but as we rolled along the tall mountains we had become accustomed to were noticeably absent.

Speaking of tall mountains - I forgot to mention two peaks we passed yesterday and spent some time talking about; Ouray and Chipeta. Chief Ouray (of the Northern Ute People) along with wife Chipeta were influential leaders in the late 19th century and rightly celebrated for their efforts towards peace and understanding.

Ouray and Chipeta peaks disappeared and the cows appeared. Grass was everywhere and we ran across a friendly herd of cattle. Just as we were admiring their sleek fatness (they looked delicious) we caught the unmistakable sound of a dirt bike heading our way.

Stepping off the trail I told Aaron I hope it won’t cause a stampede, we were virtually surrounded by cattle. The cows must be somewhat conditioned because they hardly noticed as he rode by, offering us a nod as he passed.

Reaching the top of the meadow we left the cows behind as the trail transformed itself into a newly dozed logging road. We were now on top of a ridge and water was an issue. To camp near water we have to hike either 11or 22 miles today so we opted for 11 since we put in over 20 miles yesterday. The plan is to stop at Baldy Lake for the night which is ½ mile off the main trail down a fairly steep grade, but better than going 22 miles.

We rolled up and down I believe five hills before turning off to Baldy Lake and it didn’t waste any time getting steep. For every step I took down I caught myself imagining how my legs would handle the near-vertical climb first thing the next morning. Those thoughts got pushed aside when the lake came into view. It was like a Bob Ross image, dramatic peaks surrounding a glacial lake whose banks are dotted with happy little trees. Perfect.

One advantage of stopping earlier than usual is it’s easier to find a camp spot. So far we have the lake to ourselves but expected that to change at any time. Our priority was drying out the tent so we quickly got it put up. All balled up together in the stuff sack it was damp both inside and out. While we waited for it to dry we gathered water from the lake and cooked up Ramen for dinner.

We were thinking the tent was dry enough for our pads and bags when the sun suddenly disappeared behind a bank of clouds. Quickly we blew up our pads and fluffed up our bags just in time to crawl in the tent. It was starting to rain and picking up intensity. I journaled as Aaron relaxed, the storm playing out around us for the next 30 minutes or so.

Everything was quiet and heavy after the soaking rain when I heard some branches snapping. Bear or moose I thought. I quit writing and nudged Aaron. “I hear something” I said, unzipping the tent to see. “What is it,” he asked? “Don’t know yet…”, it turned out to be a girl named Susie.

She had arrived during the storm so we didn’t hear her setting up her tent. I introduced myself and Aaron. She said she was hiking the CT in 50 mile sections heading northbound to meet her family at Marshall Pass. We asked if she’d seen many people and she said she passed 26 hikers going southbound. Hard to imagine, the trail has been so quiet for us. We haven’t seen another hiker all day until now - I guess now we know it’s because they are all in front of us.

Turns out not all were in front, some were behind. It was getting close to bedtime (about 8 o’clock) when another hiker came in and asked us (as we sat in our tent) if he could set up right next to us. Not a stone’s throw away but RIGHT next to us. Aaron mentioned there were other spots nearby but the man bristled up wanting to know exactly where and how far. Do what you want we told him and he did just that - setting up his tent 5 feet from ours.

We are totally understanding about finding a spot to camp and are more than willing to share our space when necessary but this guy just didn’t seem like he cared if he was intruding unnecessarily. No big deal, we didn’t want to seem antisocial so we got out of the tent and introduced ourselves. His name is Dave and he is from Fort Collins. He said he left Monarch Pass this morning and has gone over 30 miles today. No wonder he was beyond caring.

We turned in after the introductions. His tent was very close, luckily he didn’t snore although I did hear his pad and bag rustle every time he moved around! Our second strange fellow encounter in as many days.