Cow Poop and Cochetopa Creek

July 16, 2020

Destination: La Garita Wilderness Today's Miles: 18.70

Start Location: Los Creek Trip Miles: 325.80

It was one of those mornings when 4:45 seemed a little too early. We got going at 5:15 instead, it had been a pretty long day yesterday.

We hadn’t gotten very far along in the morning routine when a soft pitter patter on the tent drew our attention. It was raining. Fortunately it wasn't a hard rain but enough to get the tent wet and make it heavy.

As if on cue it stopped a little before we got on the trail at 6:30. Immediately the road walking began, first along Los Creek then turning left and crossing many miles of cow pasture. In excess of 4 ½ miles to be more precise.

The terrain was rolling and we were making good time but it was boring. The walking was easy and because of it we were working our legs as fast as we could to crush some miles. This kind of walking is hard on your legs...and your mind.

Somewhere along the way we decided not to drink the water we collected from Los Creek. It was a little stinky, cattle were everywhere and we heard rumors of people getting sick from this source despite filtration. We didn’t want to take any chances and decided to try and wait for Cochetopa Creek, now 5 miles ahead.

Fortunately one of our bottles was full from filling up on Pine Creek yesterday so we shared that and it turned out to be just enough to get us to Cochetopa Creek. In hindsight, I wish I would have carried more water from Pine Creek.

We were hot and exposed all morning and I used my umbrella. The two-track road turned into a county road then back into a two-track. Several miles later we wound our way through cattle along sage brush covered foothills inching our way towards the distant peaks.

Making our way up into the thick aspen, their cooling shade embracing us. Before long we reached the top and were dropping down the remaining 1.5 miles to the creek.

Cochetopa Creek was better than anything we imagined. Keep in mind we just finished traveling through some of the driest sections on the CT so our expectations were not high - all the more shocking when we dropped into perhaps the perfect trout fishing stream.

It just so happened there was a recent hatch and the trout were heavily involved in a feeding frenzy as we filtered water. We guzzled an entire bottle each, deciding we would be coming back here to catch some of those fish.

It was sunny when we stopped but dark and cloudy just a short time later as we got back on the trail. Everything was super nice, gradually working our way up the creek for the next couple miles. We were closing in on San Luis Peak as a storm was closing in on us.

We would spend the remainder of the day in our rain gear, my umbrella that protected me so well from the sun hours ago was now doing a fine job keeping me dry from the rain. I love my umbrella. It does a surprisingly good job of keeping my feet dry, too bad it can’t keep them dry on the upcoming creek crossing.

The only thing worse than a creek crossing is a creek crossing in the rain with a touch of hail. We sheltered for a few minutes in a cluster of trees hoping the storm would let up but tired quickly of waiting.

The approach to the creek is shrouded in dense growth of willows, we awkwardly fought our way through before jumping a small rivulet to a gravel bar. We both fell short, each getting our right foot wet. Stripping off our shoes and socks took seconds but the crossing was much more drawn out.

The going was slow, the sharp rocks hurting our tender feet. We stepped over top of a slippery wood plank intended for a bridge that was too short. Cold water from the creek pushing hard against against our legs, cold water from the rain drenching us from above.

Reaching the other side the gravel bar offered nowhere dry to put our shoes back on so we settled for the wet bank. Our sit pads helped a little but we were pretty well soaked by now anyway. Our feet didn’t get dried off very good but we hardly noticed because they felt so much better than barefoot on rocks. Of all the creeks on the CT, Cochetopa Creek gets my vote for a bridge.

Gradually we climbed, now along the opposing side of the creek, entering the La Garita Wilderness in a little over a mile. We kept a clear eye along the creek below for moose - sure we would see one around every turn. We never did see one but hoped to, it was a perfect moose habitat.

It rained for many miles, all the way from Cochetopa Creek to Eddiesville Trailhead. To see the approaching mountains I had to keep peeking out from under the edge of my umbrella. It quit just as we arrived at the parking area. We passed several fishermen standing around the tailgate of a truck discussing their day. I heard one say he caught 34 fish today, sounds like an excellent trout stream to me.

We were reluctant to begin the ascent of San Luis Peak so late in the day, preferring to stage here and make an early assault on the peak after a good night’s sleep.

It was a little challenging finding a place to camp, there are not many sites except a couple along Stewart Creek which were not flat and right on the road. We did find a spot up the trail and out of the way in the woods, we had to carry water but it was private and tolerably flat.

On our way up from Stewart Creek we saw a horse trotting along the fence across the meadow. After watching it for a few minutes we decided it a moose! Our first moose sighting while on the trail.

We are now tucked away in our tent after a quick dinner. Seems this day is going to end the same way it started - with the pitter patter of raindrops on the tent. Tonight’s rain did not stay soft like it had this morning but turned hard and angry before settling to a long and soaking rain. As we lie here we can’t help but wonder what challenges lie ahead for tomorrow.