Rain, Lightening and Merman

July 15, 2020

Destination: Los Creek Today's Miles: 22.70

Start Location: Baldy Lake Trip Miles: 307.10

Today was a long day. We left the lake at 6 AM on the button, beginning with the ½ mile climb back up to the trail.

The sun was up but not yet on us, although it would be by the time we reached the main trail on top.

There was one sizable hill to climb and then down, down, down into Razor Creek. It was a pretty morning, crisp, clear and smelling fresh from the recent rain.

We could see our future peeking over the horizon, the San Juan Mountains. It really is amazing how far people can walk.

After dropping into Razor Creek the trail became mostly level and wooded for some time. We passed one hiker heading the opposite direction who asked if there was water in the creek. We told him there was but not much.

Not much for quality either in our opinion but we kept that part to ourselves. Let him make his own determination there - it was barely flowing and the cows had it pretty mucked up.

We stayed in the trees and regained the Continental Divide going up and over several bumps today, a couple of them were quite steep. This was the pattern for more than 6 miles but felt longer.

Funny how I don’t judge the day as much by miles as I do by time. I have no way to tell how far I’ve gone so I just figure on 2 miles per hour, works surprisingly well as an average. If I have to go 4 miles to water I figure I will be there in 2 hours. Life simplified.

We never did see Dave, our neighbor from last night. All day we expected him to catch and overtake us given the big miles he’s capable of but he never did. Maybe he wore himself out, there was no movement from his tent when we left this morning.

More often than not the charm of the trail is in the people you meet. We were working our way up another ‘bump’ when a hiker going northbound stopped to say hi. To call him an interesting character would be an understatement.

He introduced himself as Darren but said everyone calls him Merman which seemed a perfect fit with his flowing red hair and beard. He was on the CDT (for at least the 2nd time) and claimed to be Irish (no doubt with the accent and hair), by way of Australia.

Everything about him was noteworthy from the Drinking Horn Meadery, Flagstaff logo on his t-shirt (where you can get a good pint of mead he said - and be sure to mention his name) down to the Gorilla tape holding the toe of his hiking boot together. Aaron introduced the two of us and Merman immediately responded ‘happy day’ in a thick Irish brogue and he genuinely seemed happy to know us.

Merman and Aaron fell easily into conversation, among other topics the COVID situation and how some people are against distance hiking right now. “Pardon my language” he said “but that’s buuullshit” drawing out the u five times its normal length. “I was instantly attacked” he told us, voice pitching up on ‘instant’, then lowering with a strong emphasis on ‘tacked’. All this from mentioning on social media his plans for hiking the CDT this year.

Unanimously agreeing we were in the best place for social distancing, it was time to move on. Dark clouds are building and no walking gets done if we don’t do it (you can quote me on that : ). As we got back to the rhythm of just the two of us Aaron mentioned he would like to spend more time around that guy. Yes, he was nice. It’s too bad we’re going in opposite directions.

Arriving on a dirt road at the head of Lujan Creek it started to rain. Then it started to pour. We stopped to put pack covers on and get the umbrellas up but no rain gear yet thinking the storm would quickly pass. That turned out not to be the case, next thing we know a bolt of lightning striking a tree a couple hundred feet to our left making us both jump. The storm continued to intensify.

The dirt road following Lujan Creek was now a wet, slippery mess. Twice we tucked up under small clusters of trees, just for a quick break, we were getting soaked and it didn’t seem to want to let up.

We finished the end of section 17 at the highway going to Gunnison as the downpour blessedly turned to a drizzle. It felt like civilization for a few minutes as cars went zooming by, now’s our chance for a dry bed in Gunnison, sticking a thumb out is all we’d have to do...

Perish the thought. Instead, we pinned our eyes on the trail, stopping only long enough to put on our rain jackets. We had not gotten water since leaving the lake this morning and with only a mile left to Pine Creek we decided to fill up there.

It was a nice little stroll, we ran into Courtney and Nikki, a couple of young girls from Denver hiking the CT. They were nice and said they started the same time we did from Denver. It was a pleasant conversation.

Crossing Pine Creek we filtered water, each drinking a bottle before filling them again, knowing it would be several miles before our next opportunity. From here the trail followed a nice railroad grade turned nightmare. Where the track ends someone decided to take the trail straight up a nearly-vertical hill to the saddle above without putting in a single switch back. It was a cruel joke to my tired legs.

Shortly after cresting the top we passed through a gate, hitting our second dirt road of the day. This one was long, in the neighborhood of 5 miles, slightly downhill and quite boring. There was not much of a view and the exact same repetitive stride was killing my legs and shoulders. Physically it was a challenging section due to the repetition of fast walking with so few variations. I’d rather have some up, down and arounds.

We ran into Courtney and Nikki again at Los Creek, the next water source after Pine Creek. Cows were everywhere and the water looked pretty crappy, literally. We worked our way upstream from them a little, they were washing their socks and we didn’t want to add that taste to the already questionable water.

After filling up the Cnoc bags we found a nice spot to camp in the trees. There was a small rain shower but nothing notable. I made a simple bench while Aaron set up the tent. We sat on the bench eating Ramen revisiting the day and planning tomorrow.

We’ve gone about 22 miles today. It felt like a good day, we're going to try to keep up the pace to make Lake City with ample time to spare on Saturday - we'll see how tomorrow goes. It is supposed to be a long, dry road walk. We plan on getting an early start.