View Full Version : CDT South San Juan Trip Report

10-04-2005, 19:31
Hey folks,
I was on the CDT in the Southern San Juans of Colorado between Sept. 20 and 24. I hitchhiked from Espanola, New Mexico (70 miles south of Chama) up to Cumbres Pass and began my trip. I had the trail to myself. I saw not one person between 11 am on the 21st and the 5 pm on the 23rd. In fact, before the evening of the 23rd I saw more elk than people.
I had initially planned to hike from Cumbres Pass (near the New Mexico/ Colorado border) to Wolf Creek Pass, though I
significantly shortened the mileage of the trip. I hiked to Blue Lake, and then down a 12 mile side trail to a dirt road where I hitched out. I had burned myself out pushing 20 mile days on the southern half of the John Muir Trail this summer. I did not enjoy it, and ended up deciding not to finish the trail as a result.
The weather was also a major factor. Temperatures dropped to the high
teens at night. I encountered several ferocious thunderstorms above
treeline, both of them launching strikes within 2 miles of me. I decided not to push my luck with such storms. I also was hailed on around 6 times.
The weather gave me the excuse to relax and enjoy myself. The terrainwas
absolutely stunning. The fall had seared the tundra with a burgundy hue, and the aspens began turning gold in the valleys below. I was put to sleep
at night with elk bugles. It was my first experience with the bugling -
almost a cross between wolves and loons.
The lack of people convinced me at times that I was the only man on earth.
After having hiked the entire AT and around 200 miles of the PCT, the CDT
was definitely a shock. The trail at times absolutely disappeared for stretches of up to half a mile. At one point a marked trail with cairns vanished. After an hour of wandering around, I followed where the map said the trail should be with my compass. Low and behold, it appeared a half mile later.
The trail does not hold your hand. It has a rugged nature and forces you
to blaze your own way. It made my experiences of hiking the other trails seem like I was taking a guided tour of the wilderness. On the CDT, I was
emersed in it.
I ran into 4 thru-hikers on the trip. I saw "Homemade" around 8 miles
north of Cumbres Pass on the morning of the 21st. On the evening of the 23rd I met Mark from Oregon, Tommy from Connecticut (AT 2000, PCT 2003), and another hiker whose name I cannot remember. I ran into them later in Chama on the morning of the 25th. All reported having had a great trip so far.
I fell in love with the nature of the trail. A thru-hike is in my future.