6/2 After the rest, John, Lily and I hitched out of Pagosa and got a half day of slow hiking in. The snow was still relatively friendly, not making us post hole too much and we ended up camping on the only dry spots we could find on an almost flat spot.
6/3 we got going at about 4 40; a little late but still better than 5 or 6. I wanted to get 12 miles in before we started post holing. The first pass we went up to get to the divide was incredible, we made it up there just as the sun was rising and it reminded me of the Himalaya with snow capped maintains and dry valleys below. I've never actually seen the Himalaya and I'm sure they are way more massive looking than these 12 to 13 thousand foot peaks. We were up on the divide most of the day meandering our way on it then next to it then back on it again. There was a fun glissade about 200 yards long that gave me a nice ice wedgy. I kind of felt ansy this whole day because I need to be making good miles. 20 should be doable every day. When we got to lunch we had done about 13; a good spot to be in, but then lunch time turned into nap time and we ended up getting out at 3 instead of around 2 for the last 7 miles. Leaving lunch we noticed that the tracks we had been following were gone, the group ahead of us had bailed. Following tracks turned into navigating and slushing through snow at barely 1 mile per hour. I kept wondering to myself if I am going to finish this hike. I really don't know if I will, but I know I need to finish this snowy section. I need to push through it because it's the most challenging, frustrating, and rewarding hiking I've done. Now we just need to get on a schedule that works so I don't have to feel mileage anxiety every day. We ended the day at 6 so we can wake up at 3 30 and be out by 4. It's weird lying here in the light about to go to bed. I will say this is one of the comfiest beds I've made. I found the only one person dry spot around that is complete with tree coverage, dry straw under me, and surrounded by snow. Hopefully we can all get going early tomorrow.
5/4 The full moon was so beautiful above the massive avalanche ridden bowls. We got going at 4 so it took a while for us to get out our snow shoes. For a while, we were directly on the divide where the snow was nice and hard so the miles went quickly. I got pretty far ahead of John and Lilly and by the time I sat down to wait I had decided that I was going to go on my own. I was crunching numbers and really if I want to finish this trail, I need to pick up the pace a bit in this snow. They both said bye and talked about how cool it will be to not see people for about two weeks. Some people are better with solitude than I am, but I am excited for this solo stretch. Once I got going, the footprints disappeared after a while and I was on my own to lead the path of footprints. I imagine some people are going to be annoyed because I prefer to go up and over things rather than traverse flat ground. After a while when the wind died down I reached down for my hat and it wasn't there. THE hat, MY hat, it was gone. I panicked, I retracked some steps and then just hoped john and lilly would see it on trail. They need to find it. I can't hike without that thing. Literally 10 minutes later Started singing "I'm walking on sunshine" and I step out of my snowshoe. The back strap had broken. Luckily there is this random strap that I don't know how to use that I could wrap around my ankle and manage to use the snowshoes still. It's awkward and clumsy, but it should do. I climbed up another hands on ridge to avoid a cornice that I did not want to get caught in, then went down down to a snowy meadow with a river running strong through it. After an hour I found my campsite at 5 45 at the best dry patch I could find that barely fits my tent. It was perfect. Today was a good day. And I'm just sitting in my tent enjoying that endorphiny feeling that one gets after a day of exhaustion.
5/5 I got up and going at 2 30. I walked down to the snow and it crunched then immediately broke. Darn. I would have to wear my snowshoes from the start. I noticed that my ankle was pretty sore and my broken snowshoe was rather clumsy so I tied some string around the back to act as the strap that had broken. It worked alright. I followed the footsteps to a steep, icy traverse that I could barely make out in the moonlight that was being masked by clouds. Is there a storm rolling in? I thought. The trail switch backed up to the divide and it became really windy and I realized a storm really was moving in. I grabbed my snowshoes that almost flew off my pack and down the mountain and picked up the pace down the mountain and onto a plateau. The snow was crunchier here so I continued with no snow shoes. About then the sun began to rise and I watched the orange glow to the east and then the pink clouds to the west. Every sunrise I see here makes wonder if it's the prettiest I've ever seen. The plateau led to what would be a meadow if there was no snow with rivers flowing through it, but instead it was a couple feet of hard snow that looked and felt promising to walk on until 'crunch' and I had fallen in the snow up to my waist. I step forward and 'crunch' again, both my feet in the snow up to my crotch. I crawl forward to some rocks trying to be as light at possible as to not fall througn again and put my snow shoes on. I hate those things. The trail then dropped lower than I had been for a while; 10,800 feet down a river to a meadow. There was no snow, but traversing the side of the canyon was painful on my ankle, but beat snow shoeing any day. The trail took my down to the meadow where it began snowing and raining a bit. I sat under a tree for a bit, then continued to the other side of the canyon. It kept raining and I was getting wet on my way up to 12,000 feet so I pitched my tent and climbed inside to wait it out. 10 in the morning turned into 12, still consistent rain. 12 turned into 4 and then I realized I would be staying the night right there. The rain died down at about 7 or 8 and I went to bed.
5/6 decisions decisions. I awoke to more rain and harder this time. It was about 4 am when I would normally leave, so I slept some more. At about 7 or 8 it died down a bit and I kept thinking to myself 'I gotta make some moves.' So, after thinking over all of my reasons I decided to bail on the San Juan route and hike down to the valley to my next resupply. This would cut off about 60 miles of the San Juans. Here were my reasons: recent snow and rain really increases the risk of avalanches, I doubt I would be able to keep dry and warm if it rained on me for a day at 12,000 feet, and my ankle was acting up. I went down to the valley and began hiking out, but I couldn't stop thinking about where John and Lilly were. I let out a few recognizable yelps with no response. I then went back to the other side of the valley where they would definitely pass and wrote a note to them explaining how to get out and why I was bailing on the route. I figured it would be of help because they only have the paper maps which show strictly the trail, whereas I have the Gaia GPS app that gave me more info on the surrounding area. I used that to find my way out. The hike down was a nice change in scenery; a lush, wide open valley with a full river running down the middle and elk running right in front of me. It was muddy and slippery and I even fell once into some water. A couple miles later I met some people that were out backpacking that did not expect snow, so I told them about the conditions which surprised them and resulted in them changing their plans. I got down to the reservoir I was looking for and found a big awning with a few benches normally used to show presentations to campers I presumed. It was the perfect place to dry out while I let the rain pass and minutes later I had my tent, sleeping bag, ground sheet, rain clothes, and anything else that was remotely wet hung up by the rafters taking in air and drying out. Complete yard sale in the middle of RVs and other campers. I then called my parents and Maddy and told them about my decision. It's one of those decisions that in the beginning you don't know if you are using excuses or good judgement. After an hour or two I was finally satisfied with my decision of skipping that 60 mile stretch of snow. I had to keep telling myself; my ankle really DOES hurt, there actually IS high avalanche danger. I had my window of good weather, and it was now closed. Time to avoid the snow and move on. I waited at that awning for a few hours until everything was dry and the rain had dissipated a bit and literally minutes before leaving a camper brought me some hot chocolate to help me keep warm. Perfect. I packed my things and sipped on the cup out on the drizzly road. I found a garbage can and dumped my extra foam pads that the lady at the ice cream shop gave me in chama because I assumed I would no longer be snow camping. I walked about 2 hours to my campsite which is actually a real life campsite with real life people around me eating smores and getting cozy in their RVs. It's actually quite beautiful. I am along the Rio Grande at a small reservoir that has a thriving duck population. It's so green. I really haven't seen many places this green, besides the North Cascades. Rumor had it that because of the intense recent snowfall, it has made for an especially green spring. Anyway, I am glad with my decision and I am going to avoid snow until I leave next week for Utah. This might mean a lot of road walking, but we'll see. To Lake City tomorrow.