Day 41: First Inn in Pagosa Springs to Treasure Mountain Trail and porcupine hill, ~21 miles, ~716 miles total
Slept in til 7:00. Our bodies needed it. A little tired and foot sore from those road miles. But there would be fewer today. Instead of walking up Highway 160 to Wolf Creek Pass, we’d take a Forest Service road up the East Fork of the San Juan River to the Treasure Mountain Trail that connects to the CDT. Ten miles of highway, seven on dirt road, the rest on trail and snow! Much better than 23 miles of highway.
A highlight of yesterday afternoon, an FS interpretive sign on the side of Hwy 84. No advance notice for it, so hard to imagine cars would have time tipull over. But easy for those traveling by foot to slow down and take a look. The map of public roads and trails greatly improved our route for this part of the leg. We saw trail options we hadn’t known existed.
On the way out of town, stopped at a great local gear shop to replace our broken sunglasses. (Thanks Ski and Bow Rack!) Then walked a mile up Hwy 160 to meet Groceries and Smudge at their RV site. So nice to see them! Chat. Get our snow gear. Firm up plans for Mesa Verde.
When we finish this section, we’ll join them, and possibly other hikers, for a few days in Mancos, CO and go to Mesa Verde National Park. Giving the snow more time to settle and tour a World Heritage site with more than 4,000 archaeological sites of the Ancestral Pueblo people. Really, too great an opportunity to pass up.
Back to the road for 10 miles. Highway 160 is a far better road to walk than 84, thanks to ample shoulder and fewer curves. Made it to the East Fork FS road a little after noon.
So wonderful to be away from the buzz of cars. Tense shoulders relaxed. Quiet shady rest stops to enjoy. Our numbed senses started to come back.
The East Fork San Juan River roared in a small canyon below us. Brown and frothy, full of melting snow. Spilling over its banks and lapping the road further up. Tucked along the banks rafting and kayak camp sites. No one there this weekday, perhaps because the river is in flood stage.
We followed the river up valley until we reached the trail head. Not long before our turn off, we watched a marten run about in a dense stand of spruce.
At last, a little after 4:00 we turned to trail. Not the trail, but a wonderful one all the same. Great tread. Well maintained. Gently switchbacking up the side of the valley through aspen groves lush with service berry, violets, false Solomon’s seal, false hellebore. The senses dulled by three days of road walking now awake to the earthy forest smell, the aspen bangling in the breeze. Instead of timing road miles and thinking about being done, here was a place to be present.
Slowly, quietly we meandered up the trail. Still recovering from the road walk the day before, we stopped early for the night. Treasure Creek on one side of the trail, a spruce and aspen hill with soft dry leaf litter to camp on a few hundred feet away. Just as we were about to duck into camp, I heard a rustling on the ground. On closer look, it was a porcupine! My first sighting of the trail. Gabriel’s first ever sighting!
The porcupine didn’t pay much attention to us as it lumbered about the forest. We watched it until it climbed over a log and out of sight.
Warm evening here at almost 10,000 feet. We sit out for a leisurly dinner in light dimmed by the aspen, white fir and spruce canopy above. Tonight we trace back all of our campsites of the last 700 miles. This one is pretty good.
We are grateful to be back on trail.