Day 42: Treasure Mountain Trail and porcupine hill to Wolf Creek Pass, ~11 miles, ~727 miles total
From camp, we didn’t have many miles to reach Wolf Creek Pass. With easy to scramble peaks nearby, we deemed it a good morning for some leisurely exploring.
First stop, Treasure Mountain. Up trail through meadows and recently burned spruce forest, then ascend the upper 30 degree-but snow free-slopes. A little scrambling and brush bashing too. Then views. 360 degree views of mountains nearby and a far. Some we will meet. North facing slopes holding snow on peaks to the south, the way we didn’t come. South facing slopes with little snow to the north give the illusion that travel ahead won’t be so difficult. We’ll find out.
Treasure Mountain, 11,900′. A good spot for breakfast. We lingered on the summit for as long as we could stand the wind. I read the summit register and made jabs about the Broncos (Go Hawks!). Gabriel indulged in his new Facebook habit of posting breakfast pictures from mountain tops.
We descended the way we came up and wrapped around a ridge to head east to Treasure Pass and reconnect with the CDT. Walking and postholing through snow and charred spruce. From the register we inferred that the beetle-killed forest burned last summer. Wherever the snow had melted, new vegetation emerged. May many of the plants and critters enjoy the bounty of opportunity a burned stand offers in its first few years.
The snow was a mix of unconsolidated mush and patches of somewhat solid snow. Post holing took its toll and before ascending the pass, we put on our snowshoes. After all, we had carried them 21+ miles. Might as well use them. They may not have been absolutely necessary here, but 4 pounds under foot instead of on our packs felt good. And we stopped sinking into the snow.
Up on the ridge, Wolf Creek Ski Resort. Closed for the season but still plenty of snow for laps. This place would be tracked out if it was near Seattle; wonder where the good stuff is if this place isn’t getting attention. We were also back on the CDT! But heading south, to Alberta Peak.
Yellow bellied marmots gallivanted in the snow below the ridge. First marmot sighting of the trail!!!! I tried to whistle to them but dry lips and gusting winds muffled my marmot call. Marmots! What a way to be welcomed back to the trail!
Some class 2 rock hopping and post holing got us to the top of Alberta Peak in time for lunch. We figured we should pay the summit a visit as we are trying to reach the province of the same namesake. From our wind protected perch, we studied our Ley maps to determine where other hikers might exit.
We bid adieu to the pica, golden mantle ground squirrel, and chipmunks of the summit and stumbled in the wind back to our snowshoes. Having flotation made for easy walking down the slopes and had us missing our skis. Made it to Wolf Creek Pass a little after 3:00.
Obligatory photos taken. Time to hitch.
We hardly had our thumbs out before a car stopped for us! Marsha and Arlen (Arlo?) from West Virginia. They were on their big summer vacation road trip here in Colorado and beyond.
Arlen wanted to have a snowball fight and take photos of the pass. We were happy to be their photographers! Gabriel even caught Marsha’s snowball in mid air. Such kind people and interesting to talk to. Concert venues, travel across the US, hitchhiking kn the 70s vs now, life in small towns where most of your family still live. They stopped at scenic overlooks so we could all take in the views of the San Juan River and summer green valley thousands of feet below. Marsha drove incredibly safe! Riding with them brought back memories of riding with Annie, Barry, and Oliver around Yosemite NP; when we joined them impromptu for a tour of the park. Time in a car goes by fast and soon we were in Pagosa Springs in front of the ice cream shop. We were sorry we didn’t need to go any further down the roadwe to enjoy the company of these two kind people.
Thank you Marsha and Arlen! Have a great vacation.
In town, first stop, milk shakes (butterscotch for me, chocolate malt for Gabriel). Town chores. A stroll to the natural food store. And a stop at Kip’s for great food and my first draft beer of the trail.
As Gabriel and I think about our cobbled together alternate for this stretch of the CDT, it’s with mixed feelings, but ultimately acceptance.
Other hikers we were around in Chama are starting to reach Wolf Creek Pass this evening. They had blythely gone into the mountains, most not caring to know the avalanche conditions. Now they are physically and mentally wasted, but out safe. Some with reports of sighting broken cornices and recent slides. Was there significant risk? Or did they all get lucky at spinning the wheel of avalanche roulette?
We recognize that we spend a fair amount of time in snow and best minimize the odds. Over the last few days passages from Bruce Temper’s Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain and articles on risk ran through our heads.
Made for great timing to come across the statement below on a T-shirt at the Ski and Bow Rack gear shop.