CT mile 348 – slammed in the San Juans

at 37.9492, -107.0421

Up at 4:45 and on my way by 5:30. I knew there were a series of high ridges and saddles on my route, and I wanted to clear as many of them as possible before the day’s thunderstorms kicked in.

A couple of miles in I came to Eddiesville, where the outfit that runs supported CT hikes had set up base camp. They invited me into their mess tent for coffee and pancakes and it would have been rude to refuse. The hikers are mostly older folks (ie, my age) and slackpacking is a great way for them to experience the CT.

mile 329 – slackpackers camp

Also there was a FS pit toilet there, so I was spared digging the daily hole and filling it back up again. Such luxury.

With all the rain, the valley had had a heavy dew fall and my feet were soaked within minutes of beginning my walk. This has been a typical experience throughout my hike. I’d say I have averaged no more than 2 or 3 hours of dry feet per day.

The first saddle was some 10 miles distant from my camp and I got there by 11. But the storms were waiting. I could see black clouds racing over the pass and hear thunder on the other side. It appeared to be tracking just south of the trail so I went up and over and followed the trail as it traced a great circle around the basin on the other side.

mile 338 – Squalls welcome me to the San Juans

The storm closed in and hit with the most vicious weather I have ever experienced in 45 years of hiking. The lightning and thunder were directly overhead and I raced down to a gully below the trail and huddled at the bottom of it while being pelted with a furious hailstorm and 40-50 mph winds. John Muir would have called it glorious I’m sure, but I was stunned and terrified, not to mention freezing and wet.

It took half an hour but the worst of the storm passed and resolved into a moderate rain, so I continued my hike. The rest of the day was spent trying to time ridge climbs with breaks in the weather. It remained unsettled all day and only truly began to clear near sunset. A good thing, as I am camped well above timberline and will be exposed if the weather turns nasty tonight. But right now it is clear, and I have a view of the Collegiate Range stretched out some 50 miles away. Perfect.

mile 345 – San Luis Peak

mile 346 – glimpse of Handie’s Peak

mile 347 – an inquisitive friend

mile 348 – Tundra camp above Mineral Basin