Colorado Trail, Day 12: Over the River and Through the Woods

Today proved to be a bit of a departure from the topographical pattern set so far on the CT. Rather than climbing above treeline and over high passes to soaring panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges, today’s trail was more about the journey between. After breaking camp we set off downhill, paralleling Cataract Creek to the bottom of the hill, descending steeply at times. This is not our favorite way to start a hike, but the sun is shining, and we are in a good mood. We note other campsites along the way but are glad we chose the one we did last night.

We cross Cataract Creek, and the scenery really begins to open up. We follow the trail a short way further to delightful Cataract Falls, the largest waterfall we have seen on the CT so far.

Our path takes us down to an expansive valley and for a while we parallel a gravel road. The smell of sage bush in the air is pungent.

Oddly, we see several brightly colored Jeeps drive by on a tour, and suddenly we feel like animals on display for the passing safari! “Look at these rare bipeds, folks. They travel with all the water and shelter they need on their backs and have been known to live for months on a simple diet of Clif Bars, nuts and peanut butter. Truly an unusual siting, typically only seen here in the summer months.”

Eventually we cross the road and cross the valley. We pass Camp Hale, an old military training facility. Some of the concrete bunkers remain but have been taken over by swallows. There are also disturbing signs about the dangers of unexplored ordinance, so stay on the trail! Duly noted.

We cross over a creek surrounded by dense thickets of red willow bushes. Here we begin to ascend through pine forest as we contour a hillside and eventually make our way down to where the trail crosses an asphalt road. There are few cars and even fewer people out on the trail today.

We cross railroad tracks, make our way across an open stretch of scrub bush and then along the edge of another valley. We note that white-crowned sparrows seem to nest in the red willows near the trail.

We climb again through the forest and emerge on an old logging road. We find a couple of decent rocks to sit on for lunch. I find the perfect lounge chair rock and am grateful for a way to rest my back!

We pass a few other dayhikers and CT hikers as we make our way down to Tennessee Pass and the end of Segment 8. Here we encounter a rare find in the wilderness: a his and her restroom–drop toilet–but still a luxury!

We still have nearly 4 miles to cover before our intended camp for the evening, and it’s hot in the sun down at the pass, so we have plenty of incentive to keep hiking. Off we go, back into the woods, which, at first is kind of spooky—lots of thin pine trees sort of evenly spaced and no greenery.

We push on and gently ascend to Tennessee Creek. The clouds are starting to get dark and ominous as we pass familiar tents at the first camp—everyone seems to be inside and napping, so we move on and cross the creek yet again.

Soon after, we find a pleasant camp all to ourselves alongside West Tennessee Creek and overlooking a valley with mountains off in the distance. We are greeted by a resident Wilson’s Warbler.

With the clouds looking darker, we quickly set up the tent and get the rainfly on just before the first drops hit. We dive inside and wait out the rain for about 30 minutes before emerging to take care of our usual camp chores.

It turns out to be a tranquil spot to spend the evening. All too soon, it’s Hiker’s Midnight and time to get some shut eye!

Day 12 Stats

Starting Point: Cataract Creek, mile 131.6
End Point: West Tennessee Creek, mile 146.8
Mileage: 15.2
Segments: 8 & 9
Date on Trail: July 12, 2018

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