Colorado Trail, Day 29: Waiting and Wondering

Every so often, as I toss and turn, I take a peak outside the cocoon of my sleeping bag and see that it’s getting light outside. I nestle in anticipation of Alison’s alarm going off, but the moment never seems to arrive. Why is it so light outside?

Turns out we are one day past a full moon and the moonlight is just that bright! The thick cloud that enveloped us last night has completely dissipated. It would have been a great night to do a pre-dawn summit of San Luis Peak, hiking by moonlight and arriving in time for sunrise. Peak bagging is not our thing, but it sure inspires a lot of adventure activity in Colorado.

As we emerge into the chilly dawn we see the first day hiker heading up to the summit. Little do we know now that he will later be our trail savior! We have warm hats and gloves on as we make coffee and quickly pack. We are eager to go over the saddle and head down to the trailhead and make our way to the tiny town of Creede.

As we crest the hill and begin to descend, we pass by a succession of 10 day hikers who have hit the trail early. They have a 6.5 mile hike up to the summit and will try to return before the afternoon thunderstorms hit. Many of them ask how the CT has been treating us. I sense a mutual respect for what we are each trying to accomplish.

Our trail is potentially short today. We have a mere 4 miles to hike to the trailhead at San Luis Pass, which is over 600 feet below the saddle where the trail up to the summit splits off. There is an additional 1 mile trail to a parking lot at the end of Forest Road 503. That’s where we hope to catch a ride the last 9 miles down to Creede. If we are unsuccessful, we will turn a short day into another long day. So, fingers and toes crossed, we walk around the bowl to the next saddle.

Along the way we see a herd of elk grazing several hundred yards below as well as a cute, little pica running along the boulder fields with a mouthful of green grasses that he will dry out in the sun for his meals over the long winter.

Then we traverse briefly below tree line and cross a creek before our last (and somewhat unexpected) climb to a bald that has views of a colorful peak, which reminds us of mountains in Peru.

As we turn the corner we can see the trailhead. There are three backpackers just making their way back onto the CT heading southbound. We are thinking that they just caught a ride up from Creede and that we probably missed a chance to get an easy ride down to town by less than an hour. Our next best hope is that we get lucky and an early-rising peak bagger finishes quickly and is willing to give us a ride.

At the trail junction, we turn off of the CT and take the West Willow Creek Trail down to the trailhead. There are only six cars parked there. We find a patch of shade to cool off. It’s now 10:30 am and getting hot. Somebody has left out some comfy camp chairs, and we can’t resist taking a seat.

Our hopes get up when we hear an engine in the distance, but it turns out to be a succession of ATV riders heading out for the day. Luck is on our side today, though, as we only have to wait for less than an hour before our trail companions, Kendra and Scott, come sauntering down the trail with a new friend (remember that early-morning peak bagger?) who has offered to give them a lift down the road to where their parents are waiting to take them into Creede.

Dane is a 21 year old college student studying philosophy and graphic arts who is on a mission to top each of Colorado’s 54 Fourteeners before he graduates. He has already bagged 31 peaks, and he’s presently trying to hit 3 in 3 days.

We are overjoyed when he agrees to give us a lift all the way into Creede. So we pile our packs into his 4-wheel drive SUV and set off slowly down a very bumpy road. We hand Kendra and Scott off to her parents, knowing we will see more of them in town and on the trail, and continue down to town.

Dane is interested in hearing how we have managed to travel so much as teachers, so we try our best to share a few bits of wisdom and wish him good fortune in his quest. He drops us at the Visitor’s Center at one end of this one-street town, and we wish him luck on conquering his next two peaks. Then he is off. Thank you, Dane!

We don’t have a reservation anywhere in town for tonight. There is free, primitive camping 15 minutes outside of town, but we opt to take a second night at the Snowshoe Motel instead, so we can really rest our feet. We walk a few short blocks, check in, drop our bags off and head out for a much-anticipated Sunday brunch!

We find it at the Creede Hotel. We are sat outside in a lovely shaded side garden with “front row seats” to an acoustic duo who softly entertain us with a great set of tunes as we feast on an amazing breakfast burrito smothered in green chili and a delicious Italian frittata and fresh salad washed down with copious cups of coffee for me! When the owner brings around fresh cinnamon roles (much like out favorite from Ann Sather’s in Chicago!) and the band plays John Denver’s “Country Roads” it really feels almost like heaven!

We wander up and down the Main Street of Creede checking out what’s on offer for food options and carefully planning our meals. Creede is a funky little town, and it looks like it will be fun to spend some time here.

Creede is famous for it’s Repertory Theatre. Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” is playing this evening, and we are fortunate to find they have seats available, so we decide to treat ourselves to a night of culture in this old mining-turned-tourist town.

After a quick shower, it’s time to head over to Kip’s Grill for the afternoon. This place has it all—bar, grill, laundromat and live music—everything we need, all in one place! So we set the laundry going, order a beer, listen to some music and work a bit on our pictures. A little later, Paul and Ellen and Juli and Eden (who arrived in town yesterday) join us for a bite to eat before all heading to the theatre.

The show is playing in a cozy theatre with a live band and excellent singing. I have not seen the movie version of “9 to 5” in years (although we both remember it playing on HBO every Saturday back in the mid ‘80s!). The musical version, with songs and lyrics written by Dolly herself, is a close rendition and turns out to be very entertaining and a funny reminder of what life in 1979 was like. Sadly, many of the same office “issues” are still in the headlines today.

This cast has several strong singers and plenty of catchy songs in both acts. As we exit the theatre into the cooling night air, the cast is lined up to greet the theatre goers.

We all amble back to the Snowshoe Motel for a good night’s rest, glad to know we don’t have to go back to our 9 to 5 tomorrow!

Day 29 Stats

Starting Point: Saddle below San Luis Peak, mile 339
End Point: San Luis Pass Traihead, mile 343
Mileage: 4 (+1 mile on the West Willow Creek Trail)
Segment: 20
Date on Trail: July 29, 2018

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