Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow

I don’t care what anyone else says, I LOVE the Cochetopas!

Woke up to rain last night or this morning, so hard to get motivated when the alarm went off. Got up before 6 am knowing we should hike while its cool and quiet. Overcast, but sun started to come up while packing. Got cache boxes put away and put booties on both dogs + socks on Prima. Two deer walked by camp and looked surprised when I came out of the tent. Got going up the hill and while Prima still seemed sore, she was brighter than the last few days.

Turned into a lovely and quiet morning with water for the dogs in several of the creeks. Lots of great views. Took a break right before Silver Creek junction, which is where we really started to see mountain bikers. Finished the Rainbow Trail (woohoo!) and had some ATV peeps stare at the dogs.

Found the Silver Creek Trail and started up that. Warmed up quickly and pretty steep initially. Felt bad for the dogs because most of it was pretty rocky. Again, lots of great views and pretty meadows that you miss on the Colorado Trail. After freaking out that we had missed our chance for water, found a nice spot off the trail to take lunch and fill up.

Stopped about 11:45 am. Had tuna and peach-o’s and read. Dried out the tent as well as the bag and quilt. Watched the storm clouds build and circle. Started thundering as early as 10:30 am! Washed off in the creek. Clouds really started condensing about 1:00 pm, so started packing up and finished chores. Cameled up on water to make it to Tank Seven Creek.

Mountain bikers kept going past on our last push up the hill, apparently the Monarch Crest Trail does go out via the Rainbow Trail. Made it to the CT (woohoo!!!) and asked some bikers to take our picture. Another group said there was a group of 60 people riding the trail! Sounds like we turned off just in time. Great views of the peaks, including the Sangres, with threatening clouds. Warm with my rain coat on.

Talked briefly to some dirt bikers before they moved on. Nice walking and quiet on the CT. Rocky in places for sure, but not as bad as I remembered. Got rained on for second half and made it to Tank Seven Creek about 5 pm. Set up pretty quick and as I was finishing a SOBO CT hiker went by. Let him know there was plenty of room and he joined us. Ate spanish rice for dinner. So good, but still hungry. Also had hot chocolate. Talked to the other hiker for a long time, feel bad I can’t remember his name. He’s in medical school and left about 2 weeks ago.

On the dog front, even wrapping Prima’s dew claws with sport tape she still opened her sores. Does seem a bit better after wearing the booties though. She didn’t eat very well again tonight, I don’t think she likes the oil. Skittles was much happier with her booties though.

Trying hard not to compare this hike to 2018, but its a challenge. Thinking of stopping at Razor Creek tomorrow, a short day. OR we can push on to the resupply and zero…

A bit damp tonight, even though the skies cleared as we set up: undecided on whether to close fly or not… a bit chilly, but will have lots of condo otherwise. Will probably leave it open.

Didn’t sleep great last night due to the damp. Also had a hard time getting up because of it. Finally got up about 5:40 am.

Grabbed my bear bag and made oatmeal to try to warm up. Fed the dogs the rest of their dinner, then since their appetites were good, fed them most of today’s food. Collected water, which froze my fingers, then commenced packing. Since the other hiker appeared around 6:45 am and we chatted it was a late start, about 7:30 am. Skittles was spry, but Prima took a bit to warm up. Only had Prima wear booties since things were still a bit wet. I also felt a bit slow starting uphill, but enjoyed the meadow views.

Lots of flowers and very green all day. New logging road at the bottom of Sargent’s Mesa, but the Mesa itself was wonderful. Lots of flowers and a herd of Hereford cows and calves. We did have to move them off of the trail in which Prima stepped in fresh poop and splattered my shoe.

Stopped at the top of the meadow for a break and to take in the view. We could see the Collegiates, Chippeta/Ouray, the Sangres, and the San Luis Valley. I felt so happy sitting there taking in the view with the dogs that I could have stayed in that spot forever. However, we continued on and chugged down the tail.

Still lots of nice views and greenery. Rocky in a lot of spots, but we plugged along. Never found the Soldier Stone, but didn’t go off trail to look. Had a dirt bike pass us on the mesa, then passed 2 NOBO hikers on the long, rocky walk. They said Razor Creek was flowing. Pushed on to the top of Long Branch Baldy climb even though we all started to get hot and tired.

Stopped for lunch about 12 pm at that nice west facing meadow. Pulled EVERYTHING out to dry and made the teriyaki bowl with siracha for lunch. Read a little too. Made up my mind this AM to go into Lake City to resupply for a double zero OR a zero and nero. Also decided that while we could hike to Lujan creek, it would be smarter to stop at Razor Creek and wouldn’t change how the days shake out.

Getting stormy to the east, so packed and walked between 1 and 1:30 pm. Added booties to Skittles front paws. Dogs a bit slow and the trail was rocky, but not far to go. Made good time and had wonderful views of the San Luis Valley through the trees along with the San Juans. Could even see Uncomphagre during lunch!

Got to camp (by the trail split at the bottom of the meadow) about 3 pm. Looked hard at the trees before setting up. Don’t feel great about it, but tried to predict how they’d fall. Ate some extra tuna and the rest of my snacks after seeing I have spaghetti-o’s in my resupply! Yum!

Read most of the afternoon and evening while the dogs slept. The storm never made it to us and we ended up with blue bird skies for a while. Got cloudy to the south about 6:30 pm, but I think it dissipated again. The hiker from last night passed us around 4 pm, otherwise we saw a few dirt bikers today, 2 distance hikers at lunch (separate, one was definitely CDT) and two people went by right before I started writing, but couldn’t see what they were doing. Also, a herd of Elk (at least that’s what it sounded like) just went tramping by.

Going to read some more- trying to finish my book before Lake City. Prima got a double ration today and now we are hiding from the mosquitoes. Her dews still look sad. Hopefully the slower pace helps.

Kind of a damp, chilly night. Hard to get up again, but made myself by 5:40 am. Dogs got up right away to drink water. Packed quickly and hiking by 6:30 am. Chilly enough that my fingers were cold, but otherwise a nice morning and warmed up quickly.

Met a section hiker on the last climb in the AM, then while taking a water break at the top I met a NOBO hiker named Mad Dog. He is a teacher that is just moving to Denver and taught in Fairbanks for 8 years. Needless to say, we talked for a bit. After he left, we made it down to the Lujan Creek TH, which was empty, and had a quiet walk out to HWY 114. I was very happy since that is a place where I really missed the dogs in 2018.

Did pass a spot where some logging is happening, but otherwise was nice with the Aspens and Lujan Creek. Even saw a Buck. Dogs were warm and tired, but marched on to our resupply on the other side of the road. Quite a bit of traffic today- logging trucks, campers, and cars. Probably due to the holiday weekend.

Found the cache easily and sat down for lunch around 11 am. A few biting flies, but didn’t see any go after Prima. Warmed up some Spaghetti-O’s, had my Coke, and read. Also ate the goldfish and trail mix. Gave the dogs the bag of treats from the bear can. Happy to have new shoes. Doing okay in the old ones, but the tread was definitely worn down. Got everything repacked by 1 pm, watching the clouds swirl, but still pretty warm. Sent family a note via the Inreach. Fixed Skittles booties and had Prima continue to wear hers for the moment.

Slow start, especially with my heavier pack. The dogs appreciated the water in Pine Creek and we saw some Prairie Dog/Gopher things. Chugged up the hill and met a CDT hiker on the way who bagged Organ Mountain. Took a water/snack break at the top of the hill after that gate. I took Prima’s booties off and put on paw wax to giver her dew claws a break. She was slow and grumpy, but a good time to do so. They regraded the road so it was soft and lots of grass later on in the day.

So enjoyed the afternoon light and views. Saw a herd of cows (Baldies and Herefords) at our turn off, so went around them. Almost stopped at the dispersed site before the next pass gate, but it’s a dry site. Continued on and just LOVED the views. Met a hiker and told him about the other site, then stopped just after crossing Los Creek.

Decided to camp in the open due to the views since no one is out here. Went down the hill to fetch water and made couscous for dinner. Running out of good spices for it. Also, trying hard not to eat all the M & M’s.

Now feeling undecided on an OTZ at Lake City since we are taking lots of short days the rest of this segment. Only matters on the food/snack front. Got rained on on and off just now, but made nice rainbows. Also finished book 3 of War and Peace. Need to clean up food, then we’ll just enjoy the rest of the evening.

Slept really well last night and woke up just after 6 am. Collected my bear bag and the extraneous items that wouldn’t fit inside, then watched the sunrise while eating a poptart. Packed up and had Prima wear the worn out booties. Having her wear the booties was a good choice, the old ones not as much because she got rocks and stuff in them. I think I’ll have her wear socks and booties the next few days.

A bit overcast and brisk at the start, so only carried about 1 liter of water. Passed a guy sitting outside of his tent shortly after starting, then a “day biker” passed us soon following that. The views… I just tried to soak it all in. With it being early in the day San Luis Peak looked magnificent! We lucked out because there was water in places that were dry in 2018, so able to fill up. The day definitely warmed up over time and the dogs got hot, but we trooped on. Passed a herd of cows and some dispersed campers in the distance. Really enjoyed walking through all the aspen groves around Pauline Creek.

Let a NOBO walker pass us dropping down to the Cochetopa, but he didn’t stop. We stopped so the dogs could get water once we reached the Co(w)chetopa, but kept going to find better camping. Almost 12:20 pm by this time.

What a difference water makes! So green! The Cochetopa is way more full too! Kept walking and walking without seeing a good spot to stop. Felt bad because the dogs were pooped by this point. Finally, with dark clouds and sprinkles, made it to the ford and found nice camping on the bench above it.

Set up the tent strategically due to all the dead trees, then walked down the hill to get water. I’ve walked down that hill three times today to get water! The dogs always just chilled by the tent.

Ate the couscous and tuna for lunch, then caved and had the rest of the M & M’s I tried to hide from myself. Held out and had a Soon Veggie Bowl and Ramen with Chicken for dinner. I’m going to be SO hungry tomorrow 🙁

Really torn on Lake City. Want more food, but also want to say I did the whole thing without hitching. I guess it will be up to Prima. On one of my water runs I wiped myself down, but never did creek laundry like I’d hoped. Read a lot this afternoon and enjoyed the views.

Planning on sleeping in tomorrow as I don’t want to ford the creek when it’s cold and I really don’t think we have many miles to hike. It’s hard for me to slow down, but I know it’s best for the dogs and we have the time. Didn’t see anyone else today, but noticed a hiker and tent across the way when hanging my bear bag. Saw lots of flowers today- nice paintbrush, pasque, and one that I think is called pussy toes. Never really stormed here and nice weather out now.

Woke up in the middle of the night, so peeked out at the stars, which were brilliant! Slept in until 6:45 am, got up and made oatmeal for breakfast before packing up. Had Prima wear socks and booties, which I think made a difference. The short day yesterday must have helped too because she got up on her own and wandered around while I packed.

A bit brisk crossing the Cochetopa, but since it was after 8 am we warmed up fast. The dogs were happy and it was a wonderful blue bird morning. Pretty easy walking to Eddiesville and got there about 10 am after passing 2 fisherman. Stopped to use the bathroom, I’ve never seen a forest service bathroom that clean and well stocked! 2 hikers (day) and a Brittany went by and we walked up the road to the Stewart Creek TH, leaving the CT/CDT for now.

Talked briefly to an older couple just day hiking the meadow and took a break at the TH. Seems busy for a Wednesday!

Wow, what awesome views from that TH though! Warming up by this point, so stopped frequently to let the dogs get a drink. A bit difficult due to beaver dams and distance of trail from the creek. Took a short break around 11:20 am and got some nice flower pictures. Saw a lot today- Fairy Trumpets, Pasque, Elephants Head, Purple Fringe, Sky Pilot, Paintbrush, Blue Columbine, Monk’s Hood, etc!

Fair number of blow downs, not surprising since we are in the La Garitas. The trail is well built at least. Passed one guy who dropped off the trail to camp on a bench near treeline (the creek is way further down than the map lets on). Otherwise, didn’t see anyone else today. Got above treeline, but lots of stunted, dead trees and willows still. Took lunch to think and decided to camp.

Went and got water (left the dogs) then found a small bench above the trail to set up on. Lots of building blocks for storms starting around 12:30 pm (part of why we stopped), but never did anything. Rested/napped until about 3:30 pm, then read and made dinner around 4:30 pm (had Mushroom Rice). Also fed the dogs.

Thought really hard around 2:30/3 about going on, and I would have normally, but decided not to due to the dogs. If nothing else, this short day should help them a lot. Still hard not to go on, it was a beautiful afternoon and evening!

I have lovely views of the San Luis false summit, Organ mountain, and back down the valley. Finally cleaned Skittle’s bottom, which was gross and I hope doesn’t get infected. Sun just went behind the ridge (6:35 pm), but should have an early sunrise, so planning to get up at 5 am.

Saw 1 doe today. Also planning to try wrapping Prima’s dewclaws again. Tomorrow should be awesome, hoping for good weather!

Had a hard time falling asleep last night and had to get up to pee. Slept well once I fell asleep and woke up 4 minutes before my alarm. A little cloudy, but got up and started packing. The eastern horizon was just turning orange and the sunrise at 5:45 am was spectacular! Wrapped Prima’s dew claws and put booties on the dogs. Started hiking about 6 am.

It really ended up being an outstanding day. The hike up San Luis was gorgeous, even though the climb up to the saddle was arduous. Once we reached the ridge things went fast and we reached the summit probably around 7:30 am. Beautiful 360 degree views.

I had a snack/drink, signed the register, and took a ton of photos. Started down to the CT about 8 am since we still had a lot of ground to cover. The sky had cleared by then. Saw lots of Sky Pilot and Alpine Forget-me-nots near the summit. Glad the dogs had booties, lots of talus and scree on the way down.

After rejoining the CT and starting west, we met 2 separate day hikers. One was very chatty and seemed to not be very prepared. Wonderful views, clear skies, and fast trail the rest of the day. Made it up over the 13,000 foot saddle without any problems and took a good break up there. While a bit breezy at the top, it was hot going over the next little saddle.

Saw and talked to a backpacker near Middle Mineral Creek then stopped for lunch at the creek. Near the end of our lunch break (1:45 pm) a guy with 2 Aussies went by. Said he lives in Lake City and left Hwy 114 yesterday. Offered us food, which I turned down for some dumb reason (dog food).

The weather was so phenomenal that I decided to push on to Snow Mesa. Passed 2 older hikers that seemed like day hikers… Confused about where they came from.

Still pretty warm as we hiked back up to treeline. Caught up to the Aussie guy about tree line, ended up taking lots of breaks this afternoon to let him stay out in front.

I know I was “wowed” by the snow mesa views last time, but, just… wow! The views were incredible! Way more water and greenery and the skies are clear (no smoke). My pictures don’t do justice to the scenery. 2 weekend type backpackers went by on the edge of the Mesa. They sure acted strange. Also passed an older gentleman taking a break.

The lake at the edge is full this year and we took a short break where a stream comes out of it. Ended up stopping for the night by some ponds south of Cinco Baldy around 5:30 pm. The phone says we hiked 17.5 miles today, it was a big day! Set the tent up without the fly, got water, and made us all dinner. Read a tiny bit, but mostly enjoying the sunshine and view. No branches or anything to tie bear bag to, so going to hope for the best.

About 4 miles left to Spring Creek Pass. Going to sleep in (aka- not set an alarm). Still can’t believe what an amazing day of hiking we had! Almost forgot- the dogs were super frisky this morning!

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