The Carson Forest Decision
- CDT Miles: 727.7-738.7 (11)
- Stevie Evac. Alt.: 0.0-20.1
- Total Hiked: 664.7
- Elevation Range: 8,550-10,500 (ish)
Funny thing happened this morning… I slept through my alarm. Or I suppose I may not have set it correctly. Still not sure. I did pull a new maneuver of draping my puffy over my head so as to block the bright moon light (it felt like a spotlight on me all night). This may have effected the deepness of my slumber. So, at 6:05am I opened mine eyes to see bright daylight. Something that hasn’t happened in a while. Feeling “behind” (for no real reason other than my own self pressure), I quickly packed and was ready in a half hour.
It appeared I was still first out of camp. The super hikers were up and making breakfast though, so I greeted them as I walked towards the river to cross. I knew they’d catch me at some point.
The river crossing went well seeing as there was a large dead ponderosa pine laying across acting as a bridge. Then, it was an upward climb out of the river valley through a dark cold canyon. I was expecting it, and was happy my legs and energy seemed up to the challenge. Also, I was surprised at how soon the sun got to me and that things opened up and the grade got a little more friendly. Starting out a pretty good today!
I’ve been seeing these purple flowers more and more. Look familiar? I believe they’re a variety of lupine (?) and we’re quite abundant on the PCT.
As the morning walk continued, things really opened up. Some of it was giving me a bit of a Colorado feeling. I guess I am getting pretty dang close now!
At breakfast, I went for the double instant coffee and vanilla carnation instant breakfast (I realized at some point they must have rebranded these as “Breakfast Essentials”). It’s quite a nice blend. Ponderosa passed me in the openness earlier and Sledge and Soccer Mom passed by during breakfast.
While hanging, sipping my coffee and chowing down on my oatmeal, I thought I’d check and see if I had cell service (I’m usually on airplane mode to save battery). Surprisingly, I did. It didn’t take long for the notifications to start. One of them was a new post on a Facebook thread I’d “followed,” the CDTC message about forest closures. Welp, turns out the Forest Service plans to close Carson National Forest (and several others in the state) a day earlier than I’d been told. Basically, tomorrow at 8am, the closure would go into effect. I’d already hiked about 7 miles today and it’d be another 42 to get into Colorado. Quite a pickle I found myself in.
Our map app updated with all the closures. Check it out. Everything in the shaded area is an upcoming National Forest closure…
After doing some research, my first inclination was to buckle up the ole pack and go for it. I’d hike til dark and keep going a ways, then stop and sleep for a few hours, then finish the rest in the early morning hours (also dark) before the 8:00am closure time.
I’m sure some of you are thinking, what does it matter, nobody’s going to know or be checking, just take your time Stevie and finish, getting through later in the day. Indeed, this crossed my mind too. I didn’t like it though. Didn’t sit well with me in this particular instance. I’m not very familiar with wildfires and so if the folks battling the fires need me out of the way, seems like I should get out of there.
After doing a tad more research, I remembered that the last 10 miles of this section was reported to be snowy and with lots of downed trees across the trail too, which ultimately made me decide to find a “bail out” route. There was no way I’d make it through in time.
“So if you’re tired of the same old story
Oh, turn some pages
I’ll be here when you are ready
To roll with the changes” – REO Speedwagon
When I got this news, I just happened to be about 4 miles from where the trail crosses Highway 64. From the various map resources I have on my phone, it appeared that this road heads west, out of the mountains, and joins with Highway 84 to go right into Chama, NM. Chama is my next resupply town, so seemed like a good option. Only thing is, I’m stubborn and stupid (bad combo) and want to keep my continuous footpath going. So, I planned to road walk my way around the forest closure into town. Woo hoo fun stuff right?
“You can go your own way.” – Fleetwood Mac
Here’s another screenshot. I’m the blue dot and you can see Highway 64 meeting up with Highway 84 en route to Chama…
You may notice this also means I’ll have to road walk past Chama north to reconnect to the trail at some point, but goal number one = get to town and regroup.
All that took just over a half hour or so. But, while I had service I thought I’d try and book a hotel in Chama. Every hotel I tried calling (of the 5 or so that exist) was busy with the exception of one that told me they might have one room left and they’d call me back. I never got the call back, but did discover that a campground is located on the north side of town that allows tenters and was told no need to make a reservation. So that was my backup plan. My first hope would be to find some hikers I know and see if they want to split a hotel room. Anyways, it seems most of the CDT hikers on trail will be converging on Chama, New Mexico (or skipping up ahead to the basin in Wyoming), bypassing the closures and heading into Colorado. Crazy trail!
Although I’d made my plan, my mind was spinning as I hiked the next four miles. Thinking of new obstacles I’d have making my own route. No Guthooks app to tell me where water is. And I’d likely have to pull off a stealth camp or two. I was still thinking things over in my head when I reached a picnic area and found Crockett there. I was hesitant to bring up the closure stuff in case he was one who had gone off the grid and didn’t want to know. But, it sort of came up naturally and I ended up filling him in. It sucked and I felt bad being the bringer of this news. A big part of me wishes I would’ve just crusied on by, but there was a faucet near him I wanted to see if it was on (it wasn’t).
Crockett was going back and forth over the same conundrum I’d just dealt with an hour earlier. But, his decision was a little different being that he was ending his hike in Chama having a new job starting soon at Great Basin National Park. I left, wanting to give him some space to figure it out on his own without feeling someone else was around judging.
Before I knew it, I was at Hopewell Lake and then the Highway 64 crossing. Crockett had gotten ahead of me. I met him at the trailhead leading north, but just before I got there a truck arrived with another hiker and had offered him a ride into Chama. They offered to me too, but I declined due to my stubbornness. And so, as I started walking the road, I saw them cruise on ahead…
It was about 12:30pm when I left the CDT to start my “forest closure evacuation alternate.” I was hungry, needed water, and my head was still a little bit all over the place. So, I stopped just down the road at Placer Creek for lunch. Filtered some water, had my crackers, summer sausage, and cheese whizz and prepared to journey off into the unknown. The trio was ready.
A little less than a mile down the highway, I noticed a sign for a forest road. After checking my map, I saw that a potential route via forest roads would run sort of parallel (maybe even cutting off some distance) and meet up with the highway further ahead. So, I went for it. Much more scenic and better walking than on a busy asphalt road I figured.
Well, I got on the wrong two track after the first split and had to make my way back. After that though, I was cruising and feeling good about my plan. It was indeed a beautiful walk.
The forest road idea was to return to the highway at a place labeled “Brazos Summit” on Google Maps. There was an issue with my plan though. You see, the forest road led me out of the National Forest, like I wanted, right? I didn’t really think about what the road would turn into outside the forest boundary though. Well…
I may have been able to just continue through, but what would that mean if I followed rules in abandoning the forest just to break other rules. Alas, I took another turn to get back to the highway earlier than anticipated. I tracked myself using my old running app, “MapMyRun.” And don’t think I ended up creating a short-cut with this adjustment.
“On a quest, the clear path is never the right one” Barley Lightfoot in Onward
I did make it out of the National Forest though, and a day before the closure!
And still beautiful…
It didn’t take long for the excitement of this whole “go your own way,” and “roll with the changes” reroute to settle down a bit. Walking a road is just not that awesome, and so many tunes and audiobook’ing did commence. Plus, I was climbing upwards for quite a ways. I eventually made it up to this odd roadside picnic area.
Dumped some trash, stretched, and then continued on ahead. It was a few more miles before making it to “Brazos Summit” around 10,500 feet elevation. It was windy with some cool views.
The rest of the day was down a curvy mountain road. Thankfully, very little traffic and a very big shoulder for me to walk on!
My next thing to figure out was where to camp. I needed water again and had seen some blue lines on the map I figured would be running streams since so much meltwater right now. I did indeed find a creek crossing there below the highway in a culvert and it seemed like it’d work for camp. It was way down a hill and secluded with trees between me and the road. I was very stealthy. Ate dinner first before setting up my cowboy camp setup even.
It was strange, I was so nervous about stuff and kept looking around. It’s like when on the trail I feel safer for some reason, even though literally no cars were traveling by up above me on the road. Strange thing this CDT hiking.
Albums of the Day
“Rumours” – Fleetwood Mac
“You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish” – REO Speedwagon
Podcast of the Day
“What is the Bible?” – Jeff Manion