Saturday, September 29, 2007

Lake City, CO

Oh my word, I am tired. Like my mom wrote below, I'm taking a day off in Lake City, CO. I'd hoped to go straight from Monarch Pass (which I hit on schedule on the 25th) but I got hammered yesterday going over 14,014 San Luis Peak. Bagging the peak is actually three-tenths of a mile shorter than the official trail that just goes over a shoulder, but when I got to 13,000 the winds were gusting to maybe 70mph and it felt like Nolan Ryan was chucking gravelly snow at me, so I bailed to the regular route. I met two nice dayhikers Dave and Greg that were good company during crappy weather. I still made 28 miles, but I camped right by the road to town and when the weather was still crap this morning I decided I needed more food/warmer socks to be able to make it through the San Juans. I got a pair of neoprene wading socks (the first time I've ever been glad an outfitter is fishing oriented!) and some more food and I should be good to go tomorrow, assuming I can get some sleep. The forecast looks OK, but there's 6+ inches of snow accumulated already. I could be in Pagosa Springs in 35 miles if I took the Creede cutoff, but I'd rather endure the suffer-fest that is to come. I wish I had more time to type and tell you about the inspirational people I've met (like the guy that was hiking his 1000th mile who started at 400+ pounds, or Robert Woodruff, one of seven surviving Korean War Marine Corps POW's) but the nice people that are putting me up want to close up the ice cream shop.

More Colorado

From a postcard: 23rd, Twin Lakes - I'm a little bit loco. Climbed 14,433 ft Mt. Elbert (CO's highest) last night as a snow storm was coming in. To make it better, I did a traverse. Bummed I didn't do Mt. Massive (CO's 2nd highest) as well. Good thing - with PO hours, it really didn't set me back at all. Peace, G

From a phone call: 29th, Lake City - He tried to climb another 14er but the weather turned bad and he is forced to take a break in town.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

More Colorado-from a letter

September 14 - left Steamboat at 7pm, did 12 miles of highway walking at night to get my miles in after 7 hours in town.
September 15 - My 28th birthday. Did around 30 miles. Passed Wildcat, so I'm not the last southbounder anymore.
September 16 - Woke early because of lightning. It was on and off all day. I remembered something - the weather in Colorado is horrible. And there's no shame in low routes when the weather calls for it - lightning will kill you. That's the one piece of advice Scott Williamson could give me about this hike - let weather determine your hike. It kinda sucks, but unless you have the time to wait out every storm (every day), which I don't, it's what you have to do.
THEN IT SNOWED ON ME.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Steamboat Springs, CO

First, to mail me something at a post office, you can send it to:
Garret Christensen
c/o General Delivery
Town, State
ZIP

But I won't be using that many PO's any more, just Twin Lakes, CO (81251) on 9/22, Grants, NM (87020) on 10/13, Pie Town, NM (87827) on 10/16. You could also use USPS to Ghost Ranch (on 10/7):
Garret Christensen
c/o Ghost Ranch Conference Center
HC77, Box 11
Abiquiu, NM 87510

and write "Please hold for hiker, ETA ---" on the package. (The postal address in my last post for the Monarch Crest store is apparently no good, you have to use UPS, so don't worry about that.)

THANKS!

Everything is going well. It's raining like CRAZY outside, so it's good that I'm sitting in the library. I've got my next bunch of maps, now I've just got to go buy a bunch of food and mail it ahead to avoid some long hitches. There's a long highway walk south of town, so hopefully I can get started on that before it's too dark--camping between the road and the fence kinda sucks. I'm way bummed that Into the Wild isn't out till next week. When I was in junior high, my mom brought that book home from the library, handed it to me and said, "Don't let this happen to you." Chris McCandless grew up in the same county as me, went to the high school five minutes from mine, in his family he got along best with his sister, he was a huge Redskins fan, and his dad was a defense-contracting radar engineer (mine is a defense-contracting sonar engineer).

Anyway, I'm obviously back in Colorado. The Huston Park Wilderness didn't have 300 elk in it this time, but boy have I been seeing a lot of hunters. Scott Williamson tells me that after Labor Day he hikes thousands of miles in the Sierras without seeing a soul. I'm seeing more people out here now that it's bow/black powder season. My dad sent me a new tech tee that, if not exactly blaze orange, is at least "please don't shoot my youngest child" orange. Plus I found a blaze vest by the side of the road, so I drape that on the back of my pack. I'm up to 3 days with no new trail. The road south of Rawlins and the crossing the WY/CO border days are so uneventful that there aren't really good opportunities for alternates.

Three weeks and 600 miles for the rest of Colorado. Can I pull it off? I'm sure it'll snow on me at least once, it's just a question of how much.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Rawlins, WY (Sep 9)

Hi all. Poor planning (I shouldn't have stayed in Lander) means I have to wait here for the PO to open tomorrow morning. Oh well. On my way into town a disabled vet gave me $1 and then said I could stay at his place, so it's all good. I did blow a day, but let's hope it doesn't matter.

The desert was quick and easy. Lots of antelope and wild horses, and no 105 degree heat.

For those of you wondering how much planning it takes to do a high-speed long-distance hike like this (or for those cool people out there that would like to send me cookies or details of the college football season), here's the e-mail I just sent my folks about resupplies for the rest of my hike.


Hi. Here's my plan. The town name, the date I'll be there, and the
miles from previous town, plus what I'd like to happen. An asterisk
indicates I need you to send stuff.

*Rawlins 9/9

*Steamboat Springs, CO
Fri 9/14 (140) I just need the maps. I'll mail food from here to
Monarch and maybe Ghost Ranch too.

Grand Lake, CO 9/17 (80)
Silverthorne, CO 9/19 (82)

*Twin Lakes, CO 9/22 (76)
Please send the regular packet of maps, plus the last pair of Montrail
shoes, plus the Montbell down jacket that I just ordered from
backcountrygear.com (check my yahoo account for the order
confirmation if nothing shows up)

*Monarch Crest Store 9/25 (151)
Please send the maps that you would've sent to Lake City here instead.
Their address is: my name, c/o Monarch Crest Store, PO Box 40, Salida
CO 81201. Get it going EARLY since it's not actually at the store and
they have to drive it up there. Their phone is (719)539-4091; please
call and make sure this will work. (I'll try to do that too).

Lake City, CO--this town rocks and the guy I met there Jerry Gray is a
total stud, but I can't take the chance that the hitch will suck. Not
going.

*Pagosa Springs, CO 10/2 (216) My biggest haul so far, but I've GOT
to do the San Juans. Please send the maps that you would've sent to
Chama, NM. 10/2 is a Monday, but to make life easier (hopefully),
please send them to me, c/o Namie Bacile. I'll mail food from here to Pie Town, maybe.

Chama, NM. Too long a hitch after too few miles. Not going.

*Ghost Ranch, NM. 10/7 (150) Please send new shoes. I'll try and buy
a new pair somehow, but Montrail's pro-purchase site is down today.
The address is on the original itinerary.

Cuba, NM 10/9 (55) At least it's got a good Mexican place.

*Grants, NM 10/13 (110) Please send maps.

*Pie Town, NM 10/16 (85) Please send maps for the rest of New Mexico.
Be sure the Antelope Wells route and the Gila NF map are in there.
I'll sort things out and might forward some maps to Silver City, NM.

Silver City, NM 10/21 (170) I might forward maps here. If I'm on
schedule, this will be pretty tight, so I might just hold on to all
the maps from Pie Town.

YO-YO MEXICO! 10/25? (120)

I might need more shoes than indicated (either at Pie Town or Silver
City), let's hope not. Also, this is obviously an *ideal* schedule.
Pretty much any snow means this is way off.

Also:get a big box ready for when I call you begging for my snowshoes,
trekking poles, extra long-johns, cannister-top stove, and tiny
titanium cup (NOT the pot that the stove is in, somewhere there's a
titanium cup.) Also, please weigh the trash bag I returned (and still
have one of) and compare it to the trash bags in my room (there's a
bag of hefty or glad in there somewhere). If I'm right that it's
measurably lighter, send along one of mine, please.

love ya!!!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Lander, WY (Sep. 5)

First, happy belated birthday Mom. There were no phones at 13,000 feet when I was boulder-hopping across glacial moraines on the Divide in the northern half of the Winds, so I didn't call. Please accept my apologies.

Anyway, I'm in Lander now. Here's the skinny: after 5 nights in Yellowstone on a made-up route that had some very cool parts (ridges, canyons, bison) I reconnected with the official CDT at Two Ocean Pass. The next day I got to Dubois, WY. Hitching took forever, but I finally got a ride from Matt Carpenter, a guy that horse-packed the entire trail a couple years ago starting at Canada in April and raised something like $8 million for the Make a Wish Foundation. (Google him, or try something like diamondc.wyoming.com?). Yes, starting southbound in April is nuts, and yes, taking 16 horses over some of these high passes is nuts, but this guy puts Jeremiah Johnson to shame. I entered the Winds and did two absolutely amazing high-route alternates--walking the Divide from Union Peak to Tourist Creek, and going over Knapsack Col into the Titcomb Basin (my vote for the most beautiful place on the planet.) The Winds are totally spectacular. The high routes were spectacular. Seeing a Wilderness area with lots of other people doing the same thing I'm doing (backpacking, duh) even after Labor Day was spectacular.

You know what else is spectacular? That I've been headed south for a month now, and I have had only one day that I hiked no new trail. (The day from Two Ocean Pass to Brooks Lake Lodge/the road to Dubois.) Yet I'm still on the CDT. There's just so many alternates and way too much cool stuff for just one trail. I'm headed back into the Red Desert now, and I'm guessing that one or two of the next couple days will be exactly the same trail as I covered northbound, but it will be great that it's not 105 degrees out.

Of course I am the last southbound hiker, but all is well. My route from Butte didn't put me ahead of Andrew Skurka, and I'm probably still a couple weeks behind Francis Tapon, but no worries. I'm giving myself goals to make the southbound hike have panache (or insert your preferred cheesy french-sounding word there, aplomb might also work.) First I made up a route through Glacier that included the Floral Park traverse, then I made up a (second) new route through the Bob Marshall, then I took a 30-year old alternate from Butte that nobody does anymore and added my own route through Yellowstone, then I followed the Divide and crossed glaciers at 13,000+ feet in the Winds. So life is good. The rest of Wyoming doesn't hold much potential for spectacularity, but Colorado has lots. I'd like to do the Rocky Mountain National Park loop, but I doubt I'll be able to convince myself to hike a 30-mile loop. Mostly I'll just be sure to do any high routes I avoided nobo, including the Silverthone-Copper Mountain non-bike-trail route.

Oh, and if I could get someone to mail me postcards every Monday morning with a summary of VA Tech, Cal, and Ohio State's football games from that week (and the Redskins as soon as the NFL gets started), as well as their standing in the AP poll, I would love that person forever and ever. Every mail drop from here to Pie Town, NM should go as scheduled (except for my being 2 weeks ahead of schedule). Elisa Barber, you sent me cookies; I am madly in love with you. However, the fact that you addressed them simply to "Garry" is truly ridiculous. Thank goodness for the postal miracle that got them to me.