Photo courtesy of Andrew King - D4 Productions

Saturday, September 26, 2009

CT - Days 7-9

Quick update: As some of you know, I've been pretty sick the last week and the test results are back, I have giardiasis. No need for me to explain the symptoms but if wanna know what if feels like then take your worst moment in an ultra AND TIMES IT BY TWO! I'm not kidding! Like I said before I used a device called a Steripen but apparently it missed this one, little bug. Could have been user error but the water was sketchy to begin with. And as Paul puts it "So far the SPOT has been spotty and the Steripen, well, shitty.

Day 7
Start 5:58 A.M.

Marshall Pass - Hwy 114 35.6 myles
9 hours 38 minutes - 3.7 MPH

Waking up this morning, I had some doubt if I could continue this journey as the shin hurt for the first time before starting the day. Harsha and I started almost right on schedule and it was cold - probably upper 20s at almost 11,000 ft.
Harsha and I in the cold morning

I had scouted out this section on my way down to Hardrock and even camped in the same location as Rick parked the trailer. The first 5 myles of Segment 16 were high on a ridge line with great views. Sure was nice having some company and we even had Harsha's dog (Babu) to clear the trail in front of us. The night before I had put a dual badder (almost 100 oz) in for the first time because the CT book showed virtually no water all the way to Hwy 114. The sun came up over the ridge and immediately we felt the heat, it was gonna be a hot one so the extra fluid will come in handy.

We got to the point were I had been previously and just about that time the trail turned bad. Severe downhill, completely ripped up by ATVs, and rocks, rocks, rocks. It stayed this way for the rest of the segment up on a ridge line so I was forced to bandage up left shin and pop 4 Advil - seemed to take the edge off going downhill. The only time I didn't feel the shin was hiking uphill and there wasn't much on this section.

Down through the rocks

Making good time, nonetheless, we finally got off the ridge and entered some open area that was a nice change. Harsha and I stopped a few times to eat, collect our thoughts, and really take a step back to realize this amazing place we were in - simply amazing.

Nice open area with views

Harsha was a great pacer in that he was always talking to me to get my latest status and even running ahead to take some great pictures. Thanks Harsha.


The day went on, in and out of the canopy of trees and up and down ridges when I started to notice that my right shin was not normal anymore. I had probably been compensating with my left so much that it put too much stress on the right. Great! As a precautionary measure, I had put K-tape on both shins before leaving and whatever it does, it's better than nothing. At this point, I just wanted to be done for the day but not to push too hard to create a deficit for tomorrow. Thank goodness the trail cooperated with a nice meandering single track and then a slight dirt road in the end. Rick had driven part way up the road and I was very surprised to see him because we were a little early and he had a big drive from Marshall Pass to Hwy 114. For the first time on this journey I was doubting my start in the morning.

But I knew better than to jump to conclusions so I took it one step at a time by getting back to get cleaned up, take care of the shins, eat, and then eat, get stuff ready for tomorrow, eat again, go to bed, and then see what the morning brings.

My typical "first" serving

Day 8
Start 3:53 A.M.
Hwy 114 - Spring Creek Pass (Hwy 149) 55 myles*

18 hours 23 minutes - 3.3 MPH

After a night discussing options with Rick and Paul we decided to make a push all the way to Spring Creek Pass.

It was a real early start this morning, in fact I don't think I slept a wink. Up to this point in the journey I had not slept good at all, but last night was particularly bad with me worrying about everything. Paul had drove in around 5 last night and had been keeping tabs on me through my SPOT (phffft) and through Rick Hessek so he knew a little about my shins.

Originally I had planned on spending three days with a pack, with this day getting to San Luis Pass (~40 myles). Because access was minimal (at best) I knew Rick would have a tough time with a 5th wheel and also knew I would be tired at this point, making a 50+ day real tough. We discussed it and came to the conclusion that the extra weight on my back would make my shins worse than trying to go an extra 15 myles.

With both shins wrapped Paul and I were off. The nice thing for me was that this first segment (18) was relatively flat and gave me a chance to warm up. On the flip side, Paul was fresh and fast. We actually ran the majority of the first 6 myles, having a pace near 4.5 MPH. I did the best I could to stay upbeat to Paul about my situation and he did the same with his mentoring.

Paul running away from me early in the day

I had only one issue trying to find the trail with a sketchy unmarked intersection up to this point, make this two. And a big TWO it was. Not only was it a big day but we could ill afford to make any mistakes. We were running good on some nice sections when we arrived at Saguache park road. My Garmin said 16.7 myles and the data book said 13.8 for the end of this segment at this road. No signs on the road to go left or right but the data book said we should turn left. We went up the road about a mile and then Paul went even further to reduce my traveling - no confidence markers at all! To top if off, the data book had elevations at certain points that were not consistent with my Garmin. (As a side note, I called the CTF when I got home and they indicated that the new 4th edition data book is incorrect and they didn't catch it until the book had been shipped).

This book doesn't make any sense

We finally got to a road that was mentioned in the data book -FS 597, but it was telling to go the opposite way. Thinking the book was faulty we went up the road anyway and now I resorted to the GPS way points that Christian loaded into his watch. I asked it to take me to the nearest way point and it was the first way point of Segment 19 at 0.5 myles - no way! We had already traveled 3 or 4 myles and it was looping us back around. We ignored it and went left instead, cause it seemed to be the right way. Out in the middle of nowhere we met up with some hunters from MN and they indicated seeing signs down around the corner, they were right and we felt like we had only gone an extra 3 or 4 myles -whew! That was until we hit a sign for the original FS 597 (about an hour later) that we had been looking for..... I looked down at my GPS, we had gone in a great big 5.8 mile circle in almost two hours and now we were back to square one. Whacha gonna do?? Well, put one foot in front of the other and forghettabout it.

We continued on, enjoying as much of the beauty as we could but in the back of my mind I was doing quick math. We were gonna be done way after dark no matter how fast we went. Originally I had a goal of getting off the trail everyday before dark, well throw that one out the window. After Eddiesville TH the worst was yet to come as far as ups and downs.

Gotta love the name!

Paul and I were entered a section that would remain above 12K for most of the next 25 myles but it was absolutely stunning. Both my shins were starting to have sharp pains when I was descending for long periods of time so we frequently had to stop. I was still climbing good but for every up, you gotta go down

Near San Luis Peak

8 more miles to go and it was nearing dark when we happened up a sheep herder. Just a young kid with a big rifle. Come to find out he had been up there since July 10th - no wonder he made his way over to talk to us. I'll leave it at that and let Paul tell the rest of the story about helping sheep over the fence...

A look at one of the descents

The last part of this segment went on forever. It was dark and thank goodness flat but we were nearing 9 P.M. and at this point I didn't think I would see another day of the Colorado Trail. My shins were severely swollen and now constant sharp pains in both. We knew we were getting closer because we found a pack of batteries that Rick had left on the trail. Finally we made it just after 10 P.M. and just like every night before Rick was there tending to our every need. We had a hot meal, cold Coke, and ice for the shins ready to go. I am truly, truly thankful.

I'm sure my body language said it all but neither Rick or Paul said anything. Like before, go through the routine and see what the morning brings. If it's a go tomorrow then it'll be a late start for sure.
*60.8 myles today because of the detour

Day 9
Start - 11:00 A.M.

Spring Creek Pass - Carson Saddle 27.6 myles

9 hours 31 minutes - 2.9 MPH

Legs are swollen; thinking about compartment syndrome and the remoteness of the stretch we are about to tackle in the San Juan's for the next couple of days.

Obviously it's a big decision day. Paul later told me that if he had to make a guess at the time he would have guessed that I was done. I slept until 8 A.M. which was very nice seeing that I'd been up by 4:45 A.M. every morning since the start. My first few steps were taken very gingerly but I was surprised to not feel any worse than the night before. I elected to pack my pack and take it for a spin up and down the trail. No sharp pains, a 15 lb pack, and a baggie full of Advil and it was go time!

Rick and I before heading off for two days

We made final details of an emergency plan (if needed) and we were off. I knew Rick was worried because waiting and not knowing is the worst. I felt like we were heading into the abyss and if we returned we would be hero's - not that this is the case but that's what it felt like.

Heading into the Abyss - The San Juan's

The San Juan's are arguable the most beautiful mountain range in the continental U.S. I have come to love this place through my running of the Hard Rock 100. I was eager to show Paul parts of the course and some of it he already knew through the San Juan Solstice course but nonetheless stunning all the way through.

Paul early in the day with a storm approaching

We quickly passed the yurt and got onto the San Juan Solstice course and being familiar we knew how far it was to Carson Saddle. It was cold up on that ridge line with a storm approaching so we wanted to make quick work of it. Paul was pulling me along as best as he could but I couldn't manage anything better than 3.4 MPH. We made it to the high point of the CT at 13,200 ft, snapped a couple photos, and got down into Carson Saddle for lunch.

High point of the CT @ 13,270

Originally we were to make it to Carson Saddle and stay the night but it was only 5 P.M. and since we had daylight we continued on. We checked the sketchy data book for possible campsites and because we were so high they were limited. We had our choice of a site about 5 myles into the next segment or almost 10 myles, we elected for the second one. This would even up the days with packs around 28 myles each. And because my family was coming back I wanted to make Friday a short(er) day.

This moss was almost a neon green

My shins were holding up fairly well and it doesn't hurt that the scenery is spectacular. It always seems to be a lot longer to go when you don't know where you're going than if you do. This was the case for Paul and I as darkness hit us around 8 P.M., we knew based on time that we were close to the second campsite. But how close? We almost walked right past it in the dark but the data book and Paul's sharp mind saved us. We had to go down Cuba Gulch about 1/4 mile to find the campsite and the data book had a very vague description at best. We found it and the first thing I did was send an O.K. message with my SPOT - I hope it worked this time... I later found out that it did work. After that I immediately started up the stove for our meals - we were hungry! But this time for a meal we wouldn't get pampered by Rick, it was Backpackers Pantry and it would have to do. We are still above 12,000 ft and probably the only flat spot all around (probably the highest I've camped).

After eating Paul and I settled into our own bivy sacks. I put on every ounce of clothing that I had because at this altitude I knew it was gonna get cold. I never got cold but I did not sleep a wink! During the night there were elk all around us bugling. I was so uncomfortable, shifting from side to side all night long because of the hard ground - I couldn't wait for the morning and get going. Morning came and I went down to get water at our nearby source, it was a trickle at best AND big animal prints everywhere...

Through 9 days - 391.2 myles

Guess you kinda know where I'm going with the water and animal tracks but stay tuned anyway

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