9/19/19 – We woke up at the usual
time and had breakfast. Mark had thoughts of hiking to the summit of San
Luis Peak (14,014′), so he left camp early to check that out. We would
pass within 1.25 miles (and a 1,400′ vertical feet) of the San Luis Peak summit
early today. This is the closest encounter with a fourteener that Colorado
Trail hikers get. Though tempting, I decided to forego the opportunity,
given the planned hiking for today and the 2-3 hour round trip it would take to
summit the mountain.
Saddle Near San Luis Peak – The Path
of Our Early Morning Hike
As it turned out, Mark decided not
to climb San Luis Peak, given the time required and the winds that had picked
up by the time he got there. We caught up with him later in the day.
Hiking above tree line has a totally
different feel to it. The views are expansive and shelter is hard to
find. Even without a lot of vegetation, this was one of the most
beautiful hiking days we’ve had! This photo shows hoodoos…columns of
rock carved from layers of volcanic tuff (consolidated ash), from eruptions 27
million years ago.
Hoodoos Rising From the Ridgeline
Looking Back Toward San Luis Peak –
Saddle We Hiked Through on the Right
We saw several pikas and marmots
along the way also. They were busy getting ready for the coming winter.
We saw a lot of evidence of elk in the area, but didn’t see any while we
After hiking a total of 5 miles, we
reached San Luis Pass and the end of Segment 20.
Segment #21: 14.8 miles –
3,116′ elevation gain, 4,157′ elevation loss
Near the end of our day, we came
across 2 young ladies who were hiking together (probably in their 20’s).
They were both from Washington State. Although they didn’t know
each other before, they had met by chance in Leadville earlier during their
hike and decided to continue on together. It turned out that they had
both hiked the Pacific Crest Trail last year, starting 1 day apart, but never
came across each other during that hike. They were planning to finish the
CT on Tuesday, averaging over 25 miles per day. That’s really moving,
compared with our 10 to 15 miles per day!!
In all, we climbed and descended 4
saddles during the day. The wind really gets intensified as it’s funneled
up and across these mountain saddles. Trekking poles became increasingly
important in keeping our balance as we traveled up these wind-blown sections of
the trail. The views weren’t the only thing that nearly blew us away!!
After hiking about 9 miles during
the day, we arrived at our camp for the night on the bank of Middle Mineral
Creek. Although it was a relatively short day in terms of miles covered,
with the steep ups and downs and the strong winds, we were ready to stop for
the night. Beavers had dammed up the creek, creating a nice pond right
next to our campsite…waterfront camping!!
The site was back below tree line at about 11,600′, so there was plenty of cover from the trees there. We enjoyed watched the beaver, busy at work maintaining the dam as we had our lasagna dinner. As the sun went down and the fire slowly died, a rain shower came along that chased us into our tents for the night. It was bedtime anyway…