07/17/20 – We woke up in a wet camp and had breakfast. Ashley had been having some knee pain during our descents the day before and despite icing it while we were in camp (thanks Lance for trekking to the snow bank!), her knee was very tight and painful this morning. Reluctantly, she and Glenn decided to leave us and head for Silverton down the Stoney Pass Road. While still quite a descent, it was half the distance (10 miles) compared to the 20+ mile Colorado Trail route.
We left camp and hiked a short distance up the road with Glenn and Ashley to where the single track trail into Segment 24 left the road. As we walked, the sheep dogs seemed to be leading the flock of sheep down the road in the opposite direction. One very persistent dog positioned himself between us and the sheep and barked at us. We slowly continued, but the dog stayed with us, barking up a storm, as we worked our way through the sheep. We parted ways with Glenn and Ashley and headed out on the trail once again, the barking dog following us until we were well past the edge of the flock.
Persistent Sheep Dog
Glenn and Ashley slowly made their way down the road for a couple of hours, when a very nice couple (retired sheriff and his wife) stopped and offered Ashley a ride down the mountain in their Jeep. There wasn’t room for both of them, so they took Ashley down to get my Explorer and then Ashley picked Glenn up. They made good use of their time, as they went to the Spring Creek Pass trailhead and picked up the Suburban and ended up spending the night in Montrose. They were also able to visit our Aunt Mary in Cedaredge the next morning, before picking the rest of us up after the hike.
We entered the Weminuche Wilderness Area shortly after leaving Stoney Pass and would remain in the wilderness area until the following morning. Bruce had left camp early to get a head start, as he is prone to do…hence his trail name, Quick Draw. Lance and I watched for him as we made our way through some additional high altitude terrain above 12,000′. We finally caught up with Quick Draw after hiking about 5 miles. We soon came to the point where the Colorado Trail splits off from the Continental Divide Trail route, which we’d been following since way back in Segment 6. Together, the 3 of us continued to the top of the Elk Creek drainage (elevation 12,690′) that would lead us to the Animas River (elevation 8,918′) after a distance of nearly 9 miles.
Top of the Elk Creek Drainage Looking West
The clouds looked angry in the distance at the bottom of the valley, so we descended as quickly as we could safely go in an effort to find some trees for shelter. After traversing a series of switchbacks, the descending trail became very steep and rugged. We continued along Elk Creek to a grouping of trees and stopped to rest and eat lunch. We pulled out our rain jackets, but other than a couple of stray raindrops, we didn’t get any rain. Like the sheep dog we’d encountered earlier…lots of bark, but not much bite in that storm cloud!
After lunch, we continued our descent and came across avalanche debris covering the trail. Several avalanches occurred during the winter of 2018-2019 and an incredible amount of debris now covers several sections of the trail along the Elk Creek drainage. We picked our way across this section of debris and hiked a few more miles to a nice camp spot about 10 miles into Segment 24.
Avalanche Debris Covering the Trail as Far as the Eye Can See
Picking Our Way Across Avalanche Debris – Where’s The Trail?
We shared camp with quite a few mosquitoes that night. It seems they prefer the habitat at 10,000′ much better than the 12,000+’ where we’d camped the previous 3 nights. It was beef stroganoff for dinner and then off to bed.