We woke up fairly early on the side of a very uneven slope overlooking Lima. We knew it would be a beautiful sunrise, but part of us was too exhausted to get out of the tent to look. Instead we laid there and talked to each other about our plans for the day. Part of us wanted to hike as fast as we could to get to Leadore, but the other half wanted to explore the area. When we looked at our maps, the official trail went in more of a straight line and skipped a lot of the dramatic mountains we wanted to wonder through. After next to zero discussion, we decided to take the route that would be nine miles longer but with better views. This motivated us to finally get out of the tent and get walking for the day.
Just a short ways down the trail, we took a side trip to visit a small cave we had heard about. Sure enough, as we approached the edge of a giant white cliff, there was a deep shaft with hundreds of bones laying at the bottom. Our map read that during the winter, snow covered the entrance and animals fell through only to be trapped in the pit below. Garbelly began to climb down, but then decided it was not the best time to get trapped in a deep pit.
After we headed a mile or two down the mountain, we came to the junction of the alternate trail going over Deadman Pass. Some hiker out there once said, "it's not about the miles, it's all about the smiles." We headed west down a road for awhile, then it quickly turned into a bushwhack through sage brush and tall grass. While wading through the waste deep grass we startled a few large sandhill cranes that took off through the air with their rattling call resonating through the field. We were definitely startled by them, too, and quickly remembered how massive their seven to eight foot wing span is as they fly through the air.
Finally, we made it to a trail that fit the description of the trail we needed to take. The plan would be to hike to a lake right on the divide and then bushwhack over a large hill and down into a different valley. From here we would hike over a pass and back to trail.
Within the first hundred yards of this trail, we became surrounded by wild raspberry bushes. This is never a good thing for making quick miles, but we didn't care because they were delicious. Looking at the ground, we saw bear prints and just about every other animal print you could imagine. As we continued the steps faded as the trail took us winding through a narrow valley.
Before we knew it, we heard a deep rumble. It seemed extremely close. It went silent. Then we heard it again and realized it was our stomachs. We had not eaten yet and it was nearing noon. Unfortunately we had not made near the mileage that we had hoped to have at this time of the day. We found some shade near a small cave and laid down on a cool rock as we snacked on Cheetos.
After lunch, we quickly made it up to Divide Lake. Garbelly tried to catch a few fish with no luck. We were way behind schedule, but we did not care. It had been an awesome day of adventure. It felt good to rely solely on our paper maps for a day. As we passed over the large berm behind the lake and entered a new valley, we felt the thrill of adventure. We also felt dumb as we found out the creek on our map was bone dry. With half a liter of water between the both of us and seven miles until the next water, we contemplated hiking southbound to get water. However, since neither of us had much experience hiking south, we decided we would press onward.
We had hiked about two miles, when we rounded a bend in the valley, we found ourselfs staring at shale cliffs that spanned thousand of feet above the trail.
Fortunately for us, a tiny stream of snow melt from the last remaining patch of snow poured down the mountain. We eagerly put our water bottles under the stream and thanked the mountains for the wonderful gift. We only had a few hundred feet left to climb to the top of Deadman's pass and we sped right through it. Towards the top however, we started noticing tiny fossils on every rock around us. We slowed down and began looking at every small fossil and wondering how old it must have been. We saw a dozens that looked like shells and others like small crinoids. The biology nerds definitely came out and we searched the entire pass for fossils.
The rest of the day consisted of us scrambling down the pass and finding our way back to the official CDT. This was easier planned than executed however, and ended up being a couple hours of bushwhacking. Along the way we ran into large herds of black angus and dozens of albino cows with bright red eyes.
We stopped at a creek crossing to filter water and eat dinner before continuing on to camp. When the horizon opened back out to prairie lands that stretched for miles was where we stopped for the night. The sun was sharing its last rays of light with us before we were sucked back into the comfortability of darkness.
Cheers to bonus miles!
Garbelly & Critter