A rustle, then the sound of faint talking. Chris and Glimmer were awake. Which means that if we wanted to hike together, which we did, then we would have to start waking up. It sounds like such an easy task, but when facing the icy cold air it becomes nearly impossible.
We began hiking through a large meadow at 9,500 feet. Here an old cabin sat amongst a field full of chocolate colored cattle. Just about the field we saw hints of snow, but we decided to ignore them. Descending down the meadow towards a stream, the thick green grass turned into a wet cold swamp and we tiptoed on top of the large clumps of grass as not to get our feet wet. To the west, views of the multicolored plateaus in the Chama River valley could still be seen. To the east, the Sangre de Cristo mountains seemed to stretch so high in the sky that they scraped the clouds, leaving their tops snowy white.
Just as the four of us had gotten into our hiking rhythm, a young bull elk darted in front of us stopping us in our tracks. He ran away in a zig zag line as we watched him fly up the mountain we were about to ascend. As we reached the top of the climb we saw something surprising, more so than elk, snow.
After topping a ridge, we descended down towards an ice cold mountain stream. Filtering water, we discussed plans for the route ahead. Numerous CDT routes that had been official routes covered our maps. We decided that with the snowy areas and marshes we would hike up a previous route and get to higher ground. Climbing up a steep hillside, we slipped and slid on loose scree, losing half of a step every step we took. After thirty minutes of climbing we finally reached a relatively flat field with a small four wheeler track snaking through the middle. Following the track we passed a few CDT markers until the trail became completely covered by snow. Glimmer and Chris quickly walked ahead of us while we stopped for a bathroom break.
Quickly we began hiking down the snowy slopes when Critter mentioned that she thought she had heard a car. There was no way that any vehicle could make it to drive where we were walking. Then around the corner came two men on four wheelers. They slowed to a halt and shut off their engines. Smiling they asked us where we were headed. We teased with the usual, "hopefully Canada."
They both chuckled in amazement. Garbelly asked if they were up in the mountains scouting or just on a joyride. They admitted to us that they owned some ranch below the mountains and had been up fishing.
"Would you like some fish," the younger man man asked.
We were in shock, "no we don't want to take your fish."
He kicked his right boot up and over the seat, opened up a hard container and lifted out a green sack. He pulled out a twelve inch rainbow trout and a six or seven inch brookie. They were gorgeous. We did not really have a way to cook it, but we would figure out a way to eat fresh fish on trail. We accepted the two brookies and told the men we thought two hungry hikers just up the trail would readily accept the large rainbow.
Sure enough, Chris and Glimmer had accepted the gifted fish. While leaping and wading through a few streams we discussed how we would prepare it. Chef Chris talked about having butter powder and lemon powder, and Critter mentioned her Italian seasoning. Our mouths watered as we walked. Just as we were reaching six thirty, we could not find any campsites that had water or were flat. We power hiked a few minutes and found an open field near a road. Just below here, a slow moving creek passed a beautiful area bedded in pine.
Garbelly built a fire while Critter and Glimmer set up camp and Chris cleaned the fish. Within thirty minutes we were huddled around the fire eating our meals and all giddy of the fresh fish we had been given.
We ate dinner and had trout for desert. The fire grew hotter before winding down to glowing coals. It was time for bed and to dream about the delicacy of fresh fish on trail.
Cheers to trail magic, fresh fish, and friends.
Garbelly & Critter