24.2 miles hiked, camping @ 8543 ft
Everything, as expected, is absolutely soaking wet when we wake. I’ve never seen so much water dripping from a tent when we remove the rain fly. We spread it all out on trees facing the morning sun, along with socks and gaiters and bandanas. A bunch of curious cows, whose incessant moos woke us, have gathered to inspect the strange people with their strange things, creeping closer and closer until I spy the giant giant bull joining the ranks and I shoo them away.
Things sufficiently dry, it all gets packed away and we head off into the sunny day. The continuation of the road we were on yesterday is horribly muddy as expected. Every step we are sliding backwards and collecting more and more things on our mud-magnet soles.
Around us are wide fields with occasional clumps of aspen or small oak trees, lots of patches of corn lillies loving the marshy ground. We follow a series of roads, each one getting a little better and I stop to collect water from a small trickle. Looking at the maps, there is supposed to be a highway through here, but all we see are trees and grass. Suddenly a convoy of 6 cars appears on the horizon that zoom past us on a dirt road. Huh?? I was not expecting to see anyone out here!
We follow the ‘highway’ for a mile or so then veer off into the meadow on a small trail. Slowly but surely nature takes over the path, and before we know it we are bushwhacking Montana-style through thick overgrown bushes, climbing over blowdowns, and losing the trail.
Finally we make our slow way through and stop in a sunny patch at a stream for water and lunch, where I happily remove socks and shoes to dry, and pick out a thousand grass seeds that have come to live in my socks from the bushwhacking.
I laugh at how fast the bloody clouds appear. Not 20 minutes sitting in the sunlight and dark fluffy ominous shapes have gathered above for their lunchtime sprinkling. We pack up and hike on. There is a detour marked due to un-passable trail, then the trail joins up again and we weave through boggy meadows, stop to chat to a rancher on horseback, and are back out into pine forest.
We pass a big camp of trail workers. They have been very busy cutting beautiful new trail through here so that we don’t have to hike on the dirt roads. We don’t actually see any of the workers, but pass tents galore.
We wind down a narrow trail through trees and end up with a respectable 24.2 miles hiked on the banks of the Rio Vallecitos. A nice flat spot underneath pine trees, with the rush of the river to lull us to sleep. It’s not cloudy any more so we take our chances and tie the rain fly back, hoping to minimise condensation. Time for a well earned rest. Goodnight!