CDT Day 96 San Juans

Camping @ 11234ft
15.6 miles hiked
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Tigerlily arranged a ride back to the trailhead for us with a guy that saved him from a short but brutal rainstorm on the way to the hotel yesterday. We fuss about stuffing away everything, heat up some burritos and are ready and waiting when our ride shows around 920am. Nice work Tigerlily!
We spend the ride answering questions about hiking and hikers; he has just moved to Chama and is keen to start a business supporting CDT hikers with supplies, rides and maybe accommodation. Chama could definitely use something like that! Pretty much every CDT hiker stops in Chama. For Nobos this is the point where you have to wait for snow to melt in the southern San Juans, or try and hitch north if you are flipping.
Back at the trailhead we cross over the railroad amd commence an 8ish mile gradual climb back into altitude. “Come on up!” welcomes Colorado.
We stop after only 5 miles for some water and to try and eat our food down. Our food bags are heeeaaavy! We are deliberately doing this section slowly as we have boxes at the post office – if we go normal pace we would arrive Saturday meaning more money spent on hotels and town things in a fairly pricey town. We plan on arriving in Pagosa Springs on Sunday, giving us a day to soak in the springs before getting our boxes and back on the trail Monday.
The trail gets prettier as we climb. Big rocky crags jut out from the side of the mountains, a giant waterfall spills down into a valley that we gaze across, yellow and deep purple wildflowers are scattered across the green grasses. Once up over a mountain pass the trail levels off and we are hiking on top of a flat mountain with great views either side. To the east we can see Blanca Peak and the great sand dunes. North shows us lots of high waves of mountain we are about to encounter.
Of course the clouds have all appeared and are thundering scarily above. We stop a few times trying to figure out which way they are headed, and eventually just 1.2 miles from our campsite the sky explodes around us with lightning, thunder, a small scattering of hail and loooots of rain. We hide, shivering, under a spruce until the worst has passed, then continue down to the lake where our bougie little campsite awaits.
We sit on furniture (chopped logs) while cooking our latest amazing dinner creation – a can of Amy’s vegetable soup, with a couple of spoons of vegemite stirred in, poured over ramen noodles. Sooooo gooood! We are chilled to the bone with soaking wet feet, so this yummy hot dinner, plus a wee nip of rum, are just what the doctor ordered.
As I’m settling into the tent, Grizzly comes over looking very fluxommed. “I just saw a cat…a lion…a mountain lion!” he exclaims half excited and half freaked out. Just earlier today he declared his wish to see a mountain lion – done! We put some rocks and sticks – good for throwing at said lion to scare it away should the need arise -right next to the tent. Eeeps.
There is steam coming off the lake where we are perched, and all the clouds have disappeared. It’s going to be a cold one! Maybe a pretty kitty cat will come keep us warm…
Just as I’m settling down there is the rumble of heavy hooves  in the meadow on the other side of the lake. We rush to poke our heads out and I see two beautiful big bull elk prancing around. The steam from the lake is rising up between us making them look other worldly. I stare for a while the we duck back into the warmth of the tent just as one of them lets out a little elk-y yell. I can’t wait for bugling season to begin!!! I think it is my favourite sound.
The tent is buzzed by a hummingbird flying by. So many animals tonight! Best campsite ever.