“Why do two Swiss girls come all the way out here to hike?”

August 10, 2014 § 1 Comment

Spring Creek Pass to Molas Pass – 53.3 miles 5 days

That question comes up over and over on any of our hiking trip in the US. The answer is always the same. Yes, the Swiss mountains are beautiful, but they’re different. On a hike in Switzerland, sooner or later you see signs of civilization, and not the kind you can easily overlook. Try making abstraction of a whole village across the valley.

I’ll quote two numbers that should help you get the picture. The density of Switzerland is 194,7 inhabitants/km2. Colorado is 19 inhabitants/km2 and more than half the population lives in the Denver area. In the US, and maybe even more so in Colorado, when you go out to lose yourself in the wilderness, that’s what you get. Wilderness as far as the eye can see.

Day after day, we have topped ridges only to discover new valleys beyond, to cross other tundras, to gain views to yet other mountains in the distance. Wilderness is never ending out here.

There’s been plenty of wildlife too. Marmot whistles and pika calls follow our tracks – one marmot was even perched on a trail post! We stumbled onto some ptarmigans. These birds are so well camouflaged that it’s only when we were about to step on them and they moved that we realized there were a mum and her five young ones. Deer and moose have only been brown shapes in the distance so far.

On day 2 we reached the highest point of the CT at 13’271 feet (about 4000m). Why make an easy start, huh? No, because we’re used to altitude measured in meters rather than in feet, we realized quite late what we were up to, but it’s been all right.

The high altitude (over 10’000 feet – 3000m the all time) plus the wind and a sun that’s been hiding behind clouds mean it hasn’t been so warm and has made us want to crawl back in our sleeping bags and not move anymore. But that was also day 3 and by now we know full well a lack of motivation is typical of a 3rd day of hiking so you shouldn’t listen too much to yourself and just push on.

On day 5 the CT and CDT parted ways. We followed the CT and left the CDT meandering south, 928 miles towards Mexico. With the appearance of the Grenadier Range the day before, the scenery had changed, the mountains becoming rockier and more dramatic. Now we dropped down to the Animas River and had a fright crossing the Durango-Silverton railroad tracks. Of course the train had to come our way and blow its whistle when we were walking the few meters of trail that follow the tracks!

Close to Molas Pass and Highway 550, as always when we near a trailhead, we had to wonder if the trail designers went about this way to create a trail:
“Here, pick a random number of miles.”
“Good, let’s make a first draft.”
“Shoot, we’re short of a few miles.”
“No worries, we’ll just make a 1 mile detour before each trailhead and that should do the count.”
It’s either that or they took a sadistic pleasure in imagining hikers hearing and seeing the highway that meant a night in town but rather than heading straight for it, having to go about a ridiculously circumvolunted 1 mile before reaching it. Mental torture, that’s what it is.

It hasn’t been hard to adjust to the slower pace. CT thru-hikers we met have mentioned the conflict they experience: making the necessary daily miles to complete the trail in the time they have and still enjoy it. Although we understand them, we’ve been there, we’re happy we can say: “No, that’s not us, not this time.”
It was even hard for us to comprehend that the number of miles we’ve done in 3 days on this trip, we once did in one single day.

Regarding food we still have to adapt. Now in Silverton we’re still carrying a ridiculously huge amount of food. We packed the quantity we were used to eat while we hiked between 8-10 hours a day and we had been at this for about 5 months. That’s not us anymore, we barely eat half of this.

Other than that we’re doing good. By day 2 we’d slipped right back into our trail routine, it was like we’d never left the trail and it feels good! So back out we go, see you in a couple of days.

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