South San Juan Wilderness 2003
High, Wild and Windy
Friday, September 19 Susie and I were stuffing bags by 6:30 am. The tent was totally frozen solid. The temperature difference, Diane remarked, between our tent site and that of others was pretty amazing. You could really feel the difference. The thermometer confirmed it: 20 degrees at our tent, and 32 degrees near Sue and Andy's abode. Their and Lance's tents had no frost on them. Pretty incredible what a few feet in elevation difference can do. Susie and I heated water while we packed up, and were underway by 7:50 am. We were first out of camp, but then we were the slowest of the bunch. Susie was miffed at Lance, because she thought he was dawdling too much and since he was one of the drivers, he really had to be out first. I thought she was overdoing it more than a bit, mainly because at the speed Lance hikes, he could probably make up a half hour on us every 90 minutes or so. Well, Susie stewed as we rolled along, first doing some short climbs (nothing is EVER completely downhill), and then heading toward First Meadow. But true to my suspicions, Lance caught us after about an hour and a half, and Susie felt so guilty for thinking poorly of him that she gave him a big hug when he passed us.
It was another gorgeous day. You know that the weather HAD to take a turn sometime, but it didn't look like that would happen any time soon. We hauled ass down the trail, trying to keep in mind that we had to run a 2 hour plus car shuttle. It was a shame to run through the beautiful country, but we were trying to keep up - successfully, I might add - with T&D (although I am sure they were poking along, just to make us feel good). The trail was rough in spots, necessitating paying attention to one's foot placement, instead of the views, but we paused every few minutes to drink in the experience. We chugged through the lowlands of Elk Creek, and crossed a big bridge heading toward the car. The cottonwoods along side the creek had also turned, and it was like being in a golden forest. We arrived at the car at 10:10 am, having taken 2 hours and 20 minutes to come at least 4.5 miles, so we were feeling pretty frisky. We were pretty amazed to see the same tent and couple of guys sitting in a small truck that we had seen at the same spot last Saturday morning. Maybe they were semi-homeless, or maybe they just like hanging out.
No matter. We spread out the wet tents and four of us (three drivers and Diane, who thought she would come along for the ride) headed out of the trailhead in Tim's low slung sedan at about 10:30. He did not feel comfortable driving up the rough road with a full sedan at a particularly high rate of speed, but it was a good excuse to chat and watch the scenery go by. One hour and 18 minutes later, we arrived at the vans, having forgotten how far back it is off the main road to the trail head. We were back to the rest of the crew at Elk Creek a few minutes after 1 pm, and were rolling down the highway at 1:15. Even though we were in the big van, Susie and I were by ourselves, as A&S and Lance and Ray were headed back to their respective motels in Pagosa Springs. Susie and I stopped in Chama to make a quick phone call back to the legal team with whom I work, to get an update on trial progress. I was thinking that I might have to fly directly to Miami for trial right after getting home to Knoxville (instead of flying to Norfolk for a conference) but the trial schedule had slipped, so I was good to enjoy my last 1.5 days of vacation.
We arrived at Chez Bowden about 3:20 pm, there being very few road construction delays on this particular leg of the trip. Time for a shower, shave, and an attempt to be presentable before the other four showed up a bit after five for cocktails, and to enjoy the view from T&D's front porch: a dead on view to the east of the continental divide, nearly exactly where we had been hiking. After taking Lance and Ray on the obligatory tour of the estate, showing off the 1 inch thick topsoil that covers the bed rock (T&D had to glue their foundation to the rock to build their house), we headed out to Isabel's for dinner on the west side of town. Very nice, atmosphere, wine list, and food presentation. One guy looked at us kinda strange, and motioned me to "shhh." I think we were used to talking with each other over the roar of the wind that we had not yet adjusted our voices to a restaurant-acceptable decibel level.
A&S and Lance took off the next morning early to ride the Durango to Silverton narrow guage railway. Susie and I left T&D's at 7:45 am, picked up Ray at 8 am, caught the Fall Festival hot air balloon launch in downtown Pagosa a few minutes later, and headed on down the highway to ABQ. We got to the airport early enough to have a large lunch and margarita at Garduno's before we headed to the gate. Looked like the planes were on time. Life was good. And NOT windy.
© Roger A. Jenkins, 2003