Day 20: San Juans Scenery

Saturday July 10, 22.3mi/35.9km

Lake 12200 (380.7/12205ft) to Elk Creek Pond (403.0/9995ft) (CO)

I left camp at 7am, and everyone else was awake and packing up.

I climbed up out of the lake basin, to the first of many passes.

The trail stayed high on the continental divide all day, and the views were endless.

I don’t know the name of these maroon flowers, but they seem to like to grow in big clusters.

Since I’m so far above treeline, I could see many miles of the trail ahead. Here, it drops down to a saddle, and back up the next ridge.

I kept strolling thru the San Juan mountains all morning, engrossed by the scenery.

I crossed a tiny stream, flowing directly out if a snowfield. Now that’s fresh water!

Since there are no trees to put trail markers on, the trail is marked by many Cairns. Some are quite artistic.

The scenery just kept coming.

I could see all the little switchbacks in the trail up ahead, as it climbed the opposite hillside.

Once I climbed the opposite hillside, I could see down into a verdant lush valley.

I descended into that valley, and I crossed another little stream. Except this wasn’t just any stream, it was the headwaters of the Rio Grande!

KOKO caught up to me! We had camped at the same spot last night, and she was fun to talk to. We hiked together for the rest of the day. I had hiked this section before on the CDT, and I enjoyed seeing the same places again in summertime. The old mine at Stony Pass looked much the same.

The old mining cabin looked a little more dilapidated, though.

We spent most of the afternoon up on the divide, hiking thru fields of wildflowers.

And fields of snow.

Finally it was time to depart the continental divide, where the CT continues west, while the CDT goes south.

The initial descent off the divide was quick and steep, using dozens of switchbacks.

Then we followed a steep trail, with Elk Creek on one side and a rock wall on the other.

After going down a couple thousand feet, we were in the Elk Creek Valley. Some of the little streams had this cool hydrophobic green moss. The water would roll right over it, without soaking in.

Over the winter, there was an avalanche, and the snow brought down hundreds of trees, which we had to slowly climb thru.

We arrived at a campsite near a pond, and called it a day. It was almost 6pm.

Across the pond was an amazing view of Arrow Peak and Vestal Peak, which KOKO has been to before, and attempted some of the technical climbing routes. I’ll have to come back!

Our campsite was nice and flat, and sheltered by some trees. It’s nice being below treeline sometimes!

Tomorrow, I’m going into Silverton, my first town in a week! I’m pretty excited about a shower and a breakfast burrito.

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