September 9th, 2019
Mm 1960.3 to Monchego Creek mm 1994.5
Distance in miles: 34.2
The elk call all night and there are also some coyotes making a racket so close for the longest time. While half asleep, I mumble something about them shutting up and they actually do, as if they were close enough to hear me. But it’s a very peaceful night overall and I wake excited to hike. We hope to do a big day to be well positioned for taking on the start of the San Juans the following day.
We start in the very first light, now so late that I still need my headlamp at 6 am. We walk through more meadows at the top of the mesa, enjoying the views of the sun coming up behind the mountains. Two bachelor bull elk make a brief appearance in a clearing, playing a risky game this time of year (it’s bow and musket season). Luckily for them, we are just silly hikers and not hunters.We crush the miles in the morning. The trail follows the ridge of the Cochetopa Hills, going up and down 200 feet here and 400 feet there. It’s mostly in the trees and feels like the roller-coaster that is the AT. We meet about 6 NOBOs and pass 5 SOBOs, all doing the CT.
There are also 5 motorcycles flying up one of the hills that catch us by surprise. The first 2 don’t give way and I have to jump off the trail to avoid being hit. They actually throttle up as they go by, even while I yell at them to slow down since there are more hikers behind us. They don’t care. The other 3 are courteous and stop to pull over to let us pass. If everyone did the same, we could all coexist. But as it stands, I think it’s a bit dangerous to mix people on foot with people on fast machines, all on a 2 ft wide single track trail.
The rocky, up and down trail gives way to an old railroad that is super cruisy in the afternoon. There are also dirt roads leading through sagebrush valleys, past cow pastures. It’s easy going and the miles fly by.Water is more scarce on this section but it hardly bothers me. We don’t stop for water until about 20 miles into the day, carrying just what we had from the night before. The day is cool so I don’t need as much. Due to the recent rain, all the sources are flowing. But they are all impacted by cows. At the last stream of the day, we find a bloated dead cow laying right next to the culvert. We collect water upstream but it’s a little off-putting, to say the least. But I’ve collected water from so many questionable sources along the CDT, this one hardly registers.
We find a nice campsite just up the road and settle in just as the last rays of sun fade away. It was a most perfect day weather-wise and I hope for more as we head into the high country.