Twig Adventures

MRT Day 15: White Volcanoes

Saturday Apr 23rd, 2022, 0600-1840
Country Club & Chipmunk to just N of HWY 260 crossing, EABO mm 336, Segment 5 mm 49.
33 miles.

The wind died completely overnight, which was a great relief, but it was still very cold. Frost lined my tent in the morning and the thermometer read 25 degrees. My chemical hand warmers did the trick, keeping my footsies warm all night. We were camped at around 7,200′ this night, one of our higher camps yet, but would end the day at over 9000′. More cold was in store.

It was a beautiful morning, with sun filtering through the forest. Logging activity had removed a lot of the trees but most areas hadn’t been clear-cut, just thinned. It makes for a nice appearance for a hiker, at the least. The landscape is both shaded and with nice patches of sun. Like walking through a park.

We navigated a series of dirt roads and single track under the pines, so very soothing on the feet. We did take a wrong turn, which put us off nearly a mile, but were able to cross-country back to the trail we were supposed to be on pretty quick. This brought us to Los Burros campground, where we needed to stop for water and a toilet. I was surprised to see about 5 different groups there, some in campers and vans, others in tents. We chatted with a nice van couple, who offered to take our trash.

We finished the morning and almost all the afternoon gaining elevation…gradually. There were a few steep bits but overall it was a very gentle climb. Just after the campground, we started seeing patches of snow and aspen trees. None had leaves yet, looking very dormant. In fact, everything had the feel of laying in wait, still smashed down by the snow that had just melted. Spring wasn’t quite in full swing, though all the birds and even frogs chirping seemed to disagree. We went through some burn areas and then began weaving through huge meadows. Water was pooled everywhere in the meadows… we’d no longer need to worry about finding it.

Going cross country through the lumpy meadows reminded me of the CDT. I love such wide open spaces…when the weather is nice. Today it was perfect, warm and sunny with just a slight breeze. This stretch would not have been as fun if the wind had been howling like the day before. We also did some cross country along a fenceline, marking the boundaries of the Apache reservation. Here I spooked a few elk from their hiding spot in the dense forest. Coming out into more meadows, we were near Green mountain, which had lots of towers and a road to the top. I spotted several vehicles around this area, including a camp where people were flying drones. We topped out at 9,500′ in elevation, our highest point yet.

We made it to Swinbourne Spring for the end of the day, washing and collecting water from a trickling mountain stream surrounded by snow. The last bits of sunshine were hitting the field, so it was still comfortably warm. But as soon as I was done with my chores and thinking about a campsite, I realized we were still at 9400′ and surrounded by snow on the north side of a mountain. From previous experience, I knew tenting near snow makes for a cold and wet night.

So I hurried down the trail to find a better spot. My tent was still be damp from the condensation the night before, so I’d wanted to stop earlier to dry it. Oh well. I had to walk another few miles to come down a couple hundred feet in elevation to the edge of a meadow that was mostly free of snow. It was near HWY 260 but I found a nice spot tucked under some huge spruce trees. A few elk had previously been standing there, running off as they saw us. Wherever elk like to hang out is a good spot, protected from the wind. It ended up being a pretty big mileage day but I didn’t even feel that tired. It was pretty easy walking all day…or perhaps just too scenic to notice the miles passing by.

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