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CDT - Wolf Creek Pass to San Luis Pass, CO
mini location map2018-06-30
67 by photographer avatarBiFrost
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CDT - Wolf Creek Pass to San Luis Pass, CO 
CDT - Wolf Creek Pass to San Luis Pass, CO
Backpack avatar Jun 30 2018
Backpack140.42 Miles 30,292 AEG
Backpack140.42 Miles8 Days         
30,292 ft AEG
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The goal was to do a section of the Continental Divide Trail and decided to do the section between Wolf Creek Pass and a yet to be determined exit. I planned several possible exits based on how things went once out on the trail. In the end my exit turned out to be San Luis Pass. First, I needed a ride to Wolf Creek Pass and arranged a shuttle in Pagosa Springs to drop me off. They also allowed me to leave the 4Runner in their parking lot for the week. When we arrived at the pass the shuttle driver actually took me up to Lobo Overlook above the pass which saved about 600 feet AEG.

Day 1
With the shuttle I didn’t start hiking until 1030 so the goal was to hike to about 7pm. Rough day climatizing with elevation over 12,000 feet right away but managed 15 miles. Camped near two guys from Tulsa OK and chatted with them a bit before climbing into the tent for the night.

Day 2
Next morning felt better getting use to the elevation. Awesome views with trail right on the divide passing below South River Peak and Palomino Mtn. Ran into one guy in the morning and then a couple on horseback with their dog. Had trouble finding water at end of the day mostly because accidently passed up a good source. Ended up having to hike 200 feet down to a lake off trail but at least got water. Nobody else in camp tonight with nice spot in a meadow. Some smoke drifting in from a fire near Durango.

Day 3
Another tough day. Pretty section in the morning but then the slog began. The passes seemed steep and hiked passed area called the Knife Edge with some exposed cliffs but cool to see. Smoke from fire started rolling in afternoon with poor visibility. My Route Scout quit working at 9.4 miles and took another mile before I realized somehow the GPS got turned off. Ran into first people of the day in the afternoon just before Squaw Pass. They were thru hiking but had to exit when San Juan’s closed for a week but then got back on trail. Shortly after that ran into huge group of backpackers probably 15 people. Continued on past Squaw Creek pass to nice camp spot but did less miles than I wanted. Some ash falling from the sky at camp from the fire. Camp is at 11,700 highest so far.

Day 4
Much clearer today from smoke but it was replaced by thunderstorms. About noon one popped up behind me. Managed to stay ahead of it with only a few sprinkles. Trail stayed high on the divide most of the day until significant decent into Weiminuche Pass. Got turned around at the pass and ended up doing an extra mile or so. Then big climb out of the pass about 1800 feet but the trail was the best construction I’ve seen so far. Nearing my possible camp spot ran into 3 girls filtering water. They were part of larger group from Indiana camped nearby. The guide was from Creede Co. Went further up trail and found an awesome camp spot with great views. Rain still threatened but got camp step before. Another high camp spot at 12,200 near Rio Grande Pyramid Peak and The Window.

Day 5
Awesome day with best scenery yet passing The Window, Rio Grande Pyramid Peak, Ute Lake, Twin Lakes, and Nebo Creek. In the morning I dropped pack and side hiked The Window. Really cool rock formation on the divide with great views. Went back to my pack and hiked past another group doing Ute Peak. The Organization for these groups is called Wilderness Ranch and takes young people out on trips. Shortly after that ran into thru hiker Jean from France. We hiked off and on and are camped in same area at Bear Town Creek. Ran into two day hikers Rocky and Sloan at the end of the day by Hunchback Pass trailhead. They asked me if I needed anything and took me a minute but I said you wouldn't happen to have any beer? This is Colorado so of course they had an awesome microbrew. Sat with them and had a beverage. Turns out Rocky is from Phoenix but now lives in Durango. Nice to meet them and great way to spend the 4th!

Day 6
In the morning said goodbye to Jean..he left earlier than me. Trail immediately went back up to the divide. Spectacular scenery to Stony Pass about 7.5 miles. Stony is a popular 4wd road so there were tons of ATV's. Didn't spend long there. Next section was even more spectacular which is also where the Colorado Trail joins. Started to see more people mostly backpackers except for one day hike couple and solo mountain biker. About 2pm a major thunderstorm kicked up. Heavy rain, lightning, sleet, grapel and high winds. I took shelter in a ravine from lightning having just crossed an exposed divide. After a few minutes two women from Denver I'd passed earlier joined me. Things calmed down a bit and we continued to a lower spot. At the lower spot we discussed the options since the rain looked here to stay. They decided to camp at the low spot but I decided to continue 3 more miles over another divide to Cataract Lake because lightning had died down. However, the rain and wind continued so by the time I made it to the lake I was totally soaked and freezing. Had to setup in the rain but fortunately all the clothes and sleeping bag were dry. Shivered for about 45 minutes before finally warming up. Rain lasted 3 more hours until 815. Then was able to cook dinner. Full day 18 miles and a miserable rain storm.

Day 7
Next morning, I decided to pack everything up wet and hike 2 miles to the divide. While packing noticed someone camped the other side of the lake. Talked to him briefly before heading up. Once on the divide took an hour and a half to dry out my gear. While there the guy from the lake named Brant came by. We discussed mileage to the Colorado Trail Highpoint and Spring Creek Pass. Once he noticed it was 20 miles to the pass he hiked off quickly. With everything dry continued on to Colorado Trail Highpoint only 5.5 miles away. Part of the track to the highpoint is an ATV trail so had share the road for short section. The actual highpoint is back on trail. Once there called Kathy to discuss the exit options (yes there are some places you can get 3 and 4G on the divide). Next 10 miles from the highpoint was easy walking across plateau and passes by a backcountry yurt. Checked out the yurt and two women camping nearby pointed me to the only water source. This was good info since I needed extra for dry camp that night. Leaving the yurt the trail headed over the Jarosa Mesa. Not my favorite section and the least scenic of the whole trail so far. But got over that and made it to within a mile of Spring Creek Pass. The rain held off for the most part even though it was all around. Once in the tent and a light rain started to fall but I was setup nicely for final day to San Luis Pass.

Day 8
Managed an early start by 6am so I could get a jump on the several significant climbs on the day. I also needed to meet up with Kathy by 3pm at the trailhead for San Luis Pass. First significant climb 1000 feet to Snow Mesa from Spring Creek Pass. Once on the mesa it’s a flat 4 mile hike across. Eventually it pops back up on the divide with the cool scenery like the rest of the CDT. However, there are also several climbs with about 2500 AEG over 4 mile stretch. Ran into trail crew heading in and talked with them about the work they are doing. Over the last climb which pops over 13,000 feet before descending to San Luis Pass. Texted Kathy with Garmin InReach (no cell signal lower down) I was on the pass and heading down to the trailhead. We managed to link up on the road. At first didn’t think it was her because there was another person in the car. She had picked up a thru hiker named Joe heading back on the CDT from Creede. So we dropped him off at the trailhead and drove back to Creede for tacos and beverages at Kip’s!

Couple of last notes. If you have Verizon there is occasional cell service high up on the divide. Water was plentiful passing a source every mile or two. However, there was one 12 mile section between the Colorado Trail Highpoint and the backcountry yurt that was dry. The CDT is in great shape probably because it gets so much traffic. Used two pieces of new gear this trip. One was the Garmin InReach GPS which allows for direct texting, SOS and tracking like SPOT. Worked well and you can purchase pay as you go instead of having to be on a plan. The other item was the Suntactics S5 Solar Charger weight 7oz. Also worked well and was able to charge while walking mounted to top of my pack. Stationary it charges faster during breaks and at camp. Charged the cell running Route Scout and the GPS all 8 days! Great trip….first time in Creede Co and already thinking of possible hiking options from that location again!

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