When the rain lets up, the sun comes out. I get up to start letting some stuff dry out. I put the tarp on the ground and put stuff on it to start drying. I also use this as a dry place to sit while I eat breakfast. I decide to eat that day's lunch for two reasons. It's a little heavier (tiny sausage and cheese that I got from World Market. They don't need refrigeration, so they are perfect for the trail, in portion and weight). I also eat that because while the homemade oatmeal packs are delicious, I'm not a huge oatmeal fan and can't bring myself to eat a 5th one in a row.
When I finally decide to start breaking camp, Motown finally comes out of the tent. He was too comfy to move I guess. We don our packs, and I notice that mine finally feels so much lighter! Is it because I've consumed most of my food or because I just got my trail legs working? Probably both. We head off to the trail, both of us glad it's not raining anymore.
It's a beautiful hike out and about halfway down, I spot a huge Moose feeding in a pond not far from the trail. Well, guess we get to wait to see what he's gonna do. Moose are notoriously territorial and especially dislike dogs. There are numerous stories of people who live in the mountains, being attacked by moose while walking their dogs. The famous Four Pass Loop near the Maroon Bells was closed last year to dogs due to moose activity. That's why I didn't get to do it last year. I know, go without Motown. But really, if you know us, I could never do that as long as he is physically able to do a trip. He loves backpacking so much! If you've ever hiked with myself and Motown, you also know that he really hates to stop. All he wants to do is go. If we stop he almost immediately starts to whine. It can be really annoying and in this moment, it was potentially disastrous. “Shut up!” I whispered strongly to him. “That guy will win every time!!” We stay behind a rock for about an hour. The moose doesn't seem to care about anything but taking his time. The trail looks like it heads up the hill and away from him so I tighten Motown's leash and slowly and as quietly as possible start back up the trail. Well, the trail wasn't as far from the moose as I had hoped. He stops a couple of times and brings his head out of the water. Looks up but not at me. He senses something but doesn't see me. I'm almost on my knees trying to hide behind the bushes. I only have about 20 feet before I'm into some trees for cover. Motown doesn't even look at the moose, he's intent on the trail. My heart is pounding and my breathing is shallow. At one point the moose stops and looks right at me. We have a stare down for a moment. I have my firearm ready to just try to scare him with if I need to. All of a sudden he turns and runs the opposite direction as me. I didn't even know I was holding my breath! Phew! That was too close for comfort! I immediately start quickly heading down the trail, thankful for the way that played out.
The rest of the hike is uneventful and beautiful. We come to the bridge I know signals the end is near. There is a dad and his three boys checking out the creek. I ask them to take a picture of Motown and I as I just remember I haven't gotten one this whole trip! That would have been tragic! They ask me to show them on the map what I've just done. I warn them that I stink, but that only cool chicks do this. They laugh and Motown and I finish our hike. The last people we come across are a mom and her two kids. A boy and a girl. They are headed to Squaw Lake. That's about 11 miles up the trail. A very long way to go this time of the day especially with kids. I let them know about the campsite near the Squaw Lake trail junction, still 7 miles up the trail. I show the kids a picture of Squaw Lake to encourage them to get there. I end with telling the kids how cool their mom is for doing this with them. I hope they do all right. I wonder the rest of the day.
Finally, I come into the campground! I get to my site and happily take off both Motown's and my packs. I exclaim to Motown, “No more packs buddy!” I head to the camp hosts site. Ted told me he would take me to my truck at the Ute Creek trailhead 7 miles up the reservoir. Motown stays with Dorothy while I hop on the 4-wheeler with Ted. It's a lovely ride down to my truck. The wind in my face, and some good conversation with Ted about the area. There was a wildfire here back in 2013, that was stopped just shy of Thirty Mile Campground.
After he drops me at my car and heads back, I notice a couple setting camp nearby and guess that they are through hikers. I stop to say hi and have a great conversation with them. They are heading up the same way I went up to get to the CDT. I give them pointers on the trail, which they appreciate. Their names are Astrea and Alice. I really need to ask how people get their trail names. Astrea says that her pack can weigh up to 50-60 pounds when they are hiking through dry patches where there's no water. Wow!!! That's crazy! She thinks her pack weighs about 40 now. I offer to take their trash, which it turns out is a huge deal. We hug and exchange some info. I wish them luck and we give each other smelly hugs. I hope to know how they do down the trail.
Next stop. Set camp and head to town for a burger! So excited and pleased with this trip! It's been amazing and I'm almost ready to head back out. Almost, after a shower.....and a beer....and brushing my hair!