I would drive down and stay at the Thirty Mile Campground the night before I went in. One thing I did that I was very happy about is I packed separately for the campground. That way I didn't have to open my pack for anything. That means that I packed an extra tent, Jet Boil, sleeping pad, etc. This was really great because I also stayed at the campground on my last day. I walked right into the campground. It was great!
Today started out pretty amazing--cold but amazing. The truck said it's 36 degrees out. Within 100 yards of the trail-head, there is a crossing of the Rio Grande River. So I reluctantly don my water shoes and roll up my pants as far as they could go. I get to the river and it doesn't look too bad, but this is my first bigger crossing, so we'll see.
“All right Motown! You're on your own! Meet me on the other side!” He looks at me like “Huh?!” It doesn't last long though since he's a Lab and can't help himself when there's water anywhere close. He is carrying his own food which weighs about 10#. Don't worry. He's a big boy at 100 pounds which means he could carry up to 30# (one third of their weight is the limit for dogs, so know that for yours). But he's never even come close to that. Another thing to know as well is that, at least in Colorado, your dog is legally only allowed to carry his own gear. So check that out for your state.
I unhook my backpack (you always unhook in case you fall in, that way you can get out of your pack faster if needed) and step into the freezing water. My breath is taken away. I start out fine but am careful to not rush because of the cold. The rocks are slippery and it's getting deeper. Thank God for trekking poles! I see Motown struggle when it gets deeper but he makes it out. I'm still only about halfway (the deep part). The water is coming up over my knees, my pants are soaked to my thighs! BBBRRRRR!!!! With one last effort, I take the path I saw Motown take. I finally made it! So now that my pants are soaked I zip off my bottom leggings and wring them out. I do some jumping jacks while Motown looks at me like I'm crazy. I sit and use my bandanna to dry my feet and put my socks and hiking boots on. That's better! Now, start moving so I can dry and warm up!
I'm feeling pretty good! I warm quickly with the hiking and the sun starting to come over the ridge. The trail is a gradual easy climb. For now....
I'm trying to get as close as I can to the CDT for the night. My pack weight is 48#. I really need to get lighter gear! Oh how I miss the days of splitting pack weight with someone. Although I have a lighter sleeping bag, I opted for my heavier one after my cousin (who was in the area last weekend climbing Rio Grande Pyramid-"RGP") said it got down to the 20's at night.
I'm making good time so far but the trail is getting steeper. I slow quite a bit but keep going, “Slow and steady wins the race! Right Motown?!” Yes, I literally talk to my dog on the trail! Finally! I made it to Black Lake (aptly named) but I want to get farther. I head up and over a crest and am greeted with an amazing view of Ute Ridge and Ute Basin below. I start heading down. Two more water crossings and a storm is threatening making me think about setting camp where I intended to just stop for lunch. The storm skirts around my area so I decide to start heading up East Ute Trail. I am super tired by this point so I grab a spot about 1.5 miles up the trail in a meadow for the night.
The goal tonight is to eat as much food as I can to lighten my load! Haha! Not really as I've brought just enough for the five days I have out here. Really, it's just about getting some rest and stretching a bunch.
The days are long this time of year and it's hard for me to sleep when it's still so bright out, so I just hang out, filter some water into my pack for tomorrow, and make dinner (100 ft. away from my tent). I study the map and see that I'm right below Rio Grande Pyramid and The Window. I wonder why it's called The Window? Finally it's starting to get darker around 9pm and I head into my tent with Motown. Good night!