July 8, 2017
Wow, today was one, crazy day!
The morning started off great! In fact, we actually slept in 30 minutes from our normal wake up time. No complaints there.
Today, we were going to finish up the last few miles of Segment 8 and ride all of Segment 9. We quickly packed up camp and started our day on trail.
Segment 9 is one of the shorter Colorado Trail segments coming in at 13.6 miles. The segment has plenty of elevation gains and losses and a few steep switchbacks, but it differed from the lengthy climb we had in the previous segment.
The climb up to Tennessee Pass was absolutely beautiful, as always! Seriously, this whole trail has not disappointed us once with its beauty. But our day quickly took a turn…
We had seen a lot of snow the previous day, but apparently that was just a small amount compared to how much we saw today
Most of the snow we came across did not bring much concern. It was either off trail or simply “just snow”. The concern came when the snow that had started to melt the day before, froze over night, leaving a layer of ice. That is what we experienced today.
All was going great on trail until we came to one of the last set of switchbacks of Segment 9. Ragan and Dazzel were leading the group as we made our way to a snowy section. As soon as Dazzel stepped onto this snow, her hooves started to slip. Dazzel started sliding down the side of the mountain on the icy section with Ragan still riding!
It was a terrifying moment thinking of everything that could have gone wrong. We were yelling at Ragan to jump off of Dazzel, but thankfully, her horse regained balance not too far down the mountain. Dazzel never hit the ground (more of a scramble to get all four feet planted on solid ground), and Ragan was fine other than experiencing yet another scare on trail (the first one being back on Day 6).
We were all shaken up. Ragan was our youngest rider at 16, and all of us felt very responsible for taking care of her throughout this whole trail, even though we all know how tough she is.
We all dismounted our horses and led them down and around the ice and snow. From that moment on, any snow on trail would be tested on foot first, and Ragan was not allowed to be the one to test it! If it is too dangerous to cross horseback, we would lead our horses down and around.
After everyone made it past that section, we made a turn onto the next switchback only to come across even MORE snow! But this wasn’t just an icy section. This snow was a few feet deep.
Devan decided to hike a little further down the trail to see what was ahead. She found someone hiking the trail that was very familiar with the area. He confirmed that staying on this trail was not an good option for us, and that there was more snow ahead. Then, he mentioned that the Colorado Trail meets up back up directly on the other side of the mountain. Meaning, if we were to head straight up and over the mountain, we could find the Colorado Trail down on the other side and continue to the end of the segment. That was our only option unless we wanted to turn around and ride twelve miles all the way back to the start of Segment 9. So up and over we went.
Switchbacks are there for good reason; the climb up the side of the mountain was extremely steep and rocky! We were all off leading our horses. The horses definitely handled the climb up much better than us, especially with the riders off of their backs.
But we made it up to the top of the mountain, which was above treeline and enjoyed the views for a bit… More like, rested at the top since we were all out of breath! Devan pulled out the GPS to check where we would be able to meet up with the trail, and as soon as everyone was ready, we started making our way back down the other side of the mountain. We quickly met up with the trail and continued our descent back down toward the trailhead.
There was only two miles left until we got to the end of the segment, but the universe was not done throwing chaos our way for the day. Maybe, we were distracted with the thought of possibly going into town to eat pizza later this evening. (That “hiker hunger” really does something to you…) But, all I can remember leading up to the chaos was that Makani and I were following along in the back not paying attention to a single thing.
What was supposed to be an easy two miles to the end of the segment turned into a couple hour delay. We were riding for a bit until we made the realization that we had not seen a trail marker in a while. The whole Colorado Trail is marked extremely well. You really should not have many problems staying on trail, especially if you have the official databook with you! But sure enough, we had managed to get “lost!”
So we lost the trail markers… somewhere along the way. Next thing you know, we realize we were doing loops on some dirt roads. Then, the gps is back out to help us find the trail again, but it did not help at all with the all the confusion going on. Somehow the group splitup a few times, and we found OLD Colorado Trail Markers which was heading in the wrong direction in which we needed to go.
Finally, (I don’t know maybe like a good 1 or 2 hours later) we all decided to chill out and simply retrace our steps only about a half mile back before we realized where we went wrong.
I’m telling you that pizza was a stressful distraction… cause why else did it take us so long to think “Hm, how about we simply retrace our steps?”
Sure enough, we found an intersection that we missed on the trail. When we passed it the first time, there was a huge group of hikers standing off on the side of the trail right by the sign. None of us thought anything of it as we rode past them, and I know I definitely was not paying attention to the trail.
By the time we FINALLY got back on the actual Colorado Trail, we were exhausted both mentally and physically. I am pretty sure the horses were annoyed with us, as well. We all just wanted to get to the end of the segment, set up camp, resupply and well… realize that I was still thinking about getting into town for that pizza.
The area we found to camp was perfect! There was great grazing for the horses, and we found a nice peaceful place to set up our camp. Some of Annie’s relatives were there with our resupply, and they gave us a ride into Leadville to get PIZZA. Lissa volunteered to stay back with the horses, while Annie, Devan, Ragan and I went into the lovely town of Leadville. In return for Lissa taking this one for the team, we promised to bring her back pizza and something new to read.
This “hiker hunger” was unreal. You seriously want to eat anything and everything, and nothing can stop you. While waiting in line to order our pizza at High Mountain Pies (highly recommend), we willingly took a few leftover pieces of pizza that someone offered to us before they left. We must of looked starving!
Then, while we were waiting for our pizzas, we managed to find some fellow Texans that were visiting Colorado who offered to share their breadsticks with us. Of course, we could not decline such an offer!
By the way, I think I forgot to mention that we received a ride into town, but we had no idea how we were going to get back to camp. Annie’s relatives had to head back to Denver and would not be able to drive us back. But we assured them that we would somehow be able to find a ride back to the trailhead.
While waiting for our pizza, Ragan decided to head to a gas station in hopes of charging her phone. After a good few minutes, I was sent to go check on her. The town of Leadville is not huge, but this gas station Ragan found was a little sketchy. Low and behold, you will never guess what Ragan found! While she was charging her phone, in this somewhat sketchy gas station, she found a flyer!
Need a ride? Say what?! Y’all know we needed a ride back to camp! We had been posting on facebook in hopes someone would be able to help us, but so far we had no luck. Then this beautiful, hopeful flyer showed up in a gas station.
You better believe we called it.
Amy was coming to pick us up. We ate our pizza and then sat out by the side of the road to wait for our ride.
Now, now, now… we know 100% this goes against anything and everything our parents would have warned us on things “not to do“, but we were in desperate need for a ride back to camp. We had no idea what to expect. But our ride came pulling in… an old, white car. I think it was exactly what we all had imagined to show up. Amy introduced herself, and we hopped in!
Amy was the funniest person I think I have ever met. I am so glad that this weird day of events led us to meeting her during our Colorado Trail adventure. She kindly drove us to a store, so we could pick out something for Lissa to read. Then, she drove us all the way back to the trailhead.
It was at least a 20 minute drive back to the trailhead in which we spent the whole time laughing hard until our stomachs ached. The best thing that came out from our car ride back was Ragan earning her TRAIL NAME!
As Amy was driving us back, of course we got on the topic of our ride and how it was going. We were talking about the chaos of today and how Ragan keeps on giving us scares on trail. Our description of Ragan just happened to remind Amy of her cat. We were all in tears laughing as Amy she told us all about her about her cat…
” What is your cat’s name?” we asked.
“NuNu,” Amy replied.