Never before have I been so alone in the wilderness. No vehicles were at the trailhead, and one else shared the trail with me all day. In fact, the register at the trailhead didn’t show anyone else there in the past six days. The only prints that I saw on the trail were those of wild animals.
I was hiking in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness about seven miles south of Valley View Hot Springs in the San Luis Valley where I was spending a few glorious days. After leaving the hot springs, I didn’t even encounter any vehicles on the dirt road to the trailhead.
They call the trail that I hiked on Thursday the Wild Cherry Creek Trail because it runs alongside the creek of that name for much of the way.
I made sure to get there early because I wanted to avoid the usual afternoon rains. It turned out to be a full day of cool but sunny weather between two days of afternoon showers.
Good thing. I got to the trailhead at 7 a.m. and returned 10 hours later at 5 p.m. I had hiked 12 miles out and back.
The hike was much longer and harder than I expected. The trail took me up 3,400 feet to Cherry Lake at just under 12,000 feet. I had never climbed more than 2,700 feet before.
The hike took me up a narrow canyon. First were thousands of aspens. It’s fall. A few were beginning to turn.
Wearing my jacket and gloves, I kept warm. But although mostly sunny, it was cool at this elevation. Most of the insects were still asleep, particularly in the morning. But I have never seen different insects sleeping on top of each other before like this bee and moth:
About one-third of the way up the trail the trees suddenly change from aspens to pines. But then I was too high even for the pines. I was hiking in the tundra. I hadn’t realized how high the trail would take me.
From the trailhead at about 8,500 feet I climbed to about 11,900 feet. Soon I found fresh snow in places beside the trail. The rain the day before as I drove down to the hot springs had brought snow to this elevation.
While I hoped to reach the lake at the end of the trail, about noon I was getting tired. I decided that if I didn’t get there before 1 p.m., I would turn around anyway.
But finally at 12:45 p.m. I saw the lake. Actually, two lakes. The closer one is Peanut Lake and then comes Cherry Lake.
After a short stop at the lakes to enjoy the beauty and to rest, I was glad to be walking downhill. Much easier than to climb up, but eventually I began to be even more than tired. I was close to exhaustion for the last mile or two.
Nietzsche’s aphorism, “Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker,” sustained me. The exertion did make me stronger.
Stumbling often but never falling, I thought that my blood glucose might have dropped to the hypoglycemic range. For such emergencies I regularly carry glucose tabs that quickly counteract hypos.
But they didn’t help at all. The problem wasn’t my blood glucose level. It was my depleted energy level. So with frequent stops to rest, I plodded on. Can you imagine how glad that I was to return to my vehicle?