Daily Log: Day 61

Meetup: Zero: Day 61 – Friday 9/11/2020 – 2213.0 – sunny, snow on ground, warmer. I first woke at 5:30 am then got up at 6 am as Justin stirred above me. He came down about 6:15 am and tried to start the Jeep and warm it up. But it wouldn’t turn over. OMG! The battery is dead. What did we do to run the battery down? We don’t know. We would have to wait until Ken leaves around 8 am to jump us. We are so glad Ken and the other hunters were there or we’d be totally stuck. Kind Justin made me hot chocolate and I had a pop tart. We wait wait wait. Finally Ken drove up. We tell him our battery is dead. We jumped the batteries and off we went. Just around the corner only 0.1 miles was the first hill. Ken led and up he went. Then it was Justin’s turn and he stalled and immediately realized that he couldn’t restart. The battery is dead. OMG! Honk honk. Tell Ken we’re stuck again. Justin runs up the hill and luckily Ken had a spare disconnected battery. We tried it. Nope. Again. Nope. It’s dead too. Ken and Justin walked back to Ken’s camp and came back with another battery along with some things Ken had forgotten. We tried it. Nope. Repeat. Nope. It’s dead too. As Ken carried his extra stuff up to his truck Justin went back to have Ken’s uncle drive his truck as a jump for the battery. Finally that worked. Up the hill we went. Ken lead and Justin followed. The next hill, although it looked easy, wasn’t. Ken slid off to the side. We tried, failed and backed down. We attached tow straps to Ken’s rear end and tried to pull him straight and down. As this was happening we got blocked by a small tree and he nearly slid into us but missed. OMG! We detached the tow straps. We gave it a try next and we got to the top. Yippee! Then Ken powered up the hill on the right side of the current tracks. He almost made it but stopped. He climbs out, grabs a shovel from the back and starts digging his wheels free. After with a burst of power he makes it. A little while later and further down the road he gets to the top and we get stuck in a muddy patch. Out come all our tow straps again, but wait. Ken yells to get in our Jeep because a flock of sheep need to pass. So before he can pull us up we get in our trucks and wait as one thousand sheep, several dogs and their shepherd goes by. Finally Ken pulls us up. The worst of the road ends. It’s still a bumpy muddy dirt road but there are now track to follow. Down curves and switchbacks we drive. Then we see a vehicle with a hay bale coming the other way. We’re in the lead so we pull to the side. They go by but now we’re in a ditch and can’t get out. Ken comes over and begins to dig and pack a ramp but every time Justin tries to get out he can’t. His Jeep keeps following the ditch. Finally he tries to power further along it and gets back on the road and he does. If he hadn’t then the ditch would have forced us further off road and down a hill. Whew! Finally the worst was over. Carefully we followed the forest road to the highway. Asphalt! There we wait for Ken. When he pulls up we congratulated each other and thank each other for the help. Ken said he is going into Chama NM and we offered to buy him lunch. On the way he stopped to talk to his sister-in-law Rose who owns the Chama Station Inn. We asked if she has an available room – and she does. So after a big hamburger lunch we went to our room and both got showers. Later after saying our goodbyes and thanks to Ken we leave to have pizza at the Local Local Local restaurant. Yum! A very very exciting day. And I’m so glad it’s over. I’ve come to the realization that if Cuba NM has snow anything like what we’ve been though then the hike is over. We will see tomorrow. But tonight I’ve got an actual bed to sleep on.

On Friday September 11 we and one of the hunters named Ken made our escape. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
However, our battery was dead for some unknown reason. So Ken jumped us but only 0.1 miles into our escape the Jeep stalled and we had to get Ken’s uncle to come restart us. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
One hill after another Ken in his pickup truck and us in the Jeep would try to climb it. Sometime one or the other or both succeeded. Other times one would help the other. Here Ken is helping get the Jeep over a hill with a tow strap. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
Added to all this commotion a thousand sheep came by. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
While shepherds on horseback and sheep dogs herded the sheep down the “road”. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
After four hours we finally made it to the highway near Cumbres Pass and we offered to buy Ken’s lunch in Chama NM. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
Although I was still cold we ate burgers, relaxed and chatted about our morning adventure. That night Justin and I stayed at the Chama Station Inn. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)

Daily Log: Day 60

Meetup: Zero: Day 60 – Thursday 9/10/2020 – 2213.0 – more snow! I woke up in Jeep. Even more snow has fallen overnight. I did nothing all day but sit. While we sat we listened to an audio book and sometimes I napped. Sweet Justin made brats for lunch. I did nothing. Dear Justin made pork and rice bowl for dinner. The snow is melting very slowly. It is falling off the tree branches a bit. Cows wander by, pause to look at us, and move on. I prepared to sleep inside Jeep again tonigh. Tomorrow we will attempt to leave with Ken at 8 am. It might take all day or longer if we get stuck during our escape.

We had water, and food and the Jeep. We were lucky to have them. So I decided to pack up my tent and stay in the Jeep to keep warm. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)

Daily Log: Day 59

Meetup: Zero: Day 59 – Wednesday 9/9/2020 – 2213.0 – snow! I woke several time overnight as the snow accumulated on my tent. Earlier I would smack the inside of my tent to loosen the snow and have it drop off. At midnight I had to get out and hand scoop about a foot of snow from all around my tent. While doing this I accidentally tripped on my front door guy line and pulled it out. I got it back in, but it wasn’t as secure as before. At 2 am I again smacked the inside, but this time the front guy line popped out. Luckily I found the stake in the snow and replaced it with a bigger one. Using my shoe I pounded it in. At the 3:30 am I completely undressed in the freezing cold and put on my Patagonia long underwear. My feet were still cold, but I just tried to sleep regardless. Finally about 7 am I got up when Justin got up. I packed up the stuff in my tent into my backpack, but left my tent up, which now had more snow surrounding it. I sat in the Jeep trying to get warm while Justin brushed it off. We started the engine, but we needed to conserve gas so we can get out of here so turned it off. As I see it we have a few options. One, Call the hike quits – that is the hike is over. Two, wait until the snow melts and continue from here. Three, go to Chama and wait it out. Four, go to Cuba and head north. Hopefully the weather in Cuba will clear faster, because it is further south. I’m leaning on going to Cuba NM, that is, called flip-flopping. Around 8:30 am I packed up my tent and Justin closed his roof tent. Unfortunately when we put my pack in the back of the Jeep the bladder bite valve leaked and emptied its entire contents on and in the cooler and beneath. Nothing is easy today. Justin very nicely cleaned up much of the leaked cold water before he started on his own packing up chores. Finally we were all packed up. We tried to drive down the forest road. We got about a tenth of a mile and the snow made it impossible to find where the road went. So we turned around and went back to the campsite. We are now here for the next few days until the weather clears and either we can find the road down to town, or I can find the trail to move on. Justin has sent messages to family using his phone telling them we are stuck stuck stuck. I was too cold in my tent so I’ve decided to sleep in the passenger seat of the Jeep. To do this I’ve rearranged and restacked some of the plastic bins and jerry cans to make more room to recline the seat. I’ve pulled on all my warm clothes and gotten into my sleeping bag. My legs are draped over the gear shift and emergency brake so my feet can rest on the driver seat. I’m trying my best to be comfortable in our dear little cramped Jeep. Justin is again sleeping in the roof-top pop-up tent.

In the morning all tent sides were again buried and I was still cold. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
We had gotten 12-15 inches of snow. The forecast (for Chama) was 3-5 inches. We were stranded. Luckily we had met several hunters who were camped only 100 yards away. So we had plenty of food, and water and we weren’t alone. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)

Daily Log: Day 54

Meetup: Zero: Day 54 – Friday 9/4/2020 – 2132.3 ZERO IN PAGOSA SPRINGS – clear sunny very hot in town. At the hotel I slept in until after 7 am. Wow! We went to McD’s for take-out breakfast. Then we relaxed in the hotel room. We went over the plan for the next few days. This included the weather forecast that expected rain and snow on next Tuesday from Pagosa Springs CO to Chama NM. Ugh! So I added long underwear to my kit and removed down vest. I counted how much remaining food I had for the last days and wrote short shopping list for Justin. I did a little email and blog posting. I trimmed my beard. I packed a day pack for my slack pack tomorrow. We are planning on getting BBQ tonight. It is still very hot (it is in the eighties Fahrenheit) and dry here. I am constantly drinking liquids. Independently Justin did more laundry for his Autohome, such as, washing his sheets and pillow case. Altogether it was a relaxing, slow, non-hiking day – the definition of a ZERO DAY.

I had a much needed shower and trimmed my beard in the Pagosa Springs Quality Inn. I’m a new man! (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)

Daily Log: Day 27

Meetup: Zero: Day 27 – Saturday 8/8/2020 – ZERO DAY – 1692.5 – clear, partially cloudy, sunny, hot. I woke late, but I didn’t have to hike today so it was OK. My tent site was in some trees about 0.1 miles above the pass. I packed up and was at the Jeep in the Berthoud Pass parking lot at 6:30 am. Justin was already awake. We had breakfast and drove to Second Creek. There we waited for Casey, Kyle, and Tam to arrive. They got there around 9:30 am for a 1 mile hike with an elevation gain of 800’. Little Tam, 5, was a trooper and climbed it with only one scraped knee. At the top even through there was a closed hut, there was a picnic table here so we sat and talked and ate snacks. The wind was gusty and we had to hold things down. After a while we hiked down and said our goodbyes. We might see them again at Tennessee Pass. They’ve rented a hut. After our hike Justin suggested we drive down into Winter Park CO. In town we had BBQ lunch. Then as a treat we stopped at Safeway grocery store and I bought and devoured a pint of Caramel Core ice cream. Having exposed me to enough COVID-19 we left town after getting gas and me downloading some audio books and podcasts. Back at the pass parking lot we sat, talked and watch the other people at the Pass. It looked like some of them were having a wedding there today. The backdrop of the Rocky Mountains is spectacular. Justin cooked breakfast tacos for dinner. Yum! My ZERO DAY was fun. Now I’ve got to go back to the trail tomorrow where I’ll be taking the Silverthorne alternative instead of the more difficult Grays-Torrey Peaks.

On our day off we met and did a short 1 mile hike with Justin’s high school friend Casey, her husband Kyle, son Tam and me. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)