08/17/2013
Colorado Trail Segments 22 24. Spring Creek Pass to Molas Pass
53.3 miles, 10,800 ft
Me, Eric, and Jason

Link to just pictures.

Another year, another trek along the Colorado Trail in the San Juan mountains! This one was kinda special because Eric and I have talked about running/hiking through all of the Colorado Trail Wilderness areas and especially the Weminuche. Since it was just over 50 miles it was a no-brainer to do it in one long torturous day, and of course Jason was up for the adventure.

Friday, Eric and I met for a beer at the Eddyline Brewery in Buena Vista then drove the Yukon to Spring Creek Pass. It was much nicer arriving here in daylight instead of at 1am like last year. Jason, his Mom, and Matt were already there and cooking up some dinner. We caught up on recent adventures and stories, then hit the tent before 10pm.
A decent nights sleep, then the 4:15am Saturday alarm. We started right at 5am as planned, while Matt and Patty stayed in camp for several hours before driving our trucks over Cimarron Pass to meet us at Molas Pass. Moving along by headlamp, it wasn't long before I realized that I left my ham sandwich in the cooler, D'oh! After about an hour the sun was peeking over the horizon as we were climbing steadily towards 12,000ft. The trail went right across the 12,054ft Jarosa Mesa so we tagged the summit and continued climbing. The views kept getting better as we climbed higher and higher, running the flats and downhills. Soon we were on the same route as the San Juan Solstice 50miler, past the Colorado Friends Yurt, and up to a 13K ridge and Coney Benchmark. Views views views! Tons of 13ers, the 14ers Redcloud and Sunshine, and Lake San Cristobal. Following the ups and downs of the ridge, before we dropped down to Carson Saddle ending this 17 mile/3800ft segment in 4.5 hours. 
No reason to stop here so we just kept cruising right along and we were soon contouring below the 13ers Bent Peak and Carson Peak. While filtering water we talked with a couple older gents who went to the Air Force Academy, one was Mike Chipman the developer of TurboTax and general manager of the AZ Diamondbacks. We were able to run all of the flat parts of the trail while slowly climbing to a saddle... this would be the theme for the next several hours, saddle, drop down, next saddle, through drainage after drainage. It was somewhere along here that Eric started saying he just wanted to touch a tree, since we were above 12K for about 11hr, it'd be awhile! We dropped down to Cataract Lake then quickly starting climbing once again. It was a relief when we finished our first of two marathon distances (7.5hrs) and we had less distance to go then we had already completed, a small mental victory. After 30 miles we saw two guys running towards us that ended up being Scott Jaime and his pacer Brandon, while Scott was in the midst of attempting to set a new speed record on the entire Colorado Trail. WOWZA! Around mile 33 we took another long break to eat and filter more water. It was here that I realized I also left my Gatorade mix in the truck, D'oh! A belly full of cold mountain water sure can taste good and bring ya some much needed energy. We circled Canby Mountain and saw Stony Pass Road, the end of this 16 miles/3500ft segment in 5.5 hours.
Jason and I were hitting pretty low points of energy just as Eric was finding his groove. We finally entered the Weminuche Wilderness with more saddle/valley/saddle hopping and views of Uncompahgre and Arrow/Vestal peaks. I demanded a 5 minute break, and it started raining. We slowly jogged what we could while passing over a mesa of sheep grazing land. Eric was now begging to touch a tree! Soon we came across several hundred sheep! Of course it was all jokes until the sheep herding dog was barking his way closer and closer to us. Despite his tail wagging, he was pretty mean until all of the sheep were in front of us. Eric and I were armed with rocks and our poles drawn when the dog saw Jason and ran towards him. Jason just put his hand out and started petting the dog.... he'll now forever be known as "sheep dog whisperer". The trail took a hard right and we could see miles and miles of switchbacks down into Elk Creek. Could this possibly be?! A look at the GPS verified that we were 40 miles in, with just a half marathon to go. Down down down, loose, steep and rocky... but we didn't care. Awesome rock formations, waterfalls, flowers, lush vegetation.... pure heaven! We filtered water once again and we all got a second wind. Once going again, we saw the coolest stream coated in moss, bubbles, and crystal clear water... like something out of the movie Avatar. Trees!!! Soon we saw several groups of campers near the Arrow/Vestal turnoff and we were racing daylight. Around 8pm we hit Elk Park and the Animas RIver. As soon as we turned onto the train tracks, Jason spotted a momma and baby moose! The moose was so tiny and must've just been born, we kept our distance. The next 5 miles and 2,000ft of gain up to Molas Pass was sure to suck, but it was the home stretch. The moon lit our way and we just put one foot in front of the other. After an hour, I requested a stop and we all immediately collapsed in the dirt.... my God that felt awesome! The steepness relented and the switchbacks lengthened, then we heard something we were so excited to hear.... a car! Next was headlights! Then the Molas Pass sign! Woo-freakin'-Hoo! At exactly 17 hours we were standing in the parking lot, but Jason's truck wasn't there. We started walking down the highway towards the campground not looking forward to checking every site, but then Jason spotted a strobe light, he blinked his light, and it blinked back. We had high hopes we weren't hallucinating, then confirmed it was Matt and Patty when a vehicle started driving towards us. AWESOME! In camp, they had brats, beers, and a campfire waiting for us. Heaven!! We crashed around midnight, happy to not be hiking anymore after 17 hours on our feet without many breaks.
Sunday morning was coffee-fueled and Patty cooked up the most amazing breakfast burritos. We said our goodbyes, then Eric and I hit the road for our 6+ hour journey home. Another chapter in the Colorado Trail book complete.