Training on the Trail

During Part 2 of our CDT hike, from Cumbres Pass to Spring Creek Pass, a total distance of 188 miles, we managed to fit in a little ultra training while getting in a large amount of miles in a short amount of time. Here’s how it all went down…

-On Sunday, 9/8, we left Cumbres Pass, outside the town of Chama, NM, at 3:30pm. At that point we had to do 188 miles by the following Friday night at 6pm. We thought we’d be just fine, even though we only got in 13 miles that first day out, leaving 175 miles for 4 full days and a nearly full day on Friday, needed an average of 35 a day. Gulp!

-The first full day was ugly. We had heavy packs, totally well over 6 days of food, as we were hungry when we shopped for food. We tried to night hike and ended up losing the trail as soon as it got dark and we called it a day after just 30 miles.

-The next day was better. The trail was easier to follow, although we were in some of the hardest, most exposed sections on the entire trail in the Southern San Juans, and we eeked out 35 miles until we stopped at 10pm.

-The trail gods decided we got too cocky on the day before and gave us yet another difficult day of hiking, with thunderstorms on exposed ridges, relentless ups and downs, and still our packs felt too heavy. We only managed 30 miles that Wednesday, leaving 80 more miles for the last two days. Again, gulp!

-We tried getting a signal that Wednesday night to let our friends know in Creede that we wouldn’t get to Spring Creek Pass by Friday night, but we had no sign of a signal. We weighed the pros and cons of not showing up at the trailhead, knowing our friends would be worried and might call Search and Rescue. It didn’t seem like a good idea to not show so we made our plans…ultra stlye.

-At 7am on Thursday, we started walking the 80 miles left and went non-stop through the day, the night, and the next day. We only stopped every couple of hours to eat a snack and rest our feet, and took a 45 minute nap at 4:15am on Friday morning. Thankfully it didn’t rain at all on us overnight as we let our headlamps light the way.

-That night we passed by a herd of sheep and riled up the sheep dogs, we saw three huge sets of eyes watching us from a canyon below (most likely moose), and spent the early dawn hours of Friday feeling drunk and stumbling through the miles until the sun woke us up.

-On Friday night, our last 1.5 miles were in a thunderstorm and we made it to the trailhead at 6pm on the dot, with our friends Lowell and Dottie waiting for us in their car in the parking lot. To our surprise, our friend Alex was also waiting for us in the car, as he is going Southbound on the CDT and timed it to meet us there as well.

-We spent the evening in the comfort of Lowell and Dottie’s home, with good food and good company, and passed out within 30 seconds that evening when we finally went to bed at 11pm.

What a way to get in the miles and as we walked through the night hours, we said to ourselves, “Let’s never do this again!” While it was a novelty at the time, and ultimately good ultra training, it’s an experience I’m glad is behind us and an experience that was worth the lack of sleep and exhaustion because we made it to our friends. I have a little less fear of night hiking now that we’ve gone through one entire night, but I still prefer the daylight hours where I can see the sources of those sets of eyes!

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