Northern San Juans: Wolf Creek Pass to Hwy-149
“I am an avalanche! I’m an avalanche!” I yelled out all the way down. Laughing and thinking, “I am an avalanche, this snow is mine, I am the snow.”
I had never glissaded that far before and never on such a steep slope. I walked on, feeling momentarily happy. One foot in front of the other and I found myself walking with a frown on my face, feeling glum and tired.
The snow was exhausting and still scary. The body memory from the southern San Juans was strong and the northern San Juan mountains still ahead us were daunting. Finally I said it out loud, “I want to take the Creede Route”. The Creede route cuts off from the San Juan loop and heads north meeting the CDT again where it loops back around, avoiding a lot of steep terrain. After voicing my desire to take this route I felt almost instant relief. I found myself smiling and laughing again.
We made it about a mile before the Creede cutoff and set up camp. Unsure if we were disappointed in ourselves or worried about others’ disappointment, our emotions hung heavy and spilled over, setting the mood for the evening.
The next morning we made our way to the cutoff without incident. A short, steep, snow descent and we were committed to our decision. Our spirits were high and within a mile the snow was gone and we were weaving our way through deadfall and burned forest. I saw two butterflies and felt the bounce beginning to return to my step.
Green plants emerged as we descended further into the valley, then dandelions, and finally I saw the first wild iris in bloom. I was singing and dancing my way through the valley when we came upon a moose and I knew we had entered into spring.
My thoughts drifted back to all of the amazing encounters we’ve had along the trail, our rides, our town stops, and how, yes, I am an avalanche…
One of my favorite parts of thru-hiking is getting to the highway and hitching into town. All of our rides have been so nice and everyone we meet always thanks us for sharing our stories. Our experience ripples out beyond the trail, beyond our self, and becomes a story, a motivation, and a platform for someone else’s experience.