The Three Apostles from the Gunnison Spur
On Thursday and Friday, Lily, Uwharrie and I joined hardrockers Robert, Elise, Scott and Liz at camp below Iowa Gulch. While Scott and Liz hiked sections of the Nolan’s 14 route over Missouri and Huron, thoughts of running the Gunnison Spur of the Colorado Trail crossed my mind.
My nine-year-old CT guidebook and limited set of maps could plot out only the first fifteen miles or so. On top of that, it had just been a week since the grotesque swelling in my right knee (from the SB6K) had subsided. At this point, an unsupported high-altitude ultra marathon in an unknown wilderness would certainly be a leap of faith.
So it came as a surprise even to me on Saturday at 9:30 AM, after breaking camp, I was headed toward Crested Butte on foot. Lily and Uwharrie would drive around through Buena Vista, Poncha Springs and Gunnison to meet me on the other side. It would be at least 20, probably 30 to 40 miles before I would see any support again. I carried a hip pack and two bottles of water.
The first order of business was to get over the 12,600’ pass above Lake Ann safely before the inevitable barrage of afternoon thunderstorms. This was a rather late start by CO standards and I was a bit worried looking at the building clouds as I turned for the final climb to the Continental Divide below Apostles Basin. After getting some positive feedback on the snow conditions from some CDT hikers, I felt better.
The views from the pass were great: the Three Apostles soared immediately to the east; the snowy Elk Range (including Castle and Conundrum) stretched out to the west; behind me, I could see La Plata and Huron; below and ahead of me, the massive Taylor Park and reservoir beckoned. I sat and enjoyed a snack before descending to Texas Ridge. At this lower elevation, I entered a hot, dry pine forest that seemed to go on and on. Eventually, I popped out in the vast expanse of Texas Park and promptly got turned around on ORV trails.
Finally on the main road around the massive reservoir, I had a hot, sunny half-marathon of road running ahead. At the crossing of Texas Creek, I submerged my whole body in cold water. The dryness and relentless sun on this section were taking their toll. I was thrilled to have the shade of a storm cloud rumble in overhead just as I reentered the safety of surrounding trees.
Several miles past the dam, I intersected Lily and Uwharrie driving up to meet me. We loaded up and drove the remaining distance to a primitive campground outside Crested Butte. Lily cooked up a delicious dinner. Today we’re headed into the Elk Range for a three-day climbing trip. Then we will continue west and south to the San Juans. More pictures have been uploaded to the picasa album.