CDT Day 68: Spotted Bear Pass Mile 10.7 – 27.5 + CTD Mile 2852.5 – 2856.9

(21.2 miles – 34 km)

Sunday June 23, 2019

It was a restless nights sleep for me last night. I don’t think it was the sight of huge bear paw scratches on the rangers cabin or the numerous fresh grizzlie paw prints on trail that left me sleepless. Although I am looking forward to getting out of grizzly country. Hammer said he slept like a log.

We left our campsite by Pentagon Creek before sunrise, eager to get the climb of Switchback Pass done.

Patches of blue sky and birdsong were great on the start of the climb….the day was off to a good start. We started to get distant views of the Chinese Wall without the fog cover. This lasted for a brief spell before the rain returned. We had hoped that this may be the last drenching before blue sky and sunshine return.

We soon realised that the early patches of blue sky was just teasing us. It continued to rain all the way up the pass.

The elevation rise seem to happen fairly quickly but the swithchbacks continued on and on. It took us nearly 3 hours to reach the top of the pass. It was tough work and we were both already cold when we started to encounter snow. The whole top of the pass was shrouded in fog. We knew the descent was going to be in snow. This turned out to be not as bad as we were warned by southbound hikers yesterday. As the fog shrouded the mountains around us it was difficult to fully appreciate the scale of the Trilobite Range to our left.

The rain let up for about half an hour and we stopped to have lunch. The fog lifted a little and the huge snow covered mountain tops were exposed. Truly majestic when view from down below. It took us while to realise that we were hiking past a series of gacial cirques. Only one had a lake at its base.

The rain soon returned and we put our heads down and hiked on. It was beyond heartbreaking to walk for hours through forest so thoroughly burnt that even the soil looked charred. From here we passed through a green pine forest but it looked like it was hit by a recent avalanche. Broken trees and timber debris. The destruction just goes on.

Late afternoon just as we were nearing the end of the Spotted Bear alternate trail we passed a rangers cabin. And here we met a couple of hikers we first met in New Mexico and again on the Great Divide Basin. It felt great to meet up with people we knew and we could share our common experience. We stopped for a break and within half an hour 3 more southbound hikers arrived. It was so nice to meet so many people in one place. It was very tempting to stay and maybe have a fire and dry our feet. But as nice as a fire and drying feet would have been, getting to town is our priority.

So we left and hiked another 5 miles before stopping to camp. Camp spots are hard to find when you’re hiking in Grizzlie country and through burnt forest.