The 82.2 miles of trail between Stony Pass and Wolf Creek Pass far exceeded Dad’s desired max of 45 miles (or 3 days) between meetups. It would require hiking for 5 or 6 days in the notoriously difficult San Juan Mountains, while weighed down with 5 or 6 days of food. To put it mildly, the prospect of this terrified him. You’d think by now it would be “old hat” for a man who has thru-hiked both the PCT and the AT, but as he frequently confesses, “I have a deep-rooted fear of the unknown.” He also admits that our schedule of meetups has “spoiled” him—not necessarily that it’s made him “soft”, but that seeing a familiar face so frequently has helped him stay motivated. Since I couldn’t accompany him the whole way (I’ve got a Jeep, a wolf, and a cabbage…), I came up with a 5-day plan to meet in the “middle”.
Day 1: Departing Stony Pass, Dad hiked southbound, while I drove ahead to Wolf Creek Pass (and spent the night there).
Day 2: Dad hiked southbound, while I began hiking northbound.
Day 3: Dad hiked southbound, while I hiked northbound, and if everything worked out, we’d meet at the end of the day.
It had started raining the night before, just after sunset, and it was still raining when I woke up. Fortunately the rain stopped long enough for me to poop and take down my tent. Unfortunately the rain was replaced by snow. I had hiked less than a mile, beginning a prolonged ascent, when I heard a thunderclap and froze. A thundersnowstorm!? The trail ahead ran along an exposed ridge above treeline, so I turned around and took cover within a copse of pines. Somehow I had signal, so I checked the weather and saw that the storm cell was isolated. After about 30 minutes, the bulk of it had passed, and I was able to continue on under clear and warming skies the rest of the day. That afternoon, as planned, Dad and I “collided” on trail. With me, I had his resupply for the next 2 days (he’d pulled it together at Stony Pass and left carrying only 3 days of food), which made this our 26th meetup.
Day 4: We both hiked southbound together, returning to the spot where I’d camped at the end of Day 2.
Day 5: We both hiked southbound together, finishing at Wolf Creek Pass where I’d left the Jeep.
While we were hiking, I suggested that maybe we ought to think about taking a zero day after our “meetup” at Wolf Creek Pass. The springs of Pagosa Springs, Colorado (about half an hour south) had been my inspiration, but all Dad needed to hear was “hotel room and hot shower”. Our first and only zero day had been on Day 27, so there seemed to be a numerological significance to taking our second on Day 54 (not to mention that Wolf Creek Pass was our 27th meetup). Surprised to find that I had signal on the side of a mountain once again, I booked a hotel room for 2 nights before either of us had second thoughts. After 54 days, Dad had hiked 830.1 miles.