Based on where I dropped Ben and Mom off, their approximate hiking speed and where the water sources on the trail are, I did a guthook deep dive (sorry, farout, I always forget about their rebrand). Based on that and where it looked like there would be good views I figured they would be stopping for either a late morning snack (at 10:30) or lunch (at noon) around mile 393 to 395. Fortunately there was a hike that would put me on the Colorado Trail for several miles, the Highland Mary Lakes loop trail. I had to go through Silverton to get there from my little campsite so I got up early and headed in to also stop at Coffee Bear for a breakfast wrap and a coffee.
From Silverton I drove in on a jeep road that was okay for most of it until I got to the last mile and I was able to make it .4 miles up before I had to back down to a little pull off and hike up, so I ended up added .7 miles each way and confirmed as I was hiking up the road that there was no way my car would have made it. But it did mean I had to push a little bit harder since I was pretty sure they would make it to the trail intersection around 11 am and then we would be traveling in the same direction but they would be much faster. The trail up to the Colorado Trail was quite steep and as I believe I’ve mentioned before I am not great with altitude so I was huffing and puffing while taking breaks to let out a “Hey Moose!” because there was moose scat everywhere and as we all know, moose are much scarier than bears. As I approached the trail I saw two backpackers standing up from a snack break and, thinking it might be them, picked up the pace.
When I got to the trail intersection I sent a message on the inreach to mom at 11:07 am, “What mile are you at? I’m at 393.7,” then I settled in to wait, acutely aware that I couldn’t wait that long because I had a long way to go on this plateau and the afternoon thunderstorms had been very consistent. The two hikers that I had seen from a distance came by and I asked them if they had seen a mother/son hiking pair and they said they hadn’t, and they didn’t want any of the peanut brittle I offered them which made me sad. I waited a little longer and then a backpacker came from the other direction, opposite the way my mom and brother were hiking which was ideal. He strolled up with his bare feet and guitar on his pack and also turned down my offer of peanut brittle but said that he hadn’t seen them either, which meant they hadn’t passed this point yet. I asked him to keep an eye out because he would definitely pass them and when he did to let them know what mile I was at and that I would be waiting for a little while longer. After PROMISING that he would he hiked on. I waited and waited and then decided to jog north a bit to see if I could get a better view of the trail and see if they were coming. Way up on a mountain I saw what looked like two people, and they had something shiny on the ground next to them. It could be them, so I took a picture and watched as the barefoot hiker made his way up, but they didn’t jump up and come running down to me when he reached them so I figured it wasn’t them and headed back to my bag.
I packed up and headed on my way, across the most stunning plateau toward a view of the San Juans. It was good that I headed out when I did because there was definitely a storm a’comin’ but with the slate grey mountains the sky looked more majestic than frightening. Five hours later a message came through on my garmin from mom, “We’re at 402.8 and it is 3:15.” They hike at a pace between 2.5 and 3 miles an hour. They had been right there when I was. Days later I found out it was them up on the mountain, and the barefoot hiker did meet them and didn’t say anything about me. What a waste of my tracking genius. But seriously the most amazing hike ever I cannot recommend this hike enough.
Months my mom was driving in Vermont and saw a guy walking down the road that looked awfully familiar. Turns out the barefoot hiker was doing the Long Trail so she picked him up for a zero day at her house and sent me a picture to let me know that he was really sorry. The hiking world is wild and so small.