Next morning we ate breakfast in the room and headed to the train station. We had to have our backpacks loaded 45 min prior to the train’s departure, and we had to be in our seats 30 minutes prior. The train left at 830 AM. Thankfully the sky looked clear in town.
The train was a good experience. We were surprised by the number of retired folks who were on the train. The tickets were very expensive, but it was all about the experience. We had tickets in coach. There were better cars that were more plush, and we were surprised at the number of people around us who decided to drop the extra C note to get a better seat to sit in. Must be nice. The train moved really slow, probably about 10MPH. I’m sure that was so people could have a chance to enjoy the scenery. The train also had a concession stand that sold lots of overpriced drinks and snacks. I chose to stick with my water and bagel that I brought on the train.
The weather was clearing up and pleasant as we made our way up the canyon towards our destination. The train runs along the Animas River. There was lots of pretty scenery. The train made a few stops along the way. I was unaware that there were populated areas along the way. Not like towns, but mainly little areas that catered to tourists. We even made a couple of water stops for the steam engine to refill on water.
As we got closer to our stop, the conductor came through the cars announcing that the Elk Park stop was next. People who were getting off were to follow him towards the the front of the train. We walked to the front most passenger car where we met two other people who were getting off there. One was a hunter, and the other was a guy named Rusty from Scottsdale, AZ. He too was hiking the same trail we would be on, but he was doing it over 5 days instead of our 6.
Once the train stopped, around 11 AM, we got off and walked up one more car to the freight car where they unloaded our packs. It was a quick stop, about 1 minute total. Once they were done, the train continued on to Silverton. It’s funny how there is this waving phenomenon associated with people and trains. All along the way, people were waving at the train as it passed by, and of course, the passengers waived back. This continued for us. As the train pulled away, everyone on board was waiving at us.
I was delighted at the weather that greeted us. I was expecting to be let off in a few inches of snow as Silverton was expected to have a few inches. It was warm and sunny instead. The hunter set off first, as he was traveling light. There was a hunting camp that was set up nearby. Wendy, Rusty, and I began getting our things situated and applying sunscreen. Rusty headed off before we did.
Climbing from the rails up was fairly steep as the main trail was up above the railroad. The trail we started on was the Colorado Trail. Wendy and I both had dreams when we were younger to hike this trail. Now we were getting to see a small part of it. The rain started within about half an hour of starting. We donned our Goretex and continued on. The scenery was pretty as we hiked up another canyon paralleling a stream. Along the way, we stopped to eat lunch. The rain stopped briefly and of course started up again as I began getting lunch out of my pack. On the menu for today, peanut butter and bagels. Yeah, we’ve decided that we need to do something else for lunches next trip. Our other lunch meals were bagels with sliced peperoni and cojack cheese.
Along the way we met up with another hiker coming down the other direction. He was by himself, and as hikers who are by themselves often do, he talked a lot. The poor guy was hiking in blue jeans too. He was the last person besides Rusty that we saw for the next few days. We continued on and the rain let up. There was more beautiful scenery. There was an area with a beaver pond with really pretty green algae in the bottom of the pond. We eventually got up to another clearing with a large meadow. Rusty was setting up his campsite in this area. It looked like a really nice place to camp. We had looked at the map earlier and decided on another place to stop that was further along up the trail. We wanted to get a good start on the Continental Divide for the next day.
One of the nice things about hiking in the National Forest and Wilderness Areas, is that you are not bound by campsites like you are in the National Parks. There, you have to set an itinerary and stick to it. Here, we hiked until we were ready to end the day. The place we wanted to stop at was near a waterfall. We found the area and looked for a flat place to camp. We got our tent setup just in time as bad weather rolled in fairly soon. The temperature dropped and it started raining again. Wendy and I just crawled in the tent and waited out the weather, hoping it would clear up in time for us to eat dinner. Wendy slept, and I pulled out my book to read, Ambush Alley.
Eventually the rain stopped and we got out to cook our supper. Wendy had found a company that makes freeze dried meals, recommended by Backpacker Magazine, called Packit Gourmet. The food was OK for backpacking food. One of the nice things about it was that the food came in a thick plastic bag. It was intended for you to boil your water in a pot and then pour it into the bag to reconstitute it. It worked really well. It made clean up much easier. The only problem I could foresee would be that while you wait for 10 minutes for the food to get ready, it can cool down too much if it is cold enough out side. I did notice that it cooled the food down a little, but not enough to effect the palate. On the plus side, it keeps you from burning your mouth when you eat. Wendy said the website also sold a kozee to keep the food packet warm while it rehydrated. The food was better than what Wendy and I had had while at Philmont, but still not as good as packing bulk food. With six days worth of food, we decided we needed to save on the bulk and weight of our food over the flavor.