After a lot of tossing a turning, we got up the next morning to about an inch or so of snow on the ground. It was pretty cold. Our hands had difficulty staying warm as we started the day.
Once we got packed up and headed out for the trail again, I started looking for Rusty’s footprints. I never did see his footprints in the snow, but at times I did see them in the mud. He must have gotten an early start so that the snow covered his tracks. Wendy and I were a little concerned about him as he didn’t seem quite as prepared as we were to handle the weather. Thankfully, the climb wasn’t as grueling as the previous day as we had only dropped down a little in altitude before going back up to 12,400 ft. Thankfully there wasn’t a whole lot of snow as the trail could have been hard to follow had it snowed much more.
Once we got to the top of Hunchback Pass, we could see more weather on this side of the pass that we couldn’t see before. It didn’t look encouraging. We then began descending down towards the Vallecito Creek. It was a fairly steep descent with a trail that needed work as it was washed out in places and filled with water as springs ran nearby. The wind at the top and this side of the ridge was pretty strong. We eventually made our way down into the tree line. The sun made cameo appearances here and there, but most of the time it was cloudy. There were lots of very pretty waterfalls on this section of the trail as we made our way down the canyon. Eventually, it started raining again. It rained for hours. We had planned to head down the Vallecito to a trail junction that we had stayed at in 2007 where there were a lot of flat areas for camping. Thankfully from the time we left the pass, it was downhill for the rest of the day.
Snow started mixing in with the rain and the temperature continued to drop. We didn’t want to stop hiking as it was all we had going for us to keep us warm, but I was beginning to notice my hands and arms beginning to get cold. This told me that my body was losing heat and wasn’t able to compensate so it was beginning to shunt blood towards my core. Early stage of hypothermia. I eventually found a large fir tree by the trail where I stopped and told Wendy we should eat. She agreed and was also getting cold. My shirt underneath my rain jacket was wet. I don’t know if it was a combination of sweat and rain leaking or what, but I wasn’t happy to see this. I put on my fleece and pulled out the peanut butter and bagels. Wendy was beginning to shiver and she also put her fleece on. I also broke out the Oreos so we could get some sugar going to hopefully help us get warm again. I gave Wendy her bagel and peanut butter and told her to start hiking so she could get warm while I packed up. It got miserable as the rain and snow continued to fall. I started praying to God to help us out with the weather. In an answer to prayer, within about 20-30 minutes, the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds. It was wonderful. Feeling the sun on my skin really made me happy again.
So much precipitation had fallen that the trail was super saturated with water. Water was just standing over most of the trail and had nowhere to run off to. By now, my boots had surrendered to keeping out water, and I could feel my feet squashing with each step. But thankfully, the sun was out! We continued on towards our goal. It was a long hike, thankfully most of it was downhill, but it took all day to get there. When we got to the trail junction, we found a campsite with easy access to the water. The Vallecito River at this point is fairly deep. There’s a nice bridge here that crosses it. Most stream crossings in the Weminuche do not have a bridge.
Wendy and I enjoyed sitting in the sunlight for a little while and listening to the sound of the river. It was nice not having to make an effort to stay warm. It was late afternoon when we got to camp, and the sun began to set behind the ridge before long. We later ate supper and then went to bed.