Day 5: Wednesday, September 23rd
Silverton to Animas Forks… And Then Some…
Sara K. Halperin, Charleston, SC
Grace Howe, Collingwod, Ontario
Stephanie Alexis Rusu, Hellertown, PA
Jonathan Kummer, Airdrie, Alberta
With the best of intentions of starting at 7:30am, we finally headed out of town around 8:30am once I got my toe taped, my gear all organized and the sleep out of my eyes. Some days are just slower than others.
Stepping outside, it was by far the coldest day yet. The fog loomed over the valley floor off the Animas Canyon as Sam and I started the first steps of the day. I prefaced the day to Sam by saying, “if you feel any signs of altitude sickness, stop! It’s not worth it. Headaches, light-headedness, nausea, etc. Either walk or flag down a support car and jump in.” I’m so proud of her, at 9,500ft Sam ran 3 miles after only 20 hours at altitude. She was smart and listened to her body and stopped before she actually got sick. Starting the day with her set me up for success. Thank you Sam.
It was 10 miles to Animas Forks (where we had no idea what to expect). After a couple hours of trudging uphill on a 4-wheel drive jeep road, all the vehicles and I made it to Animas Forks unscathed. As soon as I stopped running the chilly air hit my sweaty clothes and my body froze. We were at tree line… if trees aren’t growing you know it’s cold and there’s not a lot of oxygen. Animas Forks is on the map, but not 100% sure why… there is NOTHING there. It is an old ghost mining town. Vaughn and Pam came up before the rest of us and scoped out the area and found a possible camping spot. We started to position the vehicles to block the wind from the tents we were going to set up for the crew… everyone was strategizing with a positive attitude while I warmed up a bit in the RV.
This is Animas Forks…
Again, I was feeling good and learning from the day before, I prepped for a few extra miles to make the next day less. Vaughn then says… hey if you’re going to go a bit further why don’t we just take the vehicles over the pass and find a place to sleep down in Lake City (the next days destination). It was sort of an “ah ha” moment and without hesitation everyone agreed. Excited to get out of the frigid air, we all quickly jumped in the 4 vehicles (Vaughn’s Subaru XV Cross Trek, my mom’s Toyota Rav4, my Toyota Tacoma, and of course the trusty rented 4WD RV)
We had two options… Engineer Pass, which I had originally planned, or a few extra miles over Cinnamon Pass. Vaughn had talked to some local in Silverton asking which route they suggested and their answer was…and I quote… “Engineer Pass will make you pucker your butt.” In an effort for more confirmation or second opinion, as we were climbing up to Animas Forks he spoke with a local couple and their response for Engineer Pass was, “It will make you wet your pants”. So Cinnamon Pass it was.
It was about 2.5 miles to the summit of the steep rocky grade from Animas Forks. I had to walk a lot of it to keep moving, but never stopped. When I saw Vaughn and Marcus at the summit I brought my fast walk to a slow jog and crested the mountain road at 12,640ft. There were no trees, there was barely any grass, but there were three yellow butterflies. I’d climbed over 3,000 ft in a few short hours at high elevation and was feeling great. After a quick photo opp with the crew and a brief chat with an older couple sitting in their jeep, it was downhill the rest of the day.
For another 7.5 miles I kept jogging along downhill. My mind and body were in a good place. My toe had gone numb, my lungs felt amazing, my legs felt descent and it was a beautiful bluebird day. As I descended, the colors started to appear again, I saw deer and the air warmed. My gait was rhythmic, my support team was behind me and I just kept going. The original goal I set out was to hit the 17-mile mark, but when I hit that no one was there, so I decided on 18 miles. The same thing happened at 18 miles so 19 it was, but then my OCD self said, “Jenny, might as well make it a round number.” I hit 20 miles and collapsed to the ground in complete fatigue. My mind was in such a great place I didn’t realize how tired my body was after climbing 3,240ft up and 3,250ft down. I cried in Tory’s arms, I cried in Sam’s arms and I cried in the camera Marcus had in my face. All I could say was “I’m just tired”.
- Listen to the locals… they know the way!
- Your mind is so much more powerful than your body (not a lesson, just a reminder).