I often encounter an odd phenomenon my first night on the trail. Bear Panic. It only hits on the first night- evidently on following nights I'm too tired to care, but that first night I seem to wake up to every rustle to clutch my spray and shout "Git, bear!" I am quite certain that I have amused many deer and chipmunks with these shenanigans...
This camp was above the trail, over a little hummock that I had spotted a hundred feet up or so. But the spot seemed oddly "used." Perhaps it was a bedding down spot for some larger critter. Of course all night I was wondering if said critter would return. Anyway, the next morning I had a yard sale to dry out my gear.
While the gear dried I had a "brew-up", as our commonwealth colleagues would say. After breakfast all was packed and I was off. I was carrying 1.5L of water but I had an empty 2L bladder in case I thought I needed more. But it turns out that the trip was positively damp- there was water everywhere and I had no trouble topping up regularly. There weren't any burn bans in effect in Rio Grande National Forest, either, so I could use my Tri-Ti.
Shortly I passed the turnoff to Canyon Rincon Trail. In her description of this loop in her guide Donna Ikenberry describes turning up Canyon Rincon to cross to Roaring Gulch and back down, but I decided to keep heading up the South Fork of the Conejos. As it would turn out I came back DOWN Canyon Rincon, as you can see on the map, but that wasn't my initial plan.
Eventually the trail ends at a T-intersection with Glacier Trail (FS trail #711), where there is a pleasant meadow.
I decided to make a slight detour and headed west to have lunch at Blue Lake. This would also allow me to tag the Continental Divide while I was at it, since Blue Lake sits almost right on it. The terrain was meadows and forest interspersed. For the next several hours I was in rolling hills on almost a "high plateau."
FS trail #711 was well-worn by horsemen and easy to follow, much like FS trail #726 earlier. In some places it was worn knee-deep, and in others the horsemen had spread out enough to create "triple-track."
I came across a horse camp on my way to blue lake. No one was home, but there were horse pickets set out for use.
Further along, a fine little swamp...
...before coming upon Blue Lake.
The tree-covered ridge on the left side of the frame is the Continental Divide. I worked my way up the CDT along this ridge a little way just to say that I did, then returned to the lake for lunch.
Just after finishing lunch a group of four horsemen also stopped nearby for a break. Then it was time to get back on my route- I headed back east on FS trail #711, past the intersection where I had come up FS Trail #724 and finally up into more subalpine terrain.
Crossing the flats toward Glacier Lake the daily thunderstorms again made their appearance, so I started to move with some expedition to get across and down low again. Luckily the first storm was north of me and heading east.
But another appeared behind me and was headed towards me, prodding me to keep up the pace. I certainly got some views in, though...
Glacier Lake was my last landmark before I could get down off the high ground, and I made it with lots of time to spare before the thunderstorm hit. I am forced to assume that Glacier Lake was named at some point in the past when the "glacier" was more impressive.
You can just barely see the dark clouds in the left side of that last frame. This should have been the highest point of my hike at 12040 feet or so, but I would take a wrong turn later in the day that would get me trivially higher. Anyway, I was glad to start the switchbacks into upper Canyon Rincon towards Twin Lakes.
Here's a look down Canyon Rincon:
Coming down the switchbacks I could see a camp with a large white canvas A-frame tent in the basin, either for outfitters or ranchers. After a bit of fumbling around in the marshy ground trying to follow the trail I found FS trail #711 again and passed Twin Lakes where there were five dome-tents set up, though I saw no people.
I did encounter a couple of horsemen, who inquired if I had seen any sheep. I had not. Shortly I passed four more horsemen with two dogs- evidently from the same set of hands as the two I had just passed- hauling some freight to their camp. I crossed Hansen Creek and headed east intending to find the Roaring Gulch Trail (FS trail #720) for my hike back out. But as I mentioned before, the trails that are easy to follow tend to be ones that horsemen use. There is a marsh at the low point before the trail starts climbing again, which complicates things. I saw no turn-offs to my right except for webs of light game trails, and ended up on the trail toward the switchbacks down to Saddle Creek. The weather fluctuated from rain showers to the sunniest bright skies imaginable, and back and forth several times. I donned and removed my rain gear three times before it cleared for the last time. The view down into the Saddle Creek drainage was spectacular, but at the time my camera was buried under my rain gear so I have no photo. This was my high point at around 12100 feet. If I had gone down there it would have meant a long road walk back to my truck. On my Trails Illustrated map there is another trail that heads off to the east from this point towards peak 12555 that eventually meets the Roaring Gulch Trail, but it doesn't exist. I could see a small section of game trail on the hillside across the valley but I was in no mood to bushwhack all the way over there and cross the hill and hope that I could find a way down the steep slope and gulch on the far side.
Well, I'd had enough fun for one day, the sun was getting low in the sky, and I was worn out from all the searching back and forth for a way to connect to Roaring Gulch Trail, so I called it quits and pitched camp.