A great night’s sleep with the sound of running water, and then we were working our way squishy trail again. We followed Canjilon Creek upwards for awhile, as it chuckled and burbled down toward the lake behind us.
The top of the climb was a big spread of meadows, wet and muddy and sprouting fresh green grass of spring. Big crop circles from ATVs deeply scarred the tender new shoots- they let motor toys in here?
I was so sleepy and relaxed I took a break almost every half mile, and eventually, eventually, the valley of the Rio Vallecito opened before us, sheer cliffs on the left, Ponderosa pines strongly perfuming the air as a storm gathered but never quite unleashed. At the head of the Vallecito, a gorgeous, almost fantastical circle of firs offered a fully protected camp, complete with front porch and side porch, like something from a Terry Brooks book. I was absolutely smitten. We pitched the tent at 1:00, crazy early for a traditional thru-hiker approach, and I was so, so happy. I could quite happily live under these trees for a week.
Rain quietly pattered on and off, and towards dark Grizzly Smurf arrived. He set up his tent across the meadow, such an intriguing and authentic soul. I hope we get more chances to hike with and get to know him.