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Archive for July, 2018

Rawlins to Lander – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Rawlins to Lander Hike Overview

rawlins to lander hike on the continental divide trail 2018

In this section I’ve decided to push for my highest mileage day on the CDT, as well as an overall push to cover the next 126 mile in as little time possible. The desert is pretty flat here and elevation gain is not much of an issue. It’s a massively vast area to be walking through. Sage brush as far as the eye can see, and not much else except an occasional wild horse or pronghorn. Much of the beauty here is in the sky… wicked looking dark clouds and vivid sunsets are common. This is some wild country.

Tuesday July 24th – CDT Day 95

Packed everything up and left the hotel around 11am. Started walking to the post office so I could mail out my bounce box and a bus stopped to pick me up. There was no name on the side of it, assuming it was a city run bus. They charged no money, and I asked if she had a tip jar but she said no, and I insist. Okay then!

After the post office I ate lunch at Bucks Sports Bar & Grill. After that, I headed back on Trail. It was 1pm now.

It was a couple of miles of road walking to get out of town, then the trail takes a dirt road into the desert.

The next several miles were pretty flat, and mostly followed really faint old dirt roads or a faint trail.

I reached a spring, the first water source of this section. There was a solar pump here that pumped water into a well that I could draw from. Good quality water! The BLM had created this water source just for CDT hikers. Without it, it would be a 28 Mile carry.

Just beyond this water source I ran into several horses. Normally horses are fenced in, but these guys weren’t. And no saddles. Wild horses? I hear there are many in the basin.

I hiked a few more miles along the road before cutting back into the desert. The trail gets pretty hard to follow at this point. It’s pretty much open desert, so you just pick up bearing in stick with it.

I stopped to make camp around 8pm. I want to get up early tomorrow and push for a big mile day. Otherwise, I would have kept going for another hour. Either way, 22 miles for a half day is not bad.

I was planning on cowboy camping, but as it got darker more gnats or noseeums kept coming out. It was crazy, haven’t had this many bugs since twin Lakes in Colorado. They were driving me insane so I had to set up my tent. There were no rocks or sticks or anything near by and the ground was kind of hard, so it was tough to get the tent stakes in the ground.

While setting up my tent, several horses ran by camp. I also saw several pronghorn, and heard some coyotes howling nearby. So much Wildlife in the desert, unlike the mountains. Most people don’t realize how much wildlife there is here.

Miles – 22
Total Miles – 1544
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – pronghorn, rabbit, wild horses

Wednesday July 25 – CDT Day 96

I slept like crap last night. The delamination of my neo air mattress caused a huge bulge that prevents me from finding any comfortable position. There were a ton of bugs even at night. I could hear them buzzing just outside of the bug net, just inches from my ear. Large bugs were constantly hitting the tent as well. Then it got a little windy. It just was not a very good night for sleep.

When it was time to wake up I did not feel as refreshed as normal. It was going to be hard to go for a big mile day today it seemed. Nevertheless, I hit the trail just minutes before 7am, an early start for me.

The trail follows a lot of dirt roads this morning and all day really. There wasn’t a whole lot to see this morning. I saw lots of pronghorn but that’s pretty normal around here.

It was really hot this morning. By 8:30am, it already felt as hot as it was yesterday.

I reached bull Spring around 11am, having done 11 miles so far. Good water here but no shade. It can be hard to eat when sitting in very warm direct sun light, but I forced myself.

After lunch I had a bit of a hard time mentally. It was just so hot and I had to cover so many miles, and I was just not in the mood to do so. Hiking 12 to 14 hours a day has been wearing on me. I feel good physically, I’m just over walking all day long everyday. I’m not considering quitting at all, just acknowledging the mental challenge. I’m sure the lack of sleep last night brought this on too.

The day seemed a little better after I crested a high point. At least there was some sort of view in both directions.

It was a couple more miles downhill before I reached an electric well. Good water from this source. I ate dinner here and then moved on around 6:30pm.

I hiked a few more miles before the menacing skies above could no longer be ignored. I wanted to cover a few more miles since it was not even 8pm yet, but there’s no way I was going to avoid the rain.

I stopped at the first flat and clear spot I could find. I could see rain in the distance, so I hurried as I set up my tent. Just in time too, as soon as I got it up it started pouring. I jumped inside with minimal collateral damage.

After a short downpour, the rain stopped and I could see a very vibrant orange glow outside my tent. I ventured out and was rewarded with the best sunset I’ve seen on the CDT yet. Just spectacular. There was even some lightning in the sunset clouds. Man, I wish I could have captured that in a photo.

The rain came back as the sunset wrapped up and I was banished to my silnylon prison. Time for bed, hope I can sleep better on this ghetto air mattress tonight.

Miles – 31
Total Miles – 1575
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – pronghorn, Jack rabbit, wild horses, Prairie dog, horned lizard

Thursday July 26th – CDT Day 97

My tent was soaking wet this morning both from the rain and condensation inside. I got up at 6am and started hiking at 7.

I hiked about an hour before reaching a solid water source, a pipe fed from a spring. I stopped here to fill up with 4 liters since the next water source is 28 miles away. Well, the next decent water source, one without cow shit floating in it.

Today I’m planning on putting some big miles in. I made a conscious effort to walk faster and did my best to maintain this pace. This morning especially, many of the dirt roads were soft sand which slowed me down a bit.

It got hot very quickly today. There was also more climbing then the day before. Today was already a little bit more scenic than yesterday with a few more views from high points.

I took lunch around noon under an actual shade tree. I stopped to think about it, and I don’t think I’ve come across one in over 100 miles now. I was tempted to stay much longer but I kept this break to about 25 minutes. I’ve hiked 14 miles today at this point.

The rest of this afternoon was actually a decent amount of ups and downs along Ridge lines, although nothing like in the mountains. Nice, but hot!

I took a short break around 4pm. I was hoping to find some shade, but nothing in sight. I just sat down in the middle of the trail and drank some water. It was too hot to really want to eat anything since I was sitting in direct sunlight. So I skipped meal time here even though I really needed it.

Another 6 miles down the trail I reached a water cache. There were two insulated boxes in an enclosed fenced area. I open the first box, all of the gallon water jugs for empty. I opened the second box and there were two full gallon jugs. Woohoo! I’m drinking water tonight! 32 miles hiked today so far, just after 6pm at this point.

Nice walking this evening. At one point there was a wild horse running through the field, with a rising full moon in the sky and a sunset-lit storm cloud also in the background. My wide angle lens was too wide for the right shot though.

Hiked to 9:45pm tonight, stopping at 40 miles for the day. This is shatters my old record of 34. I watched a distant lightning storm play out in the distance as I ate dinner under a full moon. Not a bad way to end a really really long day.

Miles – 40
Total Miles – 1615
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – pronghorn, wild horses

Friday July 27 – CDT Day 98

Was really sore today after hiking 40 miles yesterday. Only got 7 hrs sleep. Started hiking around 7:45.

Slightly Rolling hills, open fields everywhere. Vast and barren.

The Continental Divide Trail follows the Oregon Trail and the California Trail in this section. Being here really makes you think back to all those people who traveled this route in the olden days. 

Today was a blur. A challenge. Tough. Everything hurts. I just pressed on in zombie mode.

Stopped for a break under a bridge over the Sweetwater River. Nice river, green grass and very scenic. Hiked 18 miles so far and have another 17 to go.

It was a really long walk down this dirt road after lunch. It was really hot, but at least now I could see the wind river range in the distance. The road seemed to lead right to it, so the mountains got bigger with every step.

My legs, knees and feet were shot. Every step was painful. I stopped around 5pm to put some new insoles in my shoes, as I just remembered I brought them for this purpose. My feet felt a little better, but the rest of my body was still hurting.

I saw a nice shade tree along the road around 6pm, so I had to stop and escape the sun. First shade since the Sweetwater River at lunch. This felt amazing, but not enough to overcome my extreme exhaustion.

I pressed on through the evening. About 8 miles to go. I staggered my way through South pass city, a very small community with a mining history. Not much going on here.

The trail was spotty after leaving South pass city. Only 2 miles to hwy 28, where I’ll hitch into Lander. The landscape is really changing now. Random rock outcroppings among rolling hills. Cool.

I reached hwy 28 around 8:45pm, very little light left. Almost no traffic heeding east to Lander. The vehicles that did pass ignored me. I tried to hitch until 9:30 is giving up. It was dark and it just wasn’t gonna happen tonight. I was really disappointed, was looking forward to a hotel bed and shower tonight. Crushing.

I retreated to a patch of trees along the highway. They were actually a thick stand of willows with tons of mosquitos, but I was so exhausted it didn’t matter. I set up camp here and passed out immediately.

This was one of the hardest days on trail for me and possibly my lowest point on the CDT. Glad it’s over and now it’s time to rest up for the winds.

Miles – 35
Total Miles – 1650
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – pronghorn, wild horses, horned lizard

Saturday July 28th – CDT Day 99 (zero day)

I woke up to sprinkles on my tent. Light, but enough to soak the tent. Packed up and headed back to to the highway to resume hitching.

I had much better luck this morning, getting a ride in 20 minutes. My ride dropped me off at the oxbow restaurant in Lander. Breakfast was good and much needed. I remember eating here for breakfast before my Wind River Range Traverse back in 2014.

I contacted Hopeful, the CDT hiker who agreed to hike the winds with me, to see what he was up to. It turns out he is staying with a woman who he met in the airport. She also loaned him her minivan to get around town in, so he picked me up. Nice! Katie, who I’d met in Chama, was also staying at the house and looking to hike the winds with us. Even better!

Back at the house, I immediately took a shower. This felt so good! It was a really nice house with an amazing yard that was well landscaped. There was a pool, hot tub and even a volley ball net. What a great place to stay!

Next we went out to run our town errands. We first stopped at the bulk food store next to NOLS. This was a cool place, they had garbage cans on wheels full of food like trail mix, dried fruit and sesame sticks.

We also popped into NOLS to check the place out. Got a tour of the building and played on this swing they had in one of the gear rooms. Talked to a girl who just back back from a NOLS trip she they summited Gannett peak, Wyoming state high point. It’s in the winds right where we’ll be hiking, so we got a little Intel on the snow conditions. Good thing we have micro spikes!

Went to the post office next, then an outfitter, then lunch at the dairy king. Home of the cheese wheel! It’s a burger battered and deep fried, perfect thru hiker food.

Went to the grocery store and bought food for the next week, then back to the house.

Spent the afternoon in the pool and hot tub. Very relaxing and just what I needed after such a brutal stretch of trail.

Later that evening, we drove about 10 minutes down the road to sinks canyon state park. There’s a river that flows into a mountain and comes out further down the road in another spot. It was a lot cooler in person than it sounds. Great way to spend an hour and see something awesome.

More hot tub this evening before bed. We stayed up until 1am though, so I didn’t get to catch up on sleep like I hoped.

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Encampment to Rawlins – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Encampment to Rawlins Hike Overview

encampment to rawlins hike on the continental divide trail 2018

North of Encampment, the landscape abruptly changes from mountains to desert. The desert here begins as rolling hills, filled with pronghorn. It’s a long road walk into Rawlins. The views aren’t the finest, but the new landscape is interesting after so much time in the mountains. 

Friday July 20th – CDT Day 91

I didn’t go to bed until around 11 last night, but I also slept in till 9am. By this time the only hiker still here was Jesus and knots. Knots was on his way out, so I followed him over to the divide restaurant near the post office for breakfast.

I hung out at the campground most of the day, taking care of little things on my to-do list for those days in town when I have internet. It was a warm day so I was also really taking my time, waiting for the heat of the day to die down.

It was around 6pm when I left the campground. As I was walking towards Encampment, I saw Aaron. He gave me a Gatorade and we walked back to the Bighorn Lodge where he was staying with Dixie. I’m headed over to the divide restaurant again for dinner before hitching out of town. Later, Aaron and Dixie joined me.

I stood out in front of the post office to hitch back to battle pass around 7pm. The first car that drove by picked me up, took less than 5 minutes.

I was hiking by 7:30pm. After leaving the paved road the trail is a dirt road for a while. I followed it uphill through a little ways and made camp a little after 8pm. 2 miles, this will probably end up being my shortest day on the CDT.

Miles – 2
Total Miles – 1459
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Saturday July 21st – CDT Day 92

Walked to the top of Bridger peak this morning, 10,951′. This is the high point for the next 200ish miles along the CDT.

 

The trail drops in elevation from here until the great Divide basin desert, which I’ll enter in another 20 miles.

Stopped to filter water at a Creek, and ate first lunch. Another mile later, I reached a trailhead. Here I met a guy named crazy Joe who was camping and doing a little trail magic. I drank a beer with him and talked for about an hour. Cool guy. Not as crazy as the name implies.

Next the trail pops out of the forest and into an open Ridgeline environment. I’m digging it.

It’s a couple hours walk along the remaining mountainous Ridgeline, in and out of forests. I saw a lot of deer through here.

 

Reaching the last hill was cool. The very end of the mountains and down into the desert, just like that. It’s a profound feeling, the nearly instant and obvious transition from mountains to desert in what seemed like a single step.

Almost immediately the trail joins a dirt road. I followed this to sage creek rd, which I then will follow all the way to Rawlins.

It was still pretty hot even though it was now really evening. I had a half litter of really warm water left. I hiked a few miles to savory creek, whew I took a break in the shade. I ate dinner and filtered water. Chugged a liter and carried 4 with me.

Hiked another couple miles with a nice sunset to entertain. I also saw several pronghorn, first on the CDT for me. Even though I was along the road, I could appreciate the desert landscape. It’s not the super flat kind of desert. Rather, the kind filled with rolling hills.

Found camp around 9pm. It’s just a flat spot on a burm above the road. Decided to cowboy camp, mostly out of laziness.

Miles – 29
Total Miles – 1488
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, cowboy camp
Animals – deer, pronghorn

Sunday July 22nd – CDT Day 93

I woke up around 3am when it started sprinkling. I set up my tent just in time, as the rain intensified right after.

The skies were grey and occasional light sprinkles this morning. Not what I expected in the desert, especially since I’ve only had maybe one other gloomy morning on the CDT like this so far. Almost no days like this in the New Mexico desert.

Today will be straight forward… Follow the road to Rawlins, all day long. Yay.

Came across a cooler along side the road this morning filled with water for CDT hikers. I had 3+ liters, so I left the water for others.

With the grey skies, the Temps were nice and cool, and there was a nice breeze. Perfect for desert hiking! However, Road walking can be pretty boring.

I took lunch in a culvert along side the road. It started sprinkling so it was perfect timing.

I came across another cooler a few miles south of Teton reservoir. This one had ice cold water, with some ice still floating around in the cooler. I definitely took advantage of this one!

Teton reservoir area was the most interesting thing I’d see all day. Not because of the water, which was not that visible from the road really, but because of the interesting mesas just beyond. I took another break in a culvert here, this one with a good view of the mesas.

After this break, the clouds stated clearing. This meant hotter hiking.

A few miles north of Teton reservoir, the dirt road turns to pavement. Good news, as I no longer have to eat dust and pebbles as asshole motorists fly by with no regard to my existence. Bad news, it’s a bit harder on the feet.

The walk along the paved Road was even less interesting. Nothing to do except walk as fast as possible. I took this opportunity to monitor my road walk pace. I figure 3.75 MPH, or 16 minute miles.

I could see Rawlins in the distance as the road approached town. It felt like a Wyoming version of Grants, NM. Hopefully no gauntlet of aggressive dogs guarding the city though.

Rawlins is pretty spread out, so it still took about an hour to reach the hotel after entering the city. Apparently all the hotels are near booked so I barely got a room at the days inn, which had changed names to Magnuson. Nothing special about this place. A little run down actually.

Are dinner at McDonald’s and came back to the hotel to pass out. Today was 34 miles, tied for the most miles I’ve ever done in a day.

Miles – 34
Total Miles – 1522
Rain – yes
Sleep – hotel
Animals – pronghorn

Monday July 23 – CDT Day 94 (zero day)

Slept in to 9am which felt great, but still not long enough. Did sink laundry and called my dad, then I went to McDonald’s again for lunch. There isn’t much around here to eat really.

Made a reservation across the street at Econo Lodge for the evening, since it seemed like a nicer place for the same price. Plus, they have a hot tub! Walked over there around noon and they had no rooms available yet, gotta wait. I hate how hotels do that, make you wait until 3pm to check in. They start cleaning them at 9am so how can there be no clean rooms available? Come on now.

I waited about an hour for my room. Not sure if it was the owner, but an older guy walked by a few times and noticed me sitting there and told the woman at the front desk to hurry up and “get this young man a room”. So I’m wondering, what age do you stop becoming a young man and just a man? Is it relative? You’re young man if you’re younger than the person referring to you? Either way, I’ll take it. Young man > old man.

After getting checked into the room, I walked up to Walmart. On the way up there I ran into bartender, another hiker. She had just made the decision to leave the trail due to tendonitis in the foot. It’s really sad to hear that, it must be really hard to make that decision after coming so far.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening doing typical town chores. Mostly, dealing with stuff in my bounce box. Backing up pictures and video, updating my GPS with Wyoming tracks, and getting my plan together for the wind River range.

I had put up a post on the CDT Facebook page looking for a partner to hike from Lander to old Faithful, since my route through this area will not be on the official CDT. It would be nice to have someone to hike the winds with, as well as strength in numbers through grizzly country. A hiker name hopeful replied, and it looks like we’re going to meet up in Lander. Perfect!

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Steamboat Springs to Encampment – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Steamboat Springs to Encampment Hike Overview

grand lake to steamboat springs hike on the continental divide trail 2018

Besides a walk through the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness, gone are the days of high mountains. This section sees a transition from from the Colorado landscape to a drier and lower elevation mountain environment in Wyoming as the trail passes through the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. The Mt. Zirkel Wilderness is definitely the highlight of this section, which resembled the high Sierras at times. 

Monday July 16th – CDT Day 87

Got a solid 10hrs of sleep last night, that felt great. Good breakfast at the hotel too, including sausage and bacon. I saw Asha and Justin at breakfast, whom I’d met last night in the hot tub. They joined me and ultimately offered to give me a ride into the downtown area later so I could run some errands.

I got dropped off at BAP, the outdoor gear store that John runs. John is the guy who picked me up from Rabbit Ears pass yesterday. We talked about ways to make my backpack hip belt cinch tighter, and he sent me over to the Big Agnes repair facility down the road. One of his workers gave me a ride on his way there.

At the Big Agnes shop, they ultimately talked me out of chopping off the old hip belt strap and buckle to replace with a slimmer, less bulky buckle. There could be rubbing on my hips from the new stitching, could compromise the hip belt webbing, Etc. Instead we chopped the extra length of the strap and removed a small fabric loop for the strap, folded over the ends and sewed that up. This is what I did at home to my last osprey pack, the large one I sent home in exchange for this medium a few weeks ago. A small but somewhat helpful improvement.

One of the guys at Big Agnes have me a ride up to backdoor burger, a place that had been recommended to me by multiple people. After eating lunch, which was pretty good, I picked up an Uber to get back to rabbit ears pass.

 

It was around 3:15pm when I started hiking today. The terrain is forest and low rolling hills now. Everything is pretty green and there’s lots of wild flowers in bloom. Not the huge mountains the rest of Colorado had to offer.

The trail was seldom steep this evening and made for an easy walk. I saw a Porcupine bumbling down the trail, oblivious to my presence. It sprinkled briefly, typical of late.

Found camp at grizzly lake just after 8pm. There used to be grizzlies in Colorado, but the last one was killed in the San Juans in the 1970s. This lake’s name bears that legacy. Early camp it seemed, but it all seemed early in comparison to the late hiking I’d done recently. If The terrain continues to be this easy, I should make good time to Encampment.

Miles – 14
Total Miles – 1383
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer, Porcupine

Tuesday July 17 – CDT Day 88

This morning was nice by the lake. Haven’t slept next to many lakes on the CDT so far.

50 miles to the Wyoming border now. I’m hoping for 30 today and tomorrow. That’d put me at the border late afternoonish tomorrow and 10 miles into Wyoming, leaving only 10 miles to battle pass on Thursday. Battle pass is where I hitch into Encampment. That’s the plan anyways.

Not much to see this morning. A few small lakes, forest.

I stopped to filter water at a trailhead with a steam. This is where the Mt. Zerkel wilderness begins.

The views improve with the increase in elevation.

Stopped for lunch as it started sprinkling. It passed quickly.

Still several more miles of up hill hiking. Fortunately it isn’t too steep. In spots it reminded me of the high Sierras, even if only for brief moments. 

Nice hiking above tree line here. Snow patches to cross and imposing peaks in the background. Not what I was expecting this close to Wyoming, but beautiful.

After cresting the high point just below lost ranger peak the trail drops down for a long time.

The trail dips below treeline and goes through an old burn area.

Found camp around 9pm, having done 29 miles. It’s along a dirt road in a field. Good enough.

Miles – 29
Total Miles – 1412
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

Wednesday July 18th – CDT Day 89

Lots of deer running around camp last night and this morning. Lots of condensation on my tent too.

You can really feel the change in landscape today, transitioning from one state to another. Less mountains and peaks, more fields and forest. Still pretty hilly though, many ups and downs.

Only saw a guy and his horses and two dirt bikers today. No CDT hikers this whole stretch. However, I did see a fresh pile of bear crap. When I got into town, I talked to a CDT hiker who was apparently ahead of me on trail by less than an hour. He saw a bear here when he walked through earlier in the morning. 

It was a hot day, and I should have filled up after at the last source. It was dry all the way up to a half mile before the border of Wyoming. There was a spring about a quarter mile down hill, but it was a bushwhack. I was in pretty pretty desperate need of water, so I didn’t mind. Man that water was good, and I filled up 3L to go.

It was a great feeling to reach Wyoming this evening. However, I feel like I’ve been walking forever and I’m ONLY halfway! Still, I’m looking forward to Wyoming and something different.

I hiked 3 miles into Wyoming tonight, Mostly through hilly forest. Saw a couple of Porcupines along the way. The last field I walked through before finding camp was a wet and muddy one. No avoiding it, my feet got completely soaked as they were fully submerged in mud and water. Right before sundown getting wet feet, ugh that’s the worst. They’ll never dry over night.

As I’m writing this in the dark, in my tent, there was a loud explosion pretty nearby. Followed by… Nothing, just silence. I know there’s a few roads nearby, so people isn’t a surprise. Just not sure what it was. Weird.

18 miles to battle pass tomorrow. I was hoping to cover a few more miles between yesterday and today to cut this down, it just didn’t work out. So it’ll be a mid to late afternoon arrival at the pass.

Miles – 28
Total Miles – 1440
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer, Porcupine

Thursday July 19th – CDT Day 90

Dried my shoes out in the Sun as I packed up camp this morning. Smeagol passed by as well. I later caught up to her but we hiked our own pace throughout the day.

Today was a push to make miles and hitch into town before the post office closes at 4pm. Still a few climbs left, ensuring I don’t go too fast.

This morning I entered the Huston parks wilderness. This area did offer a few big views but they weren’t as impressive as what I’d seen throughout Colorado. 

I stopped to filter water from a stream around noon. Also, to eat. I can push quite a while with little or no water, but my pace really slows when I get hungry.

The last 9 miles or so went pretty easy. Forest, large open meadows with abundant green grass. 

After leaving the wilderness area, I followed a dirt road a short ways to battle pass at wy-70. This is the paved Road leading into Encampment. I made it to the pass around 3pm and got lucky, the second car picked me up in about 5 minutes.

My hitch dropped me off at the post office with plenty of time to spare before they closed. While I was picking up my package, a woman in line behind me noticed I was a CDT hiker and offered a ride wherever I needed to go. Perfect, saves me a 1 mile road walk to lazy acres campground in Riverside.

There were several other CDT hikers at the campground… Knots, badmash, topo, minutes, bartender and Jesus. A different group of hikers I mostly hadn’t met yet.

After a shower and staring laundry, five of us headed up to the bear trap restaurant across the street. Good food and big portions.

I was talking to an older couple at the campground earlier in the afternoon and they were drinking wine. They left the rest of the bottle with a plastic cup next to my tent, so I had a little wine before bed as well. Bonus!

Miles – 17
Total Miles – 1457
Rain – no
Sleep – rv park, tent
Animals – deer

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Grand Lake to Steamboat Springs – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Grand Lake to Steamboat Springs Hike Overview

grand lake to steamboat springs hike on the continental divide trail 2018

This section of the CDT passes through Rocky Mountain National Park and the Never Summer Wilderness as well as the Arapaho National Forest and Routt National Forest. This area is home to lots of Moose. Some pretty good views along the way, especially from Parkview Mountain. This is the last time the official CDT route reaches 12,000′ for a northbounder. 

Thursday July 12th – CDT Day 83

Started hiking around 11am. Not the early start I wanted, but I was busy getting things done that I probably should have done the last few days. It’s tough to get motivated to do chores in town when all you want to do is relax. And eat food.

With the weather threatening rain, I took the Rocky Mountain alternate, bypassing the 25 mi loop. The first four miles follow a creek uphill, with occasional meadow views. Saw a couple of moose.

After a short Road walk, the trail follows the dirt road into the Never Summer Wilderness. I saw a couple more moose here feeding in a meadow.

Now the trail starts it’s biggest climb up the day, 2500 ft. The Sun came out for a while after some really dark clouds and occasional rain patches. This made the walk through the forest a lot nicer. Stopped for lunch on a wooden structure supporting a bridge over a creek.

Great views as I reached tree line. Wildflowers are really out now and make a great addition to the already beautiful mountain scenery. Saw another moose as well. Lost my hat at some point, must have dropped it when taking pictures in a patch of flowers. Dang.

Went over Bowen Pass a little after 5pm. Great views. These mountains have a different feel than the rest of Colorado. Not sure why. Steeper, more spires… something.

Filtered water at the first stream below the pass. The weather was clearing up which it had not been doing the last few days at this time of the evening. Bonus.

The sun was out now which made for a nice hike this evening. Found camp around 9pm.

Miles – 22
Total Miles – 1306
Rain – yes
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – Moose, rabbit

Friday July 13th – CDT Day 84

Calm night, very silent. Started hiking at 7:45am.

First six miles were all forest. I reached small stream and stopped here to filter water. Columbus and space cadet showed up shortly after. So that’s who was camped 1/4 mile behind me last night.

The next part is a 3000′ climb up to the summit of Parkview mountain. This took much longer than anticipated, as It was often steep.

Better views as I climbed higher and higher.

The final ridge leading to the summit was nice. Colorful.

At the summit of Parkview mountain is an emergency shelter. I stopped here for a break and to enjoy the beautiful views. Columbus and space cadet arrived soon after.

Next I descended Parkview mountains’ west Ridge. This was the last time the official CDT reaches 12,000′, unless doing alternates in the Winds… Which I am! This ridge was one of my favorite moments in Colorado… So beautiful! Even though there were other spots along the trail in Colorado that were probably more impressive, something about the way the light was shining right now and my mood that made it so memorable.

By now I was running out of water and very thirsty. It was a couple of miles to the next stream. This dragged on forever! Chugged 1.5L at the steam and took 3L with me.

Lots more ups and downs this evening on the way to camp. This section, to Steamboat springs, has been much more work than I anticipated. Basically every section of trail, I think, it’s going to get a little easier for X reason. And it never does!

Got to camp around 8:45pm this evening.

Miles – 22
Total Miles – 1328
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

Saturday July 14th – CDT Day 85

Left camp around 7:30am. The trail goes uphill for a while along the top of a ridge.

Later in the morning, I missed a turn for the CDT and followed another trail down another ridge. It was about a mile out of the way, so two miles total. And some climbing.

Stopped at a creek to filter some water, space cadet and Columbus were there too. It was a shallow stream and tough to get more than a liter in my dirty water bag, so that’s all I took. Another water source coming up soon.

Next is another 1000 ft climb. This is the last big climb of the day. Now up on another Ridgeline for a few miles of little ups and downs along a dirt road.

My new hat is a bandana, which is actually my pack towel. McGuyver approved

The trail follows Forest Road 103 downhill for many miles. I mostly enjoyed this section. Somewhere along this walk I decided to use my pack towel as a bandana to get some protection from the sun. I’ll have to order a new hat in Steamboat. 

Later in the evening, I passed through a cow pasture. First of its kind in Colorado. These cows were vocal and angry. I was looking for somewhere to camp about now, so this was a bit annoying.

I eventually entered some public land just as highway 14 came into sight. Tomorrow I’ll be Road walking that, but I need to find a spot to camp anywhere before that road. I found a spot at 9pm with little light to spare.

Miles – 29
Total Miles – 1357
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer, rabbit

Sunday July 15th – CDT Day 86

Broke camp at 7:15am, early for me. Ready for town! Looked pretty cloudy, potential for rain today?

It was less than a mile before I reached hwy 14, a paved road. Lots of traffic with occasional lack of shoulders makes for some crappy walking. A guy riding his bike from Seattle to North Carolina passed by. Otherwise, not much to say about today really, just walked 12 miles on paved roads. Not much to see here.

Reached rabbit ears pass at 10:45am, which took 3.5 hours. I got lucky and was picked up by maybe the 5th car… John, who worked for BAP, a Big Agnes sister company. Couldn’t have asked for a better hitch.

Ate a 14“ pizza from Brooklyns, then I booked a room at the Fairfield Inn. Nice room. Decent price considering the town. Took the free bus from downtown to the hotel. The bus driver had already hit something earlier apparently, as a cop was there at the transit station taking pictures of the damage. Then as the driver pulled out and made a sharp turn, the bike rack on the front of the bus clipped a sign or something. He started swearing and getting angry, which was pretty funny to be honest. Of course, I felt bad he was having such a rough day though. The passengers were giving him a hard time, in a playful manner. The bus driver was pretty cool about it considering how pissed off he was in the moment.

Showered up then meet Smeagol at McDonald’s for more food. Then we went to Walmart to resupply. This was not a full Walmart, they didn’t even sell men’s hats or honey buns! Typical Walmart, you go in with a list of 10 things and they only have 8.

Took the bus back to the hotel. Determined to catch up on sleep tonight. Oh, and there’s no LTE in Steamboat Springs for us AT&T customers. Bummer. Should have gotten Verizon before the hike.

Miles – 12
Total Miles – 1369
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – deer

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I-70 (Frisco) to Grand Lake – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – I-70 (Frisco) to Grand Lake Hike Overview

I70 to grand lake hike on the continental divide trail

North of I-70, the Sugarloaf Fire forced a reroute. This led me to bushwhack my own route around the closure before rejoining with the CDT. However, my return to the trail would be short lived. Thunderstorms kept me off the high ridges and forced a low route, taking me through the town of Winter Park. After rejoining the CDT yet again in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, I saw my first Moose on the CDT. 

Friday July 6th – CDT Day 77

I planned on leaving Frisco today to head back on Trail, but wasn’t sure what time yet. I haven’t fully decided on which route to hike yet either. The sugarloaf fire to the west has a 5 mile section of the CDT closed and a reroute has been suggested. Even though it’s only 5 miles closed, the reroute skipped over 20 miles of the official trail. I’ve got an idea that involves some bushwhacking but will skip over much less official CDT trail. It’s a high section and looks like it could be pretty scenic, and I’d rather not take a low route. Even if it would be easier.

I spent the morning on my phone, taking care of a few things… ordered new socks, ordered a part for my trekking pole that fell off, and ordered a camera sensor cleaning kit. I have some dust on my sensor and it’s showing up as dark spots on photos.

Sprinkler and I went to Safeway to buy groceries for the next section. We took the free bus system, which was a short and direct route this time.

Back at the motel, I went through my gear and thinned out some things. I’ve been carrying this unopened summer sausage a few weeks now and haven’t eaten it, time to let it go. I could also throw out my old shoes now that my new ones have proven themselves. The cascadia 13s are awesome!

Sprinkler and I later took the bus back up to North Frisco so we could eat at Wendy’s before I left. Sprinkler is staying another night. From here I ubered back up to the spot I left trail yesterday.

It was 6pm when I started hiking. I walked a few miles down at paved bike pathway that parallels interstate 70. This was actually a pretty nice walk for what it is.

After crossing under I70, I reached Herman Gulch trailhead. I still hadn’t decided whether or not to take the official reroute or the bush whacking route, and ended up just choosing the latter.

The first bit of Trail up Herman Gulch was steep. At least it didn’t last too long. Passed a few day hikers coming down. Both mentioned a nice campsite a few miles up.

The trail quickly pops through the trees and has some nice views of the valley. It was a pretty enjoyable hike, and I could already tell that this area was going to be something I’m glad I didn’t skip over had I done that reroute.

I found the campsite the other hikers mentioned and it lived up to the hype. There was a small space for 1 tent, and it was right next to a cascading Creek with snow capped mountains in the background. Pretty awesome spot.

Miles – 7
Total Miles – 1237
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Saturday July 7th – CDT Day 78

Calm night. I slept well with the sound of the creek nearby.

Not long after leaving camp, I reached the top of the Ridgeline above Woods Creek. Now it was time to leave the trail and bushwhack downhill.

The first part was easy. I followed the creek and had little in the way of obstacles. Further downhill, the ground was soggy and there were a lot of willow bushes. I could head uphill a little bit, but then it’s steeper and dense forest. I’d call it a moderate bushwhack.

Eventually I reached an old road. It looks like someone had torn up the road up to make sure nobody could ever drive on it again. I was surprised to see two guys heading uphill here, didn’t think anyone hiked this. Father down, the dirt road flattened out.

Lake Urad Reservoir

The road led to large reservoir, named Lake Urad. There we’re lots of people camping, swimming, and fishing here. I continued to follow the road downhill for several miles. It passes by a water treatment plant, and some interesting signage.

The road eventually comes to a T intersection. I could go right on highway 40 or make a left on 144. I went left, which leads to Henderson mine. Here there is a trail that leads back up to the CDT.

The trail climbs about 600 ft before leveling off. Then it roughly follows the contour lines along the side of the mountains. I stopped to filter water and take a break, but now the clouds are building.

After my break, the trail starts climbing up Hill towards Stanley mountain. When I reached the tree line, I started to get some sprinkles and could hear lots of thunder. Most of it was distant, but then there was an extremely loud thunder clap nearby. Way too close for comfort. Yikes. Time to head down below tree line and wait this out.

Vasquez Pass

I got tired of waiting out storms and decided to take a low route. Backtracked a little and hiked over Vasquez pass. The plan is to follow Vasquez creek down to Silver park then back up to the CDT around mile 1335. This will cut off a few miles and eliminate some ups and downs. I also miss some great views, along with a lot of climbing, but it’s better than being at the mercy of storms. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Vasquez Peaks Wilderness

The upper basin was wet and the trail was faint. It eventually turned into a dirt road. Many pine trees were sprouting up in the middle of the road. This is the Vasquez peak wilderness. It did not look like this area gets much use.

After leaving the wilderness, it was an hours walk down another dirt road, in a little better shape. I saw a deer and Porcupine along the way.

The road eventually led to a gate. Beyond it lied a Gauntlet of car campers that lined the road for several miles. Crazy numbers of people… 500? 800? There was one group alone that was like 80 strong.

The closer I got to town, the less available campsites there were. I didn’t realize this until it was too late… Literally. It was now after 9pm and running out of light fast. Then the national forest boundary ended and it was all private land now. I had no choice but to walk into the town of winter park now.

All the motels are expensive, and mostly booked. I had to stay at a pricey bed and breakfast place (winter park chateau), which I reached at 10pm. Long day, did 27 miles.

Miles – 27
Total Miles – 1237
Rain – yes, thunder, lightning
Sleep – hotel
Animals – deer, Porcupine

Sunday July 8th – CDT Day 79

Didn’t get as much sleep as I wanted, but a good hearty breakfast was a nice consolation. I then went to the winter park visitor center to get some info about how to get back up to the CDT from here.

I walked hwy 40 north for about an hour until I reached my turn, county road (?) 8. Is road was full of luxury vacation homes and condos. I walked this for another hour plus before it merged into forest road 128. This again was another hour plus walk. I saw a deer run across the road just feet from me.

I reached the Devils thumb/high lonesome trailhead after about 4 hours and took a break… Filtered water and ate lunch.

It was a short hike back to the official CDT from the trailhead. It’s good to finally be back on track.

The next section of trail was a little boring, just forest with occasional meadow views. I was trudging along in zombie mode when I came across 3 Moose. I’d only seen one Moose before on my life (from a car) so this was pretty cool. Shortly after, I saw another lone Moose in a field.

The next couple miles were more repetitive forest walking. Pretty much the whole afternoon, thunder could be heard in the distance. There were a small handful of meadows with nice open views of distant peaks.

When I reached the Indian peaks trailhead, it started raining. There was a locked cabin here, but it had a porch. I sat underneath it for a while until the rain stopped. Then a girl I’d met once before named Smeagol showed up. She joined me for a while before setting off together. We both wanted to reach Monarch lake tonight, another 6 miles.

We hiked some confusing sections of dirt road next. After realizing a road on the map didn’t exist, we bushwhacked up hill a quarter mile up to a small saddle to find another road. Another day in the life of a Continental Divide Trail hiker.

We hiked until dark, and then hiked some more. It started raining as the light faded. I pulled out the headlamp as the rain picked up. Time for rain jacket and backpack rain fly.

I continued down hill on the switchbacks in the steady rain. The batteries in my headlamp were dying, and the light became more dim. It took awhile to notice this, and when I did I realized the light was no longer helping. Fortunately I had another set of batteries. This was the first time I changed them on trail.

I finally found a flat spot next to the trail to set up my tent around 10pm. Two nights in a row now I’ve hiked late. I also wanted to get an earlier start tomorrow to get into town before the post Office closes, but at the same time, I refuse to run on much less than 8 hours of sleep.

Miles – 26
Total Miles – 1263
Rain – yes, thunderstorms
Sleep – backcountry, tent
Animals – deer, Moose

Monday July 9th – CDT Day 80

Woke up at 6:45 am. Beautiful morning, and apparently I wasn’t too far from Monarch Lake. The water was as smooth as glass.

As soon as I hit the trail, I started seeing day hikers and fisherman show up. Probably best that they didn’t see me camping where I was, as there was a sign saying not to Camp around the lake when I reached the trailhead. That’s what happens when you night hike, you wake up in the morning to see everything else you missed in the dark.

Bald Eagle

North of Monarch Lake the trail follows a dirt road. I wasn’t paying attention and went left around Ganby Lake when I should have went right. I hiked about a mile and a half before realizing this, and had to turn around and backtrack. I did see a bald eagle perched in a tree nearby while on the wrong side of the lake so at least I saw that.

Now on the correct side of the lake, the road becomes a trail. It’s a nice change of pace to be hiking alongside a lake. It even had some beach front.

The nice hiking didn’t last long though. The trail starts to climb above the lake and is riddled with blowdowns. It was about an 800 foot climb to the top of a Ridgeline. This was the final climb before Grand Lake. I saw several deer along the way.

I stopped to eat around 11:30. It was really hot today and there was not a whole lot of shade.

The trail then descends the Ridgeline down to the lake again. Eventually the lake narrows and it’s no longer a lake, but the Colorado River. Heading north I next reached grand lake, which also seems to be called Shadow Mountain Lake.

I eventually reached the road in town and several locals recognized me as a CDT hiker, and were interested in chatting about my journey. I had plenty of time to spare before the post office closed so it was not a worry. However, I was severely dehydrated and ready to get out of the Sun.

After leaving the post office I headed over to the shadow Cliff hostel. Apparently they are booked for the week. Bummer! I jumped on Priceline and booked a much more expensive hotel, as it was the only option. It was another mile walk back to this hotel.

I stopped to eat in Dairy King next door and saw Smeagol. She was staying two doors down for me at the hotel.

Later, Dixie and Aaron arrived at the hotel as well. We went out to eat at the sagebrush barbecue just before they closed.

Miles – 21
Total Miles – 1284
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – deer, bald eagle

Tuesday July 10th – CDT Day 81 (zero day)

Ate breakfast at Sagebrush.

Patched the hole in my tent vestibule today. Had an extra piece of silnylon in my bounce box, so that worked out.

I got bad news from Easy today. He went to the clinic for foot pain, and found out his foot is broken. Unfortunately he’s going to have to leave trail until it heals. Best he can hope for is to get back on trail in 8 weeks, and make it as far north as possible. Such a bummer.

Got a pizza from white Buffalo. Pretty good. Sprinkler showed up tonight and we split a room.

Wednesday July 11th – CDT Day 82 (zero day)

Breakfast at Fat Cat, the popular breakfast joint in town. I thought it was pretty good.

I promised Smeagol I’d split a room with her tonight, so sprinkler got his own and I moved my stuff over to her room.

I spent the afternoon utilizing the contents of my bounce box. Resupplying batteries, toothpaste, OTC pills, etc. Additionally, I could now repair the hole in my backpack Rain cover and the hike in my backpack side pocket. Tenacious tape, silnylon patches and silicone to the rescue.

Bought groceries and packed that up. Ate dinner with sprinkler at dairy king.

After a lot of thought, I decided that I will no longer update my blog while hiking the CDT. It’s costing me too much time and money in town. It’ll be more work when I get home, but it’ll be better this way. This was a bummer but a huge weight off my shoulders. In the end I know it was the right call.

 

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Breckenridge to I-70 (Frisco) – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Breckenridge to I-70 (Frisco) Hike Overview

continental divide trail hike photo north of breckenridge

Despite the large number of roads encountered on this stretch, and the lack of a real wilderness feel to it, this one was of the more scenic sections of the CDT in Colorado in my opinion. There were lots of 4×4 vehicles and ATVs out here though. The mountains had a lot of color to them in this section… not just green, but reds and oranges too. Colorful Colorado indeed! Grays Peak and Torreys Peak are also along this route, the highest point along the Continental Divide Trail. 

Tuesday July 3rd – CDT Day 74

Woke up at 8 so I could eat breakfast. The fireside inn is actually a bed and breakfast place with a couple hostel style bunk rooms. Breakfast is a separate charge from the bunk room price, but saves the time of going out somewhere.

I walked to the City Market grocery store after leaving the hostel. I needed a few staple items… Tortillas, cheese, pepperoni, precooked bacon, honey buns and TP. I had everything else already between my Walmart.com shipment to the fireside inn and my left over food from the previous section.

Next I took the bus to the point whew I left trail with Ryan on Sunday. The stop actually is right at the CDT’s junction with CO Hwy 9 which was super convenient. The trail follows a paved road to a vacation home(??) community. It’s weird, the trail goes right through their properties and around a little man-made pond before climbing up some switchbacks. Lots of people coming down.

After an hour I ran into Sprinkler. We hiked the rest of the day together. Rain clouds in the distance, sun coming and going.

Not much to see today. The trail stays below tree line all day. We passed a guy hiking the Colorado Trail with his two young daughters. Apparently one of them was hit by a mountain biker earlier in the day.

Passed a dog training facility thing… Looked like some giant obstacle course and had a ton of dogs baking. Not camping near that.

Last water for 20 miles happened to be right before a 2800′ climb. It also started thundering and raining a bit. Needless to say, the decision to camp near the water source was an obvious one, Even if we hadn’t hit our 20 miles for the day. Got to camp at 6pm. Lots of Colorado trail hikers here.

Miles – 16
Total Miles – 1203
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – Ptarmigan

Wednesday July 4th – CDT Day 75

Sprinkler and I woke up at 5:15am. I figured an earlier start would be best today with the ridge walking and potential for weather.

Today started with a 2800′ climb. Typical forest, then emerged from treeline to some colorful mountains.

Sprinkler and I took a break next to some snow fence. There’s a dirt road here that is also the Colorado trail. This is where the Colorado Trail splits off from the CDT, just a couple hundred feet away. Finally, less bikes and people in general. I also saw my first mountain goats here, grazing on the hillside above.

The trail now climbs up along a ridge line. Excellent views all around. Really, some of the best mountain views along the entire CDT thus far. However, the weather was turning. Rain could be seen in the distance for much of the rest of the day, as well as occasional sprinkles on myself.

Stopped for lunch along the highpoint at 13,025′. After lunch, we mostly followed some dirt roads. There was a ton of people out here on dirt bikes, ATVs, dune buggies and Jeeps since it’s July 4th.

Hiking up here is hard work. The trail drops a few hundred feet but stays high for a while at over 12,500′. Dark clouds loom and pose a threat, but no lightning to speak of. Such an impressive place to be. 

Rain sprinkles continued on and off throughout the afternoon. There was no shortage of colorful mountains all around. One doesn’t often think of mountains as colorful but they really are here. Lots of reds and oranges compliment the traditional greens. No wonder the state motto is “colorful Colorado”.

At Webster pass, sprinkler and I had a decision to make. Follow the ridge as the CDT route is supposed to, or head downhill and follow a series of roads to the base of grays peak. Considering the bad weather along the ridge, we took the low route. It had already been a long day with a ton of climbing so this was also a welcome choice. However, I know who miss out on a lot of great views. There was no water up there and no where to camp though, so logistically it didn’t really make sense. At least not this late in the afternoon.

We descended the 4×4 road dish to Webster creek as many side by side ATVs were going up. Filtered water at the creek which had a strong iron taste to it. No wonder, it looked a bit rusty. The sprinkles started again as we took our break, cutting it a bit short. Back to road walkin’.

The lower we went, the better the road got. Eventually it turned into a paved road, and even passed through a little town called Montezuma. Just residential homes, vacation homes more than likely. No store to buy a drink or anything. Stop signs were cemented into large barrels along the road. On one sign, Under the word “STOP”, someone had cleverly added the word “hammertime”. Classic.

Then we joined a dirt road along Peru creek, and we bumped into Charlie. Only seen him once before, back in the San Pedro Parks wilderness north of Cuba, NM. He hiked with us much of the rest of the evening.

Sprinkler and I started looking for camp where the trail starts to climb steeply up to Argentine pass, and Charlie hiked on. However, we could not find a suitable place to camp near anywhere below the ascent. Charlie aimed to camp in the upper basin, where it was a little flatter on the topo maps. We filled our water bags at the river and headed up hill towards this area.

When the destination was reached, I was disappointed with the options here. Ground was not flat enough and very lumpy. However, we were tired and it was getting late. This will have to do.

Long day. There’s no way we would have made it here if we took the ridge. Time for sleep.

Miles – 27
Total Miles – 1230
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – mountain goats, deer

Thursday July 5th – CDT Day 76

Had a little rain last night, pretty light and only lasted 15 minutes. On trail at 7:15am.

From camp, the trail climbs one long path to the pass, angled up the mountainside.

From Argentine pass, the views just got better and better. Lots of ups and downs, tougher as the elevation reaches 13,000.

Stopped for a break before Mt Edwards. It had taken surprisingly long to get here, as it was now 10am or so. We could see storm clouds brewing behind grays peak, so we tried to pick up the pace.

The climb up Mt Edwards was often steep, and filled with false horizons. Great views going up through. Approaching the summit I could see a mountain goat laying down. He got up as I grew near, and limped away. It was pretty obvious he had an injured leg.

Holy crap, the views from Mt Edwards were awesome! Sheer cliffs on one side, grassy ridge on the other. I hiked up the grassy side, so the views were a big surprise.

After Mt Edwards, it’s a pretty gnarly traverse of a knife edge. And it’s not a short section, this goes on for a while. Easily the most exposed, technical section of the CDT so far. But awesome and a lot of fun!

Dark clouds building fast above grays peak. Then a little rain, and some thunder. We were a few hundred feet below the summit and decided to head cross country over to the switchbacks leading down hill and skip the summit. Better safe than sorry.

It rained on and off on the way down. After passing the grays peak trailhead, the weather really started to get nasty. Heavy rain and hail, nearly constant thunder. Fun stuff.

We reached I70 late afternoon. Not much traffic here so we ended up getting an Uber ride into Frisco. We stayed at the snowshoe motel and split a room.

Went to a pizza place and ordered an enormous Chicago style pizza. Meat lovers, of course. The mammal medley. Could only eat half!

Later while walking a street over from the motel, I saw a fox. Only the 3rd fox I’ve ever seen in my life.

The hotel had a hot tub, and I went looking for it. Apparently they converted room 29 into a little spa… Not only the hot tub, but a sauna as well. It was really nice actually. No pool next to it, no kids running around. Relaxing!

Miles – 11
Total Miles – 1230
Rain – heavy rain, thunder, hail
Sleep – hotel
Animals – mountain goats, marmot, fox

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Twin Lakes to Breckenridge – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Twin Lakes to Breckenridge Hike Overview

twin lakes to breckenridge hike on the continental divide trail

Highlights from the Twin Lakes to Breckenridge section of the Continental Divide Trail include Kokomo Pass, an abandoned WWII training facility, Mt Edwards and Mt Massive alternate routes, and a few scenic ridgelines overlooking the ski resorts of Copper Mountain and Breckenridge. North of Twin Lakes, the route isn’t blow-your-mind scenic, but it gradually improves and provides some excellent views. 

Thursday June 28th – CDT Day 69

Woke up at 9 today. Yeah! Slept in and it felt great. Didn’t really mean to though.

Picked up my package from the general store and bought some food there as well. The selection was thin, but with the food I had sent myself in the box I was okay.

There was no where to get breakfast in town so I had to wait until 11am when a nearby food truck opens. Burgers were only 1/3 pound, so of course I ordered a triple with fries. Gotta refuel before hitting the trail, right?

I ate lunch with Sprinkler and Inspector Gadget. Inspector Gadget then gave me a ride back to Willis Gulch trailhead so I could continue hiking where I left off last night.

It’s a 2 mile Road walk along Colorado Highway 82 until I split off the road at Gordon Gulch. My map shows a trail intersecting highway 82, but it’s a private residence here. I walked away from the property by a hundred yards and then headed up hill. It was a steep bushwhack. Then I skirted the hillside above the private residence. I eventually found a faint foot path that led to a dirt road, and eventually a real trail.

Twin Lakes

Lots of people on trail here, as its the base of Mt Elbert. Really hot. I dipped my hat into streams whenever possible to stay cool. Not much to see, but well maintained trail.

I reached a trailhead for Mt Elbert close to 6pm. Here I saw several hikers I recognized but hadn’t seen in a while… Namely Marty and Emily, last seen at Doc Campbell’s. Earl Grey’s friend was here with beer and snacks for us hikers. I gladly accepted the beer and hung out here for a while.

After leaving the trailhead, I hiked with Mark and John for a while. This made the uphill climb go much faster.

I found camp on a wooded hill above a small stream after 8. Just under 60 miles to Breckenridge, should be there Sunday.

Warm night, and the mosquitoes won’t quit. Cowboy camping too, should be fun.

Miles – 14
Total Miles – 1139
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, cowboy camp
Animals – none

Friday June 29th – CDT Day 70

I kept my mosquito head net on as I slept for a few hours last night, until the bugs died down. Got up at 6:30, hiking by 7:30.

Dixie adjusting her shoes

Hiked a couple miles and bumped into Dixie. We ended up hiking much of the day together.

Not much to see on trail today. It’s ups and downs in a forest with few distant views, but there were a couple of nice spots. Having someone to talk to made the day go by much faster.

One of the strangest people I met on the CDT

Dixie and I met an interesting old man north of the timberline lake trailhead. He was wearing a bright yellow shirt and only carrying a yellow fly swatter. No water, no backpack, nothing except the matching yellow flyswatter. Let’s just say he was as funny as he looked. And extremely talkative! He didn’t seem to be too fond of the Texans who often vacation here in Colorado.

Passed a couple of small lakes and streams. Eventually entered one scenic basin, nicest of the day.

The trail mostly heads downhill from here, towards Tennessee pass. Not much to see, just a walk in the woods after dipping below treeline.

After Tennessee pass, the trail follows some old railroad grade. I saw Dixie arriving at a campsite, and she offered to share the spot. Sounds good, this is about where I was hoping to camp on my map.

Mosquitoes were insane today. Setting up my tent tonight for safe refuge.

Miles – 25
Total Miles – 1164
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Saturday June 30th – CDT Day 71

Sprinkler passed camp this morning, and Dixie left before I did. Several Colorado Trail hikers passed by as well.

Most likely these buildings were used to store ammo and munitions

The trail crossed hwy 24 and then followed it on the trees along a hillside. Then it dumps out into Camp Hale, an old WWII training facility for the 10th mountain division. There were signs for possible explosive danger and remnants of the camp itself. Ah abandoned buildings, just like back home in Detroit. Good place for a break.

Then the trail begins a 3000′ climb up to Kokomo pass. It wasn’t crazy steep and was pretty scenic. Passed a small waterfall where Dixie and I stopped for water, and more food. 

Sweet views from Kokomo pass. I stopped here for a while for pictures and did a time lapse with the GoPro. I think this was the first time lapse I’ve done on the CDT. This was disappointing to me, I wish I had taken some in New Mexico at a few spots.

The trail then climbs a little more to another great view point. Then it stays high in a basin for another 3 miles towards Searle pass.

I stopped on Searle pass for a while as well. All down hill from here.

Really nice hike this evening down to Copper mountain ski resort, at the bottom of the valley. I caught up with Dixie again, and we hiked the rest of the way down together. We discovered a restaurant that serves food until 9pm, so we hauled ass down to make it in time.

At the restaurant, we ran into Steve, a guy we met on trail earlier this evening. He offered to let us stay at his place in Dillion tomorrow night when we’re in his neck of the woods. Also, an older man bought us a round of drinks after over hearing our journey on the CDT!

After dinner, we road walked through town in the dark over to Tenmile creek. We found a place to camp near the river around 11pm. There were a couple of people who passed by in dark and shined their lights on us. One guy was hiking and kept going. The other was a biker. He shined his light directly on my face for like a minute. I shined my light back to let him know I was there, but he didn’t turn off his light. Finally, I said “hey, could you not shine your light in my eyes? trying to sleep here.” Then he finally left, without saying a word. WTF is wrong with people!

Miles – 26
Total Miles – 1190
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – marmot

Sunday July 1st – CDT Day 72

This is why I generally don’t like camping low, near rivers… Cold and tons of condensation. Frost on my bag and everything.

Late start, about 9:30. Steep at first. A lot of mountain bikers today.

After reaching tree line, the trail became less steep. Now its angling up to a ridge line with great views.

On the crest of the ridge, it’s copper mountain on one side and Breckenridge on the other. Man, I gotta get out here in the winter and ski.

Nice views coming down above tree line. I just talked to my friend Ryan, he was almost there at the Gold Hill trailhead along Colorado Highway 9. He said he was going to start hiking uphill and that way I would meet him on trail as I was coming down hill. Time to hurry my ass up.

For whatever reason it was fairly slow going this afternoon. It took a little bit longer than I expected but eventually I saw him hiking uphill with his dog Yogie. We turned around here and headed back to the trailhead where he parked. I noticed a forest fire burning off in the distance from here as well. 

After reaching the trailhead we headed into Breckenridge for food. I had been told Empire Burger was excellent, so that’s where we headed. The biggest burger they had was a double so I added another Patty to make it a triple. The waiter said it was the largest Burger he’d ever seen anyone order, although it was only one pound. And it was delicious!

Afterwards we got a hotel in Silverthorne that was pet friendly. We tried going out to a couple breweries but none of them had a pet-friendly patio so we headed back to the hotel. Luckily the hotel had a hot tub and I enjoyed a nice soak.

Miles – 13
Total Miles – 1203
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – rabbit

Monday July 2nd – CDT Day 73 (zero day)

Wish I had more time to sleep but we got up early for breakfast. Ryan also had to leave town by 8am.

Ryan dropped me off at the Fireside Inn hostel after breakfast. This is where I initially had planned on staying. It was a little after 8am. so I was pretty early. They let me set my backpack inside the garage and I went out and wandered the city for a couple hours until they had a chance to accommodate me. I went into a couple of souvenir shops as well as fly fishing shops to pick up some stickers and things for my dad.

Later in the day I walked up to the post office and mailed back all of my rocks I’d been collecting, as well as the stickers and souvenirs I just bought for myself and my dad.

Afterwards I headed up to REI in Dillon. The summit stage bus system is free and provides transportation in the Frisco, Dillon, Silverthorne, and Breckenridge areas. However. It was a little complicated, at least for someone who has never used public transportation before. It just doesn’t exist in Detroit… You get in your own car and go wherever you want. After realizing it was going to take a very long time to get there, with all the bus transfers and things, I just got out at one of the first stops and picked up an Uber for 15 bucks.

At REI I bought a new pair of shoes, brooks cascadia 13s. This is the first time I’d seen them. I’ve been using the 12s on trail to to this point. I liked them initially but will carry my old pair until they prove themselves. I got 650 miles of of the first pair of 12s and 550 miles out of the second pair. However, I could have hiked more miles in the 2nd pair, I just decided to get them now while it was convenient.

I also picked up some sawyer permathin bug spray for clothes and gear. The mosquitoes have been so bad, I’ll try anything… Except bug spray. Don’t want that on my sleeping bag!

I tried using the bus again after leaving REI. Big mistake. The stupid bus drove around for an hour and a half without ever going to the stop I wanted in Silverthorne as the map indicated it would. I eventually got off after an hour and got an Uber again.

For dinner I ate a large pizza from a place called “extreme pizza”. It was good but there was nothing extreme about it.

Bed by 10. Will get back on trail tomorrow, after breakfast and stopping at the grocery store.

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 1203
Rain – no
Sleep – hostel
Animals – none

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CDT Blog Posts Postponed Until Hike Completion

I have decided to hold off on posting CDT hike updates while on trail for the sake of time. It takes the better part of a whole day to update the blog with 2-3 posts, and I am spending more time than I should on a computer in town. I need this time to do chores (laundry, groceries, gear repair, etc), and have been taking extra days off in town just to complete my blog updates. Extra days in town means more money spent, and lessens my chances of making it to Canada in time before the weather turns. 

I will still be keeping a detailed journal throughout the rest of the hike. When I return home in the fall, I’ll complete my blog updates for the remainder of the CDT. Thank you all for your support and understanding. 

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Salida to Twin Lakes – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Salida to Twin Lakes Hike Overview

The hike from Salida to Twin Lakes was tough, but a good one. Lots of great views from numerous passes and high ridges. Lake Ann Pass was the highlight for me. 

Sunday June 24th – CDT Day 65

Finished packing my food this morning before leaving the hostel around 9am. Last shower for at least 3 days, and if not at Twin Lakes, then a solid week. It’s about 150 miles to Breckenridge, but will resupply at the general store in twin lakes halfway at about 75 miles.

I grabbed breakfast at McDonald’s, a distant runner up choice to the Patio Pancake Place, which had a long wait. I was walking over to Chucks liquor store for a ride up to the pass when he drove by and picked me up. Off we go.

Reached monarch pass and started hiking at 10:45am. Not too bad a start.

The trail passes through monarch Mountain Ski Resort. Kind of cool to walk up under the ski lifts in the summer. I saw several people hiking in the area, all day hikers or weekenders it looked like.

It was really windy going up the exposed Ridge through the ski resort and beyond. Probably 50 to 60 mile an hour winds. I put my wind jacket on and the extra space inside the hood kept flapping in the wind. This was really loud and quite annoying! Wind gusts from the side make tripping over rocks common. Hiking in to the wind and climbing uphill was tough.

Really nice views all along the climb to the first pass. Being in these constant winds was wearing me out. After cresting the pass, I planned on stopping for first lunch as soon as I could descend low enough and out of the wind. What a relief.

Against my wishes, the trail drops down into a Valley at around 10,400′. This means a big climb is coming soon. I passed by the boss lake reservoir, and found a small exposed vertical mine on a hillside above.

As the trail starts climbing up again, it follows a dirt road. This is the beginning of an 1800 ft climb. There was a sign on a tree for the Lost Wonder hut ahead. I passed two abandoned cabins, and assumed these were it. However, just up the road was a modern cabin and it happens to be occupied by a youth group. That makes more sense.

Some Trail runners passed me, scouting this section of trail for an upcoming race. I chugged along and made it to the top of the pass closer to 7:30pm.

I passed two separate campsites that were occupied, but I couldn’t tell if they were CDT hikers or whom they were. I filtered water in a small stream near the trailhead that was at the bottom of this valley. Even though it was about 8:45 pm, I didn’t want to camp here. Anything low in the valley is going to be colder and have more condensation. So I hiked another 15 minutes and found a flat spot along an old railroad grade just after 9pm.

The wicked winds died down and the stars are out bright. Another great night to cowboy camp!

Miles – 20
Total Miles – 1063 (start 1087, end 1107)
Rain – no
Sleep – cowboy camp
Animals – none

Monday June 25th – CDT Day 66

Woke up at 7:30. A guy named Aaron walked by as I was getting out of my bag, CDT NOBO as well. Didn’t start hiking until 8:30. That’s what happens when you hike late, you get up late.

Followed the “alpine tunnel” railroad for a few miles, which was easy walking. Higher up the valley, I left the railroad grade and hiked tail the rest of the way up the basin to the pass. This was about 1200 feet of elevation gain total from this morning’s campsite.

I took first lunch after descending to the tree line. I continued on down hill on some switchbacks until I reached the stream in the valley. I filtered water here then moved on… And bumped into a Colorado trail hiker taking lunch next to another branch of the stream just 50 yards away. People just lurking in the bushes.

Next is a long climb uphill, about 1800 feet. Great views as I climbed higher.

 

More awesome views when I dropped down into the next basin. The trail skirts the high basin through talus fields and a couple of snow patches.

Even better views over the next pass. I dropped down to the stream below, where I saw Kyle and Seth. We met in the hostel in Salida a few days earlier. They’d hiked all the way from the east coast through the southern states and now heading north on the CDT. I stopped here to eat lunch with them.

After lunch we continued on together. I succumbed to the idea that today was not going to be a big mile day, only planning on another 6 miles or so. After that, there’s nowhere to camp for another 5 miles as the trail stays high along the crest of the mountains.

It was nice hiking with company. It made the rest of the afternoon go by much easier. Excellent views the rest of the day. Stunning, really.

Early evening, we came across a mountain biker wearing a rainbow colored tutu. He does it for the laughs, and we sure got one.

Got to camp around 6:45pm, super early for me. But it was really nice. Nice campsite, good company and a welcome change from the normal solo grind. But it kinda sucked only covering 18 miles today.

Later at we were filtering out water at the stream, another hiker named Becky showed up. She was looking for a place to camp, and since there weren’t many other sites around we offered to share ours. Accepted.

It was a really nice night, great colors in the sky behind the mountains. We ate dinner together and hung out until the nearly full moon was the only light left. Another great day on the CDT.

Miles – 18
Total Miles – 1081 (start 1107, end 1125)
Rain – no
Sleep – cowboy camp
Animals – marmot, pica

Tuesday June 26th – CDT Day 67

In the middle of the night, I felt something tugging on or running against my quilt. It looked to be a mouse, and it ran away as I reacted to it.

Got up at 7am, first one of the group. Said my goodbyes and headed off at 8:15. Would love to hike more with these guys, or any company really, but everyone has their own pace. I’m hoping to cover miles today.

It’s a 500ft climb to a pass first thing after leaving camp. Not too bad a climb.

The next few miles of trail stays high, like it did in the san Juans. Great views, awesome hiking. Even crossed a couple of slopes still covered in snow.

I could see construction crews working on the road when I reached cottonwood pass. It’s closed, no hitch into Buena Vista possible. I’m headed to twin lakes anyways.

After cottonwood pass I entered the collegiate peaks wilderness. Pretty sweet views! And downhill for quite a while.

 

At the bottom of my descent I reached Texas creek. Other than the Gila, This was only the second time on the CDT where I had to actually ford a river. I put on my sandals and crossed. No problem. Just Under knee deep at the deepest.

A couple more miles slightly downhill along Texas creek. There were some beaver lodges in the ponds but I didn’t see any beavers.

Now the trail starts climbing again. I’m going for 1600ft tonight, leaving 1200ft of steep climbing up to lake Ann pass for the morning. It’s a nice forest hike with several stream Crossings.

I filtered water and ate around 6:30pm along a stream. Tons of mosquitoes, very annoying! I had to put on my zip on pant legs and cover up.

I knocked out another couple miles before finding a spot to camp a Quarter mile north of the trail junction to lake Ann pass. Mosquitoes were insane here too. Covered up immediately with the pant legs again, and my hooded fleece. I eventually set up the tent for to the bugs, although I’m sure they’d die down later. Just don’t want to deal with them anymore.

Great sunset. Two big climbs tomorrow and about 20 miles to twin lakes.

Miles – 23
Total Miles – 1104 (start 1125, end 1148)
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – marmot, pica

Wednesday June 27th – CDT Day 68

Today I hope to reach the small town of Twin Lakes. While in Salida, I sent ahead a package with some food to the general store. This will supplement the likely poor food selection there. It closes at 6pm, and I have two big passes to climb along with about 20 miles.

The climb up to lake Ann pass wasn’t that bad. Switchbacks, not crazy steep.

From Lake Ann pass lies some of the finest views of the section. However, I was now faced with a steep ice cornice on the descent. Steps were kicked into the ice, angling down towards the switchbacks. Parts were near vertical. Some steps were icy, so I did my best to kick my own steps as needed. Not a death drop, but you wouldn’t want to fall here.

As I finished with the cornice, a group of hikers approached from the switchbacks below. One of the guys was celebrating his 80th birthday with an 80 mile hike. This guy looked amazing, like a really fit 60 year old. Perfect example of staying active throughout life. He should be everyone’s role model!

Constant beautiful views the whole way down to lake Ann. Then the trail drops below tree line, following a steep river Gorge.

The trail continues to head down hill along south fork clear creek until it reaches the silver basin trail. It skirts the hillsides above the creek offering nice views when not in the forest.

The trail eventually heads uphill again towards Mt hope pass. And it does so very steeply. 2500′ elevation gain in 2.4 miles. Definitely the longest stretch of steep trail so far on the CDT. It was hot as hell today too, in the upper 90s down by clear creek.

I passed a girl named Kid and her two dogs on the way up, taking a break from the brutal climb, in the heat of the day. I did the same shortly after. There was no way I was going to make it to the general store before they close, so I decided not to push too hard.

Farther up trail I met a guy named Lot taking a break by a stream. After the stream, the climb lessened in severity. Still a tough climb, but not the keel over and die type like the beginning was. And great views.

At the top I chatted with Kid a while before heading down. Great views before doing below tree line.

I took the trail towards Willis Gulch, instead of following it down to the Bermuda triangle trail. I believe the Ley maps say to do this then cross the marshy area around twin lakes. Sounds easier just to go towards Willis gulch… And it was. There was a bridge over the river here at a popular trail head.

Dark clouds and rain in the distance, but scattered. I stopped to filter water from the river and washed up a bit. A woman pulled up in an SUV and asked about if this was the right spot to pick up her husband. Her husband ended up being Lot, the guy I met going up hope pass just a few hours earlier. Lot arrived shortly after, and offered to give me a ride into town. Sounds good, since I didn’t have anywhere in mind to camp.

After a 2 or 3 mile ride into town, we passed the general store. There were several hikers gathered outside here, even at 8:30pm when I arrived. Sprinkler, Earl Grey, cookie monster, and inspector gadget (CDT 2014). I still had time to order some food at the Twin Lakes Inn. Expensive, but beggars can’t be choosers. I ended up getting a room here too, as the allure of a bed, shower and sink laundry were too great.

Nice room, great shower, comfy bed. I’m out!

Miles – 21
Total Miles – 1125 (start 1148, end 1169)
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – marmot

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