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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

Like what you see?

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. Not much to see, but well maintained trail.

Really hot today… accuweather said 100° for Twin Lakes today! I dipped my hat into streams whenever possible to stay cool. Needless to say, I skipped climbing Mt Elbert. Maybe if I had gotten an early start, which wasn’t possible because of my need to hit the general store this morning.

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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Elk Park/Needleton Loop – Weminuche Wilderness, CO Aug 2013 (Backpacking Trip Report)

cdt trail runs along the top of the mountains in the weminuche wilderness, colorado - san juan mountain range

Weminuche Wilderness, CO – Elk Park/Needleton Loop Hike

Complete Weminuche Wilderness Photo Gallery | Weminuche HD Video

  • Trail Name – Elk Park/Needleton Loop
  • Location – Weminuche Wilderness in the San Juan National Forest, CO
  • Park Type – National Forest, Wilderness Area
  • Fees & Permits – None
  • Length Of Time Hiked – 6 days, 5 nights
  • Trail Type – Semi loop – Train drops you off and picks you up
  • Miles Hiked – 48
  • Trail Difficulty – 8
  • Fires Allowed – Yes (No fires in Chicago Basin or Needleton drainage)

 

Total distance: 49.99 mi
Max elevation: 14088 ft
Min elevation: 8238 ft
Total climbing: 17139 ft
Total descent: -16804 ft
Download

 

elk park needleton loop hike statistics

 

Elk Park to Needleton Loop Hike Map – Weminuche Wilderness Maps

Here’s an overview map of the Weminuche Wilderness, which includes trailhead locations.

a map of the weminuche wilderenss that shows trailhead locations

Weminuche Wilderness Map With Trailheads

Here’s my caltopo map of the Elk Park/Needleton hike: 

 

Fees & Permits

There are no fees or permits needed to hike or camp in the Weminuche Wilderness. However, to hike this trail as I did, you will need to secure a train reservation through the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. This was $90 each person for a round trip ticket, plus $10 to each to haul your backpack. Not cheap by any means, but it was a cool way to enter and leave the wilderness.

 

Day 1 – Monday August 5th, 2013

Miles Hiked – 5.4
Route – Elk Park train stop to camp along Elk Creek at ~10,300ft

Finally, it was time to start this hike. We’d been in Colorado a week now, doing other cool stuff like the Colorado National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, Denver & Boulder, Rocky Mountain National Park, Telluride, etc. This time, we were sure to be acclimated to the elevation. Lisa had a bit of trouble last year in the Maroon Bells when we hiked the Four Pass Loop, and I may have had a slight headache that first day as well. Not this time though! (more…)

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