Colorado Trail Hike 2011

In the morning I was treated to gourmet scrambled eggs and toast with homemade jam and Paul took me back to the trail where I left off and I started dreading the climb – gaining over 700ft/mile for 2.5 miles. I still felt a little wiped out and foggy but pushed on. By the end of the day I caught up to Mike and Austin who caught up to Keith and Bill. Apparently we all had planned to camp at the same place. No can do – not enough room for 2 more tents. Austin, Mike, and I backtracked .2 miles across a stream and found some semi-flat spots to camp. Made supper and got settled in the tent just in time for darkness to tall.

Well, I intended to go 10 miles but 3 miles in, I met a guy on the way down the mountain who, after chatting a little, offered his shower and washer and a ride back to the trail. I weighed the options. Climb 2500 ft in 3 miles feeling like crap and all brain foggy from the altitude or go get cleaned up.

After a shower and clean clothes, Paul took me to the post office to get my mail drop. On the way back he offered me the guest room for the night. At first I declined. Didn’t want to overstay my welcome. But then started packing and still felt drained and foggy so I took him up on his offer and spent the afternoon reading in a uber comfy bed in the guest room. Supper was a treat – fish, ravioli, sauteed mushrooms, asparagus, and salad. (Oh, by the way he does catering on the side) – and had some great conversation. We had some similar interests – he’s a musician, plays oboe; spiritual topics – he was a monk; and other odds and ends. Really cool guy. Definitely didn’t have to worry about aliens and UFO’s.

After supper we watched a movie – Barney’s Version – kind of sad and had dessert – pistachio nut ice cream. Heaven!!! Paul definitely achieved trail angel status.

Woke up to 35 degrees. Brrr. Got packed up quickly and hit the trail in shorts, long sleeve shirt and fleece jacket. I’d eat breakfast after I warmed up a little. Which I knew wouldn’t take very long with the two major climbs ahead of me – one was 4 miles long and the other 2 miles and both were steep and relentless.

About a mile in, just when I was ready to take my jacket off, I spotted an unopened can of V8 Juice sitting on a rock on the trail. TRAIL MAGIC!!! Someone left it there for a veggie-deprived thru-hiker! I thought back. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had any measurable amount of vegetables. So, even though I wasn’t a big fan of V8 Juice, I chugged the entire can standing right there and stuck the empty can in the side pocket of my pack. Yum! Never thought I’d EVER say that about V8 Juice! Thank you trail angel, whoever you were!

I continued at a snail’s pace up and over both mountains. I started bonking at about mile 10. This altitude was still getting to me. I shoved my ear phones in and played some tunes on the iPod to help pick me up. Got to mile 11.8, the first potential campsite for the night. Wasn’t overly appealing. Not very flat. I continued on. The next one was at 15.2. At 12.5 I really hit the wall. I took my pack off and tried to think clearly. Go back to 11.8 or continue on 2.5 miles. I thought maybe some sugar would help so I drank a trail shake (basically Carnation Instant breakfast, NIDO powerded milk, and pudding mix). I slogged through and finally reached the 15.2 campsite. Much nicer than the last. I set up camp and laid down for a while hoping that would make me feel better. No such luck.

I debated about eating supper. I really didn’t have an appetite. Decided to make a Knorr noodle packet mix. The more I ate, the better I felt. Got most of it down. Cassie cleaned up the rest for me. Into bed to rest up for an even steeper climb tomorrow. But looking forward to a shower and clean clothes tomorrow night in Buena Vista!

Ate a breakfast of Muesli cereal perched on a rock overlooking the massive lakes. Three chipmunks kept me company, boldly coming closer and closer until I tossed one an almond. He picked it up in his 2 front paws and nibbled until it was gone. Bad Mickey for feeding the wildlife!!!

When I went to leave my most excellent campsite overlooking the lake, I discovered I was no longer on the trail. I’d missed a turn a half mile back. The campsite was worth the extra mile.

My legs were fried the past 2 longs days and the next 2 days were going to be hard so I decided to take it easy today and only do 8 miles. Took a lot of breaks and walked slowly. In the second to last mile of the day, I crested a ridge and was treated to a view of the most beautiful valley. THAT’S where I’d be spending the night. Found a site right next to a river.

Long night. Camped next to the parking area for the Mt. Elbert trail head – a 14er. People started heading up the mountain at 2 am!!! I discovered on my way out this morning that there was a beautiful camping spot not a 1/4 mile up the trail where I would have missed all the cars pulling into the parking lot all night (24 when I left this morning) and the flashlights on the tent. Grrrr. Guidebook failure.

About 2 miles into today’s hike I sat down on a ridge to eat breakfast and watch all the day hikers go past. And who should come walking down the trail but Michael – one of the guys I met at the Leadville Hostel and hike Mt. Belford with. We chatted and he continued on at breakneck speed that I couldn’t keep up with wearing a pack.

Made it into Twin Lakes for my resupply mail drop by 11 am. Was not impressed with the place – not exactly the most hiker friendly. Of course I only really met 1 person – a crotchety old woman that runs the little general store and post office in town. I was apparently her biggest nuisance in life. If I had known any better I would have skipped the resupply here and hitched back into Leadville again.

Left Twin Lakes (the only place on the hike that I couldn’t get a hitch into or out of town) and spent the rest of the day hiking around the Twin Lakes – the 2 lakes the town is named for. Six miles in the hot sun with no shade and no water because you can’t get to the lake without crossing “forbidden” land. Once on the other side of the lake we stopped at a campground and took a dip in the lake….fully clothed. Everything dried within 15 minutes – that’s how hot and dry it was there.

Snagged an amazing camp site for the night – looking over the lake just before the trail heads back up into the mountains again.

Spent most of the day in a hiking stupor….head down, eyes on the trail, living in my head. Entire 16 miles were below treeline so no great views. Met Jill one last time as she and some friends were hiking up to the Mt. Massive trail head. I decided against joining her since it meant backtracking.

No mountain bikes on the trail (hoorrrayyyy!!!!) since most of the day was spent in designated wilderness area where bikes are prohibited. Was kind of nice not getting run off the trail. And even nicer was the condition of the trail without the bikes tearing it up. No ankle busting ruts to negotiate.

Walked the main road out of town with my arm stretched out and my thumb up. Reached a gas station and stood there since it was an easy place for people to pull off. Took 4 minutes. Got a doozy this time. Young guy in his 20′s in a pickup truck. Wasn’t sure he spoke English at first but then he started talking…

Guy: Yeah, sometimes I just pull off right here and smoke and watch UFO’s fly over the mountain range.
Me: Really? What kind of UFO’s? (I really wanted to ask what he was smoking instead.)
Guy: Oh, the good kind. The kind you can’t identify.
Me: Wow. What do they look like?
Guy: Well, if you get binoculars out, they look like flowers – the underneath part. And they turn their lights off when they fly over Leadville.
Me: Dang. How fast do they fly?
Guy: Oh, they haul ass. They fly into the valley over there. I think the aliens live there. There’s a constant hum in that valley.

He changed the subject and proceeded to tell me all about how the polarization of the universe is going to change and it’s happened 4 times before and there are cities built on top of cities because of it and the Mayans couldn’t have had that knowledge – they had to have gotten it from a higher power.

Ok then…

That was the longest 8 miles of my life. Just as we were reaching Tennessee Pass, my dropoff point, traffic stopped for a roadwork area. I took advantage of the delay and announced that I’d just walk the last 1/4 mile to the trail. I thanked him and got the hell out of there.

Back on the trail, the miles flew by until I got to Holy Cross Wilderness and a steep section. By the time I got over the last ridge, thunderstorms with lightening were over on the next ridge a couple miles away. I hauled ass like a UFO down below treeline and set up camp at the first flat spot I could find in a drizzle. Expecting to get blasted by the storm, I crawled in the tent to wait it out. It never came my way and an hour later the sun was back out. It was 4 pm. I contemplated packing up and continuing on for a few more miles but decided against it. Tomorrow looked to be an easier hike. I’ll do a couple extra miles then. Off to an evening of hiding in the tent from mosquitoes and reading.

Late morning. Got up at 7 and hit the trail for my final 3.5 miles into Leadville. Met up with Jill again just before the trail head. We made tentative arrangements to hike to the top of Mt. Massive (a 14-er) on Saturday. Then it was a hitch into Leadville and a day of town chores – laundry, shower, resupply, and satisfy my ravenous appetite (which was difficult because I still had to be care of what I ate…and the pizza below was still not on the list of approved foods. I paid for it again). Got everything done by early evening and settled into the living room common area at the hostel for an evening of “Walk-umentaries” and “Bike-umentaries” with other guests, Susan and Tina. Watched a DVD on hiking the Continental Divide Trail (which shares 200 of its 2700 miles with the Colorado Trail) and a couple DVD’s on the 2009 Leadville Trail 100 mile bike race.

This hike was supposed to satisfy my hunger for long distance hiking and adventure so I could get it out of my system. So far, all it’s done is add fuel to the fire.



Freaky night in the tent. Woke up about 1 am to Cassie growling and a light shining on the tent. I froze and listened afraid it was a creepy hiker I’d passed a couple times yesterday about to set up his tent on the flat space next to mine. I heard nothing more but a weird ticking noise that I couldn’t place disappear up the trail. Finally fell back to sleep and woke up at 5:30 for an early start. It was a 4-mile ascent above treeline and over Elk Ridge and Kokomo Pass.

Met Jill, a section hiker I’d leapfrogged with all day yesterday, camped at the edge of treeline. We chatted for a while and I moved on while she started breaking up camp. Numerous mountain bikers passed me once again. Eventually I found out why. The Colorado Trail race was going on – a mountain bike race covering the 485 miles of the CT in fat ass format – that is, completely unsupported, no entrance fee, and no prizes. The lead bikers were expected to cover the distance in 4-5 days. Insane. There were about 75 bikers participating. Only 65 more to pass me. Wonderful. I guess that explained what passed my tent at one o’clock this morning.

The descent from Kokomo Pass took me through awesome fields of wild flowers. Just below treeline, rain came through so I stopped under some dense evergreen trees that kept me dry and ate lunch. A couple hours later Jill caught up with me just as it started to rain again. We stopped to put our rain gear on and a mile later happened by some old bunkers as we passed Camp Hale – a training camp set up for the 10th Division during WWII. We ducked into one of the bunkers and found one of the bikers waiting out the rain. Within 1/2 an hour, the rain passed and we were on our way again.

Somewhere in this area was a waterfall that I missed. Not sure how. It was pretty big and right along the trail apparently. Wow. Must have been really zone out.

Made it to camp by 5 just before the rain started again. Supper was cooked in the vestibule of my tent.

When I fell asleep at 9, it was STILL raining but Cassie and I were dry and comfy in my sleeping bag.

Finished the last 2 miles of the steep climb up to the ridge of the Ten Mile Range and was rewarded with a morning of amazing views and animal sightings. Saw 2 foxes or coyotes, many marmots, squirrels, chipmunks, and pikas, and a family of ptarmigans. Descended steeply to Copper Mountain, a ski resort, and then spent the afternoon starting the climb up to Elk Ridge and Kokomo Pass. Camped about halfway up. BEAT!!! And have another long, hard day tomorrow.

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