So much for the easy grades and switch backs of the first 6 segments. The first 8 miles of Segment 7 kicked my butt. I should have known how difficult it was going to be by the lack of mountain bikers. My legs were screaming. No way was I going to make it up and over Ten Mile Range before the storms blew in for the day. Not going to chance getting stuck above treeline with lighting again. So, I threw in the towel at mile 6, the last water source before treeline, and set up camp at noon. Whiled away the day reading and studying some programming stuff.
Sun 31 Jul 2011
Sat 30 Jul 2011
The nice folks at the Leadville Hostel shuttled me back to the point in Segment 6 where I left off the trail. Easy hiking. First 3 miles were a moderate ascent and the remaining 9 were mostly downhill. Apparently the easy terrain draws mountain bikers to this segment because there were SCORES of them. So many that I was starting to get annoyed having to step off the trail every 2 minutes.
Made it to the trail head just south of Frisco and north of Breckenridge by 4pm. Hitched the 5 miles into Frisco and was there by 4:20. Stopped at the pet store to get some vet wrap (like an ace bandage but sticky) for Cassie and then to a store for sunblock. Mine fell out of my pocket sometime this morning. Then got a sub and hitched a 1/2 mile past the trail head to the Wayside Inn – owned by the people who helped me out so much when I was sick. Cassie gets to enjoy another night on a soft bed.
Tue 19 Jul 2011
Tuesday, July 19
24 hours later I had had all the TV I could take and there was still no change whatsoever. I am extremely sensitive to medicines and know very quickly whether it’s working or not. This stuff was not. I started looking up giardia on the limited internet I could get on my phone. The symptoms didn’t match up. But they did correspond to a similar condition of a bacterial infection. I called a friend who also happens to be a nurse at my doctor at home and explained the situation and symptoms. They agreed with my assessment and called in a prescription for a different antibiotic.
The hotel where Neal got me set up was very nice and at a good rate. Unfortunately, it was a hike into town for laundry and food and there was very poor cell reception. I went down to the office to check out so I could move into town for a few days while I waited this thing out. Owner, Patty, recognized me as the sick hiker and offered to drive me into town to Walmart to pick up my new prescription and take me to the grocery store to get some food my stomach could handle and to my new hotel. I thanked her for being such a kind trail angel and agreed to keep her updated. i took the first pill of the new prescription and within a few hours knew that it was starting to work. Woot! I started making plans to get back on the trail on Friday.
Wed, July 20 – Mon, July 25
Each day got progressively better although not as quickly as I was hoping. By Monday, I was feeling better but still not fully back on food. My diet still only consisted of bland foods. And my days consisted of TV, reading, and taking Cassie for walks. I was tired of it all and decided to get back on the trail the next day.
Tues, July 26
Tom, Patty’s husband, from the Wayside Inn, my former hotel, dropped me off at the trailhead at 8 am. Three miles in I stopped to take a break and eat a breakfast of applesauce. Feeling horrible, I could barely get the applesauce down without gagging. Clearly, I was not ready to be back out here. If I couldn’t eat, I wasn’t going to be able to sustain the energy I needed to hike. I hitched back out to the Wayside Inn and called Kathy and Bill from the Leadville Hostel for a shuttle. While I was waiting for the shuttle, Patty offered to drive me to Leadville. When we got there she got a full tour of the place and an education on the hike amenities – town clothes, laundry facilities, bicycles, hiker boxes, bunkrooms, etc.
I once again thanked Patty for her kindness and got settled into the Hostel and Leadville, my favorite place in Colorado!
Wed, July 27
Finally started to be able to eat. Still bland stuff but actually had an appetite! So when Michael and David, fellow hostel guests, invited me to climb Mt. Belford, the 14er, I enthusiastically accepted. Decided to test out my trail legs and took a walk around Leadville on a bike path.
Thurs, July 28
Met Michael and David in the common room at 5:45 and headed to the trail head for Mt. Belford. Saw a moose on the way in! Started hiking at 7:20 and reached the summit at 11:30 under puffy clouds. I’ll never get tired of seeing the views from a 14,000 ft mountain.
Went out for supper at Tennessee Pass in Leadville and ate PIZZA!!!! My first real meal in weeks! I paid for it later but just being hungry and then being able to get it down was a major step forward.
I decided to get back on the trail on Saturday.
Fri, July 29
Got everything together for the next leg of my hike, arranged a shuttle for Saturday morning, and seam sealed my tent, then bummed around the rest of the day. Time to hit the trail in the morning!!!!!
Tue 19 Jul 2011
I woke up in the middle of the night sick again. This was the third day of being sick and it was getting worse with each episode. I couldn’t keep anything inside me anymore and the symptoms weren’t like any flu I’d experienced before. By 5:30 am, I knew there was no chance of falling back to sleep. I needed to get out of here and get to a doctor. I packed everything up and trudged up the steep ravine I’d fled down into the night before.
Back at my original campsite, I packed up the things I’d left behind. Another thru-hiker walked past. He told me of a possible bailout point 7 miles down the trail where I might be able to hitch into town. I slowly made my way to it.
At 5 miles, I stopped to take a break at an old forest road when I saw 2 4-wheelers coming toward me. I flagged them down and asked them if I could get into town from this road and how far it was. They offered to give me and Cassie a ride. I was sooo relieved!
They strapped my pack on the back of one 4-wheeler and Cassie and I climbed on the back of the other. A few miles later we got to their campsite where we transferred everything to his truck. He drove me into town and insisted on making sure I got everything I needed instead of just dropping me off. The only option for getting seen by a doctor was the emergency room (no doc-in-a-box clinics in the area) and it would take a while to be seen so he gave me his phone number and left with Cassie. I finally saw the doctor who diagnosed me with giardia and gave me a prescription. Neal picked me up and insisted on driving me to Walmart to get the prescription filled. He and his wife full-heartedly offered to put me up in his huge motor home. I appreciated his offer but declined for the privacy of a hotel room. He got me settled into the Wayside Inn just outside of Breckenridge, a nice hotel owned by friends Tom and Patti (also wonderful people). I thank my trail angel profusely and said goodbye, ready to crash and wait this thing out.
Mon 18 Jul 2011
Still feeling yucky, I set out to do just 6 miles…to the last water source before the 6 mile ascent over Georgia Pass…or what the data book said was the last water source. I arrived at the stream by 11:30 and found Mike there tending to his battle wounds – blisters from wet shoes and socks. I informed him that he needed a trail name since I’d been leap frogging all morning with a section hiker whose name was also Mike. He brushed it off so I dubbed them Mike the Thru and Mike the Section. No confusion.
We sat talking by the stream. Mike the Thru offered me a PBJ. Not just any PBJ, but a Goobers PBJ! Not much food has been appealing to me the past few days but that sounded good. It was! I offered to filter water for him. no need. He just scooped the water straight from the stream. No treating it whatsoever. Wow. He must have a stomach of steel. There’s no way I’d want to chance getting giardia on this dream-come-true trip. So I got busy filtering my own water…enough for the rest of today and tomorrow morning. I was moving on, heading up to Georgia Pass. I’d find a place to camp somewhere along the way.
Mike the Thru moved on and Mike the Section and I sat chatting for a bit. I noticed him take something from his pack and light up. At first I thought it was a pipe. Since I like the smell of pipes and the different flavored tobaccos, I asked him, “Whatcha got?” His response: “weed”.
Oh geez. I was not about to stick around while some strange guy got high. Time to move on myself.
Keeping a steady snail’s pace, I climbed, and climbed, and climbed. Two hours later, thinking I had to be close to the top, I looked at my GPS. i had only gone 1.5 miles. I’d be lucky if I made it to the pass by midnight at this rate. Ate a snack and then resumed hiking, stepping up the pace a bit. An hour and a half (and several water sources!!) later, I’d made it to the top, just in time to get set up and crawl into the tent for an evening downpour. After the rain let up I stuck my head out of the tent and Mike the Section walked by, saying he was going to keep going for a couple more hours. Whew.
As I settled back in I started hearing the rumble of thunder off to the west. I stuck my head out of the tent and saw lightning and rain in the next valley over. I watched it for a half hour and it drifted slowly around me while directly above me was clearing up. Then thunder rumbled off to the east. That system seemed to be heading north also. Still safe. About 15 minutes later, a storm developed in the valley south of me – where I had come from. Looked like was headed northwest so it should miss me and southwest and overhead were still clear. Still safe. Then, all of a sudden all three systems started to converge on me. A loud crack sounded right outside the tent and lightning was making it’s way up the valley toward me. HOLY $^&!!!!! I pulled up the two tent stakes, folded the tent in half with everything still in it, threw my water bottle in my pack, leaving Cassie’s pack and some miscellaneous things laying on the ground, hoisted my pack over my shoulder and made a mad dash down the steep bank over into the next valley. Found a level spot among the scattered trees and set the tent back up. Should be safe here as long as the storm doesn’t make it’s way to this valley. Ten minutes later there was a flash of lightning in the valley. OHMIGAWD!!! Uprooted again and made another mad dash a 1/2 mile down to treeline. By the time I set up the tent for the third time, it was raining hard. This was as safe as I could get in a tent. I sat there tense, watching the flashes of lightning and listening to the thunder. No use counting the seconds between the two – it was all happening simultaneously.
I looked at my watch – 7:15 PM. This is a huge storm. It surely can’t last that long. It’ll just pass through and then I’ll get down to supper and reading. At 10 pm the thunder and lightening finally started to settle down with the hail tapering to a light rain and I fell asleep shortly after.
Sun 17 Jul 2011
Had a really rough night last night. Woke up at 1 am with my heart beating out of my chest and feeling feverish. Finally got back to sleep around 3 am. When I woke up at 7 I still felt like crap. I had clearly overdone it with the elevation the previous day. Now to decide what to do. No way was I staying at this campsite. There would be another site a mile further on. I’d reevaluate then. I forced down some cereal, fed Cassie the rest of yesterday’s supper, packed up and hit the trail. When I reached the next campsite I still felt horrible. Decisions. The next 7 miles had no water sources. So I was forced to either do a full 7 miles or stay here. I decided to continue…slowly. If it took me 8 hours, so be it. Finally made it to Kenosha Pass Campground at 1:30, after passing through a fresh burn area of several acres…so fresh I was expecting to see logs still smoldering. But apparently the fire took place about a month ago and was caused by lightning.
Set the tent up to dry out, took a sponge bath in the outhouse building, then washed my clothes. All the while my mind was on a BBQ sandwich from a burger place 15 minutes down the road. Although I didn’t really feel like eating it, I was darned if I was going to pass up the opportunity for real food. Waited for my clothes to dry. Do you have any idea how long it takes to clothes to dry when you’re waiting for them? FOREVER!!! So I only waited until they were half dry to put them on and hike out of the campground out to the main road. Stuck out my thumb and waited. Ten minutes and a dozen cars later, a Freightliner tractor and trailer hauling 80,000 lbs of beer pulled off. I climbed in. The truck driver was an interesting guy with stories of shuttling backpackers around Mexico when he was laid off last year. Too bad the ride was only a short 4 miles to the BBQ place. I would have like to have learned more.
Met my second fellow thru-hiker at the BBQ place – Mike from Denver. We chatted then hitched back to the campground. He was beat too and didn’t want to hike the 3 miles to the next water source so we share my campsite*. I had planned to do chores and then turn in for the night but Mike and I ended up sitting and chatting for a while. Then it was off to bed after a long day that was supposed to have been short.
*Campsites in CO are much bigger than the typical dinky little campsite in the east. There was plenty of room to spread out and not intrude on each other’s space.
Sat 16 Jul 2011
Spent the morning driving a herd of cattle through the valley for a few miles. They would NOT get off the trail – just kept going forward.
Passed a couple groups of boy scouts going in the opposite direction. Stayed at another crappy campsite – literally – it was full of cow and horse poop* – because I didn’t have the energy to go one more mile. I was just exhausted – so exhausted that while I should have been ravenous, I didn’t want to eat. I forced half of supper down and saved the rest for Cassie’s breakfast.
*Why is it that we are required to clean up after our dogs on the trail and bury their pooh just like we have to bury our human pooh but people don’t have to clean up after their horses?!? Seriously. What’s the reasoning on that?
Fri 15 Jul 2011
Slept in a little this morning because of the late night. Got moving, packed and drove the 2 hours to the trail head just south of Bailey to jump in where we left off by noon. I’d be continuing on and finishing the remainder of the 460 miles solo (errr….with my dog, Cassie) as Sandy could only take 2 weeks of vacation at a time.
Hiked 10 miles, 7 of which were uphill – much of it steep. Ugh. Reached my campsite for the night by 6 in a valley along a creek at 10,200 ft…in among cow patties. :-\ I had to watch where I stepped and keep Cassie on a short leash so she didn’t roll in any fresh ones.
Filtered water, set up the tent and contents, ate supper, and got cleaned up by 7 and hit the sack – the first night in my new tent!
Thu 14 Jul 2011
Saturday, July 9
Hiked a trail up to some Alpine Lakes at 10,000 ft and into some major snowbanks northwest of Denver. The dogs absolutely loved it, rolling around in the snow and playing. Sandy, not so much, when she ended up hip deep in a snowbank. Hiked back down through drizzling rain.
Sunday, July 10
Waited for REI to open to buy new water filter. The repair kit didn’t work. :-\ Drove to Leadville and checked into the Hostel and bummed around town.
Monday, July 11
Reconnoiter hike for a Mt. Elbert summit (second highest peak in lower 48). The road to get to the trailhead was marked as a 4-wheel drive road. That could mean many things out here. We parked at the lower trailhead and hiked to the upper trailhead to see how far in I could take my wannabe SUV. Turned out, pretty far in – to within a 1/2 mile or so of the upper trailhead. That still left 4 miles and 4000 to get to the summit but better than having to hike from the lower trailhead.
Tuesday, July 12
Hiked to the summit of Mt. Elbert! Painful, painful hike. Most of the 4 miles was pretty steep – gaining about 1000 ft/mile.
About 30 minutes from reaching the summit, a cloud moved in and enshrouded the peak. Boo. We stayed in the freezing cold air of the summit with light drizzle until we couldn’t feel our hands anymore. Looked like the cloud was there to stay. All that work and no reward. Not even a marker to take a picture of at the summit.
We were accompanied by rain the whole way back down. My rain jacket kept me dry until a 1/2 mile from the car where I tried to cross a creek on a log and fell off. Both feet in the creek halfway up to my knees. Grrr.
Wednesday, July 13
Late morning to recover from yesterdays climb up Mt. Everest (felt like it anyway!). Thought I was feeling fine until I jumped out of bed to my calves SCREAMING at me when my feet hit the floor. Apparently my heart and lungs weren’t the only thing that got a workout yesterday.
Bummed around the hotel drying out yesterday’s gear and getting ready to go back on the trail on Friday. Did laundry, grocery shopped, and got my pack set. Then set out on the road back to the Bailey area – Pine, CO – for some puppy schooling. Met with a canine behavior specialist to address some issues with Cassie and Cooper. Highly recommend Suzi from the Canine Psychology Center for obedience and behavior training.
Thursday, July 14
Original plan was to hike another 14er – Mt. Sherman. Google said it was only a 1/2 hour away. Unfortunately, it turned out that 20 of those 30 minutes were on a rough 4-wheel drive road. Not gonna happen in my wannabe SUV KIA Sportage. So we turned around and headed to Mt. Evans which has a paved road to the top. Awesome views but it was thundering and lightning in the distance so we didn’t stay long.
Back to Leadville and my “last supper” – steak, potatoes, and cheesecake! The majority of my meals for the next 30 days or so would be trail food.
Back to the hotel and I continued to eat everything in sight. Tried to turn in at a decent hour but paper thin walls at the hotel and a neighbor thwarted that plan. Finally, at midnight, I unpacked my tent and got my earplugs out of the little side pocket and took an Ambien. Apparently I slept through more loud talking and the neighbor’s dog howling….thankfully.
Fri 8 Jul 2011
Short hike into Bailey for a resupply and to get cleaned up. It’s a sad day when your dog smells better than you do.
So…that’s what my blog post was originally going to say….until we reached the car at the trailhead. As we crested the last hill and started down the other side to the trailhead where we were picked up by Cannibal, the car came into view. It looked like I’d left the driver door window open. Oh crap. It rained hard and for a long time last evening. The car was going to be flooded! As we got closer, I kept looking, certain that the window was down but certain that I hadn’t left it down.
We crossed the road and reached the parking lot where I could see I hadn’t left the window down at all. It had been smashed in! WHAT?!?!?!? Oh crap. My mind raced trying to remember anything valuable we’d left in the car. I immediately felt violated and betrayed by the hiking community. How could someone do this to a fellow hiker? There was an unspoken trust between hikers. You could go camping and leave your gear stashed and not worry about being robbed. You could backpack in, leave you pack resting against a tree at the bottom of a mountain, grab a water bottle and go summit a 14,000 footer and know that your pack, your means of survival, would be untouched when you returned 8 hours later. You could scatter your gear in a shelter on the Appalachian trail along with 6 others people and know that not a single thing would go missing. Any faith in human decency that I had was suddenly gone.
We started walking around the car and sizing up the situation. It had definitely been done that morning since the interior was completely dry…and MUDDY!!! What the…? Sandy came around the corner and asked if I’d seen the note in the car. Huh? I looked through the missing window. Laying on the driver’s seat amongst the broken glass was a ticket from the forst service. WTF? I was getting cited for something? I could feel my blood pressure rising. I read the note on the ticket:
“Looks like a bear to me. I’ve filed a report. Please call xxx-xxxx.”
It started to sink in. The mud all over the interior, the long hairs stuck to the outside of the door, our valuables still there. Nothing seemed to be missing except some fudge we’d left. The container was mangled and the fudge was gone. My trust in the hiking community returned.
I assessed the damage (broken window, scratches on the outside of the car, muddy interior, glass everywhere) and started calculating what all I needed to do. Call the forest service person. Call my insurance company. Find a glass company to replace the window. Suddenly getting a shower and a big juicy burger weren’t top priority anymore.
We drove into Bailey and started making the calls. Within an hour we were on our way into Denver (windy ride!) to meet a mobile auto glass company at the hotel where we’d be spending the night. The window was repaired by 4 pm! Wow. AND I had the “claim of the day” with my insurance company – “A bear broke into my car and stole my fudge.”
Car taken care of, we headed into REI to get a repair kit for my dead water filter and to drool over all the cool gear.