That blue sky weather. That beautiful blue sky weather.
Must keep hiking. Can’t stop. Lost and I cowerd in a cave, quickly ate
a thousand calories before we chilled, donned fleeces under our rain
gear and got moving as soon as we could. Before Pagosa Springs, the
weather demons of the gulf sent a squall our way. We awoke early,
perhaps 5 am, to dry conditions. A little after light, it’d started to
drizzle. Then rain. Then wind blown rain. Snow. Sleet. Squalls.
Walking the physical divide, high exposed ridge tops. 40mph wind.
FREEZING. Hiking with Coach, a retired coach, we struggled on. After a
couple of hours of dropping hints, he let go from his blue lips “I
don’t think I can take much more of this”. He was right. Hypothermic,
we all dropped to the nearest trees, set up tents, peeled off
clothing, got in our sleeping bags, ate and shivered. In the mild to
moderate range of hypothermia, I made sure to keep talking to my
hiking companions while we warmed. Just in case someone slipped into a
colder state. It was two in the afternoon.
On the lighter side… It’s been blue bird besides that. Truely
exceptional weather to hike the highest, remotest and final section of
the Rockies. That’s right. I’m done with the Rockies! I’m in New
Mexico! Spirits are high. Coach finished his Triple Crown yesterday
and hitched away to Denver. I’ve got a new smartphone on the way that
I’m excited about. I’ve got magazines to read and time to read them.
My tent smells a little of mildew. I’ve been sporting a blaze orange
foam ball cap to keep from being shot, but it might be time to switch
to the wide brim sunhat. Desert, here we come. Sent my hiking poles
off in anticipation of the NM road walks.
Asking for help is awesome. Secured a perfect hitch out of Pagosa. As
I walked by McDonalds on the way to hitch, I ask a guy with his burger
if he’d be willing to give us a ride to downtown (a better place to
hitch from). Turns out he was leaving that minute to go to the exact
trailhead that we needed to get to. Life is good. Previously, our
hitch asked to see our IDs, then showed us his and his concealled
weapons permit and his gun. gulp. Warned us about being murdered in
New Mexico. Thanks dude.
Cold, cold wind. Thank goodness that’s over. We had a deep blue drop
down the weather map this week. Considering we were on high exposed,
windy ridges, it was cold. I’m now in Breckenridge with a friend. Lost
is ahead in Leadville. Colorado is mountainous and beautiful. It’s a
little warmer. Hiking is good. Life is good.
We’ve taken to giving eachother high-fives. “High-Five, We’re Alive!”.
Maybe my mom and grandmother shouldn’t read this…
After 1400 miles, I’m sore. Incredibly sore. And it’s for a specific
reason. Two days ago, Lost and I ran down a mountain. We were on the
summit of Parkview Mountain when I saw a bolt of lightning about two
miles away. “We need to get down now.” I said. Parkview is your
typical Colorado mountain. High and utterly exposed, it’s a beacon for
bolts. I started running down the ridge. Lost, frantically finished
repacking her pack. I turned off the ridge and shot down a very steep,
cairned, loose route to the trees. It was the type of slope that would
normally have me carefully placing my feet. I was running. Lost was
right behind. The bolts were now on top of us. We were exposed, and in
the lightning storm. It was not good. High Five!
Yesterday, we worried about a repeat. Lost and I are the only ones
that we know of that chose to do the extra miles to hike the Rocky
Mountain National Park loop. Camped on the NP boundary, got up early
and busted miles. It was cloudy. We were early. We were taking risks
again. Right after the sign that said “Mountains Don’t Care” (about
your safety) we went above treeline. With four or so miles until our
next tree, the squall hit. Fear motivated and moving quickly we
continued. Luckily, the scarily dark clouds didn’t electrify. It was
another close call. Not quite like having bolts right next to you, but
still scary. Instead, we pushed on through painful hail and strong
winds. Completely covered up, not an inch of face showing, the storm
passed just before we hit the trees. High Five!
Neither of us like this sort of thing. We’ve been considering a much
higher and exposed, longer route for the next section. Again, no one
else is planning on doing it. The weather forecast is for blue skies.
I think I still want to go. But in general, I want to be safe, and
down in the trees. Colorado’s big mountains, and the fact that the
Continental Divide Trail often actually sticks to the rugged divide,
mean that we’ll be hiking in exposed areas a lot in the next few
weeks. Wish us good weather!
– Abbie’s hospitality and the hotsprings in Steamboat were fantastic.
– The shorter section meant that I ate more food than normal. Oh so nice.
– This hostel in Grand Lake is great. So nice to eat the prepared meal
of Lasanga last night.
– Visiting my friend Sarah in Breckenridge soon.
– Had a long, paved road walk out of Steamboat. They suck.
– It’s hunting season.
– Radiolab podcasts are my friend.
– I’m having an awesome time.
I’ve hit some more milestones. I’m done with Wyoming, and am now in
Colorado. I’ve also hiked more than half of the CDT.
Hiking with Lost still. Our styles match pretty well. We still make
the miles, but it doesn’t feel like a death march. That’s good. Camped
out near the highway last night. Pulled in at dusk after a 27.5 mile
day. Thought we were at the empty campground but realized this morning
that it was empty because we were at the picnic area. Ooops.
The last section was diverse partly because we skipped a potential
town stop. We could have stopped in Encampment, WY but just walked on.
While I had plenty of food, I did only have two packets of
undesireable oatmeal left over when I got in to town this morning.
Steamboat seems like your typical ski town. Very fancy, very
expensive, luxurious,… This library is amazing.
Out of Rawlins, fell prey to the pressure to Get To Mexico. Instead of
dirt road walking, we took the paved road shortcut. It cut off about
15 miles of trail. As far as I know, all of us southbounders did it.
It SUCKED. Something like 45 miles of walking the same, mostly paved
road. What a boring slog.
The highlight of the past section was the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness.
Camped up on the summit of the highpoint. Lone Ranger Peak. Beautiful
sunset, a full moon rising at the same time. Colorado is a mountainous
– It’s starting to be chilly. Fall is here. Wondering how much we
should be worried about rushing. Take the longer scenic route or rush
to get out before the snow?
– Got a beer on a road walk. Lady offered me water, and chuckled when
I asked for a beer instead.
– Staying at a trail angel’s house tonight. Stoked.
– Ready to be done with carrying heavy loads. Sections between towns
in Colorado are shorter. We’re also done with the 25-30 mile waterless
stretches until New Mexico.
– Got a hair cut and beard trim in Rawlins. Was sick of hair blowing
in my eyes and it was getting all knotted. Plus saw a real old school
barber shop and thought it’d be fun. It was.
– Hoping to eat 3-4 restaurant meals today.
All in all, having a superb time. Loving trail life.
Lost and I blasted through the Red Desert and the Great Divide Basin.
Took a scenic alternate along the Sweetwater River instead of a
shorter, official CDT road walk. Nearly the rest of the segment was
road walking though. Surprisingly, road walking was very enjoyable.
These are old jeep tracks mostly. Roads that are either hardly ever
traveled, or lightly traveled. So it’s fast, easy, brainless walking
where we can walk side by side and talk if we so choose. The desert is
also home to tons of Pronghorn Antelope. Pretty cool.
Walked 25-28 miles between water sources. We have a 30 mile carry
coming out of town today. Soon we’ll be in Colorado with no water
problems, but perhaps increased lightning danger.
The main highlight of the last section was our 56 mile day into town.
We wanted to do a 50. Not sure why. It’s a challenge that some hikers
present themselves with. But since our maps and info isn’t very
accurate, we didn’t know how far away from town we were. After 1300
miles, I’ve got strong legs. It wasn’t all that hard. I did have about
2 hours of pain, right before lunch. We’d hiked 25 miles, starting
before 4am, had barely stopped and hadn’t eaten enough. The sun got to
me. Luckily after lunch at a solar spring I maintained my usual energy
until about midnight when I started to slow down. All in all, a great
day. Mostly felt beat up from lack of sleep as opposed to the hiking.