The Colorado Weather Gods are on Our Side
CT Day 4: 25 miles. 1 mi past Kenosha Pass to stunning tent spot with view and bench at mi 97.7 (elev. 10,034 ft).
Phew. The cumulative miles are starting to take their toll on my body. We got an early start and hit the trail with some spectacular views of the valley.
We began climbing pretty early on up to Georgia Pass, reaching about 12,000 ft. The altitude on our way up and down definitely was mildly affecting me. I felt flu-like with aches all over my body, sort of feverish, slight headache on my forehead and general light-headedness. With about 900 feet left to climb I drank a lot of water at the last water stop. This helped tremendously and when we took our break at the summit of the pass I felt much better. This pass was so incredible to come over as there were different views all around.
On the way down I needed to take some breaks to slow down the pace so as not to get sick. I was able to keep everything at bay. Stopping to elevate my feet has also been such a game changer.
The last 4 miles down to the creek lasted forever and were quite rocky (a change from the Hollywood trail we’ve become accustomed to). There was a gathering of CT thru hikers at the river and most hikers called it quits for the day at this water source as there was plenty of camping all around. Red Stripe and I took a decent break and had lunch (Soylent for me and a hot meal for Red Stripe), and we decided to push on another 9 miles.
Thus far the weather had been fantastic. We were never cold or hot all day and there was intermittent cloud coverage without threat of thunder most of the day. We had one more big mountain to crest for the day and it was a steep and tough push.
We took a break on the way up at a water source (our last water stop - so we needed to carry extra for dinner and the next morning), and we decided we would hike until 7:00 pm and find a spot around that time. We were beat. At the top of the climb we took another break and the weather began to change so we needed to get off the ridge quickly. As we headed down, thunder was very loud and nearby, but luckily the storm struck the side of the mountain that we had just come from and we had sunshine on our side of the mountain. We pushed all the way to a small tent spot at 7:00 pm but there were people there, so we pushed on 0.6 to the next spot to which might be the best camping spot on the entire trail!
We had a spectacular view of the mountains and valley and the sunset was out of this world! We even had a bench to sit on and cook our dinners on. 15 feet away was the most perfect pine grove for us to pitch our tents in a slightly more sheltered space. It felt truly magical.
Red Stripe and I are becoming so close and we are both so incredibly grateful to have each other out here. This trip was meant to be and we are even talking about doing a cool hike each year together.
Laying down in the tent my body and legs truly started to ache in a way that made it difficult to go to sleep. I took CBD, magnesium, and aleve, but the achy-ness was there to stay. We’ve hiked 104 miles in 4 days (97.7 trail miles + 6 bonus miles). It’s a lot at high altitude with some serious climbs and descents. My feet and legs just ache all over.
While it’s good for me to learn how to hike solo and not share gear and camp chores with someone else there were a lot of moments today that I longed for Jamie’s company. It was nice to feel taken care of upon arriving at a water stop and he would already have the water being filtered and the incense lit. Or arriving at camp and he had figured out a good flat spot for our tent. While it’s important to truly feel like I’m moving at my own pace and not trying to catch up to someone else, there was always comfort in knowing someone else was ahead of me and looking out for my well being. It was like a carrot dangling in front of me and gave me something to look forward to.
Now it’s just me and the world and I push until I can’t push anymore and then I collapse around sunset. The days are long, but the striking views of the Rockies are so rewarding.
CT Day 5: 19.7 miles. Stunning tent spot with view and bench to Tenmile Creek mi 117.4 (elev. 9,740 ft).
This morning started out with a 6.4-mile walk into town (Frisco). It was mostly down hill and we were shocked about halfway to encounter a bull moose RIGHT on trail! We know moose are dangerous, but we’ve been getting good vibes from our moose friends so we weren’t scared and just maintained our distance. He did not seemed phased by us at all and just went about his business.
Then we saw Frisco and Brekenridge from a bird’s eye view for a long time. The extremely long switchbacks were teasers and the walk seemed to go on for a bit longer than it should have.
Finally we reached the bottom where we caught a free bus right from the trail into Frisco. We were dropped off at the end of the line and in that very parking lot is where Red Stripe’s new job will be! There is also a Whole Foods there and we set up there for the morning. We planned to have breakfast, hang out and rest until lunch, eat lunch and then hit the trail again in the afternoon.
When in the woods, the stench of my body (or anyone else’s for that matter) is unnoticeable. However, there is nothing quite like plopping into town where the scent of clean people with clean clothes makes your stench that much more noticeable and horrifying.
Red Stripe and I set up our electronics to charge and then hit up the buffet for a giant vegan feast! Breakfast at Whole Foods was amazing! Being off our feet and sitting down was luxury. Using the restroom and getting to wash our hands with soap multiple times was such a gift. We caught up a little on odds and ends in our non-hiking life, and then I felt hungry all over again. This time my eyes were bigger than my stomach and I got way too much food for lunch. I certainly overate and I paid for it on trail.
We left WF on the noon bus and headed back to trail. We knew the pm thunderstorms were a threat but relaxing all morning was necessary. However, we saved 13 tough afternoon miles for ourselves. The first 9 miles were a climb out of Brekenridge/Frisco town at 9k ft up to 12k+ feet. We climbed and climbed for hours. Our total elevation gain was over 4,500 ft today and most of it in this 9-mile stretch. There were some steep sections and we were both hurting due to overeating.
I ate way too much and was burping and having acid reflux. I needed to hydrate but putting anything in my system felt awful and like I was on the verge of throwing up. We took it one mile at a time taking breaks almost every mile. At one point we both just took our shoes off and elevated our feet. I put my arms out like cactus arms and they were slightly in the trail. I put my visor over my eyes and fell asleep, only slightly waking up each time a mountain bike whizzed by to move my arm out of the way.
Our frequent breaks caused our summit to be so slow, and certainly came with its weather risks, but we couldn’t have done it any other way. We were just so full.
Eventually we got above treeline and hit our first snow patches. Luckily they weren’t going up or down, but rather traversing short segments that were flat. It was totally inconsequential. By this point we had worked through our full stomachs and both felt better, even nearing the return of an appetite.
Thanks to all the breaks on our way up plus the steep terrain slowing us down I didn’t have any altitude symptoms at all.
At the summit we heard thunder and noticed that the storms off in the distance were blowing in quickly. We felt that cool A/C breeze on our faces and decided we needed to get down to treeline again.
We still had a long and exposed ridge walk ahead of us and the thunder and rain got closer. We felt a few drops, but then got to the back side/south facing side of the mountain where everything was blue skies and sunshine. We still hustled and ran some because the weather could change at any minute and catch up to us.
When we reached treeline we talked to another hiker and helped him figure things out. This was his very first day backpacking and he was maybe in his 60s or 70s. I helped him understand how to use Guthook (the life-saving guidebook app which luckily he had - just didn’t know how to use it). This break was longer than we wanted but it rejuvenated us.
Then we had 2.5 miles of steepish switchbacks down to the low point at Tenmile creek. We were exhausted and set up our tents in the first good spot. We noticed tons of other tents around at different sites as well. We were right at the Copper Mountain resort.
My appetite made a full return and I made dinner and got in my bed. The achy legs at night are the worst and make it hard for both of us to get any rest.
We will try to hit the trail at 5:30 am tomorrow to have time in Leadville to rest and recuperate.