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Family at Cottonwood Pass

CT Day 10: 19.2 miles. Stream just past Illinois Creek to camping just past stream, 7.3mi in CW segment 3 (elev: 11,891 ft).

I had the worst night sleep yet on trail. I think elevating my legs under my pack caused my hip flexors to tighten and I was aching so much in my hips all night. I finally sat up and moved my pack and cinched up my mummy sleeping bag and liner and got a little sleep between 4:00 am and 6:00 am. I finally woke up and started getting my stuff together around 6:30 am. Red stripe was ready about 15 mins before me so I told her to get going and I would catch her at a break spot.

I hit the trail at 7:00 am with a very steep climb right out the gate. I was so sluggish and sleepy and lacked all energy so I slowly made my way up the mountain. The funny thing was, that literally NOTHING in my whole body hurt. In fact, my body felt great. My feet weren’t sore, my legs felt good, I didn’t even notice my hips, and my back and shoulders felt good too. I wish this was the case towards the end of the day and especially when I am trying to get some sleep!

I caught Red Stripe and we had a long descent. We cruised down and ended up in a valley that was extremely wet. There was a lot of mud and the ground was just filled with water everywhere. It was also a gradual climb so we were slowed down a bit from our morning pace.

We had two river fords today and they were both absolutely freezing. To the point where I was making audible sounds because the cold was so painful on my feet and legs.

We met a woman just before the second river ford whose water filter broke and so we let her borrow ours so she could filter some water before the big 4.5 mile climb up to Cottonwood Pass.

We worked hard getting up that pass. It was steep climbing but we were so looking forward to seeing my dad for lunch that it kept us motivated to take short breaks and keep pushing.

Eventually we were nearing the top and once we got above tree line I saw 3 people and a dog sitting on the grass on the hill. I immediately recognized that it was Shelley, Robbie and their dog Kasha AND my dad! WHAT A HUGE SURPRISE!! I couldn’t believe that they drove out from Denver to hike and greet us! Shelley brought us some fresh smoothies with veggies and fruit which hit the spot. As did my dad’s coconut water, popcorn and cashews. Robbie also hooked us up with some Skratch and Pure Power’s product “Power Down”, a supplement to help with muscle recovery and sleep aid. He also gave out Bobo’s Bars to all the hikers and they were much appreciated and enjoyed!

After sitting in chairs, eating and having shoe and pack off time, we got our resupply ready and put our shoes back on and were getting ready to go when someone showed up with beer & sweets as trail magic. He had hiked the CT last year and was out returning the trail love he received. Sticks (new trail name - formerly referred to as “Take it Easy”) showed up and hung out with us also.

When we left the parking lot we were a group of 3 hikers and Shelley, Robbie, and Trail angel “coach smurf”. At the top of climb number 1, the support crew turned around and we continued heading off into a 16 mile stretch mostly above tree line known as CW segment 03.

It is recommended to do these 16 miles in one stretch, but we decided to camp about 7 miles in where there was a sheltered area with possible campsites.

The second climb of the three was just stunning! It was incredible. And the descent was completely exposed and you could see the trail for miles. The third and biggest climb took a while. We got to the top, put on extra layers as it was quite windy and chilly and began to descend.

The back side of this 3rd mountain in segment 3 was treacherous! It was way sketchier than Lake Ann Pass. There was a steepish long snowy downhill section with a scree field on the other side. It was scary for all three of us, but we were so glad we were together and not alone during this section. For about 1.5 miles down we encountered a lot of more challenging bits with snow, rock scrambles, and route finding. We lost the trail for a long while after the long patch of snow, but between the three of us and our various guidebooks we were able to figure out where to go to find the trail.

We found a little camp spot about 100 ft off the trail in a sheltered area with some pine trees, the flat spots weren’t great, but it got the job done.

Seeing family today really lifted my spirits. We tailgates in the parking lot for what felt like hours and just relaxed in the middle of the day. It broke up the day and gave me such renewed energy for the afternoon section. I didn’t really get to see my family on the Appalachian Trail because Hurricane Florence caused everyone’s flights to be cancelled so it was such a treat to see everyone here. It carried me for such a long time.

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