CDT Day 78 CT Day 19 Lake City

Zero Miles Hiked!!!
I wake early and lay in bed as long as possible before getting up in search of coffee. I find it at the San Juan coffee house – yum coffee if you are ever in Lake City – and catch up on wifi things before heading back to the hostel with a birthday muffin in hand for Lindsay, a badass hiker staying at the hostel. Everyone has to have at least one little birthday surprise!
Our ride back to the pass is leaving earlier than we anticipated, so we decide to hang at the hostel for a while instead and get a ride later. We need a morning off as we are both exhausted. It doesn’t take long to decide that a morning off might not be enough, and we cave in and put our names on the bunk list for tonight  – we’ve been vortexed into a zero day! Our first zero day for the CT – 357 miles of hard hiking and we’ve earned it 😀
The rest of the day is a wonderful lazy day of eating, baking, eating the baked things, buying expensive food from the market across the road, sitting, going for a walk around the entire town, chatting about hiking and post-hiking futures and dreams, a failed attempt at a nap, eating some more.
It’s just what the doctor ordered. It’s an uncomfortably full house tonight as there are some extra people that are tenting in the yard and staying in their cars that are hanging in the hostel. Not quite the perfect quiet rest day I’d hoped for but good nonetheless.
The day passes way too quickly and it’s bedtime. My earplugs are doing a perfect job of keeping me nicely asleep, until the 6’10” guy in the bunk perpendicular to mine manages to stretch out his legs and kick me in the face. Oh joy. Oh hostels. I try to head to the couch to sleep but it’s already occupied. Bah!!! So much for a restful pillowed sleep! I curl up as small as I can and doze on and off in fear of giant feet for the rest of the night. Can’t win them all!

CDT Day 77 CT Day 18 Lake City

16.6 miles hiked, staying in Lake City
The vampires got me. The flying mosquito vampires have taken all my blood and my silly body hasn’t figured out it needs to produce more to keep me moving up here at altitude. Yesterday when we crossed over the pass we entered the San Juan mountains, which look to me like big sleeping giants curved around forming peaks and valleys, covered in a soft green fur. The trail is very skinny so looking back up at San Luis peak makes me dizzy and feel tiny tiny tiny.
We have 4 climbs today before we get into town. 2 big steep ones, 1 little steep one and 1 less steep but looooong one that heads over an exposed mesa.
I’m so very tired right now – sleeping at such high elevation is rough and I don’t think my body rested well. I feel as though I’ve just finished a massive set of lunges or squats. With just a couple of steps my legs are feeling burning and shakey. As always I just have to take it 1 step at a time – there’s only one way to get into town and get a rest!
It’s beautiful scenery and I’m going slowly. We stop at the top for a few minutes of each climb, at the bottom for a few minutes less. I don’t even know what I’m thinking about today – thinking takes too much energy.
3 climbs down before the clouds start congregating and inevitably exploding on us. There’s thunder but it luckily seems to be skirting either side of us. Finally we’ve finished all the climbing and all that’s left is the mesa. Big flat expanse of grass and scattered flowers, with giant storm clouds right in front of us. Zoom zoom as fast as I can go. I love the big wide open space here- it would be cool to camp on but the clouds are booming and town is calling! It’s sprinkling but nothing crazy and amazingly I make it to the bottom of the hill to the road where two other hikers are trying to hitch in as well. There’s not much traffic at all, until a giant car pulls over and beckons the four of us at the trailhead over. Just then it starts to pour. Absolutely buckets down. These amazing people in their giant car are angels! It turns out they are CT hikers who had to get off trail due to illness, so they and their giant dog are doing trail magic runs for a couple of days. Awesome people!
It’s beautiful scenery surrounding Lake City; the town is plonked in a valley with mountains all around. We find some bunks at the hostel which is filled with hikers, shower, don some strange loaner clothes, then wander down the end of the road to do laundry and buy our food resupply.
Yay for rest and awesome hiker people to hang with. I eat a can of soup and a pint of icecream and chat around the big table in the hostel with the other CT hikers. Yay for trail community! So many have been hiking right around us but we’ve never met – it’s amazing how you can hike the same pace as someone for weeks and not cross paths.
I say my prayers of thanks to the gods of earplugs and pass out fast. I will sleep haaaard tonight.

CDT Day 76 CT Day 17

24 miles hiked
Camping at 340.8 @ 12031 ft
After 2 alarms and 4 tries to get Grizzly to wake up, I give in and roll over for more glorious glorious sleep. Last night right before we shut our eyes we checked the maps and saw that San Luis peak was just off the trail today, a great chance to ‘bag a 14er’. However the trailhead is 12 miles away, and the peak 6 miles on from that so it meant we had to get up stupid stupid early in order to get up the mountain before the afternoon storms roll in. Great idea before going to sleep, stupid idea at 345am. I try to wake Grizzly, dash out of the tent for bladder emptying and decide its too dark for me to want to hike alone. Oh well, we do enough bloody climbing out here without the extra 14ers.
When I finally stir again there is actual sunlight on the tent! We are in a somewhat elevated campsite with only a few trees around us so we are treated to some warming sunshine first thing. Yay!
We follow a wide dirt road for quite a way, with rolling meadows around us. Around one corner we spy a coyote dashing across the valley. The climbing has begun and the sweat has begun pouring off us early. When we enter a grove of aspens the cool air is like a thousand lovely tiny fans blowing in our skin.
We chat to and leapfrog a few hikers along the way today – yay hikers! There is a wide creek crossing with no log to balance on or stones to hop across, so I take off my shoes and socks and walk on through. At the other side it’s a short steep climb up the bank, then we are following the creek all the way up the valley.
At a trailhead we have the luxury of pit toilets, then continue on following the creek through thick vegetation. We have just finished filtering more water, and are climbing along the trail when Grizzly calls out – Moose!!! A bull and a cow hiding in the trees by the water. So exciting! I’ve been hanging to see some moose for soooo long!!! We stand and stare at them for a while, and they stare back before resuming their grazing. As we are watching 3 nobos come along the trail and watch with us, and we belatedly realise it is buddy backpacker – a badass family that is hiking the CDT.
Onwards we climb – it’s 8 miles uphill with the trail getting skinner and bushier as we climb. I enter the “Snakebite death zone” – elevation above 12000ft. I get stumbly and weirdly shakey. I stop and eat a bar at Grizzly’s insistence. “There you go body” I think. “Now freakin chill out”. But body doesn’t listen.
I’m breathing deeply heading up the hill, and can’t get enough air. I start feeling claustrophobic with my headphones in so throw them off … possibly a mistake. Now I can hear my hagged breathing which seems to make it worse. My throat suddenly feels like someone is choking me and I start to head down that horrible rabbit hole of a panic attack. “You are fine” I breathe in “you are fine you are fine you are fine”. I try to do my meditation tricks – I observe the panic, acknowledge it, and dismiss it. Nup.
“You are fine you are fine you are fine”.
But I’m not. My mind spirals into all the dark dark corners it hoards for moments just like this, so I can tell myself all the reasons I’m not fine.  My whole body feels like a coffin – I need to strip myself of this strange bag of flesh that is suddenly too heavy and big and tight around me. “Don’t black out don’t black out”.
I’m at the top finally and shaking. I stumble forward and turn to start the descent. At some point I must have started crying because there is a huge mess of tears and snot pooling under my chin and falling to the ground in front of me.
It’s quieter on this side. Was it even noisy on the other or was it just in my head? It’s quiet and peaceful and I can feel the horrible tide turning away and my breath getting under control. The wind picks up and blows my sweat soaked shirt cold against my skin. For some reason all I can think about is a giant mug of my Mum’s pumpkin soup with fresh bread, eating it in front of her fireplace with dogs all around me and watching the eagles on tv. This just makes me cry harder. I’ve somehow tapped into a giant reservoir that was waiting for a panic attack over a mountain pass to explode. I cry for the soup I won’t taste again, the house that is not our house anymore and most of all for the hugs I will never feel.
The sun comes out and warms me. Somehow this is a small comfort and I think “there you go. The sun is your comfort now.”
We hike only a little further, collect water and look for a flat-ish space in this steep world. As I’m walking back to my pack with my full water bottle, I look up and am staring directly into the eyes of a deer. She’s only a few feet away and we’ve clearly both startled each other. I smile and feel a little warmer.
We set the tent up just in time to hide from a small burst of rain. I’m drained. Too tired to even eat. I bundle up and cross everything that I can get through the 4 passes we have to climb before getting into town tomorrow. Ah town. Pillows and hot water sound just about perfect.

CDT Day 75 CT Day 16

24 miles hiked, Camping @ 9675ft
It’s fear of mosquitos that finally ejects me from my cosy sleeping quilt cocoon. I want to be packed up and hiking my the time the miniature flying vampires awake, and despite ignoring my alarm for as long as possible I manage a fairly mosquito-free exit.
We have a nice couple of leg burner climbs to start the day, still winding through forest. This section of the trail is my least favourite – no views, stuck in forest all day long, narrow rocky trail, and all the bloody mozzies. I want my mountains and views back dammit.
Once at the top of our second and last real climb of the day, we yard sale everything into every little splash of sunshine we can find. I make and drink coffee, making entirely too satisfied noises as I slurp it down, then we descend 3 speedy speedy miles. Hooray for caffeine!! Zoom zoom!!
The end of this segment is marked by a highway that we cross over, and see a hiker, Scott, that passed by our yard sale this morning. He’s being picked up and has a car full of resupply so he generously offers us a gatorade and fills our water bottles! Trail magic! This is very exciting as the last water yesterday had some little floating wormies in it; I very much prefer my water worm-free.
A long slow climb follows a creek bed, then switchbacks along the side of a mountain. It’s a nice climb, despite the heat and humidity, and I’m enjoying it until I feel a little shakey and have to sit for a minute to down a larabar. The sugar hits my bloodstream and I’m back in business.
As I climb the crazy fast clouds are congregating above and starting to look a little mean. We shovel in some rehydrated beans at the top while staring at the sky, and the rumbles are getting louder and louder. Must hike! Must get in miles before the rain starts again!
Zoom zoom zoom down the otherside, then the afternoon elevation looks a lot like Oregon – flat. Today is our day for miles!
The clouds are now a deep purple above us and it starts to sprinkle. We find a completely inadequate tree to sit under and just as I park my but FLASH BOOM CLAP KABAM CRASH!!!!! Lightning strikes right in front of us and the thunder is so loud my ears are ringing for ages afterwards. We sit on our packs and hide under the tyvek while the storm dumps directly onto us. A nice serving of hail stones, followed by a side of pouring rain. We hide out for about a half hour before we brave the sprinkling rain and head out again.
Down the trail, through the trees, cross a creek, then we turn a corner and arrive at a largr meadow, just as another cloud of lovely dark blue hue is coming straight at us. We beeline for another, more adequate, tree and hide out again while the storm passes. It’s not nearly as bad this time so we timidly head out across the meadow.
The sky is dark all around us. We can’t tell which way it is coming from or moving, and it doesn’t really matter because we are surrounded.  So…We hike on.
The clouds are rumbling more as we collect water and decide to make camp at the first decent place we find, determined to set the tent up dry and not in the rain.
We managed 24 miles and got the tent up before the rain…but then lay in the tent cursing because there wasn’t that much more rain, and we could have smashed in another 4 miles. Bugger!!!
Tomorrow we have to put in a solid day to ensure we get into Lake City the following day. It’s not that many miles, but the last day hiking into Lake City is very high and exposed so we can’t be up there when the afternoon storms hit.
Early night, early wake! Goodnight!

CDT Day 74 CT Day 15

23.7 miles hiked, camping at 10935ft
It’s a 530am wake up call today. Thankfully the rain that has been pitter pattering all night has stopped so we can pack up and stay dry. The tent is soaking though so we’ll have to ‘yard sale’ everything at the first patch of light we see.
I hike out on the piney path. This section is lots of rolling hills with a couple of significant climbs. This morning there’s a small up before it winds down around the mountain. Grizzly catches up just before I stop to fill up my water containers from a small stream that crosses the path. Phew. The notes on this water source weren’t too definite so I wasn’t sure if I’d be waterless this morning.
More weaving up and down, always through the forest. There’s still lots of clouds in the sky that are starting to fade away as the sun starts warming things up. I look through the forest and it seems that my eyes are fuzzy or there is mist through the trees. I realise it’s the sun hitting the trees and steam rising off all around them as they heat.
We come to the top of a small climb and we yard sale all our wet things (spread out all over the ground) over the rocky ground as we have discovered a beautiful patch of sun. Yay no wet tent tonight!  I make coffee while we wait for the things to dry, Grizzly has phone service so he checks in with the world.
Once we’ve flipped everything and are satisfied there’s no dampness hiding, we stuff the bits and pieces away into their places and hike on.
More forest, more up and down and up and down. I turn to my audiobook for distraction – Thoreau is keeping me company today. Our last water stop before the end of the day arrives and we sit and filter and drink. Two hikers arrive at the stream  – other hikers! We were just wondering where all the hikers are! They are the occupants of the tents we saw at Marshall Pass earlier yesterday; they are either super speedy or got up super early. Actually we did have quite a lengthy break to dry our things so maybe that’s an explanation too.
As we sit and drink, clouds are forming overhead. The speed at which storms and clouds appear here in the rocky mountains is absolutely mind boggling. We sat and it was sunny, we leave and we are trying to out run the clouds. It’s a long slow climb up with the sky getting noisier and noisier. We cross a big wide meadow and hike faaaast. No lightning strikes today please. The sky is the colour of a dark plum in front of us, so we stop to put on all our rain gear and my pack cover. Just as we are about to set forth, a massive thunder clap overhead scares the bejesus out of me, so we decide to hide under a tree for a while instead of walking directly into the storm. I pull the tyvek groundsheet out and we pull it over us like a blanket, just as hail starts attacking.
We huddle for a good half hour or so, only emerging once the hail stopped and the rain has settled down. Into the rain we go!
Up and down and up and down, getting wetter, colder, grumpier as the day goes on. We are both exhausted. For no particular reason I can fathom, except the cold might be draining our energy more than we realise. The trail is hard to walk on too- very rocky and slippery. It’s not well maintained in this section so that it is too narrow and our feet are constantly at angles and we are rolling ankles all day.
I decide that my new ultralight rain suit makes me look like I could audition for the next Ghostbusters. Or maybe find a hat and become a smurf. Or cleaning up after a toxic spill.  Ultra high fashion out here in thru hiker land.
We turn a corner and the field in front of us is filled with Elk! I try to get closer to see them but my silly ghostbusters pants are too noisy and scares them off. Boo!
Finally for the last mile the rain miraculously stops! We grab water and find a campsite already occupied by a bazillion mosquitoes but we make room for our little tent home.
We eat our dinners and dive in expertly without any mozzie invaders. Early night for early rising again tomorrow. We are shattered and will sleep well. Zzzzzzzz.

CDT Day 73 CT Day 14

This morning we need to resupply then head out, so walk to the post office so I can collect my box. I’d called the PO in Derby Montana to forward my box from there (as we changed plans and came to Colorado) but evidently the rotten people returned it to sender instead of forwarding it! Bah! So no beautifully prepared box for me. Instead we walk to safeway and confuse ourselves with how many bars and packets and containers of things we need. We each look at our baskets – “does this look like enough?”. I can’t tell you the number of times those words are uttered by hikers to each other. “Does my food bag feel like 4 days?” ” How many serves of X should I take for 5 days?” No one ever knows. I never get it right.
I make a sign on the tyvek and it’s not too long before we nab a hitch back to Monarch Pass.
We see Marty just arrived at the pass and trying to get a hitch to town – the awesome ladies who picked us up offer him a ride to just outside of town. We say goodbye, head into the little store to buy a postcard (me) and some chips (Grizzly) before heading out under the gondolas and onto the trail.
We are hiking along a ridge today, with views out across the valley and to distant mountains. The sky is clouding over as we are expecting – the forecast for the next 10 days is afternoon rain and or thunderstorms every single day. Welcome to monsoon season in Colorado.
The rain starts up and we high tail it to a little shelter that is on our maps. It’s just a little 3 sided lean-to which is perfect for hiding out. I spread the tyvek on the dirt ground and we explode our food bags to eat some of the weight away.  I enjoy reading the names of CT and CDT hikers extending back into the 80s written all over the walls. There are 4 ladies here who are hiking the CT together. I’m so excited that these friends, in their mid-late 60s, are all doing this together. Badasses. And excited about the part where they have their tents set up at 230pm…so nice and chilled. Although I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if that happened everyday.
Out into the drizzle we hike. We are now within the forest and the lovely views are gone. We arrive at Marshall Pass, which may have been a good camping site with awesome flat ground and a (gasp!) pit toilet, but it is too early. Boo!
We hike another 2 miles before the rain gets the better of us and we set up in a non-bougie campsite. Yuck it is quite the struggle to set up a tent and get inside without bringing a litre of water in with us.
Finally our day is done, have some hot ramen in our bellies and we fall asleep dreaming of blue skies in the morning.

CDT Day 72 CT Day 13 Salida

Thank goodness we didn’t get eaten but a hoard of angry marmots or pikas last night. Our little perch on the old railway (there’s no tracks, just the cleared path) ended up being  great spot, but with a steep hill on one side covered in lots of rocks you should always keep the marmot spray at the ready 😉
We walk along the track for a while, reading the signs about the history of the track as we go. As we descend to hancock trailhead we see a giant sign “Colorado Trail 2016”. Oooo magic maybe?
We follow the road and there are a whole bunch of giant tents and cars, and one huge tent set up with a bbq and a stack of tools. It’s a work party for the Colorado Trail volunteers – they are breaking new trail here so that the CT doesn’t follow the jeep road. What an awesome community!
We hike up the rocky road and I fantasize about Willy Wonka doing trail maintenance “That’s not rocky road, THIS is rocky road!”.
We arrive up at a lake surrounded by very moose-y looking willow. Still no moose sightings though. Boooo!
Up over a mini pass and down through some big boulders, this new land we’re dropping into is gorgeous. Down through thick green growth past a beautiful stream, and straight into mosquitoville. We bump into a couple with a dog that we stand and chat to for a while; meanwhile all the inhabitants of mosquitoville are attached to my legs. I try to politely leave the conversation many many times and finally we hike away from the shady spot and start whacking my legs and looking at the thousands of tiny welts all over me. I spray some of the tiny bottle of poison (DEET) on me but way too late.
Down the road we go, pass some very cool cabins, when around the corner comes something strange. “Llamas!” exclaims Grizzly. “Llamas!!!” I say. These llamas are owned by a couple who take elderly, and disabled people out camping. The llamas have little saddlebags they carry, and I get to pat them on their necks.
Finally at monarch pass we get a hitch into Salida and find ourselves a room. We’re so hungry but need to do laundry, so we order pizza to be delivered to the room while we hide out in our raingear, watching Juno on tv.
Once clean we lazily get a taxi the 2 miles to downtown to get to the gear store before it closes. Grizzly needs new socks as his injinis all have holes in them – awesome socks and perfect for desert hiking but they wear out waaay too fast.
Next door there is a bar with an airstream in the beer garden that has been converted into a bar. I drink a cider and enjoy the live acoustic music in the humid air. Down the road people are floating in the river on tubes or standing and sitting on the banks chatting. Hot and lazy. It’s amazing.
I love this town. I love this airstream bar.
At the safeway we buy a bunch more food to eat tonight. We’re still not getting enough food in this section. I can see Grizzly getting thinner, and he has started calling me Stegosaurus because my spine is too spiney through my shirt. Must eat everything!
Back in the room we each consume a “serves 4” Amy’s brand red curry and a pint of (almond milk) icecream. That’s a fair effort on the calorie front! Finally it’s sleepy time and we doze off watching more random things on tv and staring at the random bits of news on our tiny screens.
Goodnight my new favourite Colorado town!

CDT Day 71 CT Day 12

21.3 miles hiked, Camping at collegiate west loop 56.5 @ 11929ft
The important things that must be done this morning before we get on trail- get coffee and find wifi somewhere so I can download a new book. I’m going through books so quickly and they are horribily expensive so I’ll have to figure out some new motivation for all the hill climbing.
I find both wifi and coffee at a great little roastery, the kind that sells beard oil at the register next to the gluten free muffins. Because beard oil and coffee are like peas and carrots.
Books and podcasts loaded, I collect my pack and Grizzly from the room. Yogi has decided to jump onto the eastern loop with Frankitoe (our other roommate ) as there are hot springs coming up on that side. Smart man.
It doesn’t take long to get a hitch, this time it’s 3 brothers heading out for a little camping. They jump out and check out the views from the pass, and one rolls us a joint to take with us. The trail provides!
I’m impressed with how early it is for a town start  – we are hiking by 9am. It definitely is a very exposed section. The wind is crazy –  I clip my hat to my pack so it doesn’t blow off, I pull my buff over my head and earphones so they don’t fly away, and I fiddle incessantly with the excess lengths on my pack straps that keep whipping my face.
No trees to rest under today, just perching on the edge of the skinny trail in the rocks. Up down up down up down. It’s hard going but we are fuelled by thousands of town calories and a good sleep and are making good time. I like this kind of hiking better than 1 giant climb for the day followed by 1 giant down. At the top of one ridge we are faced with a steep snow chute on the other side. A few feeble slippery steps then I say stuff it, sit on my bum and slide the rest of the way down. Wheeeee!!! Wet bum and giant wedgie totally worth it.
There are valleys and rocks and marmots and pikas and rocks and marmots and climbs and valleys. We hike through a section of rocks that glimmer like silver. So cool! I wonder if everyone that hikes here thinks the rocks just look like silver and ignores them, when in fact it is real silver and we are all just a bit dumb.
We reach our tentative mileage for the day, but as we are still very high, hiking on steep slopes and around so many rocks, there is nowhere flat to camp. Crap. I don’t wanna hike mooooore! I have a 3 second inner tantrum, eat some sour patch kids, turn up my tunes, and do the only thing that can be done – hike.
We end up hiking another 2 or so miles. Any miles that by necessity have to be hiked beyond your chosen mileage should definitely count as triple miles. So…we hiked another ‘6’ 😉
We settle on a little spot just big enough for the little tent off the side of the trail where a railway line used to be. It’s still windy as we cook dinner, but it calms down just in time for bed. Today was tough but goooood hiking. A long day for a late start!

CDT Day 70 CT Day 11 Buena Vista

Oh beautiful coffee! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!
For the first time on this trail I make hot coffee and it is divine. Actually it’s probably one of the worlds crappest coffees, but when it’s cold, you are tired and camping, hot coffee is an absolute gift from heaven. It gets tastier the colder it is, the more miles you’ve hiked and the longer the distance you have beween towns. You really don’t know the joy of a thing until you haven’t had it for a long time.
Powered by coffee I bounce up the small climb out of camp, along the flatish bit at the top then down down down throught the pines, rock hopping across the streams, bushwhacking around the mud to the trailhead at the bottom.
Why we are so particularly hungry in this section I’m not sure, but we sit and eat and eat and eat, some deep insatiable hunger rising up from the depths of our depths. We ensure future us will be mad at present us because we have eaten today into deficit and we are certain to run out of food. Crap.
We hike along the side of a valley until we reach a large creek. There is a whole bunch of people with camp set up here who are swimming / washing in the creek, and a group of day hikers with giant gorgeous Bernese Mountain Dogs. One is particularly boisterous and bounds along with me to collect water to filter. I get so happy when I see dogs on the trail  – dog cuddles are good for the soul.
We have a climb now, a rather steep one. Across the creek the trees start getting taller and taller.  Grand old pines tower over the trail, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a while. The branches are covered in pale lichen, the trail is soft with all the pine needles and all the sounds are muffled. We have to be quiet in the old pines home 😀
The trees thin out again as we get higher and higher. It’s a gorgeous meadow, lush green with wildflowers as always, and it is surrounded by ridgelines. For the past hour clouds have been gathering and gathering, looking darker and darker. I find Grizzly and Yogi sitting on the trail, getting rain gear on and looking up anxiously. We hike fast. The rest of the trail is very exposed so we need to outrun whatver these clouds are planning on unleashing. Up up up then one last short but mean climb gets us to the top and we can see the highway and cottonwood pass below.
Zig zagging down to the little road pull off, I’m amazed at the number of cars…and secretly hoping for some trail magic. I understand quickly why so many cars. We are right in the Continental divide here and both sides of the pass have a beautiful view. Cars pull over, clean smelling people jump out, they take selfies, get back into the safety of the car, drive away.
The clouds are looking epic on the otherside. The wind is crazy up here and we sit on the ground using a giant suv as a windbreak, eat more food and try and see what this weather is going to do. We have 14 miles of exposed ridge walking coming up. 14 miles in this storm if it errupts.
Yogi had gone ahead and decided to chance it, then came running back 5 minutes later with reports of the end of the world happening. There is a small town 19 miles from the pass. There is food in this town…and no exposed potential human lightning rod hiking…thumbs out, we’ll be in beds again tonight!
The three of us get an awesome hitch with a just retired pro mountain bike racer. She doesn’t have her kids for a couple of days so she’s packed her van and is off on adventures. It’s very squishy inside, so I’m lying on her bed in the back. One minute I’m outrunning storms, the next I’m lying on my back staring at pink pom poms that adorn the ceiling, listening to Patsy Cline as we weave down down the windy road to Buena Vista.
Once in town we call and call hotels – everyone is booked. Finally we look down the road and see a hotel sign. We call and are lucky they had a cancellation! Then Yogi gets a message from a friend who is hiking the eastern loop (we are on the west) so we have a 4 person hiker room! Yay!
I find what sounds like an amazing restaurant on my Happy Cow app ( a brilliant app that tells you if there are any vegan or veggie food options nearby). We wander down, stinking our hiker stenches, and order some bowls that are made by angels. Beautiful fresh kale salads, veggies patties, avocado, roasted chillis, rice. Amazing fresh healthy food – just what my stomach ordered. Yum yum yum yum yum.
Then buying of more trail food from the store, showers, laundry, all the town things. Now it’s dinner time…so we wander back to the awesome restaurant for round 2!!! Nom nom nom. One minute running out of food on the side of the trail, next eating dinners I wouldn’t have even dreamed.
Ah I will sleep a good sleep tonight with a happy happy belly. A fan blows the warm air around the room, not doing much for the heat but blocking out town noises perfectly. Goodnight gorgeous little town! Goodnight room full of trail friends!

CDT Day 69 CT Day 10

18.5 miles hiked, camping at mile 23.8 @ 11102 ft. Highest points 12595ft Lake Ann Pass, 12533ft Hope Pass
I ambitiously set my alarm for very early, then predictably I wake and ignore it. I hike out of camp at a leisurely 740am and the trail immediately goes straight up for 2 miles. There is thick forest either side of the trail with dense undergrowth and bright bursts of colour from wildflowers. As I break through above treeline a meadow opens up all around with a stunning view of the pass up above. Mountains tower all around, still with snow patches, and the wildflowers are sprinkled through the grass. It’s a tough climb and switchbacks up for the last mile getting rockier underfoot. I stand the catch my breath and watch a pika gather a big bunch of grass and bounce up the almost vertical rock fall, grass in mouth, where I’m guessing he’s doing some interior decorating to his home. As I round the last switchback I’m hit with a gust f wind and a magnificent view as the collegiate peaks wilderness is spread out before me. 12533ft view is beautiful with craggy snow topped spires with a lush green valley below. At the top of the pass a series of prayer flags have been erected. It makes me smile to see them and think of all the stupas in Nepal. I have prayer flags tied to my pack that I picked up in Mt Shasta last year while hiking the PCT. Prayer flags always look like hiking to me.
Ooh the descent is a knee burner. The trail is steep, narrow and made of loose gravel and sand so I’m sliding all over. Finally below tree line I drink some water and filter some more, and eat more things than I should. Passes make me hungry!
Down down down down through the trees we hike. It gets hotter and hotter as we descend and we make sure to drink lots as we pass by more little streams.
The trees thin out and the ground is dustier at the bottom where we make a turn to head towards our next pass of the day – Lake Ann Pass. Steep up, steep down and repeat. Nothing flat in Colorado!
The climb is slightly less steep than Hope Pass for the first part, and the scenery more lush with prettier peaks crowding around. Another water stop and this time it’s from a waterfall! Such simple beautiful things that make you smile out here. The mist from the waterfall cools  us as we sit and filter watee, then the sum disappears behind some clouds. In the few minutes we are sitting it goes from unremarkable clouds floating by to grey, dark grey and distant soft rumblings of thunder. Eeps we have to get a move on to get over the pass. Breaking through above treeline we pass by the trail to Lake Ann, and as we ascend are treated to a view of the lake from above. We switchback across big boulders and rock slides, careful not to misstep and hurt ankles or break poles.
I’m powered by music and sing my way to the top of the pass, the music distracting me from my shakey legs and grumbling stomach. I’m again thinking of friends who suggested each of the songs on my playlist as I climb, imagine them singing along with me. Credence comes on and I immediately think of my Dad. He had a terrible memory, but could always tell you exactly where he was and what he was doing when a particular song came out. I don’t remember what the story was for Fortunate Son, but he pops into my head everytime I hear it. I wonder what he would have made of my crazy adventuring.
 The final trail to the top is across a skinny skinny ridge covered in snow. Don’t slip don’t slip!
The world on the other side of the pass is gorgeous. A wide valley with lakes and distant peaks, ones we will no doubt be climbing up towards in the next day or two. A few snowflakes start to fall at the top, and a fat fluffy marmot zooms across the rocks. Down we must go as the clouds are still overhead and looking mean!
Down down down. Steep steep steep. Down past all the rocks and into the pine trees. We make a wrong turn at a confusing junction, then quickly fix the mistake. We haven’t gone nearly as far as we wanted, but 2 passes has made it a tough day nonetheless. When we are yelles out to by a camper at a fairly flat area, and he invites us to come hang at the fire he has built up, it doesn’t take long for us to decide our day is over and set up camp.
The mosquitos are horrendous and the smoke from the fire is a great repellent. I jump intp the tent early and put some cream on my back – in addition to the relentless pain in my hip/thigh my pack has now rubbed my spine raw. The cream stings and I plan to cover my spine with fixomil tape in the morning. Oh to finally find a pack that doesn’t hurt me!
I fall asleep listening to the army of mosquitoes buzzing outside the tent, and dreaming of a pack as soft as a pillow.