Archive for July, 2011

I managed to get a ride out of Leadville mid morning Monday from a super nice couple who found it funny that they had taken a vacation from their kids and had picked one up.  They were awesome to still take me since a fundraiser bike race was taking up almost the whole road.

My plan for Monday had been to do the first 10.5 miles of Segment 10 and stop at the base of Mt. Massive.  I didn’t see anyone almost all day once I got on trail…they were probably all out on bikes.  That is, until I hit mile 9.3ish and I saw a familiar looking dude.  We began swapping information since he was going NOBO on the CDT.  He was trying to do 30 miles per day and he seemed annoyed because he had gotten confused around Twin Lakes and ended up putting his pack in a trash bag and swimming across.  He also told me how he sent his tent to Denver and had been sleeping in another trash bag.  For some reason, these shenanigans did not seem to surprise me.  Then he said his name was Duane.  IT WAS INSANE DUANE!  I had met him back outside of Duncannon, PA on the AT.  He had been pulling 30-40 mile days to catch Lint after he hurt his knee.  I distinctly remembered him because I was sitting around a campfire and he stopped to talk to us but wouldn’t sit down or take off his pack and he had seemed like he just wanted to talk to anybody.  We laughed about the AT for a bit until rumble rumble rumble came the thunder and the sky got dark.

I managed to almost jog to the stream and camp spots right by the Mt. Massive junction, set up my tent, grab some water, and jump in it before it rained.  Woohoo!  Other people had a campfire going, but I was not in the mood to get wet, so I went to bed early.

I tried super hard to get up in the early a.m. to begin up Massive, but I didn’t manage to get up until 5 a.m. to start at 6 a.m.  A few people day hiking up passed me and waved while I ate oatmeal from my tent, then I headed up myself.  Since I didn’t have a day pack, I loaded up my pockets, tied extra layers around my waist, cameled half a liter of water and then brought a full liter with me.

The start was rather gradual in the trees and then it broke above treeline and got steeper in spurts.  I followed the trail up, up, up marked well by large cairns.  I could see the two sets of people who had passed me continuing up ahead and I enjoyed the wildflowers.  However, the sky did not look inviting.  Clouds covered the sky in most directions and it had begun to drizzle on me.  A few times going up, I almost turned around because it looked so shitty out.  I ended up keeping going for a few reasons: 1.) there was no thunder, 2.) I could still see 50-60 feet even when it seemed to get worse, and 3.) birds were still chirping all over and they shut up and hide when storms come in.

I made the right decision and summitted just fine.  As I sat to take a picture, out of nowhere some small, old guy comes out from the opposite direction (where there was no marked trail) and says: “I passed the summit!  I got Massive twice!” and laughed heartily.  He then proceeded in eating yogurt and a banana.  Not my choice trail foods, but ok.

When I began to get a little cold, I headed down and ran into three of the four old guy section hikers and they seemed astounded that I had already resupplied and spent the night in Leadville and managed to beat them to the summit.  They said their fourth flatlander friend was not doing well and had stayed at base camp which was at mile 9 into segment 10, right before I had run into Insane Duane.  I warned them about the crazy guy, but then he appeared and then left and they laughed and said I had to deal with him now.

I did run into him before I hit my tent and he proceeded on talking continuously about various side trips I could take from the CT.  I wasn’t sure which was worse, his side trip ideas or the incessant twitter from the 13 year old who was a bit behind me with his 20 year old sister who looked like a 15 year old boy.

When I got to my tent, I ate lunch and packed up to go 4.5 miles to finish segment 10 and into 11 where a side trail went up the northeast ridge of Mt. Elbert.  There, I was not as lucky to find such a good campsite.  The guidebook mentioned a stream a few hundred yards after the junction which I headed for which turned into just over a third of mile.  They need a German to write the book.  It would totally be accurate to the meter if Germans wrote it.

This time, I knew I had to wake up and get up without resetting my alarm 3 times like the day before.  I got up at 4am, left by 5am and actually got to use my headlamp for a change.  By 5:30, the sun had risen enough that I didn’t need it anymore and I watched a bit of it from treeline where I met two older Swiss guys who passed me for a bit until they took a break.

At about 12,500ft, I saw two people coming down already from the cloud that seemed to surround the summit.  It was two section hikers who had camped near me on Massive, Krista and Tim.  They had camped right by treeline and started hiking at 1am, summited by 4:30am and were freezing and going back to their tent to sleep for a few hours.

After I passed the Swiss guys, no one was ahead of me and I continued on the steep, loose rock up, passed a few false summits to the top where I took a 15 minute break and put on all my layers.  A humming-bird flew by me and I sat in a cloud, unable to see anything, but I made it!

Going down was a whole different story.  About 30 minutes down, I ran into the highway.  It seemed like everyone and their brother had decided to climb Elbert on a Wednesday – I would hate to see it on a weekend.  They all asked the same shit: “Am I almost there?”, “How far to the top?”, “Can you see anything?” or some variation of that.  I thoroughly enjoyed being the first one they had all seen who had actually gotten there and I mostly told them the truth except for a few annoying ones.

The most interesting was a guy named Eric who I had seen going up Massive the other day and I stopped to talk with him for quite a bit.  He had stopped me by saying, “You look like a long distance hiker.” It made me laugh as I jumped to the side and chatted about trails with him.

Going down further, I ran into a rather rude guy who had speakers attached to the outside of his pack blasting that new rap chick, nikki something, to the point that people could hear it with a 30 foot radius around him.  Have ya heard of headphones asshole?  I told him it was super hard and a long way up when he really only had maybe .4 of a mile.  Whatever.

After getting to the bottom I ate lunch and the four old section hiker guys came by and stopped to talk.

“Wait,” one started, “Don’t tell me you’ve already been up and down Elbert now before we’ve gone five miles?”

“Mmhmm” I managed through a large bite of peanut butter granola burrito.

I watched a herd of Elk run behind my tent when I packed up and hiked 10 more miles.  They weren’t too hard since about six of them consisted of hiking around Twin Lakes with the collegiate Wilderness in the background.  A long-haired mountain biker passed me on the way down, but that was it for a while.

I cooked dinner and ducked into my tent for a small rain storm that came through where I caught a bug for Allie which I named Geezer because he looked like he had a white beard.  When the sun came back out, I hiked two more miles to get to the other side of the lake where one could actually camp.

In the morning, I realized that the two 14ers were catching up to me as I had little motivation, especially to climb anything.  At my first break, I dried out my rain fly, then as I was packing up a thru-hiker with a bright blue umbrella came up and said, “You’re Mandy!”

Hmmm.  Yes.  How’d he know that?  He waited for me to get going, then we hiked on for a bit.  He had met the four section hiker guys, Krista and Tim, and Insane Duane who he got a kick out of too.  We hiked together until the end of Segment 12 at Clear Creek where we ran into Justin…without Andy.

Justin told us that Andy had to get off in Leadville due to an infected, large foot blister and would meet him at the end of segment 13 at the Princeton Hot Springs.  As we got eaten by mosquitos, we compared bug preventions to no avail and all hiked on.

I was still beat and went super slow up a rather steep, but still switchbacked climb to “gain a ridge” as the guidebook put it, only to go straight back down afterward to Pine Creek.  I used my iPod the whole way up to get myself moving, but it still took me forever.  I ran into six section hiking late teens-early twenties who did not seem to understand my sarcasm, so I let them be.  They also had matching ponchos which made me laugh ridiculously as they strolled by in unison as I leaned up against a large pine tree which prevented me from getting wet during the small shower that passed by.

At the bottom, by the creek, I stopped and chatted with a few members of a Trail Crew who were doing volunteer work and ended up staying there to camp because I didn’t have the energy to climb another 1400 feet or so out from the creek.  I then realized that the long-haired mountain biking guy was camped there too!  He actually worked for the Forest Service and worked mostly on CDT trail maintenance; his name was Luke.

In the morning, I managed the climb up and out to “gain a ridge off Harvard” which, if I had a topo would have been fairly easy to climb from there instead of going the 1000 ft down to the actual trailhead for it.  The rest of segment 12 went mostly down from there to North Cottonwood Creek, with several annoying bumps.  I had to get out of the way for six or seven horses which had produced a large amount of fresh shit exactly where it’s convenient to step in the trail and attracted quite a few more flies.  One of them passed me again half an hour later singing to herself.

Really, now if all the horse riders would just give the thru-hikers a beer every time they saw us, we would really not be so irritated at the amount of shit in the middle of the trail.  It’s not like they have to carry it…the horse does!

When I got to the bottom, I could have hitched into BV from that dirt road, but I figured it would be harder to get a ride out, and I didn’t want to do the next steep, 3000 something foot climb with a full food bag.  This was a job for the iPod!  I got up all but about 800 feet of it when the sky turned very dark and all the blue went away.  I had seen a few storms in the distance all afternoon and had heard it rumble, but now it seemed like it would start soon.  Fantastic.  I found a good campsite, right next to silver creek near a dilapidated old cabin and set up my tent, got some water, and about 10 minutes later ka-boooooom thunder, lightening, and buckets of rain.  Good thing  I didn’t go up to the saddle of Yale like I was planning!

It was freezing up there at 11,100 ft in the early am.  I actually had most of my layers on inside my sleeping bag and was still cold.  It gave me little motivation to get up super early and try to climb the east ridge of Yale.  Plus, my mosquito bites itched and I was out of Benadryl.

Once I got up, I saw the route that had no trail and up close, it looked like a long scramble through a ton of scree, so I took pictures and headed down to rt 306 where I found a bunch of boy scouts in the parking lot.  I asked if any of the older guys with them was heading back into town and one said yes and eventually gave me a ride.  They had waaaaaaaay too much shit and found it amusing to pick up my pack with one hand and then barely manage their own with two hands.  One had even strapped a full-sized guitar to the outside of his pack.

Anyway, managed to make the Post Office’s Saturday hours and have now been sitting at the library.  If there is no storm brewing close by, I will head back to the trail, if not, I will stay here and grab a shower.

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After a long day of errands in Breckenridge, including dealing with their grouchy post office and the super hilarious guy Craig at the UPS store, I began segment 7 with my much larger pack and a full food bag.  The Fireside Inn Hostel place, totally a must if you need a place to stay in Breck, btw.

I got up early and caught the 6:45 bus to the trailhead and began at 7am.  I had heard from another thru-hiker that there was still quite a bit of snow in segment 7; enough snow that this hiker had turned around during the slack-pack he took because of “vertical snow fields”.  I was skeptical.  Asking the outfitter when I bought an “insect shield” headband, he said it was just fine.  With the two conflicting reports, I set out anyway figuring that I hike enough in snow that I could probably figure it out.

The climb up was a doozy!  It was super long and the steepest thing yet on the CT.  The east coast would laugh  because it did contain switchbacks, but the previous 105 miles did not have anything that steep.  At the last stream, I stopped and ate a bar where I ran into 4 day hikers who were going to Copper Mountain (12 miles from the trailhead) and taking the bus back.  I managed to keep up with them until a little after treeline when my full pack seemed to get heavier.  We walked right around a large patch of foot deep snow and the trail came out right at the top.  So far, so good.

Breaking out of treeline for the second time in the trip was awesome: fantastic views, wide open fieldy mountains, the entire Breck ski resort etc.  After the first jump above treeline, the trail wavered alongside the 10 mile range for a bit on the side of peaks 4, 5, and 6 (I think) and there I ran into what I thought were the rumored “vertical snow fields”.  About 5 or 6 patches of foot deep snow, maybe 20 or 30 feet in diameter covered the trail.

a.) They were not vertical.

b.) You could see the trail on the other side of them.

c.) Trekking poles or a stick would stabilize you if you had any doubts.

d.) I’ve walked through worse snow on my way to class in Syracuse.

Wanting to eat lunch on top, at just over 12,400 ft, I paused and snapped a few pictures when I realized that a storm seemed to be moving in the direction that I would head over the Ten Mile Range and down the other side.  Big black clouds and sheets of rain covered that portion of the horizon.  So, instead of spending time up there, I hurried the two miles down to treeline as fast as I could without running and stopped a bit down into the trees where I scarfed lunch down way to quickly.  Then I almost got annihilated by a mountain bike skidding downhill.

I continued down with a far too full stomach and met my first CDT hiker!  The CT and the CDT are co-located for 100 miles between segment 6 and 11.  He was a NOBO who seemed bent on getting more miles in, so I didn’t chat for long.  I passed an older guy with a gut sitting on the side named Chris who had started his thru-hike too early and had to get off for 3 weeks due to snow and came back, but was doing three segments north instead of south and his whole itinerary hurt my head, so I didn’t try to remember his complications.

Since at the bottom of the mountain, I would cross into the Copper Mountain Resort and couldn’t camp for five miles, I decided to stay about a mile up from the road where I found a nice little spot.  A guy who worked for Go Lite came by and talked for a while with his dog Rock, who would find a rock in every stream and bring it to him.  Finally, two more thru-hikers passed and apologized for not stopping by saying “Beer and Pizza” about three times, which I understood completely.

In the morning, I finished the last mile of the segment and went into Copper Mountain Resort.  I did find it suddenly odd to walk by a mini golf area, a kids play set, and over ski runs.  About two miles in, I found the two thru-hikers stealth camping and had just gotten up, they were Justin and Andy from the Denver area.  Apparently, they ate too much to walk further.  They made it a whole half-mile from the pizza and beer place.

I kept going, up a long slog to Searle Pass where I would get four and a half miles or so above treeline and I wanted to get up there so I could make sure to get down if any storms came in as they had been.  I began leapfrogging three section hikers, one of whom reminded me of Polar at first glance, but then ended up reminding me more of the Guatemalan Hostel worker in Maine who made earings out of moose poop.

Once I got to Searle Pass, I took a nice break since the sky looked super clear and inviting in all directions.  I even got to watch two marmots playing around the rocks!  They made a super annoying alarm sound though.  Eventually, the section hikers and Justin and Andy made it up and we all chatted and snacked.

For the first time, the trail seemed to overflow with water for the next few miles.  I began not carrying more than a liter there was so much.  I had quite a fun time creek hopping above treeline as we went down a bit, then up to Elk Ridge which at 12,200 something overlooked the Mt. Holy Cross Wilderness and a large, closed, mine.

Justin and Andy came right up behind me and the three of us took a long break up there simply because we could.  They both had fly fishing rods with them and had actually caught and ate fish one night.  Afterwards, we all descended down Kokomo Pass and found separate spots to camp for the night.

I had stopped where I did because at the bottom of the hill lay Camp Hale from the 10th Mountain Division.  The book said not to camp down there due to “undiscovered munitions”.  Roger that.  It also said to stay on trail and not deviate.  Ok. Got it.

I headed downhill just fine for the first two miles or so until I came to an unmarked intersection and the book had mentioned two in a short period of time where on one, I should take a left, and at the other, a right.  I dropped my pack and went a tenth of a mile down each.  I ended up going right due to the amount of horse shit present.  It was the correct choice I discovered about half a mile later when I saw a marker.  They should just say follow the horse shit…there’s sure plenty of it all over the trail.

Camp Hale seemed cool, they had some old concrete bunkers there and some cool valley dirt roads to walk on.  Then it climbed for a bit and I took a break by a stream.  These last five or six miles of segment 8 followed route 24 vaguely and had some rather pointless zigzaggyness, but ok.

I got to Tennessee Pass, the end of the segment at about 12:30 and sat to eat lunch by the trailhead at the end of the parking lot.  I had gotten in 10 miles before the heat really sank in or the thunderstorms started, so I took a long lunch.  I amused myself by comparing the CT to the AT since I had gone through Georgia Pass in Segment 6 and now ended at Tennessee Pass between segments 8 and 9.  Annnnd to get to Tennessee Pass, I had to go UP to a road.  It reminded me of going to that road that took you into Gatlinburg…the only other time I’ve hiked UP to a road.

Then a trail runner that I had let pass earlier came back out and sat with me while he waited for his trail runner girlfriend.  They were training for the Leadville Ultra in August.  He offered me an orange soda.  I was super delighted and thoroughly enjoyed the cold beverage.  It tasted especially good since I had run out of Aquamira and had to use iodine tablets that day and would the next day too.

When I left, I headed up the trail and then…I saw a cooler!  Trail Magic!  From the Leadville hostel!  I got some sun chips and an IBUProfen refill on my med kit!  That was the day of trail magic.

I found a nice campsite about 4 miles down and stopped there since I only had 10 miles to Leadville and really just felt like eating the sun chips and chilling.  It was quite mosquito infested, so I quickly set up my tent and watched them all try to get to me, but landing on the netting.  I greatly enjoyed flicking them off from the inside or smashing them between the netting and the rain fly.  I sometimes can’t tell anymore if I have a dirt smudge or mosquito guts on me.

In the morning, I headed into the Mt. Holy Cross Wilderness Area where I met four section hiking funny old dudes who were out for the week to do segments 9-half of 11.  Apparently, there was some huge hunt for the mountain with a cross on it in the late 1800s because some dude took a picture where the snow had melted just right so it looked like a T.  I learned that the mountain rarely looks like that picture, so it was a wild goose chase for a while.

There were a few steep, smaller climbs in the end of segment 9 that I discovered, but got a break in the middle of the first one by three NOBO CT hikers who gave me some good information.  I saw all kinds of small lakes and a few fisherman, one of whom had a conversation with me that went like this:

Fisherman: “Howdy there!” he said as he sat on a rock.

Me: “Hi! How are you? Did you catch anything?”

Fisherman: “Haven’t got there yet.  On my way to Deckers Lake – err – I think this is the way…”

Me: “Hmmm, I’m not sure, there are a lot of lakes up here.”

Fisherman: “Yep.  Where you headed?”

Me: “Durango”

Fisherman: “Huh.  Where’d you start?”

Me: “Just south of Denver.”

Fisherman: “By yourself?”

Me: “I had a friend with me for a week, but otherwise yes.”

Fisherman: “Well!” Puts a hand on his knee, “Excuse my language, but that’s ballsy!

Me: “hmmm, I have to keep walking now. Bye!”

Once I hit the trailhead, it took me about 20 minutes to get a hitch into Leadville on Turquoise Lake Rd from an archery hunter in a jeep who told me about how he’s scouting the deer with small video cameras.

When I got there, I found the outfitter to buy some Aquamira and then found Annette and David’s awesome little cabin and watched Disney movies while drinking some good old PBR to remind me of childhood.

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Trail update

Mandy reached Leadville but unfortunately, found no internet capability.  She will post an update as soon as she can.  Stay tuned!

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After getting one of the sweetest hitches ever, and discovering just how tipsy two beers can make you at 9,000 ft, we started up the trail in the afternoon.  PK had mentioned a storm coming in, so we hiked just under five miles into a campsite near Craig’s Creek.  About a mile and a half in, we found Aaron taking a break reading some Thoreau.  After chatting for a bit, we continued upward and onward on a rocky, abandoned jeep road.  Andy and I had both ipod’ed this beginning part of segment 4 because we wanted to get to the campsite before the heat made an unwanted hiker hangover come in.

We got set up and I examined my pack which had loaded more weight than I found comfortable on my shoulders.  The frame support had cracked through.  Again.  This time the stay had not gone through the bottom, but rather the plastic part that it T’ed into had cracked through making one side of the waistband basically worthless.  And, to make matters worse, the other side had a sizable crack as well.  I gorilla taped it up the best I could and checked to see if I had cell service.  I had just sewed up some of the waistband padding with dental floss the night before and I was a bit irritated.  Not to mention that mosquitos kept attacking me every time I stopped moving.

I had service!  Go Verizon!  I called Gregory Mountain Products a few times until they picked up (they have this bad habit of not picking up their phone from the other two times the pack has broken), I just kept calling until they probably got annoyed at the ringing.  After explaining what happened and how frustrated I was, and I dropped the “I’m thru-hiking the CT” line, they put me on hold and then actually decided to be helpful!  Surprise!  They said to send that pack back and they would send me a replacement pack, but they had to have a concrete address and no place in Breckenridge did business with them, so they are sending one to my Mom’s house while she sent me my back up pack.

After that mess, Mike walked up!  “Don’t tell me you guys have already gone into Bailey and back!” he shouted as he saw us.  We all ate dinner together and killed the mosquitos.  I had ramen noodles without the flavoring, but with wasabi peas and peanut butter and it was delicious.

That night, we had an almost dry night!  It only rained a tad bit, and no thunderstorms!  We took a few pictures together in the morning, then we set off.  We finished segment 4 that day and got just into segment 5.  The fourth segment ascended through this large, expansive, open, valley between 10,000 ft and just under 11,000 ft.  We ran into some boy scouts getting in shape for Philmont whose adults lagged behind in the back in matching t-shirts which amused us during our cliff bar break.

Then, right before lunch we came across a large herd of cows.  Andy had been in front of me and just stopped, not knowing what to do.

“Where’d you think all that cow shit came from that we stepped over?” I asked him jokingly.

“Oh, I thought that was horse shit with diarrhea,” he laughed, “you go first.”

I slowly began walking, letting the cows become aware of us and then two decided to put their heads together in a fighting stance, so we waited for that debacle to finish.  Then I walked through slowly and non-threateningly and they let us pass through and I hear Andy narrating a video on his camera behind me.

“Have you never seen cows before?” I asked.

“Not this close!”

We ate lunch under one of few shady trees and got some water from the North Fork of Lost Creek, making sure to add extra purification with all the cows around.  When we continued, we ran into a lone cow who had an injured back leg and was very defensive to the point that it was snorting at us and slamming its front legs to the ground like it didn’t want anything to do with us, so we skirted around it through the thick brush and then it limped off.

When we reached the top, we went down a ways and entered segment 5.  We avoided the bugs as much as possible by staying in our tents, but when outside, we killed so many I can’t even remember and still I am eaten up!  That night, we had another large thunderstorm and did the ritual dry out the tent at lunch number.

In the morning, we got started through the segment, running into more mountain bikers than I can shake a stick at.  We also saw our first glimpse of the Continental Divide and the first horses!  We’ve seen so much horse shit, but no horses.

We knew we were close to a road because all of a sudden we began to see many day hikers.  As we neared Kenosha Pass, we had run into about 12 people walking about in all cotton clothing and of course without a map.  We took an extended break at the trailhead to segment 6, the longest segment at 32.9 miles and watched the people and their cars.

Heading into the 6th segment, we enjoyed the new array of wildflowers that dominated the sides of the trail and tried to avoid the mountain bikers slamming down the hill we were climbing.  We had planned on camping 3 miles in at a stream, but some locals had an intricate set up where they had driven their truck in via some back forest service roads and seemed like they didn’t want company, so we went on a mile and a half and found a sweet campsite by Deadman’s Creek.

Unfortunately, due to the presence of water, the mosquitos came out in full force, congregating between our tents and tent flies, apparently because they are attracted to the CO2 and that gathers at the top of the tent.  That night, we had our first dry night!  For once, we didn’t get a nasty thunderstorm and it made us excited to start in the morning.

On the trail at 7am, we headed up, up, up!  Up to Georgia Pass at just below 12,000 ft.  It was just under 8 miles up and I got so excited that I just kept going and going ignoring my stomach asking for a snack break until the top.  On the way, I met three old ladies in their 50s or so doing segment 6 in four days.  Super enthusiastic, they were excited to find a stream not mentioned by the book so they didn’t have to ration their water so much.

I got up to Georgia pass and ate an early lunch waiting for Andy who had wanted to sleep an extra half an hour.  Since I got up their at 10:20, I knew I was pretty safe from incoming weather for a bit as long as I kept an eye out.  Andy got up there at 11 and ate lunch too where picture taking ensued.  Four mountain bikers made it to the top as well and we all chilled out until we saw some dark clouds forming and we scampered down another seven miles to the North Fork of the Swan River where we found a semi ok campsite.

It was an ok campsite until the rain came in.  Then we got wet.  The ground seemed so saturated that it couldn’t take anymore and it puddled around our tents, soaking up from the bottom.  To make matters worse, the thunder and lightning were outrageously loud and intense.  The bottom of my sleeping bag began to get wet as I tossed and turned trying to sleep.  It even soaked through to my socks and I had to curl up without my sleep socks in the upper portion of the sleeping bag that didn’t get wet.

In the morning, the cold air hung in longer than usual and I had to create a new way to pack my bag up since so much was wet.  My fingers got so cold it seemed like winter where I had to put them in my armpits after certain intervals to warm them back up.

I was a tad bit grumpy that morning.  Setting off, we climbed up about 12,000 ft and on the other side, I found a sunny patch where I unloaded everything and laid it all out to dry.  Andy came up not too much later and did the same.  The rest of the day, we leapfrogged each other and mountain bikers seemed to come out of nowhere to startle us the last few miles.

Then we hiked down toward Breckenridge, resupply #2.  We had a bit of culture shock as the trail dumped us into an RV resort center and then out to a major road where we took refuge from a passing shower in a bus stop.  Examining the bus schedule, we realized that a free bus existed, but we should have missed it by a minute or two.

“Busses are always late,” I stated and Andy looked skeptical.  I had just beforehand given him the trail name WWF for “walks while farting”.  Just as we were about to start hitching, the bus came and we flagged it down.  I felt a bit bad for the people there due to our smell.  I had broken my previous shower record going 16 days.  Oops.

We got into town and found the brewery first, had two beers, then went to the Post Office to get the resupply, and my other pack, then to the Welcome Center to find a spot to stay.  Eventually, we found the Fireside Inn which had hostel like bunks in it and we snagged two.  Probably one of the best hostels I’ve stayed in.  I’m taking a zero today to sort through everything and mail things around.  Andy headed out this morning to Frisco where he could catch a greyhound back to Denver and then get to Sedalia to his motorcycle.  Tomorrow, onwards!

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We finally started on July 12th, Andy’s Birthday!  We stored my car and his motorcycle at Petie’s RV storage and caught a ride from there to the main road to the trailhead from the manager who seemed amused that we wanted to hike to Durango because apparently it would take over eight hours to drive there.  Within five minutes, we got a hitch to the trailhead with a super talkative and scatterbrained PhD guy who was on his way to Deckers with a six pack and two ham sandwiches to go fly fishing.

At the Indian Creek Trailhead, we began our adventure!  Since the Waterton Canyon is closed the whole year, we had to take an approach trail to the CT which didn’t take too long.  Two miles in, we met Janice, a super friendly local who regaled us with stories of other hikers she’d seen, including two who began on June 15th with over 60 pound packs and a GPS who had gone six miles out of their way.  She also gave us some scoop on a big storm coming in that afternoon.

When we hit the CT, we saw Mike walking in from the other part of the three-way junction, a thru-hiker who had also gotten turned around like the other two and went out of his way a bit.  The three of us chatted and ended up camping together the first night at Bear Creek where Mike took a nap and Andy and I killed a plastic bottle of Old Times Whiskey in celebration of his birthday.  Luckily, we managed to finish it before the thunderstorm came in.

That night, I experienced the Colorado thunderstorm where the lightning is so bright, that laying on my back in the tent with my eyes closed, I could still see the brightness of the lightning!  The thunder would crash and roll so loud, that I knew even if I put music on, I would barely hear the songs.

In the morning, we woke up and took awhile to get everything together, but we set off around 8:20am.  I caught a beetle in the empty whiskey bottle for Allie, who is taking a bug class next semester, and we finished segment 1.  The South Platte River divided the segments, where we filled water to capacity because the next water source was in 15 miles and we had to have enough to cook dinner and breakfast.

Segment 2 is dominated by a large burn area.  I.E. NO SHADE.  Beating down on us, the sun drained our energy as we climbed about 2,000 feet up to a ridge and continued on its rolling hills.  At the one shade tree, we took a break and I caught a red fuzzy over grown ant- like bug in the same whiskey bottle.

We ended up stopping due to thunder and found a place to camp on the side of the ridge.  We threw our poles higher up in hopes that if lightening did come close, it would hit the poles and not our tents.  Right after cooking, I looked over Andy’s way and a white thing fell out of the sky.

“Hey, Andy,” I said, “walk one pace right, then three paces forward.  What’s the white thing that fell out of the sky?”

Andy follows my directions.  A big grin goes across all of his face.  “I’m gonna eat it!”

“Is it hail?” I asked.

Then, before he could answer, more hail fell.  At first, it was marble sized.  Then it became large marble sized.  Then it stopped.  Andy began running around picking them up, rubbing the dirt off of them on his shorts and putting them in a nalgene since he found himself low on water.  Rumple of thunder.  The hail starts again.  This time, it came down about the size of golf balls or bigger and we rushed into our tents until it ended about 10 minutes later.  I took a video on my camera from under the tent.  Thanks MSR for making a tent that can withstand golf ball sized hail falling from the sky!

Giddy with joy, Andy began collecting the bigger ones, “I’m happier than a pig in shit!” he yelped as he collected more.

“It’s hail water!” I laughed, pun intended.

The next morning, we woke up and realized we had gotten farther through segment 2 than we thought and headed into segment 3 after passing a covenant that seemed very guarded of their private property.  I caught a huge bug near there and put that in the whiskey bottle as well as the bug I had found on the bear line, making it four bugs in one bottle.  We dried out our tents in the intense sun during lunch which soon became a routine.

When we hit the first water source, we saw a mountain biker coming with a dog, so we moved out of the way.  The biker seemed like he didn’t want to stop, but his dog jumped right into the water and laid down drinking it and looking at him like he was insane.

We continued on and met Aaron, a section hiker who had a sweet little campsite near a stream.  We chatted for a bit and looked at his “itinerary” for hiking.  Andy and I liked the guy just fine, but he seemed too attached to office life — it was planned out to a T in spreadsheet style!

We got caught in a short thunderstorm where we ducked under my rain fly and collected two liters of rain water off of it.  Then we continued on to a campsite a third of a mile before the road on which we planned to hitch into Bailey for a resupply.  When we got there, we were glad we had the rain water because the stream there was not much more than a muddy trickle.

That night, we had a thunderstorm as well, surprise there! In the morning, we went to hitch to Bailey and realized it was a dirt road.  We began walking.  We had to go somewhere between two and three miles before a nice woman with a red pickup and a horse hitch let us jump in the back of the pickup and drove us into town.

Since there was a mix up with the resupply destinations, we ended up resupplying out of a Conoco gas station, quite successfully for a gas station.  The “outfitter” there which had gear “including canisters” was also a cafe and gift shop and their “canisters” were outrageously huge 20 oz Colman canisters.  We then went to the Rusty Station for beer.

After that, we went to go hitch back, thinking it would probably take a while and we would have to go get more bear and convince some fisherman in the bar to drive us up.  But then…it came.  I will not make fun of RV’s for a while.  We got a hitch from an RV.  Yes.  It happened.  It was epic.  PK, the RV driver, even gave us each a road soda!  Awesome trail magic!

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Due to the seemingly endless distractions and delays, I set a deadline to start tomorrow morning.  We’re still waiting to see if Andy’s package arrives.

In other road tripping news, Andy and I went north to Rocky National Park for two and a half days to kill time waiting for the package to get in and had a blast.  We did the typical tourist drive through the park which was quite beautiful although I felt like a hipocrite for not hiking it, but there was no giant loop trail.  We saw marmots, tiny brown squirrels, lots of elk and the ever present RV’s which I’ve been playing a game with by putting the word “anal” before any of the names of them…it makes you a whole lot less annoyed at their bulkyness and imprudence.  The best ones seen were the “Prowler” and the “Wanderer.”  I also find it hilarious that so many of them advertise themselves as “lite” when I’m not sure how one could possibly ever make an RV or a trailer “lite” – it’s called a tent people.

We hiked around between two lakes in the afternoon and found a campsite outside the park with a ton of kids sitting around a fire until very early in the morning.  Lucky that we’d found a free spot on a Saturday, we gave in and stayed there anyway.  The next day we had the brilliant idea to hike Long’s Peak, camping in the boulder field, but then we got wind of large, deep drifts of snow up there and decided not to since neither of us had boots, so instead we hiked part way up Flattop Mountain until my feet got cold in the snow in five fingers and we found a coffeeshop.  That’s how I finished Gone With The Wind…and by staying up ’til almost 3am reading.  We did grab a six pack of Moose Drool beer to split and found the bottlecap saying amusing, try googling the one we came back down for internet to check out: “Sheep Boots and Velcrow Gloves,” it’s ummm an interesting bottlecap saying.

Anywho, off to the trail tomorrow!

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While I have yet to start hiking, I have encountered quite the road trip adventure to the beginning of the trailhead!  Right now, I am waiting with Andy, who is doing the first weekish of the trail with me, for his pack, tent, and boots, which the U.S. Postal Service seems to be holding hostage.  Once we get them, we shall head out; but in the meantime, I have some rather amusing road trip stories along the way that should entertain, including a few dumb blonde moves.

I began on Sunday the 3rd, leaving the Seattle area and drove through the brilliant afternoon to south-eastern Washington where I had located a fine sounding brewery in Kennewick.  My research indicated that the Ice Harbor Brewery had a marina location, so I found it and damn it was beautiful.  I brought my book in to sit, drink some beer, and have a large veggie burger watching the water.  However, a large group of roudy people came in for some guy named “Charlie’s” birthday and they disturbed the tranquility.  I might have found myself annoyed until I overheard a heated debate on Wikilinks and started laughing.  One of the girls noticed me laughing and turned around,

“Come join us, these boys need to be put in their place!”

I did, having nothing better to do, and talked with them for about an hour, drinking some delicious beer and hanging out.  The Sternwheeler Stout they served had the description: “If you like stouts, you’ll love this one.  If you don’t like stouts, this one could change your mind.”  It was right.

Afterwards, I left them and went to sit right on the water’s edge, reading and watching the sunset over the large body of water that had appeared out of nowhere in the semi arid desert.  When the wind picked up a bit and I couldn’t see the book anymore, I went and slept in my car parked there.

While moving things around, I noticed I had committed dumb blonde move #1: I forgot my boots.  Hmmm.  I texted Mom and had her put them in the first box and figured I could make forty miles in five fingers and chacos.

In the morning, I headed off again out for the open road.  It really had no one on it since the fourth of July had everyone barbecuing and drinking instead of clogging up the highways.  I went into Baker City, Oregon for one of my first rest stops which really reminded me of a desert version of Jersey, just replace the guidos with cowboys and the Italian food with beef, bison and potatoes.  I couldn’t even pump my own gas!  Right down the highway from it, as if I could not be more surprised, I saw a sign for “Miracle Hot Springs” just ten miles off the road, then underneath it, it said, “caution: alligators!”  Hmmm, alligators in hot springs…miracle…hmmm.

Toodling along, I started noticing signs for the Oregon Trail.  Sweet! I hope I don’t break a wheel, lose an ox, or get dysentery!  Apparently, I discovered after stopping at four info centers until one opened, that the Oregon Trail is now a highway!  How interesting, I bet the people who did it first would roll over in their graves!  All I could think about was the frustration with playing the Oregon Trail game and having the stupid wheels break and then someone or another gets sick and you always loose the damn game.

I drove on and on, through Oregon and all through southern Idaho.  I had planned to get to the Salt Lake City area and suddenly found myself terribly bored with the farmland and flatness of the area around the highway.  Then the cops started showing up in masses.  In chargers.  Yes, I bet that taxpayer money is necessary.

Then, finally, I got into Utah!  I love entering new states!  Scenery, beautiful land came in and mountains off in the distance with elevation change and curves in the road!  What a concept!

I had planned on finding a campground a bit north of the city because I had no energy to deal with city traffic and right near a campsite I noticed the “check tire pressure” light went on and I stopped at a gas station.  I could hear the front driver’s side tire hissing and saw a 3/4 inch slit on the side.  Fantastic.

Dumb blond move #2: I don’t actually know how to change a tire.  I’ve never had to and had never watched anyone do it.  As I toyed with the jack to see if I could figure it out, I called Mom and she sighed and told me to go ask if anyone in the gas station could help me.  A super nice maintenance guy came out with one front tooth missing and helped me change it to the smaller tire that I found in my car.  Then I went to the campground where they tried to charge me $34 to camp.  I laughed and left to find a SuperWalmart to sleep in their parking lot.  Their tire section had closed and would open at 8am, so I waited by walking down to a few docks about a mile or so away to watch the sunset over the the north section of Salt Lake.

I then watched the fireworks while I read in my car in the Walmart parking lot.  In the morning, I had to get a new tire…$95 later and cursed myself for laughing at settlers breaking wheels on the Oregon Trail thinking I gave myself bad karma.  Finding a library, I went to check email and the like before I headed over to the Wasatch Brewery in Park City.

At that Brewery, I found myself trying a terribly watery “Polygamy Porter” which I then discovered only had 4% alcohol.  The bartender was not so thrilling and kept talking to a waitress whose ex-boyfriend’s father was off starting another family in a different state and the ex-boyfriend turned into a meth head.  I decided to leave and head for the Utah side of Dinosaur National Monument.

Getting there was a trip!  I found some beautiful pull-off view points off of the side roads I took instead of the longer highway route.  When I got there though, the visitor center had closed and I had no camping information.  Since I don’t have a smart people phone, I called Mom and had her google campsites while I found a town visitor center that told me where the campsite Mom told me about actually was and I found it no problem.

The Green River campsite was deep in the Monument and charged $12.  Sure, that’s a tolerable price.  Yet, I had no cash and it was self pay.  I did, however have quarters for toll money and happened to have $12 of them!  I hastily put them into the envelope, but it wouldn’t fit into the slot, so I found the host and gave it to her.  She laughed and said she shouldn’t take them, but they needed change.

That night, I discovered again why I should not take whole 5 hour energies.  I had taken one at 2:30ish after the watery beer made me sleepy.  I had so much energy I could not sleep until after 3am, so I read instead.

In the morning, I headed out and up to the visitor center when it opened and the dude gave me a rudimentary “map” and told me to go on the “fossil discovery trail” with a bunch of old people and kids.  Sure, why not.  I jumped on the shuttle.  They all got off the shuttle and made it seem like they expected someone to take them through the whole, large, 0.7 miles of the trail.  I just walked and they looked confused at each other, then followed me.  I saw some Pictographs from the Fremont people and then I looked up and saw a woman ranger person who then showed us dinosaur fossils and trace clam fossils.  There were large tail vertebrae and half of a femur bone and broken bits all over.

Afterwards, I took the shuttle back to my car and went to do the “moderate-difficult,” three-mile, “Sounds of Silence” trail.  I didn’t really find much silence because as I walked, lizards scattered all over and made quite a ruckous for being only five inches long.

I proceeded, but found myself a tad bored following streambeds for the first half of it, then it finally gained maybe a hundred feet of elevation and gave some good views near a large sandstone mass.  Curious, I followed the trail until it crossed it and a nice slope went up to the top, so I diverted and climbed up it.

Then I noticed quite how hot it was outside.  Without any shade, the water bottle in my hand had super warm water in it that did not quench the thirst well, so I headed out to the car.  When I turned it on, the car said it was 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside.  Well, shit.  I knew it was hot!

I blasted the air conditioning as I headed out toward Grand Junction where Nadia suggested filling growlers at Kannah Brewery to take to Crested Butte where I planned on meeting Andy, JLo and Stout.  I ignored Tim (my GPS) and went along the Douglas Pass road which narrowed quite considerably in areas with a “soft shoulder”.  Sometimes it was paved, most times it was not.  The beer there was far better there than Utah and I grabbed a salad while I chatted with a dude named Moe.

I headed out around 5:30 and ignored Tim once again to make the trip over an hour shorter by going through Kebler Pass which reminded me of Douglass Pass, only 2,000 feet higher.

As I got it, I found Andy at a bar and we waited for JLo to call us and then we found her, her brother, and her parents.  We shared the growlers and then headed out to the bars.  After an entertaining night, we went back to sleep for a bit.

We got breakfast at Izzy’s which made homemade bagels, although it took 40 minutes to get food, it was delicious.  Afterwards we fell into food comas and JLo and I had to motivate the gang into action.  We borrowed their rental mammoth SUV and drove until we found an interesting trailhead.  We passed a “Marmot Crossing” sign where three marmots in different posses stood in black silouettes.

Then we saw “Gunsight pass – 5” and we turned; when we found no open parking, we kept going through several lakes in the dirt road, WOOHOO rental cars!  We drove until we saw a foot bridge and then started walking up an old jeep road switchback after switchback upward.  It presented fantastically crisp, clear, views, but had no signs anywhere and part way up the trail turned into a melt river and we dodged it until we got wet anyway and then just walked through it.  We made it just past it’s source and then JLo’s blister opened and it flapped about.  After going a little further, we decided she needed a band-aid and we needed food.  We estimated we went about four miles up and then back.

After grabbing lunch Andy and I headed out to Buena Vista, CO where JLo told us about a few awesome campsites.  Before we found them, we grabbed dinner at a gas station: Wasabi Peas and Almonds!  We found a great site with the Colegiate Range in view and set up camp.

In the morning, we dried out the tent flies which got soaked in the downpour the night before and we hung out until the library opened to use the internet.  Now, I’m writing this and am over my 30 minute time limit, so hopefully they won’t kick me off.

We plan on starting as soon as we get his stuff in the mail, so stay posted!

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