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Posts Tagged ‘Last on the Bus’

**From September 2015**

The wind howled that night even more than the people howled at the moon. As I attempted to sleepily chug some granola with coconut milk powder, I knew I’d have trouble getting out of the tent that morning. Gusts of wind hit my tent and all I just wanted was to pull my sleeping bag over my head. Eventually, my mind won and I put on almost all of my layers, packed up quickly, and started hiking. Impervious to the weather, Memphis headed off first as usual. E.D. poked her head out of her tent as I shivered stuffing my tent into my backpack.

9:30am – puffy still on.

New in the past few years, this stretch of trail stayed above treeline on a beautiful ridge for about 14 miles. I kept my puffy on as I hiked uphill, higher on the ridge. This ridge was by no means flat. They almost never are. This particular ridge had quite a few ups and downs. The trail shifted sides of the ridge a few times and did not duck far enough down to water for at least seven miles. I did not remove my puffy until 11am and never removed my trusty Melanzana.

The alternative to this ridgeline went over Tincup Pass on a dirt road and remained a route option for bad weather. With the amount of ATVs out and lack of thunderstorms in the foreseeable future, we had opted for the ridge.

CDT ridge walking.

Eventually, later in the day, we finally began descending in an epic plunge through trees and switchbacks. At the bottom, the dirt road from Tincup Pass linked back to the trail. Guthook showed some PUDs coming up which did not sound very exciting. However, Ley had mentioned a ghost town called St. Elmo down the dirt road the opposite way of Tincup Pass. About the same mileage without the PUDs, E.D. and I decided to explore.

Sometimes, walking down the dirt roads is a refreshing break because it requires less mental effort in navigation if the body or mind is tired. Plus, there’s a ghost town. That we’d hit at night. Perfect!

About four miles of wandering down the dirt road, we hit St. Elmo and it was, indeed, creepy. We had passed plenty of campsites on the way in with fires burning and cars pulled off to the side of the road, but no one in the “town” itself. The buildings had a stock, old feel to them and when we peered inside with headlamps, the wallpaper which was on only half on the walls moved in the breeze.

The town hosted several large signs dictating the illegality of camping within the “town” limits—not that anyone would sleep well there. We found an old sign that had lots of pictures of previous residents and a little information on who kept up the “town’s” current appearance.

It was too dark to take pictures of St. Elmo, but this was nearby at dawn.

We had to switch dirt roads in town and we had slight difficulties with this at night while simultaneously trying to not get freaked out. This road hosted some interesting cliffs and not nearly the camping opportunities that the previous road had. We ended up finding a side road toward a broken bridge to camp on. We went around the large stone blockades figuring that was for cars and not people on foot and camped. We did not notice the RV on the other side of the broken bridge until it’s generator came on mysteriously later.

We skedaddled just before dawn to try and catch Memphis, who would doubtless be confused. We jumped back on trail at the Hancock trailhead and went around a beautiful lake on the way to Chalk Creek Pass. We still hadn’t seen Memphis. We didn’t find him on the long descent down either where we’d usually catch him.

Right as we were about to head up to another ridge toward Monarch Pass, we thought we might pull a fast one on Memphis if we took a dirt road over to the main road and walked that up to Monarch Pass and beat him to town.

It worked. Right as we got to Monarch Pass, immediately after taking our headphones out a Subaru of two ultra runners playing Eddie Vedder pulled over and asked if we needed a ride into Salida. Why yes, yes please!

We found the hostel and a pizza place while we texted Memphis the plan. Halfway through a pizza, Inspector Gadget and Last on the Bus messaged us asking where we were and how long we’d be in town. They said they’d meet us tomorrow for breakfast. Memphis got to the hostel right as we had finished a pizza each and we began the laundry process.

Gadget and LB did find us in the morning as we found Axel, who we’d been following about a day or two behind for almost two thousand miles. In my resupply box, my Mom’s friend Kathy had included an amazing array of temporary tattoos. While we decided on a breakfast location, I convinced everyone in the immediate vicinity that they needed to put on a temporary tattoo. Then, we set a few aside with Gadget and LB to get Mellow Yellow one at their next stop. With thru-hikers, hostel guests, and hostel staff fully equipped with at least one temporary tattoo each, we created a breakfast plan.

Axel had contacted Karla, an amazing trail angel in South Fork, Colorado who was passing through the area. They had planned on breakfast at a specific restaurant, which I later learned was the only good breakfast place in town. While she drove in, LB, Gadget, E.D., Memphis, and I hopped in LB’s car and got on the table wait list, so they could roll right into a table, which turned into a fantastic time.

After breakfast, we went back to the hostel to pack up slowly. So slowly, in fact, we decided we needed lunch before heading to the trail. LB suggested we go to Midnight Pizza and Brewery, so we enjoyed two pizza locations in Salida. That was an awesome suggestion.

We did finally get back up to Monarch Pass that afternoon where we dallied more at the small store there because we searched the register to see how far ahead others had gotten from us in the meantime. Finally, we said goodbye to LB and Gadget and tried to get a few miles in before dark.

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**From September 2015**

After I consumed one large Chipotle burrito, two orders of chips and four refills of soda, we found Savannah, a friend of mine from Vail and we meandered around town and landed at the Dillon Dam Brewery where we consumed more food. Specifically, food not in our backpacks.

By that time, we knew we’d be looking for a stealth campsite after dark and waking up early to avoid detection. We got a little turned around in town, but eventually went in the right direction and right past a burger king where Memphis bought at least six $1 burgers for later that night and the next morning.

We ended up finding some trees off the bike path near the dam and managed to hide enough. It was not the most stealth location, however, no one bothered us.

Dillon Reservoir

In the morning, we continued up the bike path and waived to walkers, bikers, skateboarders, and other extraneous people somehow located on a bike path. I called my boss in Vail to make sure I had a job for the winter and when I said I was between Frisco and Copper he asked if I wanted a shift that day.

I found Andy, a SUOCer in Copper for lunch and we caught up enjoying the sun and a nice long lunch break. We also found a giant chair which both of us could stand on.

From Copper Mountain, we picked up the Colorado Trail, which I hiked in the summer of 2011 and our navigation worries were over for a few hundred miles! Not only did the Colorado Trail boast an actual trail, it included wooden signs and frequent trail markers! What luxury!

Where two trails join.

We set out late in the afternoon and hiked up the trail until we found a suitable campsite. The CDT combining with the CT also meant better trail grades which made the several thousand foot climb not as arduous.

In the morning, we had a chunk of trail above treeline with spectacular views. We leapfrogged each other and bumped into a trail runner about twelve miles from the last parking lot for a training run.

Trail Runner: Are you three hiking the Colorado Trail?

Me: No, we’re on the Continental Divide Trail, but they are the same for a few hundred miles.

Trail Runner: You all are insane.

Me: You ran up here and you’re running back…you’re insane.

Trail Runner: But you guys have backpacks and you’re out for a long time…

Me: You’re…running…

After discussing each other’s sanity, E.D., Memphis and I went downhill until we came upon Camp Hale. While Camp Hale is full of history, it seems a little on the creepy side to me. The old bunkers are pretty crazy.

Camp Hale Bunkers

Not long after Camp Hale, we hit Tennessee Pass and hitched into Leadville, one of my favorite Colorado Towns. The weather had begun to turn and I wanted either a puffy skirt or a Melanzana skirt to keep my butt warm in the mornings. After a thorough contemplation, I decided that I would use the Melanzana skirt more, so I went over there and got myself one. I also convinced E.D. that it was a good idea. Memphis did not join on that mission.

We had an epic Disney VHS watching event at my cousin David’s amazing little cabin that he was gracious enough to let us stay in.  Last on the Bus (LB) showed up with none other than Jeff! Jeff was quite a bit ahead of us because he had already done the basin in his flip, so he skipped around it on his way south. The five of us had an awesome time.

In the morning, LB took Jeff back to the trail so he could get even further ahead of us. While, we continued to watch Disney VHS movies, another Vail friend of mine, Allie came to see us and brought Annie the all amazing dog.

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Facebook Messenger:

Last on the Bus (LB): “Are you in Steamboat yet? I’m in the Rabbit Ears Motel!”

Me: “What?? We’re in the Quality Inn.”

LB: “Have you eaten yet?”

Me: “No, you?”

LB: “Meet me and my Dad downtown!”

Steamboat Springs was a spread out town for hikers. With a vehicle, it’s not a big town, but on foot it takes longer. However, because Colorado is awesome, Steamboat Springs had a free bus system that traversed town every twenty minutes or so.

Easily Distracted, Memphis, and I hopped on the free bus and headed downtown to meet up with LB, who I knew from the PCT in 2012. We found him at a bar and we had a few beers to catch up. He and his Dad were on a motorcycle trip around Colorado for a week.

We progressed over to some Mexican food when we realized that we had been chatting, but not eating. How un-thruhiker of us! To make up for it, we all cleaned our plates.

The next day, we slowly got all the chores done, making our way around town slowly. I had called Arc’teryx about my rain shell not being waterproof and leaking through the fabric and found them most unhelpful. I decided that it would be easier to send it home then through their complicated process after the hike. I found a decent enough rain shell at Sports Authority and that seemed to work better, although my less than $1 rain skirt…i.e. trash bag worked better than both jackets ever did.

The ride we obtained out of Steamboat dropped us off a little early, but it would only be an extra mile down to the trail, so not too bad. Naturally, it was raining out when we got dropped off near Rabbit Ears Pass.

 

The found PBRs…

Then, something AMAZING happened. As we walked through a road pull off, we saw an open case of PBR. E.D. went to check it, expecting only trash. Shrieks of delight told us that was not the case. E.D. pulled out five full PBRs and a bottle of almost empty whiskey! We opted against the whiskey, since we already had plenty, but we all found spots to squeeze the PBRs into our packs.

E.D.: “Do PBRs expire?”

Memphis: “I don’t think so…that’s what makes them great!”

Me: “I don’t see an expiration date…”

The “trail” out of Steamboat continued down Hwy 40 for a wee bit, then turned down CO Hwy 14 for quite a few miles. We hoped to make it off the paved stuff onto the dirt road which we suspected would have forest service land on at least one side where we could legally camp.

The sunset, visible from the road, made the whole road experience better with the pinks and oranges melding together over some rolling hills. Plus, once it got dark, E.D. and I popped some PBRs for the last few miles and said cheers to the trail gods.

 

The road sunset.

 

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After we located Shrek’s house by going to the local bar and asking for his number, we found everyone hanging out on the back porch.  We had caught up again to Tickled Pink and Last on the Bus which was nice to see them; we met the younger Magellan and his girlfriend Pebbles, and then we found none other than Scooter sitting there with a small plastic bottle of good ol’ Canadian Mist – mostly finished.

“Let’s play this game!” Hop-a-long said putting her giant plastic handle of Canadian Mist on the table next to his fifth.

“Oh shiiiiiit!” he said and the shenanigans began from there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI somehow managed to wake up at the planned early time in the morning and went and found Hop-a-long who didn’t look so pleased to be awake and we put all our stuff in the car and set off for a 30 mile slackpack to the next road that looked decent enough for Dead to get his car there and meet us.

The slackpack began by crossing the Bridge of the Gods over the Columbia River.  I found myself intensely holding onto my phone and camera while taking pictures because most of the bridge did not have a solid ground — it had a metal grid-like thing and we could see the deep river flowing underneath us.  Really glad that I wasn’t afraid of heights; we took our time crossing it and getting in the way of the traffic since no pedestrian path existed.

After the fun and games, we began the long climb out of the Columbia River Gorge, up, up, up!  And chuck full of poison oak mixed into the blackberries.  Eventually, we extricated ourselves from blackberry thickets, trying not to get poison oak, and continued climbing for what seemed like an eternity.

Hop-a-long and I never saw anyone else that had been at Shrek’s the night before despite our slow pace.  We made it over 3,500 feet up with many, many bumps to the top of the ridge and got a brief respite from climbing.  We could see where we had dropped down into the gorge and the long winding way back out of it.  The ridge bumped along through some burn areas until dropping about 2,000 feet of what we had just climbed into a valley behind it.

Desperate for a snack, I stopped at a water source about 20 miles into our planned 30 mile day.  Washington was officially already kicking our asses and we had just under 500 miles to go!  Luckily, we had brought our headlamps and enough food to go another 10 miles.

Then, as we crossed a stream .3 away from a road, we saw the letters “DA” written in sticks on the bridge with an arrow pointing forward.  YAY!  No more miles!  We found him at the first road and he handed us each a nice, cold beer.  Exactly what we needed after the climb that wouldn’t end.

“I thought you guys had passed here already,” Dead said while we swigged down large gulps of PBR.  “Then I ran into Lush and Man Party and they said they had not gone off trail and had not seen you two or knew who you were.  They seemed reluctant to talk to me until I gave them beer.”  The true language of thru-hikers!

As the sun was already on it’s way over the hills, we decided to stop there and camp in a semi flat spot just up the road.  We set up camp and Dead made his Colman stove specialty of soy chorizo, onion, and pepper burritos.

We went to bed decently early that evening since we planned on doing another 30 miler the next day to make up for only doing 20 miles that day.

2 a.m. WHHHHHHHOOOOEEEERRRRROOOO!

“Guys…….what the hell was that?” Hop-a-long said.

“I don’t know, where’s the headlamp?” Dead said.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe shown the slight directly toward the sound and we listened and listened for moving animal noises.  Nothing.  It had all woken us up out of deep sleep and sounded like an old woman screaming as far as we heard from the depths of dreams, which usually means mountain lion.

WHHHHHHHOOOOOEERRRROOOO! It came again.  Then again from a different direction, except it sounded different, almost familiar and I immediately thought of the AT knowing that I’d heard it back east as well but couldn’t place it.

“Ohhhh it’s a damn owl!” Hop-a-long said.  “Listen, it’s the ‘who cooks for you owl,’” she said.  It came again and we all heard it that time.

In the morning, Hop-a-long and I left by headlamp to go climb another 1,000 feet up and then plunge back down.  We saw the road that Dead Animal said he couldn’t get his car up and we could see exactly why.  It appeared as though the road had large culverts in it at some point, but they had been ripped out and only a jeep could get over them as they were now.

We found the next road attached to a pretty cool campsite 10 miles into the day and sat down for a snack.  Hop-a-long noticed that she had some kind of a reaction on one of her shins that looked something like a little poison oak.  Since we didn’t have any bleach, we dumped some aquamira on it to dry it out.  In the meantime, Dead Animal drove up and we cracked a beer.  Slackpacking is hard work!

After some good old PB and Js, tortilla chips, and beer, we walked six miles to the next road and found him again for more snacks and beer.  We allotted ourselves a half an hour break in order to make our destination by dark o’clock.  Almost at the end of our time, Indiana Toad and Chocolate Chipmunk walked up from the road and told us how they found a great blue blaze that skipped the last 35 miles of trail that kicked our asses on the road and it passed three breweries!  We couldn’t complain too much since we slackpacked the whole chunk, but Hop, Dead, and I looked at each other and then began devising ways to get brewery beer later.

From there, we had another gnarly climb that went up another 3,000 feet and hit the 2,200 mile mark on top.  I threw the old iPod on and plugged through it with Hop-a-long right behind me.  Almost at the top, I ran into Lush and Man Party and chatted with them for a bit, and then again at the big 2-2-0-0 mark.  We all joked, “If this was the AT, we’d be done!”

After our legs decided to work again, we finished off the last six miles or so of the slackpack ridge walking over to the Crest Horse Camp where we would meet Dead Animal again.  Right at the tail end, around 8pm, we skirted a bit of lava and out of nowhere I saw a huge lightening bolt.  Then I thought my mind made it up since I did not hear any thunder.

Hop-a-long and I walked up and found Dead Animal who began frying pasta for us as we drank some beer with Jubel and Shadow for the evening.

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Thoroughly debating the state of Cookie Monster’s burned foot, we decided to press on right after a brief chat with Splinter.

“Where have you been?” Hop-a-long asked since he should have been only a few miles behind us.

“Ya know,” he sighed, “I was trying to get way further than I was but then I hit Russel Creek and I heard the water rushing quite quickly underneath all that snow and ice at night and I didn’t feel safe crossing it, so I set up camp right then and there.”

“Safe decision,” I said thinking about how glad I was we hit that in the daytime and properly assessed it.

We trotted onward and upward and away from the very expensive Ollalie Lake Resort.

Then we ran into a worried woman and her teenage daughter both complete with large weekend packs that went over their heads.

“You guys know it’s hunting season, right?” she stammered.

“Oh, no. Huh.” Cookie said unconcerned.

“Well you’ll be fine once you hit the Indian Reservation because there’s no hunting over there,” she mentioned.

After she left we thought about what she said and how worried she was.  “Then why is she hiking south, away from the reservation?” Cookie asked me.

“She also had no blaze orange on either,” I pondered.  It was one of those “Huh.” moments where that’s all you can say without acting like a rude smart mouth.

We pushed on, into the night contouring up the side of one hill, then another, and then another.  Eventually, we camped in Pinhead Saddle where Hop-a-long had found a fantastically flat campsite.  Cookie crashed out immediately, Hop-a-long sewed up her skirt, and I read some Game of Thrones on my phone.

Timothy Lake

In the morning, we got moving early and pushed for a long day.  Cookie’s foot wasn’t any better and he was simply trying not to think about it.  He kept it wrapped to avoid infection and pulled an amazing feat of mind-over-matter and ignored it for the 30 mile day we logged.  The terrain did not present too many challenges, so the walking seemed pleasant and flowing.  We had a hearty lunch and a little whiskey near Timothy Lake which looked like it would have great swimming if the weather had been warmer.  I almost lamented the utter hot obnoxious weather of California which pushed me to swim every chance I got just to get the sweat off of me, then I remembered my eyeballs sweating and that thought shot straight out of my mind.

The trail followed the lake for several miles of beauty until it dipped over to begin contouring up another hill and we found ourselves back in the Doctor Seuss trees with their glow in the dark looking moss.  Unfortunately, it did not glow in the dark, but I did imagine a million different Halloween wig styles that one could create with the moss.

We had a slight water gap where we had to find a seeping spring for which Yogi gave several paragraphs of information on how to find it.  In actuality, a wood plant with “water” written on it and an arrow pointed almost directly to it.  We just had to climb over one blowdown to get there.  Out of exhaustion, we almost camped there that night since it was only a few minutes until dark and our bodies were going on the “screw you, I’m tired” mode while the mind told it “only a few more miles…”

Plugging on, we walked into the darkness and contoured a large ridge going up, then cruising around it until we hit hwy 26/35 which could take us directly to Portland.  We signed a register, then noticed a note that said there was a picnic table and a privy right across the street.  Done and done.  Hop-a-long, Cookie Monster and I took over that picnic table and camped right there after enjoying tasty whiskey beverages.

Right before bed, Splinter and Inspector Gadget passed by.  They wanted to make sure to get buffet breakfast at Timberline Lodge.  Admirable goal considering we have all heard about the breakfast and lunch buffets at Timberline Lodge for hundreds of miles.  Not to mention you can stare at the beautiful Mt. Hood in the process.

I woke up to a light rain on my tent.  Just enough that it would drive me nuts and just enough that I had to have a jacket on due to the wind and colder temperature.  I packed up as quickly as possible noticing that Hop-a-long had mysteriously already got up and left, probably in food desperation as she was down to a cliff bar or two for the last ten miles and I knew she was still hungry going to bed.  Eventually, I found where Cookie Monster had ensconced himself in trees and made sure he woke up, then I began heading up Mt. Hood toward Timberline.

There was one large hill to go up and over, then a sharp 2,000 ft climb up to the Timberline Trail that the PCT followed for a ways around treeline.  The weather was miserable.  As long as I stayed moving, I stayed decently warm and ok, but I, too, was running incredibly low on food and had gotten particularly hungry through this stretch.  I think some of it had to do with the fact that I had no extra body fat stored on me to kick into gear.  I took about a 10 minute break to guzzle some water and stuff a cliff bar to the face before I became wicked cold and had to almost jog up the first half of the 2,000ft climb to warm up.  It was the first time I had been able to keep my shell on while climbing and not end up drenched in sweat.  Of course by the time I reached the Timberline Trail, I had already burned though the 240 calories of the cliff bar and my stomach made its hungry state known by growling loudly at me.  To make matters worse, the last mile up was all sand!  With every step up, I slid back down a bit.  My stomach certainly was not pleased then.

Timberline Lodge

Once I made it to Timberline Lodge, I beelined for it thinking only of how hungry I was when I ran into Dead Animal who had driven up to hang out and do some more slackpacking for us.  We went inside to find Hop-a-long, Splinter, Inspector Gadget, Tickled Pink, Last on the Bus, Blood Bank, Panorama and Xana.  Cookie rolled in not too much longer than that and thus began our waiting out of the weather.  We got to wait it out in the best spot possible: Timberline Lodge, location of filming of the movie The Shining.

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