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Posts Tagged ‘Sleepwalker’

In true Colorado fashion, the weather report from the night before had completely changed and the new forecast basically stated that we were going to get shit on all day. The clouds covered the sky in a thick, dark layer.

I procrastinated on getting ready, figuring I could get to treeline and decide from there what I wanted to do. From looking at the maps, I saw three options: continue on the trail above treeline for about fourteen miles; go above treeline for three miles, then bail down an old dirt road straight into Winter Park; or bail back down the Devil’s Thumb Trail to a small parking lot, down a dirt road into the town of Frasier.

Right as I picked my pack up, Memphis walked up saying he camped a mile back and he had lost E.D. in the afternoon.

Me: “So, how’d you guys get behind?”

Memphis: “Remember when I tried to take a shortcut around the edge of the lake?”

Me: “Yeah…”

Memphis: “Not a shortcut.  Took me an extra half hour to scramble around the boulders.  I found E.D. at the campground and she was having an off day, so we went to find the Ranch Store.”

Me: “The closed one?”

Memphis: “Well…it was closed for a mini burning man festival they titled ‘Burning Ham’ and I waived a lady over.  Her boobs were popping out of her shirt and she convinced the manager to let us in, and let us buy some food.”

Me: “That’s why you all didn’t catch me when I took a long ass lunch.”

Memphis: “It was cool, but everyone was really hungover, so we eventually continued on to Monarch Lake where E.D. laid down to take a nap.”

Me: “Wow.”

Memphis: “Then I tried to catch you, but couldn’t make it last night.  I did pass Hiker Box and Heartbreaker though.”

We had no idea how far back E.D. was and we debated about leaving a note somewhere for her.  Since the weather didn’t seem completely shitty yet, we decided to hike upward to treeline and decide there which option to take.

About a thousand feet higher at the last group of trees, the rain had turned to sideways sleet and we still had another 900 feet to the top of the ridge. We looked back at the forecast and it had not gotten any better.

We opted to backtrack down, hopefully running into E.D. and if not, leaving her a note at the trail junction toward the parking lot. We decided to wait out the sleet and rain in a bar in Frasier, which we could hit in about 8ish miles by our estimates of the dirt roads on Gaia.

However, instead of running into E.D., we ran into Hiker Box and Heartbreaker.  Hiker Box found it hilarious that we were backtracking.  Heartbreaker was just a wee bit behind and when she caught up, Hiker Box filled her in on why were were heading down.

Hiker Box: “Look who I found going north!”

We showed them the forecast and they came with us.  At the junction, we wrote E.D. a note, put it in an extra ziplock, and placed a rock on it to keep it in place.

On our way down the dirt road, a car pulled over and offered us a ride.  Heartbreaker and Hiker Box took them up on it saying that they were open ended section hikers, so they could skip road walks.

Memphis and I continued downhill through various rain storms getting glimpses of the mountains above socked into the clouds.

Eventually, we came to civilization and made our way to the main road until we found a bar.  Cheerfully, we went in and the bar had both veggie burgers and a PBR happy hour.  Awesome.  Love Colorado.

We ate and drank PBR watching it rain outside as the gutters flooded and giant puddles grew relatively quickly.

Then we got a call from E.D.. She had gotten our note and was asking which bar we’d found.  She knew us well enough to know we would try to wait out the grossest part and have an entertaining time waiting.

She came in with Hiker Box and Heartbreaker and the five of us waited out the last of the storms which stopped sometime between five and six in the afternoon.

Finally, we decided to migrate.  Conveniently, a bike path linked Frasier and Winter Park, which made avoiding fast moving vehicles easier for a time.  We planned to head to a car camping campground about seven miles down the road, but then we decided that we smelled awful and needed laundry badly from the lack of laundry in Grand Lake.

The rooms were expensive, but Memphis volunteered to do laundry, so the three of us caved and got a room to dry out and restore some less repulsive scents to our minimal clothing.

In the morning after free hotel breakfast and a foot-long sub for each of us, we followed the bike path until it finished, followed the road, then found an old, unmaintained ski trail which turned into an interesting several mile bushwhack next to the road, then the road to the top of Berthoud Pass.  We ate dinner in a warming hut made for backcountry skiers.

On every wall, there were two signs: “No camping” and “No pets.” They clearly foresaw what we intended.  There was no one there after the construction workers left and the tourists who felt bad and gave us oranges.

While we debated about ignoring the signs, a dude who was clearly a thru-hiker in a dirty, bright t-shirt, and large beard walked toward the hut and appeared to recognize us through the window.

When he got closer, we realized it was Sleepwalker! We hadn’t seen him since Lincoln, about two months earlier. We caught up and all decided to camp in the trees outside the hut, which also had a “No camping” sign near it, but it was partially hidden by a tree and there was only one of them.  Much easier to ignore.

 

Someone sharpied something clever…

 

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We did another ten miles or so from the cabin, but lazily, because we were tired, it was blazing hot, and because we spent two and a half hours on the cool porch.

Stopping to eat dinner near a ford, we became swarmed with flies. They weren’t biting, at least not much, but I couldn’t help thinking about how bad we also smelled and if there were more flies on us than the horse shit in the trail.

By the time we finished dinner, it was well after 7 and the heat had drained our energy. I did thoroughly enjoy a hearty dehydrated dinner…thanks Mom! There was also a nice, large campsite on the other side of the willows that could easily accommodate our five tents plus some. We decide to go for it.
At about 9:30pm as I was laying in bed reading Hondo, which The Darkness passed me, in walks three more thru hikers: Sleepwalker, Tortoise, and Hare (who we’re trying to rename Rabid). They camped with us that night, too.

The next morning, E.D tried to beat the heat and shot off before I was even out of my tent to pee. When I did wake up to the normal rustlings of Ziploc bags and stuff sacks, I got up and noticed either Tortoise or Hare snoring lightly. I could judge the volume of my own rustling if the snoring paused or not.
Not even a mile into the day, E.D and I found a lightweight Under Armor jacket. I checked the pockets. Jo’s credit card. Shit. Those two girls were a day ahead of us! Then I check the other pockets. Sunglasses. She’ll miss those, but she’ll be OK. A small device that neither E.D nor I could figure out. Then the last pocket held not one, but TWO lipsticks. Lipstick….really?!?! Are you trying to impress the bears? What the fuck. I’ll carry gear and a credit card forward, but lipstick?! And two of them…that had to be at least six ounces. Damn. E.D attached the jacket and it’s curious pocket contents to the outside of my pack and we trudged forward. Scallywag later informed us it was a smart phone tripod for selfies.
We followed a creek the whole way again the next day and I lost track of how many times we forded it or side streams. It was still hot. The trail meandered about and horse shit alternated with bear shit and the occasional moose shit.

When we finally caught up with E.D. at the Spotted Bear alternate junction, we felt our faces melt off through a burn area. We continued on the Spotted Bear alternate because we heard it was more scenic when we saw another cabin…with another great porch! We stopped and hung out eating a snack and waiting for The Darkness, Tortoise, Rabid, and Sleepwalker to catch up. Out of nowhere two hikers appeared from the river…it was two flippers, Wide Angle and Flip. We chatted with them, then they hiked north. We decided we needed dinner before we hiked more, so we cooked dinner. Patch showed up and told us about how he side tracked and went high up on the divide, then hiked on another six miles. Theeeeen, we just stayed, camping near the river which our maps warned could be double, waist deep fords. They looked between ankle and knee deep.
 Setting up my tent, I managed to smash my finger between a tent stake and the rock that I was using to pound it in and gave myself a blood blister. I popped and drained it while I watched a small river snake attempt to devour a fish considerably bigger than its mouth. That evening, we thoroughly enjoyed that porch talking and swapping stories until the inevitable “oh shit, it’s ten pm!” and it’s still light out.

The fords the next morning were cold and we all started the day with wet feet. We had to climb up out of the river valley over Switchback Pass and there was not great camping for another few miles, despite what Wide Angle said.

We ate lunch at Dean Lake, where Whistle skipped rocks and clouds began rolling in. Something had to break the heat. It looked like a storm was brewing.

Throwing on rain gear, we continued. Ten minutes later the rain gear was off because it only sprinkled and it was still too hot. We made it up and over the pass OK and plunged down the other side. Switchback Pass lived up to its name…and…at the bottom of the pass was another cabin with a porch. Attached to the door with a rock was a note saying something along the lines of:
“Dear forest men,

Thank you for the extra fuel you gave me. It was so nice to have hot soup last night.

Thanks, Kathleen”

Then underneath in someone else’s handwriting made to look similar was:

“PS: I owe you both BJs”

That seemed unfair, but it was funny.

Alas, we decided that we did actually need to do another five miles or so to set us up better for Benchmark. We knew we’d only find smaller campsites along the river bottom after the large cabin area, so we split into two groups. The Darkness, E.D, Scallywag and I stayed at one and the other for went two or three miles further.

Chinese Wall

They went further, but they got up later and we saw them picking up the next day. It was the day of the Chinese Wall! We hiked up for quite some time and finally saw it. We found a lunch spot in the shade of a tree. It was hot, but not melting hot…the first time in days.

Rabid was talking about needing electrolytes when The Darkness offered him a nuun tablet. Before she could explain it, he popped it into his mouth to a chorus of NO NO NO!!! He spit it back out of his mouth and it started to bubble and stared at us.

The Darkness: “You put that in a liter of water and let it fizz for a minute, then you drink it…”

Oops.

The Chinese Wall extended for miles. We walked underneath it, going up and down for about nine miles. Along the way, we met Melinda, a trail angel in Helena. She told us she saw the two girls about two hours previously. Narrowed the time gap from a day to two hours. Not too bad. I wanted to get rid of the damn lipstick.

We continued down to another river in order to get to within ten miles of Benchmark. Near the junction we wanted to camp at, we saw another cabin, and went up to see it. A few guys were there from the forest service, but they were jerks. We really just wanted to use the privy.

Dude: “it’s locked.”

E.D: “Do you have the key?”

Dude: “Yeah. #1 it #2?

….. We wouldn’t have walked up this extra little hill for #1 dumbass……

Dude: “If we left it unlocked, then we’d have to dig more holes.”

….. Wouldn’t you want to concentrate the use in a heavily used area……

We left. And dug catholes. Because three shits totally would have overflowed your privy. Right.

Zonked, we found a campsite in some trees and shared with a couple and their two large dogs. In the middle of the night, at 12:37 to be exact, there were some crashing sounds and the dogs started barking like crazy. Then more crashing sounds. We rolled over and went back to sleep. Thanks for scaring the bears, dogs!

We crossed a bridge over the river and all commented on it. We hadn’t seen a bridge in about 100 miles. The next morning, we ran into a group of overnight hikers and asked if they’d seen the two girls.

Dude: “Yeah, a looooong time ago.”

Me: “How far ago?”

Dude: “About four miles ago.”

Scallywag: “Oh, and hour and a half ago.”

Dude: *mouth opens… No words*
It was flat…easy to hold 3mph.
We rolled into Benchmark area and began walking toward the ranch which held packages for thru hikers when we heard Tortoise and Rabid yell from a cabin.
Gentleman named Bob: “Want a beer?”

Yes, please!!!

 

Bob’s cabin and hikers

We found out that Bob was 88 years old and a World War Two vet. He gave us a ride to and from the ranch to get our boxes. Whistle and Sleepwalker had managed a ride to and from Augusta (30 miles down a dirt forest service road) and said that they saw the two girls there and they asked if I would leave the jacket in the hiker box at Benchmark Ranch. I don’t think they quite understood the meaning of a hiker box, but I left a note on the back of their note there stating:
“Here’s your coat. Your new trail name is Hot Lips.” I hope she’s heard of Mash.

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